Monthly Archives: December 2011

Lady in a Cage (1964)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Lady trapped in elevator.

Olivia de Havilland, who as of this writing is the last surviving cast member from the film Gone With the Wind, plays a upper-middle class woman by the name of Cornelia Hilyard who gets stuck in her household elevator when the power goes out. A homeless man (Jeff Corey) becomes aware of her predicament and with the help of his sleazy girlfriend (Ann Southern) tries to rob the place. When they sell some of her items at a pawn shop a trio of juvenile delinquents (James Caan, Jennifer Billingsley, Rafael Campos) follow the two back to the place where they spend the rest of the film terrorizing Ms. Hilyard and ransacking her house further.

As a concept the film has some interesting ideas and imagery. The stark black and white photography looks great and helps accentuate the plot’s grim reality. The opening sequence is pretty good with an announcer reading off various startling news reports that are coupled with troubling images like a young girl on roller skates kicking at a homeless person lying in the street. There is also the fact that this all occurs within a large home amidst an upscale neighborhood that is right next to a busy street, which makes for some intriguing symbolism.

However, as a thriller it ends up being quite dull.  There is very little action and much too much talking that seems to go nowhere. There are no twists of any kind and the climax is forced, unimaginative, and unexciting.  Any violence that does happen is conveniently done out of view. The bad guys are portrayed as being dumb, careless, and just waiting to screw up. It is probably due to the period it was made in, but this potentially brutal subject matter seems way too restrained to the point that there is never much tension. There is also the issue of the elevator, which isn’t all that high up. Cornelia could have dropped herself out of it, which she eventually does, but had she done it earlier none of this would have needed to happen.

De Havilland does a good job here, but at times comes close to over-acting especially with her scared facial expressions, which some might find unintentionally funny. This marked James Caan’s film debut.  He is a great actor with an impressive career, but his performance here is lacking.  He seems uncomfortable in the role as the antagonist and he never manages to reach the level of being menacing. The final shot of his demise though is very graphic especially for the time. Jennifer Billingsley is probably the best thing about the film. She is attractive and gives a solid performance as the most jaded member of the gang.

Normally I always say these one-note thrillers that get stretched too thin at feature length would work better in one of those old horror anthology series like “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour”, however even there this story would be pushing it. Basically, in this instance, if you have read the synopsis then you have essentially ‘seen’ the film.

The trailer for the film and movie poster as seen above is actually much more entertaining than the film itself.  An announcer sends dire warnings that this film is ‘extremely shocking subject matter’ and ‘should not be viewed alone’.  It is pretty funny and even funnier when you see how lame the movie actually is.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: July 8, 1964

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Walter Grauman

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

John and Mary (1969)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Sex and then relationship.

Considered provocative at the time this film detailed the new phenomenon of the one-night-stand, a fad in the late 60’s early 70’s that quickly went out of style upon the release of Looking for Mr Goodbar in 1977.  The story here details a rather nondescript man and woman (played by Dustin Hoffman and Mia Farrow) who meet at a singles bar and then go back to his place for sex.  The rest of the film involves them considering whether it can grow into a relationship.

The first ten minutes are pretty good. It nicely analyzes all the expected awkwardness one must have of waking up the next morning and not sure who you’ve been sleeping with. I liked how the John character secretly goes through Mary’s purse to find out more about her while Mary does the same with his telephone messages. Unfortunately after this segment Director Peter Yates unwisely decided to put in voice overs of their thoughts. This adds nothing to the proceedings and ends up being heavy-handed. It also takes away one of the fundamental points of good film-making, which is learning about characters through subtle visual observation.

The film is also no where near as sophisticated or daring as I think the film-makers would like us to believe. I expected, and would have like, the male character to have been a life-long swinger who has had many of these flings and now suddenly finds himself attracted to this woman and wants to go in a different direction. Instead we get a Hoffman character portrayed as being someone who has never done this before and only does so at the coaxing of his much more liberated friend.  This leads him to act all shy and unsure and coming off like an extension to the character he played in The Graduate. The end result is getting a very boring, bland person who responds to things in all the predicted ways instead of giving us a fresh new perspective by delving into the mind of someone living a lifestyle many of us have not experienced.  I also got a strong feeling that the film-makers had done very little research into this topic, thus giving the viewer no new insight whatsoever.  It ends up coming off like one of those trendy ‘statement movies’, but with no idea of what statement it actually wants to make.

