The Getaway (1972) Review

Steve McQueen dashes down the crowded halls of an Amtrak train, chasing after a briefcase containing $500,000 he stole in a bank heist. It’s been stolen by a locker thief at the station, the man completely unaware of what is actually inside the bag.

McQueen runs into an old lady, complaining the overhead compartments are too high for her luggage. In the midst of the chase, he stops, grabs her bag, flings it across the car perfectly placing it in the compartment, and moves on.

That small moment of humor makes what would have been a pedestrian chase into something memorable. The same goes for a car chase after the bank has been robbed, with McQueen and his wife barreling through the front of a house with their car in spectacular fashion.

The Getaway is a lot of fun, wonderfully paced and enjoyably written. A few catchphrases, such as McQueen’s, “Step on it baby!” are memorable. Sam Peckinpah pushes extreme violence during the exciting closing shoot-out, although the MPAA saw fit to give this a PG. While the unnaturally red blood isn’t realistic, there is a lot of it.

McQueen plays a criminal, just out of jail for bank robbery. He’s made a deal with the sheriff for his parole, but only if he robs another bank and splits the money. Of course, if it were that easy, there wouldn’t be much of a film.

What’s unique is that McQueen is flawed. He is teamed with Ali MacGraw, who at one point nearly changes sides against her on-screen husband. McQueen doesn’t take it lightly, slapping her repeatedly on the side of the road. He’s not a pure hero in any sense, and at times, rooting for his escape almost seems wrong.

Thankfully, the film has a secondary character even less likeable than McQueen, played with immense dislike by Al Letteri. He was part of the original heist, sent after McQueen to kill him. When he fails, all sensibilities go out the window, kidnapping a pair of veterinarians. He abuses the young girl (Sally Field), who also inexplicably falls for him at the same time. He’s disgusting in a good way.

If The Getaway is anything, it is certainly gripping. Walter Hill’s script adaptation from a Jim Thompson novel is loaded with twists and scenarios that are wonderfully unique. Besides, you have to appreciate any film in which the leads are stuffed into a dump truck and carried into the middle of nowhere, only to be picked up by Slim Pickens, who makes the final move to save the pair and their money.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

getaway

Warner delivers a clean VC-1 encode (the same used on the HD DVD), one with the grain left intact and the detail that goes along with it. Colors are gorgeous and saturated, although some red push can be an issue. Contrast is bright and full, while the blacks settle in nicely. Flesh tones can veer off into orange, although it’s minor. The source is in excellent condition with only minor damage. There are no signs of artificial enhancement.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Sadly, Warner skimps on the audio, giving the disc a paltry Dolby 1.0 mono compressed mix. It sounds the part. The high end is strained, and the obnoxious ‘70s era soundtrack is a major problem throughout. Dialogue has some minor issues and can be hard to hear. The source likely didn’t offer much to work with anyway.

Audio ★★☆☆☆ 

A commentary starts with Peckinpah biographers Nick Redman, Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, and David Weddle. A “virtual” commentary of the opening 10 minutes is pulled from archival interviews, including McQueen, MacGraw, and Peckinpah.

Main Title M1 is a featurette on composer Jerry Fielding, who was hired for the project but his score tossed out at the request of McQueen. You can choose to watch the bank robbery with his (better) music, or listen to a soundtrack mix during the film. A stack of various trailers rounds off this set.

Extras ★★★☆☆ 

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