Both from 1974, "99 And 44/100% Dead" and "The Nickel Ride"
represent minor blips on the filmographies of their A-list directors Robert Mulligan ("To Kill a Mockingbird") and John Frankenheimer ("The Manchurian Candidate"), respectively and for good reason: They're decidedly average.
In "Nickel," Jason Miller plays a "warehouse manager" in the world of organized crime who gets too involved in the mob's business not necessarily by his own choosing, but definitely endangering his relationship with his best gal, a rail-thin "hoochie-coochie" dancer (Linda Haynes ("Rolling Thunder"). Bo Hopkins ("Midnight Express") is fairly chilling as the man who may force Miller's character into "retirement," but the real kick is seeing Miller doing anything other than his Father Karras from "The Exorcist," for which this served as his (rather uncommercial) follow-up project. I found it depressing more than anything.
Clearly the superior picture, if just in terms of accessibility, is "Dead." It aims to be as unconventional as its fraction-filled title and certainly is when Chuck Connors (TV's "The Rifleman") appears onscreen with his Swiss Army appendage but falls short of being as buoyant as it thinks it is. The light touch doesn't suit star Richard Harris ("Gladiator") as much as the bevy of beauties that waltz through the picture with breathlessness. Backed by a typically lively Henry Mancini score, its Roy Lichtenstein-inspired credits sequence is the best thing about it, save for maybe one shot that season two of "Breaking Bad" had to have ripped off.
Still, both films have their fans, who'll appreciate their DVD debuts with anamorphic transfers. Rod Lott