Category Archives: College Life

Class of ’44 (1973)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hermie goes to college.

In this sequel to Summer of ’42 Hermie (Gary Grimes) and Oscy (Jerry Houser) graduate from high school and begin attending college while their friend Benjy (Oliver Conant) joins the army and goes off to war. Hermie takes part in a wide range of college adventures including starting up a relationship with headstrong budding feminist Julie (Deborah Winters) as well as learning to cope with the untimely death of his father.

As sequels go this one is unnecessary. The story in the first one had a perfect slice-of-life plot that needed no further exploration of the characters. Everybody seems out-of-place here as we keep expecting to hear the background noise of the crashing ocean waves, which was a strong element from the first film as well as an explanation as to what ever happened to Dorothy who never gets mentioned even in passing.

The boys look too young to be attending college particularly Hermie who still resembles a pre-teen not quite out of puberty while Benjy is seen only briefly at the beginning and then essentially forgotten. The scenes dealing with the death of Hermie’s father aren’t particularly compelling because in the first film the father was never shown or mentioned, so it seems like a story arch thrown in for cheap emotional dramatics and nothing more.

Unlike the first film this script by Herman Raucher is not based on any actual events in his life and comes off more like a broad generalization of what can happen to just about any student who attends college with the particular time period of the 1940’s not carrying much weight. The plot is episodic and not story driven, but there are still several enjoyable scenes including one where Hermi and Oscy and several other boys try to cram themselves inside a phone booth as part of a fraternity initiation.

The performances are good and I enjoyed seeing Hermie grow into a mature young man as well as William Atherton as a snotty fraternity brother in a part he seemed born to play. Winters though steals it as a headstrong young lady who shows shades of insecurity at the most unexpected times.

The production values are an improvement and the story has a nice comedy/drama blend. Those that attended college may take to it better, but overall it’s a generic excursion that leaves one with a flat feeling when it’s over.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 10, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Paul Bogart

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Video

Superdad (1973)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 0 out of 10

4-Word Review: This movie is awful.

Charlie McCready (Bob Crane) is worried that his daughter Wendy (Kathleen Cody) is hanging out with the ‘wrong crowd’ and dating a guy (Kurt Russell) that has no ambition. He tries spending more time with her and her friends in order to get her to appreciate his more conservative viewpoints, but finds that this doesn’t work. He then concocts a scheme to have her go to a different college than her boyfriend by pulling some strings and having someone on the board come up with a phony scholarship, but when she finds out about this she runs away in a rage and begins hanging out in a hippie commune run by a cult leader named Klutch (Joby Baker) who intends to force Wendy to marry him while Charlie tries his best to stop it.

This was Disney’s attempt at tackling the generation gap phenomenon, but the results are shallow with characters and issues that are too one-dimensional and generic to be considered relevant. There isn’t even any of that patented Disney slapstick, which could’ve at least allowed some diversion from the otherwise tedium. To top it off the music is excruciatingly sappy including an opening tune sung by Bobby Goldsboro, which could be enough to make most people want to turn it off before the film has even barely begun.

In hindsight having Crane cast as a character who preaches old-school values when in reality he was living such an excessively hedonistic lifestyle is the height of all irony. The way his character is so preoccupied with his daughter to the point that he even dreams about her is borderline creepy and makes it seem like he has some sort of latent incestuous obsession with her.

The worst thing though is his acting specifically with the way he would scream out whenever his character is in some sort of danger like when he goes water skiing. Larry Hagman always had the best yell especially as Tony Nelson in the TV-Show ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ as his shrieks sounded masculine while Crane’s sound more like a high pitched scream from a female and are disconcerting instead of funny.

The Wendy character is another weak point. First she has parents who have brown eyes and in Crane’s case jet black hair as well, so if the dark gene is always the dominant one then how where they able to produce a blonde, blue-eyed offspring? Her character is also too transparent and too subservient to adult authority and not like an actual teen at all. There is one brief moment where she rebels by becoming a hippie chick, which could’ve at least added an interesting dimension to the otherwise sterile role, but unfortunately the film drops this thread just as soon as it gets introduced.

The depiction of the cult-like hippie group that is run by a controlling leader who happens to also be a painter, which ironically gets played by actor Joby Baker who later quit his acting career to become a full-time painter, is like with everything else in this movie quite generic. Clearly it was based on the Manson cult, but I got the feeling that the filmmakers were trying to send a broader message by inferring a judgmental view that all hippies ended up this way, which just proves how out of touch they were with the younger generation as they clearly didn’t understand or appreciate their lifestyle at all, which ultimately proved they were unfit to make a movie dealing with the generation gap subject in the first place.

