Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel (1979)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bizarre occurrences at lodge.

Inspector Glebsky (Uldis Pucitis) is summoned to a remote winter lodge known as the Dead Mountaineers due to a climber who fell to his death off a nearby cliff and whose faithful St. Bernard sleeps underneath a portrait of him in the hotel’s lobby. Glebsky was informed from the anonymous call of some unusual activity that was occurring at the place, but once he gets there no one, including the innkeeper Alex (Juri Jarvet), know what he’s talking about. After he meets the strange collection of guests he becomes even more suspicious. Then he’s handed a note stating that Hinkus (Mikk Mikiver), a man supposedly weakened by tuberculosis, is planning to commit murder. When one of the guests, Olaf (Tiit Harm), does turn-up dead, but Hinkus is later found tied-up in his bed, so he couldn’t have done it. A avalanche blocks off all outside roads trapping Glebsky and the guests in the building where more and more weird things begin to occur until the inspector can no longer trust his senses, or even his logic.

Some people ask; what makes a great movie? And the answer is that a good movie needs a unique and distinctive image that impresses the viewer right from the start and which they can take away with them once it’s over. This film has just that image with a bird’s eye view of the hotel that’s so remote, as it’s nestled in the snowy, mountain landscape, and so small when glimpsed from high up, that at first I thought it was a prop, but it’s a real building, which makes it all the more impressive. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such an isolated place, it doesn’t even seem to have roads leading into it. This shot alone, of which it goes back to it a few times, brilliantly sets the tone for the rest of the movie where everything is totally unique and like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

The fact that this was all shot in what was then the Soviet Union, in this case what is now Kazakhstan, makes it even more jaw-dropping as productions there didn’t receive the same type of budget as a studio driven Hollywood one and yet the visual design is impeccable. The inside of the place has a pronounced, surreal look with excellent shadowy lighting and the special effects, while sparse, come into strong play during the climactic surprise ending that like with the beginning leaves an equally lasting impression. The music by Sven Grunberg has a distinct futuristic tone that helps accentuate the outer worldly quality while the sun glistening off the bright white snow during the outdoor scenes makes it seem almost like another planet.

The story was written by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky and based on their book of the same name. They’re better known for their novel ‘Roadside Picnic’, which was turned into the acclaimed Stalker directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. Both brothers also wrote the screenplay and it pretty much stays faithful to the book though there’s a few missing characters and Glebsky’s motivation for going to the lodge is different. Here it was due a mysterious phone call while in the book it was for vacation. The plot at first gets played-up like it’s just another police/murder investigation complete with interviews with potential suspects and even Agatha Christie-like flashbacks showing what each guest was doing when the murder occurred, which had me getting bored as the movie starts out as something really different, so to have it devolve into the conventional murder mystery was disappointing, but by the second act this all changes and that’s when it gets really interesting.

The acting is solid and I enjoyed Pucitis in the lead, who despite having his voice dubbed, has the perfect chiseled features of a hardened police detective. My only complaint, and it’s a minor one and probably the only one in this potential cult classic that desperately needs more attention and a Blu-ray/dvd release, comes at the beginning during Glebsky’s voice-over narration where he speaks in the present about his time at the hotel and how during a ‘slow shift’ the events that he witnessed there comes back to haunt him. I found it hard to believe that he’d only think about this when there was nothing else to do, or in this case a ‘slow shift’, as I’d think it would be on his mind all the time to the extent that he may never be able to go back to police work again as the events would’ve been too traumatizing.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: August 27, 1979

Runtime: 1 Hour 20 Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Grigori Kromanov

Studio: Tallinnfilm

Available: dvdlady

Honeymoon (1985)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Married to a stranger.

