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From the Summer of Jaws --- The Other One to See

I was around to see Jaws first run in the summer of 1975, and there can be no doubt it was THE event of the summer. Long lines, that visceral poster(and all the political cartoon spoofs drawn from it), a spoof novelty comedy record on the radio("Mr. Jaws"), TV news reports on shark attacks...and if you went to the beach that summer , it was ALWAYS on your mind.

But you had to try to go see some OTHER movie that summer, and by the time it was over, it seemed like the pick in my "gang" was.... Breakout?

In fact, I had several male friends who saw both Jaws AND Breakout and told me, a big Jaws fan, to my face, that Breakout was a LOT better, a LOT more entertaining, a LOT funnier than Jaws.

Truth be told, one of those guys was a scuba diver and ruled out Jaws solely because he thought that the air tank that blew the shark up like an oil tanker at the climax was... "bullshit."

So, anyway, Breakout.

As his agent said during this period, Charles Bronson may not have made as much pay per movie as Robert Redford or Steve McQueen, but he made MORE movies per year, and thus(like Michael Caine and Gene Hackman), ended up a high earner, anyway.

But Bronson rolled the dice through most of the 70's. His movies were "B-ish," even cheaper than Clint Eastwood's "studio cheapies," and were perhaps best seen at drive-ins. Also, Bronson "hit" as a leading man a little late in life(his 50's) so he knew he had to make a lot of movies fast while he was looking good (he had those great muscles.)

In the summer of 1974, Bronson hit "pay dirt" with "Death Wish," a film well remembered for its vigilante plotline, but pretty cruddy in the making and awful in the initial rape-murders that set off the plot. It was a downer of a movie for a "crowd pleaser."

In the summer of 1975, as if perhaps realizing that "Death Wish" had been too grim, Bronson showed up in Breakout -- as a very COMIC presence, a just-scraping-by pilot for hire enticed to rescue Robert Duvall from a Mexican prison.

Bronson was funny all through the picture -- angrily trying to continually pawn off a bad check as part of his bona fides("I have a check here for 500 DOLLARS!" he would say, or whatever the amount was.) and reacting to news of how "mission impossible" his rescue mission would be with a very realistically snapped "Shee--eet!" (My friends copy-catted that line, and Bronson's phrasing, all summer long.) There was also the funny scene where he had to convince big, burly Roy Jenson(the "big tough guy of the seventies" -- see also Chinatown) to "borrow out" his hot wife(Sheree North) to play a seductive rape victim role to implement one of the breakout attempts.

And there are MANY breakout attempts. This shares with "The Hot Rock" (1972) the idea of a "perfect caper" that goes wrong again. And again. And again.

In-the-know 70's action movie fans know that "Breakout" is funny a lot of the time, but plenty violent the rest of the time. The tone shifts on a dime. Big moment: a bad guy gets his head and upper body slashed into pieces by an airplane propeller. Our bet at the time: a watermelon head was used.

So watch Breakout. Its a silly thing now, but Mr. Bronson has long left us and here's a look at him playing the star in a relaxed and amusing manner. Its also odd for the prestige of some of the cast: John Huston(the year after Chinatown), Robert Duvall(the year after Godfather II).

But always remember this: if you didn't want to see Jaws for the fifth time in the summer of 1975, Breakout was the next best thing.

Or so said my friends, who said it was better.....


Just watched it and consider it to be an underrated Bronson gem! Don't know why it took me so long to see it since he's always been one of my favorite action stars. He displayed such a range of emotion in this movie for a change, creating an amiable, mischievous, fun, yet sometimes temperamental character, and his characteristic ruggedness was consistently present throughout the film. I also thought the filmmakers did a good job of steadily building suspense yet the viewer feels instinctively that he will prevail, come through. A good, entertaining flick!


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