Tag Archives: Kathleen Quinlan

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: She suffers from schizophrenia.

Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Joanne Greenberg, which was written under the pen name of Hannah Green, the story focuses on Deborah (Kathleen Quinlan) a 16 year-old who is put into a mental institution during the 1950’s by her parents (Ben Piazza, Lorraine Gary). A pretend secret kingdom that used to be a childhood fantasy has now completely taken over her life and she is unable to deal with reality. At the institution she works with a sympathetic therapist named Dr. Fried (Bibi Andersson) who tries to get Deborah out of her fantasy world an back into the real one.

The film was produced by Roger Corman better known for his cheap, sleazy drive-in fare, so seeing him try to take the helm by producing a serious picture is a concern since exploitation always seemed to be his foray, but with the then recent success of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest he felt stories with a mental institution theme was a potential money-maker. The production values though right from the start look pretty cheap especially when compared to the Milos Foreman film making this a very weak cousin to the 1975 classic.

The producers made many changes from its source novel much to the consternation of the book’s author who was never consulted during the making of it and who ended up disliking this film version immensely. One of the biggest difference is that the film completely omits the antisemitism, which the filmmakers felt was too much of a ‘hot button topic’, that the main character in the book had to deal with and instead blames her mental health problems solely on her bout with cancer.

For me though the biggest issue centers more on the recreation of Deborah’s make-believe, mystical world which she calls The Kingdom of Yr. In the book the kingdom starts out as a beautiful magical place that slowly turns ugly and threatening while in the movie it’s portrayed as scary from the very beginning, which is confusing as there’s no explanation for how the whole thing started. The sound of the whispering voices going on inside Deborah’s head is creepy, but sight of the characters inside the kingdom, which was played by members of Oingo Boingo looks cheesy and like the singers from the Village People, which gives the film an unintended camp feeling. Instead the characters should’ve been captured from a distance where they were seen as ominous shadowy figures whose faces were never shown.

Despite these drawbacks I still found myself caught-up in much of the drama especially the cruelty that Deborah and her fellow patients received at the hands of an abusive orderly played by Reni Santoni. Unfortunately some of the scenes showing Deborah interacting with the other mentally-ill people in the hospital gets watered-down by having a lighthearted melody played during it, which gives off the idea that this is ‘lightly comical’ instead of the gritty no-holds-barred drama that it should be.

Quinlan gives a great performance, possibly the best of her career and I particularly enjoyed the way she uses her expressive blue eyes to convey her inner madness and turmoil. You also see her as a relatable human being who you want to see get well as opposed to being some sort of ‘freak’. Susan Tyrrell is great in support as one of the patients as well as Martine Bartlett who plays another troubled patient and who starred just a year earlier as the cruel mother in Sybil, which was a TV-movie with a similar theme. Casting Bibi Andersson though as the psychiatrist was for me a distraction since she also played one in Persona, which was her signature role and therefore I couldn’t separate her from that one.

In 2004 the novel was turned into a play under the full cooperation of Greenberg who acted as a consultant. The antisemitism from the book was incorporated into the play as well as several other things that had been omitted making me believe that a remake based on the play should be given a much needed green-light as this film unfortunately is adequate, but not great.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: July 14, 1977

Runtime: 1 Hour 36 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Anthony Page

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video

The Promise (1979)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Girl gets new face.

Michael Hillyard (Stephen Collins) is from a rich background and set to take over his family’s thriving business. He wants to marry Nancy (Kathleen Quinlan) who has a troubled past, but Michael’s mother (Beatrice Straight) does not approve and tries to prevent it. Michael and Nancy decide to proceed with their wedding plans anyways, but then get into a car accident that completely disfigures Nancy’s face. While Michael lies comatose his mother makes a deal with Nancy; she’ll pay for a plastic surgeon (Laurence Luckinbill) to repair her appearance as long as she agrees never to make contact with Michael again. Years later as Nancy becomes a successful photographer Michael by chance meets up with her and wants to use her photographs as part of his business. Nancy’s face is now different and her name has been changed so Michael does not know it is really her. Will the two be able to rekindle their relationship and will Nancy ever confide in him her secret?

