Tag Archives: Lee Purcell

Almost Summer (1978)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: A high school election.

Bobby DeVito (Bruno Kirby) schemes to get even when Christine (Lee Purcell) is able to get high school hunk Grant (Robert Resnick) knocked out of the race for class president and thus allowing her to run unopposed. For revenge Bobby decides to nominate a shy new kid Darryl (John Friedrich) as her challenger. Darryl is initially unsure about taking on the challenge, but eventually gets into it only to eventually drop-out himself when he realizes Bobby has used some underhanded tricks in order to help him win.

The script is too simplistic and better suited as a ‘life lesson’ film that teachers show to kids in grade school. The action gets too locked into the students and the high school scene instead of broadening the situation out to include the school’s faculty like it did in Alexander Payne’s Election, which was far superior because it took the central scenario and connected it not only the foibles of teens, but adults as well. In fact very few adults get seen here making it seem like they were sucked away to some distant cosmos and the teens were left to run everything.

The film is refreshing to some extent because unlike most other teen flicks there’s no crude humor or sexual innuendos and the kids behave like young adults in the making instead of delayed adolescents, which is nice. However, the story is so boringly basic and told in such a straight-forward manner that after a while I actually wanted a sex joke or two to pop-in simply to have given the thing some life.

The situation needed to be played-up a lot more. Lee Purcell, who portrays a teen here only to ironically portray the mother of one just five years later in Valley Girl, is dull, but only because the part is painfully underwritten. The character is not mean enough for the viewer to really hate her. She is also too easily broken as evidenced by the scene where she breaks down into tears because she arrives at a debate with her hair still wet.

The Darryl character is equally benign. At first he comes off like a truly awkward teen, which could’ve been fun seeing this dopey geek upend a beauty queen at her own game, but the guy slides into the noble hero role too quickly. He becomes too-good-to-be-true making him nothing more than a transparent, good-guy cliché.

Some other reviewers have commented on Didi Conn and how her goofy, supporting presence helps enliven the film. Personally I’m not a fan of the actress as her geeky looks and squeaky voice gets on my nerves, but when a film is as bland as this one I suppose she does help it, which just prove how really bad it is. I also thought ‘Almost Summer’ was a weird title as everything that goes on here happens during the school year. A better title would’ve been ‘Almost Over’ because the whole time I was watching it I kept asking ‘Is this thing almost over?’

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Runtime: 1Hour 23Minutes

Released: September 22, 1978

Rated PG

Director: Martin Davidson

Studio: Universal

Available: None at this time.

Mr. Majestyk (1974)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Don’t touch his watermelons!

Vince Majestyk (Charles Bronson) is a Colorado watermelon farmer who gets into a conflict with Bobby (Paul Koslo) who wants to force Vince to use unskilled drunks to harvest his crop instead of migrant workers. When Vince successfully forces Bobby and his crew off of his property Bobby then goes to the police with assault charges, which lands Vince in jail. It is there that he comes into contact with Frank Renda (Al Lettieri) a notorious hit man. While the two are being transferred by bus to another prison Renda’s men attack it in a shootout, but when the driver is killed Vince takes control of the bus and drives it off into the Colorado wilderness. There he holds Renda hostage while trying to broker a deal with the police where he’ll ‘trade’ Renda for his freedom, but things don’t go quite as planned.

Many people don’t realize that during the ‘70s Bronson did quite a few offbeat films with St. Ives and From Noon Till Three being his two biggest, but this one comes in as an honorable mention. I’ve watched a lot of movies in my lifetime and can usually guess where they’re going, but this one kept me genuinely intrigued most of the way. The script is enlivened with its vivid on-location shooting done mostly in La Junta, Colorado, which includes a well-staged shootout done in the center of town as well as a car chase that takes advantage of an area with scenic rock formations.

The biggest surprise though is Bronson. Sometimes he comes off as stiff and wooden, but here he’s engaging and even reveals a playful side. His character also makes a few miscalculations, which helps him seem more human as opposed to the standard rugged good guy who is always able to think-on-his-feet and constantly able to achieve miraculous split-second decisions.

I was disappointed though with Al Lettieri. He was so effectively nasty in The Getaway that I didn’t think it could be topped or even attempted and yet just two years after that one he again gets cast in virtually the same type of role making it seem like typecasting to the extreme. I was hoping that he would expose a softer side to his persona at some unexpected moment, but it never occurs and he just proceeds to being one mean, angry s.o.b. which quickly becomes boring and one-dimensional.

