What starts out as Peyton Place ends up as Straw Dogs… The Chase feels like so many southern neo-soaps with a cast of dozens each with multiple relationships and a small-town backstory as long as the pauses between Brando’s dialogue…
Directed with aplomb by Arthur Penn, it’s undeniably fascinating to see his marshaling of so many sixties big hitters with Marlon Brando and Angie Dickinson the most established stars paired with the up-and-coming Jane Fonda and Robert Redford and many others, but the story opens out in a subdued way over the first hour or so.
Back home, the news spreads of Bubber’s escape – it’s initially quite difficult to imagine Redford as a man who instils fear in his townsfolk, his background is never clearly explained but with a domineering mother of poor judgement and some bad breaks he doesn’t appear to have been dealt an even hand.
|Janice Rule's cruel smile entices Richard Bradford|
|Emily appraises long-suffering Edwin|
There’s Mr Briggs (Henry Hull) nosey and misanthropic who along with his wife (Jocelyn Brando) drifts through events adding spiteful spin as they go. Bubba’s mother (Miriam Hopkins), dominates her husband (Malcolm Atterbury), with her narrow-minded paranoia and has she left it far too late to help her son…
|A Fox and a Fonda|
|Angie and Marlon|
And, indeed, The Chase turns fully on these two, as Bubba’s approach to his home town is concerned and the various rats get nervous in their traps.
|The Birthday Party|
|Mary looks on as Emily and Damon cavort|
He locks Lem in a cell for his own protection but once it is learned that he may know where Bubba is, the local drunks try to force their way in. Then Val arrives, desperate to keep Bubba from Jake after being told of his son’s long-standing affair: he orders the good ol’ drunks to “restrain” the Sheriff and there follows one of the most shocking scenes of assault you’ll see from this period.
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Fonda and Redford are excellent, powerful screen presences on the verge of top billing. James Fox does well and it’s surprising that he didn’t move on to more Hollywood work whilst Angie Dickinson is a sublime force of nature even holding her own alongside Mr Brando.
Dusty verdict: The pot-boiler boils over and the stellar cast push themselves to one of the most relentlessly dark cinematic climaxes of the period. The DVD is available from Amazons and a Blu-ray will surely follow for this good-looking film with a dark heart…