Cecile (Nathalie Baye) is a French woman living in New York City who’s at risk of having her Visa revoked due to being in a relationship with a recently arrested drug offender (Richard Berry). In order to help her remain in the country she gets involved with a shady, underground firm run by Novak (Peter Donat) who can marry her off to a stranger. Cecile is reluctant at first, but desperate enough to play along especially after she’s assured she’ll never actually see the man she is marrying and both parties are simply doing it for their own personal benefit. However, after she agrees to it and then returns home the man that is her fake husband, Zack Freestamp (John Shea), shows up at her doorstep and demands to be let in. He then takes over her apartment and acting like he’s her real husband and she’s obligated to play the role of the dutiful wife. She resists, but becomes increasingly hounded. Where ever she goes he follows and she can’t seem to ever shake-him. Due to being involved in an illegal activity she’s unable to go to the police and therefore must use her wits to outsmart him, which won’t be easy as Zack’s killed before and is used to getting what he wants.

This is one of those obscure movies, which was filmed on-location in New York, but by a French production company and thus making it a foreign film, where you wonder how it could’ve fallen through the cracks. It’s possible, as evidenced by the film’s promotional poster as seen above, that it was marketed to the wrong audience as you’d get the impression from looking at it that this was a horror/slasher film, which it’s not, and those coming to the theater expecting that were disappointed and thus gave it bad word-of-mouth. In either case it’s deserving of another look though not by those looking for a conventional thriller.

What impressed me had nothing really to do with the stalking element, but more the excellent performance by Baye, an award-winning performer in her native country though not too well known here. Her portrayal of a person lost in a cold, lonely environment really hits-home and you get a genuine feel for her desperation and how others in her same situation would react and think. If anything this movie should’ve been promoted as a drama that gives viewers insight to how foreigners that live in this country, but aren’t yet citizens, see our world and deal with the alienation, which I believe would’ve made this a critically acclaimed film instead of a forgotten one.

Shea’s casting is interesting as he’s cursed with having a boyishly cute face like he was snatched directly from a modeling agency and only given onscreen work due to his appearance over any actual talent. He had just been in Windy City where he played a sickingly sweet nice guy, so I’m sure he was determined to prove his acting range, and possibly even advised to do so by his agent, by taking a part completely different from that one. Does he succeed? Well, for the most part he’s competent, but the character would’ve been even more frightening had he been ugly instead of a pretty-boy.

Spoiler Alert!

The story fortunately doesn’t have too many loopholes and manages enough twists to keep it interesting though it does wear itself out by the end. My main complaint is the part where Cecile is taken by a blind date in his car to a darkened alley where he plans to assault her and yet she’s rescued by Zach who appears out of nowhere. I thought it was because he had again been following her, but no car that he was in is seen making it seem like he had just been in that alley by himself when they got there, but what would be the chances that out of the thousands of alleys in New York City they’d conveniently park at random at the one he was in?

There’s another scene where Zach’s being chased by the cops who are in a squad car while he’s on foot. He turns and shoots at them from behind and manages to hit the driver squarely in the head, but the prospect of him having such great aim while running is extremely low. Later a nervous and shaking Cecile shoots at someone and manages to nail-him right in the heart, but since she was clearly not confident in using a gum her great aim seemed implausible. I also didn’t care the chase through a house of mirrors at an abandoned carnival side show, which came-off as a rip-off of a similar one done in the classic Lady of Shanghai. Overall though it still has its solid moments and in need of more attention than its unfortunately gotten.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: November 20, 1985

Runtime: 1 Hour 38 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Patrick Jamain

Studio: Malofilm

Available: VHS

Cancel My Reservation (1972)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Celebrity accused of murder.

Dan (Bob Hope) is the exhausted TV-personality of a New York talk show that he co-hosts with his wife Sheila (Eva Marie Saint). The two have spent a lot of time bickering and on his Dr.’s advice decides he needs to retreat to a rural area to catch-up on some rest and relaxation. He travels to Arizona where he briefly meets Mary Little Cloud (Betty Ann Carr) at the Phoenix airport. Later on when he arrives at the ranch he discovers Mary’s dead body in his bedroom. When he goes back to the living room to notify the police and then returns to the bedroom her body is gone. Later the police find her corpse in the back of his car and immediately arrest him on the suspicion of murder. Now out on bond he and Sheila must follow the clues in order to solve the case themselves to prevent him from spending the rest of his life in the slammer.

