Monday, February 27, 2023

Lookin' To Get Out

I hope I remember how to do this!

First off, let me say that if you’re glad to see a new post from me, you have Allen Kessler and Ann-Margret to thank (now there’s a pair I never thought I’d put together in the same sentence!).

I could explain that right now, but if you remember my blog from the glory days you know I almost never get to the point right away.  I take my time.  And since this is my first blog post in over half a year, I will likely get even more sidetracked than usual, if that’s possible.  Sorry.  You have the option now of not reading this at all, or scanning it until you come to the part where I actually get to the main point of this post.

You see, this post is actually a movie review.  The movie is the 1982 “classic,” Lookin’ to Get Out.

Here’s the first fork in the road I’m taking.  It is actually quite appropriate that I return to this blog after being missing in action for over six months with a movie review because watching movies is now my main leisure time activity, replacing poker thanks to the various lockdowns that started back in March, 2020.  Suddenly, I couldn’t go out and play poker every week (and for awhile, I couldn’t go out and do anything—for that matter, I couldn’t go out at all).  Remember that?  If you lived in California you do.  And since I couldn’t play poker, I had nothing to blog about.  So I got completely out of the rhythm of writing blog posts every night.  What took up my time, you ask?

An old hobby I never really abandoned but suddenly had a lot more time for—watching old movies.  I mean old.  Mostly from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.  Oh sure there were movies from the 60’s forward that I watched and enjoyed, and even movies that were practically new.  But old films got most of my attention.  Fortunately I had access to Turner Classic Movies, which may have saved my life.  And when I switched to YouTubeTV,  I suddenly had a virtual DVR that was able to hold an unlimited number of movies (TV shows too).  I have nearly 2,500 movies on that DVR at this moment, most of them from TCM.  Plus there’s Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney +.  I’m not likely to run out of movies to watch anytime in my next three lifetimes. Of course, not all of those movies on the DVR will ever be watched and a lot of them I’ve already watched, but there’s no way to delete them, you just have to let them “expire” automatically after nine months.

If you’re interested, my favorite genres are film noirs, pre-code films and screwball comedies.  But I’ve watched films from virtually every conceivable genre over the past three years.  I’ve even watched Bette Davis melodramas.

As a kid I always loved old films, and while attending UCLA in the ‘70’s I took two film courses that introduced me to some great movies I hadn’t seen or even heard of before.  I wish I still had the lists I made of the films I saw then, but whenever I come across one of them now, I usually remember if I saw them in a class. Great films I do remember from those classes include High Noon (my all-time favorite western), Ninotchka, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Holiday, and You Can’t Take it With You.  And so many more.

I was on Twitter a lot and suddenly no one was tweeting about poker (because no one was playing it), which was the main reason I joined it in the first place.  But I found Twitter accounts that talked about movies, and some specialized in the old movies I was most interested in. I get recommendations from them all the time. You may see me interact with some of these accounts from time to time, commenting on the movies they recommend (especially when they recommend good ones).

So it isn’t unusual for me to watch a movie based on a Twitter recommendation, but I never expected to get a movie recommendation from Allen Kessler (come on, you knew I’d get back to him eventually).  Does anyone reading this not know who Allen Kessler is?  Since I can’t hear you answering, I’ll tell you that Allen, nicknamed “Chainsaw,” is a professional poker player and gambler. He is known for being extremely picky about tournament structures and rake, for never paying for a meal (he gets comped a whole lot) and for his generosity in sharing his comps with his friends.  He was probably one of my first follows on Twitter and he follows me as well.  We’ve interacted on Twitter any number of times.

But I never met him in person until this past October.  I was playing in a tournament at Orleans and on the break I recognized him sitting at a tournament table that I walked by on the way to the restroom.  He was playing a different tournament than I was (no doubt a “mixed game” tourney which he prefers to NLH).  I couldn’t help recognizing him from all the pics of him I’ve seen on Twitter and elsewhere.  I’m not sure I even intended to say this out loud, but as I was about to pass him, the word “Chainsaw” audibly escaped my lips.  He looked up and I said hi and told him I was “robvegaspoker” and of course he knew me from Twitter.  He was in the middle of the hand and I didn’t want to be late back from break so that was the extent of our interaction.

That incident has nothing to do with why he’s responsible for this blog post buy you know how I am.  Just the other day, on Twitter, Allen posted a link to a movie that was available free on YouTube (it’s amazing how many good movies are available on YouTube for free—high quality prints in many cases, too). That movie was Lookin’ to Get Out (see, I got back there, eventually).  Allen said about the film, “This is my favorite gambling movie of all time.  Enjoy!”

