Category Archives: Movies Based on Short Stories

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

vacation

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Going on a trip.

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) decides to drive his family of four from Chicago to California in order to visit the world famous amusement park of Wally World. Sure they could’ve flown, but he feels that getting there is ‘half the fun’, so they pack up their station wagon while losing their luggage along the way, running out of money, getting stranded in the desert and forced to take along the crabby Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) who makes everyone miserable.

The film is loaded with laugh-out-loud gags particularly at the beginning. I enjoyed the snapshots of touristy places that get shown over the opening credits as they look exactly like homemade pics stripped directly from somebody’s family album. Clark’s attempts to recreate their proposed trip on the computer only to have his animated station wagon eaten up by a Pacman-like monster is hilarious and imaginative. The scene showing him trying to get back into his old car after its been crushed, or falling asleep at the wheel and driving haphazardly off the road only to end up miraculously at a hotel are also quite good.

The screenplay was written by John Hughes and based on a story he wrote for the September 1979 issue of National Lampoon’s magazine. The plot nicely tackles all the problems that can occur on a typical family outing. Everything from having to visit boring in-laws to squabbling kids in the backseat get comically examined and most likely will remind everyone of their own family trips that started out fun, but turned into a nightmare.

I enjoyed seeing comic legends Eddie Bracken and Imogene Coca cast in supporting roles as well as other recognizable stars popping up for brief bits. This is also the best casting of Rusty and Audrey and watching the kids being the sensible ones while the Dad is more child-like is fun. However, their lack of appreciation for the song ‘Mockingbird’, which Chase and Beverly D’Angelo do an admirable rendition of, is outrageous even for teens and should’ve been enough to have them thrown into Lake Michigan immediately!

The script though begins to go off its hinges with the running joke involving supermodel Christie Brinkley. She plays a hot babe who seems for some strange reason to be attracted to middle-age schmuck Clark. The script was originally written to have this as Rusty’s sexual fantasy, which might’ve worked better, but as it is here it makes no sense.  The character drives so fast in her sporty red convertible that she should remain miles ahead of them and yet she is constantly repassing them almost like she’s a stalker and the odds that she would’ve coincidently been staying at the same hotel as them, out of the thousands that are out there, are astronomically slim. It all might’ve been saved, at least for the male viewers, had she gone nude, which was the original intent, but she refused. In either case it’s a boring bit that is not funny, or believable, or for that matter even sexy.

Spoiler Alert!

I also found the ending to be a letdown. The original one had Clark purchasing a BB gun and using it to invade the home owned by Wally (Eddie Bracken) after they find that his amusement park has been temporarily shut down and then forcing him and his associates to sing some songs before the SWAT team closes in. However, this ending rated poorly with test audiences so it was changed to where Clark and the family invade the park itself and force a security guard, amusingly played by John Candy, to take them on the rides while threatening him with the same type of BB gun.

Personally I disliked both endings because they are over-the-top and make little sense. There is no way that an amusement park would completely shut down for 2-weeks to make repairs especially in the middle of summer, which it is at the height of tourist season and risks too much of a loss of revenue. Certain individual rides may get shut down from time-to-time, but not the whole place. There is also never any explanation as to who is running the rides from the ground that the Griswolds and the security guard go on. Some may argue that it might be done by the black security guard, which is played by actor Frank McRae, but this is never explicitly shown or implied, so it therefore cannot be automatically assumed.

It also takes away too much from the film’s overall theme, which was making fun of less than ideal situations that occur on a lot of family vacations. Yes they do get exaggerated for comical purposes, but there was still a grain of truth to it while the ending instead borders on the surreal.

A better version would’ve been to have the family go to the park and have it open for business as expected, but then get caught up in a lot of crowds, long lines, overly priced rides and roller coasters that made them physically sick, which it did to the cast in real-life anyways.

End of Spoiler Alert!

Despite some of the script’s weaknesses this is still the funniest installment to the Griswold adventures and far better than its 4 sequels or the 2015 reboot. I also enjoyed the on-location shooting as well as the music by Lindsey Buckingham. His song ‘Holiday Road’, which gets played during the film’s opening, has become the mainstay to the franchise even I found ‘Dancing Across the U.S.A’ that gets played over the closing credits to be better.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: July 29, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated R

Director: Harold Ramis

Studio: Warner Brothers

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

The Picture Show Man (1977)

picture show man

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: They show silent movies.

