Tag Archives: Marjoe Gortner

Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw (1976)

bobbi jo and the outlaw

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Looking for some kicks.

Lyle (Marjoe Gortner) is a quick draw with a gun and uses his ability to win many a contest, but when his car breaks down and he has no money to pay for the repair he decides to steal another and uses the vehicle’s souped-up engine to outrun any cop who’s after him. While stopping to eat at a drive-thru he spots attractive carhop Bobbi (Lynda Carter) who’s bored with her life and willing to take on a new adventure with a complete stranger if only to escape the clutches of her alcoholic mother (Peggy Stewart). They travel throughout New Mexico robbing banks while avoiding the relentless pursuit of Sheriff Hicks (Gene Drew) who pledges to bring them to justice dead or alive.

I was expecting something a little bit better than what I got here as it’s directed by the normally reliable Mark L. Lester with a script by Vernon Zimmerman who has helmed a few cult films of his own. Unfortunately it’s just a boring and uninspired rip-off of Bonnie and Clyde and Badlands filled with hooky dialogue and cardboard caricatures. If it weren’t for the action sequences this thing would’ve been a complete dud and comes close to being one anyways.

One of the biggest issues is the really dumb way the Bobbi Jo character decides to get with Lyle who has been stalking her for a while and parks his car outside of her home. She has no idea who he is or his name, but decides one day to hop into his car by calling him ‘loverboy’ and telling him to ‘take her away’ and all simply because she is bored. Now there are many ways to relieve boredom, but hopping into a strange man’s car isn’t one of them. Had she been strung-out on drugs, homeless, a prostitute, or suffering from some mental illness then it might have made more sense, but as it is it comes off as a really stupid way to set-up the plot and off-putting enough that it didn’t allow me to get into the rest of it.

Carter wasn’t a good choice for the part anyways as she does not come off as someone who is reckless or free-spirited. I remember watching her on the ‘Wonder Woman’ series during the late ‘70s and stories swirled that she was a real bitch/prima donna on the set who would slap actors if they messed up on their lines and would routinely make major demands. Her acting always seems rather restrained, formal, and proper like someone who was a privileged beauty queen-type growing up and who looked down on hippies as being ‘freaks’.

Belinda Balaski, who plays her friend Essie and tags along with the two on their crime spree, is far more effective and would’ve been a more believable Bobbi Jo. She also looks just as good as Carter both with her shirt on and off.

Merrie Lynn Ross who plays Bobbi Jo’s sister Pearl was another bad casting choice as she looks nothing like Carter as Ross is a brown-eyed blonde while Carter is blue-eyed and raven-haired. Gortner is expectedly terrible in the lead and much of the reason for this is because he was already in his 30’s at the time and too old for this type of part. Carter was too old as well and the whole thing would’ve worked better and been more believable had the parts been played by actual teens.

The film, which was shot on-location throughout the state of New Mexico, has a few good moments.   The best one comes when they crash their pick-up through a bank’s window and then hook a chain from their truck to the bank’s safe and drag the safe down the street, which is cool to an extent, but weakened by the fact that we are never shown how far the safe gets dragged nor what they use to finally get it open. A gun duel at a lonely, isolated gas station is another highlight as are the car chases particularly the one at the beginning. There is even an amusing take-off to the famous ‘squeal-like-a-pig’ scene in Deliverance, but other than that it’s vapid, pointless and cheesy.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: March 1, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated R

Director: Mark L. Lester

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder? (1979)

when you comin back red ryder 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Terror at a diner.

The year is 1968 and the setting is a small, lonely diner nestled at the border of Texas and New Mexico. Richard (Hal Linden) and his violinist wife Clarissa (Lee Grant) arrive for a morning cup of coffee. There is also Angel (Stephanie Faracy) the diner’s lone waitress and Stephen (Peter Firth), who was nicknamed Red during his youth due to his red hair at the time, but besides them the place is empty and peaceful. Then Teddy (Marjoe Gortner), an unhinged Vietnam vet and his hippie girlfriend Chery (Candy Clark) enter. They are without money and stranded with a broken down van, which makes Teddy particularly volatile as he begins harassing the others with evasive questions before eventually terrorizing them all by trapping them inside the place and forcing them to do whatever weird, sick thing he asks.

