Category Archives: Remakes

The Lady Vanishes (1979)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Where’s the old lady?

In 1939 while traveling by train from Bavaria to Switzerland American Heiress Amanda (Cybill Shepherd) befriends an English nanny named Miss Froy (Angela Lansbury). The two sit across from each other inside a train compartment. When Amanda awakens from a nap she notices that Miss Froy has disappeared and when she asks others where she went to everybody denies having even seen her. Amanda starts to question her own sanity and tries to use the assistance of American photographer Robert Condon (Elliot Gould) to help her figure out what is going on.

This film is a remake of the classic 1938 movie of the same name, which was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and based on the novel ‘The Wheel Spins’ by Ethel Lina White. I last saw the original over 30 years ago while attending college, so my memories of it are fuzzy and I’ll be unable to compare the two. However, I do remember enjoying it and feeling that this thing doesn’t quite reach the same level.

The biggest issue is the casting of Shepherd. I think she’s a gorgeous lady, I loved seeing her in the low cut white dress and at one point she even appears to bravely do her stunts by jumping off a moving train, but her acting is not up to par. She can be great as a bitchy, sarcastic woman or even as a kooky eccentric, but as someone we want to root for or sympathize with, no way. Some of her former co-stars including Bruce Willis and Christine Baranski have described her as being cold and competitive to deal with and that’s the exactly same vibe I get every time I see her. Her efforts to cover that up in an attempt to play a more likable character doesn’t work, so instead producers should cast her in parts that mesh with her personality while getting someone else more affable for this role.

Gould has the same problem. He looks bored and out-of-place and I don’t know why the nationalities of the two lead characters, which had been British in the original, were changed to American here, but it doesn’t help. Besides there is absolutely no chemistry between he and Shepherd, which makes the romantic angle come off as quite forced. He was also considerably older than her and they should’ve at the very least cast two people more in the same age range.

Even the great Angela Lansbury is all wrong here. She still gives the role a stellar performance with her best moment coming when her eyes well up with tears as the other passengers openly contemplate throwing her off the train and into the clutches of an SS officer standing outside, which proves that the truly great stars don’t need any speaking lines to convey just the right emotion.  However, she was only in her 50’s at the time and didn’t come off looking elderly. Dame May Whitty played the part in the original and was in her 70’s, which is what the age of the actress playing the part here should’ve been.

The basic premise is still entertaining enough to keep things passable, but I would’ve liked the mystery angle played up more by showing things only from Amanda’s perspective until the viewer started to question her sanity as well. The scene where Amanda sees the name Miss Froy written in the dust of a train window by the Lansbury character earlier and then having that name strangely disappear off the window after they go through a tunnel makes no sense. This was supposed to be a ‘realistic’ thriller and therefore surreal elements should not have been thrown in.

The climactic sequence is entertaining, Arthur Lowe is enjoyable in a supporting part, and the Austrian scenery is luscious, but the movie is marginal and only helps to make the viewer appreciate the original more than anything.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: May 8, 1979

Runtime: 1 Hour 35 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Anthony Page

Studio: Rank Film Distributors

Available: DVD, Amazon Video

Brewster’s Millions (1985)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: He spends thirty million.

Richard Pryor plays Monty Brewster a struggling baseball pitcher in the minor leagues who has never earned more than $11,000 in a year, but finally gets his chance to be rich via a deceased uncle (Hume Cronyn) who leaves him a vast fortune, but with conditions. He must spend $30 million in 30 days in order to get $300 million and if not whatever is left over from the unspent $30 million will be given over to a law firm. He is also given the option to accept $1 million upfront with no strings, but he chooses the challenge only to find that spending a lot of money is even harder than making it.

The film is based on the 1902 novel of the same name by George Barr McCutcheon and this marked the seventh film version of that story. The novel though does things differently. In that version Brewster has already inherited one million, but given the chance to attain seven million if can spend the one million during a full year, which is a little more believable. Watching Brewster trying to spend the 30 million on any dumb thing that comes along gets dizzying and hard to keep track of until it eventually plays itself out by becoming a one-joke concept throwing out the same punchline over-and-over. Why the amount was raised to 30 million and the time span to spend it shortened isn’t clear. Possibly it was for inflation or simply to make it ‘more comical’, but it ends up getting wildly overblown.