This marked Hope’s last starring vehicle and may be close to being the worst film he did. Reports were that at the premiere he kept complaining to his wife that he looked too old on the screen and felt he was no longer leading man material. A lot of the fault for this goes to Hope himself had he played a character his same age, like a grandpa who enjoys spending his retirement being an amateur sleuth, then it might’ve worked, but instead he tries to play-it like he’s a middle-aged guy, which is just absurd. This comes to a ridiculous head right at the start when he’s brought into the police station and the sheriff, played by Keenan Wynn, asks him his age and Hope, who looks every bit of the 68 years of age that he was, replies that he’s ’42’. I had to actually rewind the film just to make sure I heard it right and the cops don’t look at him with an incredulous look like anyone else would’ve, which makes this the funniest moment in the film even though it’s unintentional.

Pairing with Saint was another mistake. Originally he was supposed to re-team with Lucille Ball, but at the last minute changed course and decided to go with Saint. Presumably this was again for his own vanity as he thought playing a character with a hot, youthful-looking blonde would make him come-off appearing younger even though it does the exact opposite and just makes him seem even older, like an aging daddy going out with his daughter. The two share no chemistry and Saint lacks the comic ability that Ball could’ve brought. The two don’t even fight. They do a little bit at the start while they’re still in New York, but once they reach Arizona they get along even though having them bicker would’ve at least allowed some comic banter, which is otherwise lacking.

The story, which is based on a Louis L’Amour novel ‘The Broken Gun’, is uninspired and gives away the identity of the killer half-way through. What’s the use of sitting through a mystery if you know well before it’s over who the bad guy is? Paul Bogart’s direction has no visual style with bland sets that would be better suited for a TV-sitcom than the big screen.

Hope’s voice-over narration are the only amusing bits. There’s also a dream segment where Hope imagines himself being hung in front of a large group of onlookers, which amongst the crowd is Johnny Carson, Bing Crosby, and John Wayne, who say brief quips as they watch the noose being fitted around his neck, which is the film’s only diverting sequence. I came away thinking it would’ve been more interesting had Carson, Crosby, and Wayne starred in the film alongside Hope playing a group of actors set to do a film, but then turn detectives when one of the cast gets murdered. It might not have been perfect, but certainly couldn’t have been any worse than this.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: September 21, 1972

Runtime: 1 Hour 39 Minutes

Rated G

Director: Paul Bogart

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS

Jimmy the Kid (1982)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Inept kidnappers bungle crime.

Jimmy (Gary Coleman) is the son of a singing duo (Cleavon Little, Fay Hauser) who feels neglected while his parents are out on the road singing in concerts. Kelp (Walter Olkewicz) is an inept would-be crook who’s finding it a struggle to successfully commit any crime. He then reads a book about kidnapping and convinces his reluctant brother John (Paul Le Mat), John’s girlfriend May (Dee Wallace) and even his own mother Bernice (Ruth Gordon) to get in on it. Their plan is to kidnap Jimmy and hide him out in a secluded cabin in the woods while extorting money from his rich parents for ransom. The problem is that Jimmy is quite intelligent for his age and outsmarts the crooks at every turn, but also forms a bond with them and they to him, so when his father and the private investigator (Don Adams) comes looking for him in order to ‘rescue him’ he resists their attempts.

The film is based on a Donald E. Westlake novel and while many of his books that were turned into movies were quite entertaining this one isn’t. The same story was filmed before in 1976 as Come Ti Rapisco Pupo and although that was no classic either at least was better than this version, which tries too hard to attract the family audience by being about as benign as you can get. Even a kiddie flick, at least the good ones, need some genuine tension and excitement, to keep the interest going. Classic kid’s films like Benji had some stressful moments where it seem like the kids, who had also been kidnapped, where in danger and you worried for their safety, which got the viewer emotionally caught up in it and intrigued enough to keep watching. This film though makes it quite clear from the start that the bad guys are too stupid to pull-it-off and the kid is never in any kind of real trouble, so the interest level is virtually nil. The crooks are also too dumb to be believable making their clueless remarks and pratfalls more eye-rolling than funny.

