Tag Archives: 70’s Movies

Night Watch (1973)

night watch 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Murder in the window.

Ellen Wheeler (Elizabeth Taylor) is an emotionally unstable woman recovering from a nervous breakdown. Her first husband died in a car crash along with his young lady lover. Now her second husband John (Laurence Harvey) is fooling around with Ellen’s best friend Sara (Billie Whitelaw). One night Ellen witnesses a murder at the abandoned house next door, but because of Ellen’s past mental state no one believes her. Even the police doubt her story, which starts to send her over-the-edge.

I saw this play about a year ago with a group of friends at a local church. It was written by Lucille Fletcher best known for having done Sorry Wrong Number, which was later turned into a classic film starring Barbra Stanwyck. Although the play started out slowly the twist ending was impressive and something no one in the audience had predicted, but what I liked even better was that when you went back and thought about it, it made perfect sense. I thought at the time that it would make a great movie and was interested in seeing what this film did with it. I felt that there was no way they could screw up such a great story, but somehow they managed to do it.

Director Brian G. Hutton adds a lot of elements to make it more cinematic that should have helped it, but it really doesn’t. I liked the flashback sequences showing the car crash of the first husband as well as Ellen visiting the hospital and identifying the bodies. These segments have a good nightmarish visual quality to them, but Hutton goes back to it too often and eventually wears it out. I also liked that the film shows the police inspecting the inside of the abandoned home, which in the play you never see, but I felt they could have done a lot more to make the place seem more distinct and creepy. There is also a skirmish between two people inside the place at the end that you can hear, but not see because it is too dark and shadowy, which was annoying. The music is effectively creepy, but it also has a ringing quality that quickly becomes irritating and gets way over-played.

This was just one of the many misfires that Taylor did during the 70’s that helped extinguish her otherwise illustrious career long before it should’ve. This one fares slightly better than the others, but not by much. Her affected British accent could seem annoying to some and sounds kind of like the put-on one that Madonna sometimes does although for the record Taylor’s is better than hers. Liz’s emotionalism is a bit too theatrical and may come off as unintentionally funny to certain viewers although seeing her go completely nutty is impressive and fun.

Harvey is all wrong as the husband. His cold, detached presence can work in certain roles, but definitely not in this one. In the play that I saw the actor cast in this part looked more middle-aged with a spare tire stomach, balding head, and graying sideburns, which is what I felt the role called for. This is a character that is overburdened with a stressful job and unstable wife and yet Harvey shows none of this. His slick black hair and turtleneck shirts, which were fashionable at the time, make him look like someone still going out to the trendy nightclubs to pick up young chicks… or guys.

Whitelaw is one of the best British character actresses of all-time, but her talents are wasted with a part that doesn’t allow her to show any range. Her blonde hairdo is nice, but Taylor’s histrionics dominate the proceedings and unceremoniously push Whitelaw into the background.

The play had a lot of humor especially with the Mr. Appleby character played here by actor Robert Lange. Unfortunately the movie turns it into a serious drama making it seem more like a soap opera instead of a mystery. I came away from this feeling that the live production that I had seen was far more entertaining and intriguing. I would suggest to viewers to skip this film and wait for a chance to see it done as a play as the movie does not do the story justice.

night watch 1

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: August 9, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Brian G. Hutton

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video

The Goodbye Girl (1977)

the goodbye girl 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Goodbye doesn’t mean forever.

Paula (Marsha Mason) is a ‘dumped on’ single parent, whose live-in boyfriend has just left her, and now must contend with Elliot (Richard Dreyfuss) a rather obnoxious man who is subletting the apartment. Despite long odds the two end up ‘falling in love’ in this rather obvious, mechanical love story that is finely tuned to the female, especially those from that era. (The macho guy viewer will have run out of the room long before David Gates even has a chance to sing his soft rock title tune).

