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Winner the most underrated...
on 17 March 2005
Michael Winner is the most underrated filmaker of his generation! (Wow, gasps of shock all round). Those today who know him only as a portly food critic and car insurance salesman would do well to remember a few salient facts. In the sixties he directed a quartet of seminal movies that essentially reflected and defined the period - "The System," "The Jokers," "Hannibal Brooks" and "I'll Never Forger Whatsisname." All starred Oliver Reed in career-establishing performances and "Whatsisname" was probably the Sixties most scathing yet subtle critique of the decade in a tale of capitalism and selling-out to the fat cat media moguls set against a backdrop of new freedoms, free will and free love. The opening sequence where Reed strides through the commuter-crowded early morning London streets with an axe over his shoulder is never to be forgotten.It's a classic.
In the seventies Winner redefined the action/thriller with Charles Bronson as his leading player in "The Mechanic," "Cold Sweat" and (most influentially and controversially) "Death Wish." In addition he gave us a kinetic spy thriller ("Scorpio" with Burt Lancaster) and a brace of philosophically grim and savage westerns - "Lawman" (again with Lancaster) and "Chato's Land."
"Chato's Land" is a violent fable of frontier injustice, terrorism, torture and revenge. It establishes the Native American as a proud, intelligent and noble warrior at odds in the world of the white man (through no fault of his own) yet chillingly in control in his native environment. Bronson's character is relentless, stoic and unforgiving and so is this film. If you're a western fan, this is a rare treat. And a reminder that although his film career may have slid into decline after the early seventies, Mr Winner was a filmaker with a rare vision and unique talent and his back catalogue is well overdue for re-appraisal. Forget what came after, appreciate what went before.