Category Archives: Movies that take place in the South

Willy Milly (1986)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Girl turns into boy.

Milly (Pamela Adlon) is a teen who dreams of one day becoming a boy. One day she purchases a magical potion from a kid named Malcolm (Seth Green), which promises to make her wish come true as long as she takes it during the next solar eclipse, which she does. Now as a boy she changes her name to Willy, but finds mixed reactions from those around her. Her father (John Glover) likes the change, as he always wanted a son, but her mother (Patty Duke) doesn’t. He/she starts going to a different school, but finds that both genders have their equal share of problems.

Although the storyline may sound novel it really isn’t and this thing suffers from being just another generic ‘80s teen movie. The humor of having Milly suddenly waking up with a penis and the shocked reactions of her family and friends is not played-up enough while the myriad of issues that this sort of change would produce gets woefully underexplored. Instead it devolves into the typical teen dramas that we’ve seen done before and no need in seeing again.

The most annoying aspect deals with the proverbial bully storyline. I realize every school has got one, but it would be refreshing to have a high school movie that didn’t feel the need to always have to take this redundant route. This one, which gets played by an actor named Jeb Ellis-Brown, is particularly dull and what’s worse is that he looks scrawny and could be easily be beat-up by the kids he is supposedly intimidating.

Adlon’s performance, who gets billed under the last name of Segall, is irritating and a major detriment. For one thing she looks a bit androgynous from the start and then when she does turn into a boy all she does his cut hair short and that’s it even though her voice stays high pitched and her mannerisms remain girly making it seem more like just another female with short hair. There are a few good moments with Glover as the father as he tries to ‘train’ her to be more like a ‘man’, but Duke is horribly wasted in a small and forgettable supporting part.

The material is dated and these days this same storyline could be used minus the magical potion and instead tackled as a storyline dealing with a transgender teen. I also had problems with the Eric Gurry character who plays a teen friend to Willy that is stricken to a wheel chair. Initially I thought it was great that they introduced a character who had a handicap, but then it gets treated as being nothing more than a psychosomatic condition, which demeans all those victims of spinal cord injuries who are permanently paralyzed and unable to walk ever even if they wanted to.

There’s a film called Just One of the Guys that came out around the same time as this one and had a similar theme, but in that one the teen character only pretended to be a guy and it was much funnier and more perceptive.

Alternate Title: Something Special

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: November 14, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 23Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Paul Schneider

Studio: Concorde Pictures

Available: VHS

Firestarter (1984)

firestarter

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Girl has fire power.

Andrew (David Keith) and Victoria (Heather Locklear) are two struggling college students who in an attempt to make some extra money decide to take part in medical study where they receive injections of a drug that give them telepathic abilities. They later get married and have a child named Charlene (Drew Barrymore) who has the same type of abilities except hers allows her to start fires using only her mind. Now a secret governmental agency known as The Shop seeks to kidnap Charlene so they can use her abilities for their own nefarious means, which sends Charlene and her father on a cross-country run to try and escape the agency’s clutches.

If there is one thing that really stands out in this movie and makes it worth the watch it’s Drew’s performance. She was only 8 at the time, but has a presence and acting awareness that was well beyond her years and she easily upstages her more seasoned co-stars. Her character isn’t completely fleshed-out and I’ll agree with Roger Ebert in his review that she was created more like a “plot gimmick”, than anything, but Drew still makes it engaging nonetheless. My only real complaint with her character is why, when she does get apprehended by the governmental agency, that she doesn’t she just use her fire ability to burn down the door of the room that she is trapped in to escape?

George C. Scott is an equally interesting as the bad guy even though he ends up being trapped into the same type of contrived character with motivations, particularly his reasons for befriending the girl, that seem quite nebulous and even illogical. However, his presence lends an added edge and I loved his ponytail as well as the contact lens put into his left eye that gives him an android-type appearance.

The rest of the cast though does not fare as well. Art Carney and Louise Fletcher, two Academy Award winners, get stuck in a small, almost insignificant roles as a father and daughter farm family who temporarily takes in Andrew and Charlene when they are on the run, which is okay, but the idea that this same couple would later happily take in Charlene again after they had witnessed her frightening ability first-hand and the burning deaths of several people that she helped create is ridiculous. In reality they would’ve seen her as some sort of ‘freak’ to be wary of and scared that she might do the same thing to them one day and thus want nothing to do with and certainly not welcomed back into their home.