This was made when writer Neil Simon was still considered in vogue, although his patented one-liners are sparse and when they do come they are more cute than funny. This in some ways seems a retooling of his earlier ‘lovers in a New York apartment’ film Barefoot in the Park. Only here it’s a little rougher around the edges so it can appeal to a ‘hip’ audience. No clean-cut, cutesy newlyweds instead these people are more jaded to modern sensibilities and will routinely live with their partner even when they are not quite yet divorced.

If you can get past a rather strong late 70’s feel (gotta love that Fonzi poster hanging in the bedroom) then the characters remain solid and believable. No beautiful models living lavish and exciting lifestyles. These are average people just trying to make ends meet and find a little happiness along the way. It also doesn’t just show them when they are together, but also when they are out and alone in the ‘real world’, which allows us a rounded and sympathetic view of them.

Dreyfuss basically plays his usual opinionated, abrasive self. Whether the viewer sees the intended charm underneath is completely up to their own personal tolerance. His performance is good, but not exactly screaming for an Academy Award, which he won anyway, but then poked fun of it when he later hosted ‘Saturday Night Live’ on May 13, 1978.

Mason, who at the time was married to Simon, is the one who should have won it. Her performance is both believable and fluid. You truly see a lot of everyday people in her characterization and she clearly carries the film.

Quinn Cummings, as Paula’s daughter, is cute without being too precocious. Her sensibilities help compensate for the sometimes emotional immaturity of her adult counterparts. Though it really looks and seems dumb to have a ten year old still smearing food on the edges of her mouth and wearing a big napkin around her neck while eating.

Although I don’t always have a great eye for continuity errors this one has a doozy. When Dreyfuss comes home one night drunk he knocks over a table with a lot of stuff on it. He sticks his head out the window to shout something into the night air and then two seconds later comes back to where the table is standing and everything on it is neatly set.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: November 30, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 51Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Herbert Ross

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Wake in Fright (1971)

wake in fright 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: The middle of nowhere.

To an extent this is a one of kind film that is handled in such a raw and unpretentious way that it is like no other film you have ever seen before. The opening shot alone is amazing. You see a birdseye view of an isolated schoolhouse in the outback where our main character teaches. The camera then turns at a full circle and you see that there is absolutely nothing for miles in any direction. The desolation is mind boggling and it’s isolation at its purest.

Not only does this very inspired shot get its point across, but it also becomes the essence of what the film is about by trying to get you to understand the ruggedness of its characters by immersing you into their environment. It’s an uncompromising film full of startling images.

The story deals with a British schoolteacher John Grant (Gary Bond) who, through a loss in gambling, becomes trapped in the isolated outback town of Bundanyabba. He is cultured and educated and his sensibilities can’t mesh with the raw simplistic elements of the people in it.

It’s a highly intriguing viewpoint that not only captures man’s ever daunting task at dealing with nature, but also the overall reality of his existence and even himself. It makes you feel you are right there experiencing the same onslaught with him. There are also some interesting low key scenes proving that one of the biggest hurdles one must fight when in these places is actually just the boredom.

I do have to warn readers that the film has a very prolonged brutally explicit kangaroo hunting scene that features the actual killing of the animals. It even shows the men physically beating up on some wounded kangaroo’s and then viciously slashing their throats in a mocking fashion. Although I do feel that these scenes leave the viewer with the intended strong, raw impact and I like the lighting during the nighttime hunt that allows for a surreal element I still admit this may be a very difficult watch for some and may turn them off from viewing the film altogether. Apparently there were quite a few people that walked out of the film during this scene when it was shown at the Cannes, so be prepared.

Star Bond is excellent. You can relate to his anger and defiance at being somewhere he doesn’t want to be as well as feeling his desperation, exhaustion, and eventual surrender.

For many years this film sat in almost virtual obscurity, but after an exhaustive worldwide search a print of the film was finally found in the back of a Pittsburgh warehouse in a canister with a ‘to be destroyed’ label on it. Fortunately the print was saved and the restoration process is fantastic with colors that are bright and vivid. Director Ted Kotcheff captures the region in all of its rustic, desolate glory including the incredible crystal blue sky.

