Don Siegel Movies: From Alien Pods to Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry Don SiegelDon Siegel movies at Film Forum (image: In Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood has a Travis Bickle moment: 'Are you talking to me? But I'm the only one here…”)

From March 17 through April 13, 2006, New York City's Film Forum will be screening a series of Don Siegel movies, among them the absurd but moderately entertaining chase thriller The Big Steal (1949), featuring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, William Bendix, and silent film heartthrob Ramon Novarro; the Walter Wanger-produced, socially conscious prison drama Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954), which was shot at Folsom Prison and which was Wanger's first producing credit after spending time locked up for shooting wife Joan Bennett's agent, Jennings Lang (whom Wanger believed to have been Bennett's lover as well); and the one-of-a-kind sci-fi thriller Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), with Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter at their paranoid best, terrified that human beings are being transformed into pods (or vice versa) – as if most humans out there weren't already walking, talking, non-thinking, non-feeling vegetables.

More Don Siegel movies at Film Forum: Baby Face Nelson (1957), starring a post-stardom Mickey Rooney in the title role; the Elvis Presley Western Flaming Star (1960), one of the singer's better movies, with Presley as a “half-breed” – part-Dolores del Rio, part-John McIntire; and The Killers (1964), a made-for-TV remake of Robert Siodmak's 1946 film noir that was deemed too violent for the little screen and was thus shown in theaters. Lee Marvin, John Cassavetes, Angie Dickinson, and Ronald Reagan star.

Don Siegel directs Clint Eastwood, John Wayne

Needless to say, Film Forum will also be screening several Don Siegel-directed Clint Eastwood star vehicles, including the iconic crime thriller Dirty Harry (1971), worshiped by right-wingers everywhere. More interesting, however, is John Wayne's final Western (final movie, in fact), the great-looking but slow-moving The Shootist (1976), which features what may well be Wayne's best performance, in addition to supporting roles for the likes of Lauren Bacall, James Stewart, Richard Boone, Hugh O'Brian, and a pre-Cocoon Ron Howard.

Unfortunately missing from the Don Siegel movie series is the Bette Midler / Ken Wahl disaster Jinxed! (1982), which turned out to be Siegel's very last effort.

Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry photo: Warner Bros.

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