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Scarecrow on Seattle: THREE FUGITIVES

For the past few years, Scarecrow Video has been contributing reviews of movies made in the Pacific Northwest to the Seattle Office of Film + Music's e-newsletter. We're now proud to be able to share these reviews on our site as well.





Three Fugitives (1989)

I swear that Frenchman Frances Veber must be the most "remade" filmmaker in Hollywood. Tons of Veber's movies (both ones he's written and ones he's directed) have been anglicized with artistically marginal but financially successful results. So when he decided to make his English-language directorial debut, it was only natural for him to take a page out of Tinseltown's book and redo his own film Les Fugitifs (1986).

Three Fugitives follows its source material pretty closely, except this one is shot in the Northwest (by legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler) and stars Nick Nolte and Martin Short instead of Gerard Depardieu and Pierre Richard. The film begins as Lucas (Nolte) is released from McNeil Island Corrections Center. These scenes are shot in and around the actual prison, but when Lucas takes a ferry across south Puget Sound to Tacoma they end up at the Point Defiance ferry terminal, which usually only serves the Vashon Island run. The ex-con travels directly to a bank to cash a check, but his plans are sidetracked by a spastic amateur robber named Ned (Short) who ends up taking Lucas hostage. It turns out Ned has turned to crime in order to get his mute daughter the medical treatment she needs. Of course the kid is cute as hell and, of course, the cops are convinced the trio is some sort of bank-robbing supergroup. Consequently, they become the film's titular three fugitives and they spend the remainder of the film on the run from The Man.

The trio eludes the law throughout numerous locations in Tacoma and all over the Pacific Northwest. Locals with a stubborn adherence to geographic reality will find themselves a bit perplexed as some of the situations unfold. For example, the only part filmed in Seattle starts at Gas Works, but the kid runs out ofthe park and right into downtown Tacoma. With Ned and Lucas in hot pursuit, the three end up in another park that I don't recognize but I think is probably somewhere in Los Angeles. The movie's biggest topographic blunders occur during its final reel when the fugitives make a break for Canada. They pass a sign for State Route 539 (aka The Guide Meridian), which would be the correct road for a car full of fugitives to take to the border, but then why is Mount Rainier so prominent on the horizon? Along the way they are stopped at a police roadblock at what I believe to be a stretch of Highway 7 along Alder Lake in Thurston County. It is an extremely scenic spot that looks a lot nicer than the outskirts of Lynden so, even though it does not reflect reality, the location makes sense on an artistic/cinematic level. The film wraps up with a scene set in a fictional Canadian town that, for a change, was actually filmed here in Washington State. These days they'd probably shoot the whole dang movie up north! This choice of location may only be the result of Veber's work visa but I'd like to think it was because of the filmmakers' dedication to the good old USA and, in particular, the wonderful and versatile state of Washington.

-Spenser Hoyt


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