Tag Archives: Peter O’Toole

Creator (1985)

creator

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Cloning his dead wife.

Harry Wolper (Peter O’Toole) is an eccentric college professor obsessed with the idea of cloning his dead wife. With the help of an undergraduate assistant named Boris (Vincent Spano) he sets up a makeshift shed in his backyard and uses the university equipment for his experiments. He employs the services of Meli (Mariel Hemingway) a 19-year-old in desperate need of funds whose egg he uses as part of the cloning process. After a while she starts to fall in love with him and as the fetus of his dead wife takes shape she becomes jealous and feeling that he should be more concerned with the living than the dead.

O’Toole is engaging as ever in the type of role that most suits his talents. Had the film stayed centered on him it would have been a joy to watch, but unfortunately it enters in the generic Spano who looks like he was pulled straight off of the cover of a men’s modeling magazine. I presume this was because the studio felt a movie centered on a man over 50 wouldn’t attract the all-important 16-30 year-old demographic, but despite being an obvious chick-magnet he adds little and there was period in the middle where he isn’t seen for a long time to the point where I forgot about him and didn’t miss him at all.

Hemingway adds quirky energy as the free-spirit and her kooky romance with O’Toole adds genuine spark, but the film regresses by spending too more time focusing on Spano’s relationship with fellow coed Barbara (Virginia Madsen). This romance is very formulaic and makes the film seem like two movies in one while sucking all of its offbeat potential right out. If anything Spano should’ve fallen for his robot that is by far funniest thing in the movie.

Spoiler Alert!

David Ogden Stiers makes for a good antagonist and John Dehner, in his last theatrical film appearance, is solid as O’Toole’s loyal colleague, but the film’s biggest problem is when it shift gears and destroys the whole cloning angle completely. It then centers on a mysterious illness that befalls the Barbara character that like in Love Story never gets explained and comes out of nowhere. She goes into an immediate coma and is put on life support where her parents (Rance Howard, Ellen Geer) agrees much too quickly and without bothering to even get a second opinion to take her off of it and allow her to die. This then forces Spano to talk to her endlessly until just as the she is about to be disconnected she ‘miraculously’ comes back to life, which is too implausible, too contrived and too cute for even the most hopeless of romantics and helps ruin the engaging performances of its two lead stars, which is the only good thing about it.

End of Spoiler Alert!

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: September 20, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 47Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ivan Passer

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Club Paradise (1986)

club paradise

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Life on the beach.

When firemen Jack Moniker (Robin Williams) is able to collect a large insurance settlement after being injured while on the job he decides to retire and move to Jamaica. There he meets Ernest (Jimmy Cliff) who owns a rundown resort and has gotten far behind on his taxes and now being harassed by the Island’s Prime Minister (Adolph Caesar) for payment. Jack decides to help his friend by fixing up the place until it becomes a snazzy destination that attracts people from all over. Soon a bunch of tourists, many of them on the eccentric side, are flocking to stay there, but Jack finds it hard to keep up with their demands while also battling Voit (Brian Doyle-Murray) a competing resort owner who feels Jack is infringing on his territory.

The film starts out pleasing enough. Cliff’s reggae songs are great and the island scenery, which was shot on-location in Port Antonio, Jamaica is soothing to the eye and spirit. Unfortunately the laughs are sporadic and the plotline minimal. Part of the problem is that it doesn’t stay focused on the Jack character. The story jumps completely past him buying the resort and rebuilding it and instead goes directly to the eccentric guests and their cartoonish behavior and dilemmas. The script is more like a patchwork of goofy skit-like ideas than a movie and the cast is made up almost entirely from the stars of the first couple of seasons of SCTV.

Williams is much more subdued here, which is nice to a degree as sometimes he can get a bit too hyper, but he is also not as funny. Peter O’Toole is good when he’s seen, but his screen time is so limited I was surprised that he even took the part as it’s a slap-in-the-face role for an actor of his stature.

The supporting cast is too hammy. Eugene Levy and Rick Moranis are mildly amusing as two clueless dweebs trying desperately to hit on some of the hot chicks, but when their story thread deviates to Moranis going on a surfboard that takes him on a 16 hour ride out to sea, it gets stupid. Andrea Martin comes off best and has a few enjoyable moments including most notably her battle with an overpowering shower.

Even a comedy needs some character development and this film, which boasts having 6 writers to its screenplay, has none. Too much emphasis is put on throwing in any type of joke or humor that it can much of which is on  a childish, preadolescent level that will bore and annoy most adults.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: July 11, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Harold Ramis

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

The Stunt Man (1980)

the stunt man

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Convict becomes a stuntman.

