Monthly Archives: March 2012

Lord Love a Duck (1966)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: She wants it all.

If you ever wondered where political correctness got its start it was probably southern California in the mid 60’s. Here everything is neutralized and modified so as to ‘keep up with the times’. There’s even a drive-in church where the minister proudly exclaims that the Lord answers every prayer because “whatever happens is the answer”.

Tuesday Weld plays teenager Barbara Ann Greene who can’t be happy unless she has it all. She meets fellow high-schooler Allan Musgrave (Roddy McDowell) who because of his super intelligence is able to figure out ways for her to get what she wants. Yet the more she gets it the more unhappy she becomes.

It’s a satire on our consumer driven society, but it is too restrained and soft. A supposedly cutting edge film looking at our modernized world should have been filmed in color and not black and white. It also should have been faster paced with a heavier emphasis on the zany and outrageous. Instead we only get hints of this with a lot of slow segments and even some clumsy drama. The funny offbeat bits are spread out to thin and do not make up for the other parts that are boring and contrived.

There are some technical problems too including a lot of ‘outdoor’ shots that were really filmed indoors on a soundstage. They fortunately don’t do this anymore, but when they did it looked tacky. There is also a boom mike that is very obvious to see in several shots.

McDowell is not eccentric, nor unique enough for such an offbeat character. Although perpetually boyish looking he was way, way too old to be playing a high school student as he was 37 when this was filmed. Out of all the performers Harvey Korman comes off as the most amusing playing the overtly congenial school principal.

This film does feature an attractive cast. Of course Weld is always alluring, but she has competition from Jo Collins who was Playboy Playmate of 1965. There is also Lynn Carey daughter of the late actor MacDonald Carey from ‘Days of Our Lives’ fame. She is exceptionally good looking and watching here gyrate in a bikini to the latest dance craze is damn near pornographic. For her age Lola Albright, who plays Weld’s mother, is an absolute knockout and she can officially be crowned as a ‘milf’.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: February 21, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated: NR (Not Rated)

Director: George Axelrod

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD

Marathon Man (1976)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Dentist doesn’t use novocain.

            Thomas ‘Babe’ Levy (Dustin Hoffman) is a post graduate student at Columbia University and part-time marathon runner who spends a harrowing 48 hours being tortured and terrorized by a sadistic Nazi war criminal. It all starts when his brother Henry ‘Doc’ Levy (Roy Scheider) who works for a secret government organization known as ‘The Division’, secretly tracks Dr. Christian Szell (Laurence Olivier) a dentist at Auschwitz who has traveled to New York in order to collect a cache of diamonds. When Doc moves in too close Szell stabs him and despite being covered in blood Doc manages to make it all the way to Babe’s apartment before collapsing. Szell fears that Doc might have told Babe something before he died and has his men kidnap Babe where they then tie him to a chair in an abandoned warehouse and Szell tortures him by drilling into his teeth forcing Babe to use his running skills in an effort to escape.

This is an original thriller that stays intriguing and intense throughout. In the first thirty minutes alone the viewer is treated to some interesting and exciting scenarios including watching two elderly men drag racing with each other in their antique cars down a crowded neighborhood street. There is also an exploding baby carriage and an exciting fight sequence where Doc battles an attacker who tries to strangle him from behind with a metal wire. This scene is unique in that it cuts between seeing the action up close as well as viewing it from the point-of-view of an elderly man watching from across the street.

Director John Schlesinger shows visual flair with a variety of camera angles and settings. I particularly liked the part where Doc meets Szell at the red steps statue in the Arco Plaza. Having the climactic showdown between Babe and Szell take place in a pump room at the reservoir in Central Park gives the sequence added energy and distinction. I also enjoyed Babe’s cramped, drab, and cluttered apartment that had a very lived-in look and resembled exactly what a bachelor pad with someone on a low income would look like. The scene taking place at a country house is memorable simply for its extreme remoteness. I was disappointed though that although Schlesinger does a great job in setting up the atmosphere of the scene by doing a long shot looking out at the barren landscape the weather suddenly goes from cloudy to sunny in the minute it takes for the bad guy’s car to pull up the driveway. I realize certain scenes are sometimes shot over several days and this is not the first movie to have sudden weather changes during outdoor shots, but it is distracting nonetheless.

