The Don Is Dead (1973) DVD Jan 31, 2010 10:50:30 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Jan 31, 2010 10:50:30 GMT -5
In the wake of The Godfather the mob/gangster movie genre got a huge boost. One of the movies that was quickly greenlighted for production was The Don is Dead.
The Don is Dead was produced by the legendary Hal Wallis. While at Warner Brothers in the late 30's through the mid 40's he produced some of the best films of all time, including Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon. After leaving Warner Brothers he continued to make some great movies, including The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Sorry, Wrong Number, The Last Train From Gun Hill, and True Grit. What he was best known for in the 60's, however, was all the movies he produced for Elvis Presley. Some of them good, some not so good, but all at least fairly entertaining.
This was the next to last movie that Wallis would produce before retiring, and it looks like a movie put together in a rush by a tired, old filmmaker.
The Don is Dead looks cheap. The production values look like that of The Rockford Files. Good for TV, bad for theatrical films. Obvious backlot sets are used for a couple scenes, and the look of the film just screams, "TV." Director Richard Fleischer had done much better movies previously (including The Narrow Margin, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Vikings, Tora, Tora, Tora, and Soylent Green), but his work on this movie was sub-par. Camera angles are standard issue, by the book, and completely without imagination. The actors are quickly put through their paces as few of the performances are all that good - it seems like he went with the first take where none of them flubbed their lines and moved on.
So the production values are poor, at best.
As for the script, the dialogue is often somewhat cheesy. Characters are not fleshed out, and major events occur with little set up. In other words, the script seems rushed. Very rushed, as if the first draft were used for the final shooting script.
There is still a decent mob movie in there somewhere, but unfortunately it wasn't given enough time to be developed into more than what looks like a TV Movie of the Week, with added violence and profanity for a theatrical release. The Don is Dead isn't horribly bad, just horribly mediocre and obviously rushed. Even Anthony Quinn, who can usually be counted on for a great performance, is merely decent in this movie - and he gives the standout performance in the film!
Then there's the DVD. Yes, it's in anamorphic widescreen, and, yes - it's progressive, but it looks just as mediocre as the film is. Grainy (and not in the good, "Film grain," way), dark, and just unpleasing, the picture quality is below average. The sound quality is below average, but this is a movie from 1973, so that can be forgiven to a certain extent.
Bottom line? The Don is Dead is probably only worth watching out of curiosity, or if you're a really big mob/gangster movie fan.