A thoughtful and moody film from director Frankenheimer featuring Lancaster, Hackman, and Wilson as professional skydivers who arrive in a small town in Kansas to perform their dangerous trade for the locals. The youngest member of the troupe, Wilson, has an aunt and uncle (Kerr and
Windom) who live in town, and the daredevils are invited to stay with them. Kerr, trapped in a loveless marriage, is drawn to the fatalistic Lancaster and he to her. When the skydivers go out on the town, Hackman takes up with stripper North, while Wilson wanders off with pretty coed Bedelia.
Tired and disgusted, Lancaster returns to the house, where Kerr is waiting for him. The passion the two feel for each other surfaces and they make love in the living room in the presence of Windom, who makes no attempt to stop them. The next morning, Lancaster begs Kerr to leave town with him,
but, afraid to abandon her secure existence, she refuses. Soon it is time for the air show, in which Lancaster is slated to perform the extremely risky "Cape Jump." Calmly he prepares for the jump and, with a strangely serene look on his face, leaps out of the plane. Hackman and Wilson immediately
sense something is wrong as Lancaster falls lower and lower without making a move toward the ripcord on his parachute. With the hint of a smile on his face, Lancaster plummets to his death. On the ground, Wilson inspects Lancaster's chute and finds nothing wrong with it. Hackman arranges for
Lancaster's funeral, but because they have little money, the two remaining daredevils must put on another show to pay for the burial. Wilson decides the show will only feature one jump; he will perform the same stunt that killed Lancaster. The next day a huge crowd gathers in anticipation of
another death. Wilson successfully performs the jump and then tells Hackman he's retiring. Hackman understands and decides to head out to Hollywood and see if he can land a job as a stuntman. The friends part, leaving Kerr and Windom to their pathetic marriage.
Frankenheimer's existential drama is filled with characters who constantly challenge the meaninglessness of their lives. Older and more pessimistic than Wilson, Lancaster and Hackman seem to accept the hand life has dealt them. To rebel against their existence, these men willingly face death on a
daily basis, living for the brief moment of exhilaration when they control their own destinies by deciding whether or not to pull the ripcord. When Lancaster dies, Wilson finally realizes the life he has pursued is filled with self-imposed loneliness, so he decides to undertake one last brush with
death before abandoning skydiving. THE GYPSY MOTHS is a fascinating psychological melodrama punctuated with some visually stunning skydiving sequences, which give those viewers who are bored with the characters something to sit up and pay attention to.
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- Rating: R
- Review: A thoughtful and moody film from director Frankenheimer featuring Lancaster, Hackman, and Wilson as professional skydivers who arrive in a small town in Kansas to perform their dangerous trade for the locals. The youngest member of the troupe, Wilson, has… (more)