Blame it on Rio (1984)

blame it on rio 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Sex with friend’s daughter.

This Review contains a minor Spoiler.

Victor (Joseph Bologna) is going through a messy divorce and in order to escape from the stress he invites his friend Matthew (Michael Caine) to join him and his daughter Jennifer (Michelle Johnson) on a trip to Rio de Janeiro. Initially Matthew was to bring along his wife Karen (Valerie Harper), but at the last minute she bails out, so instead he takes his daughter Nicole (Demi Moore) who is also Jennifer’s best friend. During the trip Jennifer’s long dormant feelings for Matthew come to a head and the two end up having a fling. Matthew sees this as a secret one-night-stand as he doesn’t want it to jeopardize his long friendship with Victor, but Jennifer wishes for it to blossom into a love affair and even considers, much to Matthew’s reluctance, informing her father about it.

The film, which has been the last theatrical feature to date to be directed by the legendary Stanley Donen, has a zesty start that features soothing music, luscious scenery and sharp dialogue. Unfortunately it goes downhill from there with the third act being the real problem. Instead of becoming an interesting character study and analyzing whether this otherwise strong friendship could survive such a shocking event it instead veers off into silliness by entering in a crazy twist of Mathew’s wife having a secret affair with Victor, which didn’t seem realistic or believable and cements the whole thing as being nothing more than a dumb, shallow lightweight comedy.

The usually reliable Caine is miscast and his big Harry Caray-like glasses become almost a distraction. His costar Bologna is the one who steals it in a role nicely attuned to his brash, hothead persona.

The weakest link though is Johnson who despite looking great topless clearly has very little acting talent. Her character is poorly defined and written by two middle-aged men who were out-of-touch with the younger generation and had no idea how they ticked.  At the beginning she behaves too much like a child and then suddenly when she gets it on with Matthew she is like an out-of-control sensuous vamp, which made the character come off like two different people altogether. The fact that she shows no apprehension at all in having sex with Matthew who is much older made little sense as I would think that any normal person  would feel nervous and despite the attraction even some reluctance. She also shows no concern for how stressed the whole thing made Matthew feel, which unintentionally made her appear quite selfish.

Moore would’ve been much better in Johnson’s role and in many ways sexier. I had to chuckle a bit because in Leonard Maltin’s review of this film he mentions that Demi seemed ‘intimidated’ during her topless scene at the beach, which is actually an understatement as she looks downright uncomfortable, which in turn makes the viewer feel the same way.

This film is the American remake of the French comedy One Wild Moment, which came out six years earlier and will be reviewed later this week.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 17, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated R

Director: Stanley Donen

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

30 is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia (1968)

30 is a dangerous age

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Life crisis at 30.

Rupert Street (Dudley Moore) is a struggling pianist and composer who with only six weeks until his thirtieth birthday feels that is life has been a failure. He sets out to change that by setting some very high goals, which is to write a musical and have it produced as well as getting married even though he has yet to find a girlfriend.

The film, which was directed by Joseph McGrath is filled with the wonderfully drool British humor that manages to be both lightly satirical and imaginative all at the same time. The rampant cutaways in which a character will be talking about something and then it cuts to show them doing what they are imagining or discussing lends a nice surreal quality. The banter that Moore has with a Registrar (Frank Thornton) where he tries to get a marriage license before even having picked out a woman is the high point of the film and a perfect example of the whacky humor of that era from that region of the world that balances being both subtle and over-the-top that I wish more American movies, which tend to instead go to either extreme, would be better able to replicate.

The supporting cast helps a lot and is full of comic pros. The elderly Eddie Foy Jr. is a scene stealer as Rupert’s best friend and so is Duncan Macrae, whose last film this was, as Rupert’s boss. Patricia Routledge is great as his kooky landlady and Suzy Kendall is highly attractive as his fiancée. There is also an amusing parody of 1940’s detective movies featuring John Bird as a self-styled film noir-like private eye.

Unfortunately the script, which was co-written by Moore, suffers from too much of loose structure. The jokes are poorly paced and many times the comic bits go on longer than they should. There is also an intermixing of musical numbers that features Moore at the piano, which does not work well with the rest of the film. Yes, Moore was also an excellent pianist, but this was no place to be showing it off and these segments only help to bog the film down as a whole. The ending, which features Moore having to witness the desecration of his musical by an overzealous director who has a different ‘vision’ for it is priceless, but in-between there are a lot of lulls and the film would’ve been helped immensely by having a tighter script and a more structured, plot driven story.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: March 4, 1968

Runtime: 1Hour 25Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Joseph McGrath

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS

Joe Kidd (1972)

joe kidd

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bounty hunter tracks revolutionary.

