Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun (1970)

lady in the car

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Dead body in trunk.

Dany (Samantha Eggar) works as a secretary for Michael (Oliver Reed) who asks her to come to his place one evening to help him type an urgent report that needs to go out the next day. She agrees and then spends the night in his guest bedroom. The next morning she travels with his family to the airport where they board a plane for a vacation while she is instructed to drive their car back home, but along the way she takes a wrong turn and begins to come upon people who say they’ve seen her before even though she can’t remember them. Then she finds a dead body in the trunk and things get really bizarre.

The film, which is based on the novel by Sebastien Jasprisot and remade in 1992 and then again in 2015, has a certain appeal as the story is offbeat enough to keep you intrigued and manages to give a logical, or at least an attempted one, explanation at the end for why everything that occurs to Dany happened and the reason behind it. Unfortunately Anatole Litvak’s direction is bland despite a colorful opening montage and Reed, with his hair dyed gray, is miscast as a stuffy businessman.

One of the biggest issues though is the main character who behaves in ways that make little sense. Going to her boss’s place after work hours to write a report and even be instructed to drive his car back from the airport seems to be going well beyond the normal duties of an ordinary secretary and one that most likely would be met with resistance by anyone else and yet Dany obliges to his demands without question like she is a robot. Later a strange man (John McEnery) enters her car and makes an aggressive pass at her. Instead of leaving or running for help she instead gets into the car with him and takes him back to her hotel and goes to bed with him before she even knows what his first name is.

Spoiler Alert!

At the end we find out that Dany’s boss has set the whole thing up to make it look like Dany shot the man, whose dead body was in the trunk, in order to cover up for his wife (Stephane Audran) who was the one who really did it. Apparently she had been having affairs with many different men and shot this one when he refused to continue to see her. The husband was aware of all of these transgressions and would pay off the men to quit seeing her and when he found out that his wife had killed this one he concocts an elaborate scheme to get her off the hook, but why? Most men would not feel the need to come to the defense of an unfaithful wife especially one that continues to do it over and over again, which makes the whole storyline quite weak since it’s completely off-the-mark in terms of realistic human behavior.

End of Spoiler Alert!

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 22, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated R

Director: Anatole Litvak

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: None at this time.

The Hitcher (1986)

hitcher

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Chased by homicidal hitchhiker.

Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) who is driving from Chicago to California finds himself falling asleep at the wheel as he travels late at night down a lonely desert highway. To keep himself awake he decides to pick-up a hitchhiker named John Ryder (Rutger Hauer) who immediately begins to behave strangely. Jim manages physically kick John out of the car when his life gets threatened, but then notices that he is continually coming upon him as his drive progresses. Soon the police are after him thinking that he is the one committing the murders that are really being done by John.

This film manages to be a nice blend between Spielberg’s TV-movie Duel and the classic episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ in which Inger Stevens constantly sees the same hitchhiker as she drives her way through the desert. There are some really good suspenseful moments and a great performance by Hauer that almost makes up for its many transgressions, which unfortunately become more and more numerous.

Now, I did like this movie and tried to overlook a few of the logic loopholes, but eventually they become just too overblown. The biggest one is that John somehow manages to steel Jim’s wallet while also planting a knife on him that has blood from the victims that he has killed, but the only time they are together is when they are traveling in the car and I think Jim would’ve noticed John fishing through his pockets if that were the case. There’s also a lot of timing issues. For instance passengers stop and get off a bus to go inside a roadside café presumably for lunch, but then go right back into the bus just a couple of minutes later, which isn’t enough time for them to eat, go to the bathroom, or even stretch their legs. Another scene has Jim’s girlfriend Nash (Jennifer Jason Leigh) getting kidnapped from her hotel room by John who somehow is able to enter the room without explanation and then takes her out to the parking lot and ties her up between two trucks before the police get called in and try to intervene, but this all occurs in seemingly only a couple of minutes as Jim is in the bathroom when he hears Nash being taken out and he quickly runs out into the parking lot only to see Nash already tied up and the police there.

There is also the issue of how is John able to escape out of a police van after he is caught and handcuffed, which the movie doesn’t even bother to explain or show. Another question some viewers have brought up is why is Jim driving through Texas anyways, which is where this all occurs, since it seems too far to the south from where he needs to go. Some have speculated that maybe he was going to the southern portion of California and therefore would need to pass through the Panhandle of Texas to get there, which is plausible, but the landscape is all wrong. I live in Texas and know that the panhandle region, which I’ve been to, is flat and green and has farmland while the place Jim goes through is barren, sandy and very much a desert.

The film wasn’t even shot in Texas, but instead done in the Mojave Desert in California, which made me wonder why the setting couldn’t have been there since that was supposed to be Jim’s ultimate destination anyways. Then I realized that the police are portrayed as being quite hick and redneck and since Texas unfairly still has that stereotype I’m sure that was the reason for why it was chosen.

The script could’ve certainly been better thought out, which wouldn’t have required the viewer to take such massive leaps in logic in order to enjoy it, but overall I still liked it. I think this was mainly because of Hauer who is terrifically creepy as well as for an extremely exciting car chase that features incredible stunt work and without relying on any of computerized crap either.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: February 21, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: Robert Harmon

Studio: TriStar Pictures

Available: DVD

 

Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)

COME BACK TO THE FIVE & DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN, Sandy Dennis, Cher, Karen Black, 1982, (c) Cinecom Pictures

COME BACK TO THE FIVE & DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN, Sandy Dennis, Cher, Karen Black, 1982, (c) Cinecom Pictures

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Disciples of James Dean.

Twenty years after his untimely death five women (Cher, Sandy Dennis, Karen Black, Kathy Bates, Marta Heflin), who were big fans of James Dean and called themselves his disciples, decide to hold a reunion at a thrift shop in a small town not far from Marfa, Texas where the film Giant was made. However, the reunion is not a happy one as old wounds and secrets come to light that forces the women to analyze themselves and their lives in uncomfortable and unpleasant ways.

One of the things that really annoyed me about this movie and at times just downright confused me is that the characters show no signs of aging at all as it shifts between 1955 and the present day of 1975. Twenty years is a significant period of time and most everyone will show some signs of age, or at least changes to their hairstyle and outfits and yet with the exception of the Joe character there is no distinguishable differences between the others from one period to the next. The Cher character was particularly perplexing as her hair remains jet black for two decades and even the same exact style. One could argue that maybe she dyed it, okay, but she also manages to somehow retain her same girlish figure, which is even less likely.

I also found it hard to believe that she could afford to make a living by working at little thrift store for 20 years, or that she would even be needed as the place was small enough for one person to run and through the course of the entire movie never once does a single customer even enter the place. Her character was attractive enough to find a man, get married and run off to another town or place that had more potential. We learn through the course of the movie that she was married at one point, but then dumped, however I would think she would’ve been able to find someone else in a 20 year time span especially since she was still quite good looking.

Keeping all of the action inside the thrift store makes the film seem almost claustrophobic. I realize this was based on a stage play, but most plays that get transferred to film will have certain scenes, or cutaways added in to avoid this feeling. Even having some outdoor shots done over the opening credits would’ve given it a little more of a visual variety.

The performances are the best thing about the movie and probably the only reason to see it. All three leads recreate their parts from the stage version. Cher is sensational and in my opinion gives the best performance. Dennis is solid doing her patented fragile caricature and who displays some interesting emotional eruptions at completely unexpected times. Black is excellent as well. Usually she plays flaky types, but here is more reserved and steely. Bates is good as a loud and abrasive woman and Sudie Bond lends fine support as the shop’s overtly religious owner.

The script is passable, but the revelations that come out are stuff you’d find on a second-rate soap opera. I also found it hard to believe that these women would get together after 20 years and not have other things to talk about. Usually when people meet after not seeing each other for an extended period of time there’s always a lot of ‘catching up’ to do where they talk about all the things that have happened to them since, but here there’s none of that. Instead they come off like people frozen in time clinging to bygone issues that just about anyone else would’ve moved on from long ago.

The film ends with several shots of the store shown in an abandoned and rundown state, but with no explanation of what time period it was taken in. At first I thought this meant that maybe the reunion had never occurred. That maybe it had just been imagined, which is a concept that I liked and would also have filled in some of the gaping plot holes that I’ve described above, but then I saw the reunion banner still hanging in a tattered state from the ceiling. Others on IMDb have debated that it may represent the reunion that they had planned for 1995 that never came about, which is a good guess, but with business being as slow as it  was at that place I think it would’ve been abandoned long before 1975 let alone 1995.

come back 1

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: November 12, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Robert Altman

Studio: Cinecom Pictures

Available: DVD

Nobody Waved Goodbye (1964)

nobody waved goodbye 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Teen learns hard lesson.

Peter (Peter Kastner) is 18 and looking to spread-his-wings, but doesn’t like what he sees in the adult world. Everyone seems trapped by their dull jobs and mundane routines, which is something he doesn’t want to fall into. He has big dreams. He wants to run away with his girlfriend Julie (Julie Biggs) and live a life based completely on his own whims while never becoming a slave-to-the-system like everyone else. Then he gets in a fight with his parents and they kick him out and after struggling to find work without even a high school diploma his attitude quickly changes.

If you can get past the wretched opening song, which is sung by Kastner and played over the credits, then this film really hits-the-mark. I was impressed with the camera work especially during the dinner time conversations amongst the family members where director Don Owen shoots it with a hand-held camera and zooms in and out on the person’s face as they are speaking. This is something that is quite common today especially on TV-shows, but back then was rarely if ever used, which makes this well ahead-of-its-time and even groundbreaking. I also enjoyed the conversational quality of the dialogue and having two conversations going on at the same time, which again didn’t come into vogue until years later when Robert Altman did it in M*A*S*H.

The film also clearly allows for ad-libbing amongst its actors. There is a scene in which Peter and Julie go paddle boating and come upon a large sofa submerged in the water and then comment on it. Clearly the filmmakers didn’t put the sofa into the lake simply to film the short scene that has nothing to do with the rest of the story, but it still helps set the tone for keeping things fresh and real.

Kastner is great and it’s refreshing to have a protagonist in a film that you like at some points and feel like wringing-his-neck at other times. Too many movies today, especially Hollywood ones, create lead characters that are politically correct caricatures while this movie instead has real human beings that are not tailored made to conform to the likings of any particular demographic.

It’s a shame to say that a movie that came out over 50 years ago is still considered cutting-edge, but compared to the tired, formulaic glop coming out today it really is. The script is uncompromised and holds-no-punches while keeping things gritty and stark and making profound, universal points along the way. I also found it fun that the main character here, who was clearly a baby boomer, displays the same anti-establishment, anti-work attitude that now gets placed squarely onto the ‘dreaded millennials’ and yet it seems the boomers were just as reluctant to get into the rat race as all the generations that have followed them and therefore shouldn’t be waiving their finger at anyone.

nobody waved goodbye 2

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: August 13, 1964

Runtime: 1Hour 20Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Don Owen

Studio: National Film Board of Canada

Available: None at this time.