Tag Archives: Rita Moreno

The Ritz (1976)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hiding out in bathhouse.

On the run from is homicidal brother-in-law (Jerry Stiller) heterosexual businessman Gaetano (Jack Weston) decides to hide out inside a Manhattan bathhouse unaware that it’s for gay men only until he’s already stuck inside. While there the overweight Gaetano gets harassed by an amorous chubby-chaser (Paul B. Price) as well as an aging starlet named Googie (Rita Moreno) who thinks Gaetano is a Broadway producer who can finally give her the long-waited break that she feels she deserves. Things get even worse when his brother-in-law finds out where Gaetano is hiding and proceeds to shoot up the place until he is finally able to weed him out.

For a farce, which is based on the hit Broadway play by Terence McNally and has much of the same cast recreating their roles for the movie, this thing is pretty much dead-on-arrival. The plot is thin and predictable and not enough happens to justify sitting through it. There are a few snappy lines here-and-there, but overall it’s effect is flat while filled with a lot of mindless running around that eventually grows quite tiring. Director Richard Lester has had success with this genre before, but the material here is unimaginative and second-rate and having everything confined to one setting gives it a claustrophobic feel.

The supporting cast gives the proceedings a boost and to some extent saves it from being a complete misfire. F. Murray Abraham nails it as a flaming queen and manages to elicit laughs with every scene he is in. Treat Williams is quite good as an undercover detective who’s a very well built man, but stuck with the voice of a 5-year-old. Jerry Stiller is surprisingly effective as the gun-toting bad guy and this also marks the film debut of John Ratzenberger.

Kudos must also go out to Moreno whose hilariously bad rendition of ‘Everything’s Coming up Roses’ is a film highlight. I also liked the precarious way that she puts on her eyelashes and the fact that her so-called dressing room is inside the building’s boiler room. The only performance that doesn’t work is Weston’s as his character is too naïve and his over-reactions to everything that occurs around him quickly becomes one-dimensional.

There may have been a time when this type of storyline would’ve been considered ‘fresh’ over even ‘daring’, but that time is long gone. In fact I couldn’t believe how tame and shallow it was. Whatever passed for farce back-in-the-day is no longer tangible, which makes this one relic that deserves its place on the back shelf of obscurity.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: August 12, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated R

Director: Richard Lester

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Video, YouTube

The Night of the Following Day (1969)

night of the following day 4

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kidnappers can’t get along.

A teenage girl (Pamela Franklin) is kidnapped by a group of professional killers who then demand a large ransom from her rich father (Hugues Wanner). Things deteriorate as the criminals begin fighting amongst themselves and eventually it all goes awry, which leads to ironic results.

Writer/director Hubert Cornfield creates a picturesque setting and a certain new wave look that subtly runs through it. The music has a new age sound, which helps to create a kind of metaphysical mindset. There are also some good camera angles and interesting edits, so it takes you awhile before you realize that this is just a lot to do about nothing.

The caper itself is too general and formulaic and in the end makes it a lame excuse for a movie. The infighting by the criminals is not that interesting. The characters are so one-dimensional that you really don’t care what happens to them. The twist ending is not that clever and in many ways simply signifies what a waste of time this really is.

Marlon Brando overacts with a part that doesn’t require it. He uses the hip lingo of the day like ‘freaky’ and ‘man’, which doesn’t really mesh with the middle-aged man that he was. His blonde wig looks awful and his trendy clothes including his big belt buckle gives him too much of a kitschy appearance. The attempts at making him a sort of anti-hero that is brave, sensitive, and concerned for his victim’s welfare despite being one of the perpetrators doesn’t work and makes the character a cliché like everything else in the movie.

Franklin is wasted. She goes through all the expected emotions of a kidnap victim, but barely utters a word in the process.

The neighboring policeman is put in to help create some tension, but ends up being annoying instead. However, Jess Hahn as Wally is quite good playing the film’s only believable character. He has very much of an average Joe type of looks and seems at the start to have an insignificant role, but ends up being the only one that holds it up together while the rest become whacked out.

Despite an interesting cast that also includes Rita Moreno and Richard Boone I found this to be a very cardboard thriller that runs out of gas after an okay beginning.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 19, 1969

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated R

Director: Hubert Cornfield

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD

Summer and Smoke (1961)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: She is sexually repressed.

Alma (Geraldine Page) is an adult woman still single and living with her parents. Her father (Malcolm Atterbury) is a minister while her mother (Una Merkel) having suffered a mental breakdown several years’ earlier acts and behaves in a perpetual child-like state. Alma yearns for the affections of John (Laurence Harvey) the dashing doctor who lives next door with his father (John McIntire). However, John’s lifestyle is much too wild for Alma’s repressed tastes, but when she tries to change she finds that it may be too late in this film version of the Tennessee William’s play.

I have been a fan of Geraldine Page for years. She has a terrific ability to play fragile and eccentric characters while doing it with a panache and style. Her characterizations are always vivid and revealing and executed in a seamless fashion. One can become so entranced with her performances that sometimes it becomes more interesting than the story itself. Her appearance here proves to be no exception. She became known for playing a lot of dark, sinister characters, so it was a nice change seeing her play this part. She even does some singing and in fact the scene where she sings to John’s father as he lies on his deathbed for me left the most lasting impression. I always love watching the woman’s body language, gestures, and facial expressions and how she uses them to create a three-dimensional character. Her acting discipline should be studied and emulated by students of the craft everywhere.

Harvey as her co-star was an interesting choice. Despite his reputation as being an over-rated actor and possessing a strange personality off-camera I have found some of his performances to be excellent particularly the one in the original Manchurian Candidate. However, he seems to be better suited playing parts with a cold and aloof presence. The role here demanded more emotion and I didn’t think he could quite hit it. By the end Page was acting circles around him and turning the production into her own vehicle.

The supporting performers aren’t bad. It is fun seeing Rita ‘Hey you guys’ Moreno in an early role playing a young vixen with eyes for John. McIntire is fine in his small role and the part where comes home to find all sorts of drunken people lying about passed out in his living room and hallways is good. Thomas Gomez is memorable simply to glimpse his large almost unbelievable waist size.

I really didn’t like Merkel’s part as the crazy mother. I found it frustrating that there really was never any explanation for why she behaved in such a strange way. Simply saying that she had a ‘breakdown’ wasn’t enough and I wanted more of a scientific or medical reason. It also would have been more interesting to see what she was like before her breakdown, but that is never shown.

Technically the film is well produced. The sets, costumes and performances are all very turn-of-the-century and it helps draw you into the mood and thinking of the era right away. I did not like that the outdoor scenes where done on a soundstage as the foliage and sky look annoyingly artificial.

Most of William’s plays deal with sad, lonely, and pathetic characters and this one proves no exception. However, I was pleasantly surprised that after the expected histrionics this one manages to have a somewhat upbeat ending, which helped distinguish it above some of his others. The characters and situations are all too real and Alma reminded me very much of someone I know and others may know someone like her as well, which on a personal level made this story all the more fascinating.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: November 16, 1961

Runtime: 1Hour 58Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Peter Glenville

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix streaming