Cameron (Steve Railsback) is on the run from the cops who unknowingly comes onto a movie set and inadvertently causes the death of one of the stuntmen. Eli Cross (Peter O’Toole) the film’s God-like director takes a liking to Cameron and decides to hire him on as the replacement stuntman. Cameron is initially reluctant as he has no experience, but decides it would make a good cover from the police who are still after him. He starts an affair with the film’s leading lady Nina (Barbara Hershey), but finds that it may be Cross that he should be the most afraid of and who may be planning to film Cameron’s death during a difficult underwater stunt in order to add realism.

This is another one of those film-within-a-film type movies with this one faring a bit better than the others. One of the best ingredients it has is showing the behind-the-scenes politics that go on during any film production as well as hitting-the-nail-on-the-head with its caricatures.

Railsback is fun in a rare leading role. The way he can get intense as well as convey the rugged, ragged personality of a war-weary veteran on the run and just trying to survive is completely on-target. His best moments are simply his frightened and confused facial expressions that he has while going through many of Eli’s elaborate stunt routines and not sure if he will be coming out of it alive or not.

O’Toole is in peak form and was nominated for the Academy Award playing an egotistical director, which he modeled after David Lean. Having a director make a film advocating the horrors of war and violence, but then beat-up or threaten numerous crew members any time they make a mistake is perfect irony. My favorite moment of his is when they are showing rushes of Nina’s scenes from that day to her parents and then to their shock he throws in a few scenes showing Nina naked and in bed with another man. Then the next day he informs Nina about it simply to upset her and get the needed reaction that he wanted for the scene.

Hershey is splendid as a Hollywood actress who at times is quite jaded while at other moments is very naïve, child-like and emotionally fragile. Allen Garfield as the film’s exasperated and beleaguered screenwriter is also quite good. I also liked Chuck Bail who essentially plays himself as a stunt coordinator who tries to teach Cameron the fundamentals of the business.

Dominic Frontiere’s booming orchestral score is quite distinctive and at times even stirring particularly during the chase sequence. There is an abundance of ironies and twists that keep things interesting throughout and at points a bit surreal, but it’s missing that one final delicious twist or payoff and has an ending that seems a bit like a copout.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: June 27, 1980

Runtime: 2Hours 11Minutes

Rated R

Director: Richard Rush

Studio: 20th Century Fox

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

Becket (1964)

becket 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Betrayed by his friend.

King Henry II (Peter O’Toole) is finding himself at continual odds with the Archbishop of Canterbury (Felix Aylmer) particularly in their disagreement of taxing the church to help fund Henry’s war with France when the elderly Archbishop suddenly dies Henry decides to appoint his longtime friend Thomas Becket (Richard Burton) into the position.  Becket had always shown extreme loyalty towards Henry and many times gotten him out of several jams so Henry expects this will continue in his new role, but finds that Thomas takes his position much more seriously than expected and shifts his loyalty from the king to the almighty, which causes serious conflict between the two.

The film which is directed by Peter Glenville is based on the 1959 stageplay written by Jean Anouilh that starred Laurence Olivier in the role as Becket and Anthony Quinn as Henry. This film version isn’t bad, but not quite the epic spectacle that we are so used to from these types of films from that period. The action is quite minimal and there is a definite staginess. I would have liked more camera movements and even a few scenes with a hand-held to help make it seem a little more authentic and less of a filmed drama. The scene where Henry and Becket are seen riding on horseback appears very corny as it was clearly done in front of a blue-screen. There is also too much music one scene has Henry and Becket running away from a farmhouse after being caught fooling around with a farm girl that has a cartoonish sounding melody that seems completely inappropriate especially for the time period.

Having Henry and Becket go from being friends to bitter enemies seemed to happen too quickly. I got the feeling we were seeing the ‘Cliff Notes’ version of events were they analyze only the important plot points and then quickly moved to the next. I realize the runtime of the film is already long, but spending more time showing the friendship gradually devolve would have been more realistic.

Normally I love Sir John Gielgud and his performance as King Louis VII is amusing, but he is clearly British and speaks with an English accent that doesn’t even come close to sounding French. The part of the Pope is given to an Italian, so the King Louis role should have been done by a Frenchman.

O’Toole is excellent. He has brown hair here instead of his patented blonde and his ability to stay in step with Burton by giving an almost comic performance of a King who is nothing more than an overgrown adolescent is brilliant. The royal food fight is good as are the many putdowns that he gives to both his wife and kids and even his own mother.

Burton is fantastic as expected playing a role different from any of the others that he has done. His piercing blue eyes have never been stronger particularly when he becomes the Archbishop.

The killing scenes done inside the church near the end has some nice camera work and Henry’s final emotional speech as well as his flogging by the monks are all strong and make this worthwhile viewing, but I couldn’t help but feel that we have ‘grown-up’ a bit in the way we do period pieces today and this is one that could use a remake.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: March 11, 1964

Runtime: 2Hours 28Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Peter Glenville

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix streaming

The Night of the Generals (1967)

night of the generals

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: A general kills prostitutes.

