Tag Archives: Jo Ann Harris

Deadly Games (1982)

deadly games2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Who killed her sister?

Clarissa (Jo Ann Harris) travels to where her younger sister Linda (Alexandra Lawrence) lived before she was inexplicably murdered inside her home by a masked intruder. Clarissa hopes to help with the investigation, but finds herself initially at odds with the lead investigator Roger (Sam Groom) though the two eventually become romantic partners. Clarissa begins to suspect that Billy (Steve Railsback), an eccentric loner who manages the nearby theater, may be the culprit. Billy and Roger are longtime friends from their Vietnam days and regularly hang-out in the basement of the theater to play a board game. Clarissa tries to devise a way find out if Billy really is the killer, or if it might actually be Roger.

The most shocking thing about this would-be slasher obscurity is just how lame and uneventful it really is. The film starts out right away with a killing, which is poorly lit and the viewer can’t really see what’s going-on, and then proceeds for the next hour and a half to have a bunch of lightly dramatic moments that aren’t scary, or intense at all. Clarissa seems to be not upset about her sister’s passing and spends most of the time worrying more about getting together with old friends, or her dating life. She lives in her sister’s old house while openly stating that she’s not afraid to be there, which lessens the tension. If the protagonist has no concerns about if there’s a bad guy lurking about then why should the viewer?

There’s way too many scenes, like watching the group of friends take part in a backyard football game, or having Clarissa, Roger, and Billy watching an old movie together, that doesn’t propel the plot along in any way nor have much to do with the main story. There’s even a sappy song that gets played during the middle part that has absolutely no place in a horror movie, or any other film for that matter.

I also didn’t get where all of the ‘in-jokes’ were, which Leonard Maltin states in his review comes at you ‘fast and furious’. I came away feeling that this was yet another example where he, or whoever wrote the review for him, was seeing a completely different film altogether. In fact the only thing that is truly deadly here isn’t the ‘games’, but just the movie itself.

Spoiler Alert!

The twist ending is a big letdown as the killer turns out to be Roger, but since he acts so strangely all the way through even entering young women’s apartments and homes unannounced that makes him seem like a genuine creeper, this revelation comes as no ultimate surprise.

Maltin states that the final plot explanation is ‘really stupid’ and reviewers at IMDb say essentially the same thing. It ends with Clarissa killing Roger, who she thinks is Billy until she takes the mask off of him. She then goes back into the theater where Billy shouts our from somewhere that Roger was his best friend and he was now going to avenge his death. He then seems to fly out of nowhere towards Clarissa. I took it that he was hanging onto some sort of prop rope, which they do have in theaters, but it also looked like he was intended to be some sort of ghost that was literally floating towards her and this is what viewers felt was stupid. I don’t know as it’s not clear either way. What I did find frustrating is that the film freezes with Billy coming towards Clarissa and then cuts to the credits, so we never see what happens. Did he kill Clarissa, or did she fight him off? Either way this is the type of thing that needs to be shown, so for it to cut away when it finally gets exciting is ridiculous and if this is what they meant as being ‘stupid’ then I wholeheartedly agree.

End of Spoiler Alert!

The movie really deserves 0 points, but the one thing I did like was the music score. So many other slasher films from that era tried to replicate the score in Halloweenor Friday the 13thbut this one doesn’t sound like either of those. It’s has an acoustic quality that is quiet and subtle yet still effectively creepy. It’s the coolest thing about the movie especially as it gets played over the closing credits, but this production is otherwise so inept that you justifiably might not make it that far.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: March 5, 1982

Runtime: 1 Hour 28 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Scott Mansfield

Studio: Great Plains Films

Available: VHS

The Sporting Club (1971)

the sporting club 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Haves versus have-nots.

Jim (Nicholas Coster) finds out that his business is going under and he barely has any money left. To escape the stress he decides to take a trip to the wilderness of northern Michigan for a little R&R. Unfortunately once there he meets his friend Verner (Robert Fields) who has built a shooting range in his basement and wants to challenge everyone to a duel. The snotty sporting club that Jim belongs to wants to boot him out when they realize he is no longer making an income and rebel- rouser Earl Olive (Jack Warden) gets into a war with the elitist at the sporting club, which sends things spiraling out-of-control between the two sides with Jim right in the middle.

Based on the Thomas McGuane novel the film has the right concept, but not the fluid essence or wry humor of his writing. Some of his later work that was brought to the screen fared better. This film version is too uneven and takes too long to get anywhere. It becomes somewhat intriguing when we are given the idea of this set-up of a wild shoot-out between Olive’s biker gang and the elderly members of the club, but just as things seem to be getting interesting the film veers into a radically different direction and has all the sporting club members getting into a bizarre sex orgy. This may sound funny or even sexy, but it really isn’t as all the people were in their 60’s or 70’s and seeing their naked bodies cavorting around comes off as gross and sick.

The satirical jabs at the snotty club members are funny to some extent. They represent society’s old order people still clinging to age-old traditions and values even though the rest of the world around them is changing. They boast about their exclusive club membership even though it no longer has any allure and their stubbornness only makes them more insignificant and absurd. The scene where they stare blankly like lost children at the blown-up remnants of their cottage is probably the best moment in the film. However, their caricatures end up going overboard they become too illogical and ridiculous like crazed stupid creatures instead of human beings.

Most anti-establishment films of the era, which in the end is what this is, usually cast young stars in the lead, but here we have Coster who was already middle-aged making it look too much like the old guard vs. the old guard, which did not connect with the young filmgoers and they stayed away. The middle-age audience of the time was the establishment themselves and they found the film’s crass humor and scenarios off-putting and thus the film alienated everybody and bombed terribly at the box office.

Robert Fields gives an excellent performance as a budding sociopath and his scenes have an added tension. Warden is also very good in an unusual role for him as a joint smoking trouble maker who loves to rock-the-boat. The gun duel he has with Fields is interesting and his presence helps give the film a few extra points. Margaret Blye has a beautiful face making her a pleasure to look at no matter what she is doing. Jo Ann Harris is also sexy and the scene where she strips down to her panties with the phrase ‘my grandmother loves me’ stenciled on the rear is fun.

The film is weird enough to be worth a look as a curio. Director Larry Peerce infuses some interesting camera work into the proceedings and Michael Small’s moody folk rock score deserves its own album. Despite the locale looking very much like Michigan it was actually filmed near Hot Springs, Arkansas.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 28, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated R

Director: Larry Peerce

Studio: Avco Embassy Pictures

Available: None at this time.