My Rating: 0 out of 10

Released: December 14, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated G

Director: Vincent McEveety

Studio: Walt Disney Productions

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Night School (1981)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: They lose their heads.

All across the city of Boston young women are being attacked by a leather clad helmet wearing motorcyclist who hacks off their heads and then discards them in provocative places. Lt. Judd Austin (Leonard Mann) is on the case, but is finding few clues. Since the majority of the victims are coeds attending a local college he decides to interview the anthropology professor (Drew Snyder) who has been known to have affairs with many of them, which places him high on the suspect list as well as the fact that his studies deal with ancient tribal rituals of decapitations.

This is more of a police drama than an actual horror film as a lot of time gets spent on Mann interviewing suspects and tackling potential leads. Unfortunately he’s no Columbo as his personality is quite bland and his investigation leads nowhere, which makes the majority of the movie plodding and uneventful.

Rachel Ward, in her film debut, is the best thing about the movie and helps elevate it somewhat with her effective performance. Director Ken Hughes attempts to add some style to it with a orchestral score and a nice backdrop of Boston’s older neighborhoods, which is good, but the script lacks punch. The special effects are not realistic and cut away before much is seen. Certain scenes like when a woman gets attacked behind a closed door and the viewer is left to hear the strange noises that she makes comes off more as unintentionally funny than horrifying.

The ultimate identity of the killer is somewhat creative although with 20 minutes to go I had already figured it out. The twist that comes after it I had also caught on to, so there really aren’t many surprises here for the observant viewer in what is yet just another would-be ‘80s slasher wanna-be that adds little to the already overcrowded genre.

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My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: September 11, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ken Hughes

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD-R (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video

The House on Sorority Row (1983)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: House mother harbors secret.

Mrs. Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt) is a crabby house mother of a college sorority who tends to be quite terse and controlling to the girls that she oversees. When she catches Vicki (Eileen Davidson) having sex with her boyfriend she punctures the water bed that they are on, which causes Vicki to seek an elaborate revenge in the form of a practical joke. The joke though goes awry leading to the accidental death of Mrs. Slater. The sorority members hide her body, but then it disappears while the girls start to get picked-off one-by-one by a mysterious assailant.

This is far more stylishly directed than the usual horror film and this becomes quite apparent right from the start. I loved the opening flashback sequence, which is tinted in blue-and-white and a crane shot done over the opening credits. There is also a tracking shot that goes down the hallway of the sorority house that nicely captures the energy and ambience of the first day of moving in. The soundtrack, which uses the music of the London Symphony Orchestra, is another plus.

The acting is better than in most low budget horror films. Some will point to the line delivered by actress Jodi Draigie “How do we know she is alive” as being the single worst line reading in the history of cinema, which it could be, but overall the performances are decent particularly by Davidson. The only exception is Hunt as the house mother. She certainly has the face of a crabby old lady, but her delivery is very monotone and comes off like it was dubbed. Later I read in an interview with director Mark Rosman where this was indeed the case as they felt her actual voice was too high pitched, but why replace it with one that is even worse.

The use of Mrs. Slater’s walking cane as a murder weapon seemed ridiculous. The idea that this thing could be so sharp that it could cut through walls and people’s skulls with one swing made it seem more like an ax. The pressure of it continually cutting through hard surfaces, and then subsequently being removed so it could be used again, would most likely have broken the thing in half. The fact that she had used it for many years would’ve worn it down to more of a dull and smooth surface and not that of a steely, razor sharpness. There is also a scene where the cane is taken away from Mrs. Slater and she is able to walk briskly and without any noticeable limp, which means she didn’t even need it in the first place.

The killings aren’t scary, jolting or imaginative and seemed almost like they were an afterthought. Many times if you blink you’ll miss when they happen. The first killing where Mrs. Slater’s cane goes through a man’s skull looks glaringly amateurish as it is quite obvious that the victim is a mannequin.

I did like the shot of a victim’s head in a toilet, but even this has issues because we don’t know what happened to the rest of her body. If the killer is walking around with a bloody headless corpse that would cause a lot of attention and the dripping blood would create a trail that would lead right to him.

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Spoiler Alert!