Reportedly many Aussies dislike the film as they feel it creates a negative stereotype. However, I don’t see it that way. I love the county and people and consider this more of a portrait of what happens when people are stuck in an isolated environment, which technically could be anywhere.

wake in fright 2

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Alternate Title: Outback

Released: October 13, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ted Kotcheff

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD (Region 1 & 2) Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Pulp (1972)

pulp

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Running for his life.

Michael Caine and director Mike Hodges teamed up again one year after doing the gritty classic Get Carter with this breezy oddity dealing with a pulp fiction writer Mickey King (Caine) who is hired to pen the autobiography of ex-Hollywood star Preston Gilbert (Mickey Rooney) who is now living in exile in Malta. The problem is that Gilbert has ties to the underworld and Mickey soon finds himself running for his life while meeting up with a barrage of oddball characters along the way.

The movie has a wonderfully quirky sense of humor with a few memorable laugh-out-loud sequences especially at the beginning. I got a real kick out of the man with a weak bladder who says a prayer to God to open up a locked bathroom door when he can’t get into it. The scene in the bus where we hear the different thoughts going on inside each of the passenger’s heads is great as well. The opening sequence featuring a row of lady typists writing up King’s latest manuscript is cute, but the one thing that holds it all together is Caine’s wry voice-over narration that remains consistently amusing.

Rooney though manages to steal the whole thing with his hilarious send-up of an aging actor. In fact this may be one of the funniest roles of his entire career. Even the scene showing him shadow boxing in his underwear is engaging although thankfully the camera doesn’t stay on it for too long. I was a bit disappointed that the character didn’t last through the film’s duration, but his death scene is so funny that it almost makes up for it.

It is nice to see Lizabeth Scott in her last film to date and first since 1957 when she was essentially blacklisted from Hollywood purportedly for her lesbian leanings. Although only 50 at the time her aging face looked like she was almost 70 and her deep, raspy voice sounded similar to the demon’s in The Exorcist. I thought she could’ve been given more to do and played a character that was more integral to the story as her screen time is much too brief.

The on-location shooting done on the island nation of Malta is another asset. The sunny weather has a nice exotic feel and the old architecture of the buildings helps give the film a visual distinction. The melodic piano soundtrack is pleasing and I wished it had been heard a little bit more.

The story is full of a lot of unexpected twists and turns that manages to be engaging for a while, but I felt it runs out of steam by the end. During the final 15 minutes I found myself a bit bored and no longer caught up in it. While I do like the scene where the gunmen gets run over by a pick-up and shown from the point-of-view of the driver I still felt that the ending lacked the finesse and quirkiness of the beginning. The offbeat ideas that writer/director Hodges showers into the film become dried up with a finish that lacks any payoff and unfortunately sullies what is otherwise an offbeat gem waiting to be discovered.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: August 4, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Mike Hodges

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Wolf Lake (1978)

wolf lake 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: He doesn’t like deserters.

Charlie (Rod Steiger) is a hard-bitten conservative man who lost his 23-year-old son in the Vietnam War. He likes to vacation with a couple of his middle-aged buddies Wilbur (Jerry Hardin) and George (Richard Herd) at a remote Canadian hunting lodge. However, this time when they arrive they find that the regular lodge owner is not there and instead it is being run by a young man named David (David Huffman) and his pretty girlfriend Linda (Robin Mattson). Charlie and David almost immediately are at odds as they both share a wide variance in age and political leanings. What is worse is the fact that David is a war deserter and once Charlie finds out about this he flies into a rage of psychotic proportions, which culminates in a violent night of terror for both David and his girlfriend.

The film was written and directed by the normally reliable Burt Kennedy who is better known for doing westerns. After watching this I think he should have stayed in that genre as this film is too formulaic and one-dimensional. There seems to be too much emphasis to conform to the horror movie/slasher style formula of that era with a plot set-up that is too brief and character development that is almost non-existent. The story shows its cards too quickly and then proceeds to just plod on and on until it climaxes with a predictable and boring finish.

Charlie and David’s arguments and confrontations fail to elicit any type of tension. Their shouting matches are rhetorical and redundant and their points-of-view are handled at a superficial level that allows for no new insight, or intellectual debate. Charlie is so limited in his stubbornness that he becomes annoying instead of threatening, or scary.

The final 25 minutes when the two sides wage a proverbial war between their two cabins is the only time that there is any action. However, by then I was completely bored with the proceedings and so emotionally detached from the third rate material that it was a strain just getting through it. The film’s ultimate message is heavy-handed and done so much better in other films on the same subject that it renders this excursion as pointless.

Steiger is wasted. The character he plays is poorly defined and doesn’t allow him to take full advantage of his acting abilities. He gets stuck with another one of his many wigs this one looking like the same type of gray haired rug that actor Ray Milland used to wear in his later years. The producers should have just allowed him to appear bald as it would have fit this type of part better and even made him look creepier and more menacing.

Huffman is the best thing about this movie and it is a shame that his life and career were cut short when he was murdered in 1985 while trying to chase down a suspected purse snatcher. His performance here is nicely understated, which helps carry the picture as he is the only character that is multi-faceted.

Although the story takes place in Canada and the landscape certainly looks Canadian I was surprised to learn that it was actually filmed near the city of Creel in Chihuahua, Mexico, which due to its high elevation has a climate that is more similar to the North’s.

SPOILER ALERT

There are actually two different versions of this film. There is this one and another one entitled The Honor Guard. In that one there are no flashback scenes like there are here and in the end Charlie ends up killing David and his girlfriend while in this version Linda shoots Charlie before falling over dead herself. I actually liked the flashbacks that are used as it gives the film what little suspense it has and also shows a bit of cinematic flair. However, the scene where Linda miraculously comes up with a gun and killing Charlie before keeling over looked cheesy and clichéd and I might actually have voted for the alternate ending.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: May 3, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 25Minutes

Rated R

Director: Burt Kennedy

Studio: Melvin Simon Productions

Available: VHS

W. C. Fields and Me (1976)

W. C. Fields and me

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Fields had a girlfriend.

Based on the memoirs from Carlotta Monti who was W.C. Field’s (Rod Steiger) companion for 14 years this film looks at their relationship as well as W.C.’s alcoholism and difficult personality.

This biography is highly romanticized and very light on the details. Apparently only one scene from the book is actually used in the movie. If one watches this in hopes of learning more about Field’s the man they will be disappointed. The tone seems similar to Oliver Stone’s The Doors where the intent is more on perpetuating the myth of its subject instead of tearing it down and showing the complete person. Just about everyone is familiar with Field’s drinking and cantankerous behavior, so having the film dwell exclusively in this area for the entire time is not interesting, or captivating.

The story would have been better served if it had been a complete bio beginning with Fields life as a child and then going all the way through to his death. Apparently he was born to an alcoholic father who beat him forcing Fields to run away from home at the age of 11 and live in a hold in the ground where he became dependent on stolen food and clothing for survival. He was in many fights and in and out of jail for most of his youth. Showing this could have been quite revealing, but instead the film skips past all of it and starts instead with Fields already in vaudeville and recreating a lot of corny comedy routines before having him drive off to Hollywood where his ascent to stardom seems much too easy and superficial.

Things improve during the second act when he begins his love-hate relationship with Carlotta (Valerie Perrine). Part of the reason this works is because Perrine is excellent. Her down to earth sensibilities really help balance the flamboyant ego’s around her and fit the character well. She is the one, not Steiger, who carries the movie and it was worthy of an Oscar nomination.

Steiger thought for sure that he would nab his second Oscar for his portrayal here, but instead didn’t even get nominated. His mimicking of Fields voice comes off as too rehearsed and effected. At times it gets annoying and just makes one want to watch a movie with the real Fields instead. His dialogue is too cutesy using lines borrowed from many of W.C.’s famous jokes and punch-lines. As expected he does induce the character with his famous Steigerisms and manages to not make it a complete misfire that it otherwise is. The scene, near the end, where Fields meets his now grown son that he hadn’t seen since he was three is his best moment.

