Tag Archives: Ed Begley Jr.

Private Lessons (1981)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Housekeeper seduces a minor.

Mallow (Sylvia Kristel) is an English nanny working for a rich client named Fillmore (Ron Foster) who gets involved in a scheme with the family’s chauffer Lester (Howard Hesseman) to seduce Fillmore’s 15-year-old son Philly (Eric Brown). The idea is for her to fake having a heart attack during their lovemaking and convince Philly that he has killed her and then Lester will blackmail him to take $10,000 out of the family’s safe and give it to him has hush money for not reporting it to the police, but Philly is smarter than they think and not only catches onto their scheme, but has a double-cross in store for them as well.

The idea of having an adult making love to a minor most likely wouldn’t have gotten the green light today. To me it reeked of being a major double-standard. If the genders had been reversed and it had been a 15-year-old girl seduced by an older man this thing would’ve been considered obscene and banned, but because it involves a teen boy with ‘raging hormones’ instead that somehow makes it ‘okay’ and is approached as being nothing more than an innocuous sexual ‘coming-of-age’ flick, which I found to be both annoying and aggravating.

The scene involving the young Brown getting naked and hopping into the tub with the equally naked Kristel where they then fondle and kiss each other seemed like child erotica and will most likely make viewers today who are now much more sensitive on this topic feel uncomfortable to watch. The ending in which the two go to bed together in a very drawn out sensual segment that is done under a romantic context is downright smarmy. Viewers wanting to watch this simply to catch Kristel naked will be disappointed to know that most of her nude scenes where done using a body double named Judy Helden.

The script was written by Dan Greenburg, who also appears briefly as a seedy hotel owner and based on his 1969 novel ‘Philly’. He is a noted humorist who eight years earlier wrote the script to the film with the quirky title of I Could Never Have Sex with any Man Who has Such Little Respect for My Husband. For the most part this film is rather bland, but manages to pick up a bit during the second half when the story twist kicks in that at the very least makes it better than most other teen sex comedies, which are usually devoid of any discernable plot at all.

The script though is full of holes. For one thing it is highly doubtful that a rich parent would give their child a combination to a safe that has tons of money in it and there is never any explanation of what was put into the body bag that is hoisted into the ground and buried when Lester was still tricking Philly into believing it was the dead Mallow. Obviously it wasn’t her, so what was used to make it seem like a dead body? The film never says, but should’ve. Also, I found it hard to believe that Mallow and Philly could go out to a fancy restaurant and make out with each other openly in a booth and not have it create a stir and distraction with the other patrons especially when it was clearly involving an adult and a minor.

Brown whose only other claim to fame was playing Ken Berry’s son in the first two seasons of ‘Mama’s Family’ gives an engaging performance, but I couldn’t help but wonder what his parents where feeling and thinking during the love scenes. It’s also interesting to see Hesseman who wears a wig and has his mustache dyed brown in a rare turn as a heavy. Begley Jr. gets a few kudos in his attempt to play a ‘tough guy’ cop and Dan Barrows makes the most of his small role as the family’s gardener.

The film has a surprisingly great soundtrack that feature a lot of hits from the day which include: ‘Hot Legs’, ‘Tonight’s the Night’ and ‘You’re in My Heart’ by Rod Stewart as well as ‘Just When I Needed You the Most’ by Randy Van Warmer, ‘I Need a Lover’ by John Cougar, ‘Fantasy’ by Earth, Wind and Fire, ‘Next Time You See Her’ by Eric Clapton and ‘Lost in Love’ by Air Supply. How such a low budget movie was able to pay for the rights to these songs is a mystery, but it defiantly adds pizazz and helps give the film an extra point.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: August 28, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 27Minutes

Rated R

Director: Alan Myerson

Studio: Jensen Farley Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu

Get Crazy (1983)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Save the Saturn Theater.

Stagehand Neil (Daniel Stern) who works for concert promoter Max Wolfe (Allen Garfield) has his hands full trying to put together a New Year’s Eve bash to welcome in 1983. First he must deal with a persnickety fire marshal (Robert Picardo), an arrogant rock star (Malcolm McDowell) and raucous, stoned fans who will stop at nothing to get into the event even if they haven’t paid. He also must try to stop Colin Beverly (Ed Begley Jr.) who wants to blow up the theater and replace it with a high rise business building. They’ve even planted a bomb in the place that is set to go off when the clock strikes midnight unless Neil can somehow get to it first.

The film is directed by Allan Arkush who also did the cult hit Rock ‘N’ Roll High School and it has similar cartoonish, slam-bang paced gags as well as featuring some of the same actors including Paul Bartel who appears here as a Dr. wearing a blood splattered white coat and Mary Woronov. It also makes a playful reference to that film by having one of the characters (Stacey Nelkin) wearing a Ramones T-shirt. I ended up preferring this movie to that one as the humor has more of a satirical edge.

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It’s all loosely based on Arkush’s experiences working at the Fillmore East Rock Palace between the years of 1968 to 1971. He initially wanted to make it more of a realistic, subtle comedy, but was only able to get it funded when he agreed to turn into an Airplane-like formula, but it still succeeds anyway. In fact one of the things I really liked about this film is it gives the viewer despite its exaggerated nature a good composite of what things are like for someone who would work at one of these places and the audience seems genuinely raucous and very much like what you would find at a wild rock party of that era.

