Tag Archives: Meg Foster

Carny (1980)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Runaway joins the carnival.

Bored with small town life and an overly-protective boyfriend (Craig Wasson) Donna decides at the age of 18 to break-free of her restraints and travel the countryside by working in a carnival. She befriends Frankie (Gary Busey) who works as a clown and she gets a job as one of the strippers before eventually working the string joint booth while slowly adapting to the shady ways of the gypsy-like lifestyle.

The carnival atmosphere is well-recreated and was directed by Robert Kaylor who years earlier helmed the documentary Derby, which was a behind-the-scenes look at life on the roller derby circuit and this film works much the same by fully immersing the viewer into the dark aspects of a tough environment while also exposing the personalities of the people who work in it. The revealing story manages to be both hard-hitting and intriguing.

The tone though stays too much on the negative side until the viewer feels almost bombarded with one unpleasant situation after another. There’s never anything redeeming and you’re made to feel tense waiting for the next uncomfortable twist to come about, which gets overdone. Certainly there had to be some good times and bonding that occurs and the film lightly touches on this at the very, very end, but I felt more of that should’ve been sprinkled in throughout.

There’s also too many con-games and underhanded shenanigans making me wonder if all carnivals were really this bad , or is it simply playing-it-up for dramatic purposes. The ending in which everyone works together to pull off an elaborate con on a meddling crime boss (Bill McKinney) comes off too much like a poor rendition of The Sting. Some potentially intriguing storylines get dropped; like what happened to Donna’s psycho boyfriend when he finds out that she has left him? I was fully expecting him to come back into the picture at some later point once he tracked her down, but instead he gets forgotten.

Robertson is a famous songwriter and musician whose been around since the ‘60s, but he grew up working in the carnival circuit and helped put his real-life experiences and insights into the script. His performance is okay, but the soundtrack he composed for the film is too upbeat and does not jive with the dark, moodiness of the plot.

The performances are the best thing. Foster usually plays characters that are confident, but here she is someone who is unsure of herself only to acquire an edge as the story progresses. Kenneth McMillan is engaging as the nervous, stressed-out owner and Meg Foster is good as a woman who’s become hardened from being on the road too long. Gary Busey is a standout too even though he sometimes gets mocked today for his weird behavior off-screen, but this guy was at one time considered a serious up-and-coming star and his presence here shows why.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: June 13, 1980

Runtime: 1 Hour 47 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Robert Kaylor

Studio: United Artists

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

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