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James Coburn makes his final great escape...

At 7052 Hollywood Blvd tears will drop for James Coburn. In fact, I dare say at locations throughout the world, heck even at that keyboard you are at right now, tears will well up, because today - James Coburn exited this stage we call Earth.

Harry here, and in terms of MEN - all caps - in cinema, few struck the image and the impression of James Coburn. He's one of the MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, he understood that HELL IS FOR HEROES, and of course he's one of the few that actually made THE GREAT ESCAPE. Of course those are the early Coburn films, when he was finding his feet, his pace. He was simply, one of the other tough guys that ya didn't really get to know. In those early films, he made the best out of moments. Striking into our memory more with body postures and physicality than actual screen time. In that period, he was simply emerging. But when watching CHARADE, is there any of us that can forget his, "She batted them pretty little eyes at you, and you fell for it like an egg from a tall chicken!" Not me.

However, for me... For my money, James Coburn was the first man to clean Hans Gruber's clock. 22 years before John McClane tossed Hans Gruber out a window, Coburn's Derek Flint took care of him in a bathroom. "Hans Gruber, Hitler youth movement, escaped during the Nuremberg Trials." Yes... Ol Flint was the man. In 1966, OUR MAN FLINT heralded the front and center arrival of James Coburn.

No longer was he sitting slightly off center in shots, holding his tongue while Cary Grant or Steve McQueen got all the lines. Suddenly those razor sharp eyes of his, that strikingly imposing figure was the centerpiece in a satire of the James Bond series that was just lovely. Derek Flint was simply cooler than any other spy around. He didn't want to work for the government. When told that his country needed him, he'd say, "It's always nice to be wanted." However, the biting satire of Flint is a wonder. Excuse me if I go on about the Flint character, but as chance would have it, the films I happened to be watching today while working at the computer were OUR MAN FLINT and IN LIKE FLINT... Coming off those films to find Coburn no longer among us is just stunningly wrong. You see, Flint isn't serving any man, any country. Flint is his own person. The villians of the first Flint flick were a group of benevolent scientist trying to blackmail the world into destroying all their weapons, so we could live in peaceful harmony. At the end of the film, when Flint must choose everlasting peace for mankind or the chaos he lives in...

Dr. Wu
"Ours would be a perfect world! Why?"

Derek Flint
"Because it's your idea of perfection, gentlemen -- not mine!"

Truly a case of a man willing to rule in hell than follow into heaven. That was Derek Flint. No country's lapdog, he is serving his own will and I love him for it. This isn't for Queen and country. This is to preserve his existence, wandering the earth with his bevy of women and him the Silver Back of all Silver Backs.

After he played Flint everything changed. Suddenly he could carry a film, and so they just piled them on. He had a sequel to OUR MAN FLINT with IN LIKE FLINT which is fun, but not nearly as wonderful as the original. The next movie he did that I love, and wish to god was on DVD was an incredibly underrated thriller called DUFFY with him squaring off with James Mason -- As just a general rule, you should see all movies featuring James Mason... it's a good rule btw.

However, the greatest James Coburn movie. The one that I literally can not believe isn't on DVD - The one that I wish I could put in the DVD player this second. Well, it is THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST. This film is just genius fun. A highly moral man that is apalled at the violence he discovers proliferating in his world, an insanely paranoid satire - which given some of the current Government's plans for All Seeing Computers that moniter our every move -- Well, some of the plans in THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST goes in that direction. However, the answer to all his problems is THE GUN. At one point in the film he is told something like, "If you want to be a hero, if you want to save the world, TAKE THE GUN!" Once he does, he runs around kicking ass like... James Coburn shouting out stuff like "Take that you hostile son of a BANG BANG BANG!" It is great. The LSD rave is awesome, the balloon trip, the sex and the satire... Just fantastic. Get some friends, some booze, some shrooms, whatever your delight may be and watch THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST. It just kicks ass!

Don't get me wrong, I love his tough manly man films like FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE, CROSS OF IRON, BITE THE BULLET, THE LAST HARD MEN, MIDWAY and so on. However, if I was going to highlight one from this world of James Coburn, it would be the vastly underrated PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID.

James Coburn will always be Pat Garrett for me. And Bob Dylan will always sing about him and his pal Billy. That movie was simply poetry, a ballad about the disintegration of what the Old West had become. A series of posturing and broken promises, of torn allegiances and of death... for in the West death was everywhere, and it wasn't necessarily noble or needed. It isn't the show-stopping film that THE WILD BUNCH was, but in many ways, for me, this is Peckinpah's best film alongside STRAW DOGS. Much of that is in the music and the cinematography. However, the broken-hearted soul of the film are in those eyes of James Coburn. The movie has been maligned for years, go in with fresh eyes, watch it as you did JACKIE BROWN recently. There's a lot of similarities about the characters in the two films. Both are classics.

Another of Coburn's movies that I feel is overlooked, but that I absolutely love is LOOKER with Albert Finney and the absolutely radiant Susan Dey. In the eighties, James Coburn didn't have the best career, he was getting cast in lots of really subpar films, but LOOKER is his best from the decade. Directed and written by Michael Crichton, you'll find the film amazingly topical given the issues today with Digital Manipulation, but back then... whew... WAY AHEAD OF ITS TIME, like most Crichton works. Check this one out!

Nearly 16 years went by till his next significant film work, but when Coburn came back, he took center stage. Paul Schrader gave him a genius part to play. Directed Coburn to his Academy Award. This is one of those cases where a classic actor just wasn't being give the opportunity, but after Schrader demonstrated that Coburn hadn't lost a bit of his edge... His career came back big time.

There's currently a film out in limited release that has Coburn in top form. THE MAN FROM ELYSIAN FIELDS. He plays a Hemingway-esque aging, dying author, with a young beautiful wife played by Olivia Williams, in a great part. In fact this whole movie is just great. It has wonderful performances by Mick Jagger, Andy Garcia, James Coburn, Julianna Marguilies and Angelica Huston. And... sigh... Olivia Williams. Watching the scenes between Garcia and Coburn as they discuss his book. The sorrow and the anger between them. The look on Coburn's face as he comes to watch his wife being pleasured as he wishes he could give her... Heartbreakingly wonderful stuff here.

Then there is a film coming that I'm dying to see called AMERICAN GUN. A film about a father tracking down the gun that killed his daughter. Tracking who owned, who they sold it to, tracing the life of the gun into the hands of the murderer that brought him grief. I've heard nothing but great things about this film, and I'd love to see this. I just hope that whoever has the film, will actually market it and get it out there for us folks to see... Coburn's last performance deserves nothing less than a high class release.

The saddest thing about this, is that Coburn was continuing to work. He hadn't retired, he was still as dynamic and powerful and as dangerous an actor as he had ever been.

"Nobody throws me my own guns and says Run. Nobody."

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