A Movie A Day: Quint and MIKEY & NICKY (1976)
It’s very hard to talk to a dead person. We have nothing in common.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
This is a fascinating forgetten ‘70s gem of a movie. It’s not without its faults, but goddamnit… when it succeeds it’s absolutely amazing and when it fails it’s not bad.
The only time this movie loses steam is when they split the two leads about 2/3rds of the way through. John Cassavetes (Nicky) and Peter Falk (Mikey) play lifelong friends in the film. Cassavetes is convinced that he has stolen some money from the wrong man and there’s a hit out on his life.
He has holed himself up in a crummy little hotel and is living like Howard Hughes, swimming in paranoia and delusion. In fact, it’s quite a while into the movie before we have concrete evidence one way or the other if everything isn’t just in Cassavetes’ head.
After days or possibly weeks, Cassavetes calls up Falk, his only true friend, and tells him where to meet him. But when Falk gets there, Cassavetes doesn’t want him in, suddenly not trusting his own decision to call him.
Cassavetes plays a great paranoid bastard. He’s unkempt, bags under the eyes, a couple five o’clock shadows away from a full beard, he looks oily and keeps throwing glances at the window. He’s at the end of his rope, or so it seems.
That’s one thing you learn about this character, he constantly swings back and forth from near insanity to perfectly rational. Falk on the other hand is fairly solid, his emotional swings spurned on by the events leading up to them, unlike Cassavetes who is almost Joker-like in how rapidly and unprovoked he goes.
MIKEY AND NICKY is a fucked up, unique ‘70s buddy movie, one that should be a lot more known that it is.
Falk and Cassavetes are absolutely great together, each perfectly complimenting the other. As you’d expect from a gritty ‘70s crime movie, even one that has elements of a buddy comedy, everybody is dirty. No one is clean.
Falk is the most relatable guy, but after the first reel we find out certain… weaknesses of character. And when we find out why he has these weaknesses, in a great shouting match on a deserted city street in the dead of night, he shows himself to be an incredibly complex and relatable character, even if at this particular moment in the movie it’s hard to like him.
After Falk is able to talk Cassavetes out of the hotel room, the movie becomes their journey through the city, trying to get Nicky out of town.
The interplay between these two are so crucial that when they go their separate ways about an hour and a half into the movie the brakes are firmly applied and it slows down to a crawl until the final 5 minutes, which are great. The ending to totally ‘70s. You can’t get away with what goes down in this movie these days.
Also worthy of note are a few smaller characters, including Ned Beatty in a great role as (SPOILER) the man hired to kill Cassavetes. It’s quite perfect casting in that Beatty is probably the least threatening person in the movie. He’s a bit of a fuck-up and looks like he couldn’t hurt a fly.
I also have to give a shout-out to one of my absolute favorite character actors, M. Emmet Walsh, who has a throw-away part here as a bus driver. He makes the role memorable, though, getting in an altercation with Cassavetes, ending up in a macho-showdown that gets Walsh into a headlock, still spewing curses.
The movie is hilarious and it also has a very, very serious and well-written core of character work. Elaine May’s direction is loose, almost documentary style, and that helps give it the gritty “anything can happen” feel that is one of the reasons I loved it so much.
In fact, I’d go so far as saying that this film is almost like a Coen Bros. film that they never made. It reminded a lot of two movies… One is the Coens’ BLOOD SIMPLE (for tone as much as the common M. Emmet Walsh factor) and the other is the brilliant and Not-Available-On-DVD (or even video for that matter) GRAVY TRAIN (aka The Dion Brothers) starring Stacy Keach and Frederic Forrest. MIKEY AND NICKY isn’t as silly as The Dion Bros, but it’s got the same kind of crazy buddy movie quality.
Final Thoughts: This movie is a real find. Peter Falk and John Cassavetes are incredible, especially Cassavetes, the direction is great… it borders on arty, but it never forgets to entertain. And that’s the real reason I connected with this movie. All the drama works and the comedy works, but no matter what I was watching I was entertained. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore. If you dig ‘70s filmmaking at all, you owe it yourself to track this one down.