As for the plot it’s okay, but it takes quite a while to get going and only becomes moderately gripping during the second-half. The script is based of course on a Stephen King novel and the scenes showing Charlene setting various people and things on fire seemed too much like an offshoot to King’s more famous Carrie character and thus the originality is lost. There’s also just so much objects/people being set on fire one can watch before it starts getting redundant, which makes the climactic finish boring, lame and even laughable.

I also wasn’t sure how Charlene was able to stop bullets from hitting her. This subject gets discussed in a thread on IMDb with some posters surmising that it was apparently a ‘heat shield’ that she was able to create through her pyrokinesis. However, if that was the case then it should’ve gotten explained earlier otherwise it comes off looking like the filmmakers were just making up the rules as they went whenever it was convenient for them.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: May 11, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 54Minutes

Rated R

Director: Mark L. Lester

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

The Beast Within (1982)

beast-within

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Teen turns into monster.

On the night of their honeymoon Eli and Caroline (Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch) become stranded on the side of a road. Eli goes for help while Caroline remains in the car only to end up getting raped by a mysterious beast that escapes from a nearby farmhouse. 17 years later Michael (Paul Clemens), who became the product of that ugly incident, begins to show signs of erratic behavior that doctors are unable to find the cause to. Eli and Caroline decide to go back to Nioba, Mississippi where the assault took place in order to find out who it was that raped her and see if he or his family may have any genetic abnormalities that Michael may have inherited. However, before they can do anything Michael’s condition worsens and he changes into a monstrous, homicidal maniac that resembles the spirit of an abused child that had long ago been buried away by the townspeople.

One of the pluses to this film is its supporting cast that is filled with B-movie regulars who do their best to liven up the proceedings with their eccentric characterizations. Logan Ramsey is a lot fun as the town’s newspaper editor and in some ways proves even more entertaining as a corpse. R.G. Armstrong is good as the town’s physician and I especially liked his squeeze toy. Luke Askew has a few choice moments as an embalmer and Don Gordon, who wears a wig, has a solid bit near the end as a corrupt judge.  John Dennis Johnston as an overprotective father and L.Q. Jones as the sheriff help round it out.

Unfortunately the three leads are boring although I was amused at how much Besch resembles actress Eleanor Parker who was star Clemen’s mother in real-life. Clemens though as an actor is weak and looks too creepy from the beginning especially his eyes which make his transformation into a monster less dramatic and would’ve worked better had he had more of a clean-cut blonde, blue-eyed look.

Tom Holland’s script tries to cover every type of horror niche by treating the viewer to elements of southern gothic, ghost stories, possession, monsters, slashers and gore, which may sound interesting, but eventually becomes overplayed. There are also some loopholes to it that doesn’t quite make sense and the rape segment shouldn’t have been shown right away, but instead used as a flashback later on. Also, Michael is described by his father as being ‘normal kid’ who never showed any signs of odd behavior, but it would’ve been more vivid had we seen him as a regular teen instead of it starting out with him already acting strangely.

The transformation scene in which Michael turns into a grotesque looking creature might actually make you sick to your stomach, but it’s impressive. This was the first film to use air bladders, which were made up of condoms that were connected to air hoses that were put underneath the actor’s face casting and then inflated to give the appearance of the skin ‘bubbling’, which is pretty cool and worth checking out for this scene alone, which is by far the best moment in the movie.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: February 12, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated R

Director: Phillippe Mora

Studio: United Artists

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

Final Exam (1981)

final-exam-2

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

Private Benjamin (1980)

private-benjamin

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: She joins the army.

Judy Benjamin (Goldie Hawn) is having a tough time. She is only 28, but has already been married twice. The first time was for 6 years while the second time was for only 6 hours as husband number 2 (Albert Brooks) ended up dying of a heart attack while they made love on their wedding night. Heartbroken she calls into a radio show for advice and gets hooked into joining the army by an unscrupulous recruiter (Harry Dean Stanton) who makes it sound like it would be far more pleasant than it really is. At first Judy has a hard time adjusting to the rigors of a demanding Captain (Eileen Brennan), but eventually she finds new found self-esteem and coping skills that she never would’ve attained in the civilian world.

The film starts out awkwardly and a better scenario about how she joins the army could’ve been thought-up, but once it moves into the training camp segment it gets funny. In fact I would’ve extended these scenes more as it’s the best laugh-out-loud moments in the movie. Kudos also goes out to the editing by Sheldon Kahn who creates sharp transitions that accentuates the humor.

Hawn, who was pregnant with Kate Hudson when she was offered the role and had to go through 6-weeks of basic training to prepare for the part, is excellent in a film that helped bring her career out of the doldrums. In fact I would say this is one of her best roles and I enjoyed how the character becomes more confident and independent as it goes along.

Brennan is terrific as the nemesis and I wished her conflicts with Hawn had been played-up more. The character disappears too soon and manages to return briefly, but isn’t as effective. Her brief romantic encounter with the Craig T. Nelson character should’ve been cut as I saw this woman as being frigid, or even a closet lesbian who was married to the army because that is all she had, which made the scene where Hawn puts blue dye into Brennan’s showerhead seem cruel to me. Yes, she had been mean to Hawn earlier, but that was only because she felt her army career, which again was essentially her whole life, was being threatened and the other women should’ve been more sympathetic to that.

Hal Williams is good in support as the Sargent as is Sam Wanamaker as Judy’s overly protective father. Albert Brooks though is horribly wasted as the second husband and his heart attack is much too quick and mild to be realistic. Stanton is also shamefully underused playing an army recruiter that should’ve been investigated and out of a job for the outlandish misrepresentations that he gave.

The film does go on a bit too long and includes Judy’s romance with the Armand Assante character that seems like a whole different movie, but overall it still works although this has to be the tamest R-rated movie ever. I realize this was before the PG-13 era, but it still should’ve gotten a PG as the only ‘objectionable’ elements consist of the word ‘shit’, which is said once, a simulated sex scene that is brief and done with the characters under the covers and a segment involving the girls sitting around a campfire smoking pot. In fact 9 to 5, which came out that same year and was given a PG rating, had a similar pot scene that was much more extended.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: October 7, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Rated R

Director: Howard Zieff

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

This Property is Condemned (1966)

this property

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Mother pimps her daughter.

Owen Legate (Robert Redford) arrives in the small town of Dodson, Mississippi in the 1930’s to carry out an unpleasant task. He’s been assigned by his employer to layoff many of the railway workers in the area due to the economic depression. Many in town are not pleased with his presence and want him to go while even threatening him with violence. Alva (Natalie Wood) is the only one who takes a liking to him despite the fact that he consistently gives her the-cold-shoulder in return. She’s been forced by her mother (Kate Reid) to ‘entertain’ the male guests that stay at their boarding house and Owen wants none of it as he finds her dreamy, child-like personality to be off-putting and even an illness. Yet the longer he stays the more entranced with her he becomes, but he wonders if he’ll ever be able to get her away from the clutches of her domineering Mother.

This film was considered by critics at the time to be ‘trash’ and that was most likely due to its provocative subject matter that was clearly years-ahead-of-its-time, but with a script written by Francis Ford Coppola and Fred Coe, produced by John Houseman and directed by Sydney Pollack in a story based on a Tennessee Williams play couldn’t be all that bad and this clearly isn’t and in fact it’s excellent and should be considered a classic instead. The recreation of The Deep South from the ‘30s is spot-on and the on-location shooting done in the small town of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi lends some terrific atmosphere. The dialogue is sharp and the well-paced script leads to emotionally charged scenes of high drama.

Redford’s cool and detached persona is put to great use and I liked seeing a scenario where it’s the girl chasing after the guy for a change. Mary Badham is equally good in her first film after doing To Kill a Mockingbird, but here she is much more attractive with long hair and sans the Tomboy look. There is also solid support from both Charles Bronson and a baby-faced Robert Blake who just three years later reteamed with Redford in Tell Them Willie Boy is Here.

Wood gives an excellent performance as well, but I had a hard time understanding her character as her perpetual flights of fancy didn’t make much sense. The script seems to say that this is her ‘defense’ and escape from her harsh life, but any woman whose been forced into prostitution by her mother and pawed at by literally every man who comes along would most likely become hardened and bitter and learn to distrust and dislike any man who came near her.

