By Richard Winters
My Rating: 5 out of 10
4-Word Review: Crooked sheriff chases couple.
Eddie Moore (Stephen McHattie) is a drifter hitch-hiking his way through a small Texas town (at least it’s supposed to be Texas even though it becomes abundantly clear that it was filmed in southern California instead.) While in town he meets up with the attractive Camilla ‘Cam’ Johnson (Kay Lenz). They quickly fall for each other and decide to go make-out on the lawn of one of the town’s richest citizens Mr. Rockfield (Will Geer). It is there that they witness a murder when the town’s corrupt sheriff (Lonny Chapman) kills his deputy (Paul Linke) after the deputy confronts Rockfield on his unscrupulous business practices. Now Cam and Eddie must go on the run as the sheriff tries to frame them for the murder.
The first 20 minutes is about as lame and contrived as any 70’s drive-in fare you’ll ever see to the point that it should’ve been skipped completely. Instead they should’ve just started out right away with the chase while keeping it a mystery as to why it was happening, which would’ve given the film added intrigue and only explained the backstory later on through flashback.
If you can get past the highly uninspired opening bit then the film improves from there. The chase sequences are better than usual with crashes getting captured in a more realistic, graphic way; one segment even shows an air bag going off when the police car drives into a brick wall. Unfortunately director Charles S. Dubin unwisely inserts a goofy banjo strumming soundtrack making the film seem like all those other yahoo southern actioners even though it really isn’t. Had it been done on a completely serious level it would’ve worked better. For the most part it is once you get past the goofy opening segment, but there are still comedy bits thrown in, which only hurts it as a whole.
Lenz is great playing a character that becomes seriously distraught at what is going on. Dealing with ongoing near-death collisions and seeing people killed before your very eyes would upset almost anyone, but most films don’t deal with the post emotional trauma that someone going through these situations would most likely encounter in real-life, but this one dose, which is refreshing.
Chapman’s sheriff character though doesn’t work as it gets played too unevenly between him being an aggressive menace to at other points a laughable buffoon. The film also relies too heavily on the corrupt, stupid policeman stereotype and it should’ve balanced itself by having at least one police character that was not a completely mindless jerk.
The ending was definitely influenced by Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry as it gets suddenly violent and grim in a completely unexpected way, but I liked it. Ultimately as a whole it’s a half-step above the usual low budget action flick with enough unique twists to make it worth seeking out as a curio.
My Rating: 5 out of 10
Released: July 6, 1976
Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes
Director: Charles S. Dubin
Studio: 20th Century Fox
By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
4-Word Review: Teen has mental illness.
Based on the acclaimed novel by John Neufeld the story centers on Lisa (Kay Lenz) a teenage girl who begins behaving in strange ways. She feels that she is suffering from some sort of mental illness and asks her parents (John Forsythe, Anne Baxter) if she can see a psychiatrist, but they refuse as they were raised in an era where mental illness was considered a ‘character flaw’ that didn’t occur to ‘respectable’ people and psychiatry was still thought of as a ‘new-age’ type of practice. Her friends (Debralee Scott, Jamie Smith-Jackson, and Anne Lockhart) think differently and try to get her the help that she needs, but when that fails they then read up on psychotherapy themselves and try to help Lisa with their own brand of therapy.
This film, which aired on NBC in November of 1973 as a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation, was critically acclaimed at the time, but it has not aged well. I applaud the effort at trying to destigmatize the myth of psychiatry, but the drama often times comes off as strained and unintentionally funny. The sappy songs by Rod McKuen are abysmal and enough to drive the viewer as batty as the main character.
I found it strange how enlightened Lisa’s teen friends were about mental illness and wasn’t quite sure that I bought into it. I would think they would be just as confused and frightened of Lisa’s behavior as the adults and maybe try to stay away from her completely. Seeing how sympathetic Lisa’s classmates are to her condition is nice, but not realistic. At that age I would imagine some of the teens would ostracize and mock Lisa while considering her some sort of ‘freak’ and the film would’ve been better balanced had at least shown briefly some of that, which it doesn’t. The idea that these girls could read a few books by Sigmund Freud and then be able to perform psychotherapy is laughable and the whole thing would’ve been better served had it taken place in a college setting as the students all look college-aged anyways and the plot would’ve been more believable because it could’ve had her working with students or interns that were majoring in psychiatry.
The film never bothers to give any type of explanation for Lisa’s issues nor any inkling as to whether she was able to find some sort of adjustment through medication or therapy. It all seems like an excuse to promote the acceptance of psychiatry to the mainstream and not about the main character at all, which makes it come off as a thinly veiled ‘message movie’ and nothing more.
Lenz, who for a time was married to singer/actor David Cassidy, does well in the title role, but I didn’t care much of her toothy smile. It is fun seeing Anson Williams and Erin Moran in supporting roles as they both later became cast members to the long running TV-show ‘Happy Days’. Richard Stahl also appears as the father of one of the girls, but has his voice dubbed for some reason, which was quite strange.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Released: November 28, 1973
Runtime: 1Hour 15Minutes
Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Studio: Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions
Available: DVD (Out-of-print)
Posted in 70's Movies, Adolescence/High School, Drama, Made-for-TV, Movies Based on Novels, Obscure Movies
Tagged Anson Williams, Entertainment, Erin Moran, John Neufeld, Kay Lenz, Movies, Review, Richard Stahl