In 1942 during the height of the war a Polish prostitute is found murdered and sexually mutilated. A witness spotted a man leaving her room who was wearing a uniform that had a red stripe running down the side of his pants, which signified that he was a general. Major Grau (Omar Sharif) who is in charge of the investigation decides to interview three generals (Donald Pleasance, Peter O’Toole, Charles Gray) who were in the vicinity and have no alibi, but finds a lot of pressure not to pursue the case and it takes several decades before it finally unravels.

The storyline is compelling enough to keep you intrigued, but the script is talky with not enough action. Certain story threads seemed unnecessary and the film could have been more compact. The actors are mostly all British, but make no effort to speak in German accents despite playing Nazi roles. The music cues that are used whenever an important plot point is revealed or to transition to another scene are too loud and have a generic quality to them that does not appropriately reflect the time period.

O’Toole gives an interesting performance as psychotic ready to fall completely apart. His extreme emphasis on cleanliness especially to those that serve under him and his nervous twitches steal the film as well as a bit where he commands his men to destroy an entire block of a town simply to get at a couple of snipers. His bizarre reaction to a painting of Vincent Van Gogh that he spots in a gallery is intriguing especially when it occurs twice and his blank blue-eyed stare becomes almost piercing.

Sharif does quite well in support and despite being born and raised in Egypt does a convincing job as a Nazi and I think make-up was used to lighten his skin. Tom Courtenay is good as O’Toole’s assistant and the relationship that they form has some interesting subtexts to it.

Joanna Pettet’s appearance however seemed pointless and although the constant sparring she has with her mother (Joan Plowright) was fun it really didn’t add much to an already cluttered narrative. Christopher Plummer also gets stuck in a thankless part where he is seen for less than five minutes before promptly being killed off.

The identity of the killer gets revealed 45 minutes before the end, which hurts the suspense. I also didn’t like that the Sharif character gets killed off and the rest of the investigation is taken over by a Frenchman (Philippe Noiret) which seemed defeating since we had spent so much time siding with the character’s plight to seek justice despite all the obstacles. The film’s very final moment is supposed to be dramatic and poignant, but instead goes over-the-top and becomes weak and strained.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: January 29, 1967

Runtime: 2Hours 25Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Anatole Litvak

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

How to Steal a Million (1966)

how to steal a million 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: They steal a statue.

Bonnet (Hugh Griffith) is a successful art forger who lends his Cellini Venus statue to a Paris Museum. He also has it insured, but doesn’t realize that for the coverage to take effect it would have to go through a test by the insurance company to make sure it is authentic, which sends him into a panic. His daughter Nicole (Audrey Hepburn) decides to help him by enlisting the help of Simon (Peter O’Toole) who she thinks is a professional burglar. Simon though is actually an investigator who is on to Bonnet’s racket, but decides to play along and steal the statue back despite the place being under tight security simply because he has fallen for Nicole and she for him.

Directed by William Wyler this film is engaging from beginning to end and perfectly blends the comedy with the caper. The story itself has limited action and a moderately slow pace, but I was never bored and enjoyed the plush sets and wide array of supporting characters making this a perfect tonic for those looking for light forget-your-troubles entertainment.

O’Toole’s detached manner works well with the character who allows Nicole to take charge or at least think she is while still secretly holding all the cards. The chemistry between the two is good, but I felt the romantic angle got played out too quickly. Sometimes it is more interesting not knowing if they are going to fall in love or not until the end and having them get all romantic with each other while trapped in a cramped janitor’s closet at the museum and during the tension of the robbery seemed a bit of a stretch.

Hepburn is elegant as ever and as usual it is her chic outfits that become almost as fun as her performance and the one that she wears to a restaurant when she meets Simon to set-up their plan has to be seen to be believed. The funniest one though is when she dresses in a very frumpy un-Hepburn-like dress and hat and then gets down on her hands and knees to pretend to be a cleaning lady.

Griffith hams it up marvelously as the crazy father and makes the most of every scene he is in. His cross-eyed stare makes him look almost like the twin brother of character actor Jack Elam.

Eli Wallach is underused in a supporting role that really doesn’t offer much and there is never any explanation of why he becomes so infatuated with the statue like he does. However, the way he describes his love for the statue in an aroused type of way is funny.

The robbery itself features some interestingly intricate moments. The best is when the couple is locked in a closet and Simon uses a magnet to take the key, which is hanging on the other side of the wall off of its hook and along the wall and into the lock, which I found to be totally cool.

how to steal a million 1

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: July 13, 1966

Runtime: 2Hours 3Minutes

Not Rated

Director: William Wyler

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video