Tag Archives: Kevin McCarthy

UHF (1989)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Running a TV Station.

George Newman (“Weird Al” Yankovic) cannot hold down a steady job, but finally seems to catch his break when given an opportunity to be program director of a little known UHF TV station. George comes up with all sorts of oddball programming ideas that soon send the ratings soaring, which angers R.J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy) who runs a competing TV station and will do anything to take George’s station off the air.

The film, which was shot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was written by Yankovic and his longtime collaborator Jay Levey and it took over 3 years of them constantly shopping the script around to various producers and studios before Orion Pictures decided to pick it up, but only if Yankovic/Levey could guarantee that the budget would remain under $5 million.  Upon its initial release the film did quite poorly both at the box office and with the critics, but has since gained a strong cult following.

The humor is quite hit-or-miss. Some of it is indeed clever, but at other times it’s incredibly lame and kiddie-like. My biggest beef is the fact that they incorporate this dumb side-story dealing with a competing station that isn’t funny. The film would’ve worked far better had they not felt the need to have any conventional narrative or plot and instead structured it around a quickly edited collection/snippets of weird TV shows, which is the only time when the film gels and is actually creative.

As much as I love McCarthy I felt his character here was unnecessary. Word is that he really enjoyed the part and would crack-up between takes, but his over-the-top one-dimensional caricature of a rich, capitalistic asshole quickly becomes quite boring. Yankovic himself is equally dull and shows no acting ability whatsoever, but fortunately he wisely steps back and allows his supporting cast to get all the laughs, which they do especially Michael Richards as a freaky janitor turned children’s TV host as well as Trinidad Silva, who tragically died in a car accident before filming was completed, as a man with a houseful of exotic animals.

The best moment in the movie is the ad for spatula city, which is far and away one of the funniest segments I’ve seen anywhere and worth catching just for this. What’s even funnier is that the producers put up a giant billboard along a highway advertising this phony supermarket, which they used as a prop for the segment, but then after they were done filming they decided to leave it up. They presumed it wouldn’t be a problem as they figured no one would actually be interested in a place that sells only spatulas, but apparently in reality for several months afterwards many motorists drove off the exit listed on the billboard looking for the spatula city and inquiring as to where the place was located.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: July 21, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Jay Levey

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray (Region B/2), Amazon Video, YouTube

Kansas City Bomber (1972)

kansas city bomber

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Life on roller derby.

Raquel Welch plays K.C. Carr a struggling mother of two who goes all-out as the star in the roller derby circuit. She plays for the Kansas City Bombers, but then gets into a grudge match with Big Bertha (Patti ‘Moo Moo’ Cavin) with the loser agreeing to leave Kansas City and never return. Through some cheating by other teammates K.C. loses, but is soon picked up by the Portland Loggers whose owner (Kevin McCarthy) is quite impressed with her and promises to make her a star. The two eventually get into a relationship, but then she gets into yet another grudge match this time with the aging Jackie (Helena Kallianiotes) and the loser agreeing to leave Portland forever.

During the ‘70s the roller derby sport was all-the-rage and several films during the period were produced on the subject including The Unholy Rollers, which was also released in 1972 and starred Claudia Jennings as well as Derby, which was a documentary on the sport and came out a year before this one. I once went to a roller derby game a few years back in Indianapolis and I found it to be inane and boring, but there were indeed some people there that seemed to really get into it. In fact if there is one thing that this film does well it is the way it captures the spectators. Seeing many of them with missing teeth and looking like they would not fare too well on a college entrance exam, but getting extremely worked-up with the action in front of them solidly hits-the-mark on the mentality that one will find when attending these events.

The action though looks horribly fake and it’s obvious that the performers are pulling their punches during the fight sequences. I initially thought this was intentional and to show how the sport is really just about acting, but the script wants to play it like it’s for real, which makes the phony staged action look all the more ridiculous.

Welch’s presence is another hindrance. She’s a beautiful looking lady, but her acting has always been suspect. She manages to convey a toughness during the game sequences, but the character is just too nice and naïve otherwise. The film makes efforts to show the hard life and dehumanizing conditions that working in the business entails and yet somehow we are expected to believe this is the one person that has managed to ‘rise above it’ when in reality it would’ve dragged her down to its level, or at least made her more world-wise. The scene where she becomes ‘shocked’ at how the players are being ‘used’ and expresses this to the Kevin McCarthy character gets a good comeback from him when he states “We’re all being used…that’s the American way. You outta know that by now!”  And the fact that she strangely doesn’t despite being supposedly a ‘seasoned’ player makes her character come off as poorly fleshed-out and hollow.

Her relationship with McCarthy is a major issue as he was 30 years older than her. The two share no chemistry and have little in common and watching this gray haired man walking hand-in-hand with a hot young chick comes off like an old fogey that’s  porking his granddaughter.

The unintentionally funny climactic finish is pathetic and features the replay of the same hokey shot done from 3 different angles. The ending also leaves open a slew of unanswered questions while wasting the talents of a young Jodie Foster who appears only briefly as Welch’s daughter. I also didn’t get why it was entitled the Kansas City Bomber as the character spends only a brief time there while the bulk of the story takes place in the Pacific Northwest.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: August 2, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jerold Freedman

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

My Tutor (1983)

my tutor

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Tutoring him in sex.

