Tuesday, 22 July 2014
Glove, The (1979)
Giallo, as you no doubt know, is a film genre with its origins in the populist literary tradition of Italy. In particular it is a filone that adopted and expanded upon a series of genre “rules” that were established by Mario Bava and explored further by the likes of Sergio Martino, Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento. It was a film wave that would extend its influence way beyond Italy with France, Greece, Turkey and Spain, among others, coming along for the fedora wearing ride. With an origin in the pulp crime novels of the Il Giallo Mondadori these films were often characterised by black gloved knife wielding killers, stylised violence, psychoanalytical themes and convoluted plotting with complex whodunnit elements. Increasingly, through the 1970s, the extremely competitive milieu of the Italian film industry ran with the giallo theme, resulting in a genre that, while it was initially influenced by the works of Edgar Wallace, Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie, would become a film wave that would churn out the sleaze of Giallo in Venice, the excesses of New York Ripper and the dildo killer of Sisters of Ursula. However, The Glove, despite its black gloved killer, is not a giallo film. But there are a number of stylistic touches and thematic nods that suggest director Ross Hagen, a genre cinema stalwart actor who was here making his directorial debut, at least may, possibly, have had some knowledge of the European genre. The killer in this, for example, does wear a glove, albeit a futuristic looking “riot control” gauntlet with steel knuckles. But, he also wears a motorcycle helmet when out and about killing in a manner not unlike the killer in Andrea Bianchi's Strip Nude for Your Killer. Continuing the theme, the outcome of one killing in this film, which occurs in a bathroom, has a particularly giallo-esque feel to it. While not as common as obligatory J and B whiskey bottle product placements that infuse the Italian genre, bathroom slaying are not especially rare in giallo as clinical white bathroom tiles provide wonderful backdrops for various bloody slashings and drownings. Also, interestingly enough, the investigator, as is common with giallo film, is not a police officer and the police, here, are relegated to a secondary role. But, beyond this, The Glove does not really try to imitate the Italian thrillers. Indeed, I have probably already stretched this point to the verge of snapping. But, what the film certainly does, is reach back into another European inspired genre. Albeit one that came of age in the United States. You see, The Glove certainly tries to be a film noir. Up to a point anyhow. So, we get treated to voiceover protagonist led exposition and plenty of shots of the hero driving his car down neon lit streets. However, these stylistic nods, while interesting enough, do not succeed in giving the film, throughout, enough noirishness to be considered a true modern noir. And, while the film does not really succeed as a noir, the film does not really deliver on what is promised in the promotional artwork either. This is, after all, certainly not a dystopian science fiction. Despite posters suggesting otherwise! But this charge of poster exploitation disappointment induction is hardly one that can be laid at the door of The Glove alone. That is, insofar as a glove would actually have a door! You see, there is a long, and less than fine, disreputable exploitation film huckster tradition of posters promising so much of one thing but delivering so little of something else. But, suffice it to say, the film offers none of the futuristic mayhem promised in a poster that suggests something along the lines of either Rollerball or Joe D'amato's Endgame. No, what we get here is something a little more understated. Nevertheless it is something that is still interesting enough to pass the time. Albeit in a more talkie and less action oriented way. The story sees John Saxon play Sam Kellog. Sam is a bounty hunter, womaniser and gambling addict. He is on the trail of Victor Hale, a giant of a man who has taken to beating his victims to death with his big glove. He is played by former professional footballer and one of the former heads of The Thing With Two Heads, Roosevelt Grier. All the while a guitar playing Grier seeks revenge on those who mistreated him in prison and taunts and teases Saxon in an under-explored game of cat and mouse. On this flimsy skeleton the film hangs an awful lot of backstory. Indeed, while there is little to offer in the way of action beyond some borderline-slapstick set pieces, we get to know almost everything about Kellog and his life with the exception of, surprisingly, what he likes for breakfast. So viewers will not, here, learn what is in Kellog's cereal! However, as much as the film seeks to give us some understanding of both hunter and hunted, the interplay between the two, sadly, is one of wasted opportunity. So, when the two ultimately go head to head it is not clear why, precisely, the playing field is levelled between them. That said, all in all, The Glove is an likeable and engaging hour and a half . But one that represents an unrealised potential. It could have been a great psychological thriller, but instead felt more like an absorbing episode of a seventies cop series. Beyond all this, the film is of interest as one of the final roles for the beautiful precode starlet Joan Blondell. However, since she was no longer the darling of the film industry here she is, sadly, relegated to a minor character role. Blondie Johnson really deserved far better than that!