CRIMEWATCH: The Flim Flam Man
In The Flim Flam Man (1967), a southern fried 60’s screwball crime comedy directed by the late Irvin Kerschner, George C. Scott plays Mordecai Jones a legendary, cantankerous old grifter who has been scamming people in the Southern states for years. Our story begins when Mordecai is thrown off a train (most likely because his latest victim became hip to his scheme). Mordecai is helped up by a young man, Jason “Curly” Treadaway (Michael Sarrazin) who sees the whole thing happen. Curly happens to be on the run from the Army after going AWOL because of an altercation with an officer. The two become fast friends and when Mordecai explains his current situation to Curly, they decide to tag along together awhile. On their travels they come to a small town where Mordecai begins to run a new flim flam on a shopkeep and his customers. The job goes off without a hitch (or so they think) and Mordecai and Curly have a nice chunk of cash to buy themselves some tasty snacks with. When they head back to their hideout (a derailed train car) they eat, drink and discuss going into business together as partners running more scams. Curly decides that until he has a way out of his situation, he might as well go along with Mordecai and learn how to be a grifter. When the shopkeep and a group of townspeople suddenly appear looking for blood, Mordecai and Curly have to take off. They continue to have quite a wild adventure causing mischief and making lots of dough, until one day when Curly meets a sweet young blonde girl named Bonnie Lee (Sue Lyon) who he quickly falls in love with. This changes Curly’s wreckless attitude because he can see Mordecai has spent his entire life on the run and realizes that it’s not what he wants his own future to be like.
The Flim Flam Man is a special film to me mainly because of it’s light-hearted charm and goofy, hickory smoked characters. George C. Scott, who was actually much younger than the character he plays (he wears special make-up so he’ll seem much older) gives another excellent performance that fans who know him from more serious roles (such as Patton) will want to see. Michael Sarrazin (They Shoot Horses Don’t They?) was just starting his career when he made this film and he’s excellent as the free-wheeling but level-headed Curly. The supporting cast is an incredible group of character actors, that’s yet another reason why I love it a lot. With names like Strother Martin, Albert Salmi, Alice Ghostley, Woodrow Parfrey and Jack Albertson you just can’t go wrong. The score by the late Jerry Goldsmith is also one of my favorites of his work. Featuring lots of high falutin’ harmonica and southern bluegrass styled cues. Some interesting trivia is that Goldsmith reused the basis of this score for other movies including Jack Smight’s The Traveling Executioner (1973).
There is STILL no DVD or Blu Ray release of this classic. I hope that whichever studio owns the rights will make it happen!
THIS REVIEW IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF IRVIN KERSCHNER