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Saint Jack (1979) w/ special guest Ben Mankiewicz


I'm Max Baril and this is classic movie musts where every week we breakdown a classic movie well looking to provide artistic insight and historical context at the very least. We'll talk about. What makes these movies classics? Classic movie must releases every Friday. Ready to complement your weekend movie. Viewing plans thank you for joining me this week as we discuss. Saint Jack in this episode in our feature presentation we welcome the host of Turner Classic Movies. Mr Ben Macoutes to the show to discuss his favorite Peter Bogdanovich film but first. Let's get into this week's opening credits film. This week is Saint Jack which was directed by Peter Bogdanovich and was released in nineteen seventy nine. Saint Jacque Stars Ben Zara and features at ten home Elliott and Peter Bogdanovich himself. Jack Flowers is an ex Patriot in Singapore. Who's willing to make his living legally or illegally. Jack makes his way by helping American and British businessmen find women amongst all sorts of other illicit activities. Eventually Jack succeeds in opening his own brothel but before long the local mob puts him out of business so he starts working for Eddie Shuman as a pimp for soldiers on leave from Vietnam but when Schuman hires him to blackmail a senator with compromising photos. Jack's conscience begins to get the best of him. Saint Jack had a budget of just over one million dollars adjusted for inflation. That's a budget of three and a half million dollars now. Have you ever heard the one about the civil war general named well? You know what it's time for our feature presentation in case you didn't already know. Classic movie must is supported by awesome listeners. Like you over at Patriotair Dot com slash classic movie must and your support makes such a tremendous difference and it allows classic movie musts to continue but not only that. 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A pretty good offer over there at Patriotair Dot com slash classic movie musts. Thank you so much for your support now onto our guest joining us for today's feature presentation is Mr Ben Mankiewicz Ben. It's an honor to have you on the show. Thank you so much for being here. Oh thanks for having me on. I am very grateful. Well we were very excited to have you here. And obviously you are beloved as the host of Turner Classic Movies and you have a new little project that you're working on. I think our listeners will be very excited to hear about before we jump in. Today's movie why don't you tell our listeners? A little bit about what? You're working on Well on April Twenty eight th Tuesday. The twenty eighth our first ever podcast. He seems first. Podcast the plot thickens and season. One is I'm still Peter Bogdanovich and this is a deep dive a term. I think it was used frequently in the podcast world into Peter's life and career There's been a lot Written about Peter he has a complicated career of Of enormous highs and lows and right in the middle of his life and career really defined by a horrible so. Peter is I I liked either. I make any bones about that and I wanted to do a podcast with theater. Wanted it to be. I wanted to see Andrew podcast for awhile and they were interested. They wanted to make sure they got into it. The right way. And this is different than our initial approach with Peter by initial idea with periods these interviews with great classic directors and had these they connected with them and they talked to. He recorded these interviews when he was a a a a movie. Writer and critic And so I thought well we do is like eight spending episode talking about a director. We'd have our dogs episode Lewis Milestone episode. And you know John for Orson Welles. It's got and but the audio you know he recorded it for print pieces so aid is needed to be able to hear it. They weren't really broadcast quality. So were there were parts. We could use But just the more we read about Peter And the effectiveness. He's had it on film festival and whatever we have him on the air. You know I really don't think there's a better storyteller in this business And he's just living link to classic Hollywood. You know he starts talking about Howard Hawks. He starts imitating him. Same with same with cary grant Jimmy Stewart. John Ford And he works in the world live with him for three years with with Peter and Civil Shepherd so and his career are so complicated and he is such a he can be so open and revealing sorta hoped he'd deliver that if we spent a lot of time with them And a story that we can tell In the way that only podcast now can They're really the only sort of you know real long form media available now And so we did and it's been great He was amazing And I we're we're really proud of it. In the first couple of episodes of the avail on April twenty eighth we got seven episodes and a bunch of bonus material to you know. We're not just proud of it because it's our first effort you know. We think it's really good and that that most of that is is due to to Peter's openness and willingness to share his story honestly that's