This film has managed to garner a strong cult following, but I’m really not sure why. The more it went on the more bored I became with it. I was also irritated with the ending as we are never shown the identity of the killer. It is strongly implied who it is, but we never see his face unmasked. The original ending had police removing dead bodies from a pool and when they overturn the one wearing a clown suit it is revealed to be Katherine, the killer’s final victim, but this was rejected as being too downbeat even though I would’ve liked it better.

End of Spoiler Alert!

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: January 21, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated R

Director: Mark Rosman

Studio: Film Ventures International

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Final Exam (1981)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Killer stalks college campus.

A killer (Timothy L. Raynor) is on the loose and stalking a North Carolina college campus. No one knows why he is doing it or who he is, but the body count keeps rising. It’s up to Courtney (Cecile Bagdadi) and her friend Radish (Joel S. Rice) to try and stop him before it’s too late.

I’ll start off with a few of the things that I liked about the movie, which helped set it apart from other slasher films and if it weren’t for the stupid ending I would’ve given it more points. The fact that it takes place on an actual college campus and we are able to see all aspects of it including the dorms, the classrooms and even its cafeteria is a big plus. Too many slasher films have a supposed campus setting, but it never looks like one while this film managed to give me a nostalgic feeling about my own college days and the cast are at the right age group to play the students.

The dialogue between the characters is more amped up here than in the usual ‘80s horror film. This was intentional as writer/director Jimmy Huston wanted more emphasis placed on the characterizations than the gore. Although much of what is conversed about is extraneous and does not help progress the plot it still made the characters seem more human and less like a cardboard caricature.

I was also surprised with a scene involving a group of students pretending to be masked gunmen carrying out a mass shooting on the campus. It later turns out to be a fraternity stunt, but it made the film seem ahead-of-its-time and even prophetic especially with the way the Radish character talks about Charles Whitman and others like him who indiscriminately kills large groups of people for no reason. It was also interesting to see how the characters responded once they found out it was only a joke. Many of the students laugh it off while these days most would be traumatized and when the police respond to the call of a shooting only one officer arrives while today it would’ve been an entire SWAT team.

Spoiler Warning!

The scenes involving the killer are where the film falls apart. For one thing he seems to have superhuman strength even though he doesn’t look to have gargantuan sized muscles. The opening segment has him standing on a car hood as the vehicle is moving and somehow lifting another male body out of the driver’s seat and through the roof with only one hand, which I don’t think would be possible. Also, when he lifts the driver out of the car it stops, which should’ve been enough for the killer, who is still standing on the car hood, to lose his balance and fall down, but he doesn’t.

My biggest gripe though is that we are never given any explanation for why he kills or even any clue to his identity, which makes sitting through this generic thing seem all the more pointless. Granted sometimes the backstories to the killer’s motives can be hooky and fans of this film consider it ‘refreshing’ that this one didn’t have one, but in reality everyone that lives on this planet has a backstory and the characters in movies are supposed to represent real people, so an explanation of some kind is still necessary. If it was just a random killing by a stranger with no connection to the school at the very least give the killer a name, which could’ve been done by the police in the denouncement when they came to survey the crime scene.

It’s quite possible that the filmmakers intended this to be a random killing spree due to the earlier scenes involving the fake mass shootings, which could be considered foreshadowing and Radish’s continual conversations involving the topic of shooters killing people for no reason, which is fine. However, this idea doesn’t completely hold up because there is a segment where Radish finds some dead bodies in a locker room and then runs back to his friend Courtney’s dorm room for help, but the killer is already there waiting for him, which means he would’ve had to have known that these two were friends and which specific dorm room Radish would go back to and thus negating the idea that the killer was just a random stranger.

End of Spoiler Alert!

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: June 5, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated R

Director: Jimmy Huston

Studio: Motion Picture Marketing

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

Pieces (1982)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 0 out of 10

4-Word Review: Cutting up the coeds.

This review will be the first of many in which we celebrate October by reviewing all horror movies for the entire month. The film we look at today has managed to gain a strong cult following and deals with a Boston area college that is under attack by an elusive killer who slashes coeds to bits and then uses their body parts to create his personal human-sized jigsaw puzzle.

Horror director Eli Roth describes this film as being one of the top “horror films of all-time” and “the ultimate slasher film” with “the greatest ending in horror history”. Unfortunately I thoroughly disagree with him and was genuinely beginning to wonder if we had even seen the same movie, or if he was just joking. To me it was just another cheaply made horror flick made by a producers looking to cash in on the ‘80s slasher craze by churning out something that is completely formulaic and offers nothing new or imaginative to the genre. The plot is dull and predictable and the scares nonexistent. Even the killer is boring by appearing as this shadowy figure that has no features or distinction. Also, the film’s setting is Boston, but no one speaks with a New England accent and instead just about everyone has a European one.

The opening bit, which supposedly takes place in 1942, is full of anachronistic errors and the other killings, with the exception of the one that takes place on a water bed, fall equally flat. The one that I found particularly ridiculous features a coed, which is played by actress Cristina Cottrelli, who gets killed while swimming in an indoor pool. The killer stands on the edge of the pool and uses a long handled net to ‘catch’ her as she swims and then drags her back towards him. However, the net would be too flimsy for this and if she had given it any resistance at all it would’ve been enough to make the killer to lose his balance and fall into the pool. She also could’ve easily escaped from it by diving beneath the water. The fact that this same net also manages to knock her out is even more absurd although she does manage to regain consciousness only to see the killer coming at her with a chainsaw, but instead of just rolling back into the water for an easy escape, which is literally just inches from her, she instead passively lies there and screams while he hacks her up.

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I might’ve given it a few points had the gore been better, but I really wasn’t impressed. There’s lots of quick cutaways before anything much is shown and the body parts were clearly just stuff taken from mannequins and then doused in red paint.

The film got some notoriety at the time for its violence and then was disown by its two stars Christopher George and his wife Lynda Day George who insisted they were unaware that this was going to be a horror film when they agreed to sign on. The truth is they were already doing a lot of horror films before this as their careers were in severe decline and it was the only thing they were being offered. Chances of them thinking this was going to be anything different was slim and they probably were simply reacting to the critical backlash and trying to save what was left of their reputations by ‘disowning’ it even though it made very little difference as George ended up dying from a sudden heart attack just 2 months after its US release.

Edmund Purdom, who was at one time a top European star during the ‘50s should’ve been equally embarrassed and apparently was equally desperate to have signed on. The only other recognizable face is Paul L. Smith who gets stuck with an insignificant role as the maintenance man and uses some over-the-top facial expressions that I found more annoying than funny.

That ‘greatest ending in horror history’ that Roth describes is also really stupid and in fact may be the dumbest part in the film. If you don’t want to read a ‘spoiler’ then look away now although it really doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the plot anyways, which is the reason why I’m choosing not to give this paragraph my usual ‘spoiler Warning’ alert. Anyways the scene deals with a hand of a dead body suddenly reaching up and grabbing the crotch of the protagonist (Ian Sera), but the corpse was facing away from the character meaning that if it had somehow extended its arm then only the back of the hand would’ve touched the character and no grabbing would’ve occurred. Also, there were no supernatural elements ever introduced into the film, so how then does this body suddenly manage to move anyways?  ‘Surprise endings’ can be fun, but if they make no sense and have nothing to do with what’s occurred before then they become pointless and shouldn’t be added.

Some fans seem to enjoy this for its cheesiness, but for me it was a real chore to sit through and not amusing even on a bad movie level. Even if one makes a party of it by showing it with a group of friends and some beer I don’t see it getting much better.

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My Rating: 0 out of 10

Released: August 23, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Juan Piquer Simon

Studio: Artists Releasing Corporation

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Plumber (1979)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: He destroys her bathroom.

Jill (Judy Morris) works inside her cramped apartment while her husband (Robert Coleby) goes off each day to teach at a local college. She is an educated woman who spends her time writing a thesis for an anthropology paper, but finds herself at a loss when one day a talkative plumber by the name of Max (Ivar Kants) enters her place insisting he needs to check her pipes. Even though there is nothing wrong with her bathroom he proceeds to tear it up anyways while conversing with her on a wide-range of increasingly uncomfortable topics. Her husband and her best friend Meg (Candy Raymond) feel she is making a big deal out of nothing and find the plumber to be nothing more than slightly eccentric, which makes Jill feel even more powerless to Max’s increasingly odd antics.

This film is an excellent testament to what a great director can do with very little.  What appears on the surface to be a low budget, one-joke flick is instead a cleverly disguised observation of the class system and the underlying prejudices and assumptions that exist on both ends. The story playfully jumps back and forth from being a black comedy to a thriller to even a psychological study, which not only helps to make it quite original, but highly unpredictable as well.

To me the most amusing aspect about it is the way we have this super intelligent, well-educated woman who can write long dissertations involving ancient African cultures, but when it comes to people in her own environment she is at a loss and unable to know how to respond or react to a stranger who on the outside should be completely inferior to her intellectually, but routinely gets the upper hand nonetheless. Having everyone around her ambivalent to her situation simply hits home how disconnected an individual can be to their surrounding even when they think that they aren’t.

Kants gives a great performance by creating a character whose ultimate motivation is never clear. Is he intentionally trying to terrorize her or like with her bathroom just trying to tear her down? He seems to do this not so much for who she is, but for what she represents, which is fighting back at a pretentious society that he feels unfairly looks down on him.

If this film, which is based on an actual incident that occurred with a couple of director Peter Weir’s friends, has any faults it is with the location. The apartment, where the majority of the action takes place, is incredibly cramped to the point that I was surprised a film crew could’ve even fit into it. Weir tries to dress up the place with some interesting African artwork, but it still looks drab and helps to make the visual portion of the film quite boring. Having Jill reside in a ritzy home in the suburbs would’ve made more of an interesting contrast and seeing the plumber tear up her posh bathroom would’ve been even funnier.

The fact that Jill immediately opens the door and lets Max inside without asking for any identification is another issue as it comes off as being too reckless and trusting.  Granted it was made in a more innocent era and the character does expound on this later on, but it is something that will make the film seemed dated or even off-putting to today’s viewers. I was also surprised that it took Jill so long to complain to the apartment’s landlord about the plumber’s antics as most people would’ve gone to him after the very first day.

In either case this is still a highly intriguing film that I’ve seen many times and continue to find just as funny and interesting with each viewing.

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: June 8, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 15Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Peter Weir

Studio: The Australian Film Commission

Available: VHS, DVD

The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: This relationship is doomed.

Mary Ann Adams (Liza Minnelli), who goes by the nickname of Pookie, is a complete social misfit who can’t fit-in anywhere.  As she waits at a bus stop to go off to college she meets Jerry (Wendell Burton) a shy and reserved young man who just happens to be attending the same school as she. Pookie immediately starts up a conversation with him and takes full advantage of his quiet nature to force herself into his life. The two soon begin to date, but Pookie’s inability to get along with others and her extreme insecurities make it almost impossible for the fledgling relationship to get off the ground.

This film marks the directorial debut of Alan J. Pakula and the result is nothing short of excellent. This is the type of movie that they don’t seem to make anymore where great sensitivity is taken to focus on a broken individual, but without ever making fun or demeaning them in anyway. The film’s pace is slow, but never boring and the emphasis is almost entirely on the nuances of its two leads. It also features one of the best and most memorable movie soundtracks to come out of the ‘60s.

The film is based on the novel of the same name that came out in 1965 and was written by John Nichols. It was even shot at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York where Nichols graduated in 1962. For the most part the script, by the prolific Alvin Sargent, stays quite faithful to the book with the only real big difference being that the story here encompasses only one year while in the book it was three. To me this revision was an improvement because the relationship was clearly doomed from the beginning and I couldn’t imagine it somehow lasting for three years let alone one to begin with.

Minnelli’s performance is Oscar worthy and the scene where she has a long talk on the phone with Jerry and the camera stays solely focused on her face is one the strongest moments in the movie and could only have been pulled off by a brilliant actress who somehow makes the viewer empathetic to this otherwise annoying character.

Burton, in his film debut, is equally strong and watching the two characters with such contrasting styles dealing with each other is the main catalyst that propels the story. Tim McIntire, as Jerry’s college roommate, is quite good as well playing the perfect composite of a partying college kid while also offering one of the film’s few moments of levity.

Some viewers have complained that the film lacks any wintertime shots even though the story takes place in Upstate New York where snow is inevitable and the story is supposedly spread over one full school year, but to me this is nitpicky. Clearly the film’s budget didn’t allow for shooting over an entire year and it wasn’t necessary anyways. The film captures the forestry region in such a vivid way that it almost becomes like a third character. It also in my mind made it more believable because I never felt this wacky, makeshift romance could last a full year and at best might’ve only existed for the fall semester before inevitably petering apart.

For me the only real criticism is the fact that we learn very little of about Pookie’s personal life. She mentions her relationship with her father quite a lot and we see him for a brief period at the beginning, but then that’s it even though it would’ve helped the viewer understand the character better had a backstory, or scenes involving her family life been shown.

The film is also incredibly sad to the point that it will make just about any viewer depressed after seeing it. On the technical end it’s flawless, but Pookie’s feelings of loneliness and the character’s extreme isolation eventually reaches out and sucks the viewer into it without any let up and it remains with them long after it’s over.

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My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: October 22, 1969

Runtime: 1Hour 48Minutes

Rated M

Director: Alan J. Pakula

Studio: Paramount Pictures

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

Vamp (1986)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Stripper is a vampire.

A.J. (Robert Rusler) and Keith (Chris Makepeace) are two fraternity pledges hoping to avoid a hazing by promising that they can bring in a stripper to the next frat party. They then drive into the city to check out the clubs and find a pole dancer willing to take them up on their offer. One place, which is run by the sleazy Vic (Sandy Baron), has an exotic dancer named Katrina (Grace Jones) that immediately catches their eye. A.J. is invited backstage to meet her only to ultimately be attacked once he finds out that she is really a vampire. Keith is then forced to try to escape from the place on his own with the help of a friendly waitress Allison (Dedee Pfeiffer), but finds that the entire neighborhood is infested with vampires and more popping up wherever he turns.

It’s never a good omen when the film’s first day of shooting coincided with the space shuttle challenger disaster, but on the whole writer/director Richard Wenk does his best to breathe new life into a tired genre. The humor at the beginning is amusing although it goes a bit overboard and the whole fraternity angle could’ve and should’ve been avoided as it comes off as too contrived and the story would’ve worked just fine without it.

Jones, who never speaks a word of dialogue, gives a provocative performance. I enjoyed her white-faced sultry dance and her make-up effects are frightening during the times when she morphs into a vampire.

Rusler makes for a brash and believable college dude and the film only works when he and Makepeace are together, but on his own Makepeace is quite boring. I thought he was fantastic in My Bodyguard, but here he shows no charisma and probably one of the main reasons this film has never attained much of a cult following despite being ripe for it. Gedde Watanabe and Pfeiffer are equally useless and their character’s presence wasn’t needed at all although Baron camps things up nicely as the scheming club owner.

There are a few interesting moments here and there including a rather surreal one inside an elevator, but overall it’s not too exciting. I think the biggest issue is the fact that it’s too easy to kill these vampires off. Whether it’s a wooden stake, daylight, fire, or even a cross these guys seem to have the odds stacked against them and no matter how many of them surround this novice college guy hero he somehow finds a way to off them with relative ease until it seems almost like swatting flies from a wall. At the end when he walks away from it virtually unscathed and giving the impression that it had been ‘no big deal’ resonated with me as a viewer as I felt the same way about this movie.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: July 18, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated R

Director: Richard Wenk

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Steagle (1971)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Living out his fantasies.

The year is 1962 and the Cuban missile crisis is in full-throttle. The threat of a possible nuclear war has everyone on edge and having to hear about it every night on the news just makes things worse. Harold (Richard Benjamin) decides to use this opportunity to ‘escape’ from his drab existence. Both his marriage to Rita (Cloris Leachman) and his job as a college professor have grown stale. If the end is near then Harold wants to live-it-up to the fullest, so he travels to Vegas, has sex with hot women while also living out other outrageous fantasies.

The film was directed by award-winning set designer Paul Sylbert and for the most part, at least at the beginning, is right on-target. The mood and design looks authentically like the early ‘60s and the story nicely taps into the secret fantasy life that most likely harbor in the back-of-the-minds of just about every middle-age person out there. The viewer effectively feels Harold’s frustration during the first half and then just as effectively feels the rush when he finally decides to break free and go wild.

The story is consistently amusing throughout with the most memorable bit coming when Harold decides to speak in gibberish while giving a lecture to his class. Benjamin is perfect for the part playing a character with a snarky, sarcastic personality that hides just beneath his otherwise formal veneer. Ivor Francis is great in support as a minister who Harold meets on his travels that, like with him, wants to escape from the shackles of his daily existence. Chill Wills is good too playing a loopy ex-actor who thinks he’s Humphrey Bogart and traps a group of men inside a bathroom and won’t let them out until after they hear his rendition of a scene from The Maltese Falcon.

The film’s biggest drawback though comes from the awkward transition between Harold fantasizing about these things and then finally deciding to go through with it. The film never bothers to show how he manages to get away from his wife and kids. Does he sneak out in the middle of the night unannounced, leave a note, or simply tell them that he needs to ‘get away for a while’? Nothing is ever shown even though I felt that this scene was quite crucial and needed to be put in. The ending is equally frustrating as we never find out what happens when Harold finally decides to go back, which makes the film as a whole come off as incomplete and one-dimensional.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Release: September 15, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Sylbert

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD (Mill Creek)