Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Crazy-Quilt (1966)

crazy quilt 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Married to your opposite

This film is based on the short story ‘The Illusionless Man & the Visionary Maid’ by Allen Wheelis and centers around Henry (Tom Rosqui) a hard-bitten realist with no illusions to anything. He lives a rather solitude life working as a termite exterminator. Then one day while walking in a park he bumps into Lorabella (Ina Mela) who is his complete opposite. She is full of ideals, dreams, and fantasies. Despite an awkward courtship the two get married and the film deals with the rocky, winding road that it takes.

This was the directorial debut for John Korty who later went on to direct the critically acclaimed TV-movies ‘Go Ask Alice’ and ‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman’. His talents are on full display here as he institutes a visual design to a story that initially doesn’t have any. I loved some of the picturesque moments particularly when Henry and Lorabella take a long quiet walk in a wide open field that eventually stretches all the way into a forest. The black and white cinematography gives it just the right cinema vertite feel and the music is perfect especially the flute solo. In an age of overblown plots and mind numbing special effects it is nice to see someone take a risk with a story that is subtle, basic, and restrained. There is some nice simple, but profound moments here that could never be replicated in the big budget productions, but have a great impact here. Despite the whimsical nature many people are sure to see a bit of themselves in the characters and it is its ability to tap into that very basic, universal truth that makes this film special and unique.

The casting is astute. Rosqui is spot-on as the realist. He has a perpetual scowl on his face that is just right for the character and seems to remain even in the brief moments when he is smiling. Mela is equally good. Her expressive eyes, delicate features, and wispy voice perfectly reflect the traits of her character and the camera captures her well. She never appeared in another movie and I was sad to hear that she died at a young age.

Initially I was put-off by the Lorabella character falling so madly in-love with Henry after she bumps into him and following him all around even though he responds to her in a very cold and reticent way. I felt it was unrealistic that someone wouldn’t notice the obvious aloofness, but then I realized that is the characters whole problem. She projects traits onto the people she meets as well as everything else in life from her own quirky mind that aren’t really there. This comes to an amusing head when she has affairs with various different men where she shows the same tendency and ends up consistently getting the same empty result. These vignettes are the funniest moments in the film as well as the scene where she bakes Henry a chocolate cake that is shaped to look like a giant termite.

I really have only a few complaints with the film. One is the voice-over narration by Burgess Meredith. Meredith has a great voice and a few of his lines are gems particularly his opening monologue and
the very last one. However, there were moments when I would rather have heard what the characters were saying especially when the couple goes to an art museum as I thought it would be interesting to hear the different interpretations each character had to each display. Near the end in an attempt to show the characters aging Henry’s hair is dyed white, but it looks tacky like it was frosted on in a similar way that is done to white Christmas trees. I also thought it was strange that in the very final scene his hair suddenly goes back to being black, which didn’t make any sense.

Since this film is very obscure and had a limited run upon its initial release the only way to obtain it is through the director’s personal website at The neat thing here it that when you order a copy Korty personally signs the DVD and even sends you a letter along with it. For a lifelong film collector such as myself I thought that was pretty cool and it even made my day.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: October 3, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 10Minutes

Not Rated

Director: John Korty

Studio: Continental Distributing

Available: DVD at

King of the Gypsies (1978)

king of the gypsies

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Daddy is a psycho

Dave (Eric Roberts) is the rebellious son of Groffo (Jud Hirsch) who no longer wants to be a part of the gypsy clan that he was raised in and instead a part of the American dream. However, when Dave’s grandfather Zharko (Sterling Hayden) lies dying in his hospital bed he gives the coveted medallion to Dave making him the new king of the gypsies. This sends Groffo into a jealous rage and orders two men to go out and kill Dave who now must elude them while trying to get his life together and help get his younger sister Tita (Brooke Shields) out of the clan as well.