With so many people out there who are poor and desperate it’s hard to be sympathetic to Brewster’s dilemma. Spending a lot of money foolishly simply to serve his own greed and attain even more isn’t exactly a noble mission. Had he at least tried to spend it on things that could help others, like in the novel, it might’ve made a little more of an emotional impact. The Pryor character is also portrayed as having very little confidence and therefore I would think in reality he would’ve just accepted the million, which in his eyes would’ve been a lot of money anyways and never bothered to take the challenge, which most anyone else would’ve found monumental and impossible.

Pryor isn’t funny at all and John Candy is far more amusing as his loyal friend, but unfortunately isn’t seen enough. Stephen Collins is good as the duplicitous Warren Cox and this also marks David White’s final film appearance, who is best known for playing Larry Tate on ‘Bewitched’ and whose name is strangely not listed in the film’s opening credits despite having a major role. Yakov Smirnoff and Rick Moranis can also be seen in brief bits.

The film was directed by Walter Hill who later referred to this as ‘an aberration’ and having only done it to ‘improve his bank account’. His forte is in action flicks and his attempt at comedy turns terribly flat from its first frame to its last. It is also in many ways similar to Trading Places, which coincidentally was written by the same screenwriter Hershel Weingrod, but that film was far better.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: May 22, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Walter Hill

Studio: Universal

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

The Man with One Red Shoe (1985)

man-red-1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: He’s not a spy.

Cooper (Dabney Coleman) wants to remove Ross (Charles Durning) from his position as director of the CIA so he can occupy it himself. To do this he tries to make it appear that Ross is corrupt and so as a defensive strategy Ross comes up with a scheme of his own. Since he knows that Cooper has his place bugged he has a mock conversation with Brown (Edward Herrmann) telling him that there’s a spy with important information and which he should meet at the airport in order to retrieve. However, there really is no spy it’s all just made up, so that Cooper and his entourage will waste time following around the wrong person, which they do in the case of Richard (Tom Hanks) a man spotted wearing only one red shoe and who now finds his life turned upside down for no apparent reason.

This is a remake of the French classic The Tall Blonde Man with One Black Shoe and surprisingly it manages to stay very close to the original. To some extent it becomes almost a shot-for-shot retelling with very little that gets changed. Most American films have a much broader sense of humor than European ones and so I was a bit amazed how subtle the comedy stays, but this could also explain why this did so poorly at the box office.

For me this biggest transgression is that this version loses the satirical edge that was so apparent and funny in the first one. The CIA agents aren’t funny at all and don’t come off like real spies just a bunch of incompetent buffoons. None of them have any discernable personalities and it somehow manages to make even Dabney Coleman seem boring and I was really surprised that he even took the part.

Hanks is equally dull and not half as funny as Pierre Richard who played the same part in the original. Richard was of a goofy eccentric while Hanks’ character is a blah ordinary guy who plays off the comedy instead of being a part of it. I also didn’t like that he eventually becomes aware of what is going as I thought it was more amusing that the character remains permanently oblivious to it all like in the French film.

The one improvement that I did like was the presence of Lori Singer as the female agent who is very attractive and has a low, low cut dress that I really digged. However, in the original the female spy, which was played by Mireille Darc, didn’t fall-in-love with the main character until after she got to know him while here Singer appears to be attracted to Hanks right from the beginning for no reason.

There are indeed a few funny moments particularly Hanks visit to his dentist and the scene where he must flush his toilet several times in order to get the water to come out of his sink faucet. Jim Belushi gets a few laughs as his friend who thinks he’s seeing things that really aren’t there, but overall the original is still superior although by not as wide of a margin as with most other American remakes. I was also frustrated that there is never any explanation for why the Hanks character is wearing only one red shoe. In the French film it at least gets explained, but here they don’t even do that.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: July 19, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Stan Dragoti

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Buddy Buddy (1981)

buddy-buddy-2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Suicidal man hampers hit.

