Tag Archives: Christopher Plummer

The Pyx (1973)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Religious cult wants prostitute.

A woman is seen falling from a high-rise tenant building to her death and Police Sergeant Jim Henderson (Christopher Plummer) is assigned to the case. When he inspects the body he finds that in her right hand she is holding a crucifix and in her left one is a small metal container known as a pyx. The victim is later identified as being Elizabeth Lucy (Karen Black) a heroin addict who works as a prostitute. The film then cuts back and forth between showing Elizabeth when she was still alive and the circumstances that lead to her death as well as Jim’s dogged search to find her killer, which may be connected to an underground religious cult.

The film, which is based on the novel of the same title by John Buell and shot entirely on-location in Montreal, has a nice eerie atmosphere.  The cutting back and forth between the two linear stories is interesting and this is the type of mystery that is complex, but not too much. There are just enough clues given to keep it intriguing without so much thrown in that it becomes convoluted. The slow pacing is okay because it keeps things on a realistic level and everything remains plausible and gritty.

Unfortunately the story has no payoff. The slow reveal of the religious cult offers nothing new or exciting and seems to be borrowing elements from other horror flicks that have dealt with the same theme. Except for a few brief moments the film is devoid of any action and the shootout on a yacht is edited in such a quick way that it’s hard to follow what happened. The overuse of nighttime shots gives the film a grainy appearance that looks more like it was a victim of a low budget and poor lighting.

The two leads give good performances and Plummer looks almost unrecognizable with a bowl haircut and appearing almost 20 years younger than he already was. The music was composed by Harry Freedman and star Black does the vocals, which is distinctive and gets the viewer into a spiritual mood, but there aren’t any frights and it’s hard to put this thing into any type of category as it’s really not a horror film at all.

Even as a standard mystery it’s only average and just enough to hold your interest. Ultimately it goes down a familiar path that we’ve seen too many times before and is devoid of any true shock or surprises.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: September 13, 1973

Runtime: 1 Hour 47 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Harvey Hart

Studio: Cinerama Releasing Corporation

Available: DVD-R, Amazon Video

The Silent Partner (1978)

silent partner 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bank teller outsmarts robber.

This is an ingenious, slick, and really fun caper movie that puts a whole new spin on the old bank robbery theme. Here Elliot Gould plays a bank teller named Miles who, by sheer accident, becomes aware that a man named Harry (Christopher Plummer) is planning on robbing his bank. Miles decides to take the money from his till and put it into his lunchbox. Then when Harry robs the bank it is actually Miles the teller that gets the money while Harry goes away with very little. Yet this is only the beginning as Harry and Miles continue to play a crafty game of cat- and-mouse, which leads from one interesting twist to another.

Gould plays against type here and he does quite well. Usually he tends to be loud, argumentative, and anti-authority, but here he is quiet and unassuming. It’s the type of character you think wouldn’t have the guts to pull off what he does, which makes him all the more intriguing. In fact he just keeps surprising you all the way along, stringing the very psychotic and dangerous Harry in ways you couldn’t imagine. It is only his final move that seems to be testing the odds too much.

Plummer makes a terrific adversary. He is dashing and handsome as ever, but with an intensely sinister edge and an icy cold gaze.

Susannah York as Miles’ love interest Julie is wasted. Her character seems thrown in for good measure and at no time seems interesting. There is no chemistry between them and the whole love angle is forced and unnecessary. Celine Lomez, as Elaine the other female character, is different. She is stunningly beautiful and much cagier. She plays between both Harry and Miles and you are never sure which side she is really on. Her acting isn’t spectacular, but she is sensual and has a nice French accent. Her gory and gruesome demise though is unwarranted and works as a drawback to the movie.

There are a few other negatives about the film. One is the drab setting that takes place in Toronto and yet we hardly see any of it. Having the bank itself set inside a boring shopping mall is not too visually exciting. The same goes for Miles’s bland apartment. The supporting characters, especially the other bank employees are incredibly dull. Their lines and basic presence all seem to have been written in simply as ‘filler’. A young John Candy plays one of these co-workers and his comic talents are wasted.

Still the story is creative and has enough unique twists that it overcomes the technical shortcomings and manages to be a highly entertaining flick.

silent partner 1

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: September 7, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 46Minutes

Rated R

Director: Daryl Duke

Studio: EMC

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Eyewitness (1981)

eyewitness

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Janitor loves news reporter.

Daryl (William Hurt) is a nighttime janitor at a large Manhattan office building. He spends his otherwise lonely existence obsessing over a local news reporter Tony Sokolow (Sigourney Weaver) and records every news broadcast she is in and watches them each night when he gets home. Then a murder occurs in his office building and Tony covers it for her program. Daryl tries to use his inside knowledge to get closer to Tony, but is reluctant to tell her all the information he knows since he fears that it was his friend Aldo (James Woods) who committed the crime.

Hurt, who usually plays the intellectual type, does well here in the low-key role. Weaver is also excellent doing what she does best which is playing a tenacious no-nonsense woman who can take care of herself. My favorite part with her is when she is accosted by a couple of men with guns, but doesn’t scream, keeps her composure, and manages to get away.

The romantic angle is the film’s strong point. Tony’s on-camera interview with Daryl when she tries to get more information out of him, but he instead gushes about his undying love for her is funny. It is refreshing that when Daryl tells Tony about how he obsesses over her she doesn’t freak out and consider him a stalker, but instead is charmed by it. The two use each other for their own purposes, but the viewer is giving the impression that these are genuinely nice people who just have very contrasting personalities and approaches, which is what makes the budding relationship interesting. However, having them go to bed together and confirm their affections for each other seemed anti-climactic as it was more intriguing wondering if Tony really was starting to have feelings for Daryl, or just using him to get information and the film should have stayed at this level until the very end.

The mystery portion gets lost in the shuffle. The film is slow with very little tension. There are a few good action moments, but there needed to be more. The scene where Daryl almost gets crushed in a trash compactor had definite potential, but needed to be played-out longer. The part where he and Tony are attacked by a dog is very intense, but the climatic sequence where Daryl is chased by the killer through some horse stalls is certainly slick and well-shot, but it comes too late and I had already become bored and detached with it. The identity of the killer was a definite surprise, but it is also a bit preposterous and a little too convenient in the way it somehow manages to tie all the characters into it especially Tony.

Director Peter Yates does some excellent on-location shooting of New York City especially with the crowded streets and neighborhoods as well as Central Park, but the musical score is sparse and lacking. There is a pleasing jazzy score near the beginning that has a nice easy going beat to it, but then outside of a few tense moments there is nothing. This creates a film that is too quiet. Adding an urgent score could’ve helped make it more compelling, or at the very least given it more energy and personality.

There are a lot of familiar faces in supporting roles, but the majority of them are wasted. Morgan Freeman and Steven Hill as the police investigators who banter endlessly
with each other are dull and useless. Kenneth McMillan as Daryl’s handicapped father is dynamic, but pointless to the story as a whole. Christopher Plummer is always reliable, but he has done better. James Woods is good because he is a master at playing unhinged characters and I liked the casting of Irene Worth as Tony’s mother simply because she looked almost exactly like what Sigourney would end up looking when she reaches that age. This is also a great chance to see Pamela Reed in an early role as Daryl’s fiancée.

The film ends up biting off more than it can chew and the idea of mixing a cutesy romance with a murder mystery doesn’t gel and leaves a sterile effect in both areas.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 13, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated R

Director: Peter Yates

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Netflix streaming