Category Archives: 70’s Movies

Junior Bonner (1972)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: An aging bull rider.

Junior (Steve McQueen) is a rodeo star whose better days are behind him. As he enters his 40’s, he needs to find other ways to make a living and returns to his boyhood home of Prescott, Arizona where the rest of his family including his father Ace (Robert Preston), his mother Elvira (Ida Lupino), and brother Curly (Joe Don Baker) reside. When he gets there he finds that his father’s home is being bulldozed by his brother’s company in order to make way for a track of newer homes. Junior decides that the only way to make ends meet for both himself and his father is to win the prize money by riding the ornery bull Sunshine during the rodeo competition. He had attempted to ride Sunshine at another rodeo, but was quickly bucked-off and injured, but this time he feels it will be different and convinces the rodeo owner Buck Roan (Ben Johnson) to give him one last shot.

This film is different from any other Sam Peckinpah movie you’ll see and many viewers/critics at the time didn’t know what to make of it. Peckinpah was known and even stigmatized for his violent movies including The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs, which were deemed, especially the latter one, quite controversial and to an extent even glorifying violence. To help find a balance he decided to do something opposite from those by making a movie that was laid-back and didn’t feature any fighting except for one moment during a bar fight, which is done with a delightfully comic flair where everyone in the place gets punched except for Junior who goes off to a corner to makes-out with Charmagne (Barbara Leigh) even though he was the catalyst for why it began in the first place.

Unfortunately audiences and critics could not adjust to the extreme change in tone. They came to the theater expecting, based on Peckinpah’s reputation, bloody shoot-outs and got none and the end result is it doing quite poorly at the box recouping only $2.8 million from the original $3.2 million budget, which poisoned Peckinpah’s career as he was now deemed a financial risk and seriously affected the choice of projects he could do afterwards and how much control he’d have over them. Even normally friendly critics like Roger Ebert, who had been a fan of the director’s earlier works, bailed on this one calling it a “flat-out disappointment” and describing the material as being “terribly thin”. Another critic, Gary Arnold, described it as a film that “drifts across the screen and fades from your mind an instant later” and that there was “no compelling reason to see or remember it.”

I’ll admit the way it starts out had me a baffled. The story doesn’t go anywhere even after 30-minutes in and McQueen, normally this energetic, rugged action hero, looks like he’s in his 60’s and appearing perpetually tired. I started wondering whether this was just footage caught from a closed circuit camera that examined the slow way of life of small towns.

Things though do improve by the second act. The rodeo riding is captured in a vivid way making you feel like you’re riding the bull itself. Peckinpah’s uses his patented slow motion, but this time in a humorous vein like when Junior and Ace go riding away from a 4th of July parade and through the backyards of some houses where they inadvertently get caught up in some clothes lines. There’s even a couple of touching moments like Junior’s conversation with his father at a train station as well as Ace’s reconciliation with his wife. I was impressed with Joe Don Baker’s performance as well. I know some film-goers have mocked his acting in other movies, but I believe if given the right material he can be quite good though he wasn’t the director’s first choice as it was originally intended for Gene Hackman, but when his salary demands proved too high it was given to Baker much to Peckinpah’s regret as the two had many arguments during the production, which almost came to blows and only prevented when McQueen would get in the middle and calm both sides down.

For a modern day western this is one of the better ones and precipitated a boon of rodeo style movies  during the early 70’s. While its initial reception was not kind its been viewed in a better light today and even revered as being one of Peckinpah’s better works.

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My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: June 20, 1972

Runtime: 1 Hour 40 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Sam Peckinpah

Studio: Cinerama Releasing Corporation

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

Stigma (1972)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Venereal disease on island.

Calvin (Phillip Michael Thomas) is a doctor recently released from prison who gets a job assisting Dr. Thor (David E. Durston) at his island clinic. When Calvin gets there he’s given a cold greeting by the islanders who do not like a man of color, nor does the town’s racist sheriff (Peter Clune). When he arrives at the clinic he finds that the doctor has already passed-away as well as a tape he left behind warning of an epidemic on the island, but not saying specifically what it is. While staying at the clinic he’s met late one night by Jeremy (William Magerman) an old man residing at the nearby lighthouse. He complains about being in a great deal of pain and upon further testing is found to have syphilis. Calvin tries to go on a crusade to warn the others while also searching for who else may have it, which ultimately leads him to the sheriff’s rebellious daughter D.D. (Josie Johnson).

It’s always interesting seeing how low budget films from a bygone era before the advent of computerized special effects could succeed or fail on the merit of story alone. This one, which was done by David E. Durston who had previously directed the cult-hit I Drink Your Blood just a year earlier, manages to for the most part, blemishes and all, to hold it together. The difficulties though of filming on a shoestring is still widely apparent especially at the beginning where there’s a lot of shaking camera movement and jump cuts. Where Calvin goes to hitch a ride is particularly amusing. Since they didn’t have money to get a permit, or hold-up traffic on a legitimate highway, the scene had to be done on an isolated dirt road that looked like it hadn’t been traveled on in 10 years and normally Calvin would’ve had to have stood there that long with his thumb out before he ever saw a car and yet here this non-descript road gets quite busy by using the film’s crew members driving by with their own vehicles in order to give it a well-trafficked look.

This is also one of those films were the genre is unclear. Some have listed it as a horror film while others label it a drama, or even a comedy. My guess is that it was intended as a drama with some side comedy thrown-in as ill-advised ‘comic relief’. The story though never gets tense enough to need a lighthearted moment and the funny bits are eye-rolling making the production seem even more amateurish than it already is. There’s also a surprisingly graphic moment where pictures of actual syphilis patients are shown including close-ups of their sores and deformed noses, which some could find genuinely stomach-churning.

Thomas is best known for his co-starring role in the 80’s cop drama ‘Miami Vice’, but I found him far more engaging here. Magerman is memorable playing a mute with no teeth, who never says a word, but does have an amusing giggle. Johnson is certainly beautiful, which makes up for her lack of acting, but Clune as the villainous sheriff is all-wrong. He may have looked the part of an aging bigot, but he never gives the role the necessary energy or panache. Lawrence Tierny was original choice for the part, but due this drinking problems was eventually passed over, which was ashame.

In recent years this film has gained notoriety due to it being directed by David E. Durston (1921-2010) and some movie podcasts connecting him to the mysterious deaths of both Diane Linkletter (Art Linkletter’s daughter) and actress Carol Wayne. Durston was with Diane the night she jumped to her death from her apartment window in 1969, which authorities deemed a suicide though some wondered if Durston may have pushed her out. Durston was also dating Carol Wayne in 1985 when the two had an argument while vacationing in Mexico and she left their hotel room only to be found drowned in a lake later on. Further research though has concluded that the man in question in both of these events was Edward Dale Durston, a Los Angeles car salesman born in 1942, and no connection with the film director.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: August 18, 1972

Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes

Rated R

Director: David E. Durston

Studio: Cinerama Releasing

Available: DVD-R (Code Red)

The Brutes (1970)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Two men accost woman.

Werner (Klaus Lowitsch) and Michael (Arthur Brauss) are two friends from work who enjoy spending their weekends ‘cruising-for-chicks’. Their modus operandi is picking up prostitutes, or women at bars, and bringing them to one of their apartments where they either ‘share’ the woman, or partake in a threesome. One weekend they go go-cart racing and set their sights on attractive, young Alice (Helga Anders). They invite her into their car telling her that they want to take her for a swim at an isolated gravel pit. Once there Werner sexually assaults her. The next morning she threatens to go to the police, but the men talk her out of it only for the two to become adversaries when Michael wants to have sex with Alice, which Werner won’t allow.

While Savage Weekend is considered the very first slasher movie this film, which was shot in 1968, could be deemed the first rape/revenge movie. Like with that other film it was produced long before the ‘rules’ of the genre were established, so it takes many unique forays some of which are interesting and other ones aren’t.

It was the third of three films that actor-turned-director Roger Fritz directed with his wife Anders as the star. Anders was a model before she got int acting and he used her pretty looks for stories where her characters would engage in provocative lifestyles like group sex, or incest. This was the last in a trilogy meant to show the dark side of sexually liberated activities, but it doesn’t start to get interesting until they arrive at the gravel pit, which is more than 30-minutes in.

The two men are one dimensional and a turn-off. From the very first frame to the last they’re leering predators-at-large even in the presence of Michael’s mother. Had there been one random moment where they showed some surprising sensitivity towards something, or didn’t act in a predictable stalker way it might’ve had potential, but watching creeps behaving like non-stop creeps becomes boring and redundant.

The scenes at the gravel pit fare better simply because it’s atmospheric and the location becomes like a third character. There’s a few tense moments and the rape scene is surprisingly more graphic than I expected. The physical fight between the two is well choreographed and genuinely bloody though Michael gets hit on the head so much I thought he would’ve suffered serious head trauma and never able to get back-up like he does.

The three characters shift from being the victim at one point and the aggressor the next, which is intriguing. Michael’s long speech detailing the potentially degrading process that a female rape victim goes through when she decides to file a police report is on-target and ground-breaking since these same issues weren’t brought to the forefront until 1972 with the TV-Movies Cry Rape starring Andrea Marcovicci and two years later in A Case of Rape with Elizabeth Montgomery.

Spoiler Alert!

Ultimately though the ending stinks. The mod quality is cool especially its alternative soundtrack, but the scenario writes itself into a hole that it can’t get out of. Having the three go back to their normal lives and acting like what occurred was just a dark diversion, or even a lark with no long term ramifications doesn’t click. We needed to see how this experience changed them, which isn’t addressed and thus makes the whole concept placid and forgettable.

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Alternative Title: Cry Rape

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: February 19, 1970

Runtime: 1 Hour 38 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Roger Fritz

Studio: Roger Fritz Film Productions

Available: DVD-R (German with English Subtitles) (j4hi.com)

A Small Town in Texas (1976)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Chased by crooked sheriff.

Poke (Timothy Bottoms) returns to his hometown in Texas after serving a 5-year sentence for marijuana procession. He finds that his girlfriend Mary Lee (Susan George), during the time he was away, has gotten into a relationship with the sheriff Duke (Bo Hopkins) who was also the man who convicted Poke that got him sent away. Poke begins harassing Duke for messing around with Mary Lee and follows him to a political event where Duke is in charge of guarding Jesus Mendez (Santos Reyes) who’s running for congress. It is here that he witnesses an assassin shooting Mendez and then watches Duke kill the shooter and take an envelope out of the killer’s pocket and put it in the trash. Poke retrieves the envelope and finds $25,000 inside. When Duke comes back to get the envelope and sees it’s gone he puts out an APB to have Poke arrested, which leads to an all-out car chase.

I couldn’t help but wonder if this was one of the career outputs that screenwriter William Norton considered ‘stupid’ as he was noted to having told his nurse on his deathbed that she ‘wasn’t dumb enough’ to have known any of the movies he had written. It’s not like it’s bad, but it isn’t particularly exciting either and takes 50-minutes before the first car chase gets going. Laying the ground work for the story is too leisurely. Instead of having Poke and Duke discuss how he had convicted him years earlier the drug bust should’ve been played-out right at the start to at least have given it a little more action.

The chases are impressive once they get going and at one point I literally winced as a car crashed into another and made me feel like I was actually in the vehicle and feeling the impact. Another has a police vehicle bursting into flames and a cop getting out screaming while flames shoot out his back, which was surprising since they must’ve blocked off the entire town center (filmed in Lockhart, Texas) to do it and most likely took an entire day to do, so there clearly was no compromising on the quality of the stunt work just because it was shot on-location versus in a closed studio lot. You also get to see a car crash through a giant block of ice, which marked a cinema first.

Bottoms though is weak creating a transparent character with no interesting arch, or personality and doesn’t even seem to be from Texas as unlike the others he has no Texan accent. Susan George at least conveyed an authentic sounding accent while masking her British one, so her presence gets strong points. Hopkins lends some interesting nuance as the bad guy and the sheriff wasn’t played-up as being an aging authoritarian, small-minded hick like in other films from this genre. Sure he was later found to be corrupt, but more like a cog in a bigger game instead of the center of it.

Spoiler Alert!

Story-wise there’s a lot of unanswered questions like why was Mendoza shot, which is later revealed to have been orchestrated by C.J. Barry (Morgan Woodward) a rich rancher who initially seemed very much behind Mendoza’s campaign, so why the double-cross? Why also would they think it would be a good idea to openly kill one of the men working for them? Who’s going to want to do a hit for them in the future if word gets out that the organization will use you as cover? Since this was a candidate for a major political party it was hard to believe that the investigation would be left solely to the small town sheriff to pursue as I’d be pretty sure federal agents would get called in.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: June 2, 1976

Runtime: 1 Hour 36 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Jack Starrett

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: DVD-R (MGM Limited Edition Collection)

The Track (1975)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hunters chase down woman.

Helen (Mimsy Farmer) is an American who has traveled to rural France in order to teach at a local university. At the train station she meets Philippe (Jean-Luc Bideau) who agrees to take her to the isolated cottage where she is to stay. Along the way they come into contact with Philippe’s boisterous friends who drive them off the road. The men are going out for a wild pig hunt and a few of them particularly Paul (Philippe Leotard) shows a sexual interest in her, but Philippe assures her that they’re ‘harmless’. While Helen moves in to her new place the men go off on their hunt, but when she walks outside to check-out a nearby barn she again comes into contact with Paul along with his brother Albert (Jean-Pierre Marielle) and Chamond (Michel Robin). Paul uses the opportunity to rape her while Albert holds her down and Chamond acts as the lookout. As they are about to leave Helen shoots and critically injures Paul with Chamond’s gun, which he had inadvertently set down, before she goes on the run deep inside the forest. The rest of the group tries tracking her down in an attempt to negotiate some sort of deal, so she won’t go to the authorities, or silence her permanently if she still insists that she will.

Some have labeled this the French version of Straw Dogs, but I consider it much more like Deliverance. In that film you had middle-aged suburbanite males wanting to prove their ‘macho manhood’ by roughing it in the wilderness for a weekend only to find that they weren’t quite as prepared for the harsh elements as they thought. This film works in kind of the same way. The men go hunting to get in touch with their rugged side, but when forced to face tough issues, like helping a woman in distress, they succumb to group pressure and prove ultimately to be wimpy.

Unlike other films in the rape/revenge genre the main character here is shown the least. Farmer does well during the rape segment and screams and fights in a way that elicits genuine horror, but otherwise her facial expressions and mannerisms are quite one-dimensional though I was impressed with the way she did her own stunt work and forced to navigate her way through some difficult and inhospitable terrain.

The main focus is on the male characters who are fascinating and multi-faceted. The most interesting aspect is how they start-out seeming benign and domesticated only to slowly unravel into a aggressively threatening group. The segment where they kill a pig and the animal struggles after being shot will make some animal activists uncomfortable, but like with Jean Renoirs’ Rules of the Game, which had a hunting segment even more graphic than here, it does effectively illustrate that if people are willing to kill an animal for sport; how thin is the line for them to cross-over to a person?

The lack of a soundtrack is a plus. Many thrillers will have a pounding score and sometimes it works to accentuate the tension, but here the natural sounds particularly Helen’s heavy breathing as she runs through the underbrush is far more effective. There’s also no forewarning of what’s going to happen nor buildup. Everything occurs out of nowhere. Most victims who survive a crime will say the same thing that things were peaceful and normal one minute and then all hell broke loose the next.

Spoiler Alert!

The only two things I might’ve done differently had I directed was not showing the rape. As rape scenes go this one is rather mild, but my feeling was it would’ve been creepier had the viewer been in the dark about what occurred as were initially the other men. They’re told the story that the gun went off accidentally and the woman ran in a panic only for them to slowly learn the dark details later on. Having the viewer come to this realization along with the other men would’ve added an extra layer to the story versus it being spelled out.

While the ending is effectively unsettling I still wanted a denouement showing how the strains of this experience changed them, which would’ve added insight. Overall though it’s a brilliant especially for the way it reveals how some of the men considered themselves more ethical than the others only to end up being no better. Everyone likes to feel that they, or their friends, would do the right thing when put in a stressful situation and ‘be the hero’, but this movie expertly examines how that might not always be the case.

Alternate Title: La Traque

Released: May 14, 1975

Runtime: 1 Hour 32 Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Serge Leroy

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD-R (French with English Subtitles) (dvdlady.com, jfhi.com)

Loose Shoes (1978)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Lame parody of movies.

In 1967 an improv group, which Chevy Chase was an early member, began that called themselves Channel One, who performed improvisational skits making fun of current events and TV-shows. Instead of doing them on stage in front of audience they filmed it and then played them on three different TV screens at a theater in Greenwich Village. When these proved successful the collection of filmed skits were then toured around the country at college campuses and got a favorable reaction, so the producer decided to turn it into a feature length film. At the time this was considered a novelty as the movie, which was called The Groove Tube, would have no plot and just be a collection of skits, but it proved popular enough that it gave others the same idea. From this came Tunnelvision, American Raspberry, and probably the most famous one Kentucky Fried Movie. 

In 1977 Ira Miller, who had worked with Mel Brooks on his projects and was a member of Second City during the 60’s, became inspired to do his own version of this. He financed it using most of his own money. The concept was for it to be a parody of recent movies and structured similar to movie previews one would see at theaters before the main feature would begin. The working title was Coming Attractions and to keep costs low he cast young, unknown talent like Bill Murray, who agreed to work for a small fee in order to get the exposure, or B-actors that he knew who as a favor would work at below scale for a day in order to help him out. Initially it got such a bad reaction from test audiences that it was shelved for several years, but then after Meatballs was released, which made Murray a star, it was re-released under its new title in order to capitalize on his fame.

The film suffers from production values that are so cheap I’ve seen high school projects that were done better and it doesn’t help that the DVD issue looks like it was copied straight off of a VHS tape. Both IMDb and Wikipedia list the original runtime as 84 minutes, which is incorrect as it was actually 74 minutes, but the DVD version only goes 69 minutes and cuts out several segments including ‘Jewish Star Wars’, which is alright as even with the abbreviated runtime it still felt like it was never going to end and adding in the stuff that was edited out would’ve just prolonged the agony. It would’ve helped had there been some consistent characters like a family going to the theater to see a feature and becoming increasingly annoyed at the ongoing previews. After each skit it could’ve cutback to their reaction, which would’ve given it some minimal structure and focus that otherwise is sorely lacking.

Some of the segments had potential like the ‘Invasion of the Penis Snatchers’, but Miller approaches the material too much like a gag writer where he’s more interested in the punchline instead of playing out a funny scenario. The skit that has Jaye P. Morgan doing a send-up of Nurse Ratched needed to be extended as she could’ve done it hilariously. The segment that spoofs the Woody Allen film Play it Again Sam isn’t exactly funny, but David Landsburg’s impression of Allen is so spot-on that it’s entertaining nonetheless. Murray’s segment where he plays a prisoner on death row is okay and you even get to see him at one point with his head shaved. I also liked the bit with Susan Tyrrell as a woman stuck in the boonies only here the hicks are open-minded and even features a virtually unrecognizable Ed Lauter as a free-spirited, cocaine sniffing, redneck sheriff.

The best moment ‘Dark Town After Dark’ comes at the very end and features a send-up of a Cab Calloway dance number with the song ‘Loose Shoes’ being sung. The lyrics of which came from a comment made by President Gerald Ford’s Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz. He was on a plane flight to California with entertainers Sonny Bono and Pat Boone. Boone asked him why republicans weren’t able to attract more blacks. He responded by making a comment that forced him to resign once it got out: “I’ll tell you what coloreds want. It’s three things: first, a tight pussy, second, loose shoes, and third, a warm place to shit.”

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: September 1, 1978 as Coming Attractions. Re-released August 1, 1980 as Loose Shoes

Runtime: 1 Hour 14 Minutes (Original Cut). 1 Hour 9 Minutes (DVD Version).

Rated R

Director: Ira Miller

Studio: Cinema Finance Associates

Available: DVD, Amazon Video

The White Buffalo (1977)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Buffalo haunts his dreams.

Based on the novel by Richard Sale, who also wrote the screenplay, the story, which takes place in 1874, centers around Wild Bill Hickok (Charles Bronson) who’s suffering from reoccurring dreams involving a giant white buffalo. He travels to the west in order to find the beast and confront it. It’s there that he meets Crazy Horse (Will Sampson). The two initially don’t get along. Bill is not a fan of Indians and once said “the only good Indian is a dead one”, but the two share a common bond as they’re both after the elusive buffalo in Crazy Horse’s case it’s to avenge the death of his infant daughter who was killed when the beast violently attacked their campsite. Having formed an uneasy alliance the two, along with old-timer Charlie Zane (Jack Warden) go out into the cold, wintry terrain in search for it while debating over whose land this country really belongs to: the white man or the Native Americans.  

Story-wise the film lacks any explanation for why Hickok is having these dreams, or what exactly the image of the white buffalo is meant to represent if anything. The plot goes off on a lot of tangents including a segment where Hickok visits an old-flame (Kim Novak) that doesn’t have much to do with the central story, nor propel the plot along, and could’ve easily been cut. There’s also a few proverbial gun fights though they’re generic in nature, don’t add much excitement, and quickly forgotten. 

Bronson gives his typical wooden performance though seeing him with dark circular glasses and sporting long hair does make him, in certain shots, resemble Ringo Starr. The rest of the cast if filled with familiar B-stars in minor roles including Stuart Whitman and Cara Williams, who have an amusing bit as a vulgar couple whom Hickok shares a stagecoach ride with. Jack Warden, who’s almost unrecognizable, has a fun moment when he takes out the glass eye that he’s wearing much to the shock of Crazy Horse.

The only diverting element is the opening dream sequence that’s done over the credits where the viewer looks right into the eye of the beast close-up. Normally I’m not a fan of outdoor shots done on a sound stage, which always comes-off looking artificial, but in this instance it helps accentuate the surreal elements. The climactic sequence though in which both Hickok and Crazy Horse come face-to-face with the buffalo doesn’t work as it becomes painfully clear that the beast is special effects generated especially when Crazy Horse gets on top of it and repeatedly stabs it, which looks like someone stabbing into a sofa cushion with tacky fur stuck to it. We also never get to see a full-shot of the buffalo, just its head, so it’s difficult to gauge how big it really was. The truly disappointing part is that the illustration of the buffalo on the film’s promotional poster seen above is far more impressive looking than anything you’ll actually see in the movie.

Probably the only interesting aspect about the production is not what occurred in front the camera, but behind-the-scenes. Will Sampson, who’s by far the better actor and the story could’ve been centered around his character alone and it would’ve made it a more interesting movie, refused to read his lines for over 24 hours when he became aware that white actors had been hired to play the roles of the Native Americans and only went back to performing his role once the producers agreed to casting actual Indians for the parts. This then directly lead to the American Indian Registry of the Performing Arts, which he founded. 

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: May 6, 1977

Runtime: 1 Hour 37 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, YouTube (with ads)

 

 

Rape of Love (1978)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Assault victim seeks justice.

Nicole (Nathalie Nell), a young nurse, goes bike riding one day to a friend’s house. Four men (Marco Perrin, Gilles Tamiz, Bernard Granger, Daniel Auteuil) spot her at a cafe and begin following her in a van. Once she reaches a remote area they drive her off the road and force her into the back of the van where she’s taken to a remote shed and brutally raped and humiliated. Once it’s over she’s brought back to the dark road, thrown to the pavement, and warned not to tell anyone. Initially she feels ashamed and doesn’t want to talk about it, but then while making a house call to one of her patients (Marianne Epin) she sees a picture of one of the rapists on the wall, who’s apparently a married family man living a normal life. She’s enraged that these men can go on living like nothing happened while she remains emotionally and mentally shaken. She becomes motivated to bring them to justice despite both her mother (Tatiana Moukhine) and boyfriend (Alain Foures) advising her not to.

This film was written and directed by Yannick Bellon, a feminist who had  worked on documentaries before doing this one. It bears a striking resemblance to Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave, both were filmed around the same time and neither production was aware of the other. Bellon had wanted to make a movie about rape that didn’t sanitize it and would capture it in the most explicit and violent way possible. While Zarchi’s movie has gone on to achieve cult status this one has fallen into obscurity even though despite some flaws it’s easily the better of the two.

The rape scene is quite graphic though I was actually expecting it to go on longer. It lasts for about 10-minutes, which is just enough time to give the viewer a very raw and uncomfortable taste of the crime’s viciousness without exploiting it and then unlike with the Zarchi movie the film shifts back into a drama instead of a revenge horror flick. I liked this transition better as it gives greater depth to the characters including the rapists who aren’t shown as being one-dimensional backwoods thugs like in the other movie, but instead regular citizens who you’d think were nice guys if you didn’t know better. One scene even has them discussing at a bar what they feel would be a suitable punishment for a criminal who had committed another crime, showing how these men, as terrible as they are, still have a warped idea of morality for others.

I also liked the way it focuses on Nicole’s psychological recovery though here I felt it got a bit botched. Having her examined after the incident by a male doctor I didn’t think worked as she’d not trust a male being in that emotional state and insist instead on a female physician. She also expresses later to a friend (Michele Simonnet) that she no longer likes people to touch her even as her friend touches her while she says it, which doesn’t make much sense. She also goes right back to riding her bike even though I’d think it would take her a long time if ever before she’d do that again.

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Her relationship with her boyfriend and the way they no longer have sex, which frustrates him is interesting particularly the scene where he’s shown angrily walking down the street and comes upon a prostitute. I thought the film was going to have him take his frustrations out on her and thus showing how this ‘good guy’ could be, under certain circumstances, just a violent as the rapists he hates, which could’ve brought out an insightful irony, but the film only teases the idea and eventually doesn’t go there.

The reaction of the rapist’s wife who begs Nicole not to take the case to court as it would be stripping her of a ‘fine husband’ and her kids from a ‘wonderful father’ seemed absurd. I would presume most wives would be disgusted to find out what their husbands had done and would want to leave them, or at the very least refuse to believe that they had committed it. Then again I was not living in France during the 70’s, so I can’t say I know how that culture would view rape. I know they consider affairs in a much more liberal way where it’s not always the deal-breaker like it is here, but to frame rape as just being another of his ‘flings’ seemed a bit too open-minded.

Spoiler Alert!

The climactic court battle falls flat. Having the men immediately confess to what occurred once they were questioned by the authorities didn’t seem realistic. After all she didn’t decide to press charges until 6-months later, there was no semen sample, no DNA, and no other witnesses. The men could’ve denied everything and most likely gotten-off. The film ends without the viewer finding out the verdict and never knowing how stiff their penalties were, or weren’t.

I wasn’t so keen about the boyfriend, who left Nicole once she decided to go public about the rape, coming back at the end and rekindling the romance. I felt this sent the wrong message. Sometimes when a person decides to do what they think is right then that means sacrificing everything and learning to live with it including losing friendships with people that don’t agree with what they’re doing. It’s a bridge one crosses that you can’t go back on. Having her adjust to being an independent single woman, or finding a new boyfriend that wouldn’t bail on her during her time of need would’ve been a better resolution.

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My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: January 11, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Yannick Bellon

Studio: Les Films de l’Equinoxe

Available: DVD-R (French with English Subtitles) (j4hi.com)

An Average Little Man (1977)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: Father avenges son’s death.

Giovanni (Alberto Sordi) is an accountant who’s ready for retirement. His son Mario (Vincenzo Crocitti) is following in his father’s footsteps by becoming an accountant as well. He has passed all of his exams and fully qualified, but competition is tough, so his father tries to use his leverage to get his son hired there, or at least have his name pushed to the top of the list. Unfortunately on the morning of the interview Mario is killed by a stray bullet from a bank robbery that was occurring across the street. Giovanni is devastated and the news is so shocking to his wife Amalia (Shelley Winters) that she has a stroke and is no longer able to speak, or walk, or even feed herself. Giovanni doesn’t trust the system to bring the killer (Renzo Carboni) to justice, so he decides he must do it himself by stalking the man and then eventually kidnapping him.

The film, which is based on the novel ‘A Very Normal Man’ by Vincenzo Cerami, who also wrote the screenplay, is filled with many memorable moments. I got a kick out of Giovanni’s tiny car that looked like something he could wear instead of ride and the way he gets around a traffic jam by driving it on the sidewalk. The mounds of paperwork in his office where no one can see each other because they’re literally swallowed up by them is a funny visual as is Giovanni’s supervisor (Romolo Valli) who cleans the dandruff off of his hair and onto his desk. There’s also a scene that is both darkly humorous and highly disturbing where because the cemeteries are filled to capacity the remaining dead bodies must be stored inside a warehouse with each casket put one on top of the other. Families and mourners crowd in to find which one has their loved one in it, but because of the gas coming out of the decomposing bodies that create sporadic explosions that cause the caskets to go tumbling.

The appearance of American actress Shelley Winters is another shocker in that she’s dubbed with an Italian speaking woman. Hearing her in a voice that is clearly not her own is at first disconcerting, but she gives a brilliant performance nonetheless. Normally she’s known for her talkative nature, both for the parts she plays in front of the camera, but also in her real-life interviews, yet she reflects a comatose woman quite convincingly and her facial expressions, particularly when she’s brought into the cabin to observe the killer’s torture, are excellent.

Sordi, a well known Italian film star and comedian, does well too and it’s interesting seeing his hair go from salt-and-pepper to fully gray as the movie progresses. His character though isn’t exactly likable. While he sees himself as being ‘selfless’ as he sacrifices everything, and potentially breaking the rules, for the love of his son, he seems more selfish because why should his son get a unearned break over all the other candidates? While he has his funny share of moments he’s also a bit unhinged even at the beginning with his almost naive belief that a system he knows is corrupt is now somehow ‘morally’ obligated to give him and his son a favor. Maybe this was the intended ironic point, but it would’ve played better had the son been less of a vapid, empty shell.

Spoiler Alert!

What makes this film stand-out from virtually any other is its extreme shift in tone where it starts as a satirical comedy, but ends as a grim thriller. Many script experts will insist this ‘can’t be done’ and in Hollywood would be considered forbidden. It also doesn’t have the inciting incident occur until an hour in even though books like ‘Save the Cat’, which is the ‘screenwriter’s bible’, will tell you it must happen within the first 5 pages of any script. There’s also no forewarning to the killing it’s just a completely random event with no connection to anything that came before, which again most people in the movie business will say is a ‘mistake’.

While I might’ve done it slightly differently by having Giovanni go insane when one of the supervisors refuses to hire his son after promising him they’d do it and then kidnapping that individual to make it seem a little more connected to the first half, I’m still impressed with how effectively it all works either way. It literally breaks every screenwriting rule and still succeeds and should be used as an example to anyone insisting that movie scripts that don’t stringently conform to the Hollywood formula will fail as this one clearly doesn’t.

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My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: March 17, 1977

Runtime: 1 Hour 58 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Mario Monicelli

Studio: Cineriz

Available: DVD-R (Italian with English Subtitles) (Moviedetective.net)

The Revengers (1972)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Avenging his family’s massacre.

John Benedict (William Holden) is a rancher who returns to his home and family in Colorado after serving in the Civil War. While out one day hunting a mountain lion a group of Comanche Indians kill his family. When he races back to his home he finds only his friend Free (Arthur Hunnicutt) still alive. Free informs him that the Indians were lead by a white man (Warren Vanders). John then becomes compelled to seek vengeance and hires a group of convicts that he finds at a Mexican prison to help him in his quest.

This was one film that took me by surprise and a testament to the fact that if you go into a movie with low expectations you might end up liking it better than you thought. The review in Maltin’s book gave it the notorious ‘Bomb’ rating and critics at the time labeled it a Wild Bunch rip-off, or even a western cousin to The Dirty Dozen. All of which is true, but it still has an amiable quality and enough twists to keep it moderately enjoyable. Ernest Borgnine is a stand-out and many have considered this his best performance outside of Marty.

The concept of finding prisoners to act as the sort-of good guys makes it fun, particularly as Holden must tour the prison camp to pick which ones he wants, but the idea that they’d all stay loyal to him once they got out was an over-reach. The film has them abandoning him for a while, but then all coming back like they couldn’t survive without him, which is ridiculous as these are grown men and if needed could cheat and steal on their own to get by. They’re also use to working independently so the fact that they’d need someone to ‘lead’ them and openly submit to that is hard to believe. Having one or two stay with John while the rest went on their way would’ve been realistic and also helped the viewer bond with the characters as there’s too many and it becomes cluttered.

I didn’t like either that Zweig (Reinhard Kolldehoff) is shown to be a man who must be chained to a post and kept away from the other prisoners due to extreme anti-social behavior and yet when he’s with John and the group he shows none of these signs. If a person has anti-social tendencies in one situation it will come out again and won’t simply ‘disappear’ because it’s a different environment. Trying to allude that Chamaco (Jorge Luke) is possibly the illegitimate son of John from some long ago brief affair and then these two would magically meet in such a random way is pushing the odds too much. While Borgnine’s character if amusing the fact that this impoverished man, who doesn’t have enough money to bathe, would be on top of all the gossip and information is suspect. How is this guy, who smells so bad nobody gets near him and if he tried to overhear a conversation they’d immediately walk away once they got a whiff, be able to collect the info that he does?

Spoiler Alert!

The film has what seemed like a potentially novel twist where Chamaco shoots John and supposedly kills him. Initially I thought this was kind of cool as it’s rare that a protagonist dies in the middle of a movie and then it would be up to this vagabond group of misfits to finish the job for him out of loyalty, which if it had done this would’ve given it distinction. Unfortunately the bullet misses John’s heart by an inch and he’s brought back to health by a kindly nurse named Elizabeth (Susan Hayward), but this becomes pointless. For one thing he makes a full recovery, at least have him suffer some lasting injury, which would most likely happen to gun shot victims in real-life. For instance maybe he could no longer raise his right arm to shoot and be even more dependent on the group to help him. Why even have him get shot at all if it’s just going to be forgotten by the end like it didn’t even happen? Having him then forgive Chamaco and harbor no hard feelings and get along even better than before is a level of graciousness few people if anyone would have in that circumstance.

It seemed like the only reason the shooting took place was as an excuse for Susan Hayward’s character to exist, but I’m not sure why it was necessary. She’s a great actress and this was her last film, but the romance angle doesn’t work and nothing comes of it as he leaves her once recovered and never returns like it was a blip on the radar. She also says at one point that she’d still like to start a family even though it’s pretty obvious that she was over 50.

The villainous Tarp character could’ve been handled better as well. He had the potential at being this enigma that everyone talked about, but never saw like the Keyser Soze character in Usual Suspects. The mystery of the man could’ve been built-up, but this gets ruined when they find him rather quickly during the middle part only for him to then escape. Waiting until the very end for his appearance would’ve made the finale more exciting and tense, which otherwise falls flat.

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My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: June 21, 1972

Runtime: 1 Hour 46 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Daniel Mann

Studio: National General Pictures

Available: DVD-R, Blu-ray, Amazon Video