Joe Kidd (Clint Eastwood) is a bounty hunter sitting in jail on trumped up charges. As he is about to have his case heard the courthouse is invaded by Luis Chama (John Saxon) and his band of Mexican revolutionaries who are angered that their U.S. land claims have been denied. They threaten a full scale war against the American government and suddenly Kidd finds himself in the middle when powerful landowner Frank Harlan (Robert Duvall) wants to use Kidd’s abilities to track Chama down so that he can kill him before he can ferment any more unrest. Kidd and Frank do not like each other, but Kidd reluctantly goes along while planning at some point to stop Frank and his men before they can do anymore harm.

If there is one thing to take from this film it is Duvall’s performance. This is the movie where he really came into his own and his career transitioned from small character parts and guest spots in TV-shows to an all-around dynamic lead actor. His presence here is commanding and he plays the bad guy with such zeal that it ends up taking over the entire picture while smothering the usually reliable Eastwood until he and his character become bland and transparent.

Unfortunately the script written by Elmore Leonard cannot match the same energy or creativity. It starts out well and has all the rugged ingredients one expects from a good western and it’s even directed by John Sturges who’s noted for putting together great action flicks, but unfortunately at some point it goes flat and this is mainly because there is not much of a second or third act. The scenario itself is too predictable and gets played out in a mechanical, by-the-numbers fashion. It is also devoid of much action. The part where Kidd uses his telescope rifle to pick off a shooter at long range that the others can’t is okay, but the scene where he derails a train and sends it crashing through a saloon seems implausible and not as exciting to see as it may sound.

I enjoyed Kidd’s antagonistic relationship with Lamarr (Don Stroud) who is one of Harlan’s men and a young, long haired cocksure guy that immediately gets a vendetta against the more stoic Kidd, which adds some zest, but then the film squashes it too soon by having Kidd kill Lamarr in a rather unimaginative and uneventful way. In fact the whole climactic finish works in the same way with Kidd mechanically knocking off each of Harlan’s men in a fashion similar to what Gary Cooper did to the bad guys in High Noon, which was a far better movie. Kidd’s final shootout with Harlan is a particular letdown and should’ve been played out more while only helping to cement this as one of Eastwood’s weakest and more forgettable westerns that he has done.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: July 14, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Sturges

Studio: Universal

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

Private Lessons (1981)

private lessons

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Housekeeper seduces a minor.

Mallow (Sylvia Kristel) is an English nanny working for a rich client named Fillmore (Ron Foster) who gets involved in a scheme with the family’s chauffer Lester (Howard Hesseman) to seduce Fillmore’s 15-year-old son Philly (Eric Brown). The idea is for her to fake having a heart attack during their lovemaking and convince Philly that he has killed her and then Lester will blackmail him to take $10,000 out of the family’s safe and give it to him has hush money for not reporting it to the police, but Philly is smarter than they think and not only catches onto their scheme, but has a double-cross in store for them as well.

The idea of having an adult making love to a minor most likely wouldn’t have gotten the green light today. To me it reeked of being a major double-standard. If the genders had been reversed and it had been a 15-year-old girl seduced by an older man this thing would’ve been considered obscene and banned, but because it involves a teen boy with ‘raging hormones’ instead that somehow makes it ‘okay’ and is approached as being nothing more than an innocuous sexual ‘coming-of-age’ flick, which I found to be both annoying and aggravating.

The scene involving the young Brown getting naked and hopping into the tub with the equally naked Kristel where they then fondle and kiss each other seemed like child erotica and will most likely make viewers today who are now much more sensitive on this topic feel uncomfortable to watch. The ending in which the two go to bed together in a very drawn out sensual segment that is done under a romantic context is downright smarmy. Viewers wanting to watch this simply to catch Kristel naked will be disappointed to know that most of her nude scenes where done using a body double named Judy Helden.

The script was written by Dan Greenburg, who also appears briefly as a seedy hotel owner and based on his 1969 novel ‘Philly’. He is a noted humorist who eight years earlier wrote the script to the film with the quirky title of I Could Never Have Sex with any Man Who has Such Little Respect for My Husband. For the most part this film is rather bland, but manages to pick up a bit during the second half when the story twist kicks in that at the very least makes it better than most other teen sex comedies, which are usually devoid of any discernable plot at all.