Well, now, if a famous (and infamous?) and prolific gambler like Allen Kessler claims a movie is his all time favorite gambling movie, well, I just have to take note.  I gotta figure Kessler knows what he’s talking about, or at least there’s a good chance he does.  Since he hasn’t discussed movies much on Twitter (to my recollection anyway), I didn’t know how well his tastes in film align with mine, but I just had to give him some respect based on the subject being gambling movies and he being a pro at that very occupation.

Then I did what I always do these days when someone mentions I movie I might want to watch.  I checked the IMDB rating.  It was 5.1.  I won’t go into the intricacies of the IMDB rating system, (at last a tangent I won’t go on!) but when I’m looking over the movie listings I check IMDB and generally use “7” as the minimum for a movie I’ll watch (this is a consensus rating “voted” on by the users of IMDB).  I’ll definitely consider lower rated movies depending on the cast, the director, the subject matter and personal recommendations I get (from Twitter or otherwise).  For sure, movies that rate a 6.4, for example, have been known to surprise me and have been found vastly underrated by no less an expert than yours truly.  But man, that 5.1 is really, really, really low!

I had to reconsider.  What do I know about Allen Kessler?  I know he gambles for a living.  I knew he loves Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.  But do I know if he likes Citizen Kane?  Do I know if likes Casablanca?  Does he agree with me that Vertigo is the best ever Hitchcock movie?  Does he even like Hitchcock?  If he doesn’t, he can be dismissed as not having anything meaningful to say about film.  Well, it seemed like a bad idea to present him with a movie quiz just to follow one of his movie recommendations.  It would probably take longer than just watching the damn movie and deciding for myself whether or not I liked it.

I looked at the cast.  Jon Voight was the star.  Ok, a good actor for sure.  Good actors have been known to make some terrible movies though. Burt Young.  Wasn’t he in the Rocky movies?  Those were good, that was a plus. 

And then….then, I saw the name Ann-Margret.


Does it surprise anyone who’s familiar with my blog that I really like Ann-Margret?
  I think not.

Let me just say that as an owner of a y-chromosome who came of age in the ‘60’s, I believe it is in my DNA to love Ann-Margret.  For my money, she is the sexiest woman I’ve ever seen. 

So if you have Ann-Margret in your movie you have my attention.  And that tipped the scales in favor of giving this 5.1 film a try.

No doubt some of you are recalling that Ms. Margret was in another gambling movie earlier in her career.  In fact, she was in one of the all-time great poker movies, The Cincinnati Kid (1965), which has a 7.2 rating on IMDB (should be much higher).  She doesn’t have a big role, but it is important and she looks incredibly good (not a difficult feat for her in those days).  I’m sure at least 99% of you have seen it, right?  If not, drop everything and watch it ASAP.  Just a terrific poker movie that stars the great Steve McQueen and the legendary Edward G. Robinson.  I’ve seen a boatload of Robinson films these past three years and even if the movie is less than stellar you can count on him to give a riveting performance (same with James Cagney and of course, Humphrey Bogart).

But I digress (that’s so unlike me). The movie in question is Lookin’ to Get Out. And to be honest, it is not a great movie.  In fact, it might not even be a good movie.  It is a Jon Voight vanity project. In addition to starring, he co-wrote the script, and his production company produced it. His (then) 7-year old daughter has one scene in it (her movie debut).  You know her now as Angelina Jolie (speaking of sexy women—but definitely not in this movie).  His soon-to-be ex-wife (and Angelina’s mother) also has a brief scene in the film.

It’s a comedy I guess.  I suppose there’s a bit of seriousness about gambling addiction and also about male friendship.  It’s a buddy-movie (Voight and Young).  It has a familiar plot: Gamblers Voight and Young lose a lot of money to bad people you really shouldn’t be losing money to if you value your knee-caps and other body parts, or your life for that matter.  To try to raise the money to pay the debt, the only thing they can think of is to gamble more, only this time, win.  Of course!  Because that’s what compulsive gamblers do.

Ann-Margret plays a woman from Voight’s past.  If you have ever seen a movie before, you know when they meet again they both start having those old feelings for each other. Surprise!  This causes complications on top of the gambling debt

A lot of totally outrageous things happen, many are quite unrealistic. There are more than the movie’s share of “Oh, come on” moments (as in, no one would ever do that).  When the movie turns to outright comedy, it tends to go overboard.  There’s a long chase scene that goes on way too long.  But it’s very funny for most of it.  Similarly, there is an outrageous fight scene inside a casino that they didn’t know when to end (hint: sooner than they did).  But did I laugh and enjoy it?  You bet (so to speak).

