Category Archives: Police Drama

Bad Timing (1980)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: He needs to control.

Alex Linden (Art Garfunkel) is an American psychiatrist teaching at a Vienna University who falls for a free-spirited young lady named Milena (Theresa Russell). Despite still being married to the much older Stefan (Denholm Elliot) she decides to leave him and move in with Alex, but their relationship soon becomes rocky. Alex gets jealous of her flirtatious ways and wants to control her, but she resists. Their constant fighting sends her into a depression and she begins to abuse both drugs and alcohol. One night Alex finds Milena’s comatose body inside her apartment apparently the victim of an overdose. She gets rushed to the hospital, but the police detective on the case (Harvey Keitel) isn’t so sure that Alex is being completely honest with him about how the events unfolded and through a fragmented narrative the viewer slowly becomes aware of Alex’s very dark and possessive side.

This movie, which was labeled by its distributor as being “a sick film made by sick people for sick people”, still remains as fresh and provocative as when it was first released. The possessive boyfriend theme was at the time a new concept and thus thankfully avoids the annoying clichés we now see in today’s movies while still coming off as groundbreaking and edgy instead. Yale Udoff’s script nicely weaves a complex texture between examining the dark psychological undercurrents of its characters to also creating an intricate and original mystery that keeps you on edge until its final and still quite shocking ending.

Director Nicolas Roeg crafts a mesmerizing visual design with each shot and edit and I especially liked the way he intercuts between showing Milena unconscious inside the emergency room to scenes of her and Alex making love. Their cluttered apartment is interesting as well and tends to be messier when the two are at odds and more organized when they’re apart. Roeg employs a wide range of music styles instead of just choosing one and playing it over and over like in most other movies.

The film’s main defect is Garfunkel’s presence whose acting talent is limited. His character is interesting particularly with the way he majored in psychiatry and yet seemed to be suffering from many of the same problems that he was studying making it seem almost like people who get into that line of work do it not so much to help others, but instead as a sort-of self-analyzation for themselves. However, his performance is wooden and his only memorable bit is when he and Milena hitch-hike a ride with some farmers and he gets stuck in the back of their pick-up with the goats while she rides up front with the two guys and he jealously looks in on them from the rear window.

Russell, who went on to marry director Roeg after this film was completed, goes in the exact opposite direction by overplaying her character until it becomes almost campy. Why this beautiful woman, who gets lots of attention from just about every guy she meets, would fall for such a dull dope like Alex makes no sense nor does her need to constantly try and win him back every time he mistreats her.

The best performances come from the supporting players. Keitel nails it as the cunning detective and Elliot has a great moment where he continues to casually eat his lunch while Alex harangues him on the other end of the telephone receiver.

Despite the miscasting of its two leads and the fact that the movie saw only a limited engagement when it was first released the film has still managed to gain a strong cult following. Much of this can be credited to Roeg’s artsy direction as well as the dark ending that still packs-a-punch.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: September 21, 1980

Runtime: 2Hours 2Minutes

Rated R

Director: Nicolas Roeg

Studio: Rank Film Distributors

Available: DVD (Criterion Collection), Blu-ray (Region B/2), Amazon Video

Alien Nation (1988)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Newcomers integrate into society.

Sam ‘George’ Francisco (Mandy Patinkin) is an alien who along with 300,000 of his kind land on earth near the Mojave desert in the year 1988 and become known as newcomers. After initially being quarantined they are let out in 1991 and become a part of everyday society. Matt Sykes (James Caan) is a cop whose partner is killed during a shootout with some criminal newcomers. George and Matt then team up to investigate the crime as well as a similar one that seems to be linked to Warren Harcourt (Terence Stamp) a successful newcomer businessman. Matt initially does not trust George and even shows an open bias towards him, but eventually the two form a bond.

The concept is unique in that unlike most sci-fi films the actual spaceship landing becomes only a minor part of the story and just briefly touched on in film’s first couple of minutes before quickly moving into the main theme of seeing how the humans and aliens learn to coincide. The idea of using this to then further examine racism and bigotry may have been a noble one, but it ends up not getting played up as much as I thought it would. The fact that the aliens have assimilated into society as quickly as they do (only 3 years) makes it seem like even if there is resistance to it by some it’s of a small level and for the most part the aliens have it pretty good.

