Megaforce (1982)

megaforce 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: This is really embarrassing.

The fictional country of Sardun is being threatened by their neighbor Gamibia and mercenary General Duke Gurerra (Henry Silva). This prompts two Sardun representatives (Edward Mulhare, Persis Khambatta) to travel to the desert and request help from a secret group of soldiers who have advanced vehicles and weapons that can help stop the Gamibian aggression. The group calls themselves Megaforce and is led by the charismatic Ace Hunter (Barry Bostwick) who at one time was friends with Gurerra and the two play an intricate game of cat-and-mouse as they both try to deploy an attack strategy that will stop the other.

One of the biggest problems with the film is that it was directed by Hal Needham a former stuntman who had some modest success directing such southern fried action flicks as Smokey and the Bandit and Hooper, but clearly has no clue how to do a comic book-styled action flick such as this. The film teeters between being campy and comical to innovative and slick, but ends up failing on both ends. The main problem is that Nedham (who also appears unbilled as a technician) lacks any true artistic vision while showing no appreciation or understanding of the comic book genre or its readers and creates an empty-headed, unimaginative premise with wooden characters and dialogue surrounded by a lot of action and effects, which he thinks will be enough to save it, but really isn’t.

The eclectic cast is interesting. Khambatta a beauty queen from India who is probably best known for playing the bald Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture is on hand as the love interest to Bostwick. Michael Beck who was just 3 years removed from his star making turn in the cult hit The Warriors plays a southern bred member of the Megaforce team. Silva, who’s played many memorable villains in his day camps it up as best he can with the limited material and Bostwick, who nowadays looks very old and elderly, sashays his way in some incredibly skintight uniforms and looking almost like a male model.  

The only reason I’m giving this embarrassment 3 points instead of the 0 that it really deserves is because it does fall into the ‘so bad its good category’ that almost makes it worth catching. The best of the worst is Needham’s use of matting a character over a blue screen to make it look like they are flying in the air. He does this twice once when Khambatta and Bostwick go parachuting out of a plane and then at the climactic finish when Bostwick uses his motorbike to fly up to a plane. In both instances the effects are so hilariously awful and obvious that it becomes memorable and worth the price of the rental.

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My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 25, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Hal Needham

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray (Region A)

The War of the Roses (1989)

war of the roses

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Yuppie couple destroys home.

Oliver and Barbara Rose (Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner) are a married couple with contrasting personalities who find that they no longer get along and in fact can’t even stand each other. They agree to a divorce and all of the assets except for the house. Both of them want to keep it and Oliver’s attorney Gavin (Danny DeVito) has found a loophole in the law that allows Oliver to remain there even after the separation is final. The problem is that they continue to get on each other’s nerves, which culminates with them locking themselves into the home one dark, harrowing night and using whatever prop available to vent their anger onto the other while inadvertently destroying the house in the process.

Some consider this to be one of the darkest comedies to ever be financed by a major Hollywood studio and when you think about it, it really is amazing. Most major studios shy away from edgy material and water it down until it becomes benign, but this film, which is based on the 1981 Warren Adler novel of the same title, stays quite true to its source material. The humor is on-target while making a great trenchant statement towards capitalism and yuppies in general. DeVito’s direction is visual and imaginative and there are some truly funny moments including the one where Turner destroys Douglas’s British Morgan Roadster with her 4-wheel drive truck.

The reuniting of Douglas and Turner from the Romancing the Stone films was perfecting casting. The two seem to have genuinely distinctive personas and it’s fun to imagine this as simply an extension of their earlier characters of Jack Colton and Joan Wilder and what happens when their rosy romance turns into the realities of marriage. The scene where Douglas’s character saws off the heels of Turner’s shoes is a great connection to their earlier film as his character did the exact same thing there, but it was unfortunate that we never get to see Turner’s reaction to it.

The production is slick, but having DeVito act as the film’s narrator seemed a bit distracting at times and the film might’ve worked better without him although he does have a few verbal gems during the second hour that almost makes up for it. I also didn’t like that the character who he tells this story to never says a single word, which to me seemed unnatural and weird as did his green painted office. Having the two kids of the couple turn out to be pudgy and fat was amusing and helped in a metaphorical way to symbolize the parent’s gluttony for materialism, but then the filmmakers end up ruining their own joke by having the kids later on become thin and attractive for no reason.

Spoiler Alert!!

The knock-down ending inside the home is great and DeVito’s use of Hitchcock overtones is inspired. Seeing the couple trapped on a ceiling chandelier while the camera travels up the wires of the light and into the attic where we see how the added weight bursts the bolts that anchors it is quite clever and even ingenious, but I was disappointed that the two end up crashing to the floor and dying. For one thing I didn’t think it was a big enough fall to have killed both of them. Maybe one, but most likely they both would’ve survived, but with injuries. Either way it would’ve been more interesting to see how they responded to each other after the incident and whether it helped to change them or their love/hate relationship, which to some degree is the film’s most unsatisfying aspect

End of Spoiler Alert!!

Adler wrote a sequel to his novel in 2004 that dealt with a messy divorce of the Rose’s grown son Josh to his wife. That book has now been put into production as a movie entitled The War of the Roses: The Children although no release date or cast has been announced as of yet.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 8, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 56Minutes

Rated R

Director: Danny DeVito

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Welcome Home, Soldier Boys (1971)

welcome home soldier boys

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: War veterans destroy town.

Four Green Berets (Joe Don Baker, Allan Vint, Elliot Street, Paul Koslo) return home from a stint in Vietnam. Initially they stop off at the home of one of the men’s parents, but find that none of them are ready to settle down, get a job, and play ‘within-the-rules’, so they set out on a cross country road trip, but when their car breaks down they end up paying more than they should for the repairs by an unscrupulous mechanic (Timothy Scott). This along with dealing with a society that does not seem to appreciate what they did for their country gets them angry. When they arrive in a small town ironically called Hope their simmering frustrations boil over. Using their army ammunition they go on a rampage destroying the town and everyone in it causing the National Guard to come in to try and stop them and creating for them a war zone all over again.

For a low budget 70’s flick this isn’t too bad. Richard Compton’s direction is slick, nicely photographed and paced well enough to retain a passing interest. The music, which features songs written and sung by actress/singer Ronee Blakely is okay and to a degree fits the mood. The script by Gordon Trueblood has believable dialogue and doesn’t seem intent on being purely exploitive.

Unfortunately the film fails to show much insight into the personality or experience of being a veteran. No flashbacks or discussions about it. In many ways these characters could simply have been regular, non-descript young men from any background who were not yet ready to enter into the adult world and take on adult responsibilities, which in the end is what makes this whole thing rather generic and its ‘statement’ more self-important than it really is.

Baker does quite well in the lead and although he sometimes gets a bad rap for his acting I’ve come to feel that it is unfair. The way his character here is so diametrically opposite from the one that he played in Walking Tall just two years later proves without a doubt that he is a talented thespian if given the right material.

Jennifer Billingsley though is wasted in a thankless role as a prostitute who rides with them for a little ways before getting thrown out of the vehicle at high speeds. Leonard Maltin incorrectly states in his book that her character is gang raped, which isn’t too true. She has consensual sex with one of the men, but then gets kicked out when she demands $500 for her services instead of $100 that they were willing to pay her.

The violent, climatic ending is the film’s most notorious claim to fame, but it takes too long to get there, lasts for only a couple of minutes and then ends too abruptly. It’s also absurd and outrageous to believe that these men would end up killing innocent people simply as a way to vent their anger at being cheated by a car mechanic. After all if everyone responded the same way when a car mechanic overcharged them then there would be no small towns left anywhere.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 10, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated R

Director: Richard Compton

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD-R (20th Century Fox Cinema Archives)

The Jewel of the Nile (1985)

jewel of the nile

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Searching for a jewel.

In this sequel to Romancing the Stone Jack (Michael Douglas) and Joan (Kathleen Turner) are living the easy life on a yacht, but are bored and looking for some adventure. Joan is given the opportunity to write a book about a visiting sheik named Omar (Spiros Focas) and travels to the Middle East to learn more about him. There she finds that he has sinister intentions and simply using her to be a part of his scheme, which compells her to try and expose him, but first she must escape from his clutches. Jack and Ralph (Danny DeVito) team up to help her along with a prince named Jewel (Avner Eisenberg) and together the four find themselves in one wild predicament after another.

Although this film did not do as well in the box office as its predecessor I still ended up enjoying it and felt in a lot of ways it was better. It has a bigger budget and slickly handled direction. The humor is more consistent and edgy and Jack and Joan share a love/hate relationship that is more entertaining than the Harlequin romance novel that the first one became while the on-location shooting that was done mainly in Morocco has some genuinely breathtaking scenery.

