12 October 2000 | whitecargo
"B Must Die" is an overlooked gem
I caught "B Must Die" one night many years ago at 3:00 am on a local station's Late Late Show. This film can really surprise you. And it can really stick with you. Its one of those films that you keep trying to find out if anyone else has ever seen.
What looks like a typical low-budget, off-the-cuff 1970's attempt at a slick intrigue picture--you know the kind, I am sure--actually shows forethought, consideration, and carefulness despite its modest production values. You keep waiting some stupid, glaring hole in the storyline, or perhaps the editing (as often befalls lower-budget 1970's products) but this never happens and soon you forget about trying to shoot the film down. It is simple and straightforward and unpretentious.
Its got an exotic, (but at the same time gritty and impovershed) foreign locale and good, reliable, American actors. Darren McGavin gives a solid, understated performance as the unwitting dupe of a political assassination plot. He's just a regular guy made into a patsy on account of his finesse with a long-range rifle. The film has just that bit of menace in its villains and restraint on its violence to make you watch it carefully. It doesnt make the unfolding events too obvious or dumbed-down.
But what you really wind up paying attention to is not the plot in this picture at all--the story simply makes a memorable backdrop for the quite tender, bittersweet romance between McGavin and Stephane Audran. For all its puny size, this romance surprisingly evokes the rhythms of other, more famous film romances--like Doctor Zhivago for example. Its got the very same appeal: that of a man and a woman meeting by circumstance and trying to sustain a romance during a melee of larger political events over which they have no control. The romance is tenuous, and therefore somewhat melancholy from the start. McGavin is plainly a haphazard figure who has never had a chance to be in love with a woman like Audran--and the fact that he cant seem to extract himself from the jeopardy he finds himself in seems to hint that his late success will be short-lived.
But there is a wonderful visual of the two lovers strolling down a steep boulevard, huddled tightly against one another, making their way hesitantly through a crowd of rushing figures, enjoying their love for one another.
All the other bodies around them are clad in starched white cotton tunics and the couple stands out in sharp relief, proceeding in the opposite direction, wearing their everyday clothes, not really looking at anything, but just being close to one another for as long as they can. The figures stream by them like the forceful current of a river. The camera is held for just the right duration, and with just the right backward motion, following the actor's faces from the foreground, looking back towards them as they move. Its hard to forget that scene.
At the end you are really hoping for McGavin to find a way out of the snare--a snare thats been prepared with him as the bait.
If you ever see this film in listed on the preview channel do yourself a favour and give it a look--you wont be sorry.