Tag Archives: John Hillerman

Lucky Lady (1975)

lucky lady

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Three’s not a crowd.

Walker (Burt Reynolds) and Claire (Liza Minnelli) make money by helping people illegally cross the Mexican border into the states, but when their third partner in the business dies and they almost get arrested they decide to get into an easier line of work. With the help of Kibby (Gene Hackman) they become rum-runners who transport liquor by boat under the cover of night during the prohibition era. As the three start to have some success and get to know each other they also form a love triangle and spend their evenings involved in a ménage-a-trois.

If you’re in the mood for non-think, grandiose style entertainment made in the same vein of classic movies from Hollywood’s golden era then you should find this more than satisfying. The plot moves along at a nice breezy pace with characters that are distinct and fun and full of snappy dialogue. The majority of the story takes place on water, but manages to remain quite exciting and ironically only becomes waterlogged when it goes on land. The lavish sets are splendid and the film could be enjoyed by simply taking in those alone.

The three leads are in top form and play against type. Minnelli, who actually looks sexy here in a flapper styled hairdo, is quite amusing with her acerbic one-liners. Reynolds is great as the klutzy member of the trio and Hackman is solid as always playing someone who seems meek at first, but eventually takes over things with his patented strong personality. Unfortunately John Hillerman, best known for playing Higgins in the ‘Magnum P.I.’ TV-series, is the only weak link of the cast playing a bad guy that never conveys enough menace to be truly threatening.

A young Robby Benson who was 18 at the time, but looks more like 14 is quite good in support. I was never all that impressed with the former teen heart throb, but here he is effective playing a shy kid who says little, but when he does say something it’s a gem. Geoffrey Lewis is also quite funny as an inept Captain of the Coast Guard. Mills Watson, who is best known for playing Deputy Perkins on the ‘The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo’ TV-series can be spotted in a couple of scenes. IMDb does not have him listed here, but I recognized him and his name does come up on the closing credits as a character named Giff.

For lightweight entertainment the film does have quite a few action sequences that are surprisingly well choreographed and even quite bloody, but the climatic sequence becomes too cartoonish. I was also disappointed that the one unique element of the story, which is the three getting into a relationship, is only mildly touched upon and basically forgotten after the first hour. The film could’ve gone a lot farther with that and even made it the centerpiece of the plot, which would’ve helped make it more character driven and groundbreaking.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: December 25, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 58Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Stanley Donen

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD


Up the Creek (1984)

up the creek

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Win the raft race.

Bob McGraw (Tim Matheson) is a lazy college student who has taken out over 30 student loans under false names that has allowed him to remain in the school for 12 years. When the school’s dean (John Hillerman) finds out about it he threatens to have him expelled unless he and his buddies (Stephan Furst, Dan Monahan, Sandy Helberg) can win the annual raft race, which is something the school hasn’t done in many years. The four agree to do it once the dean promises them free degrees, but they find things to be tough going as not only must they fight the mighty rapids, but also some Ivy League preppies that will sink to any cheating low to win and a team of marines disgruntled at being disqualified.

This film seems like an odd career move for director Robert Butler who had just come off tremendous critical success with his directing of several early episodes of the ground breaking series ‘Hill Street Blues’ as well as his creation of the slick ‘Remington Steele’ TV-series and the dark/edgy Night of the Juggler film yet here he reverts back to his Disney roots doing a sort of updated, raunchy 80’s version of his Medfield College films that starred Kurt Russell. Unfortunately this one isn’t half as clever and entertaining as those were and in a lot of ways just as silly and childish. The only thing he gets right is the filming done on the Deschutes River in Oregon, which manages to have a few nifty shots of the rafts going down the rapids, but that is about it.

Matheson is the one thing that manages to hold it together playing an amusing caricature of a slacker that remains on-target throughout. Jennifer Runyon as an attractive blonde that he meets up with is gorgeous and perfect eye candy even though she has no nude scenes despite being the hottest female in the film. Furst has a few funny moments in a clichéd role of a gluttonous, overweight character, but it’s the dog named Chuck that ends up being the real scene stealer especially during a diverting game of charades.

Unfortunately the film is unable to hold the balance between being silly and raunchy. In fact after the first 20 minutes there is very little adult humor or nudity at all and what we get left with is a live action cartoon that is more lame than funny. The repetitive hijinks by the competing teams are campy and tiresome and the fact that Matheson and his crew are constantly able to rebuild their inflatable raft after it gets repeatedly destroyed makes no sense. The film would have worked better had it scraped the dumb humor altogether and focused solely on the race as that is the only time that it ever gets even slightly interesting.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: April 6, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Rated R

Director: Robert Butler

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD-R, Amazon Instant Video