Tag Archives: Alice Ghostley

Gator (1976)

gator2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rubbing-out a friend.

Gator McKlusky (Burt Reynolds) is back living in the swamp lands of southern Georgia with his Father (John Steadman) and young daughter (Lori Futch) with no interest of working for the police again. Then one day federal agent Irving Greenfield (Jack Weston) comes by in his boat asking Gator to work with them as an undercover agent to get incriminating information that can be used in court to convict local mob boss ‘Bama’ McCall (Jerry Reed), who just so happens to also be one of Gator’s former buddies. Gator at first resists, but eventually agrees. Bama seems excited to have Gator onboard with his team and even hires him as one of his collectors, but Gator gets turned-off by Bama’s penchant for drugging underage girls and then using them as prostitutes.  Bama eventually lets Gator leave his organization, but this only strengthens Gator’s resolve to put Bama behind bars, which leads the two former friends into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse.

The film was written by William W. Norton, whose colorful life,  was far more interesting than many of his banal scripts, which include such stinkers as I Dismember Mamaand in fact when Norton was on his deathbed in the hospital a nurse asked him if she knew of any of his movies and his response was “I don’t think your IQ is low enough”.  Despite Norton having written the script for the first film, White Lightningthat this movie was a sequel to, Reynolds was initially not interested in doing it and referred to the script as being “terrible”, but when the studio offered him the option to direct it he called it “wonderful”.

Like with many first-time directors the film has many long takes, but overall I felt Reynolds’ virgin effort behind the camera wasn’t too bad. The best part is the opening boat chase shot at the Okeefenokee State Park in southern Georgia that nicely captures it’s picturesque swamp topography as well as some exciting stunt work. Unfortunately after this bit the film goes downhill.

Much of the reason is the script’s inability to keep a consistent tone. The appeal is the spunky humor and action, but by the second act this all disappears and it becomes too serious and slow until it almost starts to resemble a drama. There’s also a few moments of jarring violence that completely losses sight of the playfulness that it had at the beginning.

Reynolds doesn’t seem into his part either, maybe because he was spending so much focus in directing, but in either case he walks through the role and phones in his lines. He also sports a mustache even though in the first installment he didn’t and for consistency he should more or less look the same as he did in the original. The mustache and wavy hair make him look older and the country boy charm that made his character so infectious in the first one is missing here.

Jerry Reed on-the-other-hand is great and shows the necessary energy to keep the scenes that he’s in interesting. Jack Weston is quite funny as the clumsy and constantly exacerbated agent and I was disappointed that he wasn’t in it more as the movie required him to be with Reynolds at all times in order to keep it engaging. I’ll even credit Alice Ghostley as the eccentric cat lady, but Lauren Hutton as the love interest is all wrong. She at least makes fun of the gap in her teeth, which I liked, but the romance angle comes-off as forced and unnecessary and does nothing but bog down the pace, in movie that’s too slow and choppy to begin with.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: August 25, 1976

Runtime: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Burt Reynolds

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

Viva Max! (1969)

viva max 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Taking back the Alamo.

A small ragtag Mexican army led by the affable, but incompetent General De Santo (Peter Ustinov) decides to cross the border and recapture the Alamo. The process goes much easier than expected despite the fact that the army used no bullets in their guns. The National Guard is then sent in to weed them out, but they too decide not to load their guns with bullets leading to some unusual results.

The film is based on the novel written by PBS newsman Jim Lehrer and the movie’s behind-the-scenes politics ends up being much more interesting than the plot itself. Filmed in April of 1969 the production initially had permission from the state to film right on the actual site of the Alamo and a major portion was done there before various citizen groups became aware of it and began protesting the crew’s presence in what they considered to be sacred ground. Some of their protests was captured on film and incorporated into the story, but their loud presence eventually disrupted the production forcing some scenes to be done on an indoor studio soundstage while still others were completed in Italy.

The commotion and ‘controversy’ was not worth the effort as the film is an overall bore. The first 15-minutes are amusing and even mildly engaging, but once it gets inside to the actual Alamo the action and pace come to a screeching halt and kill any possible potential that the film may have had.

The script also has some illogical loopholes one of them being the army deciding to invade a place, but without using any ammunition, which is never explained and highly improbably. What is even more ridiculous is that the National Guard would decide not to use bullets in their guns either since this is the U.S. of A. where guns and force are considered a national birthright and thus makes this ill-conceived plot twist to be unbelievable to the extreme. The fact that De Santos and his men and able to freely leave at the end and go back to their country without dealing with any type of consequence for their actions is equally absurd.

Ustinov is funny and speaks in an authentic Mexican accent, but he’s unfortunately limited by the broad caricature of his role. John Astin comes off best as the Sergeant that’s second in command and does most of the actual disciplining and leading and Jonathan Winters is good as a clueless American general. Alice Ghostley lends some energy as an innocent bystander that becomes one of the army’s prisoners and Pamela Tiffin looks great wearing glasses and having her hair tinged in blonde.  Gino Conforti, Paul Sand, Jack Colvin, Anne Morgan Guilbert and Kenneth Mars can also be spotted in small roles, but even with their competent performances it fails to mask the film’s otherwise glaring inadequacies.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: December 16, 1969

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated G

Director: Jerry Paris

Studio: Commonwealth United Entertainment

Available: VHS