The suspenseful film, “The Getaway,” begins at the Huntsville Penitentiary, in Huntsville, Texas. One of the many inmates serving time, is Carter “Doc” McCoy. The character is portrayed by Oscar nominee, and two time Golden Globe winner, Steve McQueen (The Sand Pebbles). Convicted for bank robbery, he has completed four years of his ten year sentence, and is up for parole. Although he’s been a model prisoner, his parole is denied, for at least another year. McCoy, however, can’t do another year. The prison system is eating away at every fiber of his being, destroying whatever bit of humanity he has left. In fact, the constant sound of the weaving machinery, in the prison shop, where he works, is omnipresent in his head. The sound will only cease, once he’s released. In order to achieve the end goal of his freedom, McCoy utilizes the help of his wife, Carol, played by Oscar nominee, and three time Golden Globe winner, Ali MacGraw (Goodbye, Columbus).
Carol, at McCoy’s behest, approaches business man, Jack Beynon, a role acted by Oscar winner, Ben Johnson (The Last Picture Show). He is corrupt, and for the right price, or sexual favor, or as in this instance both, he can influence the parole board to reverse their decision. When McCoy is released, he meets with Beynon, who wants him to orchestrate a bank robbery. In addition to McCoy, and Carol, two other members on Beynon’s payroll will be part of the robbery: Rudy Butler (Al Lettieri), and Frank Jackson (Bo Hopkins). (As an aside: Al Lettierri will probably be known to most viewers for his portrayal of Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo, in “The Godfather”).
The bank heist goes off flawlessly, until Frank gets nervous and shoots and kills the bank’s security guard. McCoy and Carol flee the scene, as do Rudy and Frank. The destination of the criminals is Beynon’s ranch house. While on the run, Rudy kills Frank for his error, during the robbery. McCoy and Carol arrive at Beynon’s with $500,000 they netted from the robbery. Beynon strongly implies that Carol has been unfaithful to McCoy. This is something McCoy hadn’t known up until that point in the film. Carol enters the room and raises her gun, and has it pointed at McCoy’s back. In that moment, she appears to be deciding, which man she’d be better off with. In the end, she kills Beynon, which sets up the second half of the film. (As an aside: $500,00 in 1972, would be equivalent to approximately $3,600,000 today).
McCoy and Carol go on the run. Their goal is to make it to Mexico. Accomplishing that task will be anything but easy. In addition to law enforcement, there is Beynon’s brother, Cully (Roy Jensen), who employs a contingent of loyal, armed men, who will kill as their boss commands. Further complicating matters is Rudy. McCoy thought he’d left him for dead, but he was wrong. If that weren’t enough trouble for the couple, they experience other problems along the way. Will their quest for freedom end in escaping into Mexico? Are there too many forces out to get them, that will keep them from achieving that goal?
“The Getaway” was directed by Oscar nominee, Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch). The screenplay was written by two time Emmy winner, Walter Hill (48 Hrs), based on the novel of the same name by Jim Thompson. The novel was published by Signet Books on January 1, 1958. The music for the film was composed by 30 time Grammy winner, Quincy Jones (In the Heat of the Night). Cinematography for the movie was done by Oscar nominee, Lucien Ballard (The Caretakers). The tight editing by three time Oscar nominee, Robert L. Wolfe (The Rose), showcases some interesting stylistic choices with his use of certain jump cuts, as well as slow motion sequences. The film premiered on December 16, 1972, in Italy. Parts action, crime, and thriller, the movie has a runtime of 123 minutes. (As an aside: Two time Emmy winner, Sally Struthers (All in the Family), appears in the film as Fran Clinton, a willing participant, who helps Rudy, in his pursuit of McCoy and Carol. Furthermore, Slim Pickens has a small cameo appearance as a character named Cowboy).
Trivia buffs take note: Steve McQueen had final cut of the film, which was shot almost entirely in sequence. The original score for the movie was to be composed by Emmy winner Jerry Fielding (High Midnight). Oscar nominee and BAFTA winner, Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show), was initially hired to direct the movie, and the Ali MacGraw role was originally going to be played by three time Golden Globe winner, Cybill Shepherd (Cybill). Jim Thompson’s novel, as previously mentioned, is what the film is based on. Although Thompson was hired to write the screenplay for the movie, it wasn’t used, because he kept in the ending to his novel, which was much darker than the ending to the movie. McQueen didn’t think audiences would want to see what Thompson had envisioned for the characters. Ali MacGraw learned to fire a gun and drive a car for the film. Three time Oscar winner, Paul Newman (The Color of Money), was considered for the McQueen role, but passed, because his agent didn’t like the novel.
“The Getaway” is a first rate, gripping, 70s crime thriller. Although everyone in the cast played their characters competently, McQueen is by far the standout in the film. The action is plentiful, but blood is kept to a minimal amount. Some viewers might find the pacing of the film, especially at the start, to be a bit slow. Once McCoy and Carol are on the run, however, there isn’t much let up in the tension, of will they, or won’t they succeed in escaping to Mexico?
I recommend “The Getaway” for fans of McQueen’s work who, perhaps, have never seen the film, or like myself, hadn’t watched it in some time. For those of you who are reading this that are fans of 70s action and crime films, you will more than likely consider the film worth the time you invest to watch it. Overall, a well executed, paced and acted film.
A long-time fan of the movie, but I was certainly blown away by the novel it’s based on when I finally got a chance to read it. Jim Thompson’s ending was beyond what I expected. Wonderful review, Jonathan. 🙂
The ending to the novel was indeed a surprise. If the film had been made today, perhaps some alternative scenes would’ve been filmed, or a director’s cut would’ve been released that featured both endings. I certainly would be interested in seeing a talented director like a Scorsese or a Tarantino do a remake of the film, and include the novel’s original ending.
Thank you very much for your kind comment.
I’d have thought the Alex Baldwin and Kim Bassinger remake in ’94 would have differentiated itself by doing just that, but it didn’t, unfortunately.
Love this movie!
This was a good film. I haven’t seen it for a while
Same here. If you get a chance to see it again, I hope you like it.