There is no chemistry between Hoffman and Farrow at all.  Nothing is shown that would indicate why these two would want to pursue this thing any further. I actually found the scenes involving the side-story of Farrow’s affair with an older college professor (Michael Tolan) to be more interesting and filled with stronger more snappy dialogue.

In the end this ‘provocative drama’ deteriorates into being an uninspired love story. It concludes with the tired, cliche ridden scene of having John madly driving around the city of New York looking for this mysterious woman who he is convinced he is in love with despite the fact that he still does not know what her name is.  It is easy to see how, in Hoffman’s very distinguished career, why this film remains one of his lesser known efforts.

On the technical side this film is actually well done.  I liked how it inter-cut between the present day and the past as well as analyzing the previous relationships of the two characters. This film also offers a nice chance to see a young Tyne Daly as Farrow’s roommate.  Cleavon Little from Blazing Saddles fame appears briefly as a would-be film director.  Olympia Dukakis  has an amusing, non-speaking bit as Hoffman’s activist Mother.  This also marks the film debut of character actress Marian Mercer.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: December 14, 1969

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Peter Yates

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD

$ (Dollars) (1971)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Robbery done inside safe.

Inspired by the British hit Perfect Friday this inventive and original bank heist film holds up well and has a great mix of action and comedy as well as oozing with cynical sensibilities and jaded characters.  It is one of the very few films ever made that has a symbol for its title and no words. Although most reference books do list the word ‘dollars’ in parenthesis, technically it is the dollar sign that is the official title. It also has the distinction of not displaying its title on screen in any type of print format. Instead a brief scene with a large steel structure made into a dollar sign is shown at the beginning being hauled in the air by a crane.

The story evolves around a crafty bank robbery devised by Joe Collins (Warren Beatty) who is also the bank’s security expert. He comes to realize that various criminals have stolen money stored in the safety deposit boxes inside the bank’s safe.  He figures that he could steal the money from them and they would be unable to go to the police. He gets a ditzy call-girl named Dawn Divine (Goldie Hawn), who has been a prostitute to most of the criminals whose money is in the safe, to call in a bomb threat to the bank. As the bank is evacuated, Joe enters the safe and closes it. He then methodically transfers the money from the bad guy’s boxes and into Dawn’s, who also rents a box there, as the bomb squad searches for the explosive. Then the next day Dawn takes the money from her box and stuffs it into her bag without anyone suspecting a thing.

Of course this is only the first-part. The second half deals with the crooks slowly figuring out what happened and chasing down Joe, who they think has the money. This begins one of the longest and most elaborate chase sequences ever put on film.  It takes up almost the whole second hour and it is amazing. Joe ends up being chased through city streets, tunnels, subways, trains, and even on a frozen lake with thin ice. Beatty did most of his own stunts here, which is impressive especially during the lake sequence, which was done on location in Sweden. When he goes through the ice he is really going into icy water and seems to be genuinely struggling to get out. Veteran character actor Scott Brady is memorable as one of the antagonists named Sarge.  He was much older than Beatty, but this contrast is fun, especially with the very relentless way he stays on Joe’s tail despite being out-of-shape.

Goldie is great as always, somehow her ditzy blonde routine never seems to get old and it is played to perfection here. I did have a few issues with the character though. She has sex with these slimy middle-aged men and even plays out their kinky fantasies, but ends up only taking $100 dollars from them for her ‘services’. I know this takes place in 1971, but even if you factor in inflation it still seemed low when these guys were loaded. I also thought her attitude was a little too carefree.  She invited these men into her apartment, but seemed to have no back-up plan in case things got out of control, which seemed risky. It is also never explained how Joe came to know her, or devise the plan that he did, but it would have been helpful. There also the fact that despite being a very crucial link in the plan she shows little confidence and describes how she always breaks down under pressure. It is nice that Joe stays supportive and sticks with her, but I felt it was unrealistic. Just about anyone else would have second thoughts about going through with it when they have a partner who is so shaky, or at the very least considered someone who is more self-assured.

