Category Archives: Animation

Fletch Lives (1989)

fletch lives

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Reporter inherits a mansion.

Fletch (Chevy Chase) who writes for a Los Angeles newspaper under the byline of Jane Doe, receives to his surprise an inheritance of an old southern mansion. He immediately travels to the place while quitting his job in the process. The building is in bad shape, but he finds that he is receiving a generous offer to sell it, which makes him curious. Instead of taking the offer he does some research and finds that the property is a dumping ground for dangerous chemicals and that people are more than happy to murder him and others in order to keep them quiet about it.

The first film was based on a novel by George Macdonald, but this story was written directly for the big screen and the mystery is uninspired and obvious. Chase’s detached persona and acerbic wit gets put to a real test here. One scene has him discovering that the woman who he has just spent the night with is now dead, but he shows no shocked reaction at all making him seem almost inhuman. He then decides to smart-off to the police when they arrive to investigate even though any sane/half-way intelligent person would realize that would just get them into even more trouble, which it justifiably does here.

The character also has an unrealistically massive-sized ego especially in regards to his job and the arrogant way that he deals with his boss (Richard Libertini) acting almost like he is above the rules and can come and go whenever he pleases without having to answer to anyone. Now this behavior to some extent could be more justified if he was writing under his own name and had a large fan following, but to the readers he is just ‘Jane Doe’ and for all they know he is a woman instead of a man. In either case he could easily be replaced by another reporter writing under the same byline and no one would notice or care, which makes his entitled attitude completely out-of-line and one that should have gotten him fired long ago.

There is also no explanation to what happened to the Gail character, which was played by Dana Wheeler-Nicholson. The first film ended with the two of them supposedly falling-in-love, but in this film she has completely disappeared. Now the first installment came out 4 years earlier and a lot of relationships don’t last that long, so it’s possible that they simply broke-up and moved-on, which is fine. However, in this movie her character gets replaced by one who looks just like her (Julianne Phillips) and she falls-in-love with Fletch in much the same way making the plotline seem highly formulaic and like they are simply replacing one blue-eyed, blonde bimbo with another.

The humor is generic and juvenile although I’m ashamed to say I did find myself chuckling at some of it. The best moment is a take-off on The Song of the South that comes complete with animation and by far the film’s one and only inspired moment.

The action sequences are flat. In the first film there was an exciting car chase, which was passable, but here we get treated to a motorcycle chase that goes completely off the believability meter by having Fletch do stunts that no one with limited driving experience would try nor survive.

The supporting cast is wasted especially Hal Holbrook in a part that is completely beneath his talents. However, I did get a kick out of R. Lee Ermey. He gained a major cult following from his performance as a tough sergeant in Full Metal Jacket and gets cast here as a TV-evangelist, which I found interesting.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: March 17, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Michael Ritchie

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

The War Between Men and Women (1972)

war between men and women 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Misogynist cartoonist goes blind.

Peter Wilson (Jack Lemmon) is a popular cartoonist whose drawings depict women in disparaging ways. He enjoys his job and single lifestyle where he can live on his terms and keeps his apartment as messy as possible, which he usually does. However, his already poor eyesight gets worse and upon a recent visit to his optometrist (Severn Darden) he finds that he must get an operation to help save it and even then there is a fifty percent chance that he could still go blind. Despondent and depressed he meets Theresa (Barbara Harris) a single mother with issues of her own. The two enter into a whirlwind romance that quickly leads to marriage only to have Theresa’s ex-husband Stephen (Jason Robards) show up at the wedding and wanting to rekindle their relationship.

Peter’s character is loosely based on James Thurber and the film itself is a distant cousin to the TV-series ‘My World and Welcome to it’ that aired for one year on NBC during the 1969-70 season. The film though doesn’t have enough of Thurber’s whimsical humor to make it worth watching. It starts off with some potential as it opens with a weird animated segment and drawings that closely resembled Thurber’s, but then quickly devolves into a contrived comedy/romance with maudlin drama thrown in that makes it seem like two movies in one. Had it stuck with the animation it would’ve done better, but even that gets kind of stupid including one segment where Peter’s drawings start to attack him, which forces the humans to stage an all-out war between them and the cartoon characters.

Peter’s acerbic, woman hating personality is initially diverting, but then for no reason he does a 180-degree turn by falling in-love with Theresa almost immediately and becoming a conventional husband and father while turning the film into a silly version of ‘The Brady Bunch’. I also couldn’t understand why Theresa would fall so head-over-heels for Peter as the two are trading barbs one second and then in bed together the next making their character’s motivations quite confusing.

Robards, who has his hair dyed dark brown and is almost unrecognizable, gets stuck with a thankless supporting role and is seen only briefly. Initially his presence had some potential as he starts to become buddies with Peter and plot against Theresa, but then his character dies unexpectedly making it confusing why he had been written-in in the first place. Lisa Gerritsen, who is best known for playing Cloris Leachman’s daughter in the ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’ TV-show and the subsequent spin-off ‘Phyllis’ has some appealing moments, but her constant stammering becomes annoying.

Thurber’s wit was unique and legendary, but this film is too timid to dive completely into it. I suppose the idea of having an openly misogynistic protagonist was considered ‘too edgy’ for early 70’s cinema, so attempts were made to make the character more mainstream, but in the process creates a film that is disjointed and bland.

war between men and women 3

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: June 1, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Melville Shavelson

Studio: National General Pictures

Available: VHS

The Telephone Book (1971)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: She likes obscene calls.

            Due to the recent death of writer/director Nelson Lyon on July 17th I felt it was time to dig up my old copy of this bizarre underground cult flick and give it another view. I stated in another review I made about this film that I considered it The Gone with the Wind of underground moviemaking and I still stand behind it. The film is hampered by its low budget and black and white photography, but I was impressed with it creative camera angles, editing, set design and music. Lyon showed a genuine vision and made the most out of what little resources he had. Even the content, which could be seen as pornographic by some, is presented in such a quick paced and diverting style that it becomes engaging and amusing.

The basic premise deals with Alice (Sarah Kennedy) an over-sexed young blonde living alone in an apartment with walls lined with wall paper that has hundreds of pictures of people in various sex acts. One day she gets a call from an obscene phone caller and she falls in love with him because it was the ‘most sweetest and most beautiful dirty call’ she had ever received and although she had received other obscene calls in her life this one ‘had class’. She becomes obsessed with meeting the man. He tells her that his name is John Smith and that he is ‘in the book’.  She goes through the telephone book to call him up, but because she lives in New York City she realizes there are a lot of John Smiths. The rest of the film deals with her encounters of all the various John Smiths that she meets as well as her climatic meeting with the real John Smith and the very weird conversation that she has with him.

The film’s structure is basically made up of a lot of vignettes all dealing with various forms of perversity. Some famous character actors appear in cameos and some of which prove to be quite outrageous and funny. Barry Morse best known for playing Lieutenant Gerard in the 1960’s TV-series ‘The Fugitive’ has one of the film’s best moments playing Har Poon ‘the greatest stag movie actor of all-time’. He has a scene where 10 naked ladies, at least that is how many I was able to count, all jump on top of him and begin sucking on his various body parts. There is Roger C. Carmel as a psychiatrist who enjoys exposing himself to ladies on a subway train, but when Alice decides to do the same thing in return he becomes shocked and repulsed. Character actress Lucy Lee Flippan makes her film debut here as a ‘reformed’ obscene phone caller who describes how when her husband was away at work and her kids where at school she would call up men at their jobs and talk dirty to them while masturbating  with a banana. There is also William Hickey playing a man suffering from a permanent and incurable erection.

The best appearance though comes from Norman Rose famous for narrating many films. Here he appears wearing a mask of a pig and playing the actual obscene phone caller. He describes how he calls 4 different women a night every week of the year except for two when he goes on vacation to ‘get out of the grind’. He also explains how he has perfected his obscene phone skills to the point that he could seduce the president of the United States if he wanted to, but doesn’t because he has ‘no political ambitions’. The conversation gets weirder including telling Alice about his foray into becoming an astronaut while he seductively washes her hair, but Lyon’s use of imagery during this segment keeps it interesting and even memorable. My only complaint would be that I wished he had taken off the mask so we could have seen what he really looked like.

The film ends with an eye popping animation segment dealing with a giant headless naked woman who squats down and has sex with a sky scrapper that needs to be seen to be believed. This is also the only part of the film that is in color.

Despite the fact that it was all done on a shoestring budget and with no character development I had few complaints although I didn’t understand how the obscene caller was always able to call up Alice and get a hold of her even when she was not at home and at someone else’s place. This was of course before cellphones, but I suppose demanding logic from a film that otherwise revels in the absurd would prove futile. The film did not do well on its initial run, but was rereleased in 2011 to much more positive reviews both here and in Europe. Through word of mouth it is expected to gain the cult following it deserves and maybe eventually a DVD or Blu-ray release.

Kennedy is delightful in the lead, but her appeal may depend on one’s personal tolerance. She looks and acts almost exactly like Goldie Hawn and was her replacement on the ‘Laugh-In’ show when Hawn left to concentrate on her movie career. I enjoyed Kennedy’s giddiness and child-like enthusiasm to all the perversions around her, but her voice sounds like she has sucked in helium and could prove annoying to some.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: October 3, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 24Minutes

Rated X

Director: Nelson Lyon

Studio: Rosebud Films

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray 

Heavy Traffic (1973)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: A world without women.

            Animated feature with some live-action scenes dealing with a lonely 24 year old artist named Michael who is still living with his parents in a rundown New York City apartment and aspires to be an underground cartoonist.

The film seems compelled right from the beginning to shock and offend as many viewers as it can. Violence and blood, lots of blood, seems to spurt out of characters heads and bodies every few minutes. Breasts pop out of female dresses with just as much regularity and there is even a segment dealing with spousal abuse that gets rather nasty.  Racial stereotypes abound and the N-word is used liberally by the white characters. Some may consider this groundbreaking while others might think it was done by someone who has been sitting alone in his studio too long and needs to seek professional help.  I can appreciate the no-holed-barred approach and the idea that cartoons don’t have to be just for kids, but the edginess is no longer as potent these days since Family Guy, American Dad, and South Park come quite close to what you see here and in some ways are even more outrageous.

The story is too free-form and lacks focus. It took quite a while before I could get into it and the beginning comes off like a lot torrid, wild images thrown at you without cohesion, or direction. The characters are vulgar, gross, and unlikable. Michael, as the protagonist, as some appeal, but he is too detached.

There were some scenes that I found to be quite funny, but they all come in the second half. The scene where Michael describes a new fantasy comic he wants to create to a very sickly, old publisher is great and nicely symbolizes how the old guard is out of touch with the tastes and ideas of the younger generation. His idea deals with an apocalyptic world that has no women, so the men have sex with a pile of garbage instead only to have a real woman appear and then be taken away by God who wants her for himself. This sequence is by far the funniest and most imaginatively perverse of the whole film and I wished that this had been the main premise.  Another segment has Michael’s father bringing home an obese prostitute for Michael, which in a gross sort of way is highly amusing. Another similar scene has Michael trying to have sex with another woman on the rooftop of a building, but inadvertently knocks her over the side wall and she spends the rest of the film dangling naked by a telephone wire. The Godfather who eats a hearty meal of spaghetti while in front of a row of urinals deserves mention as well.

The film is certainly not for all tastes. The animation may not hold up to today’ s standards and the live action segments are not as interesting. The ending falls flat and gets extended longer than it should. Supposedly the initial idea was to have it end with a climatic car chase with images of penny arcade pinball machines flashed across the sky, which would have been better, but due to budget restraints was scrapped.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: August 8, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 17Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ralph Bakshi

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD