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Special Delivery

Kino // PG // May 8, 2018
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted May 27, 2018 | E-mail the Author
In 10 Words or Less
The heist is just the beginning

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: '70s films, heist movies, Jeff Goldblum
Likes: genre movies
Dislikes: drugs
Hates: street punks

The Movie
After some brief scans of the traffic and skyline of Los Angeles, 1976's Special Delivery hits the ground running, as Murdock (Bo Svenson) and his associates hit up a bank for a large, illegal withdrawal at gunpoint, not to mention bazooka-point. While making a rather convoluted escape from the scene of the crime, one of the co-conspirators dies and two others are caught by the police, but Murdock manages to stash half a million dollars in a post box and slips away, returning later to attempt to reclaim his stolen cash. The problem is, he's not the only one who knows what's in the mailbox, as a low-level drug dealer and junkie named Graff (Michael C. Gwynne) was standing nearby, and sees the money as his way to change his fortunes.

Also aware of what's gone down is Mary Jane (Cybill Shepherd), an artist who lives in a studio apartment across the street from the mailbox. Mary Jane takes a shine to Murdock and his exciting life of crime and allows him to use her apartment as a look-out, as the former military man waits for the postman to come for the evening pick-up, giving him a chance to extradite his dough. Aside from getting tied up with a bank robber, she's got issues of her own to deal with, including a clingy ex-husband and a crew of motorcycle punks who are unaware of the #MeToo movement, led by Snake, played by a young Jeff Goldblum, who is wearing a rather amazing ensemble as he pads his early resume with another rapey role.

Special Delivery is a remarkably small film, with the majority of the post-heist action (which makes up much of the film) taking place around a single Los Angeles intersection (or at least a studio-lot stand-in). Director Paul Wendkos (a TV veteran with a few feature films to his name) keeps things moving by transitioning from one person to another and then following that thread. It's an interesting concept that plays well with the movie's other artistic touches (including quick-cut editing that heightens tension) but it means characters fall out of the picture on a regular basis. Some eventually make their way back in front of the camera (including Alice's Vic Tayback as a tough-guy criminal) but others, like the guys who worked the opening job with Murdocks, are simply forgotten. The diversions can shed light on the characters--including Mary Jane's meet-up with her former beau and Murdock's attempt to make things right for his deceased partner--but too often they just slow down the action and distract from the core story. More focus on the mailbox and more obstacles in Murdock's way would have heightened the energy of the film effectively.

Even if the plot has some soft spots, the movie can rely upon its cast to carry the weight, with pretty much every scene offering something of entertainment value from the acting wing. Shepherd and Svenson have decent chemistry and enough charisma to be fun to watch at work--especially the uber-confident Shepherd--while Gwynne is excellent as Murdock's paranoid, scheming foe and Goldblum gives a small hint of what would make him a genuine weirdo star one day. There's enough here to keep the film from losing your interest--even throwing in a late-game brawl in a porno theater for good measure--but there's also this feeling that it could be even better, by going a bit bigger or even smaller (a film focused on Shepherd's apartment as Scenson watches his windfall intently just out of reach could be fascinating). Special Delivery is well worth a look for fans of ‘70s cinema, but its relatively low profile in the genre has been earned.

The Disc
Special Delivery is a one-Blu-ray release, which is packed in a standard keepcase with one of Kino's great visual catalogs. An attractive piece of painted key art is on the retail side of the cover, while the film's illustrated poster is on the inside. The disc's static menu offers options to watch the film, select scenes and check out the extras. There are no audio options, nor are there subtitles.

The Quality
The 1.85:1, 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer was mastered from a new 4K scan of the original camera negative (done by Paramount Pictures Archives), and it looks rather beautiful, thanks to well-saturated color and a rather high level of fine detail, with a healthy, consistent layer of grain. Black levels are deep (one darker scene does exhibit some minor smudging) and the image is stable outside of the jitter in the opening titles. Some very minor damage can be spotted, but overall the movie looks quite nice, with no issues regarding digital distractions.

The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track here (which likely dupes the film's original mono audio) shows no signs of problems, as the dialogue is clear and strong, and the music--delightful funk-orchestral numbers courtesy of the great Lalo Schifrin--has the right weight for the presentation. Everything is prioritized well and delivered without concerns.

The Extras
Kino once again steps up to offer a commentary on one of their catalog titles, with film historian Lee Gambin providing a detail-filled guide to the movie. He touches on the criticism the film faced upon its release, the careers of the people involved, the world of dog acting, Goldblum's early career as an on-screen rapist and Shifrin's music. Gambin's Australian voice is pleasant to listen to as he enthusiastically talks about the film, and he provides a summation of his thoughts at the end, a unique element of his contribution.

A era-appropriate (and ridiculous) trailer for this movie is available, along with previews for Seven (the Andy Sidaris version), The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three (the original), Busting, and The Reincarnation of Peter Proud.

The Bottom Line
Special Delivery is a rather enjoyable, intimate ‘70s crime flick, even if it gets sidetracked at points, trying to juggle a number of characters around a very small amount of plot. Charismatic performances from Svenson and Shepherd are coupled with solid supporting actors, an engaging style and a fantastic score to create something fun to watch, but too unwieldy to reach its potential. The presentation is quite nice, and the included commentary adds to the value of the disc. If you enjoy a good heist film or a ‘70s character study, Special Delivery is a fine choice worth checking out.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

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*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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