Beatty is a terrific. He displays a cool demeanor and nicely underplays everything.  His mop-top Beatles like haircut  shows in a subtle, visual way his non-conformity from the more staid and conventionally dressed bank mangers.

Gert Frobe, best known as the villainous Auric Goldfinger from the classic James Bond film Goldfinger, is a hoot as the bumbling, clueless bank manager Mr. Kessel. The only actor I didn’t like was Arthur Brauss as ‘the candy man’. He certainly had the steely cold eyes of a killer, but his excessively raspy voice was a distraction and did not sound natural. There was no reason given why he sounded that way, but I would have liked one.

Even after 40 years the film still seems fresh. There are certain things here that I have never seen anywhere else. The prolonged chase is one, but there is also the scene where, to get Joe out of the safe, they have a torch burn a hole through the metal. They use an actual blowtorch and the sounds of it burning into the metal as well as the smoke and flying sparks is vivid and exciting.

I know my brother, who once watched the film with me, as well as other reviewers on IMDB, have complained that the first part of the film is too disjointed, slow and confusing. It does have a certain fragmented, cinema-vertite style to it where the viewer is forced to make their own connections, but I have watched this movie several times and it has never bothered me. The robbery and chase are so creative that I feel it more than makes up for any other limitations.  This early segment also effectively show how nasty the villainous men are and there is a part where, at a strip club, a stripper has a giant image of a dollar bill projected on her nude body, which I found to be evocative and artsy.

Critic Leonard Maltin has called this film ‘awfully similar to Perfect Friday’, but I have to disagree. I have seen both movies, which are excellent in their own right, but quite different in a lot of aspects. If you are looking for light entertainment that is exciting and still intelligently done, than this is a good flick to check-out.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: December 17, 1971

Runtime: 2Hours 1Minute

Rated R

Director: Richard Brooks

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Anderson Tapes (1971)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: They can hear everything.

In Sean Connery’s long and storied career in which he has played in a wide variety of films, The Anderson Tapes somehow always gets lost in the shuffle, which is unfair as it is really an offbeat gem waiting to be discovered and appreciated.  Fortunately in October it was finally released to DVD and the print is excellent and there is now discussions of a remake, but see the original first.

It involves a man by the name of Duke Anderson (Connery), who upon being released from prison, seeks to borrow money from the mob in order to finance a high scale robbery of an apartment building that is filled with affluent tenants. The problem is that Duke is being tailed by the government who, through means of sophisticated electronic devices, are able to record everything he says and does.  Even by today’s standards I thought the gadgetry and the way it was used was quite clever.

Many things help make this film stand out. One is the very distinctive music score by the legendary Quincy Jones.  It has a weird electronic, techno quality to it that nicely compliments all the gadgetry in the story.

The casting is also interesting.  Martin Balsam, who made a career playing typical, everyman characters, appears here as a flaming gay interior decorator, which he does hilariously well. Comedian Alan King gets cast in a serious role as the crime boss. Even the casting of Connery is offbeat.  Usually he plays characters with strong personalities who are very much in control.  Here he plays a character who is constantly forced to compromise and trying desperately just to hold everything together  he even ends up getting rejected by his girlfriend (played by Dyan Cannon) for another man and all Connery’s character can do is stand there looking dumbfounded.

The script has some really sharp dialogue. This is probably the third or fourth time that I have seen this film and yet I was still impressed by some of the great lines that I hadn’t caught from the previous viewings.  One should actually make a point to watch this film twice just so they can take in all the great writing, which coincidently was done by Fran Pierson the same person who did Dog Day Afternoon.

The most unique thing about the movie though is the actual robbery sequence, which is made memorable due to director Sidney Lumet’s innovative approach.  It is told in semi-flashback form where you see a scene of the robbery and then it cuts to a scene where the victim recounts what happened to the police, which makes for some creative segues. The robbery victims are full of odd quirks and quite amusing.  Two of the best ones involve Margaret Hamilton best know as the wicked witch from the Wizard of Oz who plays a cursing, argumentative elderly woman in this her final film role. I also like the bedridden, paraplegic young boy (Scott Jacoby) who is far more resourceful than anyone thinks and ends up single handily ruining all of their well thought out plans.

