Scarecrow, Street Trash, and The Three Musketeers

#190  [archive]

Today you get three movies, all recommended: a serious piece of art (Scarecrow), an icky slice of schlock (Street Trash), and an enjoyable but forgettable Hollywood product (The Three Musketeers).

— — —

Scarecrow (1973)
Streaming free

Max (Gene Hackman) and Francis (Al Pacino) play a couple of drifters with dreams, bumming their way across the country.

Max wants to run a car wash in Pittsburgh, and he's given it a lot of thought and he's still thinking it over. Francis has a positive outlook and he's a clown at heart, and he carries a gift-wrapped package everywhere, making his way toward Detroit to give the gift to his child that he's never seen.

The film is an engrossing, thoughtful mini-series of Max and Francis's adventures, and it gathers serious heft as it goes. They're on their way to their destinations, but instead they find their destiny.

Is Hackman a good actor? Hard to say — in his better-known roles, he's always playing basically the same guy. He's that guy here, too — tough, taciturn, smart, but he wants you to leave him alone. He's great at playing that guy, but did he ever play anyone who wasn't that guy? The blind priest in Young Frankenstein, I guess.

Pacino is more a mystery. You might think he's dumb but he's only quiet, and funny when he wants to be, but sad underneath. None of latter-day Pacino's overacting is on display.

He and Hackman make a nice pair, in this dramatic buddy movie which I'd somehow never heard of. It deserves to be better-known and more widely-seen, as part of the great 1970s movie renaissance.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Street Trash (1987)
Streaming free

This is a plotless and pointless but very enjoyable grossout, wherein a gaggle of homeless drunks and bums swig toxic blue junk from a bottle. It makes them even stranger and sometimes deader than they already were, which was pretty strange and dead already.

There's something about Troma's intentionally-bad moviemaking that usually bores me, but the good news is, this ain't from Troma. It's of that genre, certainly gruesome and occasionally offensive, but it strikes almost exactly the right tone of in-your-face revulsion.

There are several masterpiece moments, but the best bit is an extended, bravado shoplifting scene, where a bum drops groceries into all his pockets and down his pants, and then feigns offense when he's suspected of what we've all seen him do.

It has several rape-adjacent jokes, sorry. Nothing's on-screen, but it's implied. There's also a penis forcibly removed and tossed around like a game of hot-potato, and anyway the title is Street Trash, so none of it is served with champagne.

Bad taste, bad people, bad stuff in the bottle, and an entire bad society walks the streets at night. It's a guaranteed happy time all the way through. 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Three Musketeers (1973)

D'Artagnan wants to be a musketeer, and leaving home his father's fine advice is to get into as many duels as possible, to gain a reputation. Such duels were usually to the death, so this seems odd advice from dear old dad.

This is a somewhat bawdy, frequently funny, never quite full of itself adaptation of the book, with young Michael York dashing as D'Artagnan, surrounded by an all-star Athos (Oliver Reed), Porthos (Frank Finlay), and Aramis (Richard Chamberlain). Christopher Lee and Charlton Heston seem to be enjoying themselves too.

Surprisingly, Oliver Reed is had not yet fully achieved his trademarked 'fat slob' movie persona, so he's barely even annoying.

This was one of the monthly mainstream movies I watch with the family, and it's better than most. I liked the beginning, fell asleep in the middle, and enjoyed the somewhat rousing end.

The swash has been buckled, but why are they called musketeers? There's much, much more swordplay than musket firings.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

• Coming attractions •

China 9, Liberty 37 (1978) 

The Cook (1918)

Doctor Who (second season, 2006)

The Scarecrow (1920)

Stalker (1979)

The YouTube Effect (2022) 

... plus occasional schlock and surprises 

    • And then •

A Better Tomorrow (1996)

A Night in Casablanca (1946) 

Atomic Cafe (1982) 

The Bat People (1974) 

The Beatles: Get Back (2021) 

Berkeley in the Sixties (1990)

Brainwaves (1983) 

The Card Counter (2021) 

Cellular (2004)  

The Celluloid Closet (1996)

The Day My Parents Became Cool (2009) 

The Decline of Western Civilization (1980) 

Downsizing (2017) 

The Exterminating Angel (1964)

Fog Over Frisco (1934) 

Frankenhooker (1990) 

The General (1926) 

The Green Girl (2014) 

God Bless America (2011) 

Hiroshima (1953)

Hobo (1992) 

Invader (1991) 

Jesus of Montreal (1989)

John Wick (2014)

The Killing of America (1981)  

Lady in the Van (2015)

The Last Case of August T Harrison (2015) 

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)  

Line of Duty (debut episode; 2012)

Love Happy (1950)

The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1941)

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

The Man with Nine Lives (1940)

The Manhattan Project (1996) 

Motel (1989)

The Naked City (1948)

The Night Strangler (1973)

Nightmare Alley (1947)

9 to 5 (1980) 

Not Wanted (1949)

