Tag Archives: Anne Archer

Good Guys Wear Black (1978)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: He’s marked for murder.

John T. Booker (Chuck Norris) was once the head of an elite CIA assassin group known as The Black Tigers. The group was sent into Vietnam on a mission to rescue American POW’s, but instead finds that they were set-up and marked for demise. Only Booker’s brave and cunning leadership allowed the group to survive. Five years later Booker now works as a UCLA professor where he lectures about the problems with the Vietnam War and how it should never have happened. During one of his classes he meets Margaret (Anne Archer) a beautiful, young reporter who works in Washington and relays to him some troubling information: his buddies that were a part of that unit are now being picked-off one-by-one and Booker is most likely the next target. He decides to team up with her to not only warn the remaining members, but also to weed-out the culprit, or secret organization, who are behind it.

This was Norris’ second starring feature with a story based off an outline written by one of his friends, but the biggest problem with it is that there isn’t enough action sequences and I was genuinely shocked. I’ve not seen too many of his movies, so I’m still new to the formula, but I was honestly expecting fights every 5-minutes. Instead it isn’t until an hour in before Chuck displays his karate expertise and even then it’s brief. This was apparently because he wanted to do it differently than with the Bruce Lee movies he had been in, in the early part of his career. He described those as being ‘all karate with a little story thrown-in’ and he wanted to do something that had a lot of story and only some karate scenes.

While this may sound good in theory the plot is weak and the budget sparse to the point that adding in a few more exciting sequences to make-up for the otherwise anemic production would’ve been a good idea. This really comes into play during the rescue mission where The Black Tigers are in Vietnam looking for the POW’s, but the lighting and camera work are so poor that you can barely see what’s going on. The film also cuts away, so we never see how Norris and his buddies manage to escape from their enemies and make it out. It just immediately jumps to them 5 years later working regular jobs and having moved-on from the traumatic experience, which makes the whole thing seem too rushed.

The story has a few logic loopholes as well. Namely the fact that these assassins seem intent to kill their targets in broad daylight with a lot of people around. Most professional killers can find more subtle ways to off their targets like through poisoning, which can work slowly and harder to trace back to the original source. Shooting someone in big crowds is just asking for trouble because it brings in many potential witnesses and no guarantee they’ll be able to get out of there in time before the authorities arrive. If they must do away with their target through shooting then at least have it done when the victim is alone and the fact that this supposedly slick organization thinks of doing it the other way makes both them and the movie seem pretty dumb.

While Norris’ fighting skills are excellent his acting is not and even he admitted that he felt like ‘hiding behind a chair’ while watching it every time his character came onscreen. His voice inflection is poor and he seems unable to convey any type of emotion. Pairing him with Archer helps as her performance anchors it. I thought too that James Franciscus was terrific as the villain as his dashing good looks effectively reflected a slimy politician willing to accept any underhanded agreement in order to close a deal, but he should’ve been in it more. I was disappointed though with Jim Backus’ appearance as he’s given a very nondescript part as a doorman at an upscale condo building. You’d think bringing in a well-known celebrity he’d have something amusing to say, or do, but it’s a bland bit that could’ve easily been done by a no-name actor. He probably needed the work so that’s why he accepted it, but the producers could’ve at least allowed him to ad-lib, in order to jazz the scene up a bit.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: March 23, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 35 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Ted Post

Studio: American Cinema Releasing

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Pluto, Freevee, Amazon Video

Hero at Large (1980)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Actor becomes a hero.

Steven Nichols (John Ritter) is a struggling actor who is hired to wear the Captain Avenger outfit in public in order to help promote the movie, which he himself is not in, that is soon to be released. While picking up a snack late one night at a convenience store he inadvertently witnesses a hold-up and decides to put on his Captain Avenger disguise to ward off the crooks and the trick works and makes him an overnight sensation. Walter (Bert Convy) who works for the mayor (Leonard Harris) decides to hire Steven to play Captain Avenger fighting off more crooks in different scenarios, but this ends up causing Steven serious conflicts with Jolene (Anne Archer) the pretty lady who lives across the hall from him and who he has just started up a relationship.

