Sunday, September 8, 2013


I watched 52 PICK-UP (1986) yesterday afternoon. I've been on sort of an Elmore Leonard kick this week. In addition to watching this film (Leonard co-wrote the screenplay from his novel of the same name), I watched 3:10 TO YUMA, finished reading CAT CHASER and started reading PRONTO. I'll post a full review of CAT CHASER soon.

52 PICK-UP stars Roy Scheider as Los Angeles businessman Harry Mitchell. Ann-Margret co-stars as his wife, Barbara. Harry's business is going well and Barbara is about to run for city council woman when their world falls apart.

It seems that Harry's been having an affair with a much younger, twenty-two-year-old woman (Kelly Preston). Three uber sleazy blackmailers know all about Harry's dalliance and have plenty of photographic evidence on videotape. They show the tape to Harry and give him three days to come up with $10,000, the first payment of an eventual $105,000.

Harry pays the money in the form of shredded newspapers which angers the blackmailers and causes them to up the ante. They show Harry another videotape in which his young mistress is shot at point blank range using Harry's own gun. He's now framed for murder and the price just went up to $105,000 per year. Forever.

Harry can only raise $52,000 but he doesn't intend to pay it. He starts his own counter campaign against the three men, playing each against the other. This causes the deaths of two of the men.

The remaining sleaze (brilliantly played by John Glover), kidnaps Barbara and uses her as a bargaining chip. Harry agrees to pay the $52,000 plus his vintage Jaguar XKE in return for the release of his wife. The sleaze agrees and an exchange is made.

 But Harry has one final trick up his sleeve.

52 PICK-UP is a taut, terrific little crime thriller. John Frankenheimer's direction is assured and the cast is first rate. The screenplay relocates the action from Detroit as in the novel to Los Angeles. The milieu of the mid-80s adult film industry is perfectly captured (all three blackmailers have connections to the sex business) and the appearance of bonafide porn star Amber Lynn in one scene adds a great deal of verisimilitude.

But come on. No man, I mean NO man, who's married to Ann-Margret is going to fool around with a younger woman. Heck, if it was me, I'd never leave the house!

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