That's so cool. I can't I know I certainly can't wait to listen to it and I'm sure our audience can't wait as well and so you coming on the show today I ask you which of Peter's films you wanted to talk about. And you picked Saint Jack which I wasn't necessarily expecting and at the same time. I'm very excited that you did in. I think in certain ways as you said this is a man. Peter bogdanovich whose career spanned the spectrum is man of kind of certain living contradictions. And this film is about a man who is kind of source of living contradictions. So and a little Birdie told me that this is your favorite of Peter Bogdanovich films. Is that right? Yeah I mean it is. I don't think it's the best upbeat about garbage. So hard to argue against West picture show for that Although I think he's got a number of really great films but it's I think Jack is excellent. I think that That any fan of You know of the nineteen seventies Hollywood storytelling. And if you're a movie fan you know I don't see how you're not really needs to see. Saint Jack and I suspect there are. There are many people Who consider themselves serious movie fans who haven't seen Saint Jack because you know it wasn't It did very well critically for the most part Roger Ebert gave it a really wonderful glowing review One of the ten best films he thought. Nineteen seventy nine but it represents Peter's comeback You know he had three Well first film targets is excellent. You know as I'm sure you guys know basis Sort of inspired by the Shooting in nineteen sixty six at the top of the tower at the University of Texas in Austin which was became tragically for only a very short time. America's biggest mass shooting And that was not a you. Know as embedded tragically into a culture as it is now And and Peter had a mission that almost no director could ever imagine for his first movie. Which was Roger? Cormon saying to him. I have two days with with Boris. Karloff So I want you to us if you want to direct them. Do you want direct movie? Theater of courses. Yes he's been an assistant. Cormon and being an assistant to Corman means participating aggressively in the filmmaking process He shot a bunch of scenes for Corman in in another fell to other films so he Rogers says. Do you want to direct the movie and Peter? Says yes he goes. Okay here here the restrictions obviously as always gotta do it on my limited budget and second you gotta use two days with. Boris Karloff the Karloff owes me and and you should And there's about thirty minutes on news footage criminal Karloff You have to use then and so they go ahead with those two restrictions. Make a move and Peter tied in this idea of of a of a crazy shooter. really shooter with a mental illness. It should be less flipping about it and And and needing to use KARLOFF. This you know easily identifiable or star any any targets and. He was very very good not widely seen but very good. And then he comes up in the seventies seventy two seventy one seventy two seventy three and makes the last picture show. What's Up Doc and paper moon? And they're all critically acclaimed. Oh Big. Box Office successes. Two of them are in black and white And he was every bit they're relevant superstar seventies director as Spielberg became a couple of years later and as Coppola was and as breed can was and is Mike Nicholas. Was you know this was One of those hot young directors who came to define the new Hollywood and then he made three straight flops. The first one. Daisy Miller was forgivable because it was a period piece. And you know you don't expect that to be a runaway hit but then the next two were bona fide flops and you know civil was in two of those three flops and they were on the cover of playboy and they were good looking in love and letting everybody know it and Olives would really came to resent him and he earns some of that was definitely arrogant And then after those three flops. Perhaps because nobody really wanted to help him. I mean all of a sudden this guy who was the toast of Hollywood. His career was in in the dumper. Basically three years off traveled with civil and And then his comeback film he thought he'd made compromises in those three films. Vowed not to make it any made. Saint Jack and I think it would have been Peter's comeback. If the following year he hadn't had his life and career totally offended by them with the by the murder of the woman he loved. And that changed everything off Peter but Saint Jack for a brief moment. Was this really. Well made comeback film and so to me. It's the most interesting films talk about And I also think it's a terrific and I remember reading an interview with Peter where he said that. Saint Jack was one of only four films that he got to make. That were truly not interfered with that. It is exactly the vision he wanted to bring to the screen is that can you is that right. Yeah I think that's right. I mean I think the other three are likely to be You Know Picture. Show DOC and paper Yes so you know we. And if he hadn't sort of you know if he paid a little closer attention I think he could have continued to make films His own way paid closer attention to what people were