The supporting cast is filled with ‘zany characters’ that are equally pathetic. I’ll give some credit to Cleavon who goes out on stage with his wife wearing a get-up that looks like he’s apart of a soul duo, but instead sings a country-tinged song that wasn’t half-bad, Pat Morita as the legally blind limo driver though is ridiculous. I think his part was put-in to give the thing some action by showing all sorts of car pile-ups that he causes as he drives, but no sane person would ever get into a car with him and his ability to hold onto a job as a driver and not be arrested for endangering others, would-be non-existent.

Coleman is especially boring and never says or does anything that’s especially funny. Having him be this super smart kid gets played-up too much and is neither fun, nor amusing. He also shows no character arc other than supposedly ‘learning to be a kid’ though we don’t really see this, which in a good movie would be, but instead verbally explained by Coleman. The movie should’ve had a moment where the crooks, despite their dumbness, knew something that the kid, despite his smartness, didn’t because of the fact that they’d been around longer and a little more worldy-wise, which could’ve lent some insightful irony, but the stupid script wasn’t savvy enough to even go there.

The only two good things about the film are Don Adams and Ruth Gordon. For Adams he plays basically just an extension of his more famous Maxwell Smart persona even having him wear the same type of trench coat. While his pratfalls inside the home of Jimmy’s parents where he inadvertently tears-up the place borders on inane, the scenes where he dresses in drag are actually kind of funny. For Gordon you get to see her, at the age of 85, climb-up a telephone pole. While I’d presume they didn’t really make her do it and just filmed it in a way that made it appear like she did, it still ends-up looking authentic and she says some amusing things as she does, but outside of these two brief moments the movie clunks.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: November 12, 1982

Runtime: 1 Hour 25 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Gary Nelson

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: VHS

Move (1970)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Relocating to another apartment.

Hiram (Elliot Gould) dreams of being a successful playwright, but is only able to find work writing sex stories for adult magazines. He and his wife Dolly are both bored in their marriage, but find no alternatives, so they continue to exist in a union that no longer has any zing. They also prepare to move into another apartment, but complications with the movers and repeatedly strange phone calls from a man claiming to be holding their stuff hostage, only increases Hiram’s ongoing anxiety. Just when things begin to look completely bleak he bumps into a beautiful young lady (Genevieve Waite) one day while walking a dog. Just like a plot in one of his sex stories she invites him back to her apartment for an afternoon of unbridled passion. Hiram enjoys the visit and returns the next day for a rendezvous, but finds she no longer is there and no one he asks knows who she is. Was she simply a fleeting stranger, or a product of his over-active imagination?

While I’m a fan of quirky, offbeat comedies from the early 70’s this one doesn’t hit-the-mark. It’s quite similar in theme and style to Little Murdersa dark comedy that dealt with the alienation of living in New York City and also starred Gould, as well as The Steagleabout a man who enlivens his otherwise mundane life by living out wild fantasies in his head.  Both those movies had a far faster pace, which is what a zany comedy needs, and were able to distinguish the fantasy elements from the real-life. Here it gets confusing and you can’t tell it’s a dream until well into the segment. Since the rest of the movie is slow and boring the fantasy moments needed to be over-the-top to make-up for it, but instead they get underplayed making the whole thing a big, pointless mess.

Much of the blame could be squarely placed on 20th Century Fox who paid $85,000 for the rights to the novel before it had even been published. The studio execs apparently felt that the theme of apartment living in New York was trendy enough to be worth taking a risk on before even knowing if the story itself was workable. They labeled it ‘dirty Barefoot in the Park’ and gave the book’s author, Joel Lieber, who jumped to his death from his Upper West side apartment just a year later, the job of writing the screenplay. However, his lacking a background in screenwriting shows as there’s no cohesive structure. Assigning Stuart Rosenberg to direct, who up until then had solely focused on dramas, only helped to cement this thing into the disaster that it became.