The script though is full of holes. For one thing it is highly doubtful that a rich parent would give their child a combination to a safe that has tons of money in it and there is never any explanation of what was put into the body bag that is hoisted into the ground and buried when Lester was still tricking Philly into believing it was the dead Mallow. Obviously it wasn’t her, so what was used to make it seem like a dead body? The film never says, but should’ve. Also, I found it hard to believe that Mallow and Philly could go out to a fancy restaurant and make out with each other openly in a booth and not have it create a stir and distraction with the other patrons especially when it was clearly involving an adult and a minor.

Brown whose only other claim to fame was playing Ken Berry’s son in the first two seasons of ‘Mama’s Family’ gives an engaging performance, but I couldn’t help but wonder what his parents where feeling and thinking during the love scenes. It’s also interesting to see Hesseman who wears a wig and has his mustache dyed brown in a rare turn as a heavy. Begley Jr. gets a few kudos in his attempt to play a ‘tough guy’ cop and Dan Barrows makes the most of his small role as the family’s gardener.

The film has a surprisingly great soundtrack that feature a lot of hits from the day which include: ‘Hot Legs’, ‘Tonight’s the Night’ and ‘You’re in My Heart’ by Rod Stewart as well as ‘Just When I Needed You the Most’ by Randy Van Warmer, ‘I Need a Lover’ by John Cougar, ‘Fantasy’ by Earth, Wind and Fire, ‘Next Time You See Her’ by Eric Clapton and ‘Lost in Love’ by Air Supply. How such a low budget movie was able to pay for the rights to these songs is a mystery, but it defiantly adds pizazz and helps give the film an extra point.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: August 28, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 27Minutes

Rated R

Director: Alan Myerson

Studio: Jensen Farley Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu

My Tutor (1983)

my tutor

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Tutoring him in sex.

Bobby (Matt Latanzi) is a high school senior set to graduate and go onto Yale even though he would rather go to UCLA and study astrology. In either case he fails his French class, which impedes him from attending either school. His concerned and controlling father (Kevin McCarthy) decides to hire a tutor named Terry (Caren Kaye) to live with them in their mansion estate while helping Bobby with his French so he can pass the course. Bobby though starts to become attracted to Terry and the two eventually become lovers much to the consternation of his father who would rather have the attractive woman all to himself.

I was still in high school when this film came out and living in a small Minnesota town as a preacher’s kid. I remember my Dad getting a call from some man who had watched this film in the theater and become ‘outraged’ at its ‘pornographic’ nature. He wanted to form picketers at all the area theaters that where showing it and eventually create a nationwide protest movement that he hoped would eventually get the film banned for being what he considered ‘obscene’.

Although there certainly is nudity it is only of the topless variety and it’s no more ‘outrageous’ than any of the many other teen sex comedies of the ‘80s. If the film is offensive in any way it is because it is dumb and uninspired and filled with a lot of silly humor that would be better suited for a Disney flick. The romantic angle is formulaic and the scene of the two in bed together is more mechanical than erotic and hurt by a sappy love song that gets played over it.

Lattanzi, who at one time was married to singer Olivia Newton-John and the father of Chloe Lattanzi, has a deer-in-headlights look about him and a limited acting ability to match it. He looks too old to be playing a teen and appears to be more like 24, which is what he really was. The idea that this good-looking guy with chiseled features could not make it with any of the girls is hard to believe and in a lot of ways the character behaves more like he is a naïve 14 year-old than someone headed for college.

McCarthy is a far better actor who manages to have a screen presence, which the transparent Lattanzi clearly knows nothing about. The fact that the old man makes a play for the tutor should’ve been played up more and I was surprised that when she flatly rejects his advances he didn’t just up and fire her and replace her with some other tutor, which would’ve helped give the otherwise one-dimensional script more conflict.

Arlene Golonka adds some light levity as the ditzy mother and its great seeing Crispin Glover in his film debut playing one of Bobby’s friends and for a change a more ‘normal’ type of character, which is freaky in itself. Clark Brandon, who enjoyed a brief acting career in the ‘80s and an even briefer foray into directing during the ‘90s, is also fun as Bobby’s other friend Billy who also gets the film’s one-and-only funny exchange when he tries to ask a blonde for a dance:

Billy: Would you care to dance with me?

Blonde: No thank you.

Billy: Then I suppose a blow job is completely out of the question.

