“No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well…maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.”
From Hunter S. Thompson’s 1972 classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and his self-styled “savage journey to the heart of the American dream”. Las Vegas has always held something of an allure for me. It is the setting of some of the best works of fiction and it continues to provide vast quantities of inspiration to novelists and filmmakers. Fitting then that it is the entry point to the US for inkjockey® as we up sticks and relocate to the West Coast for the rest of 2016. When we return after the annual summer hiatus we will have taken up residence at Universal Studios in Los Angeles where a frantic bout of short film-making awaits. We’ll also have a brand new website and a whole host of updates about films in production. Until then however, here are five films set in Sin City that must belong in your collection:
- Ocean’s 11 – No, not a typo, I’m referring to the 1960 original version not the Steven Soderburgh remake, although that has a claim for a place of its own too. Lewis Milestone put Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop on screen in smart suits and then threw Angie Dickinson in for good measure. The feature drips with star quality. There’s even an uncredited appearance by Shirley MacLaine. A gang of World War II veterans attempt to rob five Las Vegas casinos on New Year’s Eve. If you have any interest in the heist genre you must watch it. Soderburgh’s remake is good too, but there’s something irresistible about the original Rat Pack.
- The Hangover – Director Todd Phillips had a critical and commercial smash on his hands with his 2009 film The Hangover about three guys who travel to Vegas for a bachelor party and then wake up with no memory of what happened the night before. Worse than that, the groom has gone missing. Worldwide sales have almost clocked up $500 million which is an astonishing achievement for an R rated comedy. That puts it into Beverly Hills Cop territory.
- Diamonds are Forever – 1971 saw the seventh film outing for James Bond. It was also a return to the franchise for Sean Connery who agreed to reprise the character after George Lazenby left. The story puts Bond into Las Vegas to do battle with the reclusive Willard Whyte, basically Ernst Stavro Blofeld in disguise, and has diamonds, gambling, moon buggies and two of the best characters ever seen on screen, let alone in a Bond film. Mr Wint and Mr Kidd steal the show throughout and have been parodied by writers ever since.
- Rain Man – Barry Levinson’s 1988 film walked off with four Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor, the latter for Dustin Hoffman for his stunning portrayal of Raymond Babbitt. It is a beautiful film that provided an early and all too rare glimpse of what it is like to live with autism. It is a story about family with an incredible card counting scene set in a Vegas casino that lives with everyone who has seen it.
- Casino – Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone join forces with director Martin Scorsese in this 1995 epic gangster film. Pesci’s character is based on the legendary real life mobster Anthony Spilotro who ruled the Vegas underworld in the 1970s and 80s. The knowledge that what you are watching on screen is based on what actually happened makes the film deeply uncomfortable and utterly brilliant at the same time.
Sure that are loads of others that warrant inclusion but the five listed above will give you a sense of everything that Las Vegas stands for. As Hunter S. Thompson wrote,
“In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.”
Enjoy the summer. inkjockey® will return in the autumn. Or should that be fall. Potato, potato (you’ll need to do you own accents to make this work).