Tag Archives: Anthony Perkins

The Black Hole (1979)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Area of gravitational acceleration.

On their return trip to earth a crew of 5-people (Robert Forster, Yvette Mimieux, Joseph Bottoms, Anthony Perkins, Ernest Borgnine) on board the USS Palomino spot a large spaceship and are baffled at its ability to withstand the gravitational force of the nearby black hole. They decide to investigate the ship and find that it is being run by Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell) who has been for the past 20 years the sole human survivor after the rest of the crew supposedly returned to earth, the members of the Palomino though are suspicious about this explanation since the robed android drones seem to strangely have human-like qualities. They become further alarmed when they learn that Reinhardt plans on taking the ship through the black hole, which they feel will lead to a sure death to all those on board.

For the most part the special effects look awesome  and one gets a true feeling of the vastness of space in this one with Reinhardt’s ship getting captured in a way that makes it look large and impressive. Even the interiors give off a sort-of mansion-like feel and that the characters are inside of a large scale vessel with many rooms as opposed to simply being sets on a soundstage.

Unfortunately the script lacks imagination and becomes just another formulaic madman in space scenario that offers no new twists to the genre. The tone is extremely downbeat and despite being produced by Disney doesn’t seem to be something aimed for kids at all. The story is also devoid of action and when there finally is some it’s short and fleeting and comes off like a second-rate laser shoot-out.

The characters don’t show enough contrasting personalities either and are too old. Usually pre-teens relate better to movies with performers around their same age range, but here everyone is middle-aged and in Borgnine’s case even well past that. Bottoms is the youngest and should’ve carried the film, but his acting is so transparent you end up wishing it he hadn’t even been in it at all.

It’s also a bit ridiculous that Mimieux could communicate with the ship’s robot via ESP even though mental telepathy cannot be substantiated by the scientific community and therefore should not be introduced into a sci-fi flick that is supposedly trying to taken seriously.  I did enjoy Perkins in his part, but he should not have been the one to turn around one of the drones and unmask them to expose a shriveled face underneath, which for trivia purposes was the film’s director Gary Nelson, since it will remind viewers too much of a similar reveal scene near the end of Psycho of which he famously starred in.

Schell as the resident nutcase is a complete bore in a performance that is so pathetically cliched that it borders on camp. He reminded me of James Mason’s character from 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, which was also produced by Disney and should’ve been enough to have Mason invited back to play the part here as he would’ve been far more interesting.

The robots outshine the humans in this one particularly Roddy McDowell and Slim Pickens, who strangely go uncredited, as the voices of the  ‘good guy’ droids. However, the army of villainous androids that try to stop the crew from escaping walk too stiffly almost like mimes playing into the cliche of how people perceive robots to move, but by the year 2132, which is when this story takes place, you’d think technology would’ve improved enough to have created androids that would’ve had more fluid-like motions. They are also a bit too easy to pick-off almost like sitting ducks in a shooting gallery, which saps the shoot-outs segments of any tension.

The ending though is the biggest disappointment as it never clearly explains what happens to the crew when the go through the black hole. There’s a lot of heavy-handed imagery including a cool hell-like visual, but nothing conclusive, which makes the whole thing just one big buildup to nothing.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: December 21, 1979

Runtime: 1 Hour 38 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Gary Nelson

Studio: Buena Vista

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Catch-22 (1970)

catch 22 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: The insanities of war.

Having to fly numerous combat air missions has sent Word War II fighter pilot John Yossarian (Alan Arkin) to the brink of insanity. He goes to his unit’s psychiatrist Dr. Daneeka (Jack Gilford) asking him if he can be sent home. The doctor admits that anyone who feels that they are going crazy shouldn’t be flying, but there’s a problem known as ‘Catch-22’, which states that anyone who no longer wants to fly combat missions isn’t crazy but normal and therefore John’s request is denied and he is forced to remain while observing how utterly ridiculous everyone else is, particularly his military superiors, even though they’re considered to be the ‘normal’ ones.

The film is based on the best-selling novel by Joseph Heller, who started writing his novel in 1953 and would only spend 1-hour each day working on it until finally completing it 8 years later. The story is very loosely based on some of his experiences and emotions that he had as a fighter pilot during the war and it’s always nice watching something that was done, no matter how satirical, from an insider’s perspective and his numerous potshots at the nonsense that makes up the military hierarchy could easily be parlayed to anyone who has had to deal with bureaucracy at any level.