The infamous torture scene didn’t work for me. I appreciated the set-up especially the prolonged way that Szell plugs the drill into a wall outlet while talking to Babe in a calm tone. Constantly asking Babe the question ‘Is it safe?” has become a classic line and the fact that the dental torture gets extended when you think it is over is well done. Still, it didn’t seem violent enough and although pain is implied I didn’t think that the viewer really ‘feels’ it. I wanted more shots from Babe’s point of view especially as Szell sticks his metal instruments into Babe’s mouth. A close-up of Babe’s tooth and seeing the drill touch it would have helped as well. Also, Babe needs to scream in pain a lot more, he does it once briefly, but someone going through that would be doing it constantly.  Apparently the producer’s cut out portions of this scene when it upset the test audiences who saw it, but I would like that footage put back in as I feel it would make the movie stronger and give it an added kick that otherwise is missing.

Olivier is tremendous in the villainous role. His face exudes evil and this is one of his best later career roles. Scheider has his best role here and I found Marthe Keller impressive as Babe’s girlfriend. She wears an attractive hairstyle and I couldn’t get over how diametrically opposite she was compared to her character in Black Sunday that was done the very same year. She is definitely an under-rated actress that deserves more accolades as well as more parts in American productions. However, the way Babe pursues her for a date seemed to border on ‘creepy’  and overly aggressive and act as a turn-off to most women.

The film does seem derivative at certain points especially the way it portrays New York as an urban hellhole, which was quite common during the 70’s. The fact that Babe avoids confrontation and is picked on by a Hispanic gang that lives across the street seemed too reminiscent of Hoffman’s earlier film Straw Dogs. There are several flashback sequences showing Babe as a child that is done with faded color and no dialogue and look too similar to the childhood sequences done in Midnight Cowboy, which was an earlier Schlesinger/Hoffman project. Hoffman, for what it is worth, gives another one of his dedicated performances, but this film really does show in glaring detail how very puny he is and I really could have done without having to see his naked rear.

The electronic score is nice and the part where Szell gets recognized by an elderly concentration camp survivor on a busy city sidewalk and who then begins to chase after him is memorable. However, when it is all over I still felt it didn’t completely click. I’m not sure what it is. I know the ending was changed from the one in the book, but I liked this one better and felt Babe’s revenge on Szell was creative. Although controversial and edgy for its time, the torture scene seems too toned down for today’s standards. Either way, if you are looking for a competent and entertaining thriller this should fit the bill, but it is not a classic.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: October 8, 1976

Runtime: 2Hours 5Minutes

Rated R: (Violence, Language, Adult Theme, Brief Nudity)

Director: John Schlesinger

Studio: Paramount

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

Maniac (1980)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: He wants their hair.

A loner (Joe Spinell) terrorizes New York City by killing young women and scalping them. He then takes their hair, brings it home, and places it (actually he nails it) onto the heads of some mannequins that he has.

In a lot of ways this is the same old mechanical slasher flick as it has all the predictable characteristics of the others that dominated the early 80’s. The story is simple and strung along by long, drawn-out murder sequences. There is some suspense, but it is minimal since we know exactly what is going to happen. The victims are young, good looking women, who are clueless to the dangers that are lurking until it is too late. One segment in particular features a nurse getting off of work late at night, who mentions her fear of the killer and yet for some reason she still foolishly refuses a ride home from her friend and instead walks down a dark, lonely street and into, of course, eventual carnage.

There are also some rather glaring technical errors. One features a woman (the same one who refused a ride) running from the killer by going into an empty subway. Although isolation is the whole factor here there is one shot, taken from inside a departing subway car that clearly shows a whole bunch of people standing just across from her on the other side of the tracks. There is also a segment where Spinell takes his girlfriend to his mother’s grave. When the car pulls up to the cemetery it is a nice, bright afternoon, but when they reach the actual grave it has become pitch black with a strange unexplained fog that has rolled in. Lastly there is the ending. This is a man that has terrorized a whole city and yet only two policemen in an unmarked squad car come to his residence and when they do they don’t even bother to secure the site.

