Walking the Tightrope

Bill and I watched an old Clint Eastwood movie the other day. It was raining outside, and Bill was unable to work in the yard. He is unaccustomed to having time on his hands, and was like the so-called cat on a hot tin roof. I quickly got on Amazon Prime and a movie — which I had never heard of — showed up on my suggestions. It was called Tightrope, and was not overly long and did not involve espionage — two things that would have been a game-stopper. My general attention span for movies these days is two hours. As for espionage films, I simply didn’t feel like working that hard to follow the plot.

I was struck by the title, which reminded me of one of Alfred Hitchcock’s one-word film titles. You know, like Vertigo, Sabotage, Psycho, Rebecca. The film originally was released in 1984. I like films made in the 70s and 80s. The cars were as big as a small apartment. Women’s hair styles were huge and covered in so much hairspray that a small tsunami wouldn’t move a single hair. Jeans fit tight at the waist and were acid-washed. Men wore corduroy jackets and sported sideburns. Telephones were attached to the wall and political correctness was a dim hope for the future.

While I am no film aficionado, I believe I could tell you that a movie was made in the 70s even if I had never seen it before. And not just from the cars and the hairstyles, but from the way they are directed. Lots of head-on shots. Lots of background music that sounds like wannabe jazz and might have also been used in a porn movie. Lots of shots from the knees-on-down to build suspense.

Bill and I didn’t think that Tightrope was very good, to be perfectly honest. At one point, I told Bill that if I hadn’t paid Amazon to rent the movie, I would have abandoned it and moved on to one of my British mysteries. But money doesn’t grow on trees, my friends. After all, $3.99 is $3.99. That, and about four more dollars, would buy a cup of coffee.

I was surprised, however, to read that the late film critic Roger Ebert gave the movie a really good review when it came out in 1984. He credited Clint Eastwood for his portrayal of a tortured cop whose wife had left him with his two children. Perhaps she left him because he kept having sex, albeit consensual, with women he met while chasing bad guys. Oh, and he liked using handcuffs, and not just for police work. But he was a really good dad!

At the end of the movie, which featured a very bad villain, Eastwood’s character makes the right choice, and falls for a feminist who teaches self-defense to women. And he hangs up the handcuffs for good.

I never figured out why the movie was called Tightrope, as there wasn’t a rope in sight. But while I thought the movie was crap, I have to agree with Ebert that no one plays a tortured man like Clint Eastwood. He clenches his teeth so much that his mouth must be sore at the end of filming.

Still, he’s one of my favorite actors. And I will admit that I use lines from his movies more than any other actor’s lines. Think Do you feel lucky, Punk? Well, do you?

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