The biggest loophole is with the plastic surgery. Face reconstruction even in this technology advanced age is still a very complex thing and most people that receive ‘new faces’ after an accident still look a bit ‘off’ and you can tell it’s not their natural one. Rich woman who pay plastic surgeons millions to look younger many times end up appearing disfigured instead and that’s after using some of the best surgeons they could find, so how then in the year 1979 could some doctor not only make a woman’s newly constructed face look completely natural, but actually even better than the original one?

Nancy’s face doesn’t really change either. No make-up effects are used on Kathleen Quinlan’s appearance to manipulate her looks outside of giving her a different hairstyle. She also speaks with the SAME voice, so Michael should still be able to recognize her when she spoke, so then why doesn’t he?

Michael’s character has issues too. When he comes out of his comatose state his mother informs him that Nancy was killed, but wouldn’t you think that after he recovered he would want to visit Nancy’s gravesite and when he couldn’t find it he would become suspicious that she really wasn’t dead?

Also, later on in the film Nancy decides to go to a spot in a park where the couple had years earlier hidden a necklace underneath a rock as a sort of symbolic gesture that the two would remain loyal to one another until death. When Nancy arrives she finds the necklace gone and then Michael walks out from the trees holding it like he was waiting for her to arrive, but the two hadn’t been speaking to each other, so how would he know that she was going to return there? Was he simply going to stand there for days, weeks, months holding that necklace and waiting for a chance encounter that at some point she might decide to come by?

The script also lacks conflict. The mother’s vindictiveness needed to be amped up. Michael and Nancy should’ve also formed other relationships and thus created more difficulties when they tried getting back together. Instead everything conforms to a chick-flick formula with an uninspired script that telegraphs it all from the get-go.

Even romantic diehards may have a hard time with this one, which includes an achingly awful opening song that for some weird reason was nominated for an Academy Award even though it may be enough to make some turn the film off even before it has begun. From a trivia angle I found it interesting that Carey Loftin, who played the mysterious truck driver who terrorized Dennis Weaver in Duel, plays the truck driver here as well who crashes into their car in a visually impressive fashion that is the movie’s only convincing moment.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: March 8, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Gilbert Cates

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS

Hanky Panky (1982)

hanky-panky-1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Caught up in espionage.

Gene Wilder plays a man by the name of Michael Jordon, yes Michael Jordon, who is from Chicago, but staying in New York. He shares a cab ride with Janet Dunn (Kathleen Quinlan) who seems to be on the run from someone and insists that she must mail a secret package, which Michael does for her. Later he tries to visit her in her hotel room, but it finds her dead and everyone thinks he’s the one who killed her. Now he is on the run himself from people he doesn’t even know and when he bumps into Kate (Gilda Radner) she agrees to help him, but for reasons that she does not initially divulge.

I was genuinely shocked and rather disappointed to find how very similar this storyline was to many of Wilder’s earlier efforts. In Silver Streak he played a man wrongly accused of murder, but there it was fresh and funny. A few years later he was in Stir Crazy with the same type of scenario, but it still worked. Yet by this time it’s old and clichéd with Wilder typecast in a role that no longer offers him anything new to add to it. You get the feeling like you’ve seen it all before right from the start and this tired formula should’ve been put-to-sleep long ago.

Radner’s presence is especially boring and she doesn’t have a single funny line in the whole thing. The reason for why her character decides to get involved in Wilder’s quandary is contrived and seems to be constantly changing. The two show no chemistry even though they fell in love with each other behind-the-scenes and later married. The role was originally intended for Richard Pryor who would’ve been better, but even pairing Wilder with Quinlan’s character could’ve been an improvement as the two had much better contrasting personalities.

The entire plot gets badly overblown and the nonstop chases soon become tiring and nonsensical. The humorous premise of a regular guy suddenly getting caught up in a spy game he knows nothing about loses its focus when he becomes too quick-on-his-feet in his responses to things and begins behaving more like a seasoned spy than an average-joe. The film’s only good moment is when the two are stuck in a small engine plane where the pilot dies and they’re forced to land it themselves, which gives Gene ample opportunity to go into one of his hyper rants as well as some great aerial views of the Grand Canyon, which are nice, but everything else in the film falls flat.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: June 4, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 47Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Sidney Poitier

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Independence Day (1983)

independence day 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Getting out of Texas.

Mary Ann Taylor (Kathleen Quinlan) works as a waitress at her father’s café, but dreams of leaving her sleepy Texas town and going to school in California to study photography. Her mother (Frances Sternhagen) though is in declining health and her current boyfriend Jack (David Keith) wants her to stay which makes her decision to leave all the more difficult.

Shot on-location in Anson, Texas the film is a pleasant time-filler that fortunately doesn’t go overboard with Texas stereotypes, but it’s also rather bland and predictable. Feeling trapped in a small town is by no means a unique feeling and the film doesn’t go far enough with that theme and for the most part just touches the surface. Adding in a second storyline dealing with Jack’s sister (Dianne Weist) being abused by her husband (Cliff De Young) is a bit jarring and doesn’t really fit as there are long periods where Mary Ann is not seen at all and it would’ve made more sense had it been her sister that was being abused and not Jack’s and thus giving her more screen time.

The dramatic arcs are a bit too obvious as well and at times even bordering on being corny. For one thing the abuse issue gets introduced by having Jack visit his sister and asking her husband to borrow some money and then for no reason the husband begins throwing lit matches at his wife while right in front of Jack. Abusive people can certainly be cruel, but they’re not stupid and hurting a woman while her well-built brother sits right there is most assuredly going to get the husband into trouble, so why do it? Having Jack find out about the abuse by coming to the home one day unannounced and hearing shouting and maybe looking into a window and seeing the husband hit her would’ve made far more sense.

Having Mary Ann’s mother, who otherwise looks and acts quite healthy, suddenly fall over with fainting spells and suffering from some disease that never gets explained seemed too manufactured. Mary Ann’s arguments with Jack over whether she should go to school or stay in Texas is equally transparent especially since the two really didn’t have all that much in common and could’ve easily found other dating partners quite quickly.

Having one of the official’s from the photography school drive out to her rural home and personally offer her a full scholarship while telling her she was one of the greatest photographers he had even seen was pretty loopy too. All she did was take pictures of the town’s buildings and people’s faces, so what this guy managed to see that was so ‘brilliant’ and ‘special’ from that is hard to figure.

Quinlan and Wiest give great performances, but the movie is nothing more than lightweight drama that fails to distinguish itself from all the other B-dramas out there.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: January 21, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated R

Director: Robert Mandel

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD (Warner Archive)

The Runner Stumbles (1979)

the runner stumbles 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Priest accused of murder.

Based on actual events the setting is 1911 in a northern Michigan town where Father Brian Rivard (Dick Van Dyke) presides over a small Catholic parish. He feels frustrated at being stuck in such a depressed town where many of the residents are out of work. In comes Sister Rita (Kathleen Quinlan) to help run the school and the Father immediately takes a liking to her youthful enthusiasm and fresh ideas, but gossip and rumors soon abound when it is found that they are spending too much time together and possibly becoming intimate. When the Sister is found murdered it is the Father who is accused and must fight for his life while straddled with an attorney (Beau Bridges) who seems glib and detached.

One of the biggest problems with the film is the miscasting of Van Dyke in the lead. His performance is stiff, wooden and affected. The chemistry between the two stars is non-existent making the romantic angle seem completely unbelievable. The film would have been better served had a younger man that was more Quinlan’s age and trained in method acting been cast in the part.

Quinlan is excellent in her role, but her efforts become lost as they bounce off Van Dyke’s almost corpse-like presence. Maureen Stapleton adds some excellent support and it’s great to see Ray Bolger in his final film role as the intrusive Monsignor. Bridges is also great as the lawyer and the one thing that livens the film up a little. Had his court scenes been more extended it would have helped the picture immensely.

Director Stanley Kramer, whose last film this was, seems to have lost touch with the modern movie goer. The presentation is stagy and the overly melodic soundtrack does not fit the mood and gets overplayed almost like a radio going on in the background that somebody forgot to turn off. The conversations revolving around the predictably stifling atmosphere of the era add little interest and go on too long as do the debates between giving in to human desires versus religious commitments. The surprise ending hardly makes up for a film that is slow and boring and ultimately making it as stale and stagnant as the small town it tries to portray.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: November 16, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Stanley Kramer

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS