By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Sly and the Fonz.
Butchey (Henry Winkler) forms a leather jacket gang with his friends at a Brooklyn city high school during the 1950’s. The group is made up of Stanley (Sylvester Stallone) who is forced to marry his girlfriend when he gets her pregnant and Chico (Perry King) who romances the pretty new girl in school named Jane (Susan Blakely). As they grow into adulthood they find themselves drifting apart as new interests and demands begin to appear.
This film can best be described as a B-version of American Graffiti that came out just a year earlier. The production values are shoddy with a grainy picture that looks like it was filmed on somebody’s home camera. The story works in fragmented style that comes off more like a series of vignettes than an actual plot. Chico’s romance with Jane happens too quickly and seems artificial from the start especially since they are from ‘opposite sides of the tracks’. The actors themselves are clearly well over 18 and in Stallone’s case almost pushing 30 making their presence and the overall 50’s feel seem unauthentic.
The one thing that saves it is that there are some funny scenes as well as moments of decent drama and character development. The part where Stallone barters with a jeweler over the price of the wedding ring is quite good. I also liked the scene where the boys get together to intimidate a guy who is dating Chico’s girl only to run in fright when the other guy brings in a team of football players to defend him. However, the opening bit dealing with the teens misbehaving in class is not funny at all and I ended up feeling sorry for the teacher who was only trying to do her job.
Although given top billing Winkler is underused and almost forgettable. King is the real star and does quite well while also creating a multi-dimensional character. Stallone steals every scene he is in and proves to be much more adept at comedy than you might think. You can also glimpse Ray Sharkey, Armand Assante and Brooke Adams as wedding guests.
The film also features model-turned-actress Susan Blakely in only her third feature who does well playing the ‘good girl’, but the scene where Chico pressures her into having sex and she resists while asking him what color her eyes are in an attempt to see if he really ‘knows’ her and not just using her makes no sense. For one thing her big, blue eyes are the most prominent part of her face. Anyone, even a stranger, who glances at her face for even a second would know the color of her eyes, and thus having her ask someone what color they are is ridiculous already and then having them unable to tell her makes it the dumbest part of the whole movie.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: May 1, 1974
Runtime: 1Hour 26Minutes
Director: Martin Davidson and Stephan Verona
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video
Posted in 70's Movies, Adolescence/High School, Comedy/Drama, Low Budget, Movies that take place in the Big Apple
Tagged Entertainment, Henry Winkler, Movies, Perry King, Review, Susan Blakely, Sylvester Stallone
By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: Possessed by his friend.
Norah (Shirley MacLaine) is a divorced mother of two living in a well-off neighborhood of New York that is also keeping a watchful eye on her younger brother Joel (Perry King). He is a recent college grad returned from an overseas stay and still looking to find his way in the world. He lives in a poorer section of town and does so to keep a distance between he and his sister who he feels has domineering traits like his now deceased mother. As things progress he begins to show odd, frightening behaviors that at times turn violent and when conventional therapy doesn’t help Norah turns to a Puerto Rican witch doctor that is convinced that Joel is possessed.
What makes this film so intriguing is that it has far more layers than a typical horror film and its most interesting aspect isn’t the occult at all, but instead the vivid look at New York’s contrasting socio-economic and cultural make-up. It shows how buffered the rich are from the poverty stricken areas of the city and how completely helpless they become when thrown into that environment. In fact Norah’s most frightening moments are when she is taken out of the safety zone of her pampered lifestyle than in dealing with the possession of her brother.
MacLaine’s character is not too likable, but this ends up being a positive. Her exchange with a clerk at a mental hospital when she expects to receive preferential treatment is amusing as is her obliviousness to her surroundings when she walks into a rundown tenement building wearing a gaudy fur hat and coat only to later finally get the sense to take it off when walking down the street of a tough neighborhood.
King is perfect choice for the role as his clear blue eyes give off a naturally creepy look and his moments of possession are some of the most unnerving parts of the film although I would have liked more time to have been given showing him in more of a normal state. His relationship with his sister also exposes an underlying sexual theme that never gets sufficiently explored
Although the terror is more cerebral it still has some choice moments including a shot of a decapitated head of a woman hung over her nude body as well as Maclaine’s extremely odd reaction to it. The ritual involving the attempted removal of the dead soul from Joel’s body has a nice cinema vertite flair and when the man lights some kerosene on the floor and steps in it with his bare feet it looks genuine and not staged. The climatic sequence that takes place in a remote beach house is intense and includes the controversial scene showing a young boy being forced to strip as well as a young girl having to eat dog food from a dog dish that was excised from many prints, but intact on the Legend Films DVD release. There is also a cool twist that occurs at the very, very end.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: May 24, 1972
Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes
Director: Waris Hussein
Posted in 70's Movies, Cold Climate/Wintertime Movies, Cult, Horror, Movies Based on Novels, Movies that take place in the Big Apple, Movies with Nudity
Tagged Entertainment, Movies, New York, Perry King, Review, Richard Winters, Shirley MacLaine