During the 1910’s Pym (John Meillon) travels the Australian countryside with his son and piano player (John Ewert) while renting out the local theaters in the small towns that they come upon and showing silent movies to the townsfolk. He makes just enough to survive and keeps all of his money in his pocket as he doesn’t trust the banks. His biggest problem is the advent of talking pictures as well as competition from Palmer (Rod Taylor) a man who Pym personally trained in the business, but now seems to be making more of a splash.

What should’ve been a nice slice-of-life period piece turns out to be meandering and pointless instead with a script that lacks a plot and everything broken up into vignettes that are just barely passable. The film would’ve done better with a more centralized character and point-of-view as well as adding in some conflict and drama. It also should’ve stayed more focused on the silent movie theme instead of veering into other directions including romance and even horse racing, which are just not as interesting.

Upon his death last year at the age of 85 many obituaries listed this film as being Rod Taylor’s last major role, but it really isn’t. He appears only sporadically and seems to have almost a mystical presence about him. His confrontations with Pym are contrived and his character adds very little.

The only mildly interesting aspect of the movie is the addition of Major Lockhart and his wife (Don Crosby, Judy Morris) who come onboard with Pym to do fake psychic readings during the intermission of his movies. The couples constant bickering is amusing and the scene where the husband catches his wife making out with Pym in the projection room and proceeds to attack them with an ax and sets fire to the film while the customers sit on the other side of the wall singing a song and completely oblivious to what is going on behind them is pretty funny.

I also got a kick out of the shot showing the faces of the people who are completely mesmerized to the screen as they take in hearing dialogue for the first time in a movie. The dialogue itself is banal and even corny, but the fact that the people remain so compelled to it makes it without a doubt the best moment in the movie.

I also found Leonard Maltin’s review of this movie to be pretty amusing as well. In the 1991 edition of his Movie Guide he gives this film three-and-a-half-stars while calling it “Funny and moving” and “A must for buffs”. Then in his 2013 edition he gives this same movie only two stars and describes it as meandering and lacking in energy.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: May 5, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Power

Studio: Roadshow Distributors

Available: DVD

Rollerball (1975)

rollerball1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: This game gets nasty.

In the not so distant future where no governments or countries exist and corporations control everything a new type of game becomes the rage. It features two teams on roller blades skating around a circular rink while fighting over a silver hand sized ball, which they use to throw into an electronic type of basket and score points. The game features little officiating and can usually cause injury or even death to the players, but one man named Jonathan E. (James Caan) has risen to the top and become a superstar in the sport. Bartholomew (John Houseman) who is the head of the conglomeration doesn’t like this because the idea of the games is to thwart individuality and not promote it. They push Jonathan to retire, but he refuses forcing the games to become even more violent as their way to get rid of him one way or the other, but the more they try to take him down the more he fights back.

The thing I really liked about William Harrison’s script, which is based on a short story of his called ‘Roller Ball Murder’ is how amazingly prophetic it is. Corporations and their rich lobbyists are pulling the strings of the government officials already making them seem as mere puppets and modern day suburbia much like in the movie is really only a tranquilizer  with its comfy lifestyle used to lull everyone into overlooking the many concessions that come with it. The violent games for both the players and fans acts as an escape from their otherwise sterile existence as the outcomes are the only things not already preordained by the corporations and thus giving the players a small sense of control over something.

Unfortunately the film’s set design is not as intuitive as its story and lacks imagination and even seems quite dated. There are no personal computers and the ones that do get shown are quite archaic looking. I have not seen the 2002 version, but this reason alone justifies a remake although the scene where the party guests go outside to play with a ray gun is a keeper.

The game itself isn’t all that interesting and to me came off as a glorified version of roller derby. I thought it should’ve been more graphic and bloody and the film pulls back when it should instead capture the true brutally of the sport. It does get a little more violent as it goes on and I did enjoy the surreal quality of the film’s climatic game where players from both sides end up either killed or severely injured. The segment showing the men preparing for a game by having the Caan character giving pointers to the new players on some of the strategy that is needed helped convey the idea that the sport had a certain technique to it and not simply rollerblading around a rink.

Caan is adequate in the lead, but is upstaged by John Beck as his playing partner as well as Shane Rimmer who plays his coach. It’s great to see John Houseman in his second feature film after his Academy Award winning performance in The Paper Chase, but his close-ups where ill-advised as it made me notice all of his nose hairs and director Norman Jewison should’ve either avoided framing his face from that angle or giving the elderly actor a pair of tweezers to pull them out.

The ending is unsatisfying as it leaves everything on a vague note. We see the fans cheering Jonathan’s moxie, but there is no indication as whether he was able to ultimately stage a revolt, or whether the corporate heads found some other way to get rid of him. In either case I wanted more of a conclusion and the fact that there isn’t any makes it feel like a great concept that wasn’t fully realized.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: June 25, 1975

Runtime: 2Hours 4Minutes

Rated R

Director: Norman Jewison

Studio: United Artists

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

Urban Cowboy (1980)

urban cowboy 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Ride the mechanical bull.

Bud (John Travolta) has just moved to the big city of Houston and is looking to fit-in and prove himself to the local crowd. He finds his niche at a local hang out called Gilley’s where he gets noticed for the way he rides the mechanical bull that is there. He also meets Sissy (Debra Winger) who he quickly falls in love with and marries. Sissy takes an interest in riding the bull as well, but Bud refuses to allow it as he is afraid it might compete with his own macho image. When she does it anyways he becomes angered and the two break-up, but secretly long to get back together especially when the other relationships that they get into aren’t as fulfilling.

This movie, which is based on a magazine story, is highly disjointed and doesn’t have any type of seamless pace. There is way too much footage of people dancing on the barroom dance floor and the amount of songs that get played, which ends up being 30 as I counted them during the closing credits, is too many. The songs themselves are great, but by playing so many it starts sounding more like a radio station playlist than a movie soundtrack. The Texas caricatures also get overdone. In this movie everybody wears a cowboy hat even though I have now been living in this state for 4 months and can count on the fingers of one hand how many people I’ve seen wearing one since I’ve moved here. The Texas drawls of the characters are a bit too heavy and at one point during Bud’s job interview the interviewer refers to Bud as ‘boy’ or more aptly ‘Bo-AH’. I realized that this was made 35 years ago, so it may just be life from a different era, but it still seemed over-the-top and not a balanced, realistic view of the state as a whole.

Travolta’s presence doesn’t help as it reminded me of Saturday Night Fever as both of those characters go through the same type of growing pains into manhood. The sexist, immature way that he treats Sissy really got on my nerves and he was certainly not the type of character I would want to make the center point of a movie. Winger on the other hand is beautiful and far more appealing. The fact that she gets treated just poorly by her second boyfriend (Scott Glenn) is equally irritating and I started to wish they had written out the two dipshit male leads completely and made her the sole centerpiece of the story. I also liked Barry Corbin in support as Bud’s uncle, but the way he dies by getting struck by lightning is hooky.

The riding the mechanical bull stuff to me looks unintentionally funny and even strangely sexual. It’s also not all that interesting to watch and quickly becomes repetitive to look at, which severely diminishes the ‘exciting’ climatic sequence that it’s built around. The only scene involving the mechanical bull that I did like is when Winger gets on it and starts riding it in all sorts of different provocative poses, which was fun and sexy.

The second half of the film loses its focus completely and instead of being this intended gritty ‘boy-to-man’ drama becomes more like a soap opera where the emphasis is on whether Sissy and Bud will get to back together, which is not that interesting or original and the schmaltzy ending is Hollywood at its clichéd worst.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 6, 1980

Runtime: 2Hours 12Minutes

Rated PG

Director: James Bridges

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Fedora (1978)

fedora 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Old actress stays young.

This Review Contains Spoilers!

Barry ‘Dutch’ Detweiler (William Holden) is a struggling film director looking to make a big splash by trying to convince a reclusive Greta Garbo-like actress (Marthe Keller) to come out of retirement and star in his next big picture. He however, has trouble getting into contact with her as she resides on a secluded island estate in Greece. Finally after giving his script to her plastic surgeon (Jose Ferrer) he is able to meet her, but finds things to be on a strange side as she looks almost ageless and living with an authoritative Countess (Hildegard Knef) and personal secretary (Frances Sternhagen) who treat her like she is a child and refuse to let her out of their sight. As Barry investigates further he unravels the dark secret that the three share and the shocking reason why Fedora never seems to age.

Based on a short story by actor-turned-author Tom Tryon this was director Billy Wilder’s second-to-last film and as legendary as he is it was surprising to me why this film has never been released to DVD despite the fact that all of his other ones have. However, after viewing it the reason became clear as this is a real dud and a great director’s worst movie. The plot is poorly thought out and leaves a bundle of loopholes. In fact the believability is so low that it’s hard to get into it at all and the big twist that occurs near the middle where Fedora’s secret is exposed, which is that the old, ugly Countess is the real Fedora while the woman masquerading as the young looking one is really her daughter, is not surprising as I had suspected it from the very beginning. The acting and melodramatics are so much on a goofy soap opera level that the studio ended up dropping the film from its distribution when test audiences were found laughing in all the wrong places.

The island residence used to represent Fedora’s secluded home appeared rather old and rundown and the interiors were a bit cramped and not looking as luxurious as one would expect for a rich actress and Holden’s character is able to invade the place a bit too easily. I also thought the idea that the young Fedora would be constantly seen wearing white gloves to supposedly to cover up how young looking her hands were and thus tip people off that she really wasn’t an old woman at all didn’t make any sense as the daughter had already made three movies under the guise as being the old Fedora and it is impossible to believe that she would have been allowed to wear gloves through all of those roles.

The part where the Holden’s character gets knocked unconscious is equally stupid. For one thing he is not taken to a hospital, but instead back to his seedy hotel where he lies in bed for a whole a week before finally, miraculously regaining his consciousness. However, if a person is knocked out for that long a period it almost inevitably leads to a coma and how where they able to feed him and give him water? A hospital could’ve hooked him up to an IV that a dingy hotel wouldn’t have, which most likely would have had him dying from dehydration long before he makes his magically recovery and for someone who was hit over the head so violently you would expect some bruising, swelling and cuts and yet Holden wakes up without a single scratch on him!

The plastic surgery angle is another mess. Supposedly the whole reason Fedora got her daughter to pretend to be her is after she had some experimental surgery done on her face that became botched and made her too ugly to look at and yet one can see far worse plastic surgery disasters by observing many of today’s actresses attending your average Hollywood gala. Since the movie gets so over-the-top with its melodrama anyways they really should have made her face much more grotesque and thus given the viewer and film a lasting image.

Initially Marthe Keller was expected to play both the young and older Fedora, but when it was found that she had an allergic reaction to the old age makeup that was used Knef was then hired to play the part of the countess. Since their voices did not sound similar German actress Inga Bunsch dubbed for both of them, but her excessively deep voice gets really annoying to listen to.

After watching this film I came to the conclusion that Wilder had fallen into the same trap as his famous Norma Desmond character from Sunset Boulevard as he seems to be clinging too much to sentiments and a filmmaking style from a bygone era that no longer has relevance and unfortunately embarrasses himself in the process.

fedora 1

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: May 30, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 54Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Billy Wilder

Studio: Lorimar

Available: VHS

The Heartbreak Kid (1972)

the heartbreak kid 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Newlywed cheats during honeymoon.

Lenny (Charles Grodin) meets Lila (Jeannie Berlin) at a bar and after a brief courtship decides to take the plunge. However, while traveling to Florida for their honeymoon he becomes aware of all of her annoying habits and quickly realizes he’s made a terrible mistake especially after coming into contact with Kelly (Cybill Shepherd) a statuesque blonde college girl who appears to have the hots for him.

It’s hard to tell what the moral of the story is supposed to be whether its date someone for an extended period of time before jumping into marriage or the idea that being with someone for ’40 or 50 years’ as the Lila character says constantly throughout is just not a sexy or romantic notion for some. Either way it’s a funny concept and the Lenny character with his self-serving needs is highly relatable. Grodin is perfect for the part and one of the main reasons the film succeeds. His facial expressions are great and his running excuse about visiting an ‘old army buddy’ every time he wants to see Kelly is hilarious.

Shepherd is good as well playing a snarky character that seems to closely resemble her persona. However, the motivations of her character seem all wrong. Had Lenny initially approached her I might have bought into it, but instead she is the one who makes the first move, which seemed hard to believe that this beautiful young woman would be attracted to such an average looking guy or why he even caught her attention out of the hundreds of other men already on the beach. Her character also comes off as a bona fide cocktease, someone who enjoys leading a guy on for the attention it gets her, but will quickly bail once it gets serious, which makes their eventual dreamy relationship seem all the more farfetched.

