As I mentioned in a prior post, Steve McQueen is an anomaly for me. As most would agree, he is the epitome of cool, so I want to love his films and yet the few pictures of his I had seen left me underwhelmed. This year, that changed.
Originally, I was planning on writing longer individual reviews of each of the following films. But as it has been several months since I’ve watched a few of them, some of the details have faded and left me more with my overall impressions.
The Honeymoon Machine -1961
Lieutenant Ferguson (McQueen) and his civilian scientist friend decide to exploit a navy computer called Max in a get rich quick scheme involving a Venice casino, while trying to avoid their Admiral who is staying in the same hotel and romancing two women, one of whom is the Admiral’s daughter.
This is a breezy ninety minute caper comedy which may not be one of McQueen’s best films technically but sure is entertaining. McQueen played so many dramatic roles that it is nice to see him in lighter fare. The funniest scenes are of Signalman Burford Taylor who becomes an unwitting and very drunk co-conspirator.
The War Lover -1962
McQueen plays WWII pilot Buzz Rickson, the title character. He is a man with very little moral character, who is mostly disliked, but greatly admired and respected by the men who fly with him, thanks to his nerves of steel and pristine safety record. But that starts to change as he begins to take more risks in the air and challenges the men on the ground.
I can’t say that I enjoyed this movie, but it is one that has definitely stuck with me. It is a great character study of a man who seems cold and remote, who seems to thrive on danger and has no interest in any type of relationship, not even taking part in the camaraderie among his fellow squad members. It’s not until the end of the film that you understand the man behind the name.
Soldier in the Rain -1963
This is listed as a comedy, drama, romance, and although it has some comedy and romance I would call it a drama. Goofy but crafty supply Sergeant Eustis Clay (McQueen) idolizes his superior Master Sergeant Maxwell Slaughter played by Jackie Gleason. Slaughter uses his position to both protect and to mentor the younger, more oblivious Clay. However with Slaughter due to retire shortly from the Army, change is on the horizon for both men and they begin to realize the depth of their friendship.
This movie is a bittersweet tear-jerker, which I didn’t fully appreciate until I realized I was still thinking about the story weeks and months later. I will go so far as to say that this is my favorite Steve McQueen movie and maybe also one of my top ten favorite classic films. It does a great job depicting the daily mundane of army life on base, as well as the depth of the friendship between two men who don’t have much in common apart from the army. I loved seeing the growth of McQueen’s character as he realizes the impact and influence that Sgt. Slaughter has on him and the way that he chooses to honor that is deeply moving.
A well-known crime drama which follows McQueen as the title character Detective Frank Bullitt who is assigned to protect a witness and then determinedly hunts down the assassin who kills his witness while also searching for the truth. He is assisted by his captain and hindered by the Senator who originally requested him for the protection detail.
This film is most famous for its’ car chase scene which is almost eleven minutes long and considered one of the best in film. It is also well- known for its extensive use of real locations in San Francisco and for its’ realistic portrayal of police procedures. The first half of the movie seems to drag a little bit, but it really picks up after the car chase begins. The last half kept me completely engrossed in the mystery and action as McQueen narrows in on the real criminal. I can’t say I loved it, but I can see how this is one of McQueen’s best known roles.