Saturday, October 15, 2016

'Banning' DVD: Robert Wagner Plays Pro Pulling a Con


[EDITOR'S NOTE: This DVD from Australia will not play in a standard U.S. machine; playing it requires a well-worth purchasing international player.]

A large portion of the oft-praised awesomeness of Australia-based theatrical and home-video god Madman Entertainment is the series of DVDs that Madman releases. A recent example is the "Nordic Noir," which includes all three seasons of the (Unreal TV reviewed) original Danish version of "The Killing," that itself is the basis of a series of Unreal TV reviews. The 1967 Robert Wagner cheestastic drama "Banning," which is the topic du jour,  is part of the extensive Madman "Universal Vault" collection of (mostly '60s) movies that are a staple of '70s-era UHF station Sunday afternoon schedules.

The September 2016 Vault releases include the (future Unreal TV reviewed) original "McHale's Navy" movie and sequel "McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force." One can only hope that "Munster Go Home" also appears on the Madman radar.

The wonderful unintentional humor regarding "Banning," which stars the widower of Natalie Wood extends well beyond the titular golf pro/playboy expressing a preference for a wood. Wagner future wife Jill St. John plays slutty/catty trophy (no pun intended) wife Angela. This movie further evokes thoughts of the awesome scene from the Wagner television series "Hart to Hart" in which a golf cart pursues the titular "self-made millionaire"/amateur detective whom Wagner portrays.

The simple but brilliant premise is that the character whom Wagner plays is a formerly successful tournament golfer who ends that period in his life after taking the fall for simple but brilliant cheating scheme. These events also prompt him to assume the name Banning and do his best to maintain his membership in the pro golf equivalent of the federal witness protection program.

The film opens with Banning coercing the president of a country club into hiring him for the created position of assistant golf pro. Drama related to this is that this essentially eliminates the deserved possibility of advancement for the employee who also is the roommate of Banning. Further, the washed-up has-been who is the pro knows Banning from the old days.

The past further haunts Banning in the form of a former backer essentially throwing him under the golf cart by having him face either paying a debt to the mob or being fitted for cement cleats and being tossed in the nearest water trap.

The aforementioned events (in addition to Banning engaging in dangerous liaisons with the kept woman of a rich and powerful man) all lead to a climatic golf tournament in which the past returns to haunt Banning. Like all good dramas (and tournaments), the suspense continues right to the final stroke on the eighteenth hole. This leads to an awesome (and equally classic) final shot (pin intended).

The larger level this time is that "Banning" is a great example of final remnants of the studio system in which established name and newcomers join forces to make films that nicely balance quantity and quality. In this case, stars such as Gene Hackman and Guy Stockwell work with St. John and Wagner to create a movie that keeps your interest and is well worth both a trip to the neighborhood theater in 1967 and an order to Madman in 2016.

The DVD extra is the very mid-60s style theatrical trailer for "Banning,"

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Banning" is encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.