Kate Reid as the mother also posed some initial problems as she looks too young for the part and in reality was only 8 years older than Wood who played her daughter. However, there is a birthday celebration where she is given a cake full of candles to blow out, but she refuses as she feels that 43 is getting ‘too old’, which made me realize that back then people had kids earlier even before they were 18 and therefore her still youthful look by our standards could be forgiven and even understood.

The final half is where this thing really comes together and includes a great confrontational moment between a drunken Wood, who really did get drunk in order to get into the scene, as well as her picturesque journey to New Orleans. Like in most movies the odds of her suddenly bumping into Owen after a couple of short days in the city seemed pretty slim, but I could forgive it as the rest of the film is so strong that any minor flaw with it is hardly worth discussing.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: August 3, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Sydney Pollack

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

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

Rosalie Goes Shopping (1989)

rosalie goes shopping

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Shopaholic turns to crime.

Rosalie (Marianne Sagebrecht) is a German immigrant who has married an American crop duster (Brad Davis) and moved onto a small ranch just outside of Stuttgart, Arkansas. There they raise a large family while also becoming obsessed with American consumerism by recording all the TV-shows on their VCR, but only so they can watch the commercials. Rosalie becomes a particularly obsessive shopper buying things that she really doesn’t need even when her money and credit become tapped out. She then figures out a way to hack into the accounts other people and companies via her home computer, which allows her to continue to pay for all her items by embezzling it from others.

This marks the fourth teaming of director Percy Adlon and star Sagebrecht and straight after their big success in the cult classic Bagdad Café. The film was made on-location in Arkansas, but financed by a German production company. I’m not sure what camera lens was used or the film stock, but the color contrast is quite unique and gives the whole thing an Avant-garde appearance. The storyline is original as well and veers off into unpredictable ways while making a great point, which is that unbridled capitalism can be just as dangerous and oppressive as any other form of government.

Sagebrecht is a delight and the moment where tears trickle down her checks as she becomes homesick for her native land while watching home movies taken in Germany is touching. Judge Reinhold is funny as the priest who becomes aware of Rosalie’s shenanigans through hearing them during confession, but completely exasperated about what to do about it. Brad Davis, a highly underrated actor who died too young, plays a rugged country man that’s completely against type from his more famous roles in the homoerotic films Midnight Express and Querelle.

Unfortunately the script, which was co-written by Adlon and his wife Eleonore veers too far into the whimsical and shows too much of a naiveté in regards to cyber technology. The idea that Rosalie could somehow ‘guess’ what everybody’s password was even those used by big companies and major banks is too farfetched and even if she did somehow figure them out all they’d have to do is change them once they realized their accounts had been hacked, which would’ve ended Rosalie’s cybercrimes right there.

The fact that she is able to cover up her crimes by doing even more outrageous ones and never, ever having to face the consequences of her actions is far too fanciful. It also makes light of a genuinely serious issue where the poor and lower middle-class do not have the same resources to get out of their financial predicaments as the rich do. They also do not have the convenience to magically cheat-the-system like the character here and those that do will almost always have it catch up with them where they will ultimately face harsh repercussions no matter how ‘justified’ they may have felt they were in doing it.

Some may argue that this was just a wish-fulfillment comedy, but even then there still needs to be some realm of possibility to it for it to be satisfying and this has none and it also makes the so-called clever twists lose their edge once you realize that none of it is plausible.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: May 19, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Percy Adlon

Studio: Pelemele Film

Available: VHS, DVD (Region 2), Amazon Instant Video

Below the Belt (1980)

below the belt 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Waitress becomes a wrestler.

Rosa (Regina Baff) works as a waitress at a sports arena who one day catches the eye of wrestling promoter Bobby Fox (John C. Beecher) after she decks a guy who tries to get fresh with her. Fox is in need for a new wrestler to promote and feels she’d make a perfect fit despite her having no experience in the sport. Since she is bored with her job and low on funds she decides to take him up on his offer, but finds that life in the wrestling world can be quite lonely and grueling and the promises of fame and fortune are fleeting.

Unlike Grunt! The Wrestling Movie, which was reviewed last week, this movie does not take a fan’s perspective of the business nor does it get caught up in the colorful caricatures or silly storylines. Instead it reveals a rather bleak look at the hardships faced by those working the circuit and how emotionally and physically taxing it can be living on the road and going paycheck-to-paycheck. In fact there is more footage shown of them behind-the-scenes preparing for a bout than an actual match although the climax does feature Rosa, dubbed the Mexican Spitfire, taking on defending champion Terrible Tommy (played by real-life wrestler Jane O’Brien) who plays dirty, doesn’t have any front teeth and even beats up on the referee.

