THE GAMBLER
1974, Paramount, 111 min, USA, Dir: Karel Reisz

James Caan plays Axel Freed, a college professor precariously juggling his academic life with a severe gambling addiction in this riveting character study. James Toback's acclaimed script melds Dostoyevsky's 1866 novel with the screenwriter's own preoccupations and obsessions to create a triumph of personal filmmaking, expertly anchored by Caan's dynamic performance, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination.


THE BIG LEBOWSKI
1998, Universal, 117 min, USA, Dir: Joel Coen

“What do you do for recreation?” “Oh, the usual. I bowl. Drive around. The occasional acid flashback.” The Dude (a perfectly cast Jeff Bridges) decides to seek satisfaction when he’s mistaken for an uptight multimillionaire with the same name, Jeffrey Lebowski (David Huddleston). Enlisting the help of his best bowling buddies, short-fuse ’Nam vet Walter (a brilliantly misguided John Goodman) and wimpy Donny (Steve Buscemi), the Dude is determined to get to the bottom of the confusion of identities. With an excellent and appropriately bizarre supporting cast, including a seductive, swing-riding Julianne Moore as Maude Lebowski, John Turturro as bowling rival and pederast “The Jesus,” and Tara Reid as millionaire Lebowski’s bored, pedicured trophy wife.


MR. SOFT TOUCH
1949, Columbia [Sony Repertory], 93 min, USA, Dir: Henry Levin, Gordon Douglas

This ultra-rare comedy-noir hybrid features Glenn Ford as a returning WWII vet who knocks over the Frisco nightclub he used to own. When the gangster owners come gunning for him, Ford finds sanctuary by getting arrested for a misdemeanor - only to find himself back in hot water when he’s sprung by a do-gooder social worker (Evelyn Keyes) for the holidays. Directed by Henry Levin and Gordon Douglas, this is one of the oddest combinations we’ve ever seen: romantic comedy, schmaltzy sentiment and hardboiled noir. “In headlong flight he paused… to live a lifetime in 36 thrill-packed hours… with this woman!” Not on DVD!


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