Tag Archives: Mark Lester

Redneck (1973)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Robbers accidentally kidnap kid.

Memphis (Telly Savalas) and Mosquito (Franco Nero) are two crooks who try to pull off a jewelry store heist, but end up nabbing much less than they wanted. During their getaway attempt the car being driven by their driver Maria (Ely Galleani) crashes forcing them to stop another car and physically removing its driver (Beatrice Clary) out of the vehicle. Yet as they drive off inside the stolen car they are unaware of a 12-year-old child (Mark Lester) hidden in the backseat who ends up stymieing all of their plans.

This was yet another ill-fated film project that Lester took on after the tremendous success of Oliver! that was supposedly done to help make him a solid big-screen star, but instead turned his career to literal ashes by 1977, which pushed him out of the acting altogether and into a career in sports medicine. The film starts out okay with some excellent action that’s vividly done and had it kept up its fast-pace throughout it might’ve done better.

Unfortunately whenever the story slows done it gets boring real fast. Part of the problem is there is no backstory given to any of its characters. Everything starts out very abruptly going right into the robbery and subsequent getaway, which is fine, but at some point we need to learn more about these people; what makes them tick and gives them distinction, which never happens. It’s hard to get caught up in the action or tension when everyone, including Lester, comes off as blah and transparent. The film’s original Italian title was Senza Ragione, which translates into ‘with no reason’ and that’s exactly what you get here: sadistic, mindless calamity that serves no purpose.

Lester’s presence isn’t interesting and he barely even has much dialogue. He’s too much of a passive victim that doesn’t fight back enough while his bonding with Nero happens too quickly. His  eventual downward spiral, where he goes from innocent child to a nutcase that craves violence is also too quick and does not seem genuine. The part where he tries to escape from the crooks and is chased through an empty field is jarring because playful, cartoon-like music gets played over it making it seem almost like a slapstick comedy even though the rest of the film is approached like a thriller with a pounding soundtrack, which makes the production come-off like it has a split-personality.

The film is also somewhat controversial because Lester, who was only 13 at the time of filming,  for no apparent reason strips naked although the viewer only sees him from behind, but it’s still a bizarre moment nonetheless. However, to me what was more shocking was having him watch an adult couple making love in the backseat of a car.

Savalas is certainly a lot of fun and can make the most of any low grade picture, but even here his campiness gets a bit overdone including his incessant whistling. The ending, in which the characters go from a summer climate to a winter one in seemingly a matter of a day is quite confusing. To some extent I liked the snowy landscape and howling wind, which created a surreal effect, but having a movie change seasons so drastically and without any explanation is a true sign of really bad filmmaking.

Alternate Title: Senza Ragione

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: January 26, 1973

Runtime: 1 Hour 29 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Silvio Narizzano

Studio: Crawford Productions

Available: VHS

Our Mother’s House (1967)

our mothers house 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Life after mother dies.

Seven children live with their mother inside a large English house. She is sickly and when she dies they decide to keep it a secret by burying her body in the back garden and then continuing on as normal as they fear they will otherwise be sent off to an orphanage. Things go surprisingly well for the most part, but then their alcoholic father Charlie (Dirk Bogarde) reappears after a long absence, which sends everything spiraling out of control.

Director Jack Clayton lends an amazing amount of control and freedom to the child performers and the result is fantastic. The kids give solid performances and really carry the movie. Margaret Brooks as Elsa is a standout and shows great maturity especially with the way she stands up to the Bogarde character. Phoebe Nicholls is also terrific and looks like a young Sandy Dennis. Mark Lester did this just before doing his star turn in Oliver and he is cute, but his stuttering is annoying.

Although the character is obnoxious, one-dimensional and predictable Bogarde does a fine job as always in his part in what was a bit of an offbeat turn for him as he doesn’t appear until about forty-five minutes in. Yootha Joyce is entertaining with her bit as the children’s callous nanny. She has interesting facial expressions and voice tones, which makes the most of her otherwise small role. She is probably most famous for playing the equivalent of the Mrs. Roper character in the British version of ‘Three’s a Company’, which was ‘Man about the House’ and it is a shame that alcoholism cut both her career and life short.

The film weaves an interesting atmosphere and this is the type of story where you have no idea where it is going. I also liked some of the side diversions that Clayton incorporates including having the children take a boat ride around the famous Dinosaur Court in the Crystal Palace Park. Erected in 1854 these were the very first dinosaur sculptures ever made in the world.

I also found it interesting that there are scenes showing the children praying and even reading Bible verses. This is not a spiritual film in any way and I personally have no stand on the issue, but it brought to mind how mainstream films today never show anyone ever praying even though a lot of regular people still do it and by putting it into the story it makes it more realistic instead of less.

The only real issue that I had with the movie that otherwise has some very intriguing elements is the ending, which comes pretty close to being a copout and leaves way too many loose ends open.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: October 9, 1967

Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Jack Clayton

Studio: MGM

Available: YouTube