There’s also a myriad of questions that never get addressed. Why exactly were these aliens sent here and will more come along later? Which planet are they from and if they were conditioned to be efficient workers who are highly adaptable then why are there so many seen on street corners and apart of gang that do no work at all. Nothing from their culture is retained and outside of their strange appearance that looks like burn victims with skin grafts there is not all that much difference between them and their human counterparts. They even end up bleeding red blood when they get shot.

The film’s most interesting part is George’s and Matt’s relationship, which starts out rocky, but slowly evolves and even at one point has a humorous moment where Matt tells George a ‘really funny’ joke that George, much to Matt’s frustration, can’t seem to appreciate. Both Caan and Patinkin give excellent performances as the characters go through a wide array of emotions with George seeming at times to be more human-like.

The criminal investigation and mystery dealing with a drug called Jabroka I didn’t find to be as compelling and the final showdown between Matt and Harcourt was to me a yawner. The alien angle comes off more like a thinly disguised attempt to make what amounts to being just another formulaic cop action pic seem unique and ‘profound’ when it really isn’t.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 7, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated R

Director: Graham Baker

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD, Blu-ray (Region B/2), YouTube

Man on a Swing (1974)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Psychic knows too much.

On one sunny afternoon Maggie Dawson (Dianne Hull) goes out shopping and never returns. 24-hours later her strangled body is found on the floor of her car. Police detective Lee Tucker (Cliff Robertson) heads the case, but finds few clues. After all leads dry up they turn to Franklin Wills (Joel Grey) who purports to be a psychic who can help them find the culprit. Initially the police are quite impressed with his abilities, but Franklin begins to show too much knowledge about the crime and the victim making them believe that he may be the actual killer.

The film is based on the novel ‘The Girl on the Volkswagen Floor’ by William A. Clark, which itself is based on an actual incident that occurred on June 12, 1968 in Kettering, Ohio. In the real-life event a young 23-year-old school teacher by the name of Barbara Ann Butler went shopping at a discount store one day only to end up being found murdered later. Police were, like in the movie, baffled and eventually ended up using the services of a psychic named Bill Bosheers, who goes under the pseudonym of Norman Dodd in the book. Like in the film Bosheers seemed to know an extraordinarily high amount of unauthorized info about the case including the fact that the victim used prescription glasses for just one eye. Bosheers also predicted another similar crime would occur in the near future, which it did and police have long suspected that the two were done by the same person.

What makes this film interesting is the way it meticulously follows the police investigation and keeps everything at a real level including having them pursue what turns out to be a lot of false leads, which other Hollywood movies rarely tackle. Nothing gets overblown and in fact the film’s strength comes from keeping everything on a nice creepy, low-key level with the focus on Robertson’s interaction with Grey. I also liked that there is very little music and the only time that there is some is when Grey is onscreen and even then it’s quiet and nonobtrusive accentuating the creepiness without over doing it.

Although he gets stuck with a non-flamboyant part I felt Robertson does quite well and I enjoyed how his down-to-earth sensibilities continually clash with Grey’s more flighty ones although the scene where the Robertson’s character discusses the case with his wife (Dorothy Tristan) at home didn’t really mesh. The character is also seen drinking constantly to the point of being a full-fledged alcoholic and this should’ve been touched on, but isn’t.

Grey, who ironically starred in a TV-movie called Man on a String just before doing this one, is outstanding and the whole reason to watch the film as he commands every scene that he is in. The way he goes into his psychic ‘trances’ is riveting and the part where he makes his entire face turn dark red, without the use of any makeup, is genuinely startling as is his drooling after he passes out. The film is also littered with many familiar faces of up-and-coming stars too numerous to mention here, but worth spotting at seeing what they were doing before they were famous.

I enjoyed the on-location shooting done in Milford, Connecticut which takes full advantage of the small town locale and helps make the story seem even more vivid. There are several uniquely memorable moments including an exercise that Grey is forced to take to measure his psychic ability as well as his visit to a pair of psychiatrists, which is wonderfully played by Elizabeth Wilson. However, even with all these good elements the ending is a letdown as it leaves to many questions unanswered and plays like an intriguing mystery that ultimately goes nowhere.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: February 27, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Frank Perry

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

Soylent Green (1973)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: People are the food.

This Review May Contain Spoilers.

