Every Thursday we feature a classic movie [or amazing clips from them] from back in the day for you to watch at work, on the way to work, on the way home from work or on your day off to watch and share.
Today’s feature takes you back to 1981 with a cast featuring a the late, great Burt Reynolds who also directed the film, it also features an amazing cast. Sharky’s Machine was released in theaters on December 18, 1981. The movie has grossed over 35 million dollars since that release. We should note that it’s currently ‘under development’ to be remade. So once again, Hollywood proving our mantra that “all the best movies have been made, we’re here to help you remember them all.”
There’s so many familiar faces in this movie including Charles Durning, Bernie Casey, Brian Keith, Henry Silva who always plays a great crazed psychotic loon, Vittorio Gassman, Earl Holliman, Richard Libertini as well as one of the most beuatiful ladies of the 80’s, Rachel Ward.
Back when the movie came out, I and a bunch of friends had gone to see it at the theater and watched it twice just to see Rachel Ward over and over again. After that, before Chicago had cable TV we had subscription TV services like Spectrum and ONTV where the movie would flourish and gain a whole new audience.
Filmed in Atlanta where Reynolds also filmed Deliverance, Smokey & The Bandit, The Longest Yard and Gator which was his directorial debut.
The movie kicks off with a great lead song over great city shots. “Street Life” jazz icons The Crusaders featuring the incomparable Randy Crawford’s vocals sets the tone for the rest of the movie. The recording in the film is a newer version orchestrated by Doc Severinsen, inviting Crawford to reprise her vocal and who composed the original score, as well. This version is a much more powerful and faster-paced version with a full orchestra, and it was the one that Quentin Tarantino included in his 1997 movie, Jackie Brown.
There’s a great scene in the movie that takes place at Atlanta’s Hyatt Regency Hotel. At 220 feet, the stunt still stands as the highest free-fall stunt ever performed from a building for a commercially released film. The stuntman was Dar Robinson. Despite it being a record-setting fall, only the beginning of the stunt, as he goes through the window, was used in the film. A dummy was used for the outside wide shot of the fall beside the skyscraper. Amazing.
Tom Sharky, a narcotics sergeant for the Atlanta Police Department, is working on a transaction with a drug dealer called Highball. Another member of the force, Smiley, shows up unexpectedly during the sting, causing the drug dealer to run and Sharky to give chase, ultimately shooting the suspect on a MARTA bus, but only after the wounding of the bus driver. In the aftermath, Sharky is demoted to the vice squad, which is considered the least desirable assignment in the police department.
In the depths of the vice-squad division, led by Friscoe, the arrest of small-time hooker Mabel results in the accidental discovery of a high-class prostitution ring that includes a beautiful escort named Dominoe, who charges $1,000 a night. Sharky and his new partners begin a surveillance of her apartment and discover that Dominoe is having a relationship with Hotchkins, a candidate running for governor of Georgia.
With a team of downtrodden fellow investigators that includes veteran Papa, Arch, and surveillance man Nosh, referred to by Friscoe sarcastically as Sharky’s “machine”, he sets out to find where the trail leads. During one of the stakeouts, a mysterious crime kingpin known as Victor comes to Dominoe’s apartment. He has been controlling her life since she was a young girl, but now she wants out. Victor agrees, but forces her to have sex with him one last time.
The next day, Sharky witnesses Dominoe being killed by a shotgun blast through her front door, killing her and disfiguring her face beyond recognition. Sharky has privately been developing feelings for her while viewing her through binoculars and listening to her bugged conversations. The man who shot her, known as Billy Score, is a drug addict and Victor’s brother. He answers to Victor, as does Hotchkins, who is in love with Dominoe, but remains a powerless political stooge under Victor’s rule.
Dominoe suddenly turns up, to Sharky’s surprise, and is told that her friend Tiffany used her apartment and is the one who was mistakenly shot by Billy Score. Dominoe is convinced that if Victor wants her dead, she is going to be dead, but reluctantly leaves with Sharky to be hidden away at his childhood home in the West End neighborhood. Meanwhile, Nosh informs Sharky that most of the surveillance tapes have disappeared from the police station, leaving both of them wondering if the investigation has been compromised. Nosh is then confronted by Billy Score, who kills him off-screen.
Sharky confronts Victor at his penthouse apartment in the Westin Peachtree Plaza, and vows to bring him to justice. Victor smugly tells Sharky that Dominoe is dead and cannot testify against him, but is stunned to be told by Sharky that she is still alive.
While attempting to find Nosh at his home, two men spring an attack on Sharky, and he is knocked out cold. He awakens on a boat, where he is held captive and tortured by Smiley, who turns out to be working for Victor. Smiley informs him of the killing of Sharky’s old narcotics division boss JoJo (who was run over by a car), and reveals that Nosh is dead, as well. He cuts off two of Sharky’s fingers while demanding to know where Dominoe can be found. Sharky attacks and shoots Smiley, and he manages to escape. Later, Sharky turns up with Dominoe at a Hotchkins political rally, to the candidate’s considerable shock. Hotchkins is placed under arrest, and Victor finds out about it on the evening newscasts.
Billy Score, in an agitated state, shoots and kills Victor. Almost immediately, Sharky and other police officers arrive at Victor’s penthouse in an attempt to catch Billy. He is pursued through the upper floors of the Westin, where like a ghostly apparition he appears and disappears, killing Papa and seriously wounding Arch. Billy ultimately is gunned down by Sharky, crashing through a window and plummeting to his death nearly 700 feet below. In the end, Sharky returns to his childhood home, where Dominoe is now living with him.
SOURCE: Sal Amato, WikiPedia