This sequence also edits in scenes of the police force quietly getting set-up to raid the building.  I especially like the shots of the S.W.A.T. team members sliding along a rope from one high rise rooftop to another.  It is photographed in a realistic way so you see them dangling high in the air with nothing but the street below, which made me cringe a little.  This is also a great chance to see Garret Morris in a pre-Saturday Night Live role playing the head of the S.W.A.T. team.

There is very little that I didn’t like in this film that I otherwise found to be original and engaging from start to finish. However, of the two issues that I do have, one is the ending, which in typical 70’s fashion was a bit of downer. It does have a twist to it, but it is not as clever as I think the film-makers thought it was.  There is also a glaring factual error that in a film as sophisticated and polished as this should never have happened.  It deals with a woman on a phone stating that she is calling from Wichita Falls, Kansas.  Now Kansas does have a city of Wichita, but Wichita Falls is actually in Texas.

I highly recommend this movie not only to those who may be fans of Connery or director Lumet, but also to those who enjoy movies with an offbeat story and approach.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: June 17, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Sidney Lumet

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Hannie Caulder (1971)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hannie gets her revenge.

Three outlaw brothers (Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam, Strother Martin) on the run from a botched robbery come upon an isolated house in the dessert. There they kill the husband and then gang rape the wife whose name is Hannie Caulder (Raquel Welch). They set the house on fire and then ride away laughing.  She manages to escape the blaze and makes a personal pledge to get her revenge. She has never used a gun before in her life, but with the help of a kindly bounty hunter named Thomas Price (Robert Culp) she learns the art of being a gunfighter.

The film nicely symbolizes the emerging force of women in 70’s society while using it inside a western motif. When we first see her she is in the kitchen with an apron on and cooking.  She learns though how to survive in a man’s world, do everything they can, and earn their respect in the process. It follows the same formula used in later cult hits I Spit on Your Grave and Ms. 45 except those titles were far more explicit and violent.

Critic Leonard Maltin, in his review of the film, called it a ‘bizarre, mystical western’, but I saw little of that.  In a lot of ways it was very routine with the only difference coming in the fact that it was a women single-handily seeking revenge instead of a man. There were only a few offbeat qualities that stood out enough to be mentioned. One was detailing the making of a gun, which I found to be interesting as well as the Hannie’s training and the different, subtle techniques that a gunfighter uses. British horror actor Christopher Lee is cast as a Mexican gunsmith. There is also one shootout segment that is done in slow motion, which is very cool.  Otherwise the majority of it is standard fare that is adequate, but not real impressive.

The idea of having the bad guys play it up as comical goofballs was a mistake.  It hurts the tension because we should want to see Hannie get her justice on these guys.  It also seems to minimize the savage act that they do and make the brutal subject matter seem lighthearted and silly when it shouldn’t be. Now, with that said, I still found some of the lines Strother Martin was given to be amusing and he almost became a scene-stealer

Raquel is looking gorgeous and wears a few revealing outfits, but there is no actual nudity, which would have helped. I still feel her acting ability is a bit lacking and the range of characters that she can play is limited. I did like her attempt at portraying a gritty character and taking a role that wasn’t glamorous. For a leading lady she has very few lines of dialogue. It wasn’t until the end when she says a few snappy one-liners at the bad guys that her part begins to click.

Robert Culp is all wrong as the bounty hunter and love interest. He can be a good actor in certain roles.  I always liked him as Peter Falk’s main nemesis in the Columbo series, but here he just doesn’t seem rugged enough. He wears glasses and is middle-aged and looks like a tenured college professor instead of a gunfighter.  The budding romance between the two doesn’t work either. He was about 12 years older than Raquel and always behaved more like a father to her right from the start.  The scene showing them holding hands while walking along a beach seemed almost creepy.

