Tag Archives: Hoyt Axton

Gremlins (1984)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Don’t get them wet.

During his travels through China gadget salesmen Randall (Hoyt Axton) spots a furry little creature called a mogwai at a Chinese antique shop run by Mr. Wing (Keye Luke) and decides to purchase it as a Christmas present for his teenage son Billy (Zach Galligan). The mogwai, which they name Gizmo, comes with three simple rules that must never be broken. The first is that the creature must never be exposed to sunlight or bright lights of any kind, he must never get wet or be given water and most importantly he should never be fed after midnight. Unfortunately all three of these rules end up getting broken and the result is the creation of ugly little monsters called gremlins that create havoc and destruction on a peaceful town during Christmas Eve.

The concept is great with a nice mix of horror and dark comedy and I loved the idea of having this Norman Rockwell small town besieged with an ugly underbelly. The creatures look amazingly real and Gizmo is especially cute with special effects that are both creative and effective.

However, in the filmmaker’s effort to be humorous and ‘clever’ the film goes off-the-beam a bit by adding in stuff that isn’t logical and hurts the plot’s overall integrity. I didn’t get where these monstrous gremlins were finding all these hats and clothes that they are seen wearing nor how they were able to read signs, or know how to drive vehicles. Their tiny arms would be too small to be able to hold a chainsaw let alone run it and if you look closely during the bar scene you can see that the beer mugs that they are holding have been miniaturized in order to conform to the dimensions of the puppet. Also, the part where Gizmo gets into a remote controlled toy car and ‘drives’ it makes no sense since they are solely powered by a remote run by someone else that is not present.

Since water is the basic fluid for the survival of most living organisms it was peculiar that this one couldn’t be given any. What liquid was he supposed to drink instead? If he can’t eat after midnight then when exactly can he eat  since theoretically any time is after midnight whether its 3 AM or 3 PM. To me though the dumbest part is when Gizmo’s original owner Mr. Wing reappears at Billy’s and Randall’s home looking to take the creature back, but how would he know where to locate Randall as he left him no address and the film makes it seem that somehow he walked all the way from orient to get there, which is really dumb.

The film was also in its day considered quite controversial since it features a scene where Billy’s mother (Frances Lee McCain) traps one of the gremlins in a microwave and then heats it up until it explodes, which many people considered ‘too violent’ for a PG film and it helped to usher in the PG-13 rating. To me I felt this scene was actually the best moment in the movie as it’s the one part where it actually becomes like a horror film and has some genuine tension.

Dick Miller is fun as a maintenance man who despises foreign made products and Polly Holliday is equally amusing as a scrooge-like landlord whose over-the-top death is a highlight. I also liked Hoyt Axton as the father, but the running joke dealing with all of his inventions and gadgets that constantly breakdown gets old real fast and I was confused how he was able to afford such a nice big house when he made such a menial living trying to sell things that nobody wanted and didn’t work.

This also marks the last acting appearance of two great character actors, which include Scott Brady who is amusing as the alcoholic sheriff who refuses to believe that a bunch of gremlins are on the loose until it’s too late. Many consider this to be Edward Andrews, whose role here as the bank manager was greatly reduced when the runtime was trimmed by over 50 minutes for the final cut, last onscreen appearance as well even though Sixteen Candles, where he had a much more prominent role, was filmed later, but released to theaters earlier.



My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: June 8, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 46Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Joe Dante

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

Dixie Lanes (1988)

dixie lanes 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review:  Karen Black is funny.

Clarence Laidlaw (Hoyt Axton) returns home from the war to find that is his son Everett (Christopher Rydell) does not want to speak to him due to certain felonies that he supposedly committed before he left. Meanwhile Everett romances Judy (Pamela Springsteen) while also agreeing to deliver a hatbox filled with secret items for his kooky Aunt Zelma (Karen Black) that may entail the transfer of stolen money.

The film moves along too slowly with a storyline that borders on being almost nonexistent. The movie seems to want to focus on the interactions of the slightly offbeat small town characters, but none of them are interesting enough and their dialogue is not funny enough to be engaging.  The recreation of the 1940’s is okay on a low budget level, but there have been so many more bigger budgeted movies that have created a much richer more vivid portrait of Americana that watching this or even the reason behind making it seems unnecessary.

The eclectic cast is interesting, but straddled with such limp material that they have nowhere to go with it. Art Hindle, Moses Gunn, Ruth Buzzi, Nina Foch, and even Tina Louise appear although it is in a very small role. Rydell as the young lead seems misplaced as his hairstyle looks more like an 80’s cut and his pouty, moody, detached behavior seems suited for a more modern era.

Black is a lot of fun and is the one good thing about the movie as she adds a lot of much needed energy. Her over-the-top screams and mannerisms even had me chuckling in a few places particularly at her attempts at bowling. She also had me convinced that she had a knack for comedy and should’ve done more of it. However, like with Rydell her character didn’t seem right for the time period especially with her bleached frizzy hair and her flirtatious and outspoken manner.

Axton’s laid-back style and smooth sounding voice is great for when he is doing one of his ballads, but as a lead actor he is almost lifeless. His graying hair made him seem more like Foch’s husband instead of her son.

There is almost no action to speak of until the very end when director Don Cato implements a forced, slapstick-like car chase that is out-of-sync with the tone of the rest of the film. This takes place during some unexplained supernatural wind storm that makes no sense and pretty much cements this thing as being a poorly realized waste of celluloid.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 3, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 23Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Director: Don Cato

Studio: Miramax

Available: DVD