Tag Archives: Oliver Reed

The Brood (1979)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Wife creates dwarf murderers.

After suffering a mental breakdown Nola (Samantha Eggar) is sent away to a secluded clinic run by Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed) who uses unorthodox methods to heal his patients. Once she gets sent there strange murderers resembling dwarfs begin to terrorize her family members including her daughter Candice (Cindy Hinds) who they kidnap. Her husband Frank (Art Hindle) is convinced there’s some connection between these strange killers and the institute so he goes there to confront the Dr., but is ill prepared to the secret that awaits him.

Through the years this film has become a staple to director David Cronenberg’s work and is well filmed with shadowy lighting and fluid camerawork that help create an ongoing creepy feel as well as Howard Shore’s pounding score. The film’s ultimate moment though remains Eggar’s bizarre ‘birthing’ scene where she takes a blood drenched embryo and licks it, which apparently was something she improvised on-the-spot. It remains perversely disturbing even by today’s standards, but was cut from the release at the time and only now is intact with the Criterion Blu-ray in all its glory or gruesomeness depending on your point-of-view.

The story though isn’t as clever as the filmmakers think as I was able to figure it out almost immediately and having to watch a protagonist take 90-minutes to come to the same conclusion that took me only 10-minutes makes for a rather annoying and dull plotline. There’s also no explanation for why Nola is able to have the ability that she does. If it’s connect it to the experimental therapy she’s going through then fine, but others in that group should , or at least some of them, be able to do the same thing, but they’re not, so why is that?

There’s also a murder scene that comes in the middle of the movie that to me didn’t seem logical. It entails the dwarf murderers coming into the kindergarten class that Candice is attending and using toy hammers that they pick-up from a nearby table to bludgeon her teacher to death. Normally toy hammers are lightweight,  so no matter how hard or how long a person may swing it at their victim it’s highly unlikely that it would be able to crush their skull. I also thought all of the children who witnessed the crime would’ve run out of the room screaming instead of just one and having them then stand around the body quietly whimpering afterwards sounded forced and fake.

Reed’s dark and commanding presence always helps every movie that he is in although it’s a bit weird that he becomes the ultimate hero especially after the opening scene in which he is emotionally abusive. Eggar, whose eyes look strangely wider and more rounder here, has her acting meddle put to the test by portraying a person that I didn’t think she had the ability to do, but she proves quite qualified.

The young Hinds is surprisingly effective despite her extremely young age, but Hindle is transparent as the protagonist. I realize that he acts as a sort of buffer to the craziness, but he lacks an edge and unable to match the energy of his flamboyant co-stars.

Horror fans should find this thing adequate, but for me the story is too basic and predictable they’re needed to be some sort of secondary angle or side-story. Supposedly Cronenberg was inspired to write this after dealing with the custody battle he had with his own ex-wife, Margaret Hindson, who had worked with him on many of his earlier projects. According to him Eggar’s character reflected many of her same traits.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: May 25, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: David Cronenberg

Studio: Canadian Film Development Corporation

Available: DVD, Blu-ray (Criterion Collection), Amazon Video

The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun (1970)

lady in the car

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Dead body in trunk.

Dany (Samantha Eggar) works as a secretary for Michael (Oliver Reed) who asks her to come to his place one evening to help him type an urgent report that needs to go out the next day. She agrees and then spends the night in his guest bedroom. The next morning she travels with his family to the airport where they board a plane for a vacation while she is instructed to drive their car back home, but along the way she takes a wrong turn and begins to come upon people who say they’ve seen her before even though she can’t remember them. Then she finds a dead body in the trunk and things get really bizarre.

The film, which is based on the novel by Sebastien Jasprisot and remade in 1992 and then again in 2015, has a certain appeal as the story is offbeat enough to keep you intrigued and manages to give a logical, or at least an attempted one, explanation at the end for why everything that occurs to Dany happened and the reason behind it. Unfortunately Anatole Litvak’s direction is bland despite a colorful opening montage and Reed, with his hair dyed gray, is miscast as a stuffy businessman.

One of the biggest issues though is the main character who behaves in ways that make little sense. Going to her boss’s place after work hours to write a report and even be instructed to drive his car back from the airport seems to be going well beyond the normal duties of an ordinary secretary and one that most likely would be met with resistance by anyone else and yet Dany obliges to his demands without question like she is a robot. Later a strange man (John McEnery) enters her car and makes an aggressive pass at her. Instead of leaving or running for help she instead gets into the car with him and takes him back to her hotel and goes to bed with him before she even knows what his first name is.

Spoiler Alert!

At the end we find out that Dany’s boss has set the whole thing up to make it look like Dany shot the man, whose dead body was in the trunk, in order to cover up for his wife (Stephane Audran) who was the one who really did it. Apparently she had been having affairs with many different men and shot this one when he refused to continue to see her. The husband was aware of all of these transgressions and would pay off the men to quit seeing her and when he found out that his wife had killed this one he concocts an elaborate scheme to get her off the hook, but why? Most men would not feel the need to come to the defense of an unfaithful wife especially one that continues to do it over and over again, which makes the whole storyline quite weak since it’s completely off-the-mark in terms of realistic human behavior.

End of Spoiler Alert!

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 22, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated R

Director: Anatole Litvak

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: None at this time.

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989)

adventures of baron 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Where fantasy meets silliness.

A touring stage company in some unnamed European city during the 18th century is putting on a production of fictional character Baron Munchausen’s fanciful life when it gets interrupted by an elderly man (John Neville) insisting that he is the real Baron and who then takes center stage to narrate his adventures from his perspective. Unfortunately an army of Turks are also invading the city at the same time, which forces him to escape via a hot air balloon made of women’s undergarments.  With him is a young stowaway named Sally (Sarah Polley) and together they try to round up a group of elite men with unique abilities, which they will use to team up against the Turks and hopefully win back the city while also meeting many odd characters and going through a myriad of zany, mystical scenarios.

The film’s dazzling production ran 24 million over budget only to then bomb at the box office but the intoxicating special effects almost make it worth it while it also remains kid friendly with action sequences that are pleasantly cartoonish and innuendos that are too subtle for them to catch. The balloon made of women’s underwear is great and as well as watching the trio get swallowed up by a giant sea monster whose head resembles that of an island. I also liked the angel of death scenes and wished those had been played up more. Even the little things like seeing a tiny grain of sand slither its way down the thin glass tube of an hourglass is fun. The colorful sets are dazzling and the whole thing gets saturated with a visual flair that is quite impressive.

Although she has complained in subsequent interviews about her experience working in this film and dealing with director Terry Gilliam Polley’s presence adds a lot with a performance that is completely on-target the whole way. She’s one of those child characters that is cute without it being forced, which is a major feat in itself. Robin Williams is hilarious as a giant floating head in a part that was intended for Sean Connery who I don’t think would have done it half as well.  I also got a real kick out of Oliver Reed as a jealous god and Uma Thurman as his stunning wife Venus, which is technically her film debut, but due to budget delays this came out after two of her other films had already released.

The only real complaint about the movie is the plot or lack thereof. I loved the creativity, but after a while it starts to become dizzying and senseless. Gilliam’s other films like Time Bandits, which like this movie is part of his trilogy of imagination, at least had a discernable story that sucked you in and in Brazil it made great satirical jabs at modern day society, but here we get none of that. It becomes silly and surreal for no reason, which when factored in with its giant production cost and manpower turns it into a supremely wasted effort. Don’t get me wrong it’s amusing and engaging enough to be entertaining, but when it’s all over it is also quite forgettable.

adventures of baron2

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: March 10, 1989

Runtime: 2Hours 6Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Terry Gilliam

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Burnt Offerings (1976)

burnt offerings 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Evil house menaces family.

Marian and Ben (Karen Black, Oliver Reed) are a couple who takeover for the summer as caretakers for an old gothic-like mansion.  They bring along their son Davey (Lee Montgomery) and Aunt Elizabeth (Bette Davis). Soon there are strange occurrences as well as a transformation of their personalities, which makes them believe that the place is haunted.

The attempt at going back to an old-fashioned type of horror movie doesn’t work. Dan Curtis’s direction is too restrained and most likely will be a turn-off to even those that like these types of films. The pace is slow and the film takes way too much time telling a story that in the end adds up to nothing. The scares are non-existent and I didn’t even find it to be the slightest bit creepy. The only impressive scene involves a body flying out of an upstairs window and crashing head first into the windshield of a car, but that doesn’t occur until the very end. There is also a potentially interesting subplot involving Ben’s reoccurring nightmares about a traumatic childhood experience with a chauffeur, but it is never fully explained what this is about, which ultimately makes this more frustrating instead.

The soft lighting approach is another mistake as it makes the whole thing look like a shampoo commercial and adds nothing to the atmosphere. There is also the backyard pool that was clearly shot at another location from the summer house one that they reside.

Probably the only fun element of this otherwise blah film is the eclectic cast. Burgess Meredith, who shows up at the beginning, should’ve won an award for campy performance of the decade. Black plays another one of her flaky characters with her usual flaky style and Montgomery is good as the no-nonsense kid. Reed is outstanding as he ends up showing the widest array of emotions.

However, it is Davis whose latter day presence gives the film its broadest appeal. She spent a career playing strong-willed women with electrifying performances and yet here her character is downright ordinary. The change of pace is interesting especially the scene where she gets shouted down by Black. She also has a pretty good deathbed sequence and there is even a moment where Reed pats her on her rear. Depending on one’s point-of-view you will either find this to be amazing, amusing, or really gross.

On the whole though I found this to be a pretty hopeless excuse for a horror film with the most horrifying thing about it being having to sit through it.

burnt offerings 2

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: October 18, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 56Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Dan Curtis

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD