The latest episode of the Burning Ambulance podcast features an interview with film critic and author Walter Chaw.
This is not a typical episode of this podcast. Normally, as you probably know, I talk to musicians. And in 2022, we’ve specifically been talking about fusion, which means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And we’re going to get back to that subject in our next episode, when I have an interview with saxophonist Dave Liebman, who played with Miles Davis in the early ’70s and also had his own band, Lookout Farm, which was a very interesting fusion act. But on this episode, we’re taking a sharp left turn and talking about movies, and specifically the movies of Walter Hill.
Walter Chaw is a critic I read fairly often at the site Film Freak Central. He writes for lots of other places, too, but that’s where I see his work the most. And a few months ago, I saw that he had a book coming out all about the work of director Walter Hill. It’s called A Walter Hill Film: Tragedy And Masculinity In The Films Of Walter Hill, and it’s out now. You can get it from mzs.press.
If you’re not familiar with his name, Walter Hill has directed two dozen movies, including Hard Times, The Driver, The Warriors, Southern Comfort, 48 Hrs., Extreme Prejudice, Streets of Fire, he directed the pilot episode of Deadwood, he wrote at least portions of the first three Alien movies, he’s done a ton of unbelievable work. He’s got a new movie out this year called Dead For A Dollar. Most of his movies are very violent, in an action rather than a horror way, but they’re also a lot more thoughtful and progressive than you might expect them to be. There’s a tremendous amount going on in them in terms of interrogation of masculinity, interrogation of the violence of American culture, interrogation of race and sex and even capitalism, but it’s all couched in these really pulpy, violent, action-packed stories that sometimes start out feeling like morality plays but then go sharply sideways. I might compare him to directors like Sam Fuller or William Friedkin or Michael Mann, maybe even Paul Schrader, all of whose work I love, but his track record is better than any of them. I own more Walter Hill movies on DVD or Blu-Ray than movies by any of those other guys. So the minute I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. And once I read it, I knew I wanted to talk to the author.
So I did. We had a really great conversation over this past weekend, and that’s what you’re going to hear on this episode. We talk about Walter Hill’s movies in all their aspects, from their politics to his use of music, which is relatively unique in Hollywood, as you’ll learn, and we also talk about the process of writing this book and about some other directors’ work, including Ridley and Tony Scott, Rob Zombie, Sam Fuller, Michael Mann and William Friedkin. It’s a long conversation, but I think you’re really going to enjoy it.
MUSIC IN THIS EPISODE:
The Blasters, “One Bad Stud” (from Streets of Fire)
The Bus Boys, “Boys Are Back In Town” (from 48 Hrs.)