Here’s what we have lined up for the next week:
Sunday, December 7th: TWO MINUTE WARNING (1976)
Monday, December 8th: THE SENTINEL (1976)
Tuesday, December 9th: HOW TO STEAL A MILLION (1966)
Wednesday, December 10th: WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT? (1965)
Thursday, December 11th: BEING THERE (1979)
Friday, December 12th: THE PARTY (1968)
Saturday, December 13th: CASINO ROYALE (1967)
Only a few days away from AMAD's second Peter Sellers-A-Thon! Tons of good stuff there, hopefully, and in the meantime we have some more '70s stuff... including tomorrow's thriller TWO MINUTE WARNING where MIKEY AND NICKY's John Cassavetes co-stars with Charlton Heston. See you folks tomorrow for that one!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
October 16th: The Beast Must Die
October 17th: Hellgate
October 18th: He Knows You’re Alone
October 19th: The Thing From Another World
October 20th: The Fall of the House of Usher
October 21st: Audrey Rose
October 22nd: Who Slew Auntie Roo?
October 23rd: Wait Until Dark
October 24th: Dead & Buried
October 25th: A Bucket of Blood
October 26th: The Bloodstained Shadow
October 27th: I, Madman
October 28th: Return to Horror High
October 29th: Die, Monster, Die
October 30th: Epidemic
October 31st: Student Bodies
November 1st: Black Widow
November 2nd: The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
November 3rd: Flying Tigers
November 4th: Executive Action
November 5th: The Busy Body
November 6th: It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World
November 7th: Libeled Lady
November 8th: Up The River
November 9th: Doctor Bull
November 10th: Judge Priest
November 11th: Ten Little Indians
November 12th: Murder On The Orient Express
November 13th: Daniel
November 14th: El Dorado
November 15th: The Gambler
November 16th: Once Upon A Time In America
November 17th: Salvador
November 18th: Best Seller
November 19th: The Holcroft Covenant
November 20th: Birdman of Alcatraz
November 21st: The Train
November 22nd: Gunfight At The O.K. Corral
November 23rd: Mystery Street
November 24th: Border Incident
November 25th: The Tin Star
November 26th: On The Beach
November 27th: Twelve O’Clock High
November 28th: Gentleman’s Agreement
November 29th: Panic In The Streets
November 30th: The Hot Rock
December 1st: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
December 2nd: The Day of the Dolphin
December 3rd: Carnal Knowledge
December 4th: The Cincinnati Kid
December 5th: Pocketful of Miracles
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Dec. 7, 2008, 8:10 a.m. CST
you're about to witness why the man is brilliant, Quint. including the only NON panther film with Sellers and Edwards.
Dec. 7, 2008, 8:11 a.m. CST
This is one of my favorites. Cassavetes is, of course, a genius. I really like the series you are doing. You should do more Cassevetes... next up.. A Woman Under The Influence... but another great 70' flick in this vein is "Scarecrow" with Pacino and Hackman.
Dec. 7, 2008, 8:33 a.m. CST
Now that one I can't believe! <p> Quint, I'm a simple guy, don't get out to many films or see many on the TV, but Being There? My folks took me to see that when I was 10 and it was in theatres - an all time favorite, one I've watched many times - on laserdisc, no less. So I'm really looking forward to that review! <p> I've never even heard of Mikey and Nicky until today. Keep the movies coming!
Dec. 7, 2008, 8:41 a.m. CST
That being said, TWO MINUTE WARNING is a guilty pleasure movie of the highest order.
Dec. 7, 2008, 8:55 a.m. CST
by nolan bautista
Dec. 7, 2008, 9:07 a.m. CST
I've been looking forward to this run Quint
Dec. 7, 2008, 9:26 a.m. CST
Wow, that sounds like a really interesting flick. Just by name and box art alone, it looked like one I'd be skipping over, but I'm definitely going to seek this one out now. Thanks Quint!
