Watched Journal: March 2024


After the success of his 1974 film, The Gambler, director Karel Reisz's next project was Who'll Stop The Rain, a Nam-Noir starring Nick Nolte as Ray Hicks, a sailor who is talked into smuggling a supply of heroin from Vietnam to San Francisco by war torn correspondent John Converse (Michael Moriarty). While The Gambler featured a hysteric James Caan addicted to the action in the casinos and sports books, Nolte is reluctantly thrown into a deadly game where the odds of survival are increasingly stacked against him. He's been set-up, by either Converse, the connect or the clientele. After a botched exchange, in which Hicks is ambushed by two goons working for a shady DEA agent, Hicks flees with the heroin and Converse's distraught opioid addicted girlfriend Marge (Tuesday Weld). 

Despite being nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes, Rain is a forgotten gem of late '70's noir, based upon Robert Stone's National Book Award winning novel Dog Soldiers from 1974. Although titled Who'll Stop the Rain in some markets due to the usage of the haunting Creedence Clearwater Revival song that plays throughout the film,  downpour only occurs in Saigon when Converse first sets up the ill-fated heroin deal. But the lyrics, "Long as I remember, the rain been coming down, Clouds of mystery pouring, confusion on the ground" echo the chaos of both the war and what awaits Hicks and scores of veterans once they return home. 

Alongside other disillusioned post-Vietnam films, Rain's vibe slots between The Deer Hunter and Rolling Thunder, while not quite the masterpiece that is the Cimino's film and less depraved than Schrader's grindhouse revenge thriller. Yet from the opening credits to the Saigon set-up, Reisz does something rather unique that I've yet to see in any other post Vietnam films from that era, which is building on the foundation of the original B&W noirs that followed WWII, with many films about scarred veterans back from the war searching for that one big score. 

Rain doesn't have the grand scale of The Deer Hunter or Apocalypse Now nor the action heroics of First Blood. The best Vietnam films are concerned with themes larger than the war and Rain is a crime film more about corruption and class than Vietnam. Rain producer Roger Spottiswoode would later direct Nolte in 1983's Under Fire along with Gene Hackman, with Nolte playing a photojournalist covering the revolution in Nicaragua. It's an apt companion piece to Rain, with Nolte's portrayal of gruff photographer Russell Price in Under Fire dotting the line to Moriarty's jaded Converse in Rain.

Much like another sunburned noir from United Artists, 1981's Cutter's Way, Rain throws working class people into a web of intrigue with powerful forces where mutual destruction is assured. Both Rain and Cutter's Way find our protagonists meeting the same fate, while the survivors are left to pick up the pieces. 

What I watched in March:


3-2: The Many Saints of Newark [Max]

3-3: All of us Strangers [Hulu], Dream Scenario [Amazon]

3-6: Crippled Avengers [Arrow Blu-ray]

3-7: Body Double [Indicator Blu-ray]

3-11: Prescription: Murder [Prime]

3-12: Ransom for a Dead Man [Prime]

3-15: The Apartment, The Maltese Falcon [TCM]

3-16: The Window [TCM]

3-19: Night Shift (Howard, 1982) [TCM]

3-20: Sexy Beast [Criterion], The Informer (Ford, 1935) [TCM]

3-21: Straight Time [Warner Archive Blu-ray]

3-22: Who’ll Stop the Rain [Scorpion Blu-ray]

3-24: Dune: Part Two [AMC Madison Yards]

3-26: The Thief Who Came to Dinner [TCM]

3-27: Nickelodeon (B&W) [TCM]


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