Comical moments get spread throughout, but they tend to get overplayed and don’t work. What grabbed me was the main character and how relatable her situation was particularly the way her life was unfocused and her inability to stick with any job for too long, which her boyfriend and father nag her about, but then when she tells them about her new found wrestling passion they scoff and show no support. I also liked how the film examines both side of the age spectrum including Thalia (K.C. Townsend) who lies about her age and pretends to be older than she is simply so she can escape her tedious small-town life and get into the wrestling circuit, which she considers her ‘big break’ while on the other end there’s Verne (Sierra Pecheur) who’s in her late 30’s and been in the business for many years and now feels trapped and unable to get out.

Baff, with her plain looks, is a good representation of the average young woman still struggling for direction, but her thin body made me think she wouldn’t be able to handle the rigor of the sport in real-life. Shirley Stoler is on the opposite end as she was quite overweight and humorously carries around a handgun with her to fight off all the would-be rapists that she feels are lurking in the shadows and ready to attack her at any minute. Dolph Sweet is also memorable as an aging wrestler who reluctantly realizes that the business and his passion for it have passed him by.

There’s a heavy dose of blues music that gets played frequently throughout. To some extent the soundtrack, with songs sung by Billy Preston, Jennifer Holliday and the Voices of Deliverance, lends flavor and distinction to the proceedings, but it also ends up becoming overdone and intrusive in a film that is alright, but tries a little too hard to make its point.

below the belt 2

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: December 10, 1980 (Filmed in 1974)

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated R

Director: Robert Fowler

Studio: Atlantic Releasing Corporation

Available: VHS

The Visitor (1979)

visitor 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Her daughter is evil.

Dark forces from another dimension conspire to use an 8-year-old girl named Katy (Paige Conner) as their centerpiece in creating an evil empire on earth. Dr. Walker (Mel Ferrer), while working under the cover of being a noted surgeon, heads the secret organization. He instructs local millionaire Raymond Armstead (Lance Henriksen) who made a pact with the group years earlier in order to receive his fortune, that he must impregnate his girlfriend Barbara (Joanne Nail) again, so that she can give birth to an evil son to complement their already wicked daughter Katy and allow the two to eventually reproduce a new offspring. Barbara though, who does not know of Raymond’s secret pact and feels leery of her child already, is unwilling to have another one, which forces him to use unethical ways to get her to change her mind.

This Italian production, which was filmed in Atlanta, Georgia, has gotten a bad rap from the critics and there have been several different cuts issued with some making more sense than others. For the most part it’s a mixed bag with lots of story loopholes and an ill-advised music score that seems better suited for an NFL highlight reel. The movie also defies any genre and jumps between several, but ultimate fails at all of them.

However, if taken as a cheesy over-the-top production then it’s not half-bad. The camera work, editing, special effects and sets are to a degree impressive. The scene where Glenn Ford’s character is driving down a busy highway only to have his eyes pecked out by an evil hawk, which creates a major road accident that culminates with the car tumbling onto a softball field is quite exciting. Katy’s cat-and-mouse foot chase with the John Huston character through the Atlanta streets and some abandoned buildings is also well done as is her ice skating foray in which she single-handedly takes out a group of much older and bigger boys by sending them flying through the windows of some nearby shops and restaurants.

Conner’s bad girl performance with her angelic face making a perfect contrast to her otherwise dark personality is great. Nail as her mother is equally beautiful and creates enough sympathy from the viewer to make the torment that she goes through unsettling to watch. Shelley Winters, in a rare turn playing a normal, likable character, is also excellent as the family’s housekeeper

The male cast though is wasted including Franco Nero who appears briefly only at the beginning and very end. John Huston and Glenn Ford were too old for their respective parts and casting younger actors in their roles would’ve made more sense, but seeing director Sam Peckinpah in a brief acting bit is fun.

The ending can’t quite equal the audaciousness of the rest of it, but there is enough weird, wacky, one-of-a-kind shit here to keep anyone especially those with an affinity for the bizarre entertained and amused.

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My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: March 22, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 48Minutes

Rated R

Director: Giulio Paradisi

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video