Trabucco (Walter Matthau) checks into a hotel intent on completing a hit by shooting a mob informant before he can testify at trial. He’s already killed the two other informants with relative ease, but now finds this one to be much more complicated due to having to deal with Victor (Jack Lemmon) who resides in the adjoining room. Victor is upset that his wife Celia (Paula Prentiss) has left him for a sex therapist (Klaus Kinski) and proceeds to try to hang himself by tying the noose around the water pipes in the bathroom, but all he succeeds at doing is busting the pipes and creating a flood. Trabucco decides to ‘befriend’ the man in order to keep an eye on him and prevent him from trying to kill himself again, which he feels will only lead to unwanted attention from the authorities. However, Jack causes more problems for him than the police ever could.

This was the last film directed by Billy Wilder who stated in more than a few interviews that he considers this movie to be his poorest effort and his least favorite. Matthau and Lemmon have pretty much said the same thing as well. The film was a critical flop and lost 3.5 million at the box office, which helped to prevent Wilder from ever helming another movie again.

However, I was delightfully surprised at how funny I found this movie to be. It’s not exactly laugh-out-loud hilarity, but on a low-key level it works. The part where Lemmon gets tied to a chair and his mouth gagged while he screams at an ambivalent housekeeper (Bette Raya) to free him is quite good and the part where the two men going gliding down a clothes chute is fun too.

The whole thing is a remake of the French film A Pain in the A__, but it implements changes to the plot that improves it from the original. For one thing the dialogue is funnier, the two men have more genuine conversations and they even develop a bit of a bonding. The film adds more characters too like the beleaguered Captain Hubris played by Dana Elcar who tries in vain to protect the witnesses from Trubacco, but with little success. The distinctive musical score by Lalo Shifrin is also big improvement.

Lemmon is quite funny as he plays a sort-of hyped-up version of his Felix Unger character. Matthau seems a bit stymied in a role that allows for very little expression, but he still manages to make the most of it. My favorite performance though was that of Kinski who takes a rare comic turn and utters the movies best line: “Pre-ejaculation means always having to say you’re sorry.”

Having the two actually work together to complete the hit and then make an escape from the cops is good and something that did not occur in the original. The resolution, which takes place on a tropical island, is a bit of an improvement over the first one though it’s still not perfect. In either event it’s a relatively solid comedy that offers a few good laughs and deserves more attention especially for fans of Lemmon/Matthau.

buddy-buddy-1

buddy-buddy-3

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 11, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Rated R

Director: Billy Wilder

Studio: MGM

Available: VHS

Scarface (1983)

scarface

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Refugee becomes drug lord.

Tony Montana (Al Pacino) is a Cuban refugee arriving in Miami hoping to make it big in the land of opportunity. At first he is forced to do low paying jobs, but finally gets his break when he is hired to do a job for a rich drug dealer named Frank Garcia (Robert Loggia). Soon Tony becomes infatuated with Frank’s girlfriend Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer) and the two begin a torrid affair. When Frank tries to assassinate Tony by ordering a hit on him at a nightclub Tony gets his revenge by killing Frank and becoming the top drug lord, which makes him quite wealthy, but the strain of constantly having to watch his back for whoever may be out to get him eventually wears on his personality.

This is a remake of the 1932 Howard Hawk’s classic that came about when Pacino watched the original film in a theater and felt compelled to make a modern day update with the drugs being the source of the criminal activity instead of alcohol. The result is only so-so, but it gets helped immensely by an incredible set design. Tony’s all-black office and a luxurious hot tub placed in the middle of his already kitschy living room are eye-popping as are the chic and lively interiors of the nightclubs, posh restaurants and exotic resorts. The graphic shootouts are equally arresting and keenly shot and edited for ultimate excitement.