Jack Cassidy is great in support as actor John Barrymore. The scene where he dies and his friends prop his dead body up into a chair and have him holding a liquor glass is amusing. Dwarf actor Billy Barty is good as Ludwig one of Field’s long-time friends. Some of the scenes the two share together are actually quite touching.

The film does a commendable job of recreating the period atmosphere. The music has a nice soothing quality to it and on the charm level it scores a bullseye. Despite my reluctance I found myself entertained by it, but as a biography it is flimsy, fictional and irrelevant.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: March 31, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 51Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Arthur Hiller

Studio: Universal

Available: Amazon Instant Video

Love and Bullets (1979)

love and bullets

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Chuck falls for Jill.

Jackie Pruit (Jill Ireland) the one-time girlfriend of mob boss Joe Bomposa (Rod Steiger) is being marked for death by him as she has the potential to turn states evidence. Undercover cop Charlie Congers (Charles Bronson) is hired to go to Switzerland and nab her before they do so that he can bring her back to the states and allow her to testify for the FBI, but along the way he ends up falling in love with her.

Ireland and Bronson where married in real-life, which is why this is just one of many movies that they did together during the 70’s. The strange thing is that they really don’t seem to have much chemistry. Bronson is much older and has more of a grounded, stoic personality while Ireland, at least here, comes off as ditzy and flighty making it seem more like a father and daughter relationship than two equal adults.  The ditzy behavior of Ireland’s character is not amusing or interesting and eventually becomes annoying making most men want to kill her instead of falling for her. Her character initially wears a wig and gaudy make-up, but Charlie insists that she take it off and when she does he states that she looks much better, but personally I thought she looked better with it on.

For whatever reason the Bronson character does not use a gun and is required to resort to unusual weapons for defense one of them being a standing lamp that he finds in a hotel room. He takes off the top and bottom of it and then uses the middle part as a pipe in which he blows nails through to kill off the bad guys. Initially this seemed like a neat idea, but I found it hard to believe that he would have such good aim and able to hit victims from several yards away. He also makes himself highly conspicuous walking around the busy streets of Zurich carrying a pipe.

Steiger gives another interesting performance. Although his character is the villain Steiger manages to give him depth and a humanistic quality. He speaks with a stutter and wears big glasses making him seem almost like a lovable galoot. The part where he stresses over ordering the hit on Jackie and at the end when he sits alone watching a classic romantic movie and insists that he not be interrupted for any reason are two of his best moments.

The supporting cast is full of familiar faces, but Bradford Dillman and Henry Silva are wasted and Michael V. Gazzo gets killed off too quickly. Paul Koslo has the perfect face for a cold-blooded hit man and it is neat seeing Strother Martin dive into the water because in his younger years before he got into acting he was a gifted diver and almost even made it onto the Olympic team. His death scene is good because it is done from his perspective as he is pushed under water giving the viewer a definite drowning feeling.

The action and story are standard and the scenic wintry landscape of Switzerland can help it only so much. The explosive finale gives it a few points, but the drama is weak and the action is only fair. Nothing real impressive and made for die-hard action fans only.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: September 14, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Stuart Rosenberg

Studio: AFD

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

Hennessy (1975)

hennessy

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Blow up the Queen.

This review will be the first in a month long series analyzing movies from the 70’s that starred Rod Steiger. Steiger was an interesting performer with a long and varied career who always brought a unique intensity to all of his roles. He performed in a wide variety of movies from Hollywood pictures to foreign films and from big productions to the low budget as well as going from the leading man to character actor. Every Friday during the month of January I will select films of his that will hopefully be able to spotlight a little bit of all of these.

Today’s film deals with the story of Niall Hennessy (Steiger) an Irishman with ties to the IRA. When his wife and daughter are killed during a riot in Belfast he plots revenge with a plan to blow up the House of Parliament with the Queen Elizabeth inside.

The movie has a great concept, but the execution is a bit lacking. For one thing the police immediately pinpoint Hennessy as the man they are looking for as well as figuring out his plan. How they were so easily able to do this not only seemed a little farfetched, but also sapped a lot of the intrigue and tension out of the story. Having the police come to this conclusion more slowly would have plotted the suspense out longer and been more interesting.

This also opened the door to a few loopholes the biggest one being that they know Hennessy wants to blow up the Parliament so one would expect that the police would have their men staking out the place and on alert to spot Hennessy if he came near the premises, but instead Hennessy is able to go on a guided tour and able to canvas the building unheeded. Another scene later on has Hennessy trapped in an upstairs apartment by the police who have surrounded the building and yet he is somehow able to escape even though it is never shown how.

The scene showing his family getting killed during a bomb attack is not effective. We see the mother and daughter leave a nearby building and then the film cuts away from them and goes back to the fighting in the street only to go back to the two a few minutes later lying in the street motionless. However, there is neither blood on them nor any type of make-up effects to show injury making it look more like two people lying down with their eyes closed. Seeing them actually hit by the bomb and screaming would have been more jarring for the viewer and allowed them to get more emotionally attached to Hennessy’s plight. Also, when Steiger is shown standing over them I was expecting him to let out another one of his patented primal screams much like he famously did in The Pawnbroker, but here he doesn’t and the sequence is quite brief making me wonder why would they hire an actor known for his onscreen intensity and emotionalism if they aren’t going to allow him to do what he does best especially when the scene calls for it.

Steiger for the most part does well with the part although he is surprisingly restrained during most of it. It is a bit of unusual casting given that he wasn’t Irish or a native of the region however, the accent he uses is alright and I kind of got a kick out of the way he runs especially at the end. His biggest obstacle though was his wig. Rod became bald as he aged and instead of just appearing that way in his roles, which he finally did during his later years, he instead wore a variety of wigs for his parts. Some of them were okay and some weren’t and the one used here definitely wasn’t.

Richard Johnson is quite good playing the relentless Inspector Hollis and I liked seeing him with a moustache. The talented Lee Remick appears as Kate Brooke a lady friend to Hennessy who allows him to hide out at her home and although she has a few good lines she is ultimately wasted. Legendary Trevor Howard is wasted as well and only seen briefly as a police commander.

The best part about the movie and the one thing that gives it distinction is the ending when Hennessy goes into the parliament building with a bomb strapped to his body. Actual footage of the Queen is shown and it looks so authentic that many people thought she had been involved in the production, but she really wasn’t. Their ability to crop this footage in with the action is well done and almost seamless and certainly helps to heighten the tension. Seeing a young Prince Charles looking bored with the proceedings and the elaborately decorated interior of the building as well as its many large and majestic hallways and rooms is fun and interesting.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: July 31, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Don Sharp

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: Amazon Instant Video

Between the Lines (1977)

between the lines

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Newspaper get corporate takeover.

This is a look at an underground/counter-culture newspaper staff and the conflicts and concerns that they have at being taken over by a no-nonsense corporate owner (Lane Smith).

The film almost immediately takes you back to the bygone era of the late 70’s. The attitudes and conversations are realistic for that period and anyone who lived through it will most assuredly feel nostalgic .John Heard, Jeff Goldblum, and Bruno Kirby are engaging in their respective parts as is most of the cast. Stephen Collins is good also, but in an unusual role for him as he usually plays nice sensitive types, but here is a more driven, intense, and confrontational. This also works as a good unofficial statement to the death of the counter-culture movement and the eventual rise of materialism.

The story starts out well as it looks at the inside workings of an underground newspaper, but then spends too much of the middle part focusing on the relationships of some of the characters. Only at the end when the new owner takes over does it get back to the newspaper angle. Unfortunately it concludes just as things are getting interesting and we never get to see how the characters survive and adjust to the takeover. The film would have been much stronger and original had it stuck to scenarios involving the newspaper business and scrapped the relationship stuff, which tended to be derivative. Jon Korkes and Michael J. Pollard’s characters are seen too little and needed more screen time.

Also, when the film deals with the relationships there seems to be too much of a feminist bias as the men are always shown to be the ones at fault due to their ‘insensitive and selfish natures’ while the women come off the ones who are ‘reasonable and unfairly neglected’. This could be a product of the fact that it was directed by a woman as well as the era where men were somehow supposed to feel guilty simply because they were men.

This is fun as a time capsule as well as a great chance to see young stars in the making. However, the story does not take advantage enough of its original concept and ends up dealing with a lot of the same old scenarios and story lines that we’ve all seen before. Director Joan Micklin Silver and John Heard teamed up again two years later for Chilly Scenes of Winter, which I felt was better.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released:  April 27, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated R

Director: Joan Micklin Silver

Studio: Midwest Films

Available: DVD (MGM Vault)

Dealing: or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues (1972)

dealing

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Drugs are a trip.

This review was originally slated to post in February, but due to the death on Christmas Eve of Charles Durning I decided to post it now. Durning was one of the all-time great character actors who always brought an amazing amount of energy to every role he played and could do a wide variety of character types well. Although he has very few lines of dialogue in this movie he still manages to become the most interesting part of the proceedings and helps enliven an otherwise slow moving film.

The plot, based on a novel by Michael Crichton, pertains to Peter (Robert F. Lyons) who is a recent Harvard graduate hired by John (John Lithgow) to transport a suitcase full of marijuana from Boston to Berkeley, California. Peter is new at this and things do not go as planned, but he meets beautiful Susan (Barbara Hershey) along the way and the two fall in love. John next hires Susan to transport another suitcase of narcotics, but when she loses the luggage at the airport and then tries to go back and get it she is arrested by corrupt cop Murphy (Durning) who resells some of the recovered stash back out onto the street. In order to get Susan out of jail Peter plays an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse with the cop, which culminates in a violent showdown.

The story is done in a laid-back style similar to the approach taken by many European films. The emphasis is on mood and subtle nuance yet when the Europeans do it this style seems refreshing, but here it is more off-putting. I really had a hard time getting into it as the first hour is slow with too many scenes going on longer than it should. The set-up is too quick and there is not enough background, or history shown to the main character.

The second hour improves. Durning gives the proceedings some pizazz and Peter’s scheming is fun. The shootout done in the snow has flair and style.

The music by Michael Small is impressive. It is one of the most original scores I have heard and really fits the mood of the script. The best is over the opening credits.

Hershey is as always gorgeous and fans may like that she is shown topless. The part of a free-spirited hippy chick seems to be her forte and she excels. However, having her fall for a guy that is rather dull and ordinary didn’t make sense. Sure they make love right away, but I thought that was more just because it was a part of her lifestyle and she does after all go around in a dress without wearing any underwear. She just seemed to be diving into the free love atmosphere of the era. Obviously having Peter fall for her made sense because she is hot, but why would she go head-over-heels for this schmuck when there are so many other guys that would be more than willing to do it with her. The romantic angle was forced and hurt the credibility of the story.

Lithgow is okay in his film debut, but I had problems with the character. One minute he is cool, conniving, brash, and arrogant and then in the next instant he becomes scared, confused, and meek, which was too much of a quick transition.

The under-rated Lyons is excellent and makes for a terrific lead especially with this type of part. Despite being in his 30’s he looks and acts very much like a college kid from that period. His performance is nicely understated and believable throughout.

The on-location shooting in Boston is vivid and people from the area may like to view this just to see how much it has changed. The DVD transfer from Warner Archive is excellent with a nice clarity and vivid colors. The movie itself is slick, but it also has a detachment to it that doesn’t allow the viewer to get as connected with the characters, or the situations like they should and thus making it an interesting period artifact, but nothing more.

Also, Demond Wilson can be seen briefly as one of the drug dealers. He did this just before his signature role of Lamont in the hit TV-series ‘Sandford and Son’. Ellen Barber is real cute as Peter’s girlfriend and so is Joy Bang who later became a registered nurse. Normally I don’t like women with buck teeth, but with her it actually looks sexy.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: February 25, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Williams

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD (Warner Archive)