I really like John Ritter, but his appeal here gets put to the extreme test and it isn’t enough to save what is otherwise a very flat film. This was supposed to be the movie that jettisoned his career to the big screen, but instead it quarantined him back to TV-star status and he was never able to recover. By the 90’s he got a few more leading movie roles, but they were in crude, low-brow stuff like Stay Tuned and Problem Child, which were never going to win the Academy Award, but even they were better than this bland thing.

The script by A. J. Carothers, who mainly wrote for Disney and TV-sitcoms, doesn’t go far enough with its premise and misses too many prime opportunities to be funny. The most disappointing is the film’s pivotal moment where Ritter tries to stop a hold-up, but you would think someone who has never fought off criminals before would be clumsy in his first attempt, which should’ve invited in some slapstick comedy, but it never comes. You would also think hardened street crooks would laugh at Steven in his super hero getup and probably turn around and beat the shit out of him especially since he carried no weapons instead of running away from him in fright. Yet this potentially big moment gets played out like a throwaway scene that lasts for less than a minute and is quickly forgotten.

The emphasis instead gets focused on Steven’s generic romance with Jolene, who after knowing him for only a little while lets him move into her apartment where he platonically sleeps on the sofa even as she continues to see her boyfriend, which seems like quite a stretch. Her constant smiling at Steven’s ongoing ineptness makes her seem more like a parent bemused at her child’s wide-eyed naivety than as an equal love partner.

What is worse is the film’s attempts at satire, which are too obvious and it beats home its simplistic, feel good message like it’s being told to a group of eight-year-olds. The super hero costume that he wears is unimaginatively designed and barely masks Steven’s identity, which makes the subplot dealing with how almost no one is able to figure out who this super hero guy is as quite ridiculous.

Spoiler Alert!

The dumbest part though is the ending, which gets played up to a nauseatingly melodramatic degree and has Steven, wearing his Captain Avenger outfit, running into a burning building just as all the other firefighters are told to evacuate it and then somehow able to save a child unscathed even as the building falls in on him, which all helps cements this woefully uninspired flick as an excellent candidate for a bad movie night.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: February 8, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Martin Davidson

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

The Honkers (1972)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rodeo star is selfish.

Lew Lathrop (James Coburn) is an aging rodeo star who returns to his hometown after an extended absence, which stirs up resentment and trouble wherever he goes. His wife Linda (Lois Nettleton) still has feelings for him despite her anger at him leaving her and never being able to stay faithful. It seems that the only true friend that he has and one that remains loyal to him even through his many shortcomings is rodeo clown Clete (Slim Pickens), but even this gets put to the test when Lew decides to jeopardize is family life once again when he decides to go after local hottie Deborah (Anne Archer) a young woman just past the age of consent who enjoys flirting with older men and shows no reluctance in having her way with them.

The film was directed by actor Steve Ihnat who never saw the final product put on the big screen as he died from a sudden heart attack at the young age of 37 five days before the film’s release. Much like with Junior Bonner and JW Coop, which came out at the same time, this has an authentic feel with the necessary level of grittiness and good rodeo footage,  but the scenes go on too long and the pace is too laid back. One shot has Coburn walking down the city sidewalk for a full several minutes with nothing else happening. Extended shots of a downtown parade and broncos bucking off cowboys in the rodeo ring are all nice, but fail to propel the plot, which seems pretty thin anyways and almost makes this come off like a documentary than a feature film.

Coburn is his usual engaging self, but seems genuinely uncomfortable getting on the broncos and even a bit out-of-place in the role. Pickens is outstanding in support it what may be the best film role of his career. Usually, especially with his country accent, he would get subjugated to hillbilly parts, but here he gets to show his dramatic side by playing a rodeo clown, which is what he did for many years in real-life before becoming an actor. Archer, in only her second film role is quite seductive and possibly at her most beautiful though the many shots showing her wearing headbands start to make her resemble Pocahontas.

Filmed entirely on-location in Carlsbad, New Mexico director Ihnat manages to take full advantage of the rustic western landscape and brilliant blue sky of the region, which is a major plus. The ending has a nice surreal quality and the story does manage to pick up a bit during the second half, but it still could’ve been better trimmed and more compact.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: May 17, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 42Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Steve Ihnat

Studio: United Artists

Available: None at this time.