Despite the low-budget problems there are a few things that raise this slightly above the rest. One is the fact that it actually manages to get inside the killer’s head. You hear the inner conversations between his ‘good’ side and his ‘bad’ side. Of course this only touches the surface of a true schizoid personality, but it does offer a little more depth than most. It also helps create a good portrait of a tormented soul and you end up feeling more sadness than fear for the man. The film also consistently has a dark, grainy look, which helps accentuate the ugly theme. Having it take place in New York City gives it a little more distinction and atmosphere.

The special effects are good. The part where he blows a man’s head off, through a car windshield, looks very realistic and has become the film’s most famous scene. The surreal ending, where the mannequins all come to life and exact a sort of revenge, is also well-handled and imaginative. Makeup artist Tom Savini, who also appears as the character of ‘Disco Boy’, has had a lot of success, but the stuff here may be his best.

Director William Lustig shows some panache and Spinell, who also co-wrote the screenplay, gives a surprisingly strong performance, but their attempts at creating a better understanding of a crazed killer prove placid and simply done for shock value.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 26, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 27Minutes

Not Rated (Graphic Violence, Brief Nudity, Language, Adult Theme)

Director: William Lustig

Studio: Magnum Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray (30th Anniversary Edition)

The Nanny (1965)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kid doesn’t like nanny.

            Bette Davis plays a nanny to an upper-class British family whose oldest son Joey (William Dix) is accused of accidently killing his younger sister. Joey, who is only 10, is sent away to a home for disturbed children. When he returns he accuses the nanny as the one who did the killing and a psychological game of cat-and-mouse ensues.

Davis is sensational. She plays a type of character that she has never done before and the results are fascinating. She is much more subdued and evasive than usual and she falls into the role of the unassuming nanny in a seamless fashion. The different setting works well for her and I commend her tenacity for taking on a project that was not glamorous. She even puts on some thick eyebrows for her part and at times, especially at the beginning, she starts to resemble her most hated rival Joan Crawford.

Dix is amazingly good as the kid and it is a shame that he did only one other picture after this one. I liked the independent nature of the character and he plays off Davis quite well and showed no signs of being intimated by her. Making the adversaries have such extreme age difference and personalities gives the story an interesting edge that helps carry the picture.

The evocative black and white photography helps accentuate the dark-tone. The British setting along with the expected formalities of that culture, particularly that from the father character Bill (James Villers) give the film some distinction.

The first act though goes on way too long. We are given the general premise right up front and then have to spend the whole first hour going through the scenario that Joey doesn’t like his nanny and is suspicious of her again and again until it becomes derivative. When the second act does finally come about it seems too late. The revelation isn’t all that clever or creative and the climactic sequence desperately needed more action and punch. The final result is unsatisfying. The viewer is given an intriguing premise that it can’t sustain to the end ultimately making this a misfire despite the outstanding presence of Davis and some high production values.

There is also the issue of the three-year-old girl who is adorable and an absolute scene stealer and yet right up front you are made aware that she is killed, which makes the proceedings rather depressing. Having to then watch her actual death is disturbing and, for its time period, rather vivid and startling.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 27, 1965

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated: NR (Not Rated)

Director: Seth Holt

Studio: Hammer Productions

Available: DVD

Chilly Scenes of Winter (1979)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Can’t get over her.

            Charles (John Heard) meets Laura (Mary Beth Hurt) at his job and immediately becomes smitten.  She is married and upfront about it, but since it is not going well she decides to go out with him. They soon move-in together, but it only lasts for a couple of months before Laura goes back to her husband. This is a crushing blow to Charles who obsesses about her constantly and tries any way he can to win her back.

This is in many ways a dated movie and normally I would consider that a detriment, but here I found it to be an asset. It is refreshing and fun to see a person drink a little on the job, or playfully touch a female co-worker as he walks past them and not have it become an immediate sexual harassment lawsuit. There is also the part where Laura invites Charles back to her home after only their first date, which could be considered reckless, but it’s nice to go back to an era that was more trusting and not everyone was labeled a potential psycho until proven otherwise.

There is of course the subject of stalking which is what Charles does, but here it is natural and actually kind of sweet. Some of it may be considered a little ‘creepy’, or even pathetic, but none of it is menacing, or done with criminal intent. To me this makes more sense and is more realistic to expect that when someone has strong feelings for someone else and spent special times with them that they would have trouble ‘moving-on’ when the other person breaks it off and their inability to do so shouldn’t necessarily make them ‘crazy’, or ‘maladjusted’ and this film very effectively shows that.

This is a terrific movie about relationships. The characters are real and relatable. The situations they go through are universal and the best thing is that it stays that way until the bitter end without pulling any punches. Anyone who has gone through difficult relationships will appreciate the honesty and it’s a real shame they don’t make movies like this anymore.

Heard is excellent and plays an extension of the same 60’s radical character begrudgingly moving into adult life that he did in Between the Lines, which was his first collaboration with writer-director Joan Micklin Silver. A young Peter Reigert is appealing as Charles’s roommate Sam. Kenneth McMillan, a looks- challenged character actor who usually plays slimy people, is surprisingly likable as Charles’s stepdad. Legendary screen actress Gloria Grahame, in one of her last roles, is highly amusing as Charles’s crazy mother. I was never quite sure what any of her scenes had to do with the main story, but her presence was fun anyways.

The film also contains some offbeat scenes and an original sense of humor. This includes the scene where Charles makes a miniaturized replica model of the home that Laura lives in and then uses dolls to play the parts of Laura and her husband and child. There is also the part where Charles meets Laura’s husband under the guise of being a home buyer and then stands up in front of him and states his undying love for his wife as well as a goofy conversation that he has with a wacky elderly lady roommate when he visits his mother in the hospital. The best though is the running conversation that Charles has each day with the blind cashier at a candy counter that gets better and better as the movie progresses.

The film nicely captures the wintry Utah landscape and although the original title for the film was Head over Heels this other title works much better and not only fits the season in which the story takes place, but also the ever difficult and complicated dating scene as well.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Alternate Title: Head over Heels

Released: October 19, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated PG: (Brief Nudity, Adult Theme)

Director: Joan Micklen Silver

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, Netflix Streaming

The Gong Show Movie (1980)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Jaye P. Morgan topless.

A very fractured, offbeat look at game show host Chuck Barris and his trials and tribulations as producer and host of the hit 70’s game show ‘The Gong Show’. In between there are some very short snippets of acts that never made it past the network censor. If you are unfamiliar with the show it featured three B-celebrities, usually Jamie Farr, Artie Johnson, and Jaye P. Morgan, who would watch talent acts performed by amateurs. The acts were usually done in the comic and absurd vein and could include anything from singing, dancing, or stand-up comedy. If they were really bad the celebrities would get out of their seats and bang a big gong that was behind them, which would have the performer thrown off. If the participant avoided being gonged they would then have the potential of winning a monetary prize at the end.

If you were not a fan of the show then you probably won’t be a fan of this movie either. If you were a fan you still might not like it because Barris acts consistently embarrassed by his creation and seems to want to disown it.

The film lacks cohesion. It mixes absurdity with surrealism and even trashy segments thrown in for good measure. The quirky bits are forced and the ‘hilarious’ dialogue is just plain stupid. There is also too many scenes involving a stuffy, uptight network boss who is so over- the-top clichéd that he becomes annoying.

Barris never seemed completely cut out for a game show host and even less as a leading man. He has no charisma and  spends the whole time moping around. He comes off as very burdened making you wonder if his stories about being a part-time CIA hit man were true. Either way he is not an engaging centerpiece for a movie. It would have been better had it broadened out and shown more of “The Gong Show” cast especially Jaye P. Morgan who is as raunchy as ever in the few scenes that she is in including her topless part!

The show always had a unique and perverse brilliance, which comes out every time it features one of the acts from the show making me feel that using this simply as a highlight reel of all of the best and most outrageous acts would have been a better idea. The ones that they show aren’t bad, but they are cut pretty short. A few of the ones that I liked featured two teenaged girls performing fellatio with their popsicles. Another one has three men standing at a urinal and making music with their zippers until one of their zippers gets caught! There is also two obese Siamese twins singing the Captain and Tennille hit ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: May 23, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated R (Language, Brief Nudity, Raunchy Humor)

Director: Chuck Barris

Studio: Universal

Available: None

The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Doris is a spy.