Stern is likable in the lead and Miles Chapin is engaging as his would-be nemesis. Begley is a bit boring as the villain in a type of role that doesn’t take advantage of his talents, but singer Lou Reed as a songwriter going through a creative bloc who uses bits of random conversations that he hears as ‘inspiration’ for his lyrics is quite funny. The true scene stealer though is McDowell who sings two knock-out songs that are better than the ones done by the rock bands.

Although it was made and takes place during the 80’s  it still seems much more like a 70’s movie especially with the free-basing drug use, which had become out-of-style during the ‘just say no’ decade as well as unprotected sex between strangers. However, McDowell’s conversation with his talking penis while inside a dingy bathroom more than makes up for any of the film’s other shortcomings. I also got a kick out of the poster of him that features giant roaming eyes and a moving tongue.

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My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: August 5, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: Allan Arkush

Studio: Embassy Pictures

Available: VHS

Serial (1980)

serial

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: He doesn’t like fads.

The world has turned into one giant fad and everyone and everything is a part of it. Martin Mull is the one remnant of sanity as he tries to survive in it while still keeping his balance.

There is hardly anything cinematic about this picture. Take out some of the ‘dirty’ references and you have a TV-movie. In many ways it’s barely a movie at all, but more of a compilation of skits running along the same theme.

Mull is definitely a good anchor as his glib, sardonic comments help keep this thing churning. The rest of the characters though don’t resemble real people in any way and many of the fads shown weren’t really followed by that many to begin with. It’s pretty restrained and soft and fails to attain the acidic wit of the Cyra McFadden novel of which it is based.

Attacking trendy people isn’t too difficult and this film fails to supply any new perspective on the subject. This is probably the most annoying thing about it, which is that it is as vapid and superficial as the people and lifestyles it tries to mock.

The film does manage to be fast paced and there are a few slightly amusing bits, which could prove entertaining to those on a really, really slow night. Of the good stuff there is a dog groomer who shouts to his barking dogs to “Shut up you sons of bitches.” There is also Mull going to an orgy and having to step through a whole mass of naked bodies before he can find his girlfriend. Kudos also must go out to the climatic finale that features a gay biker gang lead by Christopher Lee who rampage (on their motorbikes!) the home of a religious cult. The running gag of having Tuesday Weld constantly referring to the Pamela Bellwood character as a ‘cunt’ isn’t bad either.

Also, Ed Begley Jr. can be heard on the radio as a DJ in the opening sequence.

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My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: March 28, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 26Minutes

Rated R

Director: Bill Persky

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD

Meet the Applegates (1990)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bugs turn into people.

Giant Brazilian Beetles take human form and disguise themselves as a typical suburban family. The father beetle Richard (Ed Begley Jr.) gets job at a nuclear plant, which he plans to use to destroy mankind and thus save their species and the rainforests from human progression.

This cultish-like comedy pretty much kills itself from the beginning by having a farfetched premise that it never bothers to explain. Just how do these giant beetles learn to take human form? Nothing is shown or mentioned. Even a really, really stupid explanation would be better than nothing at all.

The film does have a few good points, which allows you to stick with it despite the complete absurdity. One is the fact that it tackles the very serious issue of environmentalism. If anything it gets the general viewer a little more aware of the problem and by putting the bugs in human form makes them sensitive to their situation.

The film also has its witty moments as it analyzes the different habits of both bugs and humans. The best part may actually be a rather simple bit when the bug wife Jane (Stockard Channing) is not in the mood for sex so Richard grabs a science magazine with large pictures of insects and then ‘gets-off’ on it in the bathroom. There is also a side story dealing with the wife’s obsessive use of credit cards that is right-on-target.

Yet within all the offbeat humor there is also an amazingly high level of inconsistencies. These bugs seem to know a lot about certain technical gadgetry, but then not in other areas. They respond to some things in an odd creature-like way and then at other times like a regular person would. The scenes involving sexual relations between these bugs and other humans seem very unnatural and highly preposterous.

The acting runs hot and cold. Begley can be good in offbeat and nerdy roles, but as a family patriarch he just does not cut it. Robert Jayne as the son Johnny is terrible. He has a dazed expression on his face throughout like he was hit on the head a few times and acts like he was never in front of a camera before. On the plus side it’s nice to see Stockard back to doing comedy as she has a good knack for it. Dabney Coleman is fun even though he is pretty much wasted though seeing him dressed in drag and calling himself ‘Aunt Bea’ is genuinely funny.

Overall the film looks rushed and may have had studio tampering. The special effects are cheap and although some of it is passable most of the time it is downright deplorable. The ‘feel good’ ending is excruciating. Director Michael Lehmann seems to be another casualty to the dreaded sophomore jinx. Heathers, which was his first feature was a great success, but even though this film has its moments it cannot come together as a whole.

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My Rating: 4 out of 10

Alternate Title: The Applegates

Released: November 8, 1990

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated R

Director: Michael Lehmann

Studio: Triton Pictures

Available: VHS (as ‘The Applegates’)