Dec. 7, 2008, 10:07 a.m. CST
Oh man, there is nothing better than early 70's mob/cop movies. So entertaining. So much fun to watch. "The Friends Of Eddie Coyle" with the great Robert Mitchum. "The Seven Ups" with Roy Scheider. "The Outfit" with Robert Duvall and Joe Don Baker. So many others. Just classic 70's badass goodness.
Dec. 7, 2008, 10:44 a.m. CST
Mikey and Nicky! One of the best American films EVER! Don't know if I'd compare it to the Coen Bros. "Blood Simple". That film was more like Hitchcockian film noir, while May's film was more like neo-realistic Cassavetes-esque film noir. In May's film, the assassin complains about job security and paying the bills. You won't find that in a Coen Bros. movie, where their films' characters are more caricaturistic and stereotyped for comedic effect. Anyway, "Mikey and Nicky" truly is a unique American movie that true filmophiles should own.
Dec. 7, 2008, 11:31 a.m. CST
...But a terrific goddamn movie. Glad you liked it, Quint. But yeah, the Coens are all about stylized dialogue and dolly-shots. This is pure improv/you-are-there intimate filmmaking. Totally apples and oranges. Also, there's a great story on the DVD about how Cassavetes took over as DP for a few days, and it was a complete disaster. He demanded that scenes would only be lit by car headlights, and it resulted in reams and reams of unexposed, wasted film. Elaine May had to beg to get the original DP back. I guess despite his greatness as a director, Cassavetes didn't know shit about lighting!
Dec. 7, 2008, 11:39 a.m. CST
Despite 5 directors doing their own thing and Sellers being banned from the set before filming had been completed, they still do a decent job of putting the whole hodge-podge together.
Dec. 7, 2008, 12:25 p.m. CST
While there have been "buddy" character studies in the the 70s about the bonds between men that I liked (Kings of Marvin Gardens, Scarecrows, Mean Streets, Last Detail, Husbands) this one always felt the most forced and obvious to me. Except for a few spots, which I admit were real great to watch, I always felt like I was watching something artificial trying desperately to feel real. But that is just my opinion.
Dec. 7, 2008, 2:14 p.m. CST
by Adrian Marcato
While the film is slightly disjointed, the dynamic shared between these two men in real life (long time friends and co-workers on Woman Under the Influence and Husbands) that translates to the screen in a most off-beat schizophrenic way is worth the rental. I think the films in which Cassavetes himself starred in are mostly gems, and if there is lesser entries (like DePalma's the Fury) at least his presence adds a flair that only a unique genius like himself can offer. Plus, it's amazing to watch his performances to note that his presence was justified in his own mind as a paycheck for backdoor financing his own films, which all of us film geeks hail as the work of a truly original American auteur. Mikey and Nicky was written and directed by Elaine May, one of the most prolific writers/ghost writers of the 20th century, and the fact that she's able to capture the male dynamic in such a taught manner is commendable. This is a movie that has gained steam as film geek generations have progressed particularly for Cassavetes' performance. Also, on Sellers, his Pink Panther films, while funny are not his most eclectic takes or endeavors, despite their undying longevity. Being There is perhaps one of the finest films ever crafted, and a wonderful penultimate swan song for Sellers (whose last film Fu Manchu, is well, nearly undermining). That final scene with him on the lake is incredible. Plus it is endlessly quotable, "Do you know Raul?" The Party is one of my favorite Sellers take on the uncomfortable fool, it is a playground for him to play in. You're going to love them, and see Sellers in a whole new light.
Dec. 8, 2008, 3:37 a.m. CST
Dec. 8, 2008, 5:44 p.m. CST
I think it's overlooked for a variety reasons. Sounds great on paper, but that's about it. I give it 2 stars out of 5.
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