            This is an energetic and zany Doris Day vehicle featuring her as Jennifer Nelson a tour guide at the NASA Space Center. She meets Bruce Templeton (Rod Taylor) who at first she can’t stand, but when she finds out that he is one of the top scientists at the lab and makes a lot of money she immediately becomes infatuated. This certainly does nothing to help fight the gold-digger stigma that some women have, but it was made over forty years ago, so I guess it was more acceptable. Through quirky circumstances she comes under suspicion as being a Russian spy and spends the rest of the time trying to prove otherwise while continuing her romance with Bruce.

Day looks gorgeous and is hammy at just the right level without going overboard and becoming cartoonish. Her best segment is when Taylor imagines here as a Mata Hari spy complete with skimpy outfit, which she looks great in, as well as dreaming that she is blindfolded and speaking in a foreign accent while ready to be shot by a firing squad. She sings the film’s title tune, which is bouncy, and even does, later on, a goofy rendition of her signature song ‘Que Sera Sera’.

Taylor is perfect as the love interest and I think he is the best out of all of Day’s male co-stars. His funniest moment, although brief, is when Day crosses her eyes to be goofy and then keeps them that way, which makes him momentarily panic. I got a kick out of his model of the solar system that he had in his office that displayed the planets in a symbolic fashion after the Greek gods they were named after.

The supporting cast is full of familiar comic pros. Alice Pearce and George Tobias appear as Jennifer’s neighbors and a variation of the Kravitz couple that they played on the ‘Bewitched’ TV-series. Pearce is hilarious and it was a shame that she wasn’t in more scenes and died before the movie’s release. Dom Deluise is amusing as the actual spy, who goes undercover as an electrical repairman. Normally his goofy fat-guy persona becomes tiring, but here it worked especially during the climatic sequence. Paul Lynde, who was always hard to cast and in the process usually got meaningless parts, has one of his best roles as the lab’s security guard and even dresses up in drag at the end. Dick Martin, Edward Andrews, and John McGiver help round out the cast. Arthur Godfrey, as Jennifer’s father, is the only one who is boring, but his part was dull, so it might be hard to completely blame him.

Director Frank Tashlin creates sets with bright, vivid colors and each scene is a Technicolor dream. Being a former cartoonist he creates some nicely played-out comic scenarios including Bruce’s hands-free futuristic kitchen that has a little robot that comes out of the wall and cleans-up any messes that are left behind and ends up attacking Jennifer. The out-of-control boat ride is also amusing, but the best part is the wild, fast-paced ending when Jennifer decides to turn the tables on her accusers.

Sure it is silly, but you know that going in and on a non-think level it is perfect entertainment for all-ages.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: June 9, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated G

Director: Frank Tashlin

Studio: MGM

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: She is all alone.

Rynn (Jodie Foster) is a 13-year-old girl living alone in a big house in the countryside. Her father has leased the place for three years from nosy landlady Mrs. Hallet (Alexis Smith) and her adult son Frank (Martin Sheen) who continually makes lecherous advances towards Rynn. No one has seen her father and when anyone asks for him she comes up with excuses, which starts to make everyone in town suspicious. She meets fellow teen Mario (Scott Jacoby) who she lets in on her secret and the two devise a plan that will rid them of the meddlesome Hallets.

Although she has stated in interviews that this is the least favorite out of all the movies that she has done I can’t think of anyone more perfect for the part of an independent headstrong young woman than Foster, who has always carried that persona. Despite the vast age difference she easily carries the picture from her older co-stars. There is even a nude scene involving her character although it was done by her older sister Connie working as a body double. This was done despite her adamant protests as was a scene where she goes to bed with Jacoby, which she has said made her extremely uncomfortable and probably explains her dislike for the film.

