Posted in: by Richard T. Jameson, Contributors, Film Reviews

Review: St. Ives

[Originally published in Movietone News 52, October 1976]

Oliver Procane, eccentric planner of multimillion-dollar ripoffs, has been impotent all his life; he enjoys spending his non-criminal time watching silent masterpieces by Vidor and Griffith. It’s entirely possible that J. Lee Thompson & co. were inviting congratulatory inferences here: anybody who appreciates good moviemaking must be a bit of a wimp, so let’s hear it for our manhood! If this be the rationale, St. Ives is one hell of an advertisement for a stud service. This movie is so bad that when the convoluted action takes us to a drive-in movie the same film clips can be glimpsed four times (and no, this wasn’t an exercise in staggered chronology à la The Killing—it was just staggering); that when you see Jackie Bisset in bed in longshot she’s lying on her back, but when you cut to a medium closeup she’s sitting up with a thigh hanging out; that even though the film is punctuated by Siegel-like titles (… LOS ANGELES 11:00 A.M. OCTOBER 25), temporal continuity is so shoddy the hero is privileged, on several occasions, to reveal that he made a little phonecall during some offscreen time and therefore it is perfectly permissible for the cavalry to come to his rescue…. At first it seems that we have here another howler of a miscasting job for Charles Bronson—he’s a semi-starving novelist (who nevertheless maintains a swell wardrobe in his fleabag hotelroom)—but this too is retroactively defused: well, you see, he’s trying to be a novelist, he used to be a crackerjack crime reporter, although guys who have been on the police force long enough to make detective never heard of him….

Before we ellipse ourselves off the page, a few random remarks: Bronson mostly just walks through the film, which is a wise thing to do, and as swiftly as possible; he smiles more often than usual, which gives rise to more authentic mystery than anything in the scenario. He is surrounded by more decent character actors than is usual in Bronson flicks, but few of them get to do much. John Houseman is passable as Sydney Greenstreet (Procane) with red hair; Jacqueline Bisset is relentlessly embarrassing at trying to be the sort of cheeky bad girl Susan Clark can do while breaking eggs with one hand and wondering where to spend her vacation; Elisha Cook literally sleeps through as many scenes as he can; Maximilian Schell is so overripe as Procane’s shrink that he must have directed his own scenes. The scenario is full of money drops, doublecrosses, and gratuitous killings; curiously, the last are rendered so bloodlessly that the hardcore Bronson audience is likely to go on strike. There is but the merest hint of a car chase. As for the obligatory Lalo Schifrin score, it sounds as if it had been picked up at random from several of his TV series: music to walk through airports by.


Direction: J. Lee Thompson. Screenplay: Barry Beckerman, after a novel by Oliver Bleeck. Cinematography: Lucien Ballard. Music: Lalo Schifrin.
The players: Charles Bronson, John Houseman, Jacqueline Bisset, Dana Elcar, Harry Guardino, Harris Yulin, Dick O’Neill, Elisha Cook, Maximilian Schell.

© 1976 Richard T. Jameson

A pdf of the original issue can be found here.