Tag Archives: Glenda Jackson

Lost and Found (1979)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Fighting keeps couple together.

Adam (George Segal) is a college professor vacationing in France whose car collides with that of British divorcee Tricia (Glenda Jackson). He tries to get her to write a letter admitting that she was at fault, but she instead writes the exact opposite while doing it in French, so he wouldn’t know. When he finally catches on to this he tracks her down at the ski resort and again collides with her this time on skis. Eventually they find a way to reconcile and even fall in love before finally marrying yet when they return to the states they start fighting again over just about anything until it seems that is all that they do.

Sloppy, poorly structured romance should’ve never been given the green light. The characters are bland and one-dimensional and the humor cartoonish while the couple’s relationship is strained to the extreme. The story has no momentum and the inane fighting seems put in simply to give it some comical conflict that leads nowhere and eventually becomes tiring.

The main problem is that the two reconcile too quickly. Viewers who watch these types of films enjoy wondering whether ultimately the couple will get past their differences and tie-the-knot, which is what compels them to keep watching, but here any suspense of that is ruined when they get married within the first half-hour and thus the arguments that they have afterwards is anti-climactic. The film would’ve worked better had the two remained antagonistic. The conflict could’ve started in the French Alps and then continued onto the college campus by having the Jackson character work as a prof in the same department as Segal and had their animosity only slowly melt away when they’re forced to work on some project together with the wedding bells then coming in only at the very end.

What makes this movie odd is that it reteams Jackson and Segal as well as the writer/director team of Melvin Frank and Jack Rose who all did A Touch of Class together just 6 years earlier. One would presume that this would be a sequel to that one with Segal and Jackson playing the same characters that they did before, but that’s not the case. In retrospect that’s how it should’ve been played and it would’ve then avoided having to show the dumb, over-the-top way that the two meet here, which is so forced and corny that it cements this has being a bad movie before its even barely begun.

The supporting cast manages to add some life. I got a kick out of Maureen Stapleton as Segal’s free-spirited, hippie-like mother, but she was only 52 at the time and didn’t even have any gray hair making her look much too young to have given birth to a middle-aged man in his 40’s and was in fact only 9 years older than Segal in real-life. Paul Sorvino is amiable as a talkative cabbie and the segment where he and Jackson try to resuscitate Segal after a failed suicide attempt is the only mildly amusing bit in the film.

The ski resort scenery is picturesque although it was actually filmed at Lake Louise in Albert, Canada and not in the French Alps like the movie suggests. You also get to see John Candy in a brief bit and Martin Short in his film debut, but everything else falls painfully flat and I couldn’t help but feel that the entertainment world had passed both director Melvin Frank and Jack Rose by. They had written and directed many successful comedies during the 40’s, but what passed off for funny back then now seemed seriously dated and it should be no surprise that they both only did one more movie after this one.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: July 13, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 46Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Melvin Frank

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD-R, Amazon Video

A Touch of Class (1973)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Sexual liaison turns romantic.

Steve (George Segal) is an American businessman working in London who meets Vickie (Glenda Jackson) a divorced mother of three. Despite being married he immediately takes a liking to Vickie after sharing a cab ride with her and makes no secret that he’d like to have a ‘no-strings-attached’ sexual affair. Vickie approves of the idea, but wants a more romantic setting, so Steve whisks her off to Malaga, but things get complicated when Steve’s friend Walter (Paul Sorvino) shows up on the same trip and constantly gets in the way.

Surprisingly this limp comedy got nominated for Best Picture, which is really hard to believe since there isn’t anything all that funny or original about it. In fact it seems very similar to another picture that writer/director Melvin Frank did in the ‘60s called The Facts of Life, which starred Lucille Ball and Bob Hope and had almost the exact same plot.

The biggest problem is that it doesn’t take enough advantage of its comical potential. Having Steve’s wife Gloria (Hildegard Neil) show up with the kids unexpectedly and want to go on the trip with Steve should’ve been played out much more as it was ripe with comic potential, but instead the film nixes this idea after introducing it and nothing is more annoying than a movie, which sets-up an interesting idea only to then backtrack on it.

Paul Sorvino’s character is equally wasted and his presence could’ve created far more complications that never transpire. In return the movie falls back to a lot of lame situations that seem thrown in for cheap laughs like Steven suddenly going through back spasms, or challenging a 13-year-old kid to a golf game that has nothing much to do with the main plot and basically comes off as forced and lame. The arguments or ‘spats’ that couple have are equally inane and this culminates with the two throwing furniture and clothing at each while in the hotel room, which sends this supposedly ‘sophisticated’ adult comedy dangerously close to becoming benign slapstick instead.

The third act in which the two rent out a flat and continue to have the affair even after they return to London doesn’t improve things. Jackson is supposedly this single mother and yet after she moves into the flat she seems to essentially abandon the kids who disappear from the movie altogether. It also seems hard to believe that Steve’s wife wouldn’t at some point start to catch on to the fact that something was going on as these things eventually will catch up with a person and there’s just so many close calls one can have before finally getting caught and yet here that never happens.

The fact that Steve is very open about his marriage to Vickie and even confides in having previous affairs makes Vickie seem really stupid for wanting to get involved with him in the first place. Supposedly she just wants casual sex as much as he does, but then refers to their trip as a ‘romantic’ one making it seem like she has the idea that this will turn into a relationship. When things do finally sour one doesn’t feel sorry for her as she was old enough to better and anyone with an IQ over 2 would’ve seen the red flags from the start, so why didn’t she?

The only interesting aspect about the movie is that Jackson won her second Oscar for it, which was highly unusual since she had just won her first one 2 years earlier and quite unexpected making many people consider a recount was necessary as they were convinced it had to have been a mistake. It’s not that Jackson gives a bad performance because it is actually quite good, but Marsh Mason, who was the predicted front-runner, gave a superior one in Cinderella Liberty and she should’ve won it.

For years many people wondered what it was about Jackson’s acting in this film, which is a very ordinary fluffy movie at best, that made her stand out to the Academy judges and beat such long odds. A few years back I read somewhere, and I can’t remember where it was at this point, that the reason she won it was for one particularly moment in the movie where Segal tells her that the relationship is over, but instead of her breaking down and crying like the script asked for she puts her head into her hands and remains silent for several seconds. Director Frank argued with her about doing this, but she insisted she wasn’t the type of woman who cries easily and therefore doing it the other way seemed more natural to her and in turn this impressed the judges when they watched the movie because her character responded to something in a completely unexpected way, which apparently was enough for her performance to stand out.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: June 20, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 46Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Melvin Frank

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video

The Romantic Englishwoman (1975)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Writer suspects wife’s infidelity.

Unhappy in her marriage Elizabeth (Glenda Jackson) goes off to Baden-Baden, Germany for a little respite and there meets up with the dashing Thomas (Helmut Berger). Although quite charming Thomas is also caught up in the criminal underworld and being chased by gangsters. After the two share a brief tryst she returns home to her husband Lewis (Michael Caine). Lewis suspects that Elizabeth was unfaithful during her trip, but can’t prove it. He invites Thomas to stay at their place in order to help him finish a screenplay that he is working on and in the process the affair between Thomas and Elizabeth starts up again, but this time Lewis is determined to stop it.

The concept is intriguing, but the film gets ruined by playing its cards too early. A far more interesting scenario would’ve been to have Lewis not suspect Thomas at all or even his wife’s longing for him and instead simply invited Thomas over as a genuine writing partner and only slowly becoming aware of the tensions boiling beneath the surface. Unfortunately having Lewis almost immediately figure things out even before Thomas arrives makes for a very boring first hour with the couple arguing over the same staid, redundant infidelity talking points that have been done a million times before.

The story’s only interesting wrinkle has Thomas starting up a relationship with the nanny (Beatrice Romand), which made more sense as Elizabeth was way older than him and I failed to see why he would’ve been attracted to her to begin with. The nanny was young and cute and it was fun seeing Elizabeth seethe with the same type of jealousy as Lewis, but the film quickly kills this storyline by having the nanny forced to move out and everything goes back to the same formulaic love triangle.

Having Lewis recreating scenes in his screenplay that replicates what he is going through in real-life had potential as it nicely illustrates the thin line between fact and fiction that writers routinely do. Unfortunately the film treats these scenes in a campy/hooky manner and then drops it just as quickly as the romance scenario mentioned above.

The direction is static with a camera nailed to the ground and everything captured in a dingy, shadowy way. The opening bit detailing how Elizabeth first meets Thomas had a naturalistic quality, but the shot were she spots Thomas from across the room and her eyes remained locked on his and she never turns away is not believable. If two people are strangers and one catches the other one staring at them it’s sheer human reflex that the other one will divert their gaze as it’s rude, awkward and off-putting otherwise. Also, to have the word romantic in the title is absurd especially after the two proceed to have sex inside an elevator during their first meeting, which is pure animalistic lust and a more accurate title would’ve been ‘The Horny Englishwoman’.

Spoiler Alert!

The third act helps fill in the gaps in regards to Thomas’ secret past, but having Elizabeth run off with him makes her character seem exceedingly shallow as she essentially abandons her young child in the process. Earlier in the film she got very upset when she saw her child sitting out on a ledge and she fired her nanny for being irresponsible and not watching him more carefully only to then by running off with Thomas behave just as irresponsibly.

The film’s final shot features strange people inhabiting Lewis and Elizabeth’s home like they’re having a party without the owners there. Lewis then after having taken Elizabeth away from Thomas and back with him drives the car the two are in up to their house. Elizabeth looks shocked at seeing all the people inside, but Lewis has a jaded expression and seems to being enjoying watching Elizabeth’s discomfort, but then the film cuts to the credits and never explains what’s occurring and nothing is more frustrating than a film which ends just as it’s finally beginning to get interesting.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: November 26, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 56Minutes

Rated R

Director: Joseph Losey

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

The Music Lovers (1971)

music lovers 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Madness has no bounds.

This is a revealing look at Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Richard Chamberlain) and based on his own personal correspondences as he fought his homosexual tendencies by marrying Nina (Glenda Jackson) a woman he really did not love. Her nymphomania becomes something he cannot satisfy and he eventually abandons her where they then both go on to suffer their own personal forms of madness.

Pianists and composers were like what rock stars are today and I liked how director Ken Russell handles the concert sequence by infusing in the thoughts of the people as they listen to the music and therefore allowing the viewer to visualize the experience of a concert goer.

The scenes with Nina in the asylum are a good example of the grotesque imagery, but they are also well orchestrated and quite memorable. However at times it also gets overdone and unintentionally comical especially the sequence involving Chamberlain’s ill-fated attempt at lovemaking to Jackson on a shadowy, bouncing train car.

Russell shows no feeling for the subject and seems more interested in using it only as an excuse to show off his flashy style. The viewer is never allowed to get emotionally attached to the characters as we are only given a fragment of what these people were like and never the whole picture. The emphasis seems exclusively on their dark and self-destructive sides and watching their descent into madness is not very inspiring or insightful.

The casting of Chamberlain was a poor choice as the guy seems to have a very limited acting range. He is good looking, but lacks the charisma and his facial expressions rarely change while he shifts badly from underplaying the part to overplaying it.

Jackson fares far better and this could be considered a real find for her fans because she plays a type of character that she has never done before, or since. Usually she plays strong willed people, but here her character is weak allows herself to be dominated and exploited shamelessly even by her own mother while also taking part in a very provocative nude scene.

Overall if you like Russell’s style then you will enjoy it more than others. Otherwise it comes off as shallow, moody, and fragmented with some real slow spots during the middle half.

music lovers 2

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: January 24, 1971

Runtime: 2Hours 4Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ken Russell

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

HealtH (1980)

health 4

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Altman’s take on politics.

Normally I’m a big proponent of the European and independent filmmaking system that allows the director to have complete creative control over their projects, which in Hollywood doesn’t always occur and many times the studios will meddle with the film until it becomes nothing like what the director had originally envisioned. However, this film is a great example of what can happen on the opposite end when a director and his ego are allowed too much leeway until their movies become self-indulgent exercises that appeals to no one except themselves and a few of their most ardent followers.

During the ‘70s director Robert Altman had achieved such heightened celebrity that 20th Century Fox studio head Alan Ladd Jr. gave him the green light on virtually any project or idea he wished to pursue. Ladd was such a big fan of Altman’s stuff that he didn’t even care if the film made money or not, which they usually didn’t. It was during this period that Altman was able to achieve some of his most bizarre onscreen creations like Brewster McCloud, which was brilliantly quirky, while others like this one petered out before they even began.

Here Altman was clearly borrowing from his own well particularly with the way he captured running conversations going on at the same time between different people that 10 years earlier had come off as being fresh and inventive, but by this time was now derivative and distracting. The film’s parade of eccentric characters is not interesting or relatable and Altman’s stab at political satire is too soft and unfocused with no connection at all to the political scene of today.

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The threadbare plot, which deals with two political candidates played by Glenda Jackson and Lauren Bacall who compete for the presidency of a Florida health food convention, has too much dialogue and not enough action. It manages to be mildly amusing for the first 30 minutes, but then like with a tire suffering from a slow leak it starts to fizzle until it culminates with a dull and pointless conclusion.

It’s almost worth a look just to see Carol Burnett playing a more subdued type of character than she usually does although the part where she becomes ‘shocked’ at the rumor that her favorite candidate had a sex change operation now seems quite dated. Dick Cavett is also engaging playing himself and trying to corral all the nuttiness around him, but it’s Paul Dooley, who is also credited with co-writing the screenplay, that is the real scene stealer playing an independent candidate willing to do anything for attention.

I’m a big fan of Altman’s work, but I found this one to be slow going, uneventful and sloppy. The film’s concept could’ve used a lot more fleshing out as the whole thing plays like it was simply a lark done by a director that was coasting too much on his past successes while not throwing anything new into the mix.

health 1

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: September 12, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Robert Altman

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: None at this time.

The Boy Friend (1971)

Boy Friend, The

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: An eye popping musical.

I would not call myself a big musical fan, but I found this one to be excellent and the gold standard for all others. The whole thing is visually stunning from beginning to end with a wide variety of backdrops and settings used. You get everything from conventional dance numbers to a fairy tale recreation where the performers dress like ladybugs and live in giant mushrooms. There is even a fun take-off on Greek mythology done in a scenic forest setting.

The best segment has the dancers on not one but two giant record players shown side-by-side and from overhead. The performers dance on top of the huge turntables while as a group make unique symmetrical designs with their bodies. Another part has them on a gigantic playing card, which reminded me of an old Busby Berkley number and who has always been considered the godfather of splashy dance numbers and yet here it seems to outdo even him.

The film carries itself on the visual level alone with a story that can be best described as a standard musical plot. It involves a group of underpaid actors who put on a tacky musical for a small group of people. The film than interweaves between the low budget numbers, which are all still really good, and their fantasies of what things would look like if they had more money. Twiggy plays the shy awkward crew hand that comes on as the star when the leading lady breaks her leg.

Sure it is at times predictable, corny, and lightweight but it makes up for it with a really good sense of humor. The songs all sound great and the dance routines are certainly extravagant. Twiggy may never score as a great actress, but she hits the mark here. She has a cute bob haircut and a constantly perplexed expression that is really amusing. All the other characters have funny idiosyncrasies as well including Glenda Jackson as the injured leading lady who comes back and is none too happy to see how successful her replacement is.

Ken Russell has immense talent and is sadly one of the most unheralded directors around. Some of his films have been considered excessive and nonsensical, but that is not the case here as his visual flair and indulgence work to enhance the production including his use of primary colors in every shot.

This is a highly recommended visual delight that is impressive even by today’s standards and fun to watch for every member of the household.

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: December 16, 1971

Runtime: 2Hours 17Minutes

Rated G

Director: Ken Russell

Studio: MGM

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Nasty Habits (1977)

nasty habits 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Watergate in a convent.

It’s the Watergate scenario all over again only this time inside a convent with nuns. It’s a unique idea for sure that unfortunately doesn’t work because the screenplay by Robert Enders, which is based on the novel by Muriel Sparks keys in on only one angle and then plays it out until it’s boring. It’s a one-joke movie with nothing standing out as funny. There is also no action to speak of and the dialogue is too dry to elicit even a chuckle.

The once in a lifetime cast is wasted. Dame Edith Evans, in her last film appearance, gets hit the worst as she is given the typical old lady treatment and shown for only a few minutes looking feeble and then promptly dying. Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara, Rip Torn, and Eli Wallach are on so briefly that their appearances seem almost non-existent.

Glenda Jackson comes off best as she manages to give her character an added dimension. The forcefulness of her personality comes through quite clearly for the viewer. However her adversary, which is played by Sue Penhaligon, doesn’t have that same type of strong presence and therefore there is no chemistry or confrontation between the two.

Even the always reliable Sandy Dennis becomes a problem. They have her playing a sort of extended version of her tipsy persona from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but her off- key voice and overall kooky behavior gets overplayed and eventually becomes annoying.

The electronic music score by John Cameron is obtrusive. The pacing is terrible and the lack of momentum will have people turning this off long before it is over, which is good since the climactic sequence falls horribly flat.

There are a few surprise cameos. One is by the late newscaster Jessica Savitch another by former talk show host Mike Douglas, but nothing that helps make this entertaining or memorable.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: March 18, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Rated PG

Studio: Brut Productions

Director: Michael Lindsay-Hogg

Studio: Brut Productions

Available: VHS

House Calls (1978)

house calls

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Playboy tries mending ways.

Walter Matthau is by all means an incredibly talented performer and a joy to watch. However, in the looks department he rates pretty low and may be one of the ugliest leading men this side of Don Knotts. Yet this film practically shoots itself in the foot from the very beginning by portraying, with a straight face, Matthau as a doctor who has become a super hunk/chick magnet. All the hot young women are chasing after him! His locker is filled with their love letters and he actually beds a different one each night!!! Problems ensue though when he falls for Ann (Glenda Jackson) who is one of his patients. She is a middle- aged woman who is a bit ‘rough around the edges’. She wants him to drop his playboy ways and commit solely to her, yet he is not sure he can.

This is an overly smug, ‘sophisticated’ comedy that is too light and easy going and in desperate need for a fuller story and little more conflict. The comedy should have been broader instead of just being a long precession of glib one-liners. There’s a few comic set ups that are never even followed through on. However, Art Carney’s eulogy to a dead baseball owner and their subsequent burial of him underneath home plate is good.

The casting of Jackson is one of the few inspired things about this film. Her sharp British wit is a perfect foil to Matthau’s laid-back style, but it doesn’t play it up enough. Their one true ‘confrontation’ doesn’t come until the very end and although the spat is definitely contrived it does at least offer the lively fun you expected of this from the very beginning.

Another problem with this film is that it tries to mix the old fashioned romantic comedy with modern day sensibilities. The silly ‘goof ups’ at the hospital really don’t seem so funny when only a few years earlier these same problems were shown in the excellent film The Hospital with much more serious ramifications. It also looks awkward to have such ‘old school’ middle-agers suddenly jumping into the trendy ‘70’s lifestyle of casual sex and one-night-stands.

There is also the stilted habit of referring to sex as ‘humping’. This seems like a very dated, antiquated term even for back then. Let’s face it this is a slow moving comedy made specifically for adults and kids really wouldn’t want to see it anyways, so striving for the ‘PG’ rating was futile. They should’ve sucked it up, accepted the ‘R’ rating and called sex ‘fucking’ like everybody else.

Jackson and Matthau were later reunited in the 1980 film Hopscotch.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: March 15, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Howard Zieff

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD

Turtle Diary (1985)

turtle diary 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: They free the turtles.

William (Ben Kingsley) becomes fixated with the idea of freeing the sea turtles at the London Zoo and returning them to the ocean. Neaera (Glenda Jackson) starts to have the same dream. The two get together and with the help of the kindly zookeeper George (Michael Gambon) begin to execute their plan.

Although well received by the critics at the time of its release I felt the film never seemed to gel. The plot is too thin and there is no explanation as to why William got so worked up about the turtles being in captivity. I felt there needed to be something shown in his history or character to explain this motivation. After all there are thousands and thousands of people that go to this zoo each year and none of them seemed to get worked up about the same idea. Also, why just the turtles? If William’s problem is seeing an animal that is not in their natural habitat then why not free all the species in the complex.

The plan also goes off way too seamlessly. What are the odds that the zookeeper would be in agreement with them and pretty much do all the work for them in setting it up to the point that all they end up doing is driving the turtles to the ocean. The story would have been a lot funnier and exciting had they somehow had to do it all themselves and behind the scenes. As it is here it becomes almost a non-event that barely holds any interest. Also, I have never heard of a zoo that decides not to press charges when they find that the turtles have been stolen or not firing the employee when they find that he had something to do with it.

The way Neaera and William get together is equally uninspired. They seemingly just keep bumping into each other and through sheer circumstance find out they have the same motivations. I was expecting something a little more creative and humorous. Neaera’s attempts at getting William’s address is particularly forced and contrived. In fact almost all of the conversations that they have with the exception of one where Neaera describes a weird dream that she had is very ordinary. The dialogue they have while traveling to the ocean is the blandest and none of it reveals much about the characters who end up being pretty forgettable.

Watching them carry the turtles to the open water has no emotional impact at all. It is not even the climatic sequence as it happens with 30 minutes left of the film. The rest of the movie concerns William’s dealings with the other people in his flat, which is mainly pointless.

The screenplay was written by celebrated writer Harold Pinter, who has an amusing cameo as one of the customers at William’s bookstore. Pinter was famous for his cutting edge and provocative plays of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s many of which I found to be quite fascinating, but this thing seems to be the polar opposite. The story and execution is standard while lacking any flair or pizazz. I can handle low-key and subtlety and many times relish it, but there still needs to be something more to it. More quirkiness and humor was needed as well as some tension. The film as it is here is flat and seems to waist a potentially unique idea as well as its cast.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: September 10, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Irvin

Studio: The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Available: VHS