Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Flim-Flam Man

A movie that's showing up on FXM Retro after a long absence is The Flim-Flam Man, which will be on this afternoon at 1:15 PM and again tomorrow morning at 3:00 AM. It's not available on DVD as far as I know, so you're going to have to catch the rare FXM showing before it goes back in the vault. (I actually DVRed it off of TCM which ran it in June 2016.)

In the opening scene, Curley (Michael Sarrazin) is trying to hop aboard a train somewhere in North Carolina as a hobo, for destinations unknown. However, he sees another guy getting thrown off the train along with his suitcase, and not by the conductor. Curley, being a decent person at heart, decides to jump off the train and see if they guy who got thrown off needs any help.

It turns out that the two are both on the run from various authorities. Curley was stationed at Ft. Bragg but busted an officer's jaw, so he needed to go AWOL instead of facing the court-martial. Of course, going AWOL is its own crime, so there's that complication. As for the old guy, it's Mordecai Jones "George C. Scott), nicknamed "The Flim-Flam Man" because he does pretty much every confidence game known to man. He's been going from town to town in the region conning greedy suckers out of their money, which is why the cops are after him. Mordecai decides that perhaps the two of them should go into business together, since they both need each other.

It works reasonably well at first, but since Curley is as I said basically a good man, isn't always certain he likes some of the schemes that Mordecai wants to run. One has Mordecai as a preacher and Curley as the victim of a traffic accident, approaching a well-to-do family the Packards (Jack Albertson and Alice Ghostley) with the upshot being that they'll steal one of the Packards' cars. But Curley sees the Packards' young adult daughter Bonnie Lee (Sue Lyon) and immediately falls for her. She begins to fall for him too, even though he's a con artist.

But it's that love that really begins to make Curley question whether he should be going around as a con artist. But the alternative is giving himself up to the authorities, which would probably also mean giving up Mordecai. And the latter is something he very much does not want to do.

Meanwhile, the cops are still after Mordecai, in the presence of Sheriff Slade (Harry Morgan). Of course, the movie just has to engage in the trope that he's an incompetent southern lawman, but the movie would lose much of its comedy and dramatic tension if the cops weren't slightly bumbling. They're also trying to catch a bigger fish in the form of a moonshiner and, early in the movie, the two con artists are flying a bit under the cops' radar.

Ultimately, however, The Flim-Flam Man is a fairly gentle movie that just has a lot of comic potential it has no qualms about mining. The performances are good and the movie is a whole lot of fun. It's a huge shame that it's not available on DVD at all.

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