Second adaption of the Hemingway story. This one is directed by Don Siegel and features Ronald Reagan’s last movie appearance. Clu Gulager is excellent as a hit man.
Charlie Strom (Lee Marvin) and Lee (Clu Gulager) go into a school for the blind looking for Johnny North (John Cassavetes). They force a secretary to tell them where he is. He’s teaching a car mechanic class. An elderly resident (Burt Mustin) calls Johnny to warn him. He just stands there as Charlie and Lee fill him full of lead.
On a train Charlie wonders who hired them and why they paid a lot more than the usual fee. He also wants to know why Johnny just stood there and took it. Johnny was part of a million dollar mail truck robbery and the money was never found. Charlie and Le want to find it.
They go to Florida to see Johnny’s former racing partner Earl Sylvester (Claude Akins). They force him to tell what happened to Johnny.
During time trials a Cadillac convertible pulls up. Out comes Shelia Farr (Angie Dickinson). She comes on to Johnny who takes her for a fast ride around the track. It doesn’t take long for them to get a lot closer. They even drive go carts. That night they dance while Nancy Wilson is on the bandstand singing “Too Little Time.” Now it’s a full blown romance.
Earl isn’t happy and tells Johnny he has to pay more attention to the coming race with its fifteen thousand dollar prize. Johnny gets mad but then apologizes.
Now it’s race day. Shelia shows up in the pit. Watching her from the stands are Jack Browning (Ronald Reagan) and Mickey Farmer (Norman Fell). Johnny slams into some hay bales and then a back tire starts to shimmy and he has to make a pit stop. The crew says the car’s suspension isn’t right but change the tire and Johnny’s off again.
Jack and Mickey come into the pit and Shelia looks afraid. Earl tells them to leave and they do. On the track the new tire starts to shimmy and Johnny crashes and burns. he gets out of the car but is real banged up and is sent to the hospital. His racing career is over.
Earl tells him what he found out about Shelia and how she attaches herself to athletes. He signals for her to come into the room. Johnny tells her he knows what she is.
Back to the present
Charlie and Lee travel to New Orleans where Mickey runs a health club. Mickey is in a steam cabinet and he’ll stay there until he tells them his story.
Jack, Mickey and their pal George are planning a mail truck robbery. Jack isn’t the driver he thinks he is. Mickey, Jack and Shelia go to the local stock car track where Johnny is driving. She says if he comes in with them it’s worth a hundred grand to him. He’s in.
While working on the car Shelia comes in. Now here comes Jack. He tells Shelia to leave after he sees Shelia and Johnny closer than he’d like. She refuses and he slaps her. Johnny slugs him. Jack says he’ll settle with him after the job. It’s the day of the big caper.
Back to the present as Charlie and Lee continue their search for answers. The movie just keeps getting better and is definitely one to see. If there’s any drawback it’s just the technology. Every time the stars are seen in driving scenes it’s more than obvious a film is running behind them.
Clu Gulager was a very familiar face on TV in westerns and police shows. One of his biggest roles was as Emmett Ryker on “The Virginian” (1963-68).
Sitcom fans know Norman Fell as Stanley Roper on “Three’s Company” (1976-81) and in the spin off “The Ropers” (1979-80).
Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson would team up again for the great, not to be missed crime movie “Point Blank” in 1967.