Tag Archives: Clu Gulager

Tapeheads (1988)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Starting a video company.

Ivan (John Cusack) and Josh (Tim Robbins) are two slackers who can’t hold down a job for too long. After getting fired as security guards they decide to start-up their very own music video production company, which they name ‘Video Aces’. They find it tough going with many people, like with one producer, the sly Mo Fuzz (Don Cornelius), trying to get them to do the work on spec where they’re forced to make the video using their own funds with the vague promises of potential money later on after they’re ‘discovered’. They finally hit-on the idea of promoting the singing duo the Swanky Modes (Sam Moore, Junior Walker) a soul group that the two idolized in the 70’s when they were kids. Their plan is to hijack a Menudo concert and have the Swanky Modes sing in their place and thus exposing their music to a whole new audience.

The film is produced by the former Monkee Mike Neismith, who had earlier produced the very successful cult hit Repo ManUnfortunately this one doesn’t work quite as well. Much of the problem is that it’s directed by Bill Fishman whose background is in music videos and not filmmaking and it shows. Repo Man succeeded because it was centered around a character and it also had a better mix of quirky comedy and story development. This one is handled in a more slap-dash way. Cusack and Robbins both give excellent performances, but are only seen intermittently and they never really grow or evolve like a character in a good movie should nor do they earn their way into the next scene. Instead they become almost like Barbra Eden from ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ where they just seem to pop in and out of these weird scenarios with bizarre people. The plot is thin and more like a collection of wacky skits. Even as satire it fails because it pokes fun of so many various things, in a completely rambling way, that it becomes unclear what the point, or message is supposed to be. There are certainly some clever, funny bits, but ultimately it comes-off more like an experiment gone awry than a movie.

While the cast is filled with a lot of recognizable faces most of them aren’t seen much. I was disappointing that Doug McClure, as Josh’s exasperated and disapproving dad, wasn’t in it more as he had he potential of creating some interesting confrontations. Susan Tyrrell gets wasted too, which is a shame as she talks here with a high society accent, but  I do remember her saying in an interview that she considered herself a ‘lazy person’ who only did movies for the money and would drop-out altogether if she didn’t need to earn a living, so in that respect maybe she didn’t mind the small bit. Lee Arenberg, who plays a security guard, is only in the beginning, but should’ve returned as he’s seen eating Twinkies while sitting on a toilet inside a public stall and anyone who does something that gross deserves more attention.

Some of the roles are bigger. Mary Crosby, the daughter of Bing Crosby, who starred in the infamous Ice Pirates, 5 years before this one, which virtually killed her film career before it began, does quite well here as a duplicitous agent and actually seems to get more screen time than the two stars. The aging Clu Gulager is quite funny as a Presidential candidate with major skeletons in his closet. The best one though is King Cotton (real name Richard Sony) who was the lead vocalist of the blues band Navasota in the 60’s. Here he plays a restaurant owner who partakes in a wacky music video to promote his business with one version shown during the film and another one called ‘Roscoe’s Rap’ that gets played at the end over the closing credits with both being quite memorable.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: January 22, 1988

Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Bill Fishman

Studio: Filmstar

Available: DVD, Plex

The Initiation (1984)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: She has reoccurring nightmares.

Kelly Fairchild (Daphne Zuniga) is a college student plagued with reoccurring nightmares as well as suffering from amnesia in which she cannot remember anything that occurred before she was nine. She meets Peter (James Read) who runs a department dealing with sleep research. She hopes he can help her interpret these dreams, but her parents (Clu Gulager, Vera Miles) are greatly opposed to the idea. As these dreams continue to get worse she also gets involved in a sorority in which as part of an initiation ritual she along with her sorority sisters are required to break into her father’s department store and steal some items, but as they do they become stalked and eventually killed by a mysterious killer.

Zuniga makes for an appealing lead and is pretty much the only good thing about the movie as the story itself isn’t too interesting. It becomes clear from the start that the man she sees burning in her dreams is really her father and that the Gulager character was her mom’s lover who is now posing as her father while her real one got carted off to the mental hospital and having to watch someone spend almost two hours trying to figure out something that the viewer already knows isn’t compelling.

The plot is also full of a hundred and one loopholes including the fact that her father had to be institutionalized after received burns over forty percent of his body even though this rarely if ever occurs with real-world burn victims. How Kelly gets her amnesia is confusing as well since we later learn she never really did fall out of a treehouse like she had initially thought. The scene where the Gulager character gets murdered in his own drive way, but the mother does not find out about it until several days later is equally ridiculous because the killer immediately drives away with the dead body with no time to clean up, so the mother would’ve seen all the blood when she went into her own car, but apparently doesn’t.

There is also a scene involving one of the sorority sisters named Marsha (Marilyn Kagan) who tells the others about getting sexually violated by an older man when she was younger, which is not necessary since she is not a main character and what she describes has no connection to the main story. What is even worse is that after telling the others about it she then ‘miraculously’ loses her lifelong frigidity and is ‘cured’ from her horrible memories while also immediately hopping into bed with one of the frat boys, which becomes an insult to rape victims everywhere.

Spoiler Alert!

The film’s ending though is the most annoying. Halfway in I thought I had figured it out by guessing that it was actually Zuniga who was doing the killing. Well it turns out that I was half-right as it is really her twin sister, but there is no indication of this with anything that occurs earlier and still does not explain how it connects to Kelly’s amnesia, nightmares, or lost father. If anyone who has watched this movie can explain how this makes any sense I would appreciate it because it comes off as really dumb otherwise.

End of Spoiler Alert!

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: December 17, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: Larry Stewart

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video