This whole thing was basically a rip-off of Private Lessons, which had a similar theme, came out 2 years earlier and was a surprise hit. That film will be reviewed later this week.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: April 22, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: George Bowers

Studio: Crown International Pictures

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

3 Women (1977)

3 women 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Three women share bond.

Pinky (Sissy Spacek) is a young woman still searching for an identity who gets a job at a senior health spa. She becomes attracted to one of the trainers there named Mille (Shelley Duvall) and when Millie posts a notice that she is looking for a roommate Pinky is the first to respond. Since Millie is quite lonely she initially enjoys the attention that Pinky gives her and her still adolescent tendencies coincides with Millie’s paternal ones. Things though turn rocky and when Millie kicks Pinky out of the apartment in a rage Pinky responds by attempting to commit suicide by drowning herself. After she is saved the two begin to switch identities with Pinky becoming more aggressive and snarky while Millie becomes the passive one. Their merging identities also includes Willie (Janice Rule) a pregnant bar owner whose provocative murals hold an entrancing grip on Pinky.

This cerebral film, which was produced without any type of script and based solely on some of Robert Altman’s dreams was made during the director’s heyday when he could literally get just about anything he wanted financed by a movie studio. In fact it was while driving to catch a plane that Altman told his traveling partner to stop off at the studio so he could pitch this idea to the them, which he assured him would only take ‘a few minutes’, which it did. Even though it became a critical darling it did poorly at the box office and was in and out of the theaters in a matter of a few weeks.

Overall I’m a big fan of Altman’s work, but found this one to run longer than needed with what seemed like a lot of extraneous dialogue much of which was ad-libbed by the performers. The idea that people can shift between being passive or aggressive at any given time depending on the circumstances is an interesting one and I certainly enjoyed the murals, which were made specifically for the film, but the appropriated title should’ve been ‘2 women’ instead of 3 as Rule’s character barely says anything and is hardly seen at all.

Spacek gives the best performance and in my opinion she was the best thing about the movie. Duvall is good too and it was entertaining to see her playing more of the grounded one as usually she’s cast as the kooky types. I also thought it was cool that both Duvall’s and Spacek’s characters where from the same hometown’s in Texas as the actresses were with Duvall’s being Houston and Spacek’s was Quitman.

It is also fun seeing Dennis Christopher in an early career role appearing late in the film as a delivery man. Altman also casts real-life couple John Cromwell and Ruth Nelson as Pinky’s parents. Both Cromwell, who is also the father of actor James Cromwell, and Nelson were blacklisted in the 50’s during the McCarthy era and in fact this marked Nelson’s first film appearance in 29 years.

The dream sequence is cool, but everything else comes off like a weak version of Persona, which was far superior. The surreal ending leaves too much open to personal interpretation, which was frustrating. I also thought it was dumb that Millie reads Pinky’s diary entries out loud like she is a second grader and they really should’ve had her do it as a voice-over. It was also the first childbirth I had ever seen were the baby comes out of the womb without an umbilical cord.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 3, 1977

Runtime: 2Hours 4Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Robert Altman

Studio: 20th Century Fox

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

Slapstick (Of Another Kind) (1982)

slapstick

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: These twins are extraterrestrials.

Based on the Kurt Vonnegut novel ‘Slapstick’ the story centers on a Caleb and Lutetia (Jerry Lewis, Madeline Kahn)  who are a rich and famous couple that give birth to deformed and ugly twins named Wilbur and Eliza (also played by Lewis and Kahn). The couple immediately disowns the children and has them put away into a home run by Sylvester (Marty Feldman) who acts as the children’s caretaker. Unbeknownst to anyone is the fact that twins are actually aliens implanted inside Lutetia by a race of super intelligent beings from a faraway planet as a way to help earthlings solve all of their problems. When the twins put their cone sized heads together they are super smart, but when they are separated they are dumb making everyone believe that they are mentally deficient and of no use to anyone.

The biggest problem with this disastrous attempt at a movie is the approach. Director Steven Paul who ironically made his acting debut in Happy Birthday, Wanda June, which was another Vonnegut book adaptation brought to the screen seems to have no idea what type of audience he is aiming for. The humor shifts wildly between child-like farce to satirical jabs with nothing in-between, which will alienate both adults and children alike. The grownups will find it incoherent and silly while the children will be frightened by the ugly visuals as well as the cold, callous nature of the characters and plot. There is also a strange side story that make no sense and deals with miniaturized Chinese men who are the size of a human thumb and fly around in a spaceship resembling an eggroll while trying to make contact with the twins in order for them the help make a deal on the sale of gravity?!!!!