The film is based on the 1973 Off Broadway play by Mark Medoff, who also wrote the screenplay. In many ways it’s similar to the 1967 black-and-white drama The Incident in which Tony Musante and a young Martin Sheen trap several subway riders inside a subway car and spend the rest of the night terrorizing them simply for their own personal amusement.  Both films are structured the same with the first part examining the characters before they arrive at the scene and revealing a bit of the personal dramas that each of them face and then spending the second half showing them trapped in a claustrophobic setting and forced to deal with their reluctance at confronting their fears.

The 1967 film though outshines this one as there were more characters, which gave it a better variety of personalities as well as bad guys that were menacing and believable. Gortner is too much of a ham making him more irritating than scary. The part was originally played by Kevin Conway during its Off Broadway run and his performance won many accolades, which should’ve been enough for them to have offered him the chance to reprise the role here. Gortner, who also produced seemed intent at trying to use this as a vehicle to promote himself as being a ‘serious’ actor, but he was too old for the role from the beginning since he was already in his mid-30’s at the time this was shot while vets coming back from the war during the ‘60s where only in their late teens or early 20’s.

The film only gets mildly interesting during the confrontation sequence inside the diner, which takes 45 minutes of the film’s 2-hour runtime just to get there. The way the characters respond to Gortner’s scare tactics and the supporting cast’s performances, who are all far better actors than Gortner, is the movie’s only compelling element, but even here there are issues. The biggest one being that the people seem too wimpy and today’s viewers will get frustrated at how overly compliant they are to Gortner’s demands and never once try to overpower him despite having ample opportunity.

The movie is also notorious for featuring some rather shocking moments of nudity. It starts out with a full body shot of Candy Clark in the buff, who was married to Gortner in real-life at the time this was made and that isn’t too bad, but then it proceeds to later show 48-year-old Linden in nothing but speedo shorts doing sit ups with his butt crack clearly exposed. Still later there is a scene where 52-year-old Lee Grant has her shirt hoisted all the way over her head with her breasts in full view and then paraded around the diner in mocking fashion. The film’s most over-the-top moment though comes when Gortner himself is stripped naked and bent over a table while having a proctoscope shoved up his rectum as he continues to have a conversation with the man who’s doing it.

Filmed on-location in Fabens, Texas, which was also the site of a famous scene in The Gateway, and Las Cruces, New Mexico the movie just doesn’t convey enough tension to make it compelling or worth catching. It would’ve worked better had it skipped the first half dealing with the backstories of the characters, which was never a part of the original play anyways and just gone straight into the diner sequence while also casting a leading actor that had some actual acting training.

when you comin back red ryder 1

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: February 9, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 58Minutes

Rated R

Director: Milton Katselas

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS

Mausoleum (1983)

mausoleum 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Beautiful lady is possessed.

At her mother’s gravesite a young Susan feels compelled to go inside a Mausoleum and there she comes into contact with evil spirits who possess her and allow her the ability to destroy those around her that she does not like. She becomes an adult and marries, but her husband Oliver (Marjoe Gortner) begins to suspect that something isn’t right with her and tells Simon her psychiatrist (Norman Burton) who reads up on a book of ancient rituals to rid her of the spirits before it is too late.

This film is a tired rip-off of not only The Exorcist, but all the rip-offs that came after it. The special effects are cheesy and the mechanical direction fails to add anything new to the genre. The brief bursts of horror are intercut with long, drawn out dramatic segments that go nowhere. The heavy-handed musical score is annoying and the budget is well on the cheap side. Susan’s transformations and murders quickly become mundane and redundant.

The acting is especially bad and in some ways the worst part about the movie. All the performers deliver their lines in a hollow sounding, robotic way. Gortner makes for a weak ‘good-guy’. I might be able to handle him as a psycho, but as a lead he is terrible. I was glad to see his character get killed and just wished it had been sooner. LaWanda Page best known as Aunt Esther from ‘Sanford and Son’ TV-Show adds some levity as the couple’s maid and even says a few very choice four-letter words.

This would be a good candidate for Mystery Science Theater 3000, but hard to take seriously on its own. Even lovers of tacky cinema will be challenged to get through it. This is the type of bad movie that gives other bad movies a bad name.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: May 3, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Rated R

Director: Michael Dugan

Studio: MPM

Available: VHS, DVD (Region 1 & 2)