saying about him. And how Hollywood was working. You know I don't think anybody would say that. You Know Martin Scorsese or Steven. Spielberg sold out right. You know and you know I I look at a guy like how Ashby who just couldn't get along with the people in charge you know it'd be look. Ashby from seventy to seventy nine brought up seven films. That are just amazing right. But he couldn't couldn't continue to do what was asked of him without feeling like he had compromised. And you know Norman Jewison Ashby. Was You know? I don't enormous and sold just figured out how to use the term. They use out of figured out how to work with an around. The suits to not compromise and Peter got how to do that in a way that score says he figured out by gain this sort of independent feel and movies that are clearly had scorsese stamp on him but he got along with people and Peter couldn't couldn't quite figure that out that's very interesting version. I think the later version of Peter a could figure that out. Yeah it's It is so so much about kind of who you are and what what age and what what projects you're working on at that time. This particular film Saint Jacque. I mean I think so much is written about it in terms of its depiction of Singapore. Obviously the film was shot entirely on location. There it really you know gives us this view now looking back on it into a world. That actually doesn't exist anymore and at the same time this film to me. I mean it's as much about Singapore's it is about Jack Flowers and I see so much kind of Peter's general style in the sense of this film is to me a story about these kind of somewhat romanticized human relationships and he manages to wrap them all up in a little bit of farce but also walk this tightrope with tragedy. It's very poignant in that regard. I'm curious what what really speaks to you so strongly about Jack Flowers and this movie in particular first of all the production of it. There's always and it's a great is sitting at a guy who came from the Roger. Corman school of filmmaking would get a film made this way so the Book Saints Yak Which I think it'd been published six years earlier. wasn't banned in Singapore. But it was sort of bad I mean the the government and the the influential leaders in Singapore hated the book because of sort of this suggestion of what it was which was an escape for Members of the US military primarily come to Singapore and go crazy for To daily four daily whatever they at and that You know brothels drinking the this was where you wet for debauchery and so that part of it and then so they live to get the film eight. They said they were making a different movie. They had the title track or a different title. is completely made up the kind of movie they were making and then they made they went off and made say check I would imagine that when Peter cast actual prostitutes that that maybe if they can take a little more attention they would have some sense of what was actually going on but he fooled. And that's right and that's what Cormon So there's there's that component of it disorder renegade style of filmmaking. It is insistence to shoot in. Singapore was also critical even though it was always going to be set in Singapore. You Know Roger. Corman wanted to do with the Philippines chat movies there before and he can do it much cheaper but again even with Corman with Corman producing corner. Put up some of the money here. That That Peter wouldn't compromise even with a guy like corn. He was like no the only thing that looks like. Singapore is Singapore. That's where we're GONNA shoot. But what stands out? He watched the movie. Is Ben Bizarre? You know no question that he he got in. Think every seen just about everything And he is as purely delivers as a movie stars performance as you can get. I mean he is to me part. Paul Newman Part George. Clooney right I mean he is just so appealing and you just. You can't help. But root for him and yet it feels credible I mean. He's a pimp. He's running women. Places gives them tremendous freedom and he treats them incredibly. There's you know they're they. Are you know it's almost a you know it almost feels like a worker owned workplace? Thank And you know. When he was forced to make compromises he starts to but in the end. He refuses So there's a nobility to it you know as always you may be a criminal But he follows set of rules that the audience usually identifies with and he's just good because it is so good and so charming and so appealing. He has that that magnetism. And that's what Hiebert one of the things he mentioned in his review is how good was but mostly what he said was that this is You know after three straight flops. this is You know a return to form by director Peter Bogdanovich here. You know Everything is good. Everything's perfect everything. Just it seemed like either which is how I felt too. I think it was so relieved that Peter had done it was back like. Oh thank goodness. That's that's that's absolutely right. It's such a superb performance it. He is so likable. While of course at the same time he's this man of contradictions much like the city. We ended up seeing as in. It's all it's different lights. We see this character and all it's different. I love your point of being this. Paul Newman George Clooney character. When I watched this movie and I'm curious if you think I'm way off here but I can't help but feel that when I watched this movie it's like you strip away all the romanticism to a certain extent out of Humphrey Bogart's Rick Blaine. And is this kind of how rick and Casablanca gets his club. Is it a similar trajectory? Th- that Jack Flowers walks. That's that's the VIBE. I get when I watched this movie. Yeah I think so. I think that that there's a lot of Rick Blaine there. Except there's he'd not better you know He. He enjoys life too much. Yeah and the point where people and Rick Rick. Of course we've had learned feels the same way. I mean we see it in the you know in the roulette seen that that he may be cynical but he's not GonNa let this young twenty one year old bride sleep with Claude rains to get an exit visa. Her husband he's like no no chance. I'm GonNa give you the money you're right. Even though Claude rains is is is is his pal. I'm not sure cluttering character would stand. Today is an appealing character. No absolutely right but because you know 'cause nineteen forty three and it's Claude rains. It works so I think that there's that similarity to sort of looking out for people and not judging them for their weaknesses That's certainly true but it is clearly Easier to be around then. Rick is before the end before it comes to comes to accept what happened with With Elsa Yeah I. I'm curious your thoughts on one particular sequence because to me it. Just it's so arresting. Every time I watch it. Which is the night stocking sequence of the senator? That comes late in this movie because to me. It's it's what this film builds too and the sequences so there's no music and it's the first time that you. I mean to me the way it shot at night just the general of the scene. You really feel that. This is kind of the moral low point of the spill and that you know he's really starting to kind of detest who he's become as this character and the way that kind of Peter you know uses obviously the power film to kind of convey that it's such a it's such a suspenseful sequence such a thematically powerful sequence curious your thoughts on it. Yeah I think it's a great great great sequence and of course it's this moment right you you. You don't want him to do this right. 'cause you're on his side so And you know that it's reprehensible right and you know and then and also pete out that it's sort of pushed into it by by Peter's character another reminder that Peter if he'd been mere just an actor was so would have been so good and had such a terrific career as an actor herb as as as human and to me. There's also this sort of notion that You know you never know quite what. Peter's job is. But you know I mean I just read someplace that You know someplace described in this sort of you know as a as a businessman connected to the army or or you know maybe it was just connected to the military in it and I and I'm like no he's in the CIA. Is that that everybody you know so Yeah I I'm with you and and as always when you when you are when you become attached to a character I fail to see how anybody isn't get attached. Check our two flowers that Character the the Dan this moment when they break I was talking earlier that he has a set of rules that he'll follow right you know. He does some things with some people might find a despicable. But he has these again. This set of rules this code that he follows. He's breaking it in this scene and you keep wondering. When is he going to not do this? And I think Peter Sets that up beautifully. Peter's always understood music And its role in movies or the lack of music So it's not a surprise to me. The Peter would make this decision because as you mentioned. It's incredibly effective decision to make. But you know he fought with GonNa get studio but he thought was Whatever studio did mask He finishes mask and then a new regime takes over and they replaced springsteen's music with Bob. Seger and Peter had worked hard to get Bruce wishes music in there but They the the new regime comes in. They're not GONNA push mask they're gonNA push out of Africa And they changed the music and Peter was limited and he likes Bob. Seger and I don't know whether it's still works as well. I think it's better now with alignment I always think everything's better with springsteen but I it was and that almost again caused Peter to blow. His career mask should have been a film. But it's daddy is ready to sue the studio over. The music got talked out of that one But you know he'd already made the decision that significant mistake five years before Woods is Dorothy stratton film after after her murder so So you know that scene as you said without music is incredibly effective. Peter wouldn't compromise It's what he says about the movie that's why he's incredibly proud of it This is Peter Bogdanovich film. And you know you could argue. It's still last one. Yup Trust Rating. I mean they all laughed is also I? It is frustrating and it is You know it's in its own way. It's kind of I