Tag Archives: Dena Dietrich

On the Air Live with Captain Midnight (1979)

on the air live with captain midnight

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: A renegade radio station.

When high school teen Ziggy (Tracy Sebastian) finds himself fired from a radio station he decides to get revenge by setting up his van with equipment that will allow him to broadcast his own pirate radio station from it. To his surprise it becomes a hit especially from the area teens who even pay him to play their favorite songs. Things seem to be going great until the FCC catches on and they send out a very determined agent (John Ireland) to catch him.

This film, which isn’t too great to begin with, might’ve had a shot had it not starred such a pathetic actor in the lead. This guy, who is the son of the husband and wife team that directed this and therefore the only reason anyone in their right mind would’ve given him the part, is just downright terrible. A dead, rotting corpse would’ve had more charisma than this guy and he conveys his lines like he is reading them directly off a cue card, which really gets annoying. Having his presence take up almost the entire runtime when he isn’t even deserving of a brief walk-on bit is what categorically kills this film and makes it almost a wretched experience to sit through at all.

The idea that this bland kid would somehow create such a fervent teen following is equally ludicrous. He does nothing creative, or interesting when he is on-the-air and basically just introduces songs with his monotone voice that wouldn’t excite anyone, so seeing these kids go wild over him and even tear off his clothes when he parachutes out of a plane and then lands on the ground is just plain dumb and unintentionally funny in a bad way.

Barry Greenberg, who plays his chubby friend Gargen, is a little bit better, but the way he stutters every time he gets nervous is hooky. Mia Kovacs plays Spunky who is Ziggy’s girlfriend and was the only child of legendary comedian Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams. This was her one-and-only film appearance as she ended up dying tragically in a car accident a few years later that was eerily similar to the one that killed her father.

The veteran performers help a bit. Although Ireland, whose career plummeted badly in his later years to the point that he was forced to place a full-page ad in Variety that literally begged agents/producers to hire him, does not play up his antagonistic part enough. However, Dena Dietrich, as Ziggy’s mother, is a delight and the best thing about this otherwise limp movie.

Ferd and Beverly Sebastian had made a few drive-in flicks before this one including the cult-hit ‘Gator Bait, which starred Claudia Jennings and that is the type of genre they should’ve stayed in as anything else was clearly out-of-their-league and the ultimate result here is pretty flat.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: November 24, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 25Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Ferd and Beverly Sebastian

Studio: Sebastian International Pictures

Available: VHS

The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder (1974)

crazy world 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Pretending to be crazy.

Vrooder (Timothy Bottoms) is a Vietnam Veteran who has returned from the war and is unable to cope with the stresses of everyday life, which eventually gets him checked into the psychiatric ward of a local VA Hospital. There he falls in love with Zanni (Barbara Hershey, but billed as Barbara Seagull) who works as a nurse there, but he is unhappy to find that she is already engaged to Dr. Passki (Lawrence Pressman). To escape his frustrations he hides out in an underground bunker that he has created near a local highway. The place comes complete with electricity and telephone service as well as an array of booby traps to tip him off if anyone comes near, but the heads of the local power and telephone companies’ start trying to track him down in an effort to stop his pilfering of their services, which could ultimately lead to an end to his days of freedom.

The film is cute, but a little too cute and was produced, believe it or not, by Hugh Hefner. It likens itself to being an offbeat comedy, but there really isn’t that much that is original about it and it comes off more like a tired anti-establishment flick with the proverbial authority figures portrayed in stale, one-dimensional ways. One could actually consider this as a weak cousin to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Vrooder being McMurphy, Passki being a toned-down male version of Nurse Ratched and the suicidal Alessini (Michael Cristofer) being like Billy Bibbit.

The only slightly diverting thing about this film, that otherwise suffers from having a limited budget and looks like it was shot initially on video and then later transferred onto film, are the scenes involving the heads of the power and telephone companies (Jack Murdock, Lou Frizzell) working together to track down the culprit who’s stealing their service. The climactic scene in which Jack Colvin plays an over-the-top Dirty Harry type cop obsessed with getting Vrooder and sending an entire armed police force into the forest to find him is amusing as is the mugshots shown of past felons who had stolen electrical and phone service, which were all made up of headshots from the film’s behind-the-scenes crew.

Bottoms is rather transparent, but Hershey, with her effervescent smile and naturally carefree persona, is far better as her simple presence naturally exudes the film’s hippie-like theme. This was the second of four films in which she was billed with the last name of Seagull and this was done as a personal tribute to seagull that she had accidentally killed while filming a scene in the movie Last Summer.

Albert Salmi, in a rare appearance without his mustache, is excellent in support as Vrooder’s good-natured, fun-loving friend Splint and I found it hard-to-believe that this same man who could play such a peaceful character so well would years later in real-life murder his wife before turning the gun onto himself. Elderly film director George Marshall also does well as the aging Corky and his performance should’ve merited supporting Oscar consideration.

This obscure movie also marks the film debuts of several performers, which includes not only Murdock’s and Cristofer’s, but Ron Glass’ as well who plays an hospital orderly and Dena Dietrich playing Vrooder’s mother who later became best known as Mother Nature in a series of commercials that ran during the ‘70s.

crazy world 1

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: October 18, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Arthur Hiller

Studio: 20th Century Fox