The year is 2022 and the world is so overpopulated that people must sleep on stairwells and hallways and fight over getting their hands on the one and only food source called Soylent Green. Thorn (Charlton Heston) works as a police detective and assigned to a case involving the investigation of the murder of William Simonson (Joseph Cotten) who worked as a board member to Soylent industries. Thorn is convinced that there is more to the killing than simply an in-home robbery, but finds as he pursues the case that others are trying to prevent him from continuing on it, which makes him more determined to find the answers and connect-the-dots.

We’ll get the elephant out of the room right away by divulging that Soylent Green is made up of people who are killed to feed the rest of the population. Normally that would be considered a ‘spoiler’, but this film has become so well known for this ‘twist’ it that it seems almost absurd to avoid giving it away. If that ruins the film for you then I apologize, but the truth is I knew going into this how it was going to end, due to watching one of many parodies done on the movie particularly a SNL skit from years back involving Phil Hartman, and yet I came away enjoying it anyways. Mostly what I liked was the film’s neo-futuristic look that combines old buildings with a mod image and an opening sequence, which is the best part of the movie, used over the credits that was done by filmmaker Charles Braverman and shows visually through rapid-fire photographs how the world came into its bleak situation.

I was also really impressed with Heston’s performance. He is not an actor I’ve particularly enjoyed as I feel he is routinely too stiff and conveys his lines in an overly dramatic way that is quite stagey and even hammy and yet here he portrays a rough-around-the-edges man quite well and I consider this one of his best performances.

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This also marks the final film of screen legend Edward G. Robinson who died only 20 days after production was completed. The scene where he and Heston eat fresh food, which is something the characters hadn’t done in a long time due to its scarcity, was completely improvised, but an excellent and memorable moment. I did feel though that there needed to be a backstory about why these two men, who had such contrasting differences in age, were living together and the fact that at one point both men say that they ‘love’ the other made me wonder if it was implied that they were gay.

The ending isn’t bad and I liked the way Thorn investigates the inner workings of the Soylent factory with the only noise coming from the plant’s machinery and no music, which makes it creepier. It is mentioned earlier though that this plant is ‘highly guarded’ and yet he is able to get into it rather easily and he walks through it for quite a bit before he is spotted by anyone and even then the men aren’t armed, which makes it seem like it isn’t too well guarded at all. Also, I didn’t get why Thorn, who is quite jaded for the most part, would get so noble and heroic once he found out the plant’s secret and feel the need to ‘warn’ others. The world they live in is quite bleak, so what is he ‘saving’ them from anyways as some may actually choose death over the squalor that they were stuck in.

The ultimate logic to this ‘clever’ twist ending doesn’t hold up too well either. For instance the idea that the company would just kill a few people here and there wouldn’t be enough to keep up with the demand and at one point does the overpopulation begin to go down? If so many are supposedly being killed to feed the others then the crowding should lessen, which again only reiterates the fact that the filmmakers hadn’t completely thought this thing through and if anything the film should’ve used Thorn’s discovery as springboard to a more complex and intricate plot instead simply relying on it as a ‘shock’ ending.

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My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: May 9, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Richard Fleischer

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, 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 investigating leads nowhere making 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 more orchestral sounding 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 too, 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

Blood Beach (1981)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Beachgoers get sucked away.

Something is lurking beneath a Southern California beach and it’s not human. People and even animals are being sucked underneath the sand and disappearing, never to be found again. Lifeguard Harry (David Huffman) tries to do some investigating while starting up a relationship with the daughter (Marianna Hill) of one of the victims, but his efforts prove futile, so the police are called in, but do no better.

One of the nice things about this movie is that unlike most other horror films from that era it actually has a pretty decent budget and distinctive music score. The beach location, which was filmed at Santa Monica, makes for a pleasant diversion from the usual horror settings and the one thing I came away liking most about the movie.

Huffman, who ended up becoming a homicide victim himself in real-life only a few years after this was filmed, is bland to the point of being completely forgettable. However, the much more talented supporting cast gives the film some life. John Saxon is great as a brash and gruff police captain. Burt Young and Otis Young are amusing as police detectives with completely contrasting styles with Otis playing an amusing extension to the character that he did in The Last Detail where he tries earnestly to reel in his more undisciplined partner.

The film’s weak point is the second act that stalls without enough new twists being brought in. Seeing people constantly being swallowed up by the sand becomes monotonous and it takes way too long before we finally get an understanding to what is causing it. The film also has some quick cutaways showing what happens to the people once they are underneath the sand, which looks like it was spliced in from a cheaper film stock with tacky special effects that may simply be a product of the ‘Complete and Uncut’ version that I saw, but should’ve been avoided.

The attempt at doing a Jaws formula storyline on land instead of the water doesn’t work and only helps make the original seem all that much better. Had this been done as a parody might’ve helped it.

Spoiler Alert!

The biggest letdown is the ending that never fully explains what this creature is and only gives the viewer a brief glimpse of it during the film’s last few minutes, which is disappointing. The story then goes full circle by showing the sand ready to swallow up more unsuspecting beachgoers while making the viewer feel like they’ve wasted 90 minutes of their time watching a film that doesn’t progress anywhere.

End of Spoiler Alert!

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: January 28, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 25Minutes (‘Complete’ cut)

Rated R

Director: Jeffrey Bloom

Studio: Compass International Pictures

Available: DVD

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 aware 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

Mad Max (1979)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review:  Gang harasses cop’s family.

In the not so distant future where lawlessness is the norm motorbike gangs terrorize the Australian countryside and it’s up to highwayman known as the Main Force Patrol (MFP) to keep them under control. When one of the officers known as Max (Mel Gibson) kills a gang member during a high-speed chase the gang’s leader named Toecutter (Hugh Keyes-Byrne) gets his revenge by having his gang member’s destroy a small town and rape a couple. He also has the youngest member of his gang named Johnny (Tim Burns) kill Max’s partner Goose (Steve Bisley) by having his car set on fire with him still inside. After Max witnesses Goose’s charred remains he quits the force, but Toecutter and his men continue their harassment by this time setting their sights on Max’s wife (Joanne Samuel) and young child.

This film, which was produced by a generally novice crew including its director who at one time worked as a doctor inside a hospital emergency room, became a worldwide cult hit that has spawned many sequels and imitations. The intent was to create a “silent movie with sound” with the emphasis more on imagery and action than dialogue or story. For the most part it succeeds quite well in this area with some excellent car chases particularly the one at the beginning and coupled with the dry barren Australian countryside, which truly does give off a strong, desolate future-type look.

The film though lacks any backstory and one spends the greater part of the first hour asking ‘Who are these people and how exactly did they get there?’ The film can still be enjoyed without it, but comes off as poorly realized and lacking any type of depth. The narrative is also just a little too simple and obvious. When the wife decides to go off to get some ice cream when Max is at the car repair place it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that she’ll bump into the marauding gang when she gets there, which of course she does. Later, she goes for a walk in a forest, but Max doesn’t go with her, or give a gun for protection even though the gang is still on the loose, which seemed like really poor judgement.

There are also times when the film pulls away from the violence a little too soon and would have been more effective had it stayed on it for a while longer. One of these moments occurs during the rape sequence and another time is when Max visits Goose in the hospital, but instead of having the camera capture Goose’s burned face, which would’ve been much more graphic and disturbing, it instead looks at Max’s widening eyes, which is cheesy and cartoonish.

The film’s biggest issue though is the music score by Brian May, which is so loud and obnoxious and borders on being a distraction. The booming orchestral sound doesn’t jive at all with the futuristic setting and seems much better suited for a 1940’s serial instead. The images would be enough to set the tone and having the blasting music added in makes it come off as heavy-handed and amateurish.

Byrne as the gang leader is distinct looking and effectively menacing although his evilness could’ve been played up even more. Sheila Florance though is a lot of fun as the elderly, gun-toting Aunt May who single-handedly tries to take down the gang with only her and her rifle. However, it’s Gibson that steals it with his young, baby-face that makes him look like a choirboy and heightens the intrigue by having such a contrasting look to the gang members and making the viewer wonder if he really can take them down or not.

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My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: April 12, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated R

Director: George Miller

Studio: Roadshow Film Distributors

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

The Removalists (1975)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Cops abuse their authority.

Having just graduated from police training Neville (John Hargreaves) is both excited and nervous about joining the force. His first day on the job working at a small police station with the conservative and boisterous Sargent Dan Simmonds (Pete Cummins) as his new boss gets off to a rocky start and then gets even worse when two sisters arrive to report an incident. Kate (Kate Fitzpatrick) is the older of the two who says that her shy younger sibling Marilyn (Jacki Weaver) has been abused by her husband Kenny (Martin Harris) and will require the services of the two policemen to help move her things out of her apartment and keep Kenny under control while they do it. The two cops oblige, but to everyone’s shock the Sargent immediately becomes physically abusive to the husband when he enters the place and while he has him handcuffed. The beatings escalate throughout the day until Kenny looks to be on the brink of death forcing the two officers into a heated argument over what type of alibi they should use should the victim eventually die.