Lewis and Kahn are relatively amusing as the snotty couple, but as the twins they are downright embarrassing. The scene where they have a food fight while yammering incessant baby talk is a degrading sight and a career low for both performers. I know Lewis has the reputation of doing some really silly, inane stuff, but even this should’ve been beneath him.

The eclectic supporting cast helps a little and the only reason that I’m giving it 2 points. Feldman is genuinely amusing and it’s great seeing Jim Backus in one of his last acting roles playing the President of the United States and hearing this predominantly kid-friendly performer utter the word shit…twice!

I have never read the novel from which this is based, but have heard that it is far superior, which isn’t a surprise. I’d be interested to know what Vonnegut, who apparently wrote the lyrics to a song sung by Kahn in the film, but then later cut, thought of this catastrophe. Some bad films are fun because you can make jokes about as it goes along, but this thing is so utterly bizarre from beginning to end that instead you sit in a stupor throughout and it becomes a surreal experience instead.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: December 1, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 22Minutes

Rated PG

Studio: International Film Marketing

Director: Steven Paul

Available: VHS, Amazon Instant Video

The Mean Season (1985)

mean season

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Killer taunts newspaper reporter.

Feeling burned out from years of reporting on the local crime scene journalist Malcolm (Kurt Russell) has promised his girlfriend Christine (Mariel Hemingway) that he wants to get out of the business and move away to somewhere quiet and less hectic. Just as he’s ready to quit he gets a call from Alan Delour (Richard Jordan) the man who has been committing the recent killings that Malcolm has been covering in his newspaper. Malcolm sees this as a goldmine of information and thus delays his resignation. The two then begin a weird cat-and-mouse relationship until Malcolm becomes more of the story than the killer.

The movie starts out promisingly with a realistic look of the inner-workings of a big city newspaper. The film was shot during the overnight hours in the actual newsroom of The Miami Herald with Herald reporters used both as extras and consultants. Richard Masur makes for the perfect composite of a newsroom editor and I liked how the film shows the behind-the-scenes politics and the thin line reporters’ tow between reporting the news and becoming it.

I loved the on-location shooting done throughout Florida that helps bring out the varied topography of the state. Masur’s view out of his office window is dazzling and the climatic chase through the Everglades is exciting as is the speedboat ride in the swamps. The shot of a distant storm on the edge of an open field nicely juxtaposes the tension and dark story elements. The phrase Mean Season is actually a term used to describe a South Florida summer and gets mentioned in an early scene by a radio announcer as he is giving the weather report.

Russell is solid in the lead and it’s great and a bit unusual to see a protagonist who is not playing the nerd type wearing glasses. The segment where he jumps across a bridge as it’s going up and then watching him tumble down when he reaches the other side is well shot. Jordan makes for a good villain that manages to convey both a sinister side and a vulnerable one. Richard Bradford also deserves mention playing a tough cop that is at times quite abrasive, but also sensitive particularly in a couple of scenes where he comes into contact with scared children, which are two of the best moments in the movie.

The provocative concept has potential, but the film doesn’t go far enough with it. Instead of becoming this searing expose on journalism and the media it timidly steps back and turns into just another run-of-the-mill, by-the-numbers-thriller that becomes predictable, formulaic, and just plain boring during the second half and helps make this movie a big letdown.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 15, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated R

Director: David Borsos

Studio: Orion Pictures

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

Rollerball (1975)

rollerball1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: This game gets nasty.

In the not so distant future where no governments or countries exist and corporations control everything a new type of game becomes the rage. It features two teams on roller blades skating around a circular rink while fighting over a silver hand sized ball, which they use to throw into an electronic type of basket and score points. The game features little officiating and can usually cause injury or even death to the players, but one man named Jonathan E. (James Caan) has risen to the top and become a superstar in the sport. Bartholomew (John Houseman) who is the head of the conglomeration doesn’t like this because the idea of the games is to thwart individuality and not promote it. They push Jonathan to retire, but he refuses forcing the games to become even more violent as their way to get rid of him one way or the other, but the more they try to take him down the more he fights back.

The thing I really liked about William Harrison’s script, which is based on a short story of his called ‘Roller Ball Murder’ is how amazingly prophetic it is. Corporations and their rich lobbyists are pulling the strings of the government officials already making them seem as mere puppets and modern day suburbia much like in the movie is really only a tranquilizer  with its comfy lifestyle used to lull everyone into overlooking the many concessions that come with it. The violent games for both the players and fans acts as an escape from their otherwise sterile existence as the outcomes are the only things not already preordained by the corporations and thus giving the players a small sense of control over something.