To me the film doesn’t come together until the end when she tracks the outlaw brothers down one by one in unusual locales. One is at a whorehouse, the other in a ladies clothing store, and the third is in an abandoned prison. This is the best moment as the prison itself is very isolated and the sound of the blowing wind and the late afternoon sun gives the scene a lot of atmosphere.

This is not a bad movie, but it is not a particularly good one either.  It is quite compact, running only 85 minutes, and the pace is quick. Despite the subject matter it runs pretty much on the light side. Western and Welch enthusiasts may find this more interesting than others. Borgnine fans may also like it as he is effectively slimy here.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: November 8, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 23Minutes

Rated R

Director: Burt Kennedy

Studio: Paramount

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

Funny Farm (1988)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Novelist moves to country.

Uninspired comedy about a man named Andy Farmer (Chevy Chase) who receives an advance from a publishing company, which he uses to quit his job and buy a cabin out in the country with his wife Elizabeth (Madolyn Smith) in order to write his novel. Unfortunately the local citizens are eccentric in very clichéd ways and their time there is spent dealing with one crazy misadventure after another.

Right from the start this film proves to have no footing in reality. Publishing companies only pay advances to authors who are already published and proven. They do not shell out $10,000 to some average unpublished Joe with only a vague idea for a story. Many publishers won’t even look at a finished manuscript from someone unless they are already represented by an agent and have some sort of track record, which renders this entire premise as ridiculous.

The movie starts off too quickly with them moving to the country without any set-up. The characters themselves are extremely bland and the script does not take advantage at all of Chase’s cynical, sardonic humor, or impeccable comic timing. Smith is certainly pleasant on the eyes, but things could have been more interesting had they been played-up as spoiled city slickers like the Lisa Douglas character from the TV-series Green Acres and then forced to adjust.

The humor is sloppy and uninspired and shows no level of sophistication. It is thrown in haphazardly without any consideration for story progression, or character development.  Much of it is not funny and the whole thing seems like a stretched out episode from the old Newhart TV-series and in fact the film was shot in Vermont were that series took place. The only mildly amusing moment comes when Andy goes fishing with some of the men from town and ends up accidently throwing them all overboard and even that is worth only a small chuckle. The final segment were Andy and Elizabeth convince everyone in the town to act like people from a Norman Rockwell painting and have them study covers from old issues of the Saturday Evening Post, as  they think this will make things seem more appealing to prospective buyers, is utterly preposterous.

The only time this film has any possibilities is when Elizabeth ends up not liking the story that Andy has written. Being a writer myself and having dealt with other writers I can attest that this can happen more than you think. In fact famous horror novelist Richard Laymon stated that his number one rule of things not to do was giving your manuscripts to friends and family members to read because it can create needless acrimony. Things get dicey when Elizabeth writes a story that sells, but the sterile script by Jeffrey Boam fails to take full advantage of this scenario and the results become as disappointing as everything else.

I did like that it was shot on location. The cottage is nestled away in a scenic area and the viewer gets the feeling that they are ‘getting away from it all’ along with the characters.  Capturing it during all four seasons is another plus. I also thought that the realistic looking stuffed squirrel was cool and I wish I could find one of those for myself.

Sadly, this was director George Roy Hill’s last film. He had much more success with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Slapshot, and The Sting to name just a few. None of his genius shows up here as it is quite mechanical and formulaic.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 3, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated PG

Director: George Roy Hill

Studio: Warner Brothers

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

Under the Yum Yum Tree (1963)

under yum

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Landlord likes pretty woman.

Jack Lemmon plays Hogan, an apartment landlord who charges $450 a month to men, but only $75 a month to a young beautiful woman. He then puts on his moves and most of the time ‘scores’ with his nubile tenants. He sets his sights on attractive college co-ed Robin Austin (Carol Lynley) who has just moved in.  Unbeknownst to him she is also bringing in her boyfriend Dave (Dean Jones). The two have decided to live platonically, so they can see if they can get along together before taking the big step and getting married. Hogan is unaware of her male counterpart as when she signed up she simply told him her roommate was a brunette and Hogan presumed it was female. When he finds out who it really is it puts a crimp on his plans, but he still persists anyways.

