Tag Archives: Henry Winkler

The Lord’s of Flatbush (1974)

lords of flatbush 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Sly and the Fonz.

Butchey (Henry Winkler) forms a leather jacket gang with his friends at a Brooklyn city high school during the 1950’s. The group is made up of Stanley (Sylvester Stallone) who is forced to marry his girlfriend when he gets her pregnant and Chico (Perry King) who romances the pretty new girl in school named Jane (Susan Blakely). As they grow into adulthood they find themselves drifting apart as new interests and demands begin to appear.

This film can best be described as a B-version of American Graffiti that came out just a year earlier. The production values are shoddy with a grainy picture that looks like it was filmed on somebody’s home camera. The story works in fragmented style that comes off more like a series of vignettes than an actual plot. Chico’s romance with Jane happens too quickly and seems artificial from the start especially since they are from ‘opposite sides of the tracks’. The actors themselves are clearly well over 18 and in Stallone’s case almost pushing 30 making their presence and the overall 50’s feel seem unauthentic.

The one thing that saves it is that there are some funny scenes as well as moments of decent drama and character development. The part where Stallone barters with a jeweler over the price of the wedding ring is quite good. I also liked the scene where the boys get together to intimidate a guy who is dating Chico’s girl only to run in fright when the other guy brings in a team of football players to defend him. However, the opening bit dealing with the teens misbehaving in class is not funny at all and I ended up feeling sorry for the teacher who was only trying to do her job.

Although given top billing Winkler is underused and almost forgettable. King is the real star and does quite well while also creating a multi-dimensional character. Stallone steals every scene he is in and proves to be much more adept at comedy than you might think. You can also glimpse Ray Sharkey, Armand Assante and Brooke Adams as wedding guests.

The film also features model-turned-actress Susan Blakely in only her third feature who does well playing the ‘good girl’, but the scene where Chico pressures her into having sex and she resists while asking him what color her eyes are in an attempt to see if he really ‘knows’ her and not just using her makes no sense. For one thing her big, blue eyes are the most prominent part of her face. Anyone, even a stranger, who glances at her face for even a second would know the color of her eyes, and thus having her ask someone what color they are is ridiculous already and then having them unable to tell her makes it the dumbest part of the whole movie.

susan blakely

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: May 1, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 26Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Martin Davidson and Stephan Verona

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Heroes (1977)

heroes

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Adjusting to civilian life.

Jack (Henry Winkler) is a Vietnam Vet. still suffering from nightmares from his war time experiences. He has been in and out of the psyche ward at the veteran’s hospital, but has come up with an idea that he feels will makes both him and his buddies a lot of money. He wants to start a worm farm to be used as fisherman’s bait, but must board a bus to California to do. There he meets Carol (Sally Field) a woman who is engaged to be married and was a war protester during the 60’s. The two don’t get along at first, but eventually a relationship is made as she and his cousin Ken (Harrison Ford) help Jack fulfill his dream.

The movie is well filmed for the most part and even has a nicely shot and exciting foot chase down the busy streets of Manhattan, but the script by James Carabatsos, who was a Vietnam Vet. himself is too loosely structured and only glosses over the many issues that veterans face, which gives the whole thing a very shallow feeling. The only time we ever see any type of flashback’s to the experiences that Jack had while fighting in the war is at the end even though I felt the film would’ve been much stronger had this been shown throughout. The comical segments are misplaced and the story would’ve worked better had it just stuck to the drama.

The film also spends too much time with Jack and Carol’s budding romance, which for the most part comes off as forced. The cutesy ways that the two are shown constantly bumping into each other as their relationship ‘blossoms’ is contrived and having the two already as a boyfriend/girlfriend from the very start would’ve helped focus things more solely on Jack, which it doesn’t do enough of. I also felt that the segment where Carol pays for damages that Jack does at a café and then goes with him and his buddy Ken to an isolated location where she is promised to get paid back for it didn’t seem realistic. I realize this was the ‘70s where people were more relaxed about meeting strangers, but it still seemed dangerous and impractical for a lonely woman to be driving off with two men she had only met and were already acting peculiar to begin with.  A normal person would’ve simply sued him in small claims court to get back the money that they felt was owed.

Winkler does a terrific job in the lead and I felt it was a shame he hadn’t pursued his film career further instead of languishing away in television. Field is good as well as is Ford playing against type as a country hick. Character actor Stuart Margolin has a fun bit as a driver who picks the two up as they are hitchhiking and Val Avery is amusing as the bus driver who becomes increasingly annoyed at Jack’s antics.

The film has its share of pleasing moments, but on the whole it’s shallow and forgettable. There have been so many other better films on the subject that this one seems barley worth even mentioning.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: November 4, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 53Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jeremy Kagan

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The One and Only (1978)

the one and only 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Struggling actor becomes wrestler.

Andy Schmidt (Henry Winkler) is a college student with a driving ambition of becoming a star. He is constantly doing things to be the center of attention including being a scene stealer in every stage play that he is in even if his role is minor. He meets and falls in love with Mary (Kim Darby) and the two move to New York, but find that life in the big city can be difficult especially when Andy is unable to secure any type of acting gig. Then by chance he meets Milton (Herve Villechaize) who is a dwarf wrestler that gets Andy connected to his promotor Milton (Gene Saks). Milton thinks Andy’s need for attention and flamboyance would be perfect for the theatrics of the wrestling world and although he is initially reluctant eventually starts to love it even when his wife hates it and threatens to leave him unless he quits.

Winkler’s performance is the film’s driving force and outside of his signature role as The Fonz this has to be his best work. I enjoyed the variety of characters that he plays in the ring, but the character himself tends to be quite obnoxious and borders on being a complete turn-off especially at the beginning. It is also hard to believe that anyone could fall in love with someone who is so extremely narcissistic and self-centered making the whole romance angle seem forced. The role also, during the scenes when he is in the ring and wearing very little, shows just how short and puny Winkler really is.

The script by Steve Gordon, who later went onto to pen and direct the Dudley Moore version of Arthur, seems reluctant to dive completely into the wrestling angle even though these scenes are by far the most interesting and funniest and when it gets away from the ring its predictable and contrived. I also couldn’t understand how they were able to maintain an apartment as small as it was when Andy was unable to get any type of job or income and the idea that they had unprotected sex and brought in an infant into the world when they could barely support themselves seemed utterly ludicrous. The film’s setting is during the 50’s, but it never comes full circle into the 70’s making it seem incomplete and the characters not as evolved as they could’ve been.

Darby does well in her part and works as a nice anchor to Winkler’s unbridled zaniness. I also really liked Polly Holliday best known for her role as Flo on the long running TV-series ‘Alice’ as Darby’s uptight mother who finally lets loose at the very end while watching Andy in a wrestling match. Saks has a lot of funny lines especially the running joke dealing with his ‘weird’ son, but his glasses that seem glued to his forehead eventually became annoying to look at.

On the negative side you also have rotund actor Richard Karron who’s excessively hairy, flabby physique, which gets shown in all of its unglorious splendor during one particular match may possibly be one of the grossest sights ever put on celluloid. The casting of the infant is another issue as when he is shown in the hospital he has a full head of blonde hair and then in all the subsequent scenes he has dark black hair.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 3, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Carl Reiner

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video