Tag Archives: Craig Wasson

Bum Rap (1988)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: 72 hours to live.

Paul Colson (Craig Wasson) seems to have very little luck. While he works during the day as a New York cab driver he longs to be an actor and he practices his craft while alone in his cab as he waits for a customer. During his free time he attends auditions, but routinely finds himself being turned down for the part. His love life isn’t much better as he’s constantly getting stuck in the ‘friend zone’ with all the eligible women that he meets. Now things have turned even more sour when he goes to a Dr. about a ringing in his ear only to diagnosed with a rare blood disorder that will kill him in only 72 hours. Will Paul find any meaning and happiness with the time he has left? He isn’t sure, but becomes determined to find out by getting together with his friends and parents (Barton Heyman, Augusta Dabney) for one last goodbye while doing so with the company of Lisa (Blanche Baker) a street prostitute he has picked-up and agrees to go along with him for his last hurrah while also harboring the same ambitions of becoming an actor.

The film seems to want to tap into the indie vibe of Stranger Than Paradise, a quirky independent, cult hit that sent it’s writer/director Jim Jarmush into stardom. It even starts out in black-and-white like that one and there are a few keen moments here. When I was younger and just out of college I attended a few acting auditions like this character and found the same thankless experiences as he did; getting turned down not so much for a lack of talent, but more because he auditioned with someone who was sexier and better looking, so naturally they get all the attention and he doesn’t. His dating quandary where he treats the women real nice, and they get along well, but in the end they still chase after a married a man who treats them poorly can be a testament to what happens to a lot of single nice guys and in this area, examining the basic struggles of an ordinary life, it hits the bullseye.

Unfortunately the film fails to gain any momentum, or move along with an intriguing pace. The scenes lack energy and in certain instances, like when he invites his friends over for a game of cards, get bogged down with archaic chatter that does not propel the plot, or reveal anything about the characters. The disease, where the doctors can pinpoint exactly what hour the person will die and in what way, comes-off like something out of a sci-fi movie and hard to take seriously. I didn’t get why it shifts from black-and-white to suddenly color after he gets the grim diagnoses. You’d think it should work in reverse, be colorful when he still thinks he’s got his future ahead of him, only to turn black-and-white when he realizes his time is very limited, or at the very least don’t have it turn color until the very end when he’s learned to accept his condition and die gracefully, or leaves to enter some sort of afterlife

Wasson, who hasn’t appeared in a movie since 2006 and now makes a living as a audio book narrator, has stated that this was his most favorite movie that he was in and it’s easy to see why as he basically propels it along particularly with his impressions of famous actors, but his character’s transition through the 5-stages of grief is much too quick. It’s odd too that he chooses not to tell any of his friends or family that he’s dying as I’d think most other people in the same situation would want to say what’s going to happen to them if for anything to look for some comfort as they grieve.

Blanche Baker, the daughter of legendary actress Carroll Baker, is a good actor, but her character is cliched. As a street prostitute she lets down her guard too easily and quickly. For all she knows this guy could be lying to her about having a terminal illness in order to gain some cheap sympathy and since she’s been a hooker for awhile and spent time with other guys of a dubious quality, I’d think her opinion of men would be pretty low and she’d not be so trusting of Wasson when he tells her his situation and instead be cynical. This idea that all prostitutes have a ‘heart-of-gold’ if you just get past their rough exterior is a stereotype as some of them due to the harsh life on the streets can be genuinely embittered. Having Wasson deal with a more hardened one would’ve not only made it more realistic, but given the scenes some pizzazz as they could bicker and argue, versus having it get so sappy that it becomes cringe-worthy.

I suppose if you give it enough time it does have a way of growing on you emotionally, but the overly choreographed ending takes away all realism. Ultimately it’s a potentially interesting idea that thinks it has a deeper message and statement than it really does.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: September 26, 1988

Runtime: 1 Hour 58 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Danny Irom

Studio: Light Age Filmworks ltd.

Available: None

Schizoid (1980)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Killing group therapy members.

Julie (Marinna Hill) is an advice columnist who after going through a recent divorce begins attending group therapy sessions run by Dr. Pieter Fales inside his home. The Dr. soon falls for Julie and the two form a romantic relationship much to the dismay of both Alison (Donna Wilkes), the Dr.’s teenage daughter whom he live with, and Julie’s volatile ex-husband Doug (Craig Wasson). It’s also around this time that Julie begins receiving anonymous letters threatening to kill her. When she goes to the police they dismiss it as harmless, but then members of her therapy group begin turning-up dead.

This was yet another product of the notorious Cannon Group studio whose output was highly variable. This production proved to be on the low-end where writer/director David Paulsen was assigned to write a script in 1-month that had to be a horror story, which needed come in under $1 million budget and had to have Klaus Kinski in the cast as he was currently under contract. Paulsen is better known for having done Savage Weekendwhich is considered the first slasher movie. While that movie was intended to be a murder mystery, but ended up by accident giving birth to a whole new genre this one worked in reverse as the intent was to make a horror film, but the result is a bland murder mystery.

A lot of the problem stems from the murder scenes, which are too brief and too spread out and no imagination given to how they’re pulled-off. Just one stab with the scissors and the victim goes down, which gets old fast. The killer is never seen. Having a mystery as to his identity is fine, but he still needs to be wearing some sort of mask, or frightening get-up that allows him to be memorable. Having him just be a shadowy figure that’s seen in only brief snippets does not build tension. The group therapy scenes get botched too. The topics discussed could easily be done in polite company over dinner and nothing close to any actual psychological issues making these moments as boring as the killings.

Klaus Kinski is one of the few things that keep it diverting. While he alienated many a director he worked with and wasn’t exactly loved by even his own family members he’s still with his unique facial features a fascinating actor to watch. Having him play a psychiatrist when he was known in real-life to be rather crazy and erratic is inspired casting and he manages to pull-off the good guy role in successful fashion though his presence didn’t come without controversy. Flo Lawrence, who gets billed as Flo Gerish, stated that during a scene where he makes-out with her he touched her in private areas that was not called for in the script and her look of shock and discomfort in the moment is genuine.

Wilkes is equally magnetic and you get to see her fully nude near the beginning and she looks great. She easily steals every scene that she’s in and should’ve been made the star while the cardboard Hill, who gives a flatlined performance, dumped. I was impressed too with the way she was able to hold her own in the scenes that she did with Klauski as he was known to be notoriously difficult with his co-stars. In his autobiography ‘Kinski Uncut’ he alleges that the two had an affair though Wilkes has never confirmed this and while she has a fan page on Facebook this is one movie that she rarely ever mentions.

Spoiler Alert!

While the film remains moderately watchable the end reveal of the killer, which turns out to be Wasson, was a big disappointment. Normally I can start to figure out who the killer is near the end and in some rare cases I can be completely surprised, but I knew the second Wasson’s character gets introduced that he was clearly the bad guy. There is a point in the film where a detective, who’s speaking with Hill, picks up some scissors that she has on a book shelf in her office, making me believe that she might actually be the culprit. Had that been the case this might’ve gotten a few more props it also would’ve helped explain the film’s title as she’d be exposed as having a dual personality, but as it is the title really doesn’t have anything to do with the story.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: September 15, 1980

Runtime: 1 Hour 29 Minutes

Rated R

Director: David Paulsen

Studio: The Cannon Group

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

Four Friends (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Living through the ‘60s.

Four male friends from Indiana go from high school to college and then on into young adulthood while remaining close and supportive. All of them have a passion for Georgia (Jodi Thelen) a very independent woman who enjoys playing-the-field when it comes to men and at various points has jumped into relationships with the four of them individually and at different times. Yet it is Danilo (Craig Wasson) who seems to be the most infatuated with her and he spends his life chasing after her, but finds that when they are together all they do is fight.

The story is apparently very loosely based on the experiences of screenwriter Steve Tesich who immigrated to this country from Yugoslavia at a very young age. The film starts out realistically enough, but quickly devolves into a whimsical tale that introduces interesting plotlines only to resolve them in cutesy ways that ends up making this sprawling tale quite shallow.

One of the biggest detriments is the casting of Craig Wasson who is a horrible actor as he can convey only one type of emotion, which is that of anxiousness and only one type of facial expression, which is that of nervousness. If he dares to try to expand his limited acting abilities away from these two things it comes off as unconvincing. Hs character like all the rest have no appeal as they never grow or evolve and seem put in simply as props to help carry the transparent tale.

I did like Thelen who plays the part of a spacey, free-spirited woman quite well, but even here it ends up getting clichéd. The other male characters have no distinguishable qualities and she sleeps around with them like they are toys on her own personal roulette wheel. Wasson’s character was her exact opposite and the two share no real chemistry making their eventual romance come off as being quite forced.

The film also contains some campy over-the-top dramatic elements that are unintentionally laughable and ridiculous. One takes place during a wedding party where while in front of hundreds of guests the bride’s father goes inexplicably crazy and shoots his daughter, then groom and eventually himself. Later on during a performance art show one of Thelen’s friends, in an apparent drugged stupor, accidently puts her foot on the accelerator while sitting in a car that’s parked inside a building, which sends it crashing through the wall and spiraling several stories to the ground.

The one aspect that I did like is that it didn’t resort to the Forrest Gump formula where the main characters get involved directly into all the famous historical events of the era, but instead view them from afar, which is more realistic. However, the film doesn’t show enough ‘60s nostalgia and half the time you forget the setting is even in that time period.

I admire the ambitious concept, but it takes on too much and would’ve been better had the script been more focused and less sprawling. Nothing here is compelling or memorable and the viewer is left with a genuinely flat feeling when it is over.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: December 11, 1981

Runtime: 1 Hour 54 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Arthur Penn

Studio: Filmways Pictures

Available: DVD

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Can’t get enough Freddy.

The last of the Elm Street children find themselves plagued by the same terrible nightmares and are now put into an institution where a grown-up Nancy (Heather Langen kamp) works as a dream therapist. It is found that Kristen (Patricia Arquette) has the ability to invite other people into her dreams, so the entire group goes into her nightmare and takes on Freddy (Robert Englund) as a team.

This third entry into the series proves to be one of the best. It makes the most creative use of the dream idea and shows a nice mix between horror and comedy. I enjoyed the camaraderie between the characters and how they seem to genuinely care and look out for each other. Freddy gets more screen time and has some  great lines. I wasn’t so sure how someone can invite others into her dreams, but for the most part it’s fun.

The special effects are imaginative. I liked the scene where Freddy lifts his shirt and exposes the crying faces of all the spirits of the dead children pushing out of his stomach. I also liked the shot showing the needle marks on the arm of a former heroin addict suddenly coming to life and going through the sucking motion like they are little mouths.

The best moment though is when Dick Cavett is seen on TV interviewing Zsa Zsa Gabor only to suddenly turn into Krueger while making the statement “Who gives a fuck what you think”.  The only negative is that the camera cuts away before we see Freddy slash her with his glove, which would have been icing on the cake.

I stated in my review of the first film in this series that Langenkamp is the best victim in a horror movie, which I think is still true, but Arquette, who makes her film debut here, has to come in as a close second. She has an appealing face and seems very much like a real teenager and you really got to admire her feistiness.  Jennifer Rubin as Taryn also makes her film debut and has one of the prettiest pair of blue eyes you will ever see.

Langenkamp for whatever reason seems a little stiff and awkward in her role although she improves as the film progresses and gets more into the dream sequences. I also didn’t like the streak of white hair that seems to hang down on the right side of her face. I wasn’t sure if this was added in to make her appear ‘more mature’, but it seemed out-of-place, unnecessary and even a bit distracting.

Craig Wasson who is a terrible actor and whose presence seriously hurt Body Double is cast as Neil one of the doctors in the clinic. Here I found him to be a little more tolerable simply for his perpetual looks of either confusion or concern that I think are the only two expressions that he is able to show.

I remember back in 1987 this was THE movie to see and be seen at amongst the teen crowd and how on opening night there was a line of teenagers going around the block to get in and me being the self-proclaimed film connoisseur was right at the front of it. I enjoyed the film very much at the time, but found upon second viewing that it didn’t grab me quite as much.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 27, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Rated R

Director: Chuck Russell

Studio: New Line Cinema

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