Although the premise of two young people who are in love cohabiting without having sex may seem antiquated and remnants of a bygone era, the truth is the characters and filmmakers were probably a little more worldly-wise then one might presume initially. For one thing Dave considers the arrangement to be ‘nutty’ and states ‘no one could live that way’. He also, towards the end of the film, gets her to drink some strong tequila in order to get her drunk and allow him to seduce her. The characters, particularly the apartment’s husband and wife maintenance crew (Imogene Coco, Paul Lynde) do not condone Hogan’s playboy lifestyle, but are also privately jealous of it and in the case of the Lynde character even fantasizes about it. I also thought it was a hoot when Robin asks her college instructor Irene (Edie Adams) whether her and her husband ‘did it’ before they were married and although Irene acts all aghast at the suggestion she is also careful not to specifically answer it either.  So even though things are not as explicit as today’s films the underlying leering elements are still there.

This was pretty much Lemmon’s vehicle and he does alright. He has never played the part of a lecherous cad before, so it was fun seeing him do something different and away from his otherwise clean-cut good guy image. The best thing though may actually be the way his apartment was decorated. It is painted in a garish, bright red and this includes the carpets, drapes, and bed sheets. He also wears shirts, socks, and a watch band with the same bright red color making the place look like hell and he the devil. I also got a kick out of a pair of violins that he has stored in a case and at the press of a button they rise up and play romantic music with the help of electronic, robotic hands.

Carol Lynley is sensational as the female lead and quite possibly the best thing about the movie. Her portrayal of a young female college student who is sweet and polite, but still headstrong and full of ideals seems timeless. I also liked that the college students here were portrayed as thinking, breathing young adults and not just one-dimensional, stoned party- animals.

Jones does well as the boyfriend who sees right through Hogan’s schemes and does not allow him to get the upper hand. However, some of the stunts that Hogan pulls including walking in on the couple unannounced at different times of the day and night as well as having him eavesdrop on them and even admit to it, would not go over in the real world and would likely get him sued.

The biggest problem with the film is that fact that there is really no plot. The entire movie is made up of these silly little schemes that Hogan tries to pull to get Dave out of the way and his hands on Robin. None of these are clever, funny, or imaginative. The one-joke premise gets stretched until it becomes excruciatingly monotonous. Most of these films that are based on hit stage plays at least have some funny banter and sharp one-liners, but this movie doesn’t even have that.  This all might have worked as a cute 30 minute episode on the old Love American Style TV-show, but at 110 minutes it is outrageously over-long. Even for a fluffy 60’s sex farce it’s incredibly vapid and lifeless.  Legendary comic character actors Coco and Lynde are wasted.

A young Bill Bixby can be seen briefly as a college student trying to rent an apartment.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: October 23, 1963

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: David Swift

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Walk Don’t Run (1966)

walk don't run

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Three is a crowd.

This film marked Cary Grant’s final on-screen appearance and was also a remake of the 1943 screwball comedy The More the Merrier, which was directed by the legendary George Stevens. The story is about a British businessman named Sir William Rutland (Grant) who travels to Tokyo on business during the 1964 summer Olympics and is unable to find a place to stay as everything is booked up. He spots an ad asking for a roommate on a nearby bulletin board. When he goes to the address he finds that the apartment is being rented by an attractive young lady by the name of Christine Easton (Samantha Eggar).  She at first is reluctant to accept the arrangement as she is rather old-fashioned and feels that a man sharing an apartment with a woman would not look appropriate, but William manages to talk his way in. The next day while at a business meeting William meets a young man who is participating in the Olympics, but will not tell anyone what event he is in. His name is Steve Davis and he is played by the late actor Jim Hutton, who is probably best known to today’s audiences as the father of actor Timothy Hutton as the two look almost exactly alike. Steve is looking for a place to stay as well so William invites him to the apartment, which makes Christine even more apprehensive, but after several ‘Three’s a Company’ type scenarios they eventually get along and Steve and Christine end up falling in love.

I found the first hour to be highly enjoyable.  Grant is an old-pro and goes through his role with amazing ease. Every scene he is in is amusing and I would highly recommend the film simply for his appearance alone. I felt the film started to stagnate when they introduced the romance angle. This was another situation were in my opinion the relationship was forced and formulaic and simply put in because the producers felt it would be ‘cute’. It didn’t seem to make a lot of sense why the characters would fall in love anyways since they had only known each other for a couple of days.  It is one thing if a person is desperately looking for someone, but that was not the case with Steve who is very independent and tells everyone he has no interest in marriage. There is nothing shown as to what about Christine’s personality would click with him to begin with.  Yes, she is pretty, but she spends most of the film being rather defensive towards them and more concerned with keeping a ‘proper’ distance. The two stars show no real chemistry either.

This was an unusual foray for actress Eggar as she rarely does comedy. She mainly works in horror films and thrillers and is best known for her performances in The Collector, The Walking Stick, The Brood, and The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun. I felt in those types of roles she did exceptionally well, but here her comic timing seemed off and almost non-existent when compared to the two male leads.

There is also a very silly subplot dealing with Steve being accused as a spy and this culminates with a protracted scene at a Japanese police station where all the characters get interrogated by actor George Takei from ‘Star Trek’, which isn’t good for even a few chuckles. Another scenario involves Christine’s fiancé, Julius Haversack (John Standing), and William’s attempts to keep him away from Christine so that Steve can be with her. This storyline falls flat as well simply because the Julius character is so over-the-top stupid and gullible that William’s shenanigans don’t come off as being all that clever or amusing.

About the only thing that revives the film is the climactic race where the participants are required to walk and not run, hence the film’s title. I found this interesting because I had never seen or heard of this type of race before, but apparently it is a regular event at the Olympics and has been since 1928. The difference in a walking race as opposed to a running one is that the participants must always keep a part of their foot on the ground at all times. The result looks kind of goofy, like an old person trying to run, which explains why Steve was too embarrassed to tell anyone what he did.  I found this segment interesting although the story again gets too exaggerated as the other characters get into a cab and drive alongside Steve during the race, which I didn’t think would happen because there would be enough police officers and Olympic officials there to block them. However, I loved the part where William strips down to his underwear and starts fast-walking alongside Steve and then when he is finished he goes onto a bus and rides home still in his undies with everyone staring at him.

I felt like this was two story’s put into one with the first half being much better than the second. I almost wished they had just kept it focused on the three cohabitating together and not even brought in the romantic angle at all, or maybe just at the very end.  The movie is funniest when Grant is involved and any scene without him seems to fizzle. The music score by legendary Quincy Jones is cool and I wished they had played more of that as well.  It was filmed on-location in Tokyo, but you never really get a good feel of the city, or the Japanese culture. I think more filming in the downtown locations as well as certain landmarks was needed. There were also a few outdoor scenes that despite being nicely detailed where clearly done on an indoor soundstage.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: June 29, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 54Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Charles Walters

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

All the Marbles (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: These wrestlers are hot.

Peter Falk does another terrific job playing a lovable, but eccentric character. Here he takes on the role of a con-man type manager of two lady wrestlers (Laurene Landon, Vicki Frederick).

This film marked the final project by director Robert Aldrich who did such classics as Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, The Dirty Dozen, and Kiss Me Deadly. Although it didn’t do too much on its initial release, it has since acquired a small, but fervent following. These people insist this is the best movie about wrestling and some even go as far to say it is the best sports-themed movie ever. Warner Brothers has become aware of the attention and has now added it to its special-order DVD collection that can be purchased for twenty-five dollars from its archive website.

I remember when this film was released and after seeing the previews I was convinced it was just a mindless T&A picture, but I have read about enough people who have liked it that I decided I needed to give it a view. However, I came away from the film unimpressed with the majority of it. The main problem is that, although labeled a comedy, they stick in some awkward drama in order to show the downside of the wrestling profession. It doesn’t work because the two women playing the wrestlers can’t act. Landon in particular is a problem. She plays the blonde half and has an annoying monotone quality to her voice making her sound like she is simply reading her lines straight off of the script. Both lady characters seem to react to everything in predictable ways and thus become boring. The scenarios and conversations are soap opera like and end up bogging the whole thing down.