The scene in which the three get into a fighter jet plane and use it to tear up a village while still remaining on the ground is the film’s highlight. Their escape from Omar while climbing on a very steep rocky cliff is exciting and watching DeVito get sat on by a donkey is quite funny.

DeVito’s character is used much more here and his on-screen moments are one of the best things about the movie. Focas as the evil sheik is okay and at the very least is a more dynamic bad guy than the ones that were used in the first film. Holland Taylor as Joan’s snarky agent is the only one whose presence gets wasted and she ends having what amounts to only a few minutes of screen time making me wonder why she even bothered to appear at all.

The biggest drawback, like with the first film, is with the plot itself. The concept is too broad and the set-up rather convoluted making me both confused and ambivalent at the same time. It improves by the middle to be mildly interesting and has enough comedy and action to keep afloat, but the 105 minute runtime is too long for the bubblegum material and stretches the climactic sequence past its peak until it becomes derivative and overdone.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 11, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Lewis Teague

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix streaming, YouTube

The Gauntlet (1977)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Alcoholic cop escorts hooker.

Ben Shockley (Clint Eastwood) is a down-and-out cop and borderline alcoholic who’s given the assignment of escorting a hooker named Gus Mally (Sandra Locke) from a prison in Phoenix to a trial in Las Vegas where she will be a key witness. Ben is initially told that it’s a ‘nothing witness to a nothing trial’, but finds that to be anything but the truth as the two are shot at and chased by both the mob and his fellow policeman convincing him that he’s been set-up and making him determined to ‘even the score’.

This film overall is great fun and has enough well-choreographed action sequences to be entertaining for just about anyone who watches it. The story also manages to have some intrigue and a certain symbolic message. The on-location shooting done in and around Phoenix gives it an added flair particularly the long shots of the dessert landscape.

The film is best known for its climatic sequence involving Eastwood and Locke riding in a bus that travels slowly down the main streets of Phoenix while being shot at by hundreds of cops lining the sidewalk that ultimately puts thousands of holes into the vehicle. As a visual this is exciting and memorable, but I still kept wondering why the cops didn’t simply aim at the bus’s tires, which would’ve disabled the vehicle instantly and they would not have had to bother shooting up the rest of it.

Another action segment in which Eastwood and Locke are riding on a motorcycle while being chased and shot at by men in a helicopter brought up some similar issues. Again the segment itself is exciting and surprisingly prolonged although it would’ve done better without the bouncy jazz score being played over it. Either way the helicopter begins to attack Eastwood while he is standing at an outdoor phone booth. He then runs inside to an indoor food market where the Locke character already is, but instead of staying there where they are shielded he instead leads her out of the building and onto the motorbike where it would be more dangerous because it makes them an open and vulnerable target.

I also wasn’t too crazy about Locke’s performance or her character. For one thing Locke approaches the part in too much of a one-dimensional way. A hardened, snarky prostitute may be realistic, but hardly interesting or appealing and the character would’ve been more fun had their being some sort of unique or funny trait about her instead of leaning so heavily towards the stereotype.

The other supporting characters though are great. Pat Hingle is excellent as Ben’s nervous, hyper friend who finds himself unwittingly in the middle of the fracas. I also enjoyed William Prince playing as extension of the corrupt, jaded corporate-like character that he did in Network. Bill McKinney is also good as a hick cop who has an interesting ‘conversation’ with Locke about her ‘profession’.

If you’re looking for a bubblegum, action-packed escapism then this film should do the trick and still holds up well today even when compared to modern-day action flicks.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 21, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Rated R

Director: Clint Eastwood

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Romancing the Stone (1984)

romancing the stone

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Romance novelist has adventure.

Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) is a romance novelist living her love life out through her characters because she fails to have one of her own. One day she receives a mysterious treasure map in the mail and then gets a call stating that her sister Elaine (Mary Ellen Trainor) has been kidnapped and will only be released once her captors receive the map. Joan then travels down to Columbia where Elaine is being held and bumps into Jack (Michael Douglas) a rugged adventurer who helps her navigate her way through to jungle while falling in love with her in the process.

The most interesting aspect to the film may actually be in the backstory of its screenwriter Diane Thomas who seemed to live both the Hollywood dream and tragedy all at the same time. She was working as a waitress while struggling as a would-be screenwriter during her off hours. Then one day by chance actor Michael Douglas arrived at her café as one of her customers and seeing this as her one chance to break into the business she pitched her idea, which later became this movie, to him and he loved it. She was eventually able to sell it for $250,000 and as an added bonus Douglas brought her a Prosche, which she ended up being killed in during a car accident that occurred only 1 year after this film was released.