Sheen is menacing as the perverted Frank, who enjoys ‘younger girls’ and his ongoing banter and advances with Rynn is consistently creepy and tense. Alexis Smith is excellent as the mother and her worn face and attitude gives her a witchy presence and it is too bad she couldn’t have remained for the entire movie. I also found Jacoby engaging and amiable and I really enjoyed his character, which I found a bit surprising since he is best known for playing dark, sinister characters in Rivals and the TV-movie Bad Ronald.

The on-location shooting, which was done in both the Canadian province of Quebec and in Maine, is excellent and gives one a nice taste of small town life on the east coast. There is some nice synthesized music that gives the film a dark tone. The premise is offbeat and to some extent, at least during the first half, it is enough to keep you intrigued.

My main issue with the film is the fact that not enough happens. Almost all the action takes place in the main room of the house, which eventually becomes dull, especially visually. There are no scares, or shocks and the twists aren’t all that clever, or surprising. In fact the final twist I saw coming long before it happens. There are times when cutaways would have been helpful and spiced things up particularly when Rynn talks about a visit from her mother and her ‘long red finger nails’, which we never see and is just described. The conclusion leaves A LOT of unanswered questions making this thing empty and incomplete. The final shot is one very long take of a close-up of Foster staring at a subject while the credits role by, which eventually becomes annoying and it would have been better had they done a freeze-frame instead of forcing her to sit and stare at something way longer than humanely possible. Also, composer Mort Shulman is badly miscast as the policeman. His acting abilities are clearly limited and he shows no presence or authority and makes the scenes he is in weak.

It is hard to know what genre to put this in. It is really not scary and the mystery angle has too many loopholes to being taken seriously. The story, based on a novel by Laird Koenig, seems rather tame despite some dark elements and geared more for teens, or young adults.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: December 25, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated PG (Brief Nudity, Mild Cursing)

Director: Nicholas Gessner

Studio: American International

Available:  VHS, DVD, Netflix Streaming

Still of the Night (1982)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: This teddy bear bleeds.

Successful psychiatrist Sam Rice (Roy Scheider) finds himself immersed in a tangled web of murder and deceit. One of his patients, wealthy art dealer George Bynum (Josef Sommar), is found murdered. A mysterious woman named Brooke Reynolds (Meryl Streep) visits him and states that she was George’s mistress and Sam suspects that she may be the killer. He tries to do his own investigation, but the police start to doggedly tail him thinking he may know more than what he is letting on.

This was yet another homage to Alfred Hitchcock, this time done by writer/director Robert Benton, who is an excellent filmmaker in his own right.  This one has all of the style, but none of the substance.  The concept is slickly handled, but it misses Hitch’s flair as well as his wry sense of humor.

Normally I have never been too impressed with Scheider as a leading man.  He has always seemed transparent and his range of characters as well as emotions that he can convey are limited. Here though, as an evasive middle-man, his acting abilities work quite well and I actually found him perfect for the part.

Streep does not fare as well.  Her acting is almost always impressive and I admire her prolific career, but this is one of her few roles that takes no advantage of her talents. She seems to have an almost ghost-like presence. I didn’t find her character to be compelling, nor intriguing. I had no interest in her fate nor her relationship with Rice.

Joe Grifasi was a poor choice as the lead investigator Joseph Vitucci. He showed none of the characteristics of a seasoned police detective and looked and acted more like a disheveled kid just out of college. The rest of the supporting cast is dull and cardboard. It would have been nice if one eccentric character had been put in to liven things up.

Probably the most interesting aspect of the whole movie is a nightmare segment that the George character has that comes in the middle of the story. I liked some of the creepy imagery that was used including a bleeding stuffed teddy bear. I also enjoyed how afterwards Sam debates the dreams meaning with his mother Grace (Jessica Tandy) who also has a background in psychology, but I thought it was a bit of a stretch when she suggests he go to the police about it as dreams can be interpreted in many different ways and hold no relevancy in a court of law. I thought it became even more far-fetched when at the end Sam uses some of the symbolism in the dream to figure out the identity of the killer.

The film has a few plot holes and certain things that just don’t add up.  Some of the ones that hit me was when Brooke talks about seeing George off in a cab that night and then the next morning reading in the papers that he had been murdered, which is preposterous.  Most newspapers go to press between ten and midnight, the dead body might not yet have even been discovered until later that day, or even a few days later. There is also a segment where Sam makes a $15,000 purchase on a painting he doesn’t even want at an auction simply so he can use it as an excuse to write a note on the bidding card warning Brooke that the police are after her. Also, when Sam does not find Brooke at her apartment her friend tells him that she is at her parent’s house in some town called Glen Cove, but she is not sure of the street name and yet Sam is able to find the place in the middle of the night with hardly any effort. Also, I found some of the conversations that George has with Sam during their sessions to be unintentionally funny.

There is enough intrigue to keep you somewhat interested, but the result is mild. I did like the idea of building the tension up through slow subtle means instead of the quick shocks that you see done in a modern suspense movie, but it is still slow going. The music played over the opening credits is more suited for a romance and does nothing to create the right mood for a thriller. The lighting in literally every shot is dark and shadowy, which certainly helps with the atmosphere, but after a while it gets to be too much. I was also not impressed with the climactic sequence. The protagonist is too helpless and defenseless and does not fight back, which severely limits the action. Having it occur at an ocean-side house does create a nice ambience, but the chase that is involved there could have been more extended and the camerawork during the segment is unimaginative.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: November 19, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Robert Benton

Studio: MGM/UA

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad (1967)

oh dad poor dad

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Overprotective mother dominates son.

This is an awful, awful film based on the Arthur Kopit stage play of the same name. Overly domineering mother Madame Rosepettle (Rosalind Russell) keeps her son Jonathan (Robert Morse), who is 25, in a near infantile state. She also travels around with her dead husband in a coffin. Problems ensue when they arrive at a resort and meet up with nubile Rosalie (Barbra Harris) who tempts Jonathan and threatens to break him away from his mother’s clutches.

If done right this film could have, I suppose, gained some sort of cult following. Yet it is so poorly realized and so thoroughly botched that it is impossible to know where one could begin to improve it as it deserves to be in the top ten of worst movies of all time.

One of the problems is the setting itself. For some reason it was filmed in Montego Bay, Jamaica. This certainly does provide for sunny and exotic scenery, but it does not at all work with its twisted, dark subject matter. The music score is also really bad. It was done by Neal Hefti the same man who did the music for the “Batman” TV-show and the soundtrack here sounds just like that one. He also has the theme song sung by children which is as irritating as nails scratching on a blackboard. The color schemes are garish and ugly. The humor is flat and the story itself is threadbare. When you get past the weird fringes all you have left is a stale, plodding coming-of- age tale.

Morse seems a natural for the part as the ‘man-child’ since he has always had a very boyish face. Yet, in an attempt to show that he is never let outside, he is made to look extremely pale and the effect is a bit sickening to look at. His infantile state is played too much to the extreme and comes off as pathetic. It is not at all funny even in an absurd, or dark way.

Russell’s presence makes it somewhat interesting. She was a legendary actress and this was certainly a very unique career move. Maybe she wanted to prove herself versatile after her Mother Superior part in The Trouble with Angels, which she had done just a year before doing this, yet in hindsight it was bad judgment. Seeing her in the strange part is fun for a few seconds, but eventually it gets over-the-top. She ends up looking like Faye Dunaway’s Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. You do however get to see her wear a variety of wigs and even do a wild water ski stunt at the end.

Harris has always been one terrific actress and she is good even here and the only reason I’m giving this film one point. She made a career out of playing neurotic women, but here plays a more normal one and it is interesting to compare this performance with her others.

Jonathan Winters (no relation) adds some amusing bits doing voice-over as the dead father. He was brought in after the film was completed and some of his lines have nothing to do with the plot.

The message of the story is nebulous. The video box cover states that it is a study of “human confusion”. Yet the characters seem too extreme to be relatable on any human level. They also don’t evolve and act the same idiotic way at the end as they did at the beginning so neither they nor the viewer come to any better understanding of anything. It is a complete waste of time.This film deserves its near extinct status and isn’t fun even as a curio.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: February 15, 1967

Runtime: 1Hour 26Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Richard Quine

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS