Tag Archives: Carol Kane

Pandemonium (1982)

pandemonium

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Who killed the cheerleaders?

In 1963 the town of It Had To Be, Indiana wins the state football championship, but then after the game the cheerleaders turn up dead having been killed by a javelin that manages to slice through all five of them at the same time. This causes the summer cheerleading camp to be closed down, but then 19 years later, it gets reopened. The camp is run by Bambi (Candice Azzara) who had been the only cheerleader not killed during the infamous incident. Now everyone is telling her not to reopen insisting that the place is cursed, but she does so anyway and then the killings start back-up.

This was yet another attempt at parody of the modern-day horror/slasher film, but done in the style of Airplane, which has a gag occurring almost every second. I’m not opposed to horror comedies, and even hardcore horror fans can sometimes enjoy them, as long as they’re structured inside a conventional horror plot like with Scream that mixed the laughs with genuine scares. This film though hired Richard Whitley, who appears briefly along with co-writer Jaime Barton Klein as customers during a restaurant scene, who is best known for penning Rock ‘N’ Roll High School and he approaches the material the same way as that one by throwing in any lame bit of humor that he can whether it works with the story, or connects with a horror element, or not, The result is hit-or-miss with the majority of it being quite stupid and only a few of the jokes managing to land.

The funniest bits are the deaths themselves. The 5 cheerleaders that get turned into a massive shesh-ka-bob and having to be carted away together on this long stretcher is actually kind of cool. The drowning of one victim in a bathtub filled with milk and cookies as well as the killing of another who was obsessed with brushing her teeth, so when the killer stabs her instead of blood coming out it’s toothpaste are good too. Judge Reinhold, who sports a blonde wig here, has an amusing death where a bomb explodes causing him to fly so high into the air that he manages to bump into a Japanese jet and then begs through the airplane window to be let in. The only problem is that due to the high altitude the temperatures would’ve been freezing and therefore Reinhold’s face should’ve been covered with frost.

There are a high number of familiar faces in small roles, so there’s some enjoyment in that especially since the actors give good performances despite the subpar material. The casting of the teenagers though is problematic in that the actors who played them were well past adolescence. This includes Candice Azzara, who has a funny bit where she makes fun of her Brooklyn accent, who was already 37 at the time and Tab Hunter playing the hunky star quarterback even though he was literally 50 though to his credit he still looked young enough to almost pull it off.

Though not listed as the star Carol Kane pretty much becomes the main character having just gotten done starring in a legitimate horror film, When a Stranger Calls, two years before. I found her character’s ability to attain psychic powers after she starts taking birth control pills to be amusing though she does speak with a weird accent here. Tom Smothers is the one who gets top billing despite being the most boring person in it. Having him dressed as a Canadian Mountie is over-the-top and reminiscent of the cartoon character Dudly-Do-Right. He fails to have anything funny to say or do and gets routinely upstaged by side-kick Paul Reubens, who was pre-Pee-Wee Herman at this time, but still quite amusing.

The title of the film was initially going to be ‘Thursday the 12th’, but when production wrapped it was found that another horror parody was being made called Saturday the 14th, so the title was changed to this one, though I would’ve stuck with the original as this movie, as lame as it is, is still to superior to the other one, which was rock bottom. 6 years later another movie from Australia came out called Pandemonium that was a fantasy/horror and received pretty much the same type of negative reviews as this one.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: April 2, 1982

Runtime: 1 Hour 17 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Alfred Sole

Studio: United Artists

Available: Blu-ray

The World’s Greatest Lover (1977)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Seeking silent film stardom.

Adolph Zitz (Dom DeLuise) is upset that Rainbow Studios, which he heads, is not making as much of a profit as his rival and figures it’s because they don’t have silent film star Rudolph Valentino. He decides, after a meeting with his yes men who constantly surround him, to put out a national search for the world’s greatest lover who will come to Hollywood for a screen test to then become the next big star to rival that of Valentino. Rudy (Gene Wilder) is a hapless baker recently fired from his job who figures that entering this contest could be his ticket out of his penniless doldrums and travels to Hollywood for a screen test. However, once they get there his wife (Carol Kane) breaks away from him and sneaks off to the rival studio in order to try and have a chance encounter with her screen idol Rudolph Valentino (Matt Collins).

While the film did well at the box office bringing in a profit of $21 million off of a $4.8 million budget it flopped badly with the critics who ravaged both Wilder’s screenplay and direction. In a lot of ways they had valid points as the script veers off from the main theme quite a bit and seeming more like a collection of broad gags than a story. The comic bits take a long time to play out becoming almost like skits within a movie. The period atmosphere is poor and you never feel like you’re being transported back to a different era, or that there was even much thought or effort in this area to be authentic. Wilder’s character is problematic too. He can be great when he’s in an exasperated, frantic state and shouting at the top of his lungs, but he goes to this well too often making his character come-off as abrasive.

The one thing that saves it is that it’s surprisingly quite funny. I found myself laugh- out-out-loud at a lot of the bits no matter how meandering they became and really enjoyed the reaction shots from the supporting players. My favorite segment is when Wilder and Kane stay at a hotel with a sunken living room, which accidently gets filled up with water and then Wilder goes swimming in it and pretends it’s a pool when some family members of his come to visit. I also liked how it ultimately drains out onto some guests below who are ordering dinner. I even found the running joke dealing with DeLuise and his man servant barber (played by Michael Huddleston the son of character actor David Huddleston who also appears in the movie) and how he eventually learns to trust his business advice after always beating him up about it first.

The film manages to also make some interesting observations about people although this too borders a bit on getting botched particularly the scene where Kane goes into a tent to meet with what she thinks is Valentino, but really Wilder wearing a veil over the bottom of his face. However, it is clear to the audience just by looking at his eyes, which are very distinct, that it’s Wilder, so if it’s obvious to us it should be obvious to her since she’s been living with him for many years, but it isn’t. I did do like the point that the scene makes where she never enjoyed the sex with her hubby, but when she thought her hubby was somebody else suddenly the sex was ‘great’, which shows how much fantasy works into love making and a fundamental part of its enjoyment.

Wilder’s screen tests are quite amusing too and overall I found myself laughing consistently all the way through. If you’re looking for something light and comical that’s even a bit romantic then this should do the trick.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 16, 1977

Runtime: 1 Hour 29 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Gene Wilder

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD

When a Stranger Calls (1979)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Babysitter receives harassing calls.

Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) gets asked by the Mandrakis (Rutayna Alda, Carmen Argenziano) to babysit their two children, who are already asleep, while they go out for the evening. While Jill is there she starts receiving harassing calls from an anonymous man asking about the children. Jill eventually calls the police who find out that the call is coming from inside the house, but fortunately the police arrive in time before the killer (Tony Beckley) can get to her. She recovers from the incident and moves on with her life by getting married and having two kids of her own only to find that the man has escaped from the mental hospital and coming after her again.

This is an extension to director Fred Walton’s 1977 short film The Sitter with the first 22-minutes almost the same as that one, but not quite. The opening bit is much better handled here with close-ups of a pendulum on a clock swinging back and forth and Jill hearing noises in the house only to find that it’s the ice dispenser in the refrigerator, which are all the scenes that were not in the first film. Kane is also a better actress and her ability to convey fear elicits more tension from the viewer, but I still found it annoying that she reiterates the same line that the babysitter in the first film did where she states to the police that she’s ‘all alone in the house’ when technically there’s supposedly two sleeping kids upstairs.

The second act is where this thing goes off on a wild tangent by focusing almost exclusively on the killer, whose name is Curt Duncan, as he attempts to survive on the streets in the most seedy part of the city while a police investigator named John Clifford (Charles Durning), who worked on the earlier case and is now a private investigator, is determined to kill Duncan for what he did to the two children. To some degree this is a refreshing change of pace as most horror films like to demonize the killer making him seem like a soulless monster who kills people robotically while here the psychopath is portrayed as a vulnerable and confused human tormented by inner demons that he cannot control.