I did enjoy the wild costume party that Gould goes to near the end where all the guests, many of them seen earlier in character roles, wear tasteless and provocative stuff, but the film doesn’t stay on this segment long enough to make sitting through the dull drivel that comes before it worth it. Waite, who’s the mother of Bijou Phillips and former girlfriend of Mama’s and Papa’s lead singer John Phillips, does offer some unique energy during her moments, which are alas too brief. Otherwise nothing else works. There needed to be more of a clear point to what we were seeing for instance revolving around all the crazy mishaps that can occur during a move, which could’ve been both funny and original, but examining the inner turmoil of the main character, in a medium that places emphasis on the visual, was a problematic idea that should never have been green-lit.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: July 31, 1970

Runtime: 1 Hour 29 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Stuart Rosenberg

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD-R

Stanley: Every Home Should Have One (1984)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Trying to be normal.

Stanley (Peter Bensley) is a lovable eccentric living on a boat for the past 10 years whose had limited contact with the outside world. His father Sir Stanley (Michael Craig) is a powerful business tycoon who wants his son to take over his company, but after Stanley tries to get the board members to eat dog food his father decides he’s wants his son committed until he can learn to be ‘normal’. Stanley doesn’t want to be put away, so he escapes from his father and moves-in with an adopted suburban family who he hopes can teach him the finer points of normalcy, only to find they are more screwed-up than he is. In the meantime his father hires his butler (Max Cullen), who at one time used to work for the secret service, to track Stanley down and bring him back.

Quirky might be an understatement for this odd comedy with an unusual sense of humor that some viewers might not appreciate, or even get. The script hinges on a lot of non-sequiturs and offbeat situations that are loosely tied together. The emphasis is on odd points-of-view that may appeal to some . For those who are game it kind of works with a fresh indie vibe though by the end it wears itself out.

The main character is likable, but not as unique as he should’ve been. He only acts bizarre at the beginning, but after that becomes pretty normal and only reacts and responds to the goofy people around. The film’s title acts like he’s ‘special’, but really he’s not. In fact Graham Kennedy and Sue Walker, who play the married couple he moves-in with, are far funnier and the movie should’ve centered entirely around them as they’re the only two that get any genuine laughs.

Stanley’s romance with Amy (Nell Campbell), a woman he meets at an employment agency, is a subplot that wasn’t needed. Amy comes-off as cold and prickly and her sister Sheryl (Lorna Lesley) seemed to be a better fit as she conveyed the same wide-eyed optimistic approach to life as Stanley while Amy was the complete opposite. His constant badgering her for a date makes him seem like a creepy stalker who won’t take ‘no’ for answer. Having her eventually cave to Stanley’s unending persistence sends the wrong type of message making it seem like harassment is a ‘good thing’ and can get the other person to eventually ‘fall-in-love’ with them if done right when in reality it almost always leads to a restraining order instead.

The film’s theme is the same as the one in the 60’s cult classic King of Hearts, where the ‘crazy’ people are actually the normal ones while those that are considered ‘normal’ are really screwed-up, but the message here is handled in a heavy-handed way and not particularly insightful. The comedy itself dies-out by the final third culminating in a tired, slapstick chase that doesn’t even include Stanley’s incredibly tiny red car, which was the only interesting element in the film and should’ve been used more for comic effect.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: March 6, 1984

Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Esben Storm

Studio: Seven Keys

Available: None

The Check is in the Mail (1986)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Suburban man drops-out.

Richard (Brian Dennehy) is a married father who’s finding the suburban American Dream not as satisfying as he thought. While he does live a semi-comfortable existence the bills and other demands are making him stressed and he feels the only way to fight it is by dropping-out. He turns his front lawn into a vegetable garden, buys goats and chickens, and even turn-off the electricity. While this gives him some local fame and even a subject of a TV-news report, it does not go-off well with the rest of his family, but Richard, who used to be a social activist during his college days, feels the need to stay the course.

While the film has an interesting premise, the script, which was written by Robert Kaufman, who had success in the early part of his career, but was clearly slumming by this point, goes nowhere. It takes almost 40-minutes in before the dropping-out part even begins and before that meanders around in a lot of loosely related stuff that makes it seem almost like a sketch comedy and not a cohesive story. Certain elements, like Richard’s gambling problems, get glossed over and the film makes no attempt at analyzing anything in any type of realistic way.

With that said there were a few funny bits. The chant that Richard starts and gets others to follow along at an airport is good. Him taking the his car out for a spin in order to test out the supposedly repaired brakes while the forcing the mechanic (Richard Foronjy) to ride along is entertaining too. I also got a kick out of Richard vacationing in Hawaii and sleeping overnight by the pool in order to be able to get a deck chair and how everyone is so desperate to get one and keep it that when a man who cannot swim jumps into the pool no one tries to save him even his own wife for fear they’ll lose their seat. The neighbor’s birthday party, which gets disrupted by Richard’s goats and chickens, who inadvertently raid the place via an open window, is quite funny and the best part of the movie. There are though some really dumb moments like Richard’s wife (Anne Archer) visiting a psychiatrist (Harry Townes) that gets needlessly prolonged, cliched, and not necessary.

Dennehy is likable and while consumers getting upset and losing their temper in public at modern-day inconveniences was a little more socially acceptable then than it is now, as this behavior could get him labled a ‘male Karen’ by today’s standards, he’s able to pull it-off in a way that makes you want to cheer for him instead of judging him as being ‘entitled’. Dick Shawn and Nita Talbot appear late in the film as Dennehy’s neighbors in scenes shot after the main production had wrapped and done by a different director (Ted Kotcheff). While these moments help give energy to a film that otherwise flat-lines, and Shawn even ad-libs, it still would’ve been better had they been introduced earlier.

Dropping-out is certainly something that everyone has secretly thought of at one time or another, but this film doesn’t do it justice. It fails to dig deeply into the subject and misses out on a lot of potentially unique scenarios and insights. The result is a mish-mash of quirky concepts that doesn’t add up to much and fails to makes any type of meaningful, or impactful statement.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 2, 1986

Runtime: 1 Hour 22 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Joan Darling, Ted Kotcheff (uncredited)

Studio: Ascot Entertainment Group

Available: VHS

Eat and Run (1987)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Alien eats Italian people.

Murray (R.L. Ryan) is a large, bald-headed creature from another planet who begins devouring any Italian person that comes along. This started when he ate some Italian food and liked it so much he decided that the people who made it must be good to eat too. Mickey (Ron Silver) is a police detective trying to find out why so many Italians in the city are disappearing. He begins an affair with Cheryl (Sharon Sharth) a judge who has a propensity of letting criminals off with light sentences. When Mickey arrests the creature it was found-out that his rights were violated when Mickey read him his Miranda warning in English despite the fact that the alien didn’t understand the language, which causes Cheryl to drop all charges against him. She then dumps Mickey for the creature and the two move in together. Their relationship goes well initially until the alien realizes that Cheryl is Italian and thus begins eyeing her as his next meal. Can Mickey save her before she gets eaten?

This is yet another example of an Airplane-wanna-be that mimics the same rapid-fire jokey-style of that film, but was written by those who didn’t have the clever sense of humor of the Zucker brothers to pull it off. This one was done by the father and son team of Stan and Christopher Hart. Stan had spent years writing for ‘Mad’ magazine as well as winning several Emmys for his work on the ‘Carol Burnett Show’, but his humor is dated. I’m okay with some jokes misfiring, but it went 15-minutes in before I even chuckled a little. The gags are quite corny and done with a lack of style or creativity. It also relies on a lot of running jokes, like Mickey’s tendency to narrate the movie while talking to himself, which annoys those around him, which wasn’t funny the first time it happened, and proceeds to get redundant and stupid the more it continues.