Although far from being a complete success the film does manage to have a few unique and even memorable moments. The best is when a young Dave is used as a decoy in an attempt to rob a jewelry store. His mother Rose (Susan Sarandon) pretends to be a customer looking over some diamonds. When Dave creates a ruckus she tries to calm him down by having him drink a glass of water while also having him swallow a diamond that she has discreetly lifted from the display table. They are then able to walk out of the store when the merchants are unable to prove that they stole it only to have Rose later retrieve the jewel when Dave poops it out. Having Groffo put a 10-year-old Dave behind a wheel of a car and drive it down a busy Brooklyn Street is about as nerve-wracking as any car chase I’ve seen. The scene where Groffo tries to physically force Dave to have sex with his own mother is also incredibly startling.

However, despite these few interesting moments the film overall never really gels. The first half showing how the gypsy people live seems a bit clichéd and the way they openly cheat other people in order to make a living makes them unlikable and uninteresting. The only time it ever gets half way compelling is when it shows Dave struggling to survive on the mean streets of New York after he runs away from his psychotic father. Unfortunately this gets ruined when it constantly brings his family and past coming back to haunt him. The cat and mouse game that he plays with his father is not original and Hirsch makes for a very boring villain. He is unable to convey a menacing quality and thus there is never any real tension. The violin soundtrack compliments the gypsy tradition, but eventually becomes annoying.

Roberts is solid in his film debut. His voice-over narration coupled with his raw delivery is effective. Had the film focused solely on him and left out the silly gypsy sub-plot it would have worked much better.

Sarandon gives it some energy and she has the most effective accent. Shields is pretty much wasted and appears in only a handful of scenes. The biggest irony here is that the two played a mother and daughter before in Pretty Baby, which came out just 7 months before this one.

Hayden really seems to be having fun as the bombastic self-proclaimed King Gypsy. Watching him feud at the beginning with Michael V. Gazzo who plays the head of another gypsy clan is somewhat diverting. It is also interesting to see Shelly Winters in a part that has less than three speaking lines. This woman never seemed to ever want to shut up both on-screen and in interviews, so seeing her in a part that allows for so little dialogue is quite a novelty, but she still succeeds with it particularly in the part where she grieves over her dead family members.

It is fun to see a young Danielle Brisebois as well as Matthew Labyoreaux who later went on to play Albert in ‘Little House on the Prairie’. Annie Potts is good in a brief part and Patti LuPone makes her film debut in an uncredited bit.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 20, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 52Minutes

Rated R

Director: Frank Pierson

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Goonies (1985)

the goonies 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kids hunt for treasure

Mikey’s (Sean Astin) parents are risking having their house foreclosed, which will force them to move out of the region and Mikey will then lose touch with all of his friends. In an effort to save the home he and his four friends find a treasure map in the attic and they decide to follow it. On the way they bump into the infamous Fratelli family who compete with the boys for the treasure as well as threatening to kill them.

The concept is great and full of the type of grand adventure any 10-year-old boy dreams about. The action is generally entertaining and moves at a rapid-fire pace, which at times borders on becoming dizzying. However, the whole thing becomes increasingly more fabricated and fairy tale-like and inserting some subtly and restrained would have helped create a better balance.

The comedy is actually quite funny most of the way and I really enjoyed the opening car chase and wished that it had been strung out a little bit more. It does though become a bit too slick for its own good. Any peril the characters find themselves in immediately gets resolved in some cutesy way and thus there is never any type of real tension.

The special effects are not on par with what you might expect from a Steven Spielberg production. The big boulders that come crashing down around them look very much like the ceramic creations that they are. The bats that fly out at them also look unrealistic, but I will give credit for the pirate ship. There are also all sorts of gadgets and booby traps that the kids run into that was supposedly built in 1632 by the pirates, but I found it hard to believe after 300 plus years that stuff would still be functioning.

The young cast is okay, but it is asking too much that these kids carry the picture and it would have been better had some veteran actor been cast as an adult who goes along with them in order to give the thing a little more stature. Astin though gives a good effort in the lead and at certain angles looks exactly like his famous mother Patty Duke although I could have done without his strained ‘our time’ speech. Corey Feldman is also quite engaging especially at the beginning when he translates things for Mikey’s Spanish speaking maid (Lupe Ontiveros).

I wasn’t so crazy about Jeff Cohen who plays the fat kid named Chunk as there are just too many fat stereotypes with the character. The jokes involving his propensity for food are clichéd and tiring although his puke story does earn him a few points.