Lee Purcell though is terrific as his girlfriend. She had played only rural, country girl types before this, so it was great seeing her portray someone more sophisticated and despite her young age, only 26 at the time, she shows great composure alongside her much older male co-stars. Her cool, collected manner makes for an intriguing contrast to Lettieri’s hyper one and should’ve been explored more.

Linda Cristal as Bronson’s love interest is less impressive. Playing a feisty Hispanic woman comes off almost like a cliché and their relationship is forced. She does come in handy as the getaway driver, which I feel is the only reason her character was put into the story to begin with.

Despite the unpredictable touches the beginning is quite contrived, which includes an opening title sequence better suited for a TV-show. The script was written by Elmore Leonard, which made it disappointing as I was expecting there to be some sort of subtext to it, but in the end it’s rather run-of-the-mill with the offbeat elements not enough to make it anything more than a transparent diversion.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: July 12, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Richard Fleischer

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

Valley Girl (1983)

valley girl

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Like totally, for sure.

Julie (Deborah Foreman) is a popular teen who is attracted to Randy (Nicholas Cage) who is not a part of her snotty clique. Stacey (Heidi Holicker) and Suzi (Michelle Meyrink) are her friends who want her to go back to dating the two-timing Tommy (Michael Bowen) even though she gets along with Randy far better. Her hippie parents (Frederic Forrest, Colleen Camp) aren’t sure what advice to give her, so she’s forced to choose between her friends and true-love while being threatened with ostracism if she goes out with the ‘wrong guy’.

The film was inspired by the Frank Zappa song, which is far funnier than anything that goes on here. The song had Zappa’s 14-year-old daughter Moon Unit putting on a fake southern California accent and speaking in a valley-speak lingo, which was right on-target. Here though we don’t get any of that. The girls only do the valley-speak thing at the very beginning and then it’s dropped and becomes just a pedestrian story of ordinary teens doing very ordinary teen-like things.

To me a valley girl represented a rich, plastic, entitled teen insulated from real-world issues who charged their Daddy’s credit card like it was a hobby and felt they were ‘too cool’ to work and more concerned with the latest teen fashions than anything else and yet the lead character here doesn’t represent any of this and in fact is the complete opposite.

The cast is also way too old for their roles. Foreman was already 21 and Bowen was 30! In fact none of the lead cast is of the right age range for their characters and making it look much more like college students or even young adults than high school. The party scenes are lame with the kids dancing like zombies moving their bodies in a robotic fashion with no sense or feel to the music or beat. The whole thing lacks hipness and comes off like a mild, sanitized concoction created by middle-aged adults far removed from the teen scene and unable to recreate it in any effective type of way.

Forrest and Camp are mildly amusing as the parents, but aging hippies running some backwoods type health food store probably wouldn’t be able to afford living in the valley let alone getting along with their more elitist neighbors. I was also disappointed that the Lee Purcell character just disappears without any denouncement. She plays Suzie’s very hot-looking mother, and with the possible exception of Foreman is quite easily the best looking member of the cast, who comes-on to one of her daughter’s guy friends (David Ensor) only to later catch the two in bed together, but what should’ve been a funny and lively confrontation and aftermath never gets addressed, which is a letdown.

On a purely romantic level the film could be considered ‘cute’ and the soundtrack has some cool tunes, but the story lacks oomph and fails to take advantage of the true valley girl persona ending up seeming more like just a mild ‘80s update of Gidget instead.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: April 29, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated R

Director: Martha Coolidge

Studio: Atlantic Releasing Corporation

Available: DVD

Adam at 6 A.M. (1970)

adam at 6am

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: He searches for direction.

Adam Gaines (Michael Douglas) is a Professor of Semantics at a local California college and although his future looks bright and stable he can’t help but feel ‘processed’ and bored. When his aunt dies he travels to Missouri to attend her funeral and then on whim decides to stay there for the summer while working a rugged job clearing out a forest in order to install power lines. He also meets and falls in love with the attractive Jeri Jo (Lee Purcell), but then just as things seem to becoming together he suddenly gets the itch to leave and start a new adventure somewhere else.

