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Top Five: Ernest Borgnine (1917 – 2012)

by on 2012/07/08

I could just about kick myself for not reviewing Bad Day at Black Rock in March or June, not just because I wanted to, but because I’d have seen more of Ernest Borgnine now. He was always entertaining, whatever I caught him in.

This affable interview subject, an irascible force of charm, humour, and empathy, was as rascally as relatable, like a favourite uncle or grandfather. Unfortunately, it seems his time has come to an end at last.

With 95 years and dozens of movie and television credits to his name, we’ve managed to find him all over the place for some time now. Any fan will have their own memories. For me, he’s a few different things: an old-school action hero, a voice on The Simpsons and Spongebob, and a latter-day elder statesman with a wicked rebellious streak.

In time we’ll probably get around to more of the movies he was in, at least the ones we have in our foreseeable future: The Black Hole, Ice Station Zebra, Johnny Guitar, The Poseidon Adventure and, of course, that aforementioned western-noir mashup, Bad Day at Black Rock.

So in no particular order, here are our Ernest Borgnine reviews, including a preview of one I have scheduled for November.

Happy trails, Dutch. You were surely a fellow who knew how to handle yourself, if you know what I mean.

The Dirty Dozen (1967) on 2010/11/17

* * * *

“I need make no excuses for my enjoyment of The Dirty Dozen. I won’t be watching it for history, and a deeper meaning is out, but I will be watching, re-watching, and recommending it for its crazy, satisfying fun. I think Lee Marvin would have agreed: if The Big Red One was dinner, then this one is dessert.”

Escape from New York (1981)


As Cabbie in Escape from New York, Ernest Borgnine brought to a burnt-out husk the qualities it was otherwise lacking: warmth, humour, and hope. Without him, Snake Plissken’s quest would have been immeasurably more difficult, both logistically and psychologically, no matter how deeply the anti-hero hid it.

Gattaca (1997) on 2012/01/31

* * * *

Gattaca is definitely cool. It’s unusual, substantial, and proficiently executed, but it didn’t put me over the top in feeling something lasting. Which may be in keeping for a world approaching perfection in an unemotional manner, but feeling something is an important part of my obsession with exploring films.”

RED (2010) on 2012/04/16

* * * *

RED is a great movie.
“Great, great, great.
“Go see it.
“The end.”


The Wild Bunch (1969) on 2011/06/28

* * *

The Wild Bunch in question is a dysfunctional group of aging outlaws led by Pike (William Holden) and his right hand man, Dutch (Ernest Borgnine). As they continue to pull “one last job” after another, they are hunted by a former comrade in arms, Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan).”

One Comment
  1. cineroulade permalink

    RIP. A fine actor, with a big heart.

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