There’s also a pretty awesome extended blackjack scene.  That’s the game the boys play to try to get their gambling loses back.  That is really a great scene, thoroughly enjoyed that.

This was filmed in 1980 and Ann-Margret looked like, well, Ann-Margret.  She was gorgeous and sexy.  She had big hair.  And she is and was a very underrated actress.

One thing I have to mention is the setting of the film.  After starting out in New York, the boys hit Vegas to strike it rich.  Most of the movie takes place in Vegas, and it was filmed at the MGM Grand.  However, it wasn’t the MGM you know today.  This was filmed when the MGM was located where Bally’s is today.  No wait, I mean, where the Horseshoe is.  Yeah, that property started out at the MGM, then it was Bally’s for like forever and is now the Horseshoe.  The MGM sold it and then bought the property they now own on Tropicana.  Got that straight?  From the exterior, you actually see the Barbary Coast (ah, the good old days) more than the MGM.

More important, this is my Vegas. This is the Vegas I first knew and fell in love with.  It was a real treat to see this Vegas right there in front of me. As I said, it was shot in 1980.  That is the first year I ever went to Vegas.  I know this Vegas!  One of the things I loved about the movie is that it took me back there.  Also, 1980 was the year of the famous MGM fire.  Coincidentally, the last day of filming was when the fire hit. Amazing.

So despite this not be a great film, I loved it.  It was just a lot of fun, faults and all.  This is definitely not The Cincinnati Kid, or Rounders (except for a very early scene, there’s no poker in it).  It’s more about friendship and discipline (or lack thereof) than gambling.  But there is a great payoff to the gambling story I won’t spoil.

Because of the flaws, I am hesitant to unconditionally recommend it, although I suspect readers of this blog will have a head start in liking it.

But I can say I had a lot of fun watching it.  A lot.

Thanks, Allen.

(Note:  I supposed I should have put a pic of Allen with this post instead of Ann-Margret.  But then I would have felt obligated to ask Allen for a picture or at least for his permission to use one, so I decided that even Allen would prefer looking at a picture of Ann-Margret rather than one of himself.)


  1. Great to have you posting again. I tend to worry when you go into deep radio silence. I agree on Ann Margret, very beautiful
    Keep writing

    Rochester NY

    1. Thanks, LG. Appreciate you still hanging around!

  2. I have never seen this Allen, but agree it is better to run a picture of Ann-Margret. Where we disagree is on whether she is the sexiest woman ever. My money is on the recently-late Stella Stevens (but it's close).

    And I agree about missing the old Barbary Coast: friendly casino, the world's-greatest cocktail waitress, really nice hotel rooms, and the worst parking lot on The Strip.

    1. Heh heh. You are right about the pic. Since this post is about old movies, lemme say this: Allen will not make anyone think of Cary Grant.

      Well Stella Stevens was one of the most beautiful women to ever walk the planet. And she did have the advantage of being a Playboy Playmate and having appeared in public with a lot less clothing on than AM ever did, so that's one for Stella. For me, she'd be one helluva consolation prize for sure!

      And yeah, the Barbary Coast was so great back in the day, wasn't it? Even if they did color you up too damn fast!

  3. I love old movies and TCM..... "You can't take it with you " , Mrs Miniver, Friendly Persuasion , and anything with Barbara Stanwyck

    1. Oh yes, seen a lot of Barbara Stanwyck these past three years, terrific actress. I used to know her only from the TV show The Big Valley, but now I know her from a whole lot more.

      Ever see Baby Face? That will show you a new side of her for sure!

  4. Glad to see the new post Rob! Been a while!


    1. Thanks, Kenny. Always great to hear from you.

  5. He's back! Cool Hand Luke, The Hustler, The Cincinnati Kid, and It's a Wonderful Life come to mind but they are not THAT old. Have you seen the 2022 movie All Quiet on the Western Front? It's a bit different but I enjoyed it.

    1. Thanks, Ace. I still haven't gotten around to Cool Hand Luke yet, the other three you mentioned are all great (It's a Wonderful Life could easily be my all time favorite film). I have been meaning to watch the new All Quiet and just keep finding something else to watch instead.

  6. If a guy made a reference to Russ Meyer movies or a desire to playing tennis with Victoria Principal back in her prime who do you think that guy might be?

    1. This could be someone just trolling, or it could be someone I do indeed know and if (when?) I find out who it is, I'm gonna kick myself. But my memory ain't what it used to be. Ummm....what was I saying?

  7. Been a few years: Lester

  8. I am glad I stuck my nose into Twitter again and caught up with your recent content and also L36!!!! And TBC (kinda). ...

    1. You never know what you're gonna see on Twitter.