Director Brian De Palma again digs into his bag of borrowed Hitchcock shots in order to tell his story, but here it works pretty well. My favorite one is when he uses the camera to track outside of a room where the action is occurring and onto a quiet street below. Hitchcock did the same thing in Frenzy where the bad guy strangles a woman inside her apartment, but instead of showing the violent act the camera moves out of the apartment and onto a busy street outside. Here the camera takes an equally fascinating journey from a man getting chopped up by a chainsaw to an idyllic afternoon day just a few feet away.

The supporting cast is strong particularly Pfeiffer as Tony’s bitchy girlfriend whose ongoing acerbic responses act as a good barometer to Tony’s ever changing social standing. I also enjoyed the transformation of Loggia’s character from intimidating kingpin to wilting coward. Harris Yulin is also memorable as a corrupt cop who ends up playing things a little too cool for his own good.

The thing I hated about the movie was Pacino’s over-the-top performance. Normally I’ve found him to be a great actor, but here the character comes off as too cartoonish and one-dimensional. He possesses no interesting character arch and is creepy and unlikable from the beginning and proceeds to only get worse as it goes along, which makes following his rise and fall quite boring and predictable.

The runtime is too long and encompasses a lot of lulls in between the action bits in a story that seems to telegraph where it’s going right from the start. The Cubans are also portrayed in a negative and stereotypical way with only a slight attempt to balance it. Had it not been for the excellent production values this thing would’ve been a real bore.

I was also confused as to why Charles Durning’s voice gets dubbed in during a scene involving Tony’s conversation with an immigration officer. If De Palma was unhappy with the original actor’s performance as the immigration officer then he should have re-filmed it with Durning present instead of just using his voice because his style of speaking is quite distinctive and I was thrown out of the scene completely due to wondering why I was hearing Durning’s voice, but not seeing him.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: December 9, 1983

Runtime: 2Hours 50Minutes

Rated R

Director: Brian De Palma

Studio: Universal

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

Please Don’t Eat My Mother! (1973)

please-dont-eat-my-mother

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: His flower eats people.

Henry Fudd (Buck Kartalian) is a man in his 40’s whose still living at home with his mother (Lynn Lundgren) and very down on life. One day while walking down the sidewalk he passes by an outdoor florist shop and becomes intrigued by a small plant that he is convinced spoke to him. He buys it and brings it home. As the weeks go on he realizes that the plant really can talk, but it also has an insatiable appetite and forces Henry to feed it. First it begins with insects, then dogs and then finally…people.

This is a low budget remake of Little Shop of Horrors, but it fails to have the same sense of fun and imagination. The biggest problem here is the plant itself. In the first film is was created in a way that made it seem kind of real, but here it looks quite tacky. The flower’s lips do not match the way it speaks making it look like very bad puppetry. Supposedly it can also see and hear, but nowhere on the thing are eyes and ears present. It grows to gargantuan heights and when it does so does the pot that it sits in, but how does that happen? Some may argue that Henry replants the flower into bigger pots as it grows, but this should’ve been either shown or inferred and it isn’t. The plant’s voice has a banal speaking quality like that of an airline stewardess with no interesting inflection. The way it eats people is equally boring. You never actually see it happen as the camera conveniently cuts away as the person moves in closer to it and then later cuts back with the plant burping and having acid indigestion.

The plot is threadbare and the majority of time has nothing to do with the central story. Instead the viewer gets treated to long, drawn out segments of couples making out in a car while our protagonist and a few other peeping toms look on. The sex by today’s standards is quite sterile and the innuendos that get bounced about wouldn’t elicit a chuckle from even a 7th grader.

The only thing that saves it to a degree is the performances by its cast. Kartalian, who at one time was a professional wrestler, is surprisingly engaging and I found his skipping down the city’s sidewalk after he buys the plant to be quite amusing. Lundgren as his meddling and snoopy mother is also funny even though she doesn’t look much older than him and in some ways could easily have been his same age. The film’s director Carl Monson is fun as well as he appears in a hammy bit as a police detective.

Unfortunately despite the noble efforts by its cast this thing is a cheesy mess and in no way worth seeking out while also being a complete embarrassment to all those involved.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: March 3, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Carl Monson

Studio: Box Office International Pictures

Available: DVD (Something Weird Video)

Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986)

down-and-out-in-beverly-hills

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bum befriends rich family.

Jerry (Nick Nolte) has been living on the streets for years to the point that he has become used to it. One day his dog that is starving runs away from him and befriends a lady on the sidewalk who gives him food and eventually takes him home with her. When Jerry realizes that his pet is gone he panics and goes throughout Beverly Hills on a mad search. When he can’t find him he decides to drown himself in a pool of a posh household. Dave (Richard Dreyfuss) is the owner of the home who saves Jerry before he can kill himself and the two begin an awkward friendship. Jerry is even invited to move in with the rest of Dave’s family, which quickly sends the household out-of-control.

This film is a remake of the 1934 French classic Boudu Saved from Drowning and director Paul Mazursky nicely weaves the theme of the rich befriending the poor into the tapestry of Reagan’s ‘80s capitalism. The pace is breezy and non-confrontational and shows the wealthy as actually being the weaker of the two as they are much less able to adjust to harsh elements while trapped in their sterile surroundings and boring livelihoods simply so they can keep up the challenging pace of staying in tandem to the standards of society’s upper crust.

Midler has some funny moments as the snotty wife who doesn’t at all enjoy Jerry’s presence until he is able to give her a type of orgasm that she never had. Nolte is excellent as the bum in one of his best all-around performances. The scene where he eats dog food straight out of the bowl alongside the family’s pet Matisse (Mike the Dog) is an absolute keeper.

There are also some great supporting performances including ‘50’s rock icon Little Richard who plays Dave’s rich African American neighbor and is just as wealthy as the rest of the people in the neighborhood, but still feels badly discriminated against and doesn’t mind letting anyone he meets know about it. I also enjoyed that Mazursky stays with his ongoing theme of employing his own real-life therapist (Donald F. Muhich) into many of his movies. Muhich had already appeared as a psychiatrist in three of Mazursky’s earlier efforts and here appears again as a mental health counselor, but this time for the family’s dog.

At that times though the film does get a bit too serene and seems to blithely ignore many of the more serious elements of homelessness. Many scenes make it seem almost like they want to be on the streets and even enjoy it. It also would’ve been funnier had Dave been more a rich snob and his personality contrasted more severely with Jerry’s only for him to eventually come down to his level at the end, but overall I still found the whole thing to be amiably entertaining.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: January 31, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Mazursky

Studio: Buena Vista Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

King Kong (1976)

king kong 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Giant ape terrorizes Manhattan.

Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin) works for the Petrox Oil Company and heads an expedition in search of hidden petroleum reserves. He is particularly interested in a small, isolated island that is perpetually shrouded in fog and along the way they rescue Dwan (Jessica Lange) a beautiful, but flighty girl that is a lone survivor of a shipwreck. When the crew arrives at the island they find that it is inhabited by natives who perform some ancient, tribal ritual for a beast that they have caged inside a fenced-in area. They are intent in sacrificing one of their women to the beast, but when they spot Dwan they decide to use her instead where she then becomes the source of fondness to a giant gorilla named Kong. The crewmen are able to rescue Dwan and take the gorilla back to New York where Fred hopes to exploit the beast for his own monetary gain, but the gorilla escapes from his cage and goes on a rampage through the streets of New York looking for Dwan who he considers to be his.

This is a remake of the 1933 classic, which was later remade for a third time in 2005. Out of the three this one is considered to be the weakest, but I found that to be unfair as it still, while not being perfect, holds up well. The story itself is a bit dull and it takes too long until we are finally able to see the ape, a whole 50 minutes to be exact, but once the special effects get going it is impressive.

Some of the best moments come when he goes on a rampage in Manhattan and singlehandedly derails a subway car from its tracks and shakes it until all the people come tumbling out. His ride back to the states inside a freighter and the moment when he bursts through the giant fence on the island are equally exciting visually.

The gorilla is played by special effects artist Rick Baker inside an ape suit, which is something that he has done in other films as well. For the most part he does an excellent job, but I was bothered at the way the animal’s walk gets portrayed. To me it was too fast like the way a human walks instead of an animal and most apes walk on all-fours most of the time, so the fact that this one didn’t appeared unnatural. There are times too when the fur clearly looks like its sewn into a suit and not coming from the skin.

I also didn’t like the moment when the ape gets unveiled for the first time to the American spectators and he is shown wearing a giant crown. Adding in the crown gave it too much of a campy flair and hit home the exploitation theme in a heavy-handed way that was not needed. I also found it hard to believe how they were able to measure the beast’s head, build the crown to a correct proportion and then somehow get it on as they would’ve had to use a crane to do it and he would’ve fought with them while they did and most likely ripped it off the second it was put on.

Grodin is fun as the egoistical, but clearly clueless leader of the expedition and he ends up getting most of the film’s laughs.  Lange though in her film debut is fantastic and I loved her free-spirited, thrill-seeking character who is partially scared of the beast, but also intrigued by him and so consumed with getting media attention that she compromises her better judgement in the process.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 17, 1976

Runtime: 2Hours 14Minutes

Rated R

Director: John Guillerman

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

The Burglars (1971)

burglars 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Corrupt cop hounds thief.

Azad (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and his cohorts pull off a daring heist by robbing a gem collector of his emeralds in his home by using a state-of-the-art machine that is able to create a key to the safe on the spot by simply entering in the safe’s serial number. However, things go awry when Abel (Omar Sharif), a corrupt police captain, becomes suspicious of their activity after seeing the gang’s car parked on the road. Initially he lets them off, but only so he can follow them later and then blackmail them for the jewels, or threaten them with prison otherwise.

The film, which is based on the novel by David Goodis and made 14 years earlier as The Burglar, which starred Jayne Mansfield, has all the trappings for being a classic heist film. I enjoyed watching the intricate way they are finally able to crack open the safe, which takes up much of the first half-hour. I also liked the creative action, stunt work, story twists, luscious Greek scenery and musical score by the legendary Ennio Morricone. Unfortunately none of this is able to overcome a rather plodding pace and a lingering feeling that you’ve seen it all before.

The film’s biggest claim-to-fame is its two chase sequences. The first is similar to the one done in The Italian Job as two small compact cars drive all over Athens, including on sidewalks, stairwells, and through crowds of people, which is exciting to watch. However, the fact that no one gets injured and no other automobiles are damaged even as the cars drive straight into on-coming traffic is hard to imagine. The camera also cuts to a close-up shot of the lead car driving on its rim, but somehow the vehicle is still able to continue to go several more miles on rough surfaces and high speeds, but why have a shot like that inserted if it ultimately doesn’t mean anything?

The second chase works better, which involves Belmondo hanging onto the side of a bus as it travels speedily down a crowded city street while he tries to kick shut the door of a police car that is following, which is quite realistic looking especially since it appears to be Belmondo himself and not a stunt double doing it. This one culminates with Belmondo being tossed from a dump truck and down a steep hill while other large rocks roll with him, which again is impressive, but the fact that he doesn’t even receive a scratch from it is hard to believe.

Sharif is outstanding in a rare turn as a bad guy. He commands every scene that he is in and in the process makes co-star Belmondo seem forgettable and unable to equal the same strong presence. Dyan Cannon, who is the only American in the cast, gets a pointless part as a pin-up magazine model that catches Belmondo’s eye. Her character doesn’t appear until an hour in and is not all that integral to the plot. Her voice is also clearly dubbed in the French version, which makes her acting here limited and probably not worth signing up for to begin with.

The climactic finish that entails a man being drowned inside a grain elevator is novel as is the final moment inside a giant, mobile chicken coop with thousands of loud, clucking chickens, but overall the film fails to illicit much tension and would’ve been better had the runtime been trimmed and the scenes shortened.

burglars 2

Alternate Title: Le Casse

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 24, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 57Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Henri Verneuil

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD-R

Against All Odds (1984)

against all odds

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Searching for missing girlfriend.

Terry Brogan (Jeff Bridges) is an aging football player who gets cut from the team and in desperate need of cash. He reluctantly accepts a paying assignment from his friend Jake Wise (James Woods) which has him traveling to Mexico in search of Jake’s girlfriend Jessie (Rachel Ward) who just so happens to also be the daughter of the team’s owner (Jane Greer) that cut Terry from the squad. Terry manages to find Jessie rather quickly and the two promptly fall in love, which propels a string of odd events that soon has Terry embroiled in a complex criminal scheme that threatens both his life and others.

This film is a remake from the 1947 film noir classic Out of the Past, but it does not fare as well as the original. The main problem is that it requires the viewer to make some major leaps in logic and only proceeds to get more implausible as it goes along. The fact that both Jake and the team’s owner want to hire Terry to find Jessie is the biggest issue. Why would these two want to throw gobs of money at someone who has no experience in finding people or know the first thing about the process. They wouldn’t hire him to fix their car if he had no experience in that area, so why expect him to have any ability in finding a missing person. Professional private eyes have spent years tracking down people and have attained skills that a novice wouldn’t, so why not just leaf through the Yellow Pages of their local phone book and hire a private investigator with good credentials to do the job instead?

Terry also locates Jessie much too quickly. Mexico has a population of 125 million people and yet in only a couple days he miraculously spots her buying food from across the street from where he is having a drink. In equally miraculous fashion she is somehow able to, after only speaking to him briefly, figure out which hotel he is staying at and bursts into his room unannounced the next day, which is also dumb because who leaves their hotel room door unlocked especially when staying in a foreign country? Later the Alex Karras character is somehow able to find the two as they make love inside an ancient Mayan temple deep inside the remote jungles of the Yucatan, which again is highly questionable and probably even more implausible than the other two examples mentioned above.

The motivations of the characters are another issue. There’s a scene where the Swoosie Kurtz character, as a favor to Terry, goes into a dead man’s office to retrieve some important files from a safe while having a Doberman growling at her and a corrupt security guard ready to harm her at any second, but why someone would put their life on the line for somebody that they really don’t know that well is nebulous and in reality wouldn’t occur.

There is also a scene involving Jake and Terry drag racing down the busy streets of L.A. in broad daylight. Some fans of the film consider this to be quite exciting, but I found it to be unrealistic as it is hard to believe that they could get away with it without catching the eye of a traffic cop as they were doing it. Having two middle-aged men be so utterly reckless not only with their own lives but those of the other drivers is also hard to imagine and puts their most prized possessions, which is their snazzy sports cars in jeopardy of getting totaled. Going to some other less traveled place to do their off-road racing would’ve made more sense.

On the plus side Larry Carlton’s moody soundtrack is great and helps create just the right tone. I also thought Ward was a perfect choice for her role as she is quite sensual and seductive without ever overdoing it. The film also scores with its breathtaking Mexican scenery.

I liked that Greer, who starred in the original version, gets cast as Ward’s mother and although I felt Richard Widmark does quite well as the heavy I was disappointed that the role wasn’t offered to either Robert Mitchum or Kirk Douglas as they had appeared in the original as well.

The plot features many twists, which keeps it mildly interesting, but it also borders on getting convoluted and is never emotionally compelling. The ongoing love affair between the two leads ends up being annoying as well. For one thing she two-times him while also bailing on him the moment things got tough. If a person does that to someone once they will do it to them again if given the chance, so ‘losing’ her wasn’t much of a loss and makes the image of her crying for him, which gets shown over the closing credits, all the more melodramatic and over-the-top.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: March 2, 1984

Runtime: 2Hours 1Minute

Rated R

Director: Taylor Hackford

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD