Tag Archives: Joseph Bottoms

The Black Hole (1979)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Area of gravitational acceleration.

On their return trip to earth a crew of 5-people (Robert Forster, Yvette Mimieux, Joseph Bottoms, Anthony Perkins, Ernest Borgnine) on board the USS Palomino spot a large spaceship and are baffled at its ability to withstand the gravitational force of the nearby black hole. They decide to investigate the ship and find that it is being run by Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell) who has been for the past 20 years the sole human survivor after the rest of the crew supposedly returned to earth, the members of the Palomino though are suspicious about this explanation since the robed android drones seem to strangely have human-like qualities. They become further alarmed when they learn that Reinhardt plans on taking the ship through the black hole, which they feel will lead to a sure death to all those on board.

For the most part the special effects look awesome  and one gets a true feeling of the vastness of space in this one with Reinhardt’s ship getting captured in a way that makes it look large and impressive. Even the interiors give off a sort-of mansion-like feel and that the characters are inside of a large scale vessel with many rooms as opposed to simply being sets on a soundstage.

Unfortunately the script lacks imagination and becomes just another formulaic madman in space scenario that offers no new twists to the genre. The tone is extremely downbeat and despite being produced by Disney doesn’t seem to be something aimed for kids at all. The story is also devoid of action and when there finally is some it’s short and fleeting and comes off like a second-rate laser shoot-out.

The characters don’t show enough contrasting personalities either and are too old. Usually pre-teens relate better to movies with performers around their same age range, but here everyone is middle-aged and in Borgnine’s case even well past that. Bottoms is the youngest and should’ve carried the film, but his acting is so transparent you end up wishing it he hadn’t even been in it at all.

It’s also a bit ridiculous that Mimieux could communicate with the ship’s robot via ESP even though mental telepathy cannot be substantiated by the scientific community and therefore should not be introduced into a sci-fi flick that is supposedly trying to taken seriously.  I did enjoy Perkins in his part, but he should not have been the one to turn around one of the drones and unmask them to expose a shriveled face underneath, which for trivia purposes was the film’s director Gary Nelson, since it will remind viewers too much of a similar reveal scene near the end of Psycho of which he famously starred in.

Schell as the resident nutcase is a complete bore in a performance that is so pathetically cliched that it borders on camp. He reminded me of James Mason’s character from 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, which was also produced by Disney and should’ve been enough to have Mason invited back to play the part here as he would’ve been far more interesting.

The robots outshine the humans in this one particularly Roddy McDowell and Slim Pickens, who strangely go uncredited, as the voices of the  ‘good guy’ droids. However, the army of villainous androids that try to stop the crew from escaping walk too stiffly almost like mimes playing into the cliche of how people perceive robots to move, but by the year 2132, which is when this story takes place, you’d think technology would’ve improved enough to have created androids that would’ve had more fluid-like motions. They are also a bit too easy to pick-off almost like sitting ducks in a shooting gallery, which saps the shoot-outs segments of any tension.

The ending though is the biggest disappointment as it never clearly explains what happens to the crew when the go through the black hole. There’s a lot of heavy-handed imagery including a cool hell-like visual, but nothing conclusive, which makes the whole thing just one big buildup to nothing.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: December 21, 1979

Runtime: 1 Hour 38 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Gary Nelson

Studio: Buena Vista

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Open House (1987)

open-house-1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 0 out of 10

4-Word Review: Selling homes is murder.

Real Estate agents throughout southern California are turning up dead and no one has a clue as to who’s doing it. Then late night radio talk show host Dr. David Kelley (Joseph Bottoms) starts getting calls from a man who identifies himself as being the killer. David and the police try to track the man’s calls before David’s girlfriend Lisa (Adrienne Barbeau), who just so happens to be a real estate agent herself, becomes the killer’s next victim.

By the late ‘80s slasher films were starting to become more like dark comedies with some of them even being outright parodies, which is what I initially thought this one was going to be. There are some comical touches at the beginning before it completely devolves into the tired old slasher film cliché. No scares or tension and a storyline that plods along at a snail’s pace. The identity of the killer and his backstory is lame and the film’s generic synthesized sounding music score is not a good fit for a horror movie.

Barbeau, who is the former wife of horror director John Carpenter and has done alright starring in films from this genre before, gets stuck with some really bland material here and has little to work with. Apparently she only took the part to help pay for her son’s tuition. Bottoms, whose career never blossomed like his older brother’s, was clearly on the down slide when he took this one and his presence adds nothing.

There’s one good murder involving the killer hacking off the fingers of one of his victim’s with a shot showing the fingers wiggling on the floor before the killer, for whatever reason, puts them into his pocket. The camera also stays locked on the victim’s dead bodies longer than what is usual including having it focus on a dead woman’s corpse hanging by its neck from a rope for what seems like several minutes. I might even give it a point for being the first horror film that has a killer who wears dentures and at one point he even takes them out, but overall this thing lacks imagination or inspiration. It was directed by Jag Mundhra who went on to do a lot of Bollywood films and I don’t think he had a true passion or interest in horror movies as his direction is quite mechanical and the overall production falls agonizingly flat.

open-house-2

My Rating: 0 out of 10

Released: October 1, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 35Mintues

Rated R

Director: Jag Mundhra

Studio: Intercontinental Releasing Corporation

Available: VHS

The Dove (1974)

dove

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Sailing around the world.

Based on a true story and produced by Gregory Peck this film examines the journey of Robin Lee Graham (Joseph Bottoms in his film debut) as he sails in his boat called The Dove around the world. When he starts out he is only 16, but through the course of his journey he goes through many adventures, meets a beautiful woman named Pattie (Deborah Raffin) who he eventually marries and returns home a full grown man.

The variety of exotic locales and stunning cinematography by Sven Nykvist are a chief asset, but the film starts off with absolutely no backstory. The viewer is hoisted onto the boat with the main character without having any idea who he is, his background, preparation, reason for doing this, or his relationship with his family. Bits and pieces of this come out later, but it would’ve been nice to have had some of this info from the start and would’ve allowed for more of an emotional connection to the character.

The first hour is spent more on land than at sea, which is another problem because it doesn’t get riveting until he is actually on the boat and fighting the many elements. The melodic mood music gets excessive and should’ve been toned down as well and the two songs sung by Lyn Martin, which could’ve been scrapped completely as the natural ambience of the sea is far more soothing.

Bottoms, who retired from acting in 1999 and now runs an art gallery, does quite well. His boyish face and variety of emotions that he goes through during his adventure ring quite true for someone of that age and help to make the character quite real. I also enjoyed how the character is astute in certain areas, but very awkward in others particularly with the way he tries to court Patti, which also leads to the film’s best line “I’m feelin’ romantic…in a horny kind of way.”

Raffin is stunningly beautiful and her acting is outstanding and I liked how the female character was portrayed as being older, wiser and more practical. The two share a great chemistry, but Robin’s relationship with his ornery pet cat Arvana is equally interesting even though its demise is unpleasant.

Familiar character actors pop up briefly playing pesky photographers from National Geographic magazine that carried the story through his trip. John Anderson has a funny bit here, but the best is Dabney Coleman who speaks with an Australian accent!

The actual journey began in September, 1965 and wasn’t completed until April of 1970 with many stops and starts in between, which the film does a good job of showing as at several points Robin abandons the mission only to finally start it back up several weeks or months later. Although the film gives the impression that he completed the full journey in reality he didn’t as he started it in Hawaii, but finished it in Long Beach, California also the boat that he used for his trip ending up getting destroyed in 1989 during Hurricane Hugo.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 16, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Charles Jarrott

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, Amazon Instant Video