Certain changes were made in the novel’s transition to the big-screen, but overall screenwriter Buck Henry does well in bringing the fragmented narrative vibe of the book to the film. I was really impressed with the aerial sequences, which used the B-25 Mitchell and took 6 months to film. The cinematic style was years-ahead-of-its-time as well including having things occur in the background of a scene that has no connection to what the characters in front of the camera are discussing and at times even oblivious to.

The film features many laugh-out-loud segments with my favorite being the part where Yossarian attends a military award ceremony and accepts his medal while being, to the shock of the military brass that is handed out the medal, stark naked. Anthony Perkins, who plays the hopeless chaplain, is also quite funny in a rare, but interesting turn in a comedic role.

One of the things that I didn’t like about the film, although it didn’t bother me quite as much as it did when I first saw the movie many years ago, is the way the tone shifts from being quirky and hilarious at the beginning to somber and serious towards the end. I realize that the novel works in the same way, but the first half of the film successfully balanced the line of exposing the absurdities of war in a comedic vein while still showing the serious consequences without ever getting overwrought, so it’s a shame that the second half couldn’t have worked the same way instead of leaving the viewer with a gloomy, depressed feeling when it’s over and almost forgetting completely about the comedy that came before it. I also believe this is why this film failed at the box office while the similar M*A*S*H succeeded simply because that movie remained funny all the way through.

Arkin, in the lead, is miscast and seems too old for the part. His nervous, hyper persona doesn’t work and would’ve been more effective had it been toned down by being played by a younger actor who was more emotionally detached. The rest of the supporting cast though is great including Martin Balsam who makes cinematic history by being the first actor to ever appear sitting on a toilet in a movie.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: June 24, 1970

Runtime: 2Hour 2Minutes

Rated R

Director: Mike Nichols

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Lovin’ Molly (1974)

lovin molly

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Two men one woman.

Molly (Blythe Danner) is a free-spirited woman living in a small Texas town during the 1920’s. Gid (Anthony Perkins) and Johnny (Beau Bridges) are best friends who also both like her. Molly likes them as well, but can’t seem to decide which of the two she loves better, so to solve things she gets married to Eddie (Conard Fowkes). This doesn’t go over well with the other two, but as time goes by she continues to see them and even has children from both of them, which causes a stir in her small community. Not only does she become the product of the local gossip, but virtually ostracized as well. However, Molly is undeterred about what everyone else thinks and sticks to her independent ways.

Based on the Larry McMurtry novel the film was directed by the legendary Sidney Lumet, but you would hardly know it. The production looks cheap and rushed and lacks atmosphere or period detail. The scenes are flatly shot with very little visual design or imagination. The whole thing comes off as something that did not get any major studio backing and was forced to look to private investors for funding, which unfortunately was just not enough.

Filming it on location in Bastrop, Texas which is also the setting of the story helps a little as the town has many historical buildings, which heightens to some extent the period atmosphere, but I would’ve liked to have seen more of it. The dry Texas landscape is also nicely captured and makes the viewer feel like they are living in the state themselves with each and every shot. The one thing though that really impressed me was how realistically the characters aged as the story, which spans 40 years, progresses. In most films the actors are forced to wear a ton of makeup, which gets overdone, but here very little of it was used and it looked far better.

Danner, who these days is best known as the mother of Gwyneth Paltrow, is excellent in a rare turn as a leading lady and even appears fully nude from the front and back. Perkins is solid in support and I enjoyed seeing Bridges with a bowl haircut. The star though that really steals it is Edward Binns as Perkins’ father whose caustic and to-the-point remarks are gems.

Fred Hellerman’s flavorful bluegrass score is pleasing, but the film itself fails to elicit much emotion. The only times that it does become mildly interesting is when the characters do a voice-over narration by reading off of passages lifted directly from its source material making me believe that this should never have been filmed in the first place and left simply in its novel format.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: April 14, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated R

Director: Sidney Lumet

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD (Region 2), Amazon Instant Video

Crimes of Passion (1984)

crimes of passion

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Moonlighting as a hooker.

Bobby (John Laughlin) is suffering from marital problems at home while also having trouble keeping up with his kid’s expenses, so he looks for a part-time job and gets hired by Lou Bateman (Norman Burton) an owner of a fashion clothing studio to work as a private investigator by following around one of his designer’s named Joanna (Kathleen Turner) who he is convinced is selling his patents to a competitor. What Bobby finds instead is that Joanna is actually working as a hooker in the seedy red light district and using the name of China Blue, which gets Bobby more infatuated with her. Soon they are locked into a passionate affair, but unaware that China/Joanna is also being stalked by a crazy street preacher named Peter Shayne (Anthony Perkins) who is suffering from demons of his own while also harboring strange ideas on how to ‘save her’.

The film, which is directed by Ken Russell who can sometimes be brilliant and other times horribly self-indulgent, is annoying from the beginning. The recreation of a therapy group is wooden and artificial and the sex scenes are over-the-top with characters that are one-dimensional and poorly fleshed out. The gaudy color schemes and flashing lights used to recreate the seedy hotel look quickly become repetitive and irritating. It’s hard to tell whether Russell is trying to be serious or campy, but it’s a mad mixture that ends up being a pointless mess. Rick Wakeman’s obnoxious electronic music score and the cliché ridden Psycho-like finale simply add insult to injury.

The script by Barry Sandler is shallow and filled with plot devices that make no sense. Rarely do prostitutes ever fall in love with one of their clients and many create a defense to keep that part of their lives separate from their personal one and vice-versa, so the fact that Joanna and Bobby get into a relationship so quickly and seamlessly while failing to explain why she would find Bobby so ‘special’ out of all the other men she had already had indiscriminate sex with makes this dumb movie even more absurd. It’s also hard to believe that Joanna would be such a great employee as she is described to be by her boss when she is going out every night having sex with strange men at all hours. I would think at some point she’d become exhausted and her productivity at her day job would be effected. I also thought it was a bit goofy why someone would hire Bobby as a private investigator to begin with when he had no experience in that area.

Annie Potts gives the film’s all-around best performance particularly during a strong scene involving her character in bed with Bobby and her roundabout way of admitting that he no longer satisfies her. Laughlin is okay, but bland and the segment where he dresses up as a giant penis having an erection is downright embarrassing. Perkins is fun as the flamboyantly weird reverend and I got a kick out of his singing as well as his bag full of sex toys, but in the end it’s just a bad rendition of Norman Bates that typecasts him while discrediting his earlier more serious efforts.

The scene where China visits an old man who has only a few months to live is the movie’s one and only interesting moment. Had there been more of a history shown to Joanna’s character and why this seemingly intelligent woman did what she did I might’ve have been able to get into it more instead of being completely bored with it. The sexual imagery was considered quite ‘shocking’ and explicit for 1984 standards, but now comes off as benign and hooky especially since one can find far more graphic stuff simply by casually surfing any one of the thousands of porn sites on the internet today.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: October 19, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 47Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ken Russell

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD

Play It As It Lays (1972)

play it as it lays 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Her life is empty.

If there ever was a title that aptly described its picture it’s this one as this thing truly does just lay there like a dead body. It’s another one of those stories about a beautiful actress/model (Tuesday Weld) who has fame, fortune, and looks and yet still feels empty. She is a part of the ‘been there, done that’ crowd that now wonders what there is left to do and the plot gets told in a fragmented narrative that at first seems diverting, but eventually goes nowhere.

It was made in an era where if the message wasn’t sad and depressing then it wasn’t ‘important’. The filmmakers have already made up their minds that life is depressing and meaningless and then proceed to beat the viewer over the head with it in each and every scene. Supposedly then the audience is to walk away thanking them for the beating.

The characters represent everything that is irritating about the Hollywood crowd. They are self- absorbed and self-loathing. They fail to put meaning into their lives and yet somehow life has failed them if meaning doesn’t just come up and punch them in the nose. Whine and moan, take a drug hit, whine and moan, go to bed with a stranger, and whine and moan some more.

It’s hard to become attached to those who are so detached from themselves and even harder to like those who can’t stand themselves. Eventually you just give up, especially when the film works on the same spiritless level as the characters. You begin to just laugh at it since every despondent look and quasi philosophical discussion soon becomes redundant making this drama more like high cliché.

Weld and Antony Perkins teamed up earlier in Pretty Poison which has a much more original storyline and interesting characters and you should watch that one instead.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: October 19, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated R

Director: Frank Perry

Studio: Universal

Available: None at this time

WUSA (1970)

wusa

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review:  Liberal working for conservatives.

A drifter (Paul Newman) travels to Louisiana and gets a job as a DJ at an ultra-conservative radio station. Despite being a professed liberal he decides to go along with the right-wing rhetoric because he has grown apathetic with things and now just wants to ‘blend-in’.

The idea has a lot of potential, but it is never able to take off. Part of the problem is that instead of trying to play it like satire in the Network vein it instead approaches it with pinpoint seriousness and saturates the viewer with a gloom and doom message. The long and winding stream of social complexities makes the viewer, as with the main character, grow apathetic. The ‘powerful’ statements are redundant and too engulfed with the politics of its day to give anything that is broadly insightful.

It is easy to see why this is probably Newman’s most forgettable film. There is nothing unique or even slightly diverting about it and it meanders badly with no action whatsoever. The ‘exciting’ mob scene at the end looks staged and unconvincing.

The film has leanings as a character study, but even they are weak. Newman’s angry loner role is simply a less intense version of his Hud character. Joanne Woodward as the prostitute with a ‘heart of gold’ is clichéd and dull. Anthony Perkins is the only one that comes off as interesting, but it’s not enough to save it.

This is a truly limp and lifeless picture and I would be amazed if there was anyone out there who would like it.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: August 19, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 55Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Stuart Rosenberg

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Blu-ray 

The Fool Killer (1965)

fool killer

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kid roams the countryside.

George Mellish (Edward Albert) is a 12-year-old boy who runs away from home after a particularly harsh beating at the hands of his foster parents. As he roams the Tennessee countryside he meets Dirty Jim (Henry Hull) an old man who takes him into his rundown home and fills his head with all sorts of stories about an eight foot ax-wielding man who kills people he deems to be foolish. After a bout of illness George runs away from Jim and late one night meets Milo (Anthony Perkins) a loner who carries an ax and acts strangely. Initially George thinks that he is ‘the fool killer’ Jim described, but the two soon become friends even though strange ax murders begin to occur everywhere they go.

Servando Gonzalez’s direction is excellent and the one thing that keeps this otherwise thin story intriguing. This was his only English language film and he uses a variety of different camera angles and editing styles to create a sort of hypnotic effect. The on-location shooting is vivid and their ability to recreate the look and feel of the late 1800’s is solid including having the characters occasionally speak with poor grammar, which helps with the authenticity.

The only thing about Gonzalez’s direction that I did not like is where they have a nighttime scene that was clearly filmed in the daytime, but done with a darkened lens to ‘fool’ the viewer into thinking it is night. This process has been done many times in the past, but it never works. Even with the dark lens the sky is too bright and you are unable to see any stars. I remember this done a few times on the old ‘Brady Bunch’ TV-show and I always found it disconcerting. The reason is usually because by law child performers are not allowed to work past a certain late hour, so if the script calls for a nighttime scene they try to compensate using this trick, but it always looks tacky. My solution would be to get the parent’s permission to allow the young performer to work late for one night or alter the script to have the scene done in the daytime.

Despite some good production values and an interesting narrative the story itself, based on a novel by Helen Eustis, is limp and doesn’t have enough action. The middle section, which features a lot of conversations between Milo and George, gets boring and the pace comes to a screeching halt. The George character also gets a bit annoying. I realize he is a young and the story takes place in a more innocent era, but the kid falls too easily for anything and everything he is told and seems to have no center, which eventually becomes off-putting.

For what it is worth Albert is good in the lead in what was his film debut and so is Perkins although with this he was risking getting typecast. I thought Henry Hull in one of his last roles was highly engaging and I also really liked Arnold Moss as a bombastic preacher giving a fiery sermon under a tent during a religious revival. Since the movie otherwise does not have much happening this scene tends to be pretty electrifying and vivid particularly the looks on the people’s faces as he preaches to them.

There is a sort-of surprise ending, but it is not that big of a deal and most viewers will probably see it coming long before it happens and they might also say to themselves ‘I sat through two hours of this just for that!’ as well. If the story had been a little richer with more twists or a subplot this might have been memorable, but as it is the final result is empty.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 28, 1965

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Servando Gonzalez

Studio: Allied Artists Pictures

Available: VHS

Tall Story (1960)

tall story

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: The game is rigged.

June Ryder (Jane Fonda) is a boy-crazy college coed who has her sights set on Ray Blent (Anthony Perkins) the star of the school’s basketball team. Ray ends up being as infatuated with June as she is with him and the two decide to get married, but before they do they purchase a motor home from Ray’s friend Fred (Tom Laughlin). Unfortunately they don’t have enough of the required money until a mysterious stranger gives Ray $2,500 to blow the upcoming game his team has with the Russians, which puts Ray in a difficult quandary.

The film has a nice fluffy appeal and was based on the hit stage play, which in turn was based on the novel ‘The Homecoming Game’ by Howard Nemerov. The college campus atmosphere for its time period seems realistic. It is refreshing to have the adult faculty portrayed as normal human beings relating to the students on a relatively equal level and vice versa as opposed to the trend that started in the 70’s and went full-throttle in the 80’s where adults in these types of films were written as preachy, oppressive, out-of-touch, authoritative humorless pricks. In fact Marc Connelly as Professor Osman was my favorite character as he looked and spoke like a true professor and helped balance the silliness by being the most normal of the bunch. Anne Jackson as the wife of Professor Sullivan (Ray Walston) comes in a close second and has some amusing moments and a few good comeback lines particularly near the end.

Fonda is perfect as a character lost in her own little world and enthusiastically going by the beat of her own drummer while oblivious to the consternation she causes to those around her. Initially the character is written a little too aggressively making her too deluded and like a stalker, but fortunately that gets toned down and she becomes likable enough. Perkins is great as her boyish counterpart and the two even sing a duet together.

The pacing is a bit poor. Initially it is very zany and fast paced making the thing seem almost like a live action cartoon, which doesn’t work at all. The film then slows down and becomes a draggy only to rectify things with a funny conclusion. If you like things that are cute and undemanding then this should work although the sequence in which Ray comes into the game and singlehandedly wins the game after the team is far behind is just too contrived and over-blown for even Hollywood standards. The humor is light and comes in spurts with some of it managing to elicit a few chuckles. One of the few interchanges that I liked consisted of:

June: “Did you know that elephants only mate once every seven years?”

Ray: “There are some that do it every six years.”

June: “They’re nymphomaniacs”

Spoiler Alert!

One of the biggest problems with the film is the ending as Ray decides to play in the game and win it for his team despite keeping the money that he was paid in order to throw it. However, there is just no way a criminal organization would let anyone keep that money especially when the other party did not uphold their end of the bargain. Most likely they would track down Ray and June and exact a very unpleasant revenge. However, the film never even touches on this and instead shows Ray and June buying the motorhome and riding happily off into the sunset while leaving open a major loophole in the process.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 6, 1960

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Joshua Logan

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video

Someone Behind the Door (1971)

someone behind the door 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Chuck has no memory.

This review will kick-off a two month long tribute to movies done in the 70’s by Charles Bronson with his wife Jill Ireland. Each Friday I will review one of their films, which will run through April. The only ones that will not be reviewed during this stretch are Love and Bullets, which was already done during our January tribute to Rod Steiger and The Mechanic and Hard Times, which will be done at a later time.

This film is one of the more unusual ones that they did and although not completely successful may still interest Bronson fans simply for a chance at seeing him in an offbeat part. The story concerns neurosurgeon Laurence Jeffries (Anthony Perkins) who takes in a man (Charles Bronson) who has lost his memory and has no idea who he is. Laurence decides to exploit this issue by brainwashing the man into thinking that Laurence’s cheating wife Frances (Jill Ireland) is actually his own and to take action by killing the woman’s lover (Henri Garcin).

The film has a great idea, but the set-up is much too rushed. We are given no backstory to any of the characters. The film opens with Laurence leaving his hospital job and by chance bumping into the man and taking him home before we even know what his motive or plan is. I also found it a bit perplexing that the Dr. character is supposedly conniving and crafty and yet he brings a man into his house while his wife is there sleeping in another room as well as their maid downstairs, which seemed reckless. When his wife awakens the next day and tries to go into the room where the stranger is Laurence panics, but I felt he should have been aware of that potentially happening from the very beginning. He also dictates his plans into a tape recorder, which seemed like prime material to be used for evidence later on.

The psychological side of the story is shallow and transparent. The way Laurence tricks the man into doing his evil bidding was too easy. I realize that the man has lost his memory, but it seems like he has lost his entire brain as well. The character is too child-like and gullible. I also thought that if the man cannot remember his wife and doesn’t know her from anyone else then why would he care if she is fooling around with someone, or get so over-the-top angry about it.

Bronson can be perfect in certain roles, but this is not one of them. Yes, he has a certain likable quality here simply because he plays such a vulnerable and trusting wide-eyed innocent, but the angry emotions that he displays are too rehearsed and over-acted.

Ireland on the other hand is attractive and alluring and comes off well though her part is minimal.  The nude photograph of her lying on a sofa that is shown in close-up is sexy.

The film has very little action especially for a Bronson vehicle though the part where the Bronson character sexually attacks Ireland and then the film intercuts this with him simultaneously attacking another woman on a lonely beach is interesting. The ending though is pathetic as it leaves everything wide-open while resolving nothing. The sequence where the camera cuts quickly back and forth between Perkin’s face and then Ireland’s, which is shown continuously over the closing credits is irritating and almost like the filmmaker’s wanted to drive the viewer as crazy as the kooky characters.

With that said I still found the film to be entertaining most of the way. The idea is a fascinating one and it kept me guessing throughout. Director Nicholas Gessner does an adequate job of taking advantage of the gray countryside to create a nice moody feel. A definite mixed bag.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: July 28, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated R

Director: Nicholas Gessner

Studio: Lira Films

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video