Tag Archives: Larry Hagman

The Eagle Has Landed (1976)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Plotting to kidnap Churchill.

During World War II Nazi Colonel Radl (Robert Duvall) is hired to study the feasibility of kidnapping British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and bringing him back to Germany. At first he considers it an impossible task, but then learns that Churchill is set to visit an airfield in an English village where one of their German sleeper agents resides. He then hires paratrooper Kurt Steiner (Michael Caine) to lead the mission inside the village, but the plan quickly unravels forcing the soldiers to make a daring escape before the allied troops arrive.

This marks the final film directed by John Sturges who was noted for helming his share of action flicks and westerns. The film’s handsome production offers plush scenery, on-location shooting and some wonderful bird’s-eye-views. One could enjoy the movie on this level alone as well as its ability to focus more the actual planning of the mission than the fighting. It has a sort of behind-the-scenes approach to all of the thought and effort that goes into the strategy of war as opposed to the physical on the ground aspect. The film also takes a surprisingly humanistic approach to the Nazis portraying them more as regular human beings who just so happen to be fighting on the wrong side as opposed to the robotic, demonic persona that they’re given in most other war films.

The film’s faults lies in that it’s too leisurely paced. The planning stage allows for some interesting insight, but could’ve been trimmed while the action is sudden and jarring and only popping up near the end when it should’ve been introduced earlier. There is never any real danger to Churhill as the plan goes awry long before he arrives. Since the whole thing was fictional anyways then why not have the soldiers surround whatever building Churchill was in and thus making it seem at least that he might really get captured before having their plan unravel. The way it gets done here the viewer’s energy is strangely geared at seeing the bad guys escape capture, which is off-putting as is the gimmicky ending that makes everything that is shown previously seem insignificant.

The cast is impressive, but mostly underused. Duvall, who speaks with a dubious German accent, takes up most of the screen-time during the first half and then pretty much disappears altogether during the second part. Caine, who doesn’t speak with a German accent, or at least any that is detectable, seems stiff and uncomfortable in an uninteresting role that does not take advantage of his talents. Apparently he was originally offered the role of Liam Devlin who was a member of the IRA, but Caine refused it due to his personal political beliefs and was thus given the Steiner role on the rebound.

Larry Hagman, mostly known for his TV work, gets an amusingly showy bit as the inept Colonel Potts who tries to lead the US Army Rangers on a mission to rescue the village’s town folk who are held hostage by the soldiers. While the part takes full advantage of Hagman’s comic ability to play a hyper, emotionally frazzled character it seems out of place in this type of movie and almost turns the film dangerously close to becoming an ill-advised comedy.

Donald Sutherland ends up becoming the scene stealer as Liam Devlin who with his hair dyed red really looks Irish and speaks with an authentic sounding Irish accent. The character also has an unusual ability to whistle and then move his finger in a way that subdues an aggressive dog by seemingly putting it under a sort-of hypnotic spell. Whether anyone could really do this, or is there is some truth in what the character does here I don’t know, but it would be interesting to find out.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Release: December 25, 1976

Runtime: 2Hours 3Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Sturges

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

Superdad (1973)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 0 out of 10

4-Word Review: This movie is awful.

Charlie McCready (Bob Crane) is worried that his daughter Wendy (Kathleen Cody) is hanging out with the ‘wrong crowd’ and dating a guy (Kurt Russell) that has no ambition. He tries spending more time with her and her friends in order to get her to appreciate his more conservative viewpoints, but finds that this doesn’t work. He then concocts a scheme to have her go to a different college than her boyfriend by pulling some strings and having someone on the board come up with a phony scholarship, but when she finds out about this she runs away in a rage and begins hanging out in a hippie commune run by a cult leader named Klutch (Joby Baker) who intends to force Wendy to marry him while Charlie tries his best to stop it.

This was Disney’s attempt at tackling the generation gap phenomenon, but the results are shallow with characters and issues that are too one-dimensional and generic to be considered relevant. There isn’t even any of that patented Disney slapstick, which could’ve at least allowed some diversion from the otherwise tedium. To top it off the music is excruciatingly sappy including an opening tune sung by Bobby Goldsboro, which could be enough to make most people want to turn it off before the film has even barely begun.

In hindsight having Crane cast as a character who preaches old-school values when in reality he was living such an excessively hedonistic lifestyle is the height of all irony. The way his character is so preoccupied with his daughter to the point that he even dreams about her is borderline creepy and makes it seem like he has some sort of latent incestuous obsession with her.

The worst thing though is his acting specifically with the way he would scream out whenever his character is in some sort of danger like when he goes water skiing. Larry Hagman always had the best yell especially as Tony Nelson in the TV-Show ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ as his shrieks sounded masculine while Crane’s sound more like a high pitched scream from a female and are disconcerting instead of funny.