Eddie Albert gets one of his best latter career roles here and was even nominated for the Academy Award in the part as Kelly’s stubborn father who takes an intense dislike to Lenny. However, I wished their confrontations had been played up a bit more and felt cheated when Albert tells Grodin he will never agree to him marrying his daughter only to have the film immediately cut to showing him giving Kelly away to him at their wedding, but what exactly did Grodin do to win Albert over? We are never shown what it is and this in the process makes the viewer feel frustrated and confused and the film seem incomplete.

This same story was remade in 2007 by the Farrelly brothers with Ben Stiller playing the Grodin role and although that movie was overlong, poorly paced and filled with a lot of running jokes that weren’t funny it at least was a little more plausible especially with the way Stiller meets the other woman.

the heartbreak kid 1

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 17, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Elaine May

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS

Alex & The Gypsy (1976)

alex and the gypsy

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Gypsy out on bail.

Alex is a middle-aged bail bondsman who is down on life and masks his disappointments with cynicism. By chance he meets the beautiful Maritza (Genevieve Bujold) a young gypsy woman who travels the countryside reading people’s palms and futures for a living. When she is accused of trying to kill her father and thrown into jail Alex decides to post her 30,000 dollar bail in an attempt for a brief romantic fling, but she instead spends the whole time trying to escape and keeping the overly-stressed Alex constantly on guard to prevent it.

The film has a pleasantly laid-back, free-spirited style to it that at times does meander, but nicely reflects the attitude and feeling of the decade that it is in. Director John Korty wisely pulls back and doesn’t try to over-direct, but instead allows his talented cast to carry the picture by creating well-defined and relatable characters. The dialogue and conversations are full of dry, acerbic wit and just the right amount of jaded sensibilities to keep it hip and real.

Lemon is great and has grown as an actor by taking on roles that are more world-weary and edgy  and going light years from the clean-cut, all-American young man type characters that he played in the comedies from the 50’s and early 60’s where he always was naïve and in-over-his-head. Here the character is like an extension of the one he played in Save the Tiger that being a middle-aged man who has lost his faith in everything and everyone and yet still holds out for that elusive moment of magic. His side comments are amusing making this one of his funniest and most endearing performances.

Bujold is ravishing and in fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen her looking better. Korty seems to know how to photograph her in just the right way by making full use of her prominent and alluring eyes. Her moments on screen give off a subtly sensual quality. Her nude scenes aren’t bad either particularly when she is lying handcuffed to a bed almost emotionless while Lemmon, who is under the covers, attempts to have sex with her.

James Woods is also terrific showing a surprising knack for comedy as Alex’s nerdy and timid assistant. Although his character has only limited screen time he skillfully manages to almost steal the film from his two more established co-stars especially in a scene in the bail office where Alex gets bribed by a mafia criminal as well as another one inside a hospital where he tries to explain to Alex why he foolishly allowed Maritza to get away.

The ending is the film’s only real letdown. It is not a particularly bad one, but it is a little too cute and doesn’t seem to mesh well with the rest of the film. It also offers no real conclusion and leaves the viewer hanging as to what ultimately became of these characters. A little more of a side-story particularly the one involving the bounty hunter (Todd Martin) might have given the film a bit more excitement and dimension.

I also wasn’t too crazy about Henry Mancini’s melodic and serene score. He’s a great composer for sure, but something with more of an acoustic or modern folk rock tinge might have fit the story’s theme and mood better.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: October 3, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated R

Director: John Korty

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: None at this time.

How to Steal a Million (1966)

how to steal a million 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: They steal a statue.

Bonnet (Hugh Griffith) is a successful art forger who lends his Cellini Venus statue to a Paris Museum. He also has it insured, but doesn’t realize that for the coverage to take effect it would have to go through a test by the insurance company to make sure it is authentic, which sends him into a panic. His daughter Nicole (Audrey Hepburn) decides to help him by enlisting the help of Simon (Peter O’Toole) who she thinks is a professional burglar. Simon though is actually an investigator who is on to Bonnet’s racket, but decides to play along and steal the statue back despite the place being under tight security simply because he has fallen for Nicole and she for him.

Directed by William Wyler this film is engaging from beginning to end and perfectly blends the comedy with the caper. The story itself has limited action and a moderately slow pace, but I was never bored and enjoyed the plush sets and wide array of supporting characters making this a perfect tonic for those looking for light forget-your-troubles entertainment.