I like the attempt at showing the gritty side of the business and even inserting some realism, but this could have been down in a satirical form while still keeping it consistently funny.  A film like Smile from 1975 made some trenchant comments about the beauty pageant business, but remained funny and clever throughout without any of the strained drama like here.

Now with that said, I can still see why this film has attracted some fans and that is based solely on the wrestling scenes, which are excellent. The two actresses were trained by Mildred Burke a famous female wrestler from the 30’s and 40’s.  The techniques they use are true to form and look very authentic and, at times, even painful. Aldrich captures the action from different angles and it is fast and furious. I am no wrestling fan, but found myself caught up in it. The wrestling scenes are without question the best part of the film and there should have been more of them. The climatic match closely resembles the Rocky formula and it is a lot of fun. The highlight here comes when the two women attack and beat-up the crooked referee (played by Richard Jaeckel).

I must also mention that I like Burt Young as the heavy. He gives off one of the creepiest, weirdest laughs you will ever hear.  It was alsogreat to see legendary Los Angeles Lakers announcer Chick Hearn as the ringside announcer during the final match. He even ends up saying the film’s title.

If you don’t like wrestling than this otherwise obscure film is not worth checking out. If you do like wrestling than this film may be worth it however, I would suggest just fast-forwarding to those scenes and skipping the rest.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 16, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 53Minutes

Director: Robert Aldrich

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video

Rock ‘N’ Roll High School (1979)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: They like The Ramones.

Vapid, schlocky nonsense about high school students rebelling from an oppressive new principal named Miss Togar (Mary Woronov) with the help of the punk rock band The Ramones.

The film was produced by Roger Corman, who was known to be quite stingy with his budget, and it shows. As a joke the crew put in birds in the background to chirp ‘cheap, cheap’ over the credits.

There really is no storyline here. It is just a rapid-fire parade of one corny, lame gag after another that gets progressively worse as it goes along. Despite being labeled a teen comedy the humor is embarrassingly kiddie with the expected sex jokes and innuendos at a minimum. Normally, even in the worst of comedies, I can usually find a few lines, or scenes, to be funny, but here I found nothing that was amusing, or even halfway clever.

What is worse is the fact that there is no nudity! What kind of self-respecting teen comedy doesn’t have nudity? Not that a few fleeting naked bodies would have saved it, but at least it would have helped.

P.J. Soles won a cult following for her rambunctious performance as the student leading the rebellion, but her acting is very hammy. Vincent Van Patten, son of actor Dick Van Patten, is cast against type as the good-looking blonde All-American, who seemingly can’t get laid. Unfortunately, he has always had a very blank, ‘deer-in-headlights’ stare and I find his acting follows in the same suit.

Woronov is ineffective as the heavy. She is just not mean, or repressive enough and stupidly falls for all the dumb tricks that the students play on her. Her character should have been played-up more and her evilness more accentuated, which would have, even on a minor level, allowed for more tension and made the film seem less one-dimensional.

If I liked anybody here it would be Dey Young, who is the younger sister of actress Leigh-Taylor Young and the two look a lot alike. She is real cute, but in a nice natural way that is not overdone. She seems to be having a good time throughout and I enjoyed her spontaneity. Male viewers may also like her revealing gym outfit.

The punk band The Ramones appear as themselves. Initially the producers had wanted singer Todd Rundgren, who would’ve been better, but he refused. They then tried to get Van Halen, but backed down when they heard they were wild and too hard to control. For a while they even considered bringing in a disco band and calling it ‘Disco High School’.  For what it was worth I was not into their music, or at least from what I heard here, as their songs sounded too much alike with no harmony, or melody, and a beat that was too repetitive. Also, their vocals sounded more like shouting than singing. They showed no screen presence and reportedly their acting was so bad that the majority of their lines were cut. For the record though their lead singer Joey looks almost exactly like radio personality Howard Stern.

Sometimes, if done right, teen comedies can be fun because they allow one to harken back to their own high school years and bring back fond memories like John Hughes’s Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club do. However, those films at least had some shred of reality to them while here the characters and situations are too cartoonish and over-the-top. Nothing is relatable and even for satire it goes overboard. It’s a ‘bomb’ in every respect.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: August 24, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Allan Arkush

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray