Tag Archives: Richard Roundtree

Diamonds (1975)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Testing a security system.

Charles and his twin brother Earl (both played by Robert Shaw) share an intense rivalry that comes-out during their judo karate contests. Charles wants to top his brother at everything including getting the better of him at his own expertise, which is that of security specialist who has created a vault in Tel Aviv that holds a cache of diamonds and is supposedly impenetrable. Charles is determined to rob it and uses the help of expert safe crackers Archie (Richard Roundtree) and Sally (Barbara Hershey).

While the film has some great location shooting of Israel making it seem almost like a travel log of the region and the final third where the three try to pull off the elaborate robbery does get a bit intense, though it’s nothing special, the movie on the whole falls flat. A major reason is that it was directed by Menahem Golan, who along with his cousin created the notorious film production company The Cannon Group, which produced a lot of cheesy, bubble gum action flicks during the 80’s. This film works very much like those with poor character development, in fact there’s really no development at all, and a plot that steals all sorts of elements from other and better heist movies.

Overall it’s pretty much the same storyline as $, Perfect Fridayand to a lesser extent Topkapibut all of the things that made those movies so much fun to watch goes missing here. The lack of interplay between the characters is the biggest issue. Shaw, Roundtree, and Hershey are all great actors, but they’re not given anything interesting to say. The twin brother concept does not get played-up enough and Charles’ twin is seen just a few times with the only difference being a shaggy wig that Earl wears as opposed to Charles crew-cut, but both brothers have the exact same mole on the left side of their mouths and while identical twins can have many similarities, skin blemishes isn’t one of them. Shelley Winters also pops-up sporadically as an American tourist, but her part is completely inconsequential and not needed at all.

The heist itself does involve some sophisticated maneuvers including having them walk on the ceiling by using a suction-cup type contraption, but the film fails to show any of the preparation. In the other heist films seeing how the crooks rehearsed the robbery and working through their disagreements and divergent personalities was half-the-fun, but that all goes missing here. How Shaw goes about meeting Roundtree and company is pretty flimsy too as he catches them during the middle of an attempted safe cracking and then hires them on-the-spot supposedly because he’s been monitoring them for 5 years and feels they’d be a perfect match for his scheme, but why should it take him so long to come to this conclusion and these safe crackers must not be as cunning as they seem if they’ve been watched closely for 5 years and not had any hint that it was going-on.

Spoiler Alert!

The crime itself gets pulled-off way too easily and there’s no moment where a crucial mistake gets made, or some sort of unexpected slip-up, so things never get as intense as it could’ve. There’s also an added character that gets thrown-in who kidnaps the son of the security guard in order to get the guard to give-out the combination to the safe, but no scenes are shown for how Shaw and company met this kidnapper, or what deal he made with him in order to get him to agree to along with their plans.

The finale has a very anti-climactic feel as Roundtree is able to retrieve the diamonds, but then Shaw forces him to put them all back, so they come away, after all that effort, empty-handed. Ultimately Shaw does hand him a $100,000 check, but this was paltry compared to the $10 million they would’ve gotten with the diamonds making the viewer feel like the film wasn’t worth sitting through if the characters just end up in the same situation that they were in when it began. While no movie that has Robert Shaw in it can be completely bad as his presence alone can elevate even the most inept material this one unfortunately does come close.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: October 22, 1975

Runtime: 1 Hour 48 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Menahem Golan

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: DVD-R

Q (1982)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Giant bird eats humans

In celebration of cult writer/director Larry Cohen turning 72 on July 15th all this month on Mondays I will review five of his films that he did during the 80’s. Now Cohen will probably never win an Academy Award and may never be mentioned in the same context as Spielberg, Kubrik, or Hitchcock, but the man has had one hell of a career nonetheless. He has been writing for either television or movies since the late 50’s and continues to churn out creative, innovative stories and scripts. Not all of them are completely successful and some of them do misfire, but his ability to survive in the difficult, competitive Hollywood landscape and make his movies on his terms with virtually no studio interference is an amazing achievement in itself and therefore deserves recognition.

larry cohen 3

This film like most of his others has a completely outlandish plot this time involving a giant lizard-like bird that is actually the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl brought back to life and nesting inside the top crown of the Crysler Building in downtown Manhattan. The bird lays a giant egg and feeds itself on unsuspecting people.  Jimmy Quinn (Michael Moriarty) is an out-of-work lounge singer who comes upon the bird’s nest accidently while running from the cops after a botched jewelry store robbery. He decides to use his knowledge of the whereabouts of the bird to his advantage and demands that the city pay him a million dollars before he leads them to it.

Despite the crazy plot the execution is rather conventional. There are long periods of seemingly unending dialogue that is not interesting and does not propel the movie along. The bird attacks are too brief and needed to be strung out more. The movie would have worked much better and had it had a consistent tongue-in-cheek approach and editing that was more kinetic and lucid-like.

Moriarty saves the film with entertaining, edgy performance. This is a man who is known for his erratic behavior off-screen, which pretty much killed his career. In 1971 while performing on stage in a play in Houston he suddenly broke from character and told the audience as well as his fellow cast members that he felt tired and didn’t want to continue and then promptly walked off stage and went home. He was also fired from his most famous role as Ben Stone in the hit series ‘Law and Order’ for similar types of odd incidents and yet that is exactly why he is so perfect here. He gives the thing a much needed boost of weird energy and I especially liked the part when he leads two of his partners in crime up to the bird’s nest and when the bird starts feeding on them he climbs down the ladder shouting:

“Eat them! Eat them! Crunch! Crunch! Eat them! Eat Them!”

I also enjoyed when he is sitting at the bargaining table with the city and police officials demanding a million dollars before he tells them the whereabouts of the bird and insisting that it all must be tax free because:

“I’ve never paid taxes before in my life and I don’t intend to start now.”

His character is lazy, conniving, cowardly, bombastic, self-centered, egotistical, talentless, and deluded and yet strangely endearing and I even felt a bit sorry for him at the end. Candy Clark as Joan his more grounded and conscientious girlfriend makes for a good contrast.

I wasn’t as crazy about David Carradine as the tough New York cop who deals with Jimmy during his investigation. Carradine seems too aloof and detached and this doesn’t help to create any tension. Richard Roundtree as his partner is much better and I would have had him the sole investigator and cut Carradine out completely.

The special effects are a little bit better than what I had initially feared for a low budget 80’s flick, but they are not real great either. The bird when shown flying through the air just doesn’t seem gigantic or frightening enough and ends up looking like a poor man’s Ray Harryhausen creation. The final shootout with the bird was clearly done on a matted screen and looks very tacky. I actually thought the baby bird that comes out of the egg was the only halfway scary and effective moment in the whole film.

What Cohen does get right is reflecting the ambience and culture of the New York neighborhoods and crowded street culture. The aerial footage of New York’s skyline is also spectacular.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 29, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated R

Director: Larry Cohen

Studio: Larco Productions

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray