The Flim-Flam Man (1967) opens with the blast of a train whistle, signaling the heady onset of a journey into a kind of fairy-tale American past: a gilded spot on the time-space continuum where, somehow, con artists are loveable rogues, young men are naughty but nice Tom Sawyer types, sheriffs are gullible but basically soft hearted, and only cheats can be cheated. This is the whimsical side of the road-movie coin, a warm-spirited precursor to the darker, meaner, tougher genre that would become such a cinematic staple in the late Sixties and throughout the Seventies, gifting us with everything from Easy Rider to Scarecrow to Smokey and the Bandit.
Given the conventions of these later films, there are some uneasy moments when we learn, early in The Flim-Flam Man, that young Curley Treadaway (Michael Sarrazin) has gone over the hill from Fort Bragg after slugging his big-mouthed Yankee sergeant. He will be hauled back, surely, and shipped to Vietnam wont he? Not, happily, in this universe. Although not nominally a period film, Flim-Flam seems to exist in a timeless rural South (with picturesque Kentucky locations standing in for North Carolina) of gleaming fields, tree-shaded lanes, and tidy one-traffic-light towns. Not a trailer-park or holler in sight. Scott and Sarrazin are terrific together and have fantastic chemistry. Scott gives another effortless performance in this movie.
As is often the case, it took an outsider to bring us this very American fable. Although born in Jefferson City, Missouri, screenwriter William Rose was an early volunteer in World War II, heading for Britain in 1939 to fight with Canadas Black Watch regiment. After the war, he settled in England, becoming a stalwart of British cinema, writing two comic classics, The Ladykillers (1955) and significantly, a very early road movie, indeed, the luscious Genevieve (1953). Venturing to Hollywood in the early 1960s, Rose hit his stride with yet another picaresque tale, the zany Its a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963), which, like The Flim-Flam Man, focused although in far less benign fashion on the nutty venality of human nature. Chalk up another amazing performance for for Oscar winning actor George C. Scott.
Starring: George C. Scott, Michael Sarrazin, Jack Albertson, Harry Morgan, Slim Pickens, Strother Martin, Albert Salmi, Sue Lyon
Directed By: Irvin Kershmer
Composed By: Jerry Goldsmith
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Runtime: 104 MINUTES
1967 / Color
Special Features: Isolated Score Track / Original Theatrical Trailer