Entertainment » Movies

Charley Varrick

by Sam Cohen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Nov 13, 2019
Charley Varrick

Filmmaker Don Siegel bounced around between the big studios during his career, going to wherever he could get the funding. After "The Beguiled" had lukewarm box office returns, he made "Dirty Harry," which we all know to be one of the most successful films of both his and Eastwood's careers. That's why it was so odd for Siegel to follow up "Dirty Harry" with "Charley Varrick," a film that rests somewhere between thriller and meditative drama. The lead role was originally written for Eastwood, although he declined citing that he didn't want to play a villain after playing his character in "The Beguiled."

That's when Walter Matthau came into play. An actor that famously had a gambling addiction and got into acting to pay his bookies, was never thought of to be a leading man of an action thriller. Yet, he's terrific in this and is able to convey the soft center of the title character even after all the despicable things he did. For those who are fans of Siegel's, this new Blu-ray release of "Charley Varrick" from Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label is one of the must-own home entertainment discs of the year, as the video presentation is stellar and there's a bounty of special features to dig deep into.

Charley Varrick (Matthau) is a small-time bank robber who sticks to smaller banks with smaller payrolls, so he can stay under the radar. After the heist of the Tres Cruces Bank in New Mexico leaves Varrick's wife dead and the local news only reports that $2,000 was stolen, Charley knows something is amiss. The money he and his cohort Harman (Andy Robinson) made off with is actually mob money. Maynard Boyle (John Vernon) dispatches Molly (Joe Don Baker), to track down and kill Charley.

There's a terrific video essay by film historian Howard S. Berger titled "Refracted Personae" that's on this Blu-ray that really cracks open the heart of "Charley Varrick." As Berger talks about religious iconography thrown into so much of the film and focusing on specific frames and how they relate to Siegel's life, it becomes remarkably clear that the film is absolutely loaded with imagery that rewards further reflection. Charley himself is a character that has lived multiple past lives and walks around in this American purgatory. To Siegel's vision, America may be gorgeous, but there's a deep, dark rot underneath the surface, and that's what the film is so capable of portraying.

As for the new 4K master of "Charley Varrick," it's superb in how richly detailed it is and shows no print damage whatsoever. There's also a terrific making-of doc included on the Blu-ray with interviews from Siegel's son, actors Andy Robinson and Jacqueline Scott, stunt actor Craig R. Baxley and composer Lalo Schifrin that is worth the purchase alone. Pick this up immediately, as it is one of the best releases of the year by Kino Lorber and in general. Other special features include:

• "Trailers from Hell" with Josh Olson and Howard Rodman
• Audio commentary by film historian Toby Roan
• Limited edition booklet essay by film critic Nick Pinkerton
• Theatrical trailer

"Charley Varrick"
Kino Lorber Blu-ray

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