The Wendy character is another weak point. First she has parents who have brown eyes and in Crane’s case jet black hair as well, so if the dark gene is always the dominant one then how where they able to produce a blonde, blue-eyed offspring? Her character is also too transparent and too subservient to adult authority and not like an actual teen at all. There is one brief moment where she rebels by becoming a hippie chick, which could’ve at least added an interesting dimension to the otherwise sterile role, but unfortunately the film drops this thread just as soon as it gets introduced.

The depiction of the cult-like hippie group that is run by a controlling leader who happens to also be a painter, which ironically gets played by actor Joby Baker who later quit his acting career to become a full-time painter, is like with everything else in this movie quite generic. Clearly it was based on the Manson cult, but I got the feeling that the filmmakers were trying to send a broader message by inferring a judgmental view that all hippies ended up this way, which just proves how out of touch they were with the younger generation as they clearly didn’t understand or appreciate their lifestyle at all, which ultimately proved they were unfit to make a movie dealing with the generation gap subject in the first place.

My Rating: 0 out of 10

Released: December 14, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated G

Director: Vincent McEveety

Studio: Walt Disney Productions

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Checkered Flag or Crash (1977)

checkered flag 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Drivers race off-road.

Walkaway Madden (Joe Don Baker) is a lifelong racer who has just broken up with his racing partner of many years and is now going solo, or at least he thinks he is until reporter C.C. Wainwright (Susan Sarandon) arrives and tells him that the company who sponsors his car has hired her to cover the race for their newspaper and thus she’ll be riding along with him. Walkaway isn’t too happy about this as he has very old-fashioned, sexist ideas about a ‘woman’s place’, but begrudgingly accepts it as he has no other choice. Together the two take part in a grueling off-road race that is organized by Bo Cochran (Larry Hagman) and takes them through some of the most treacherous terrain of the Philippines.

The movie might’ve been more exciting had the racing footage been better captured. Instead we get treated to choppy shots of random car wipeouts and flashing, poorly focused images of vehicles buzzing through various locales while shown in a grainy film stock. The editing is so quick that it’s hard to follow what is going on and the only time it is ever impressive is when the camera gets tied to the front of the vehicle and we see firsthand just how bumpy and fast a ride like that must be, but this shot unfortunately is only brief.

There is little or no backstory to any of the racers and therefore no emotionally compelling reason to cheer for any of them. There is also too many of them and all are generic, transparent characters, so when you see someone wipeout it’s hard to remember which one it is, or even care. I did kind of like Daina House as a woman with beautiful model-like features who dresses in all black and just as tough as any of the guys, but her character isn’t shown or played-up enough.

The best thing about the film is the presence of Sarandon who lends a necessary grounded anchor to the silliness that surrounds her. Hagman is terrific as the hyper race promoter and every scene he is in is far more entertaining than any of the racing footage. Baker isn’t bad either. He certainly isn’t any A-list actor, but a very competent B one, who seems at ease in both comedy and action parts.

The film shifts clumsily between being silly and gritty and would’ve done better had it stuck to a more consistent tone. It’s also cheap and amateurish with a terrible, country tinged title tune that gets played throughout. The only reason it gets 2 points is simply for the performances of its three leads.

checkered flag 1

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: June 3, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Alan Gibson

Studio: Universal

Available: None at this time.

Up in the Cellar (1970)

up in the cellar 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Senior citizens watch porno.

This is a variation of the film Three in the Attic and for a time was called Three in the Cellar to try and capitalize off of the success of that one. Ironically both films starred Judy Pace. In this one Colin Slade (Wes Stern) is a nerdy college student who loses his scholarship to a computer glitch. When he can’t get college president Maurice Chamber (Larry Hagman) to help him, he decides to get revenge by seducing both his wife (Joan Collins) and daughter (Catlin Adams).

The production proudly proclaims to be filmed on location in New Mexico, which is obvious from the start and nothing to really boast about since it hurts the film as a whole. Shot in wintertime it’s dusty, desolate landscape leaves the viewer with a cold, lonely feeling, which configures poorly with a story that is supposed to be lighthearted and whimsical. The big, modern cement buildings used as the campus looks like they would be better suited for a corporation than a student body. The students themselves, or what little you see of them, look all suspiciously over the age of 24.

Director Theodore J. Flicker nicely camouflages the fact that this is a very low budget production. His script is compact and well-paced. He frames and cuts his shots so you don’t notice how lacking in personality or energy it really is. Yet he also shows little connection to the student uprisings that dominated the campuses of that era and seems to view it as a sort of silly amusement. He keeps the film at this tone the whole time and thus makes it as silly and forgettable as the characters and situations he tries to satirize

Hagman comes off best. He plays it with a fun mixture of traits from two of his best known characters. He has J.R. Ewing’s arrogance coupled with Major Nelson’s frantic anxiety.

The film also has two fun and unique scenes. One has Hagman climbing up an actual radio tower to save Stern who is threatening to jump off. The second one has a pornographic movie shown to a group of unsuspecting and shocked senior citizens

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: August 12, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated R

Director: Theodore J. Flicker

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: Amazon Instant Video