The film lacks cohesive logic. I realize this was supposed to be just a silly movie, but the concept should be thought-out at least a little. For instance, where did this alien come from and how did he get here? None of this gets shown, or answered. It’s like the Harts were more concerned with dishing-out lame gags and couldn’t be bothered with the basic foundations for a story. For that matter, why does the alien always spit out the buttons worn on the shirts of his victims after he’s eaten them? Is it because they’re too hard to digest and if so why doesn’t he also spit out their watches and belt buckles as I’d presume they wouldn’t agree with his stomach either.

There’s no special effects to speak of. Normally I’d complain with movies like these that they compromise too much on the gore, but this film doesn’t even attempt to show it. The creature just approaches the victim, exposes his razor sharp teeth, and then the camera cuts away while he eats them, which takes only seconds even though animals that eat large prey can take a long time to chew-up their victims, so having it done so quickly is a cop-out.

I have no idea why Silver would’ve taken on this project as he had already starred-in several Hollywood produced productions, so he didn’t need to do low budget work to make an income. My guess is that he wanted to take a stab at comedy and the Hollywood producers wouldn’t let him, so he had to turn to the indie route to find any takers. The experiment though doesn’t work. Silver just isn’t cut-out to be funny and if anything gets upstaged by the tubby lesser known Ryan who steals each scene he’s in without ever speaking a word of dialogue.

The film’s biggest travesty though is that it features a mime. I was hoping at least that the creature would eat him as retribution to all those who find them universally annoying and yet this stupid movie can’t even do that. Had the mime been killed-off  I would’ve given it higher marks, but when that didn’t happen it cemented this as being a complete dud.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: February 20, 1987

Runtime: 1 Hour 25 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Christopher Hart

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: DVD (Region 4)

Gold (1974)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Flooding a gold mine.

Manfred (Bradford Dillman) is part owner of a South African gold mine, who has colluded with London bankers to have the mine destroyed. The plan is for the miners to drill into an underground water reservoir, which will then flood it. Manfred and the London syndicate will make a profit by quietly selling their shares of this mine while buying up shares in competing mines whose price will most assuredly go up once this one is no longer usable. To achieve this they must trick the miners into believing that there is gold underneath the water and that by drilling into it won’t cause their demise. They hire Rod (Roger Moore) as the miner’s new supervisor, whom they feel won’t be smart enough to catch-on to the scheme, but he proves sharper than they expected especially as he has an affair with Manfred’s wife Terry (Susannah York).

This film, which at the time was considered controversial as it was filmed on-location in South Africa while apartheid was still happening, and based on the novel ‘Gold Mine’ by Wilbur Smith, which in-turn was loosely based on the real-life incident that occurred in 1968, is deserving of a second-look. Filming it at an actual mine is the most impressive thing about it. The cast and crew were forced to go down 2-miles into the shaft and the camera follows the grim, black walls of the cave as the elevator takes them down and it’s really stunning how long it goes until they reach bottom and how the cave walls continuously streak across the screen the further they go. I’m not one to ever feel claustrophobic, but watching this gave me that sensation, which effectively gives you the idea of what the miners would’ve felt each time they went. The climactic flooding is equally hair-raising and the beginning segment where the process of refining the gold is shown over the opening credits is also quite fascinating.

Moore, who had just completed filming of his first James Bond installment, Live and Let Die, is excellent and I enjoyed the way he keeps it serious and doesn’t revert to any jokey quips like he did when he played Bond and his characterization here is how he should’ve handled 007. This is the first of two films that he did with York as the two would re-team later in the year for That Lucky Toucha romantic comedy that’s inferior to this one. York’s character here, where she plays a jaded and cool socialite is a more interesting and proves what a great actress she was as it’s completely unlike the part of the scared, pensive person that she was in The Killing of Sister George

Ray Milland, as the elderly, cantankerous, mine owner is great and there’s excellent support by Simon Sabela, better known as being South Africa’s first black film director, who plays Big King a large man who teams with Moore to single-handily save the mine. Dillman is the only detriment as his stale villainous presence doesn’t add much and would’ve been better played by Tony Beckley, whose sneering facial expression alone would’ve made him more suitable instead of stifling him into a small bit though his attempts to run Dillman down with his car at the end is still effective.

The DVD restoration is the only negative as it’s faded color and graininess makes it resemble a cheap production, which it really isn’t. The version used for Amazon streaming is the same as the DVD, which is unfortunate as the film deserves a quality Blu-ray release and hopefully one will be coming at some point.

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My Rating: 7 out of 10

Release: September 5, 1974

Runtime: 2 Hours

Rated PG

Director: Peter R. Hunt

Studio: Allied Artists Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, Tubi

Windy City (1984)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Keeping the gang together.

Danny (John Shea) is a struggling writer living in Chicago. When he was young he had big dreams of being a best-selling novelist, but now that he’s older he’s finding adulthood to be a lot tougher than he thought. He’s also broken-up with his longtime girlfriend Emily (Kate Capshaw) and dealing with his best friend Sol (Josh Mostel) who’s dying of leukemia. He wants the gang from childhood to get together one last time and take Sol out on the lake in a sailboat ride and pretend that they are pirates. Sol always fantasized about being one when they were kids and Danny wants to do something special for him before he passes-away, which could be at any time, but the other friends now have family and job obligations to meet and don’t think they’ll be able to make the trip, which Danny finds disappointing.

This was yet another entry in a string of films that came out in the early 80’s dealing with the baby boomers growing out of their 60’s hippie phase and into the less idealistic adulthood years of the 80’s. While none of them were all that great this one ranks at the bottom and a lot of the reason for it is that it’s too shallow. Star Shea, who looks almost exactly like Micheal Ontkean, is a perfect example as he looks like someone snatched off of a model magazine cover and his character displays no faults of any kind. He’s so caring, gracious and generous, which along with his pristine pretty-boy looks, make it almost nauseating. He does have insecurity in regards to his writing, but every writer has this and thus the arguing that culminates from this with his girlfriend becomes quite redundant and doesn’t propel the story.

Maintaining the same clique of friends that you had growing-up isn’t realistic. At least in The Big Chill it analyzed how the member’s of the old college gang had changed and how they weren’t as close as they were and that this was inevitable even though this film acts like somehow it can be overcome, which it can’t. Sol is the only interesting member and the story should’ve been centered around him and maybe one, or two close friends from the old crew that have remained together while the rest moved-on, which would’ve been more authentic. The extra friends don’t add much anyways and respond and say predictable cliched stuff making them more like clutter than anything.

Danny’s relationship with Emily is superficial too and there’s no concrete reason is given, or shown to what caused their break-up. Danny’s inability to move-on from her and the way he snoops into her window late at night would make him a creepy stalker by today’s standards. Having him careen down the streets of Chicago in a desperate attempt to stop her wedding, like in The Graduate, which gets mentioned, is pathetic. I was impressed though when he tries to jump over a drawbridge, which I thought, since this film is so irritatingly romanticized, that he would make, but instead he goes right into the river, which is the best part of the whole movie. ..it’s just a shame he didn’t stay there.

I did enjoy the picturesque scenery of Chicago, but felt there needed to be more of it especially since the city’s nickname is in the film’s title. I did get a kick out of the football game in the park that the guys play. Usually when a bunch of middle-agers get together for a game it’s rather informal, but here they had actual refs and even spectators, which I found amusing. The rest of the movie though is strained and will have many rolling-their-eyes. The best example of this is when Sol tells Danny that he’ll send him sign after he’s dead, in this case blowing Danny’s hat off of his head, so I knew right away when he says this that a scene of Danny’s hat getting blown-off and him looking up into the heaven’s will occur at the very end and sure enough that’s exactly what happens, which makes this film not only rampantly corny, but also painfully predictable though female viewers may rate it more favorably.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: September 21, 1984

Runtime: 1 Hour 43 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Armyan Bernstein

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS