Tag Archives: Michael Parks

Wild Seed (1965)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Runaway falls for drifter.

Daphne (Celia Kaye) is a 17-year-old who runs away from her foster parents (Woody Chambliss, Eva Novak) in order to meet her biological father (Ross Elliot) who resides in Los Angeles. On her journey from the east coast to the west she meets up with Fargo (Michael Parks) a drifter who teaches her the ropes of surviving on the streets. As their trip progresses so does Daphne’s feelings for Fargo who resists her advances despite having feelings for her as well.

This black-and-white mid ‘60s drama has too much of the same trappings of the teen runaway films that came both before and after it. There’s just nothing that particularly distinguishes it from the others, which hurts the ability of the viewer from getting into it because you think right from the start that you’ve essentially ‘seen it all before’. The film also has very little action and Daphne who at times acts with extraordinary naiveté could’ve had far worse things happen to her than what does giving the film a sanitized feel in regards to the runaway experience.

Kaye, who later went on to marry famous writer/director John Milius, lacks visual appeal and fails to seem all that ‘wild’ despite what the film’s title suggests. Much of the time she comes off as someone who is quite sheltered and timid about things and not anyone who would even consider going out recklessly into the world without much ‘street smarts’ to go with it. Her character shifts from being overly paternal about certain things, particularly the ‘lectures’ that she gives to Fargo, to acting incredibly naïve making her character lack any type of real center. She also fails to display a vulnerable side just a crusty defensive one. Instead of being someone the viewer cares for she replicates a pesky nag nobody would want hanging around.

Parks, in his film debut, channels James Dean a bit too much while his character remains an enigma that we learn very little about. The fact that he resists Daphne sexual advances, at least initially, was confusing as usually it’s the man that makes the first move. I kept figuring there had to be some reason for it that would come out later, like for instance he was secretly gay or insecure about his ability to perform, and yet no explanation is ever given.

The second-half improves as this is the type of film that grows on you if you’re patient. I enjoyed some of the long shots showing to the two from an extreme distance making them look like tiny little ants on the landscape, which nicely accentuates their place in the world as a whole. Bringing in the parents, both the biological and foster ones helps add to the drama and fills in the holes of the story, but having a relationship develop between the two leads didn’t seem authentic. Spending so much time trying to survive on the outer fringes of society doesn’t allow for much else most of all a romance. The film would’ve been more interesting had it expanded its timeline and shown how things ended up for the two 5 or even 10 years later and whether the relationship had remained, or whether they were even still alive at all.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: May 5, 1965

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Brian G. Hutton

Studio: Universal

Available: None at this time.

The Happening (1967)

the happening

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kidnap him for kicks.

After a night of partying a group of hippies wake up the next morning hung over. Sandy (Faye Dunaway) and Sureshot (Michael Parks) are two strangers that find that they’ve slept together outside for the night and slowly become acquainted. To escape a police raid that is rounding up the drunken partiers and arresting them for vagrancy they hop onto a nearby boat with two other men that they’ve just met Taurus (George Maharis) and Herby (Robert Walker Jr.). They happily go along the lake until some neighborhood kids who are dressed in army gear shoot at them with their toy guns. Taurus doesn’t appreciate this and docks the boat and chases them into their house. Inside is the boy’s father Roc Delmonico (Anthony Quinn) who is a former Mafia Kingpin. He thinks these four strangers are aware of his past and there to kidnap him. The group decides to play along with the ruse hoping to get some money from the ransom and also because they are just bored and looking for some kicks.

The set-up has to be one of the flimsiest I have ever seen and the fact that it took four writers to come up with something that is full of holes and ludicrous is all the more confounding.  The concept seems like something that never got past the first draft and very poorly thought out by everyone involved. The idea that four strangers who have known each other for just a few minutes could get together and kidnap someone that they don’t know on a mere lark is ridiculous. I would think a former kingpin would be better prepared for something like this and have a back-up plan instead of passively and stupidly falling into the kid’s clutches with no idea of what to do. The story would have been far stronger had this been a planned crime.

The film’s overall vapid nature is shocking when you realize that is was done on a good budget by a major studio and top director Elliot Silverstein making me wonder if anyone even cared or thought about what they were making, or simply more interested in getting into the mod mood of the times. The filmmakers portray the younger generation as being one-dimensional thrill seekers with no real or discernible personalities and in the process creates characters that are boring, unrealistic, and uninteresting. The attempts at hipness are shallow, flat, and ultimately annoying.

Despite the low plausibility the movie is slickly done making for periods of fluffy entertainment. Case in point is when the kids have their car pulled over by a policeman (Eugene Roche) when they go through a red-light and carrying Roc tied up in the trunk. In an attempt to create a ‘diversion’ Sureshot decides to get out of the car with his hands up in the air. When the cop tells him to put his hands down he refuses, which then somehow makes all the other cars on the road crash into each other. Yes, it is fun to see a big pile-up, but believing that something like that could happen over something so silly is pushing things too much to the extreme like with a lot of things in this movie.

Things improve during the second half when Roc with the help of the kids turns the tables on everyone he knows after finding out that no one is willing to pay for his ransom. The scene where they tear up his house is kind of funky despite the fact that all the furniture they smash up looks like obvious stage props. Unfortunately the ending is as weak as the beginning and offers no pay off, which most likely will make most viewers feel like they’ve wasted an hour and 45 minutes of their time.

Quinn is good and gives the script and character a lot more energy and heart than it deserves. Dunaway, in her film debut, is hot and plays the part of an immoral lady looking for cheap thrills even when she knows better quite well. Walker Jr. is good simply because he plays the only character that has any type of believability, but unfortunately he is not on enough to be completely effective. Maharis who is best known for his excellent work as Buz Murdock in the classic TV-show ‘Route 66’ is solid as the volatile and slightly unhinged member of the group.

Oskar Homolka has a few memorable moments as an aging crime boss. One scene has him in a steam room along with his henchman wrapped tightly in towels and looking like giant carrots while another segment shows him at a poolside surrounded by a bevy of beautiful bikini clad women, which like the first scene, is visually funny.

The Supremes sing the film’s theme song, which became a top ten hit, but it doesn’t get played until the closing credits and even then not in its entirety.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 17, 1967

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Elliot Silverstein

Studio: Columbia

Available: None