Unfortunately the film’s set design is not as intuitive as its story and lacks imagination and even seems quite dated. There are no personal computers and the ones that do get shown are quite archaic looking. I have not seen the 2002 version, but this reason alone justifies a remake although the scene where the party guests go outside to play with a ray gun is a keeper.

The game itself isn’t all that interesting and to me came off as a glorified version of roller derby. I thought it should’ve been more graphic and bloody and the film pulls back when it should instead capture the true brutally of the sport. It does get a little more violent as it goes on and I did enjoy the surreal quality of the film’s climatic game where players from both sides end up either killed or severely injured. The segment showing the men preparing for a game by having the Caan character giving pointers to the new players on some of the strategy that is needed helped convey the idea that the sport had a certain technique to it and not simply rollerblading around a rink.

Caan is adequate in the lead, but is upstaged by John Beck as his playing partner as well as Shane Rimmer who plays his coach. It’s great to see John Houseman in his second feature film after his Academy Award winning performance in The Paper Chase, but his close-ups where ill-advised as it made me notice all of his nose hairs and director Norman Jewison should’ve either avoided framing his face from that angle or giving the elderly actor a pair of tweezers to pull them out.

The ending is unsatisfying as it leaves everything on a vague note. We see the fans cheering Jonathan’s moxie, but there is no indication as whether he was able to ultimately stage a revolt, or whether the corporate heads found some other way to get rid of him. In either case I wanted more of a conclusion and the fact that there isn’t any makes it feel like a great concept that wasn’t fully realized.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: June 25, 1975

Runtime: 2Hours 4Minutes

Rated R

Director: Norman Jewison

Studio: United Artists

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

The Intruder (1977)

Capture 52

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Terror on the road.

Based on a story by Dean R. Koontz and filmed in France under the title Les Passagers the plot centers on Alex (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who picks up his 11-year-old stepson Marc (Richard Constantini) from school and sets off to drive him across France and into Italy where they are to meet his mother Nicole (Mireille Darc). Along the way they become menaced by a strange man (Bernard Fresson) driving a black van that begins following them. At first Alex thinks nothing of it, but when the van tries driving them off the road they go to the police who prove to be unhelpful, which forces Alex to take things into his own hands in order to save both himself and the boy.

The film starts off well with definite hints to Steven Spielberg’s classic Duel. I enjoyed how initially everything is from Alex’s and Marc’s point-of-view where we do not know the identity of the driver in the black van, which is only seen through the perspective of their rear window that gives the vehicle a creepy presence. The banter between the boy and step father is engaging and the fact that the kid is smart and shows a keen awareness of things and not just there to be cute is great. I also liked the bawdy tune they sing together and the shot of the boy driving the car while the father leans out the passenger side window.

There is an exciting moment where the van tries pushing their car off the highway while they’re on a winding mountaintop road that is well photographed and realistic. The two are subsequently forced to ride the rest of the way in a tattered vehicle that has no windshield and looks almost as beat-up as the automobile in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

I did not like however that fifteen minutes into the movie we are shown the face of the other driver, which takes away from the intriguing mystery angle that is what made Duel so interesting. The bad guy isn’t frightening and comes off as clumsy and careless, which makes him less threatening. The fact that he does not carry any type of weapon and must resort to grabbing a nearby fire ax in order to attack Trintignant’s character when the two confront each other didn’t make much sense.

Spoiler Alert!

The film’s biggest transgression though is that its twist ending isn’t surprising at all as the mystery man turns out to be the wife’s psycho ex-boyfriend, which is something I had guessed early on and most other viewers probably will too. It also leaves open a tremendous amount of loopholes like why Alex wouldn’t have been made aware of this boyfriend earlier as I’m sure he would’ve been stalking them long before she got remarried and why the boy wouldn’t have guessed that the stranger chasing them was this man as well as most likely he would’ve known about him too. The police investigation, which gets worked in as a sort of side story proves pointless to the plot and the fact that they end up being quite incompetent makes them seem similar to the ‘comic relief’ cops from Last House on the Left, which hurts the tension.

End of Spoiler Alert!

This film has managed to acquire a small cult following and it has good set-up, but it would’ve worked better had it been done solely from the point-of-view of the father and stepson and only revealed the face and identity of the bad guy at the very end.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Alternate Title: Les Passagers

Released: March 9, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Serge Leroy

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: None at this time.