As a story though this thing is quite weak and barely passes for a plot at all and really is just more of some high-end adventure concepts strung together. It’s pretty much bubblegum on a fifth graders level and if you stop to think about it all it will quickly become quite empty-headed.

Turner’s performance and her nerdy character is the best thing about it. Unfortunately the character changes too quickly shifting into a more confident and secure woman by the midway point and thus losing its comic edge. Her relationship with Jack is initially interesting as well as they have very divergent personalities and approaches to things, but this too gets lost when the romance between the two becomes full-throttle making the film’s whole second half seem more like a feminist fantasy than an actual movie.

Danny Devito is amusing and needed more screen time. However, the ironic ways he keeps accidently bumping into the main characters starts to become a little too convenient. Holland Taylor is fun as Joan’s snarky agent and I wished her character had gone along with Joan on the adventure. The bad guys though are dull and generic and create no type of fun tension at all.

The story as a whole is just too cutesy and lacks any type of real conflict or excitement. Had Jack and Joan’s sparring been played up more and only turned into a romance at the very end, or even just approaching it in a satirical vein to all the romance novels out there I might have gotten more into it. Female viewers may take to this better as it seems completely geared for them. Unfortunately though it becomes too slick for its own good while failing to have any footing in reality, which ultimately makes it cease to feel like any type of real adventure at all.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: March 30, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 46Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Robert Zemekis

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Some of My Best Friends Are… (1971)

some of my best friends are 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Patronizing a gay bar.

It’s Christmas Eve 1970 and a year and a half after the Stonewall Riots that first brought gay rights issues into the national spotlight. However, the patrons of the local Blue Jay Bar are still feeling like second class citizens where dancing between two men is prohibited and those who have come out about their homosexuality are being rejected by their family and friends.

The film certainly does bring up some great issues, but unfortunately pales badly when compared to The Boys in the Band that came out just a year earlier. The direction lacks style and the dialogue is too generic to be riveting. The film also has no momentum as the camera simply cuts from one group of conversing people to another. The on-location shooting done at the Zodiac Bar gives the production a static, claustrophobic feeling since almost the entire thing takes place in one building. The lighting is also dark and shadowy and at certain points even out-of-focus making it all seem quite amateurish.

The action is minimal in what is otherwise a very talky 110 minute runtime. The best moment is when Gary Sandy, who’s excellent in his film debut, and playing a man in denial about his homosexuality becomes enraged when he finds that the woman he has been dancing with (played by Candy Darling who is also excellent) is actually a man, which causes him to drag her into the bathroom and beat her that in turn creates a huge riot that is genuinely tense and startling. The scene where a mother enters the bar and openly disavows her son after finding out that he is gay is also quite good, but should’ve been extended.

Fannie Flagg gets kudos for her highly engaging performance as a snarky lady who never seems at a loss for words or verbal comeback. The way she dances by giggling her large breasts up and done like they are rubber balls is a crazy sight. Rue McClanahan is also good as a bitchy, aging blonde and so is Dick O’Neill as a conservative old-timer who shows great disdain for the ‘pansy pad’ once he finds out that it is a gay bar, but then strangely is still reluctant to leave it. This also marks the film debut of Gil Gerard who appears briefly in a small role.

The film’s few good moments and overall impactful message are badly outweighed by Mervyn Nelson’s dull direction as well as its rambling narrative that lacks a central character and makes for a flat and tedious viewing experience.

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My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: October 27, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated R

Director: Mervyn Nelson

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: Amazon Instant Video

The Deadly Tower (1975)

deadly tower

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Sniper in the tower.

This made-for-TV movie chronicles the events of August 1, 1966 when 25-year-old ex-Marine Charles Whitman (Kurt Russell) climbed to the top of the University of Texas campus tower and shot and killed 16 people while wounding a total of 32. The story intercuts between scenes showing Whitman preparing for the shooting while also looking at the private life of Officer Ramiro Martinez (Richard Yniguez) who eventually climbed up the tower to stop Whitman’s slaughter.

For the most part the film is taut and methodical and well above average for a TV film although Gilbert Roland’s voice over narration was unnecessary and a bit cheesy. The only time there is any music is during the scenes showing Whitman killing his mother and wife with a knife, which gets a bit too overly dramatic, but otherwise it comes off almost like a documentary making the viewer feel that they are right there as it is happening. It was filmed at the Louisiana State Capitol, which looks a bit different than the actual clock tower, but still similar enough that it works.

Russell who had just come off starring in a long line of Disney films is perfect in the role and even closely resembles the real Whitman. The fact that he has very few lines of dialogue is an asset and helps to make the character more foreboding and threatening. The rest of the all-star cast does pretty well although Forsythe’s character seems added simply to promote the gun control issue. Clifton James appearance as one of the police sergeants was misguided because he had already done a comic caricature of a redneck sheriff in the James Bond film Live and Let Die, so it was hard to take him seriously here and it took me out of the movie a bit because it kept reminding me of that one as well as his goofy policeman role in Bank Shot.

The film also takes liberties with the actual events in strange ways that makes no sense. For instance in the film when Whitman comes upon the tower receptionist he simply guides her to the elevator and tells her to leave, but in real-life he knocked her to the ground and split her head open before later shooting her. Also, in the film the first victim that he hits from the tower is a male, but in the actual incident it was an 18-year-old female who was eight months pregnant. The story also erroneously credits Martinez with the one who killed Whitman when the later autopsy found that all four shots that Martinez fired at Whitman missed him and it was actually the two shots fired by Officer Houston McCoy who stepped in after Martinez had emptied his rounds that proved to be the lethal hit. In fact Officer McCoy’s name gets changed here and is listed as C.J. Foss and is played by actor Paul Carr as a minor throwaway part that is barely seen at all.

Both McCoy and Martinez sued the producers for the inaccuracies. Martinez was upset because his wife was portrayed as being pregnant and Hispanic when in reality she had been German-American. The sidelight drama of some marital discord between the two was also apparently untrue and should’ve been left out completely as it adds nothing and bogs the thing down as a needless Hollywood-like soap opera.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: October 18, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Director: Jerry Jameson

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD (Warner Archive)

Honeysuckle Rose (1980)

honeysuckle rose

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: On the road again.

Buck Bonham (Willie Nelson) is a country music singer who enjoys life on the road traveling to different concert venues with his band much to the consternation of his wife Viv (Dyan Cannon) who wants him to stay home more and help raise their child. When his longtime guitarist Garland (Slim Pickens) decides to retire they bring in Garland’s daughter Lily (Amy Irving) as a temporary replacement. Then Buck starts fooling around with Lily, which creates turmoil both with Buck’s relationship with his wife as well as Lily’s relationship with her father.

After his successful stint in Electric Horseman this film was supposed to send Nelson to the next level as a leading man, but fails miserably because the guy just can’t act. In fact he conveys his lines in such a laid back manner it’s almost like he’s half-asleep and not even there. His screen presence is nil and he ends up being badly upstaged by both Cannon and Pickens. I realize he is considered a country music legend and has many adoring fans, but personally his trembling voice type of singing is not for me. Out of the many, MANY songs that he sings during the course of this picture the only one I even remotely liked was ‘A Song for You’ and even then I consider the Leon Russell version to be far superior.

The film like its star is too laid back. It takes a full 30 minutes before we get anything even resembling a plot going. There’s lots of concert footage and scenes taken on their traveling bus, which to some extent gives the viewer a good taste of what life on the road is like, but then it becomes excessive. It’s almost like a concert movie with the slightest of plots intermittingly mixed in for good measure. The story itself is too obvious and takes too long to play out and then when it finally gets going and we have some actual dramatic tension it then resolves too quickly.

Cannon is pretty good and even does her own singing. Irving on the other hand seems in-over-her-head and looks quite uncomfortable playing on stage. She got nominated for a Razzy award for worst supporting actress and I felt it was well deserved. Rodeo clown-turned-actor Pickens is super in one of his best roles that allows him to show both his comedic and dramatic side. Lane Smith is hilarious in a brief, but funny stint as an aggressive agent looking to get his client, a guitarist who wears some very loud suits, into the band while also trying to push some cheesy money making schemes on the side.

The part where Pickens attacks Nelson with a gun and chases him all around a lonely beach is amusing as is their drunken bus ride along an isolated Mexican highway. I also liked Irving meeting with her father after the secret of her affair has come out as well as her moment of apology to Cannon, but this all comes during the film’s final 20 minutes. Before then it’s just a lot of stock footage of Nelson on stage, which is nice if you enjoy his singing, but not if you’re looking for an actual movie, which at times this barely seems to be.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: July 18, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 59Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jerry Schatzberg

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Sugarland Express (1974)

sugarland express 4

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: She wants her baby!

