According to Penn, The Chase is “a film that I cannot embrace”. The fact that the producer Sam Spiegel insisted the film be edited in London, cutting out the director who was stuck in New York as a result of a theatrical engagement, was clearly unacceptable to Penn. Moreover, he felt that Gene Mifford’s editing followed the screenplay too faithfully, losing much of the improvisational flavour created during the shoot and penalising the actors’ performances, especially that of Marlon Brando, whom Penn considers “the greatest actor of the 20th century”, by selecting the most routine takes. Nevertheless, as Robin Wood has written, “Penn’s worst ‘most conventional’ takes are ten times as exciting as most directors best”. So The Chase remains, despite the director’s anger and disappointment, a great film which, as Wood notes, anticipates “many of the major developments that took place in the Hollywood cinema during the decade following its production”. For example, the way it overcomes its melodramatic structure, where dramatic conflicts are a product of the story, by instead searching for the violent nature of reality through a direct representation of that same reality and thus countering the accusation that he had represented Southern Whites with contempt. The violence that suddenly contaminates the citizens of Terrell (a “boring but pretty” city) is the result of much more than racial hatred: it is a loss of faith in the values underpinning American culture, the civilian consequence of a country that has clearly never abandoned its aggressive spirit. The defeat of the sheriff played by Brando, beaten and bloody after trying to halt the violence overtaking the town, reaffirms these themes in an unforgettable fashion. Calder and his wife abandon the town in search of a new life elsewhere, and the resulting sense of defeat is echoed by the death and suffering of the three young ‘rebels’: Bubber (Redford), who tried to oppose the law, Jake (Fox), who sought independence from his father’s authority, and Anna (Fonda), who hoped to escape her condition.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: dalla pièce e dal romanzo omonimi di Horton Foote. Scen.: Lillian Hellman. F.: Joseph LaShelle. M.: Gene Milford. Scgf.: Richard Day, Robert Luthardt. Mus.: John Barry. Int.: Marlon Brando (sceriffo Calder), Jane Fonda (Anna Reeves), Robert Redford (Bubber Reeves), James Fox (Jason ‘Jake’ Rogers), E.G. Marshall (Val Rogers), Angie Dickinson (Ruby Calder), Janice Rule (Emily Stewart), Robert Duvall (Edwin Steward), Miriam Hopkins (Mrs. Reeves), Martha Hyer (Mary Fuller). Prod.: Sam Spiegel per Horizon Pictures, Lone Star Pictures. DCP. D.: 135’. Col.
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