THE NICKEL RIDE (1975)/99 44/100% DEAD (1974)
Directors: Robert Mulligan and John Frankenheimer
Shout! Factory

Shout! pairs an unlikely double bill featuring both semi-film noirs in brand new anamorphic widescreen transfers in this welcomed and long-awaited two-disc release.

Disc 1 features THE NICKEL RIDE, in which a small-time Los Angeles criminal named Cooper (Jason Miller, THE EXORCIST) is known as "The Key Man" since he holds several keys to warehouse containing the local mob's stolen merchandise. After too much is stolen and they are unable to find any more room in the warehouse, they send him out to negotiate for a new one and soon after, his partner Carl (John Hillerman, PAPER MOON) hires charming, trigger-happy cowboy hitman Turner (Bo Hopkins, WHITE LIGHTNING) to keep an eye on Cooper to make sure he doesn't do anything stupid. With his life possibly in danger, Cooper and his girlfriend Sarah (Linda Haynes, ROLLING THUNDER) head upstate with Turner following close behind. After a horrifying dream which has Turner murdering Sarah and Cooper shooting him, they decide to head back into the city and continue to have near misses by the mob and even Turner who still continues to stalk him. The climatic fight scene is impressive as Cooper basically chokes Turner until he can't breathe anymore.

Shot in 1974 and released in early 1975, this is a well-done crime thriller with good performances from the leads and has a dark, realistic tone to it. Hopkins, as usual, plays a friendly, likable character when Cooper first meets him, but he turns into a crazy person for the rest of the film's running time. Haynes doesn't do much for the film, but her performance is fine and she even does a nice dance routine in one scene. Popping up in supporting roles are Victor French (TV's “Highway To Heaven”) as cheery bar owner Paddie, Lou Frizzell as trash collector Paulie, and Harvey Gold (SAM'S SON) as a pesky salesman. Sourced from a near-flawless 35mm theatrical print, Shout! presents the film in its original 2.35:1 Panavision aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement (although both films are incorrectly listed as 1.78:1 on the back cover). It looks good with some grain and no print blemishes visible and colors are very lively. The only extra is the original trailer.

On Disc 2, we have the offbeat comedy caper 99 44/100% DEAD as we follow professional hit man Harry Crown (Richard Harris, CAMELOT) who is called upon by Mafia boss Uncle Frank Kelly (Edmund O'Brien, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME) to help in a gang war led by gangster Big Eddie (Bradford Dillman, PIRAHNA), but the war turns personal when he kidnaps Harry's girlfriend Buffy (Ann Turkel, PAPER LION), and he soon has another enemy to contend with, Marvin "The Claw" Zuckerman (Chuck Connors, THE MAD BOMBER) who can insert unusual objects on his beefy arm. Teaming with Harry, sort of, is Tony (Zooey Hall, I DISMEMBER MAMA, billed as David Hall) who proves to be too much of a liability as he's pretty incompetent. A number of entertaining car chases are featured (including a one involving a school bus) and a wild finale in a laundry factory in which Uncle Frank gets his wish when both Eddie and Marvin die in a farfetched fight scene. Katherine Baumann (THE THING WITH TWO HEADS) appears as a girl who has a one-night stand with Harry early on in the film.

Though it bombed at the box office and partially hurt John Frankenheimer's career, it's an enjoyably silly action/comedy with genuinely funny characters and a surprisingly good script. Shout! presents this in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement, despite being sourced from a 35mm print, it looks good with bright colors (especially the Batman-style opening credits) and nice detail and very little to no grain or blemishes. The original trailer and TV spot are included and the inside cover of the DVD case contains posters and stills from both films.
(Kyle McElravy)