Tag Archives: Fred Ward

UFOria (1985)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: She dreams about spaceships.

Arlene (Cindy Williams) is a lonely woman living in a small town and working at a local supermarket. One night she starts having dreams about a spaceship landing in town and taking her away. Her new boyfriend Sheldon (Fred Ward), who is a shady drifter always looking to make a quick buck, works with his brother Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), much to her consternation, to use her ‘visions’ to make money off of it by portraying her as communicating with some outer worldly messenger that’s connected to God.

This film was made in 1980, but sat on the shelf for 5 years and it’s easy to see why as it’s difficult to put it into any predefined genre. It’s certainly isn’t a sci-fi flick and in a lot of ways it really isn’t a comedy either. There are a few funny bits, but they get lost inside scenes that go on far longer than they should, which never allows the film to gain any traction or momentum.

Williams is not right for her part and fails to convey the downtrodden look of a lonely woman in a role that would’ve been better served had it been played by an actress with a more plainish, dumpy features like Kathy Bates. It’s also annoying that she has these vivid dreams, but the viewer never gets to see them. Movies are a visual medium and should take advantage of that element as much as possible by showing what’s happening instead of just having a character describe it.

Stanton isn’t right for his part either. In certain films his low-key style is perfect, but here he fails to effectively convey the animated, fiery delivery of a TV evangelist, which is a part that needed to be comically played-up much more.

Ward was the only one that I liked and he really comes into his own with a character that isn’t particularly likable, but has an interesting arch where he goes from being a cynical non-believer to eventually defending Arlene from those who mock her. He also drives his car in the most bizarre way that I’ve ever seen with his feet up on the dashboard and not on the pedals.

Spoiler Alert!

I was hoping that the ending would be a payoff for having to sit through such a slow, poorly paced film, but ultimately it falls flat just like everything else. I liked the idea of a spaceship suddenly appearing, but then the film cuts to the closing credits without examining what happened to the people, how they reacted to it, or what the aftermath was, which I found frustrating.

End of Spoiler Alert!

The small town setting filmed in Palmdale and Lancaster, California gives off just the right rustic look and prime stomping ground for fringey, eccentric people like the characters here.  While the film does have a definite cult appeal the offbeat elements get stymied inside a lethargic pace that never allows it to gel, or become captivating.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: October 1, 1985

Runtime: 1 Hour 35 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Binder

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS

Southern Comfort (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Watch out for Cajuns.

A National Guard unit goes on a training exercise in the Louisiana swamps and finds themselves fighting for their lives from a group of vindictive Cajuns that lurk in the woods.

Just about all the characters are obnoxious, unlikable, and incredibly ignorant. These guys have to be the most undisciplined and poorly managed guard unit out there. It becomes like a comedy of errors and one almost begins to side with the Cajuns. The suspense ebbs and flows poorly and most of the time there is no tension at all. The final sequence takes too long to play out until you end up not caring what happens. It would have been better had the Cajuns not been so hidden and given a face and some distinction. It also would have been a better atmosphere had the story taken place in the summer instead of the winter. The film though is really hurt by the fact that it is too reminiscent of Deliverance which is a better film simply for the fact that it created a more lasting eeriness. Also, the sequence involving the killing and gutting of what looks to be a wild hog is just about as gruesome and graphic as the infamous turtle killing scene in Cannibal Holocaust.

On the positive side there is one good scene involving a very intense attack by a group of vicious dogs as well as a nicely photographed knife fight between actors Powers Booth and Fred Ward. The Cajuns are portrayed as being more cunning and clever than in Deliverance, which makes this a little more of a slick thriller. Ward is very good in his role as one of the surly soldiers and Keith Carradine is surprisingly engaging in his part.

Ultimately this is a grade C Deliverance that despite some good attempts just never comes together. It would be best to just watch the original and avoid this one completely.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: September 25, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 46Minutes

Rated R

Director: Walter Hill

Studio: EMI

Available: VHS, DVD