The film was written by the talented David Williamson and based on one of his stage plays. Williamson is noted, especially in Australia, for his darkly humored subject matter and scathing wit with this one being no exception. It starts out with a caustic tone that just proceeds to get stronger as it progresses. The actions by the Sargent are disturbing and reprehensible, but the fact that the character doesn’t see it that way and expounds on the importance of ‘self-control’ and having a rigid morality shows just how out-of-touch he is with his own contradictions, which makes him quite human and strangely engaging while also making a great commentary on the abuse of police power.

This also marks the film debut of legendary Australian actor John Hargreaves who went on to have a remarkable film career with a wide array of interesting roles before unfortunately dying at age of 50 from AIDS. His portrayal of a nervous and hesitant new recruit is humorously on-target, but the way his character becomes more emboldened as the day wears on is even more interesting.

The film’s downfall is the fact that the sets are visually dull. To some extent this works particularly in the rundown apartment that the majority of the action takes place in because it helps to symbolize how trapped the characters are with their own deteriorating and misguided value system, but it still ultimately gives the film too much of a low budget and unimaginative look. The story itself is predictable and although laced with darkly amusing moments could’ve been funnier and played-up more.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: October 16, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Tom Jeffrey

Studio: Seven Keys

Available: DVD (Region 0)

The Wicker Man (1973)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Pagans on an island.

Police sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) receives a letter stating that their daughter named Rowan Morrison (Gerry Cowper) has disappeared and it compels him to travel by plane to an obscure island village off the coast of Scotland to find her. Once he arrives he finds nothing but resistance from the people and everyone denying that she even exists. He also learns that the people practice a pagan type of religion and begins to suspect that the girl’s disappearance may have something to do with the upcoming harvest celebration and decides to infiltrate the proceedings in order to weed-out the culprits and find the girl.

The film, which was inspired by the 1967 novel ‘Ritual’ by David Pinner, manages to be quite intriguing despite being material better suited for a short story. The whole concept is woven around the big twist that occurs at the end and everything that occurs beforehand is simply a lead up to that, which could’ve been a stretch for feature length but director Robin Hardy’s tight editing and deft use of atmosphere keeps things permanently lodged in the creepy and compelling even though I did figure out at around the 60 minute mark where it ultimately was headed. The film’s original length is supposedly longer than the 1Hour 28Minute release that is currently available, but to be honest I felt this was a perfect runtime for this type of story and stretching it out further would’ve simply been diluting it.

Edward Woodward, who later became familiar to American audiences with his starring role in the TV-show ‘The Equalizer’, is terrific in the lead and I liked that fact that the character wasn’t a completely ‘nice guy’ either, but instead rigidly entrenched in his Christian religious beliefs and arrogantly convinced that his spirituality was superior to anyone else’s. Christopher Lee again makes a good nemesis even though his mod hair style looks a bit goofy. Britt Ekland is on hand as well singing a weird song and even doing a provocative dance although the nude scenes of her from the waist down were done by a body double.

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The only issue that I had with Anthony Shaffer’s script is the fact that the sergeant must go back to the mainland to get more men from the force to help him search for the girl, which to me was a bit of a loophole because I would think he could’ve just gotten on a phone and called in for more backup without arduously having to travel back. The facts that no one else knows where he is seemed a little implausible as well as most people working on the force have a supervisor that they must report to and who is at least somewhat aware of what case they are working on and where they are traveling to do it.

The ending though, which features an actual giant wicker man made of wood is an amazing site. When it gets set on fire with the victim and even some animals trapped inside of it is quite exciting and I liked how the point-of-view shifts between the people who view it from the ground as well as the victim seeing the people on the ground from inside the burning structure.

I remember seeing the 2006 remake starring Nicholas Cage in the theaters. While the details of it are vague I do recollect coming away from it finding grossly inferior in literally every way to this one and something that should be avoided at all costs.

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My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: December 10, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated R

Director: Robin Hardy

Studio: British Lion Film Corporation

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