Threatened with recapture after a prison escape, Martin Steckert grabs a twelve-year-old as hostage. He proves to be named Martin, too, a quiet ``good little boy`` always obeying the rules, whom life has given only dismal loneliness and frustration in return. Soon he begins to admire ``Steck`` for his cheeky pranks against society and his desperate mission to make dreams come true. In a climactic moment, he chooses to stay with the man even though he could run away. Via hijacks and hijinx, they flee to the idyllic peace of the older Martin's childhood home, a cabin on a lake. But the police are close behind, impatient and trigger-happy.
Written by Paul Emmons (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Martin’s Day begins inside a Canadian prison. Inmate Martin Steckert (Richard Harris) is being interviewed by the prison psychiatrist Dr. Mennen (played by Lindsay Wagner). The first words in the movie are spoken from Steckert, as he reflects upon his childhood and “life at the lake.” He tells of a serene childhood with his dad at the lakefront cottage, while the screen fills with images of his flashback. The beginning of the movie sets the tone for the entire story, as you see Martin as a young boy, taking his canoe out into the lake, running through the woods with his dog; you even see his dad cooking oatmeal on the stove and ringing the bell for Martin to come in to eat. Along with the mystical score, composed by music genius Wilfred Josephs, you are mesmerized by the lakeside scenes and miss the lake just as if you were Steckert.
The next scene shows Martin punching his jail-cell brick wall in frustration, as he is turned down for parole and realizes he won’t be returning to the lake anytime soon. His cell mate, Brewer (John Ireland), on the other hand, was granted parole and he and Steckert exchange goodbyes. Steckert offers Brewer his accommodations at the lake, and watches through the prison window as his friend boards a bus and rides off into freedom.
Apparently Steckert decided he’s had enough of “prison life,” and tries to escape during the next scene, by setting fire to himself inside his cell. The plan misfires, however, and Steckert ends up burning himself a lot more severely than desired. The next scene shows Martin in the severe burns unit of a hospital crying out in pain.
After a short stay in the hospital, including a talking to from Dr. Mennen, Martin is transported back to prison. But the inmate transfer vehicle doesn’t quite make it to its destination, as Steck hijacks the van, leaving the two accompanying cops naked and chained to a sign, as Steckert runs off in police uniform.
Now on his own, Martin Steckert begins to make his way back to the lake. It isn’t long before the officials catch up to him, though, spotting him and the stolen police car. Steck quickly grabs a kid standing nearby (Justin Henry), and puts a gun to his head, using him as his hostage to keep the police away. It works, and soon Steckert and the young boy are speeding away.
James Coburn enters the movie here, as a brash lieutenant who’s job it is to put Steckert behind bars again and rescue his hostage. Coburn’s character, Lieutenant Lardner, fires off orders from the police headquarters and quickly assembles a task force whose job it is to catch Steckert, dead or alive.
Not much time passes before Steckert and his hostage, who is also named Martin, become friends. One of my favorite lines in the movie comes when Steck offers young Martin a candy bar in the car. Martin refuses the offer, stating, at home, he’s not allowed to eat candy. Steck quicky replies, “You’re my prisoner, right? And you’re supposed to do everything I tell you to do, right? Well eat the God damn candy or I’ll break your head in!” It begins to become apparent that this is not the standard “kidnapper-hostage” relationship, as young Martin begins to warm up to his captor and the adventures begin. From robbing a service station, to holding up a toy truck in transit, to hijacking a train, Martin and Steck are have the time of their life. Steck is enjoying his freedom from prison, and at the same time, young Martin is enjoying freedom from his prison–life at home with an inattentive mom and uncaring stepdad.
All the while the two Martins are living it up and breaking numerous laws in the name of fun, Lardner and his task force are watching their every move. From trying to run them off the road, to deploying eagle-eye sharp shooters, Lardner and the police are determined to take Steck down, even if it means by a bullet to his head. Dr. Mennen is by his side, helping the lieutenant with Steck’s psychological profile, and pleading with the cop to spare his life.
On the way to the infamous lake, the two Martin’s stop by Steck’s old girlfriend’s house to say hi. Karen (played by Karen Black) is not as excited to see Steckert as he is to see her, and candidly admits that she is getting ready for date as she tries to shoo Steck and his friend out the door. Steckert and Martin end up hanging out for awhile, before leaving for the final leg of the journey to the lake. Steck whispers to Karen that he’d like a kiss goodbye before he leaves, in front of Martin, as to prove to Martin that his stories of the romance really were true. As Steck and Martin drive away, reality sets in and Steckert admits, “In ten years you can work up one hell of a pile of sweet dreams.”
Steck and Martin finally arrive at the lake, after the hijacking of a freight train, a hike in the woods, an overnight stay in an abandoned shack, and a canoe ride across water.
I’ll stop the story here because I would hate to ruin the movie for those who have not yet seen it. All I can say is, what happens next is surprising, suspenseful, heartwarming, devastating, and happy, all at once. Talk about an exciting climax of a movie; the end of Martin’s Day will leave you with a feeling you’ve never felt before!
My favorite things about the movie…
From Harris’s Oscar-worthy portrayal of “Steckert,” to Lindsay Wagner as the compassionate prison doctor, everyone in the film does an amazing job. Justin Henry is an adorable and witty kid, and James Coburn plays a hard-ass cop that reminds you of your elementary school teacher. Every character in the movie is well-developed and each role is clearly defined. By the end of the picture, you feel like you know each and every one of the characters, personally.
The writing by Chris Bryant and Allan Scott (Shiach) is nothing short of brilliant. The way this entire story was crafted, from the plot line down to its fine and even subliminal details, all come together to form one of the greatest works of art I’ve ever enjoyed.
Martin’s Day is filmed on the scenic highways, biways, towns, forests and lakes of Ontario Canada. From the beautiful blue skies, to the tree lined roads, to the gorgeous lakes, Martin’s Day could double as a commercial for Canadian tourism. The movie really showcases Canada’s wonders. The part that takes the cake is Steckert’s old two-story cottage on the lake. The scenes were so amazing and I was so inspired by this movie, that I have actually planned a trip to go canoeing in Ontario in the summer of 2005. Visit my location page to learn more about the area that Martin’s Day was filmed in (and find out how you can visit!)
The music in Martin’s Day completes the film. British composer Wilfred Josephs wrote the theme music to Martin’s Day, a beautiful classical-sounding piece, used to set the mood during Martin’s flashbacks of the lake. Joseph’s music throughout the movie is subtle, but so very beautiful. I couldn’t imagine a better piece of music out there that would help set the tone and tell the story.
The other main song in the movie is actually sung by Steckert throughout the story. From the beginning if the film when Steckert is in his jail cell, to the very end, and all throughout the movie, he is singing a song with the words, “I’m going back…to where I come from…” Sometimes he sings the chorus, other times different verses, and still other times he is simply humming the tune to this mysterious song. It was driving me crazy wondering what this catchy little tune was, and finally I just sat down and began my research. Turns out the song is called “Going Back to Where I Come From” by Spike Jones and his City Slickers. By the time you finish Martin’s Day, you will me humming that lil’ ditty and it will be tough to get it out of your head! Check out my music page for more about the music of Martin’s Day, including the lyrics to “Going Back to Where I Come From” and even some audio.
My favorite scenes…
1) Martin’s beautiful flashbacks of his childhood at the lake.
2) When Steck jokes with young Martin about eating candy, even though he’s not supposed to.
3) When Martin and Steckert reunite after Martin is sent off on his own to get the two “Cokes.” Steck is sure Martin turned him in, only to be surprised and relieved when Martin walks around the corner with the sodas. They hug and that’s the first time you realize that the two really love each other.
4) The ending (can’t tell you that part!)
“The cabin was just home. Just me…my father…then he died…and it was just me…and the loons.”
-Martin Steckert talking to the prison psychiatrist about his childhood home at the lake.
“You don’t owe, you don’t need…you just live.”
-Martin Steckert explaining the advantages of living on the lake
“And the next time I try this I’m gonna put a wet sponge on my dick!”
-Martin Steckert referring to his botched attempt at burning himself to break out of jail
“You’re my prisoner, right? And you’re supposed to do everything I tell you to do, right? Well eat the God damn candy or I’ll break your head in!”
-Martin Steckert convincing young Martin that’s it’s okay to eat a candy bar
(Young Martin) “I was meant to know it for scripture class today” (Steckert)” Well then it’s a good thing I kidnapped you then!”
-Martin Steckert teasing young Martin after he forgot to memorize a prayer for scripture class
“Know the secret to a happy marriage? Eat out!”
-Lieutenant Lardner sharing one of his philosophies with a co-worker
-Martin Steckert searching for his escaped hostage
(Steckert) “Martin! When is your birthday? (Young Martin) “May 25th.”
(Steckert) “Wrong…it’s today.”
-Martin Steckert presenting young Martin with a truck full of toys
“In ten years you can work up one hell of a pile of sweet dreams.”
-Martin Steckert referring to his ex-girlfriend, less than excited to see him
“What the hell does it look like? This is a hold up!”
-Martin Steckert commanding the train engineer to surrender
“Every vacation has its last day”
-Martin Steckert explaining to the young Martin that the party’s over
“They know that I love you kid. I’d do it again, wouldn’t you?”
-Martin Steckert saying goodbye