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Author Topic: Skin Game (Paul Bogart, 1971)  (Read 6191 times)
Arizona Colt
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« on: May 10, 2008, 08:24:04 PM »

SKIN GAME 1971

James Garner (Quincy), Louis Gossett Jr. (Jason), Ed Asner (Plunkett), Susan Clark (Abigail), Royal Dano, Brenda Sykes (Naomi), Andrew Duggan (Calloway)

Two con artists, Quincy (Garner) and Jason (Gossett) go from town to town playing a slave game. Quincy pretends to sell Jason then later on the two make off with the money. The two continue moving from town to town until Jason is actually sold into slavery when the con backfires on them. Another scam artist (Clark) follows the two men and frequently rips off Quincy making off with his money before showing up to rescue him. They then must find and free Jason from the clutches of Plunkett (Asner).

This curious, comedic, pseudo-serious quasi-western is filled with politically incorrect dialog which more than likely guarantees it not getting a wide DVD release any time soon. However, aside from frequent incendiary exchanges, the film also deals with abolitionists fighting to free the slaves sometime either before or during the Civil War so this film isn't just one-sided as so many similar films are. Their is an interesting rapport between the two main characters and over the course of the film lessons are learned by both parties.

Garner seems to be channeling his MAVERICK characterization here as the con man Quincy. Throughout their countless fake-outs, he shows a playful disregard for Jason's feelings during their games to obtain their cash. It obviously bothers Jason and it comes to a head when they stay at a hotel and Jason must stay in the horse stable and Quincy opts for a $3.00 room. A room for which he hasn't the cash so he must borrow it off his partner! It's quite funny, but the laughs cease when Quincy's cover is blown near the end and he is subjected to a whip lashing until Jason can stand no more and some of the bad guys get their just desserts.

Gossett is perfect in this film and he has a full head of hair which is unusual. He is a pleasure to watch and the friendship between he and Quincy is enjoyable and seems very sincere. Gossett is a perfect comedy foil to Garner especially during the more comical first half. In the latter part of the film, Gossett tries to befriend some African immigrants used to work the horses in the hopes they can help him to escape. His acting is excellent here and it's a shame this film will probably never be seen again outside of cable broadcast which is where I copied the movie from.

Susan Clark is also funny as the tag-along third party scam artist who later joins Quincy and Jason full time. She is also quite attractive.

Brenda Sykes of course, was CLEOPATRA JONES (1973) as well as featuring in MANDINGO (1975) and DRUM (1976) and numerous other blaxploitation films throughout the 70s.

The most powerful sequence in this movie is when Plunkett sells both Jason and Naomi (Sykes) off to an assumed good plantation owner named Calloway (Duggan). After the sell, Jason stops Calloway and explains his situation as a free man from New Jersey. He says it quite eloquently the way a "proper white man" would speak. Calloway looks at him dumbfounded at what he has heard and utters, "That's the goddamnedest thing I ever heard..." Jason continues but a bit more hesitant which prompts Calloway to repeat the line again followed by, "I never heard a ni**er talk like that before...If I ever hear it again, I'm gonna blow your black ass off. You understand me, boy?" Calloway puts a gun in Jason's face which prompts him to now to change his speech with a humiliating, "Yassa, boss...sho do..." An incredible punch to the gut considering up till this point the film has been a comedy for the most part.

After his beating, which is not shown, the other slaves and house workers teach him how to be a proper slave. While this is going on, Quincy and Abigail go in search for Jason looking up every plantation where Plunkett has sold a slave in the hopes of finding him. The film returns to light comedy when Quincy shows up at Calloway's plantation dressed as a preacher claiming Jason has leprosy. This leads to the aforementioned whipping scene resulting in the one scene of violence. The juxtaposition between comedy and serious dramatics is a bit jarring at times but the film started as a comedy and ends as one. An interesting film which would do well with a DVD release.

I copied this from cable last year but not realizing my DVR is a couple minutes ahead, it shut off during the last minute of the film!!! Haven't seen it on cable since. Angry

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cigar joe
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« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2008, 04:31:26 AM »

I've always been looking for this film seen it a long long time ago, needs a DVD release definitely. Glad you were able to catch it on cable.