mean to me. I can't help but think that draw the connection looking back on. Peter's career to Jack Flowers and you know I think of that final shot as we've kind of come to see the city stages over the course of this the structure of the film in three parts we see more and more of the city. It gets increasingly more glamorous as we go from Nicer Hotel to Nicer Hotel and it culminates obviously with Jack. Walking back into the Canal district very much the old world of Singapore that we certainly looking back no no longer exists. And there's a certain a certain quality that yeah in this man is he's content with who he is but isn't necessarily as much of a future there as you'd hope for and it's this with the film itself this guy. I love the general tone where we're not quite sure. Is I mean Jack Flowers? He's he's always a local but he's always going to be treated as an outsider. Just kind of this film gives us somewhat of this local perspective but from an outsider's perspective I think we see so many of these contradictions in the city of Singapore in Jack Flowers as a character and certainly in Peter Bogdanovich is own career. And that's kind of a. You know a poetic a poetic trend. I'd say you know endings. Movies are so hard I was. I guess there's something on twitter about five perfect films that's going around and I don't WanNa do it because you know there are more than five perfect And more than five hundred films that we love right so but a friend of mine get a list and it was a really good and three of them I could easily have put on and the other two that he that he put on that. I wouldn't have included. I think are great. You know And I love the Nineteen Ninety Eight Soderbergh film out of sight. You know and and I and it is. Most of. It is more than perfect for me. But there's an ending shoehorned in there to make it a little more optimistic than Elmore Leonard Book and the endings amusing and it's nice and it's okay but it's not perfect Is really hard to deliver a perfect ending. That makes me audience. Feel good one of the strengths of Of both they're like Casablanca and Josh Akron option. Right like it's you can't believe that Josh Edward as you can get to the moment where these two guys hugging on the beach. And it's not corny but somehow they managed to pull it off And here again. It's the ending sort of. It's almost to me the ending you want. I don't need some great resolution. Where he you know a a beats the gangs and goes back and start running or or or or or marries his girlfriend. You know But he survived and he survived doing the right thing and it's completely authentic And I think Peter has consistently been good in his best movies at delivering satisfying endings. Even if they're not happy index and I think that's You know I to me. That's all of course critical to to the ultimate feeling that you're left within a movie I can. I can still love the movie. That doesn't get the ending right But man when it does you know. I just think that sort of that. Feeling of the blood coursing through your veins. A little more rapidly Last longer when they get the ending right and Peter Peter gets endings. You know I mean there's not gonna be there never was going to be a Saint Jacque Sequel. You can imagine the rest of Jack. Lowers his life right what the kind of. Life Jack. Lowers is GONNA have totally. And he's I mean he's over the course of the movie. He's at his most charming when he's walking shaking hands and asking people how their kids are doing and seeming genuinely interested in the answer. And that's exactly how we get to see him. Walk off at the end of this film so it is It's exactly as you say it's what we want without it being happy and I think yeah and go back to that final scene. You know all all of those that everything surrounding senator and and then therefore Jackson behavior and how he handles it I'll all of that masks. The fact that this is George Lazenby. I think you know know quite To see him again in the sort of secondary role but it's obviously an important role because it's the role that defines what kind of man lowers is And it's just all this there's an aura around George lazenby right and in a sense A guy similar to Peter Right like the world was in front of him to grasp and partly out of arrogance He after it up right you know I mean Lazenby could've continued as bond. He just had to say yes largely and not put you know Broccoli and Saltzman in the position of saying this is our franchise not the actors franchise. We can do this with whomever we want. so you know and then here's Lazenby you know and what could have been somewhat of a comeback For him to and I I just think there's definite Lazenby God of its comparisons Peter a much more talented guy. But you know I. I know we're not here to talk about you. Know Her Majesty's Secret Service. It's actually pretty good. In fact in some ways it's it's better than pretty good. It's absolutely top five. Yeah no question and and all of this I mean here. We've been talking already and and I know you you've gotta go soon but all of this and and we haven't even mentioned dental Elliott. Who is an actor? You don't necessarily