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It's a John Cleese reference.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

VHS Vednesday: The Catamount Killing

THE CATAMOUNT KILLING (1974). Directed by Krzysztof Zanussi. Starring Horst Buchholz, Anne Wedgeworth, and Louise Caire Clark.

A somewhat more ambitious movie than my usual "VHS Vednesday" fare, The Catamount Killing came as an interesting surprise for me. I had picked up the tape among many from Versatile Video's close-out sale, expecting it to be a standard heist movie/thriller. Instead, I got a very dark character study in the manner of a Jim Thompson novel...much more than I had bargained for.

Adapted from a novel by James Hadley Chase, The Catamount Killing tells the tale of Mark Kalvin (Horst Buchholz), a bank manager recently transferred to a small town where nothing really happens. Unhappy with his new position, he begins a relationship with the equally dissatisfied boarding-house owner Kit Loring (Ann Wedgeworth), and together, they devise a plan to escape their stifling existence by robbing his own bank when a big payroll comes through town. Unfortunately, the plan will require the elimination of Kalvin's conscientious assistant manger (Patricia Joyce). Although they manage to convince themselves that the murder is necessary, after they actually carry it out, they discover that living with blood on their hands isn't as easy as they'd anticipated. Both Mark and Kit soon begin their own individual psychological disintegrations, leading to inexorable tragedy.

The US filmmaking debut of acclaimed Polish director Krzysztof Zanussi, The Catamount Killing is more concerned with the after-effects of violence than with violence itself (though the actual murder sequence IS deeply disturbing). The movie is well-done, but starkly depressing...don't watch if you're not prepared for a real downer.

Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?

The tagline doesn't quite apply, as all the performances are effective (although Horst Buchholz does occasionally cross the line into over-acting, particularly in the closing sequence...these histrionic moments are the film's most significant flaw). Apart from Buchholz and the reliable character actress Ann Wedgeworth (probably best known for her supporting role in the TV series Evening Shade), most of the cast is probably unfamiliar to the general viewing public...but keep an eye out for a brief appearance by Polly Holliday, in her film debut.



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