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« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2008, 02:07:36 PM »

My uncle may have it on DVD-R as well. If so, I can get another copy from him to make up for the last few seconds before mine shuts off. CJ, do you know how much I've missed? The last line before it cuts off is "You're so careless with your..." Quincy mentions a bank book and Abigail says "You mean this bank book?" He asks where she got it and then she utters the line above as the movie stops.

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« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2008, 02:15:08 PM »

I don't remember the little details at all, just that Garner was in Maverick mode.

See if you can get him to make two copies I'll trade him Chuck Connors in "Ride Beyond Vengence" for it if he wants.


« Last Edit: May 11, 2008, 02:17:14 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2008, 02:25:31 PM »

Hopefully a legit DVD release isn't too far behind. There was a VHS release, though. It's obviously been remastered from the looks of the print. The next time I speak with my Uncle I'll ask him. He lives in Boston but he told me he thought he had this.

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« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2008, 01:11:12 PM »

I saw this a couple of times quite some time ago.  They used to show it frequently on regular television as a late show movie.  It would be interesting to see it again to see how it holds up from then.  I liked it back then.  Garner and Gossett made a very good buddy combination.

With the subject of slavery and some of the humorous angles, I think you're right, it's considered politically incorrect.  I think that's why it's very rarely shown on television anymore.   Kind of happened with television broadcasts of Holiday InnHoliday Inn used to be shown quite often.  There's a scene with Crosby in black face singing the song for Lincoln's birthday.  Fifteen years or so, it was shown quite often on A&E and PBS.  Seems it's rarely shown nowadays.  Maybe sometimes that scene will be edited out.

There's another film called Sidekicks made a few years later for television, with Louis Gossett and Larry Hagman.  The premise is similar, and I think it was a television movie based upon this film, maybe with the intention to set up a possible series pilot.  I don't think anything ever came of it.  I remember seeing both films on television within a couple of weeks and noticing the similarities.

Enjoyed your review AC.  I remember Brenda Sykes.  She was in quite a few things in the 70's.  She was a dark skinned beauty like Judy Pace.  She was one of the girls in Pretty Maids All In A Row with Rock Hudson and she was well known as a regular in the television series Executive Suite.  She seemed to no longer act after the seventies.  Maybe she settled down and had a family.  Although she was in Cleopatra Jones, Tamara Dobson played Cleopatra Jones in both films.  Dobson passed away just a couple of years ago, not even 60.       
         

« Last Edit: May 17, 2008, 01:32:48 PM by Noodles_SlowStir » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2008, 02:33:25 PM »

My uncle says it's been on TCM some time ago. I caught it on one of the Cinemax channels but sadly, the DVR is a couple minutes behind and my copy is missing around 30 seconds to a minute I imagine. I put in a request at TCM for it. Hopefully they'll show it soon. Louis Gossett Jr. also played Black Bart in the aborted BLAZING SADDLES tv show. The pilot episode is on the 30th Anniversary Edition of the Mel Brooks film. What an uncomfortable show that would have been. There's even a laugh track.

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« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2010, 03:52:39 AM »

Ok finally got to watch this previously unavailable James Garner Western. It was directed by Paul Bogart who was basically a TV director and it really shows since the film doesn't quite use all of the advantages available to a cinematic endeavor. The only other film that I've seen that I know of directed by Bogart is another Garner vehicle based on Raymond Chandler's private eye character called "Marlowe" which I've seen and liked, but not in quite a while.

This film is probably the closest Garner ever gets in a film, that I've seen, to him reprising his Maverick persona when he his still young enough to pull it off, (he does so somewhat also, in the two Support Your Local... films with his cool wisecracking deliveries) but here he is actually playing a character Quincy Drew, who is a con man in the best Maverick Brothers tradition. The story circa (1857) deals with two con men Drew and Jason O'Rourke (Lou Gossett) a native of New Jersey, who we later discover met in a jail in Pennsylvania when O'Rourke was thrown into a cell next to Drew who was doing time for telling fortunes, its hilarious seeing Garner in a turban and fortune telling garb.  They hit it off, and devise various different cons that they try out as a team until they hit on what they call the "Skin Game". This con consists of Garner riding into various Western border state towns Kansas, Missouri, etc., feigning poverty and as a result has to sell his best slave at an impromptu auction in the saloon, hotel, etc., etc. Susan Clark, plays a shady lady/picpocket/con woman who targets the guys taking their money who eventually becomes Garners love interest. Ed Asner here, is in his villain period and he does a pretty good job as a slave catcher operating in the border area who eventually catches on to the con game. Gossett does a great job along with Garner & Clark.

The film is entertaining and plays it safe and cutesy, but it could have been a whole lot better with a more creative and daring director, its reminiscent of Eastwood's self produced Malpaso Production films in that respect, Cherokee Productions is Garner's company.

The what if's:

If it would have shown Gossett & Garner's other various cons and how they stumbled upon the "Skin Game" con and had a better ending than the contrived one it does have it would been better.

I'll give it a 7-8/10 mostly for its Maverick nostalgia value. Its a shame its not on TV in rotation with other Westerns on the various movie channels but I think the frequent use of the "n" word probably is the cause of its not being so. Its almost as if the mainstream media has decided that that period of American History has been dealt with enough and can be swept into the closet.

« Last Edit: January 30, 2010, 03:55:29 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2010, 11:52:58 AM »

Ok finally got to watch this previously unavailable James Garner Western. It was directed by Paul Bogart who was basically a TV director and it really shows since the film doesn't quite use all of the advantages available to a cinematic endeavor. The only other film that I've seen that I know of directed by Bogart is another Garner vehicle based on Raymond Chandler's private eye character called "Marlowe" which I've seen and liked, but not in quite a while.
You should probably mention that "Marlowe" is an adaptation of Chandler's The Little Sister.

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« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2010, 02:21:20 PM »

CJ, don't you remember the thread I started for this some time back? You and I were discussing this movie. It has been on TCM and Encore channels off and on for the last few years. I copied it off of one of them but my DVR cut off during the last minute or two. I posted a link to the DVD-R Warner's recently put out as part of their archives collection.

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« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2010, 04:13:12 PM »

I remember that AC but I didn't think it had its own thread yet, I enjoyed it enough, its worth a buy for Garner fans. The moderators can combine them (I should have checked).

« Last Edit: January 30, 2010, 04:16:11 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2010, 05:38:30 AM »

The moderators can combine them .

Sorted! Afro

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« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2010, 06:51:58 PM »

Too long in parts, unbalanced in tde narrative line. But Garner's role  makes it  a pleasure to watch anyway. 7\10

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« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2017, 03:46:23 PM »

Just ordered this on DVD from Spain  Cool

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Spikeopath
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« Reply #14 on: September 22, 2017, 04:15:16 AM »

Spanish DVD - Region 2.

Skin Con!

Skin Game is predominantly directed by Paul Bogart and written by Richard Alan Simmons and Peter Stone. It stars James Garner, Louis Gossett Jr., Susan Clark, Brenda Sykes, Edward Asner and Andrew Duggan. Music is by David Shire and cinematography by Fred J. Koenekamp.

Slavery era America and two interracial con-men travel from town to town duping white folk into purchasing black Jason O'Rourke (Gossett Jr,). After Quincy Drew (Garner) strikes a deal, with money in hand, the pair meet up later to scarper and split the profits. A nice con, that is until ladies and savvy outsiders enter the fray...

A lovely Panavision/Technicolor production, Skin Game is a little remembered comedy Oater, not because it's poor, but more than likely because it has been shunted to one side due to what is now perceived as political incorrectness. Which is a shame, for although it doesn't fully exploit the premise it is working with, it's a very likable pic that's propped up by strong lead performances.

As the not so intrepid duo move from town to town, places with great names like Dirty Shame and Bitter End, a number of funny scenes keep things perky, be it bath time, Jason crying or the verbal jousting rumbling on, the comedy is subtle and easy to digest. The introduction of Clark lifts the pic higher, for she's a bigger rogue than Quincy and Jason, adding more cream to an already amusing pudding.

It's all very improbable as such, so we are not surprised when things inevitably go belly up, while the intention to probe the bile of the era in question doesn't make a telling mark. But the pros of the piece far outweigh the cons to give us a film worth tracking down. 7/10

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