want to go up against because he's so magnetic and at the same time every scene featuring him and Bengals Ara just feels perfectly balanced between these two tremendous actors who who really inhabit their role so beautifully. Watch ANYTHING ON TELEVISION NOW. Watching killing us now and they're just these moments where you see You know whether the show you know the little the little. The Perot Season One. It got a little more ridiculous but performances. I'm like I was thinking watching it last night. And these are this is a professional And blanking out on the woman who plays The boss who sort of the head of intelligence they had at my sex But she is and she's English like Like like data molly and and so you get with Elliot and Kozara which is sort of what I think. These are professionals. These are the and they're so good when they got a good script right and a good director who understood actress. And it's one of Peter's great strengths came up as an actor and And Fiona Shaw by the way the actress jodie covert. I'll just blows me away on on that show and With Elliot and Dr. These are professionals. They're really good at it. And you know Elliott sort of you know built to be a great character actor. Gazon was obviously star. You know in some ways It's a little inexplicable. Why he wasn't a bigger star. Although you know you can't that's in no way meant knock bengals ours career but yeah I you can't. Data Elliott is amazing in this movie. And it's the same sort of charm for you. Think man I I'd love to this guy you wanNA hang out with. You Know Dinner With Ben. Bizarre and And Data Elliott would be unbelievably Would just be unbelievably entertained. We'd all be lucky to sit at that table Dan Thank you so much for picking this movie. Because as I said it wasn't at the top of my mind is a movie we were. GonNa talk about but I'm so glad we ended up talking about it. I hope If anyone hasn't listened to this or hasn't watched the movie that they go and watch it immediately because it is now finally very accessible very watchable and it's so entertaining and certainly gonna be looking for the little tidbits when it comes up in your new show. Yes so we more than tidbits on Saint Jack because we think it's really important film and Peter's career and the stories about it are great And and Monica Suber Mani who plays Bengals love interest in the movie And she was a travel agent in Singapore At the time and was not a actor and the manner in which she got cast is great and we talked to her extensively about then what became a a a a month long relationship with Peter? as she talks about that she loves Peter. It's amazing. We talked cybill shepherd in this. The women in Peter's life did not leave Peter's life after they stopped being together With the and even to some extent his first wife polyglot you know when the great production designer and You know probably did two films with Peter after he was living with civil so but the episode we saint. Jack is a big part. I think it's episode five With great stories and Monica You know now lives in just outside of Phoenix? We talked to Monica. I thought it was a navigation. And she's so interesting and as terrific terrific stories about That production terrific stories about Bengals are the extra money. She got from for agreeing to kiss him seriously. Kiss it like she. I think she got two thousand and three thousand bucks every make out scene. Wow so it's Yeah she's Great. She loves Peter and she loves them. Bizarre speaking dinner she stayed friends with Ben Kazaa. Whenever she was in the states should go to dinner with him and with. Cavities Peter. Falk you know what I'm just listening to this and thinking. Oh my God how? How great is that so So then if you care about thank Jack. That episode in particular of our podcast. We'll we'll stand up. I certainly can't wait. The plot thickens it releases on podcast services everywhere. Starting next Tuesday April Twenty Eighth Ben. I can't tell you what an honor it is to be able to sit down and talk with you about this movie and in general and I cannot wait to listen to your show Thanks I hope People enjoy. We're really proud of it and I'll come on anytime talk about a movie so Thanks very much. You're certainly welcome back anytime I think so much. That concludes our episode on Saint. Jacque I would love to hear what you think of this. Classic movie must feel free to tweet at pod or email classic movie must at g Mail Dot Com. You can listen to all of our episodes and learn more about the show on our website. Classic Movie Dot Com. You could support the show and get access to our weekly exclusive episodes classic movie double feature as well as our monthly exclusive episodes. Max's movie must by subscribing on Patriots. You can also become a producer of the show and get your name read at the end of every episode just like our producers Eleanor. B Max on Re Pedro are Ri- D. and Jonathan. Thank you all so much for your generous patronage you can check out all our support tears and their rewards over at Patriotair Dot Com Slash. Classic movie must on the next episode of the show. 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