I thought it was good that actresses Martha Plimpton and Kerri Green join the boys later on by playing older teenage girls. Green’s character may be a bit too much on the prissy side and the fact that she could have romance on her mind as they are trapped in a dark and dangerous cave seemed almost absurd, but Plimpton is solid.

Anne Ramsey is terrific as the villainous mother of the two bad guys (Robert Davi, Joe Pantoliano). In many ways I thought she was more engaging here than in her most famous role in Throw Momma from the Train.

The film is a bit too good natured and at times becomes like a live-action kiddie cartoon. I also thought Cyndi Lauper was a terrible choice for the soundtrack, but despite all that I still found it to be fun and perfect non-think escapism.

the goonies 2

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: June 7, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 54Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Richard Donner

Studio: Warner Brothers

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

The Sidehackers (1969)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rape, murder and mayhem

This low budget flick is probably best known as having aired on an episode of the old ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ TV-show. At the time the writers had not watched the movie all the way through before deciding to use it for the show and when they came upon a rape sequence half-way through it they had to edit it out and have Crow  simply explain that the character was now dead. It is also famous for being directed by Goldie Hawn’s then husband Gus Trikonis. In fact Goldie auditioned for one of the parts in the film, but since she wasn’t well known at the time she got turned down.

The story centers around Vince (Ross Hagen) a motorcycle racer involved in the sport of sidehacking where a passenger rides along in a sidecar connected to the motorcycle and uses his body weight to help steer the bike around curves and turns.  The psychotic J.C. (Michael Pataki) watches the sport and wants to work with Vince, but Vince becomes aware of J.C.’s volatile personality and turns him down. This angers J.C. and later when his girlfriend Paisley (Claire Polan) falsely accuses Vince of having tried to rape her J.C. flies into a rage. He and his men attack and beat up Vince and then rape and murder Vince’s girlfriend Rita (Diane McBain). Vince then spends the rest of the film trying to track down J.C. and getting his revenge.

The only diversion of this otherwise run-of-the-mill drive-in drama is the scenes involving the racing, which is better known as sidecarcross. Trikonis captures the racing in vivid style giving the viewer a good feel of the sport. Personally I thought it would be excessively dangerous for the passenger who puts himself into a very vulnerable position as he tries to steer the bike from the side and could easily fall off, or be hit by the other bikes that zoom around him. The shots of the crowd seem to show them as really being into it, but I felt that after watching it for a few minutes it would get monotonous.

With that said it is still the most interesting aspect of the film and I felt the story should have revolved around it. For instance having J.C. try and sabotage one of Vince’s races, but instead the racing scenes are shown only at the beginning before devolving into just another stale and redundant revenge drama. The dialogue is stilted, the characters bland, and the direction lifeless. Boredom quickly sets in and never goes away.

The music score is particularly horrendous. With the exception of the final fight scene when it does have a nifty psychedelic quality it is very sappy and terribly harmonized. Hearing it played over shots of Vince and Rita frolicking merrily through some open fields may be enough to make some viewers gag.

Pataki gives a good intense performance as the psycho and at times goes a bit over-the-top, but with this type of production that can only help it. The rest of the acting like everything else seems amateurish. If you want to seek this film out simply to catch the scene that was cut from the TV broadcast I would say it isn’t worth it. The sequence is not all that graphic and it is shown only as a flashback, which takes less than a minute.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: May 12, 1969

Runtime: 1Hour 22Minutes

Alternate Title: Five the Hard Way

Rated M

Director: Gus Trikonis

Studio: Crown International Pictures

Available: DVD (The Savage Cinema Collection)

Wanda Nevada (1979)

wanda nevada

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Go for the gold.

Wanda Nevada (Brooke Shields) is a 13-year-old runaway from an orphanage. Beaudray Demerille (Peter Fonda) is a drifter/con-man who ‘wins’ her during a poker game. The two don’t get along at first, but then they come into contact with an old prospector (Paul Fix) who tells them of gold that can be found in the Grand Canyon. They follow his map, but find weird unexplained events begin to occur the closer they get to the treasure.

