Thursday, May 25, 2017

Fat City (1972) Skid Row Noir

A beautifully shot lyrical paean to Leonard Gardner's Stockton, California based novel about the lives of two boxers trying to fight their way up from their personal gutters to Fat City. The Good Life, Easy Street, The American Dream, that Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Classic Film Noir vet John Huston (The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Key Largo (1948), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The Misfits (1961), The Night of the Iguana (1964), Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)) masterfully directs the screenplay by Leonard Gardner. The cinematography was by Conrad L. Hall (Harper (1966), Cool Hand Luke (1967), In Cold Blood (1967), Electra Glide in Blue (1973)) and the soundtrack credits are Help Me Make It Through the Night Composed and Performed by Kris Kristofferson, The Look of Love Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Performed by Dusty Springfield, and If  Written by David Gates, Performed by Bread.

Billy Tully (Keach)

Eddie Munger (Bridges)

Oma (Susan Trryell)

Ruben Luna (Nicholas Colasanto)
The film stars Stacy Keach (The Killer Inside Me (1976), The New Mike Hammer
Mike Hammer (original title) TV Series (1984–1989), Sunset Grill (1993)) as Billy Tully, Jeff Bridges (The Last Picture Show (1971), 8 Million Ways to Die (1986), The Big Lebowski (1998)) as Ernie Munger, Susan Tyrrell (The Killer Inside Me (1976), Bad (1977)), as Oma Lee Greer, Candy Clark (The Big Sleep (1978)) as Faye, Nicholas Colasanto (The Counterfeit Killer (1968), Family Plot (1976), Raging Bull (1980) Cheers TV series 1982-1990)) as Ruben Luna, Art Aragon as Babe, Curtis Cokes as Earl, Sixto Rodriguez as Lucero, Alfred Avila as Lucero's coach, Billy Walker as Wes, Wayne Mahan as Buford, and Ruben Navarro as Fuentes.

Billy Tully (Keach) is sliding down the shit heap into obscurity. A past prime time West End Stockton boxer/onion jobber. Getting the itch to climb back into the ring, he stops by a YMCA gym to get in shape. He meets a kid Ernie Munger (Bridges), and spars a bit. The kid is impressive has good legs and a good reach, he's a natural.

Billy tells him to visit his old trainer/manager Ruben Luna (Nicholas Colasanto). During his session with Edie, Billy pulls a muscle, he's pissed that he didn't warm up more. Afterwards he goes to a dive bar to cry about it in his beer.

At this dive he meets a barfly Oma (Tyrell), and her current old man Earl (Curtis Cokes). Billy is in a blue funk ever since his wife split. He also blames Ruben for sending him down to a match in Central America on his own, a match he lost. He drinks too much, can't hold down a steady job, lives in a fleabag residence hotel, and works as a day laborer, picking nuts, fruit, and vegetables in the fields and orchards around Stockton.

After Earl is sent to prison, Billy on a bender stumbles into a three sheets to the wind Oma, they're marinated in the same bowl. Billy moves in with her. The two at first are good for each other. Billy gets back in shape, with his bead set on reaching "Fat City." With Eddie shaping up into a good fighter, Ruben has some real contenders.

Eddie loses his first fight, and gets KO'ed in his second. Billy's comeback bout is against a Mexican puncher named Lucero (Sixto Rodriguez). Lucero is tough but not well, he's pissing blood from his last fight. Their match-up is pretty even, they knock each other down, but Billy' s body punches are hurting Lucero. Tully is finally declared the winner, but after all of Ruben's deductions he's only made $100. Pissed off he quits Ruben.

The Winner
Earl (Curtis Cokes) and Oma
When he gets to Oma's he finds Earl has moved back in and all his possessions are in a box. Billy goes back on a bender becoming a serious contender for the title of Skid Row Bum in Noirsville.


Faye (Candy Clark) 

The film is so well realized by John Houston that all the characters come fully to life without any false notes. Life's losers, eccentrics, and misfits are lovingly rendered. Fat City almost makes the life of a stewbum look nobel. Fat City is one of Huston's best films. 10/10

Keach, Tyrell, (nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, 1973) and Bridges are excellent. Nicholas Colasanto, Art Aragon, and Curtis Cokes all put in great performances. Screencaps are from the SPE DVD release 2012.

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