Bobby (Matt Latanzi) is a high school senior set to graduate and go onto Yale even though he would rather go to UCLA and study astrology. In either case he fails his French class, which impedes him from attending either school. His concerned and controlling father (Kevin McCarthy) decides to hire a tutor named Terry (Caren Kaye) to live with them in their mansion estate while helping Bobby with his French so he can pass the course. Bobby though starts to become attracted to Terry and the two eventually become lovers much to the consternation of his father who would rather have the attractive woman all to himself.

I was still in high school when this film came out and living in a small Minnesota town as a preacher’s kid. I remember my Dad getting a call from some man who had watched this film in the theater and become ‘outraged’ at its ‘pornographic’ nature. He wanted to form picketers at all the area theaters that where showing it and eventually create a nationwide protest movement that he hoped would eventually get the film banned for being what he considered ‘obscene’.

Although there certainly is nudity it is only of the topless variety and it’s no more ‘outrageous’ than any of the many other teen sex comedies of the ‘80s. If the film is offensive in any way it is because it is dumb and uninspired and filled with a lot of silly humor that would be better suited for a Disney flick. The romantic angle is formulaic and the scene of the two in bed together is more mechanical than erotic and hurt by a sappy love song that gets played over it.

Lattanzi, who at one time was married to singer Olivia Newton-John and the father of Chloe Lattanzi, has a deer-in-headlights look about him and a limited acting ability to match it. He looks too old to be playing a teen and appears to be more like 24, which is what he really was. The idea that this good-looking guy with chiseled features could not make it with any of the girls is hard to believe and in a lot of ways the character behaves more like he is a naïve 14 year-old than someone headed for college.

McCarthy is a far better actor who manages to have a screen presence, which the transparent Lattanzi clearly knows nothing about. The fact that the old man makes a play for the tutor should’ve been played up more and I was surprised that when she flatly rejects his advances he didn’t just up and fire her and replace her with some other tutor, which would’ve helped give the otherwise one-dimensional script more conflict.

Arlene Golonka adds some light levity as the ditzy mother and its great seeing Crispin Glover in his film debut playing one of Bobby’s friends and for a change a more ‘normal’ type of character, which is freaky in itself. Clark Brandon, who enjoyed a brief acting career in the ‘80s and an even briefer foray into directing during the ‘90s, is also fun as Bobby’s other friend Billy who also gets the film’s one-and-only funny exchange when he tries to ask a blonde for a dance:

Billy: Would you care to dance with me?

Blonde: No thank you.

Billy: Then I suppose a blow job is completely out of the question.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: April 22, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: George Bowers

Studio: Crown International Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Hotel (1967)

hotel 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Drama at the hotel.

Warren Trent (Melvyn Douglas) has been the owner of a large, luxurious New Orleans hotel for years, but finds that his old fashioned business ideas no longer mesh with the modern consumer. The place is losing money and he turns to Peter (Rod Taylor) the hotel manager and loyal employee to help find a suitable buyer.  Curtis O’Keefe (Kevin McCarthy) wants to purchase the place, but his plans call for too many changes that Peter doesn’t like. However, Curtis’s beautiful girlfriend Jeanne (Catherine Spaak) takes an interest in Peter that makes Curtis uneasy. There is also the Duke of Lanbourne (Michael Rennie) staying as a guest with his wife Caroline (Merle Oberon) who inadvertently kills a child during a hit-and-run accident that the two try desperately to cover up. On top of this is Keycase (Karl Malden) a small-time crook who has made copies of all the room keys and uses them to break into the rooms of the guests and steal their money while they sleep.

I loved the locale, but the film fails to capitalize on it. We never see a bird’s eye view of the city despite numerous references to its distinct landmarks and although there are a few outdoor scenes done in its crowded neighborhoods there wasn’t enough of them and the viewer fails to take in the full unique flavor of the region. None of the characters have southern accents or characteristics and in a lot of ways the setting could just as easily have been downtown Manhattan.

I was also disappointed that we never see an actual shot of the building. There are a few exterior shots of the entrance way, but nothing of the building as a whole despite a drawing of one on the movie poster, which then fails to give the viewer a complete sense of the hotel’s presumed immensity. The interior background has the expected gaudiness, but it is rather unimaginative and I actually felt the interior of Peter’s small, loft apartment was more visually creative and interesting.

Johnny Keating’s music score is yet another issue. It is distinctive and melodic at the beginning particularly over the opening credit sequence that features a colorful drawing of the hotel that I liked, but during the second half it becomes too jazzy, loud and obnoxious.

Catherine Spaak with her delicate beauty is a major asset. Not only is she drop-dead gorgeous, but she can act as well. McCarthy gets a good latter career role as the spiritual, but crafty businessman who will stop at almost nothing to get his way. It is also great to see Merle Oberon in her second-to-last film as the perpetually conniving Duchess.

Based on the Arthur Hailey novel it is inevitable to compare this to the classic Grand Hotel, which was far superior. However, the drama is intriguing enough to keep it interesting on a passive level. The scene involving a jammed elevator and the desperate attempts to save the occupants is exciting and well photographed and worth catching simply for that.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: January 19, 1967

Runtime: 2Hours 4Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Richard Quine

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD (Warner Archive)