Uneven mix of gritty western/comedy doesn’t ever gel. This is a far cry from The Hired Hand, which Fonda directed 6 years earlier. Although that was not a perfect film it still had a great cinematic style and moody flair that this one completely lacks. The story is slight and predictable and goes on much too long with a laid back pace that while not completely boring is never very interesting either. The biggest hurdle though is the fact that we have a 13-year-old girl and a man in his 30’s not only expressing their love for each other, but forming a relationship, which many viewers will probably find quite creepy.

Shields is great and helps give energy and flair to an otherwise lackluster production. She displays a nice sassy attitude and her facial expressions are amusing. She looks ready to blossom into late adolescence and many times seems to show more acting ability and charisma than her older counterpart.

The supporting cast is good although they appear much too briefly. Unique character actor Severn Darden is on hand who tries to steal Wanda away from Beaudray, but just when his character starts to get interesting they have him killed off. Peter’s dad Henry appears in a cameo looking almost unrecognizable in a long beard and bug-eyed goggles. Brooke’s real-life mother Terri has an amusing scene as a hotel clerk. Fix is also good in what turned out to be his last film.

On the flip side Luke Askew and Ted Markland are boring as the bad guys who chase after Wanda and Beaudray through the canyon. Their comical banter is unfunny and their bumbling ways allows for no tension.

The scenery is gorgeous and if you’ve never made it out west you’ll feel like you have after you’ve seen this. The best views are the bird’s-eye shots of the two rafting down a river. The color is bright and vivid and an overall excellent transfer from MGM’s Limited Edition library.

In some ways this film reminded me of Mackenna’s Gold as both films had a similar plot and both also added in a mystical element at the end. However, like in the other one the special-effects look cheap and hokey. The light pleasing quality is hampered by an otherwise bland execution. Why it was chosen for the setting to be the 1950’s instead of the present day I am not sure as it doesn’t add anything to the plot.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 10, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Peter Fonda

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray (Import)

I Can Make You Love Me (1993)

stalking laura 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Stalking is his passion.

To any true film fan TV-Movies have always been considered vastly inferior to the theatrical kind and I would be the first to agree.  However, there is one area where they can shine and that is in their depictions of true-life crimes. Mainly this is because they give it more time as they are usually shown in two parts over consecutive nights.  Also, their lower budgets worked better in recreating the docu-drama style.

Over the years there have been some classics in this area that have helped bring substance to the headlines as well as a better understanding of the victims, the perpetrators and the investigation. Some of the best that I would suggest would be Helter Skelter (1976) starring the Emmy-award winning Steve Railsback as Charles Manson.  The Deliberate Stranger (1986) with Mark Harmon as serial killer Ted Bundy.  There is also Deadly Intentions (1985), A Death in California (1984) with Cheryl Ladd as a woman who falls in love with her rapist, and my personal favorite Fatal Vision (1984) about the infamous Dr. Jeffrey Macdonald.

This film deals with the case of Richard Farley (Richard Thomas) that helped develop California’s first anti-stalking laws. Farley was a pudgy, middle-aged man who worked as a computer programmer at a company named ESL in Sunnyvale, California in 1984.  He had been there for 9 years and had no criminal record, but became unhinged when he met an attractive 23- year- old new employee named Laura Black (Brooke Shields).  He began to follow her around constantly as well as sending her gifts and love letters on a daily basis.  When she refused his advances he became even more persistent.  This continued for 4 years until, through his obsession, he ended up losing his job, his house, and his entire life savings, but his stalking continued. Black finally filed a restraining order against him, which sent him into a rage.  He armed himself with an array of guns, stormed the company and shot seven employees including Black, who managed to survive.

Unlike some of the previous movies that I mentioned above, this film did not get the two-part treatment.  Everything that happened gets crammed into 95 minutes, which makes a lot of it seem rushed.  Although the events took place over a four year period, the movie gives you the impression that it was just a few quick months. For the sake of time the film seems to leave certain interesting facts out, which is a shame.  For instance, in real-life Farley actually stood in front of Black’s house for hours going through every conceivable combination on her garage door opener until he was finally able to crack it.  There are also certain things that Farley expressed to Black through his letters that he ends up telling verbally to her here, which causes some of the dialogue to seem awkward.