This is the type of character study that they just don’t seem to make anymore, which is creating characters that are not satisfied with society’s ‘perks’ and still feeling the need to go off and find themselves, which films of that era emphasized as being more important. Filmed on-location in Cameron and Excelsior Springs, Missouri the Midwest gets captured in authentic detail. The population is portrayed as being conservative and limited, but not hick or stupid. The film also has a lot of quiet moments with no dialogue, which helps recreate the heartland’s slower and more neighborly atmosphere.

Purcell, in her film debut, is outstanding as a typical small-town girl with just enough sexiness and flirtation to be alluring, but ultimately unable to break away from her local roots and share Adam’s more expansive worldly views. Louise Latham as her conniving mother is also good as is Joe Don Baker as a field hand who befriends Adam despite having vastly different intellectual backgrounds. It’s also great seeing Meg Foster in film debut popping up early as one of Adam’s girlfriends and sporting not only her incredibly exotic pair of eyes, but her topless body as well.

Adam’s conversation with Grayson Hall’s character during the funeral where she tries to mask her inability to understand the word ‘semantics’ is amusing and I also enjoyed his ‘debate’ with Dana Elcar’s character in regards to Blow Up and the other ‘filthy’ movies of the modern generation. The scene where the laborers go to a bar and pick-up some ‘hot chicks’ is fun as well, but the film’s best moment comes at the end when a routine trip to a convenience store to pick up some ice cream becomes unexpectedly captivating and climaxes with a memorable final shot.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: September 22, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated GP

Director: Robert Scheerer

Studio: National General Pictures

Available: VHS

Eddie Macon’s Run (1983)

eddie macons run 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: He runs across Texas.

Each Monday during the month of September, in order to celebrate my impending move from Indianapolis to Austin, Texas, we will be reviewing an 80’s movie that takes place in Texas. We start with this film that is based on the James McLendon novel. Eddie Macon (John Schneider) is a young father wrongly accused of a crime who devises a plan to escape from prison and then run on foot from Hunstville to Laredo where he hopes to cross the Mexican border to freedom. The problem is dirty cop Carl (Kirk Douglas) who is holding a past grudge is determined not to let him do it and is hot-on-his-heals.

The film’s basic premise seems not only impractical, but wholly impossible. Per Mapquest the distance between Huntsville and Laredo is 385 miles and this man expects to somehow do it all on foot in only 4 days, which is ridiculous especially when his wife owns a car. Instead of having her drop off his backpack with all of his supplies at a certain strategic point why not have her waiting for him at that same spot with a car ready to whisk him off? The concept makes no sense. There is no reason why he has to do this all on foot and basic logistics of it are mind boggling.

I also had to a lesser extent issues with the Lee Purcell character that plays Jilly Buck. Eddie saves her from an attack by another man and then she helps him elude Carl with her connections through the governor that allows her to lead a rather privileged existence. I understood that she would want to help him a little since he helped her, but she goes far and beyond that and puts herself and her cushy lifestyle in jeopardy by doing it for a man that has clearly stated will stay faithful to his wife.

Schneider, who has too much of a boyish face, is quite weak in the lead with a performance that is dull and one-note.  The character is also painfully stupid as he doesn’t bother to pick-up his backpack that is sitting right at his feet and has everything he needs in it when he escapes from a house even though he had just grabbed a gun out of it only a few seconds earlier.

Douglas is by far the better actor and rightfully deserved the top billing. It is amazing how a man who has played so many good guys in his career could turn around and so easily play a bad guy with the same type of conviction, but he does and it is quite entertaining. His hairstyle looks terrible and almost like it’s a wig, but I think that was intentional as it gives him an appearance of being ugly, crazed and menacing all at the same time.

At times it relies too heavily on old Texas stereotypes, which borders on making the whole thing come off as one giant cliché, but the scene where Eddie gets kidnapped by rednecks and taken into ranch home that is filled with pinball machines and terrorized is fun and has a nice mix of whacky characters and dark humor that the rest of the film should have had. The on-location shooting nicely brings out the dusty, barren landscape as well as a dazzling bird’s-eye shot of the San Antonio skyline.

Norton Buffalo’s moody soundtrack is a major plus, but the two songs sung by Schneider are terrible and just about ruin the whole thing. The film is passable enough to be an adequate time-filler for a slow evening, but don’t expect too much. This also mark’s the official film debut of John Goodman who appears with a mustache as Eddie’s corrupt boss as well as J.T. Walsh who has a brief bit as a bar patron.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: March 23, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jeff Kanew

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video