When her baby is put into a home with foster parents Lou Jean (Goldie Hawn) will have nothing of it and helps her husband Clovis (William Atherton) break out of pre-release prison in an attempt to steal the child back. The two hitch a ride with an older couple (A.L. Camp, Jessie Lee Fulton), but when the car gets pulled over by Officer Maxwell Slide (Michael Sacks) they panic and drive off. The officer is able to track them down when their car crashes, but when he goes to investigate the accident Clovis pulls the officer’s own gun on him and uses it to take him hostage. They speed off in his patrol car, which soon gets the entire Texas Highway Patrol after them as well as creating a media frenzy in a slow moving car chase that spans 2-days and 300 miles.

This film marks director Steven Spielberg’s full-length theatrical feature film debut and the result is highly entertaining. He takes an odd moment in history and helps infuse a playful quirkiness to the proceedings while also gently nudging the Texas stereotype. The music by John Williams and especially the harmonica solos by Toots Theilemans help cement the mood and tone. This is also the first film to use a panaflex camera and the first ever to feature a tracking shot from inside a car.

There are enough original and humorous scenes to make this well worth catching. The scene in which the police bring in a Porto potty so Lou Jean can stop and take a pee is hilarious as is the moment where their car runs out of gas and Captain Harlan Tanner (Ben Johnson) who is technically ‘chasing’ them must push their car with his to the nearest gas station. The impromptu TV interview done during the chase is great as is the first CB conversation that Tanner has with the three inside the patrol car. The best moment though is when they go through a small town where the main street is lined with onlookers and well-wishers who hand the three all sorts of gifts and encouragement through the car windows as they slowly drive through.

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Of course as with any true story the movie takes many liberties and I researched the incident by reading actual newspapers reports from that era and found this to be the jest of what actually happened. It all started in the early morning hours of May 3, 1969 when Ila Faye Dent (1947-1992) and her husband Robert where chased by the Port Arthur police for speeding. The couple managed to evade them by abandoning their vehicle and fleeing on foot into a heavily wooded area. They eventually came upon a ranch whose owner called the police to say that he had been attacked by two hitch-hikers. Patrolman Kenneth Crone, whose character is played by Michael Sacks and who also appears briefly in the film as a sheriff’s deputy, answered the call. When he arrived on the scene Robert pulled a gun on him and forced him back into his patrol car where the three then took off in the vehicle that started the massive 200 mile slow speed chase that attracted hundreds of police cars as well as onlookers and media outlets. Their destination was Wheelock, Texas where Ila Faye wanted to visit her two children from her previous marriage that where now staying with her parents. They had no intention of kidnapping them like it is portrayed in the film only to visit them for 15 minutes, which Captain Jerry Millter (portrayed by Ben Johnson) initially agreed to allow, but then later reneged.

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Ila Faye Dent portrayed by Gold Hawn in the film

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The actual car chase as it occurred on May 3, 1969.

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The changes that Spielberg and his team of two writers made to the story doesn’t help and I wish they had been more accurate with it. The biggest issue is the fact that the actual chase lasted for only about 5 hours while in the film it gets extended for 2 days, which doesn’t work because the part where they sleep overnight inside a car lot kills the momentum and makes for a draggy middle. The use of foreshadowing becomes too obvious and heavy-handed. The child-like enthusiasm by the two main characters is initially fun, but their notion that they can somehow take the police on a wild car chase and snatch back their child without having any consequences seems too unrealistically naïve even for a pair of country bumpkins as they are portrayed.

Spoiler Alert!

The film’s biggest downfall though and the main reason it didn’t do well in the box office is with its downbeat ending. From a directorial stand point I liked it as Spielberg infuses all sorts of interesting elements into it including making the house in which the child supposedly is staying look very foreboding and ominous as well as a brief shot of a teddy bear being thrown out a car window and laying the road while the cars speed all around it. However, seeing Clovis get shot is jarring and takes away from the film’s otherwise lighthearted tone. In the real life incident the husband did indeed get shot and killed although it happened differently than the way it gets played out here, so I don’t really have anything against showing it, but film should’ve added in a brief moment showing Lou Jean being reunited with her child after her stint in prison, which also really happened. I realize the denouncement mentions this in text over the credits, but visually showing it would’ve made more of an impact and helped the audience leave the theater with an upbeat feeling.

End of Spoiler Alert!!

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My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: April 5, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 52Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Steven Spielberg

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube