Tag Archives: Joyce Van Patten

“something big” (1971)

something big 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kidnapping the colonel’s wife.

Joe Baker (Dean Martin) is an aging bandit looking to do “something big”. He becomes aware of a hoard of treasure being hidden inside a church that sits just across the border and safely guarded by a throne of Mexican bandits. Joe figures that to be able to overpower them he’ll need a Gatling gun and turns to black market dealer Jonny Cobb (Albert Salmi) who agrees to sell him one in exchange for a woman as he’s been without the company of one for “too long”. Joe then begins robbing stagecoaches in a mission to find a woman attractive enough for Jonny’s tastes. After several attempts he finds one who just happens to be the wife of the cavalry colonel (Brian Keith) who then goes on a mission to rescue her while attempting to put a kibosh on Joe’s plans.

This is another film that was given a ‘bomb’ rating by Leonard Maltin that I didn’t think was all that desrved. It’s certainly no classic but James Lee Barrett’s script if full of dry humor and offbeat touches that manages to keep things consistently amusing. Some of my favorite bits include Martin traveling around with a small pooch in his saddle pocket, or his horse having gold crown teeth. Don Knight as his Scottish travel companion Tommy who carries his bagpipes with him at all times and will even occasionally play them as they enter new frontier towns is funny too.

Keith is spot-on as the slightly stuffy colonel who is stuck with incompetent underlings and just wants to move on with his impending retirement in peace, but can’t. His facial expressions alone are terrific and he gives a far more nuanced performance than co-star Martin and should’ve been given top billing.

The attractive and sassy Honor Blackman is great as Keith’s wife and could easily be considered a ‘milf’ by today’s male audience. Joyce Van Patten and Judi Meredith as two women living on a lonely ranch willing to have sex with any man that comes along, including the uptight colonel, are quite funny as is Salmi with his garishly discolored, tobacco stained teeth.

The climax features some nifty gun action including seeing Martin use his Gatling gun to shoot down the bandits in domino-like fashion, but for the most part the script is too leisurely paced and in desperate need of more confrontation and elaborate scenarios. Marvin Hamlisch’s soft-rock score is out-of-place for the time period and the theme song sung by former Paul Revere and the Raiders front man Mark Lindsey doesn’t have any type of western feel to it. I also got tired of hearing the phrase “something big” mentioned over and over again. Initially it seemed cute and clever to repeat the film’s title in the dialogue, but it eventually goes overboard.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: November 24, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 48Minutes

Rated GP

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen

Studio: National General Pictures

Available: DVD

Making It (1971)

making it 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Teen enjoys seducing women.

Phil (Kristoffer Tabori) is a cocky, self-centered teen who uses his good looks to get practically any girl he wants into bed with him. He even has a fling with the wife of his basketball coach, but when he thinks he has gotten one of them pregnant things begin to spiral out-of-control especially when his emotionally fragile mother (Joyce Van Patten) starts to have some ‘problems’ of her own.

Peter Bart’s script, which is based on James Leigh’s novel ‘What Can You Do?’ has some incisive comments, but surprisingly it’s more on being middle age than adolescence. It shows with a depressing clarity what a thankless, pain-in-the-ass the middle age years can be and how people at that stage secretly wish to go back to their teens if only to experience for a fleeting moment the carefreeness and idealism once again.

The on-location shooting done at West Mesa High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico nicely captures the gorgeous, crystal blue skies of that region. The students are made up of actual teens that look and behave very much like teens of today. However, John Erman’s direction is lackluster and flat. Everything is shot in a conventional, unimaginative way with a pace that is slow and only manages to improve towards the end when it becomes dramatic.

Phil’s spirited debate with his English teacher, played by Lawrence Pressman, is engaging as is a rebellious student played by Bob Balaban arguing with his beleaguered principal (David Doyle) about his right not to have to stand at attention during the pledge of allegiance. The film is also famous for the novelty of casting real-life siblings Dick and Joyce Van Patten as lovers and includes a sequence showing him kissing her on the mouth, which had to be awkward to perform let alone rehearse.

Tabori, who is the son of actress Viveca Lindfors and Dirty Harry director Don Siegel shows an impressive amount of composure and maturity for such a young age, but I wasn’t so sure I liked the sound of his voice. Louise Latham, who plays the mother of the girl Phil thinks he might have impregnated, is memorable and had her part been just a wee bit bigger she would have easily stolen the whole thing. She is also involved in the film’s funniest moment where she asks Phil for some weed and thinking she doesn’t know “grass from her ass” he decides to take a regular cigarette, roll it up like a joint, light it and then let her smoke it where she  ends up getting a ‘high’ anyways.

The film’s staple though is its twist ending that is genuinely shocking and most likely to leave even the most jaded viewer’s mouth agape. It could’ve been played out a little more, but remains nasty nonetheless and it’s something you’re guaranteed not to see in any other movie. It is also the one thing that gives this otherwise undistinguished teen flick a kick and probably explains why it has never been released on either VHS or DVD nor ever shown on broadcast network television.

making it 1

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: March 21, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated R

Director: John Erman

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: None at this time.