“Monsieur, surely I can’t be blamed if this safe opens ITSELF!?”
Why this little delight is so wildly overlooked is one the great mysteries of this rabid cinephile’s quarter-century. Existing somewhere in that nebulous zone between post-Stolen Kisses French New Wave doldrums and the emergence of the Hollywood Brats, Remy Mastodon’s neat little crime caper undoubtedly managed to pull off a stunt all its own. Anthony Lane, in one of the first reviews he ever wrote–first scribbled onto the back of a pearly white dinner napkin–for his hometown paper, the Delouth Crimson, called Mastodon’s film: “A charmer; not only does it make you thrilled to be in a darkened room all by yourself with nothing but the images on the screen wafting off like the vapors of a stringent bloody mary but it also makes you realize that film as an art form shouldn’t really be taken that seriously in any context.” Touchez, monsieur! When I first stumbled upon Schmatty’s Millions, I have to admit what caught my eye was the presence of a not-as-pretty but not-quite-ravaged Alain Delon of 1971 pitted against that most bovine-featured of odd British-Hollywood crossover stars, Glenda Jackson. Fresh off her Oscar win for Women in Love, Jackson certainly brings some of her D.H. Lawrence-inspired randy insouciance to her role as Bethany, a safe-cracker who’s as stone-hearted as she is savvy. Quickly falling under the spell of wayward police officer Thierry McFarland (Delon, sexier than mid-period Paul Newman but slightly more of a real-life prick) after she is caught with her pants down (literally) in a scenario too wonderfully hazardous to explain, Bethany slowly in turn seduces Thierry to the dark side. With a muddied, downtrodden L.A. landscape reminiscent of Demy’s Model Shop and a jazzed-out, intentionally nauseating score (much of it lifted from The Pawnbroker), Schmatty’s Millions really keeps you on your toes, every twist is like a sharp left-hook jab. The scene in which Delon trains Jackson how to use a shotgun while she masturbates furiously is as shocking now as it was then. The stellar supporting cast includes a crestfallen Anna Karina as the titular Schmatty, a proletariat socialite (imagine the contradictions!) whose fortune seems to be up for grabs, and Sal Mineo as Crip, Thierry’s eternally pissed off brother–though Mineo’s attempt at a French accent leaves a lot to be desired, his propensity to disrobe and show off his Who Killed Teddy Bear–honed physique more than makes up for his dramatic limitations. I heard through the grapevine that a DVD release is scheduled for some time in 2007. Hopefully it will be soon, or it will fast become more sought-after than The Leopard and The Conformist put together.