Nothing But a Man (1964) 

Phone Booth (2002)

Poison (1990)

Popeye (1980)

Reflections of Evil (2002)

Ride in the Whirlwind (1966) 

Risky Business (1983)

The Rockford Files (debut episode; 1974)

Romper Stomper (1992)

Room Service (1938) 

Same Kind of Different as Me (2017) 

Saved! (2004) 

The Scarecrow (1920) 

Scarecrow (1973)

Scared to Death (1947) 

Secret Weapons (1985) 

Smothered (2002)

The Soloist (2009) 

Sons of the Desert (1933)

Special Bulletin (1983) 

Squirm (1976) 

Stephen Fry in America (2008)

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

The Man Who Thought Life (1969)

The Train (1964)

Truck Turner (1974)

The Weavers: Wasn't That a Time (1981)

Tank Girl (1995)

Taoism Drunkard (1981) 

The Time Traveler's Wife (2009) 

Who Farted? (2019) 

Who's That Girl? (1987) 

Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006) 

You Can't Take It With You (1938)


There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

 Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
← PREVIOUS          NEXT →


  1. Pacino in the 70s is so different than post-Scarface Pacino. I like them both, but I would honestly pick his work in Godfather 1 & 2 as the greatest film performance by a male, ever. Not as influential as Brando or as smart as Nicholson, but his acting in those two films... just perfect. So subtle as to be sublime, especially in part 1.

    1. He really disappeared as Michael in The Godfather. Somewhere after that, he lost the subtlety and became a star, and a lousier actor.

  2. "A fan of Gene Hackman’s acting, I finally saw him up close, along with the other stars one day on the spa set. Hackman walked in with the director. Playing a cop, the actor had a gun on his hip. I was sweeping the faux marble floor so it could be sprayed with toxic lacquer and stopped to stare at Mr. Hackman. I must have been too obvious for both men stopped talking and gave me a get back to work look, which I did. After they left, Dan Ackroyd walked in to look at our set with his pregnant wife, Donna Dixon. He stopped in the middle of the room, looked at all of us moving busily about and pronounced, “I am the baddest motherfucker in this room!” and started laughing, obviously joking amid the Wilmington carpentry community who seemed to have an average height of 6’6”. Everyone laughed politely (which, incidentally, is what you always do when a star says something remotely humorous) and they left. To complete the inspection process, Dom DeLouise came bustling into the set, sweating profusely and almost got stuck in the doorway because of his enormous girth. He proceeded to regal all of us with some genuinely funny self-deprecating routines, complimented our work, and left."

    1. https://jrhelton.substack.com/p/below-the-line?utm_source=profile&utm_medium=reader2

    2. Jeez, I wish that JR Helton guy wrote more at his blog. What, I gotta buy and read his books now?

      Sledgehammers my heart, but I gotta accept that I don't 'book' so well. There are more unread books stacked atop the table than I'll ever get to, so no more, maybe forever.

      Is it my old age, intellectual laziness + insomnia for life? Every time I open a book, even a good book, I either fall asleep or think of something else I gotta do. Articles and short stories are great, but longer stuff has become so difficult...

  3. Mon dieu, Gene Hackman, one of the best actors of the 20th century, is still alive at 93. Maybe somebody else could have played Harry Zimm in Get Shorty, but this serious actor found every laugh hidden in that character. And I don't recall a serious role that he didn't inhabit.


    1. I ain't mad at the guy, he was always great at that one role he played, same as John Wayne or Meg Ryan. Never saw Get Shorty. Hackman was in The Birdcage, a lesser but still funny remake of La Cage aux Folles. Wish he'd come out of retirement, and play Malcolm X or something else that requires a stretch.

    2. Perfect. You've never seen Get Shorty and I've seen it three times. It's on my 50 favorites movie list (although I've only seen about 250 movies, so that just puts it in the top 20%).

      I consider you a fine critic of films, so when the opportunity comes, watch Get Shorty and see whether it lands in your top 20%. We'll see how far out of the world of cinema I live.

      Of course James Gandolfini is good in it, but I think it's the only movie where the work of John Travolta is quite fine.

      This is more important than the Ritz Brothers but less important than masturbation, just to adjust the priority meter a little.

      See ya at the art house.


    3. "but I think it's the only movie where the work of John Travolta is quite fine"

      Shirley you jest, Mr. Basket - Travolta's best work is certainly Saturday Night Fever, Grease, and - most of all - Blow Out.

    4. I thought Get Shorty looked dumb, but that might have been only the ad campaign. Elmore Leonard, right? I've been told it's good by others and now you, so what the heck and why not? Downloading now.

    5. Travolta is OK on screen. No complaints. He's never knocked me over, but I bruise easily. Oh wait, he was quite good in Face/Off. Kinda hated Saturday Night Fever, but that wasn't Travolta's fault.


🚨🚨 BY THE WAY... 🚨🚨
The site's software sometimes swallows comments. If it eats yours, send an email and I'll get it posted.