Tag Archives: Richard Franklin

Cloak & Dagger (1984)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kid witnesses a murder.

Davy (Henry Thomas) is an imaginative 11-year-old who spends his days immersed in the fantasy world of an espionage game called Cloak & Dagger and its rugged hero Jack Flack (Dabney Coleman). His home life spent with his dad (also played by Coleman) isn’t as exciting and he uses his escape into the game as his way of coping with a father who is too busy to have any time for him. One day he inadvertently witnesses a murder and just before the victim dies he hands Davy a video game cartridge telling him that there is top secret information on it. Now Davy finds himself in a very real game of life and death forcing him to depend on the advice of his fantasy hero and help from his dad to save him from the bad guys.

Tom Holland’s script is based on the short story ‘The Boy Cried Murder’, which was first made into a movie in 1949 The Window that starred Bobby Driscoll. This version is definitely aimed for the kids, but manages to be engaging enough to keep an adult’s attention, which is what makes it fun. Director Richard Franklin, a noted Hitchcock disciple, manages to infuse humor with the suspense and uses a variety of locations to keep the action interesting.

Thomas is excellent as the kid, but I felt his character seemed a bit too even-keeled about things. I would think a kid would be traumatized at witnessing a murder and unable to cope, but Davy takes things in much too matter- of-fact way only to become overwhelmed by the reality of the situation much later when I felt it should’ve occurred right from the start.

Christina Nigra is cute as Davy’s young friend Kim, but she looks to be barely 6 years-old. Her lines are amusing, but she conveys them in a way that has no inflection like she is simply mouthing stuff that she has memorized. The dashingly handsome Michael Murphy makes for an effective bad guy and elderly real-life couple Jeannette Nolan and John McIntire get flashy roles in the twilight of their careers. You can also spot Louie Anderson in a brief bit as a cab driver.

Dabney Coleman’s presence is the only thing that doesn’t work. He’s a gifted comic character actor, but only engaging when he plays a sleazy slimeball and never as a good guy. Here he is downright boring and already in his 50’s making him a bit too old for either the father or superhero. I don’t think they are too many kids who would imagine their own fathers in the role of an idolized comic book-like hero anyways. Most of the time it would be someone who is brawny and glamorous. In either case the film would’ve worked better and made more sense had the father and hero role been played by two completely different actors.

For me though the best part of the movie is simply its on-location shooting done in San Antonio. It’s unfortunate that they didn’t film a scene at the Tower of the Americas, but the other tourist sites are included featuring a fun chase sequence at the River Walk, the Sunken Gardens and even the Alamo. In the case of the Alamo they were allowed to film the exteriors there, but the interiors were recreated on a soundstage, but having been in the actual Alamo I couldn’t tell the difference, which is impressive.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: July 13, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Richard Franklin

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Scream for Help (1984)

scream for help 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Her Stepfather plots murder.

Christie (Rachael Kelly) is a teen convinced that her new stepfather (Paul Fox) is out to kill her mother (Marie Masters). The problem is that no one believes her. Eventually she is able to take a picture of him having sex with another woman, which is enough to get her mother to throw him out of their house, but then he returns with two of his cohorts and traps Christie and her mother in the basement were they plan to kill them and make it look like a robbery.

This film, which was written by Tom Holland, might have been better received had it not been put into the hands of sub-par director Michael Winner. Winner who is probably best known for his close association to Charles Bronson of which he directed 7 films with him and then later when his film career waned became a famous restaurant critic, shows no feeling for the material and directs with such a sloppy style that it almost seemed like he was intentionally trying to make a bad movie. The sweeping orchestral score would have been better suited for a romance or epic adventure and is completely out of place here. The dialogue is corny and the overall acting by the supporting cast is wooden. The pace is awkward and at times becomes unintentionally funny.

However, the second half improves greatly particularly when the two find themselves trapped in the cellar and must use their ingenuity to get out. The twists are clever and unpredictable and the atmosphere becomes genuinely taut and exciting. The musical score also improves becoming much more intense and darker. I actually started to get really into it and afterwards felt like I had watched two different movies with the second part being good enough to overshadow its otherwise many flaws.

Brooks as the bad guy has a male model face, but his performance is as generic as the film’s title and it would have been better had a veteran character actor been cast in the part instead. The mother character with the way she refuses to believe the obvious until it is much too late seems unreasonably and annoyingly stupid. I did though like Kelly in the lead. Not only is she cute, but her acting is good enough to compel the viewer to keep watching when they otherwise might have turned it off and I was surprised to see that this was her only film as she showed enough promise to have had a solid career.

Filmed on-location in New Rochelle, New York this is the type of low budget flick that proves how a good script can sometimes overcome other production inadequacies. Had it been better directed this could have been a snappy thriller and it’s a shame that Hitchcock disciple Richard Franklin who was the original choice as director hadn’t helmed it although a film school dropout or even your local garbage man could have done a better job than Winner or certainly no worse.

scream for help 1

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: July 16, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated R

Director: Michael Winner

Studio: Lorimar

Available: VHS, DVD (Region 2)