Sweet Revenge (1976) by Johnny Web (Greg Wroblewski)

Sweet Revenge is one of those movies which, when popped in the disc player, transports one immediately back to the 70s. It could not have been made during any other period. Intentionally disdainful of any traditional structure or any real point, itís a slice-of-life character study that is not heavy on the drama, yet is also not a comedy. Archibald Macleish once wrote that a poem should not MEAN, but BE. By that definition, I reckon this film is a poem. Beginning in the middle, and ending a bit farther along in the middle, it just is.

Hey, man, it was the 70s, man. Being unconventional was de rigueur, except you couldn't use fancy-ass terms like de rigueur because that's the way the man would talk.  No, not you, man. I mean THE man, man. Peace, brother.

Stockard Channing plays a car thief with a dream Ė to own a car of her own. The woman doesnít want just any old car, but a limited edition Dino Ferrari. Why doesnít she steal it, since that seems to be right up her alley? Because a car like that is conspicuous and easy to trace, especially if the police know that one is missing. Therefore, she has to steal and sell a bunch of standard production cars in order to get enough cash to buy the one she really wants.  She runs into legal problems along the way, which introduces her to an earnest public defender, played by Sam Waterston as the usual high-minded, thoughtful, compassionate Sam Waterston character.

Waterston keeps trying to get our typical 70s anti-hero, the incorrigible thief, to go straight, but she continues to run a con game on him and anybody else she can use to get what she wants.  Thatís pretty much all the film is about. It doesnít have much to say, it has an ambiguous destination, and it moves very slowly toward that ill-defined end, progressing with a typically inconsistent tone for the era, but none of the passion or iconoclasm that made the best films of that time so memorable.

Although the pace is glacial, the talent involved is substantial: 

Channing, Waterston and Franklin Ajaye are credible in the three lead roles. 

The cinematographer was Vilmos Zsigmond, whose four Oscar nominations speak for themselves. He won a BAFTA for The Deer Hunter and an Oscar for Close Encounters. He shot most of Sweet Revenge in the Seattle area, an underused locale which provided an excellent background for the action

Director Jerry Schatzberg was a talented guy who helmed some fine films starring Hackman, Pacino, Streep and some of the other 70s icons. His works include Scarecrow, The Panic in Needle Park, and The Seduction of Joe Tynan.

Unfortunately, all that talent was essentially wasted on a rambling, seemingly pointless film. Sweet Revenge has some charms and has its moments, but it's no coincidence that it is nearly forgotten.


The only memorable thing about this film is that it represents the one and only time when Stockard Channing did any screen nudity. For a brief moment it is possible to see her bottom and the left side of her left breast,

Return to the Movie House home page