And now we return to my regularly scheduled Walter Matthau obsession….
Charley Varrick is another Walter Matthau movie I’ve discovered and loved this year. Sure, I’ve seen Charade umpteen times, The Bad News Bears and the Grumpy Old Men movies over the years, but I never really went beyond those. (Shameful!) No, my obsession with Matthau’s movies didn’t happen until 2020. We can place the blame for this new obsession squarely on the lap of Barnes and Noble and specifically, the Criterion Collection section of their store. Before the pandemic started, I was in the store browsing that collection one day when Walter Matthau’s unique face jumped off the rack at me in the form of the DVD cover for his movie, Hopscotch (1980). I’d never heard of it, let alone seen it, but I bought it anyway, based on the description on the back of the DVD. Of course the movie was fantastic, I absolutely loved it, but it was the Dick Cavett interview on that DVD with him that made me fall in love with Walter Matthau. Smart, funny, subdued, engaging and a truly nice man. What’s not to love?
I turned into a Walter Matthau movie fangirl immediately. I’ve been collecting his movies ever since I found Hopscotch and that interview….they are likely the reason why this home-bound girl in a pandemic has not completely melted down into a puddle of doom. Or gone on a multi-state crime-spree….but anyway….
Add Charlie Varrick to my list of much-loved Walter Matthau movies.
Based on the novel, The Looters, by John Reese, Charley Varrick is a traditional crime caper. Matthau plays a stunt pilot/crop duster that robs banks for money with his wife, Nadine (Jacqueline Scott) and a fiercely greedy guy named Harman (Andrew Robinson). Charley, Nadine and Harman rob a small bank in Trec Cruces, New Mexico. It turns out bad in that Nadine is shot and killed by police during the getaway. It goes bad again once Charley realizes that the money they stole was probably Mob money. Why else would that much money be hiding in a small-town bank in the middle of nowhere? He wonders. And he decides he wants nothing to do with any of the cash. Harman has other ideas. So does the mob. Mr. Molly (Joe Don Baker), the mobster sent to deal with these robbers and boy is he vicious.
With the realization of what they’ve done, there’s a cleverness in Charley’s calm plotting and planning that makes me wonder just how much of this he had planned from the beginning. Hmmmm…… I read somewhere that Matthau himself didn’t like Charley Varrick much because it required a lot of thinking on the viewer’s part. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but I, for one, loved it, including the wonder of how much Charley really knew.