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Lorenz | Craggy Face Jay Kent Lorenz University of California, Irvine JLorenz@ea.oac.uci.edu Craggy Face 1950's allegory, High Noon; the sinister figure is one of the screen's classic heavies, the one and only Lee Van Cleef. In this often impressive new source book from McFarland, Mike Malloy traces not only Van Cleef's embodiment of "Il Cattivo"—the bad—whether as sadistic thug in the noir The Big Combo or as self- parody of the Western tough in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but also the character actor's later incarnation as the stoic voice of authority , an intimidating man but not necessarily villainous. Malloy illuminates Van Cleef's more versatile than imagined career, less perhaps in an opening biographical section than in the two other primary sections, indispensable reference guides devoted to Van Cleef's film and television output. In the filmography, Malloy provides an alphabetical listing of Van Cleef's theatrical releases (an appendix is furnished with a chronological listing), with each entry supplying release date, studio, country of origin, color or b/w, running time, director, cast, and, of course, whether or not the film is a Western. Malloy devotes the bulk of each entry , however, to three elements: a plot synopsis, a critical commentary, and an overview of Van Cleef's role in the production. An added bonus for film buffs is a listing of titles in which Van Cleef is rumored to have been featured in but is, in actuality, nowhere to be found. But what is missing from this filmography is the video availability of these titles. While such releases are sometimes difficult to track—videos seem to go out of print more quickly than Mike Malloy. Lee Van Cleef:A Biographical, Film and Television Reference. McFarland and Company. (196 pages; $35.00) books—this service still would have been useful for those intrigued by Malloy's colorful commentary. While the opening 30-page biography contains some nice insights and colorful anecdotes—for example, it was Van Cleef's refusal to have his nose surgically altered that caused him to lose the coveted role of one of Gary Cooper's deputies in High Noon—Malloy's prose has an often credulous air and tends to make some odd assertions. How could it be stated with certainty that Van Cleef penned a fan mag article on the importance of marriage? This is no criticism ofVan Clef's multiple trips to the altar; it rather reflects my understanding that such pieces were ghostwritten by RR. folks. And is "morality" irrelevant in the spaghetti Western? While Malloy provides little focus on Van Cleefs extensive television appearances in the biography, this reference section is both engaging and useful. Everything from Van CleePs turn on The Andy Griffith Show (as a pickpocket, ofcourse) to recurring appearances on Gunsmoke is here. Much attention is granted to The Master, Van Cleefs short-lived NBC series that aired in 1984, a Hardcastle andMcCormick-type action series crossed with Kung Fu. In this odd blend, Van Cleefis a seasoned samurai looking for his daughter in the states with an "aw, shucks" Timothy Van Patten tagging along for support. Malloy provides thorough coverage ofeach ofthe thirteen episodes of The Master, in addition to explaining why Van Cleefs only series was, unfortunately, such a dismal failure. Finally, Malloy does a nicejob ofdetailing the last phase of Van Cleefs career: the international action product, often directto video, that was as ignored as The Master. While Malloy states drat most of these movies are bad, he also notes how Van Cleefs trademark villain has morphed into a paternal guide whose "narrative function is to guide the hero toward his goal." I observed this transformation for myselfa few nights ago while watching John Carpenter's sluggish Escape from New York on cable. There was Van Cleef, leading anti-hero Kurt Russell towards the heroic action ofrescuing the president. But every time Russell's allegedly macho Snake Pliskken tried to stand tough against Van Cleefs police commissioner, it rang hollow because Van Cleefs authority, his undeniable "presence" as Malloy would say, just made Russell's calculated swagger look silly. 82 I Film & History ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9922
Print ISSN
0360-3695
Pages
p. 82
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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