Watching him try to form a bond with a woman (Colleen Dewhurst) that he meets at a bar simply for human contact is interesting because most psychos don’t just murder everyone they meet even though in a conventional horror flicks you’d get the impression that they do. In reality many of them can be married, hold down regular jobs and have what appears to be a normal life only to do their killings on the side and the film scores definite points by examining this aspect that we’re not used to seeing, but it also makes him less scary, which ultimately hurts the tension.

The biggest problem is that Jill the main character completely disappears for a whole hour only to reappear again at the very end, which is too long. If this is a person that the viewer is supposed to care about then she needs to be in the film a lot more possibly cutting back and forth between her recovering from the incident and meeting someone that she will marry while also going back to Duncan and what he’s doing instead of just exclusively concentrating on Duncan as it does.

Spoiler Alert!

The ending in which Duncan tracks Jill down and tries to kill her makes no sense at all. How did the killer, who has no money and is basically homeless, find out where she lived? She has gotten married and most likely a new last name, so just saying he found her address listed in a phone book doesn’t work. How did he know the phone number to the place where she was attending a dinner party and for that matter how was he able to break into her house undetected while squad cars were patrolling it? Better yet how was Charles Durning, who ends up shooting the guy, able to get into the house as just a few minutes earlier he was shown inside a hotel room? Why was the killer so obsessed with tormenting Jill anyways, which are all good questions that never get answered and leaves open too many plot holes to be fully effective.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 26, 1979

Runtime: 1 Hour 37 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Fred Walton

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

The Mafu Cage (1978)

Capture 66

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Her sister is psycho.

Ellen and Cissy (Lee Grant, Carol Kane) are two sisters living together in a dilapidated mansion, where they keep a pet ape named Mafu locked in a cage that sits in their living room. One day Ellen finds that Mafu has died so at the insistence of Cissy, who says she will kill herself unless they get another one, she goes to a local zoologist (Will Geer) and buys another. Things go well at first, but Cissy’s behavior becomes increasingly more erratic and she takes her frustrations and anger out on the new ape in abusive ways.

The film was directed by actress-turned-director Karen Arthur by a script written by Don Chastian who was another actor and based on a play by Eric Wesphal. I really wasn’t sure what these characters or this bizarre story was supposed to mean. I thought being the ‘70s and a female director that it would have symbolic connections to feminism or even lesbianism, which does get alluded to briefly, but overall the message is confusing and unfocused. The pacing is poor and about 10 minutes in I was already quite bored with it.

The only real saving grace is Kane’s presence who gives a startling performance as a psychotic woman. I had always admired her talent, but became even more impressed with her after seeing this. Her most amazing/bizarre moment is when she dresses up as an African warrior complete with red body paint and then later soaks in a tub filled with blood red water while carrying on an impromptu phone conversion with herself.

I had mixed feelings in regards to Grant whose age difference between Kane is 25 years making her look more like a mother figure than a sister. It was also hard to sympathize with her character as she refuses to have Cissy institutionalized or even examined by a mental health professional even though her behavior is dangerously erratic and only a completely irrational person would choose to ignore it or think that it will somehow ‘magically’ improve, which of course it doesn’t

The ape was the one performer that I enjoyed the most and fortunately a real one was used. The way the chimp responds to things and interacts with Kane are genuinely fascinating to watch and makes him a natural scene stealer without even trying. However, the part where she beats him with a metal chain is quite disturbing supposedly he was never actually hit and the credits do list an animal agency was present during filming and monitored it, but it’s difficult to watch nonetheless.

Patient viewers may find certain segments and imagery to be interesting and the film does improve a bit as it progresses, but overall it’s a weird curio that will leave most people indifferent and confused.

Alternate Title: Don’t Ring the Doorbell

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: December 1, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 42Minutes

Rated R

Director: Karen Arthur

Studio: Clouds

Available: VHS, DVD

 

 

License to Drive (1988)

license to drive

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Driving without a license.

Les Anderson (Corey Haim) is in a jam. He has flunked the written portion of his driving exam and therefore has his license denied, but a really hot girl by the name of Mercedes Lane (Heather Graham) wants to go out with him and he needs some wheels to get there. So, after his parents (Richard Masur, Carol Kane) have fallen asleep he decides to ‘borrow’ his grandfather’s car and chaos results, which forces him to return home with the vehicle in less than pristine condition.

This film was quite controversial when it was first released as it contains a scene involving an intoxicated man (Henry Allan Miller) getting behind the wheel of Les’s car and driving it, which critics felt was ‘promoting’ drunk driving, or at the very least making light of it. To me the biggest problem with the segment is the fact that the driver gets into the car with the keys somehow in the ignition even though Les and his friends are in the back of the car using those very same keys to open up the trunk, so unless they had two sets of keys, which is never stated, it then flunks the logic test. I also thought the scene where Les tries to jump from one speeding car to another while out on the freeway was just as dangerous and more hair raising than funny.

Haim in my opinion is the best thing about the film. I know he got the reputation of being a Hollywood ‘bad boy’, but the kid does have a certain appeal. This was his second pairing with Corey Feldman, who I didn’t like as much as he came off more as a crude ‘80s teen caricature. This also marks Heather Graham’s official film debut since her uncredited appearance in Mrs. Soffel four years earlier did not have any speaking lines and here she is terrific. I also found Masur and Kane to be quite appealing as the parents who resemble real human beings and not like the grown-ups in some ‘80’s teen movies where they are portrayed as being oppressive, overbearing, out-of-touch jerks.

The humor though is only mildly amusing and how the Les character could’ve missed the answers on the test is hard to imagine as they relied on basic common sense that just about anyone could’ve answered. The film also fails to have the same whimsical quality as Adventures in Babysitting which came out around the same time and had the same adventurous night-on-the-town concept.

If you’re looking for an amiable time filler for a slow evening than this may do the trick, but overall it’s just an innocuous ‘80’s teen programmer at best.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: July 6, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Greg Beeman

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Wedding in White (1972)

wedding in white 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Ending is a kicker.

Jeannie (Carol Kane) is a shy 16-year-old girl living in a small, bleak Canadian town just after the war who is raped by her older brother’s army buddy. Her parents (Donald Pleasance, Doris Petrie) respond as if it is her fault and resort to some extreme even shocking measures in order to ‘save the family honor’.

This is a solid little drama with good scene construction. The pacing is deliberate and an ending that really packs a wallop. The sets and location look authentic for the period and the characters are believable. Jeannie’s friend Sara (Christine Thomas) seems like a very typical teenager no matter what time period and her interactions with Jeannie show the realities of teenage friendships and makes for an interesting sidelight from the main story.

Kane is impressive acting in a style I’ve never seen from her before. Pleasance is solid as usual and his Canadian accent sounds almost authentic, but it is a bit overdone. Petrie is also quite good as the mother. She really brings to surface a character that is so cloistered she is unable to make any clear decision for herself.

The story itself is the real strong point. It is convincing, insightful, and well-crafted and brings out a sort of darkness and ‘evil’ that can come from ‘wholesome small towns’ and ‘God fearing people’. It shows how having a rigid morality can sometimes create a sort of immorality and also brings to light the lies people wish to live by and how at times it can cloud their better judgment, but most of all it’s a study at  how easily sensitive, fragile people can get sucked away and how sadly common it is.

This is a film designed to leave you feeling shocked, angered, saddened, and maybe even a little repulsed. This is quality viewing that deserves more attention.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: October 20, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated R

Director: William Fruet

Studio: Cinepix

Available: DVD