O’Toole’s detached manner works well with the character who allows Nicole to take charge or at least think she is while still secretly holding all the cards. The chemistry between the two is good, but I felt the romantic angle got played out too quickly. Sometimes it is more interesting not knowing if they are going to fall in love or not until the end and having them get all romantic with each other while trapped in a cramped janitor’s closet at the museum and during the tension of the robbery seemed a bit of a stretch.

Hepburn is elegant as ever and as usual it is her chic outfits that become almost as fun as her performance and the one that she wears to a restaurant when she meets Simon to set-up their plan has to be seen to be believed. The funniest one though is when she dresses in a very frumpy un-Hepburn-like dress and hat and then gets down on her hands and knees to pretend to be a cleaning lady.

Griffith hams it up marvelously as the crazy father and makes the most of every scene he is in. His cross-eyed stare makes him look almost like the twin brother of character actor Jack Elam.

Eli Wallach is underused in a supporting role that really doesn’t offer much and there is never any explanation of why he becomes so infatuated with the statue like he does. However, the way he describes his love for the statue in an aroused type of way is funny.

The robbery itself features some interestingly intricate moments. The best is when the couple is locked in a closet and Simon uses a magnet to take the key, which is hanging on the other side of the wall off of its hook and along the wall and into the lock, which I found to be totally cool.

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My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: July 13, 1966

Runtime: 2Hours 3Minutes

Not Rated

Director: William Wyler

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Trilogy of Terror (1975)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Menaced by a doll.

Interesting made-for-TV movie that first aired on ABC on the night of March 4, 1975. The film is broken up into three different horror stories all of which star Karen Black in different roles and all based on short stories written by Richard Matheson. Dan Curtis famous for producing the horror soap opera ‘Dark Shadows’ directs all three segments and even employs two actors from that series John Karlen and Jim Storm in small supporting roles.

The first segment is entitled Julie and features Black as a prim-and-proper college professor who gains the attention of Chad (Robert Burton) who is one of her students. Chad asks Julie out on a date and then drugs her drink, which knocks her out. When she is unconscious he takes revealing pictures of her and then uses these to blackmail her into continuing to have sex with him.

The ‘surprise’ twist on this one isn’t too interesting and full of a few loopholes. This also falls into the typical Hollywood treatment where an otherwise attractive woman with a great figure is labeled as ‘homely’ simply because she wears glasses and has her hair tied up into a bun. Although the storyline is surprisingly smarmy for the time period I still thought it was hooky that when he takes those ‘revealing’ pictures of her she is still wearing her clothes when most likely in reality he would have taken them off. The only intriguing element of this segment is the fact that Burton was married to Black at the time that this was filmed, so it was interesting to see them perform together especially since their union was brief and barely even lasted a year.

The second segment is entitled ‘Millicent and Therese’ and is the story of two feuding sisters both played by Black and their diametrically opposite personalities. It is interesting to see Black play such contrasting characters, but otherwise the story is weak and I had figured out the rather obvious twist of this long before it occurred and most others will too.

The final and most famous segment is entitled ‘Amelia’ and is about a woman who buys an African Tribal doll for her boyfriend. The doll is a miniaturized replica of an ancient hunter complete with a spear and outfit. A gold chain which is around the doll supposedly holds in its evil spirit, but when that chain falls off it begins attacking Amelia who then desperately tries fighting him off while all alone her apartment.

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While the idea of such a small doll with its tiny little arms being able to stab someone let alone turn doorknobs or bend the bolt of her door so she can’t get out seems a bit silly and absurd the action is still effective. Curtis’s use of dolly shots showing the camera zooming through the apartment at knee level in an attempt at displaying the point-of-view of the attacking doll is excellent. Despite the simple special effects they still work and the scariest thing about the doll is the weird chanting, hissing sound that it makes. The final image of this segment is quite possibly the most memorable of the entire film.

The only real suggestion I would have with this story is that it would have been nice to have shown the scene where the Amelia character goes to the shop and actually purchases the doll and shown more of a reason, or motivation for wanting to buy such a strange object in the first place.

21 years later Curtis made a sequel called ‘Trilogy of Terror II’ although that was not as well received. This film though is still enjoyable and well above average for TV-movie fare.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: March 4, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 12Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Dan Curtis

Studio: ABC Circle Films

Available: VHS, DVD, YouTube

The Crazy-Quilt (1966)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Married to your opposite

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: October 3, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 10Minutes

Not Rated

Director: John Korty

Studio: Continental Distributing

Available: DVD at www.johnkorty.com