The film was also not given much of a budget.  It was filmed on a grainy, videotape type of film stock that looks like it was done on somebody’s camcorder.  The story took place in California and yet for whatever reason it ended up being filmed in Topeka, Kansas and the differences in the landscapes are obvious and even a bit disconcerting.

Where the film really seems to come together is during the final 30 minutes where it recreates the office shooting. This sequence is well choreographed and makes you feel like you are right there.  The conversations that Farley has with the negotiator during these scenes are revealing.  I was confused after reading the accounts of the incident as to why Farley would have only shot Black once (in the shoulder) and then allowed her to escape.  Apparently, through his conversations with the negotiator, this was his intention.  He only wanted to injure her and then force her to survive so she would have to live with the ‘guilt’ of having ‘caused’ this by refusing to go out with him.

Another big selling point is the performances of the two leads. Richard Thomas as Farley is astounding.  He does not resemble the actual Farley, but makes up for it with a convincing portrayal that leaves a lasting impression. Shields is excellent as well. Normally I never gave her much credit in the past, but found a new appreciation for her acting ability here.  She does an especially good job during the scenes where she is shot and trying to escape.  It seemed like she was genuinely stressed and in real pain.

Another thing I liked here is that the character of Laura Black is portrayed as being very determined, resourceful, and strong.  She had to struggle with the company about this matter as initially they sided with Farley and was convinced that she must have ‘lead him on’. I felt it was a testament to her strength that she continued to keep working at the company and was still working there five years later when this film was made.

If you find true-life crimes to be intriguing and enjoy seeing them recreated to help your understanding of them, then TV-movies are you best source for this type of genre.  I felt that this case, with its myriad of psychological implications, was no different.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: February 9, 1993

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Alternate Title: Stalking Laura

Not Rated

Director: Michael Switzer

Studio: Leonard Hill Films

Available: DVD

Improper Channels (1981)

improper channels

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: The system is screwed.

Jeffrey Martley (Alan Arkin) is a middle-aged man soon to be divorced from his wife Diana (Mariette Hartley) who is driving along in his car with his 5-year-old daughter Nancy (Sarah Stevens) when he is forced to put on the brakes quickly in order to avoid hitting another vehicle. Sarah, who was not wearing a seatbelt since there were no such seat belt laws at the time, falls to the car floor and hits her head. It is a minor bruise, but Jeffrey takes her to the hospital as a precaution. As the doctors are examining her social worker Gloria (Monica Parker) overhears Jeffrey’s conversation with the medical staff and thinks that the injuries may have come from child abuse. She takes the child out of his custody and puts her into a protected foster home while she uses the help of a computer expert (Martin Yan) to come up with as much dirt from Jeffrey’s past as she can in order to prevent him from getting her back. Jeffrey and Diana hire a lawyer and try to fight the charges, but find that the system is against them.

This is a wretched attempt at satire that never gets off the ground. Director Eric Till’s bland direction makes this thing look like a TV-movie and the majority of it is more like a drama. The comedy is not very funny and the little that there is comes off as forced and out of place. Jeffrey’s and Diana’s situation becomes more harrowing as it goes along and this thing probably would have worked better and been more riveting had they kept it at a realistic and dramatic level all the way through.

The social workers are portrayed as being completely inept, incompetent, and malicious without any balance making me wonder if the writers had a major grudge against them in real-life. Gloria’s boss Harold Cleavish (Harry Ditson) is particularly unlikable and comes off as an all-around prick in every way. However, he does get the film’s one and only funny line when he chastises Gloria for believing that the social services profession is about helping people:

Harold: I have been in social services for 9 years and in that time I haven’t helped anyone and I hope to God that I never will. If you really want to help humanity then become a prostitute.

Hartley is a wonderful actress and I will never forget her Emmy award winning performance in a guest spot on ‘The Incredible Hulk’ TV-show unfortunately her career never took off despite a great debut in Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country. Today most people probably know her for her Polariod commercials that she did with James Garner back in the 80’s. Even so she is great here and gives the material more effort than it deserves. Arkin who has played the man against the system many times seems strangely reserved.

The most annoying thing about the film is the ending where Jeffrey turns-the-tables and tries sticking it to the system. Having an average man who works as an architect and has no special computer experience break into the computer systems of the social welfare office and erase his records and send everything on the fritz is too exaggerated. Having him dump out streams of computer printout paper from the office windows and line the city streets with it is too goofy and unbelievable to be even slightly humorous. The filmmakers display a limited and confused understanding of the technological revolution and treat it like it is nothing more than a passing fad that can be easily taken down by the common man. The pat and silly wrap-up makes light of an otherwise serious issue and thus makes the entire production stupid and pointless.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: April 17, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Eric Till

Studio: Crown International Pictures

Available: VHS

Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

anne of a thousand days 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Off with her head

Based on historical fact the setting is 1527 King Henry VIII (Richard Burton) is bored with his current wife Catherine of Aragon (Irene Pappas) and becomes intoxicated by the beauty of 18-year-old Anne Boleyn (Genevieve Bujold). Initially she resists the advances of the King and finds him unappealing, but once she gets a whiff of all the power that being a Queen can give she falls in-love with him. The King wants her to bore him a son, but their first child turns out to be a girl, which causes their marriage to sour. Their acrimony is furthered when their second child turns out to be a stillborn son. Eventually the King grows tired of Anne and hires Thomas Cromwell (John Colicos) to find a way to get rid of her. Cromwell tortures some servants into saying they had sexual liaisons with Anne which gets her placed under arrest and awaiting trial and execution.

Bujold gives a powerful and mesmerizing performance and I am surprised that she didn’t win the Oscar. However, Burton, who is an actor that I admire, seems uncomfortable in his role and just walking through his part.

The story itself is compelling and because it is based on fact makes it all the more amazing. It moves along at a good pace and the viewer can’t help but get absorbed in it. This is no stuffy costume drama and it is probably tawdrier than any soap opera out there. However, Charles Jarrot’s direction is a bit stale. The sets and costumes are great, but the atmosphere and cinematic style is missing and the whole thing seems too much like a filmed stage play.

My biggest quibble with the film is that it doesn’t stay completely accurate. Historians insist that the King does not offer Anne any type of reprieve nor does he visit her after she is imprisoned like he does here. While this scene is nice because it does humanize him who in every other way is despicable it doesn’t help the viewer better understand the story or the people in it by inserting something that really didn’t happen.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 18, 1969

Runtime: 2Hours 25Minutes

Rated M

Director: Charles Jarrott

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu

Tilt (1979)

tilt 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: She’s a pinball wizard.

Brenda (Brooke Shields) who goes by the nickname Tilt is a 14-year-old pinball machine champion. When she becomes fed up with her overbearing father she decides to run away from home. She meets Neil (Ken Marshall) a man in his 20’s who is struggling to establish himself as a country music singer. He schemes to use Tilt’s pinball talents by hustling pinball patrons at bars and arcades around the country, but his real motivation is to have Tilt beat Harold Remmens (Charles Durning) who is nicknamed ‘The Whale’ due to his immense weight. The Whale is an arrogant bar owner who seems unbeatable at pinball and due to a few run-ins that he has had with Neil the two have become bitter enemies. Neil hopes to shatter his ego by having him get beat by an adolescent girl in a so-called pinball showdown, but Tilt has other ideas.

It is easy to see why this movie bombed at the box office and basically sat on the studio shelf for years. It seems to have no idea what audience to play too. There are too many adult references in it to make it suitable for teens especially preteens, but the story itself is so vapid that adults will be bored with it. The concept is offbeat enough that it might have worked as a comedy, or even parody, but director Rudy Durand approaches it as a standard drama, which due to the subject matter seems almost awkward. The 110 minute runtime is much too long for this kind of material and although it manages to move itself along it is never all that interesting with extraneous footage that should have been cut. Having faster cuts, juxtapositions, and even a non-linear narrative would have given it more energy and cinematic flair.

Having the action revolve solely around pinball games isn’t interesting. It is hard to follow the games and the constant footage of showing the inside of the arcade game as they are playing it becomes monotonous and fails to elicit any excitement. They is never any explanation as to what special skills Tilt or The Whale have that allows them to be so good, but it might have been a little more enlightening had one been forthcoming.

Shields is terrific and helps keep things afloat. She looks cute and wears pants with the words ‘pinball champ’ stenciled along her rear. Her ability and confidence at sharing scenes and holding her own with her much older adult counterparts is what makes her so special. One of the best scenes is when she hitches a ride with an ornery trucker (Geoffrey Lewis) who complains about the lack of morals in today’s world, but then turns around and tells her he has condoms in his shirt pocket and invites her to a rendezvous in the nearest hotel. Tilt says she will just as long as she can do it with both him and his wife, which gets her immediately booted out of the truck for being a ‘pervert’.

Marshall doesn’t have as much charisma as his younger female co-star and his Texas twang was a bit too strong for my taste. He travels the country and stays in the same hotel room with the girl knowing full well that she is only 14, but makes no sexual advances, which of course is good, but I kept wondering if this where the real world that he would most likely have tried something. I also found it strange that Tilt’s father (amusingly played by Gregory Walcott in a brief bit) wouldn’t have every police force in the country looking for her and once caught Neil would be thrown in jail even if he didn’t do anything because most likely no one would ever believe him.

Durning is excellent as always and gives the part a nice hammy turn and makes the movie, at least when he is in it, like the campy comedy that it should be. The little dance and moves that he makes while he plays the pinball games are amusing. His stomach bulges out even more than normal making it seem almost like he is pregnant. When Neil meets him after several weeks of not seeing him and states “You look like you have lost some weight” is the film’s one and only funny line.

The film’s final sequence in which Tilt and The Whale get together late at night in an empty bar and challenge each other to a pinball contest is the best scene in the whole movie. Their banter and interactions with each other gives the film a unique flavor. The surprise twist that occurs at the very end is cute and endearing and helps give this otherwise flat film more points than it deserves.

Also, look quick for Lorenzo Lamas and Fred Ward in small roles.


My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: April 3, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Rudy Durand

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS

Forced Vengeance (1982)

forced vengeance

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Too much Chuck Norris.

Josh Randall (Chuck Norris) works as a security guard at a Hong Kong casino run by Sam (David Opatoshu) and his son David (Frank Michael Liu). Stan Ramiondi (Michael Cavanaugh) approaches the two men about purchasing the casino from them, but Sam refuses due to Stan’s connections to organized crime, which makes Stan very upset. Soon Sam and David are found dead and Josh goes on a vengeance to seek justice, but it proves difficult because Stan seems to have spies and hit men everywhere who are more than willing to take Josh down.

The production seems less like a movie and more like a vehicle showcasing what a tough guy/stud Norris is. The characterizations are too broad and the meager plot is predictable and formulaic. I found it hard to get into and seemed to lose interest the more it progressed. Anyone looking for even an ounce of sophistication will surely be disappointed. Adding some humor might have helped. Norris’s voice-over narration has some, but it is definitely not enough.

The fight scenes really don’t add much. There are just so many high kicks one can watch before that becomes as monotonous as everything else. Showing some of it in slow motion only makes it cheesier. The fights also have too much of a predictable quality with the big bad guys standing dumbfounded while Norris kicks their ass. In fact the only fight sequence that was interesting is the one in which Norris is not in. There is also one fight shown at the beginning over the opening credits that gets repeated later in the movie, which makes it very redundant. The loud, booming music, which was done to somehow create tension, instead becomes obnoxious.

The acting is overall wooden and the dialogue is dull and uninspired. Even the old pros seem to be phoning in their parts. Norris in particular speaks in the same monotone voice and his face remains expressionless throughout. The only performance that I liked was that of Cavanaugh’s and that was because he has the perfect looking face for a bad guy especially with those clear blue eyes. In fact he has more than a passing resemblance to Terence Stamp and the fight that he has with Norris at the end while on a boat and using a wooden hook is mildly engaging.

The on-location shooting done in Hong Kong and the opening shot showing Hong Kong’s sprawling skyline is impressive, but everything else is not and I found this to be a real chore to sit through.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: July 30, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated R

Director: James Fargo

Studio: MGM

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video