Tag Archives: Robert Carradine

Blackout (1978)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Criminals invade apartment complex.

Inspired by the actual power blackout that occurred in New York City on July 13-14, 1977 the story centers on a group of felons lead by Christie (Robert Carradine) who are being transported to another prison. Along the way their police van crashes and the van drivers are killed instantly, but the felons survive. When they climb out they find that the city is without power. Using the police uniforms of the two dead drivers as well as their weapons they’re able to sneak their way into a nearby apartment complex under the pretext that they’re policemen and therefore the security guard allows them in only to be immediately killed once he does. The crooks then terrorize the residents by conning their way into each of the apartments the same way they did to get into the complex. Once they’re inside they rob the tenants and at certain points even kill them. Dan (James Mitchum) is an off-duty police officer who breaks into the complex to help save Annie (Belinda Montgomery) who’s being attacked and screaming for help from her balcony. He then single-handily goes about trying to track down the armed group despite being outnumbered.

This was yet another example where the entry in Leonard Maltin’s book does not accurately describe what occurs as whoever wrote the review states that it’s ‘balanced with black comedy’ though there’s really no comedy in it except for a brief exchange between a husband and wife attending a Greek wedding, which occurs at the beginning, but after that it’s all gritty drama.

The production was directed by Eddy Matalon who started his career doing music videos for Bridgette Bardot during the 60’s before graduating to soft-core porn in the 70’s under the pseudonym Jack Angel. He eventually, in 1977, tried his hand at horror with the universally derided Cathy’s Curse before following-up with this one, which fares better and as a grim thriller even succeeds though it’s not perfect.

My biggest complaint is that it cuts out too many pivotal moments. It shows how they enter into one apartment and even choose another because it has triple locks cluing them in that a rich person with a lot of expensive stuff must live there, but there’s other times when it does not show why they break into the apartments that they do. There’s hundreds of dwellings inside the complex and they weren’t going to be able to bust into all of them, so the reason for why they choose the ones that they do needed to be shown each time. There’s also a segment where Mitchum shoots and kills one of the perpetrators in the hallway, but it’s never documented where they take the body, or if they just leave it there for all to see.

Some of the stuff gets a bit over-the-top like when they kill the guard and then stage it to look like a suicide, but why would these desperate crooks care to take the time to do that? They’re in a rush to rob as many residents as they can before the power comes back on, who why not just put the dead guard’s body into a back room and be done with it? Tying Mitchum up into a contraption that would electrocute him once the power came back-on seemed too similar to the campy predicaments that would be the cliffhanger for each episode of the ‘Batman’ TV-show. These two-bit thieves wouldn’t have the care, or sophistication to do that. Either kill the guy, or tie him up the conventional way, but getting excessively overboard with it seemed too theatrical and predictably gives him just enough time to escape.

Mitchum is enjoyable. I liked how at the beginning he tries to chase down a purse snatcher, but fails, which shows that he’s not perfect and relatable, which makes you want to root for him even more to stop the bad guys. I did though have misgivings with Montgomery’s character who gets raped, but immediately after that she saves two people trapped in an elevator and even delivers a baby, which is too quick a recovery from such a traumatic event.

Aging stars from Hollywood’s gold era appear as the residents, but are given little to do especially June Allyson who’s seen for less than 5-minutes. Ray Milland’s segment had potential as he plays this rich, stuffy guy who refuses to give the intruders the combination to his safe even as they torture his wife. Eventually he gives in, but it would’ve been fun had he remained stubborn. They’d burn-up his place, which they do anyways, and kill his wife, but he’d still refuse to give it out. Then when the cops finally do arrive he could say in his last dying breath amidst the burned cinders “At least they never got the combination.”

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: August 25, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 32 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Eddy Matalon

Studio: Cinepix Film Properties

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

Aloha, Bobby and Rose (1975)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: They dream about Hawaii.

Bobby (Paul Le Mat) enjoys racing cars and shooting pool, but resists being tied down with a steady job. Rose (Dianne Hull) is a young single woman trying to raise a small child on her own while still living with her mother (Martine Bartlett). By chance the two meet one day and instantly hit-it-off. They decide they want to run away together to the exotic locale of Hawaii, but lack the funds. Bobby tries to hold up a liquor store by using a fake gun, but the shop’s owner comes out of a back room and threatens to kill him, so Rose hits the man over his head with a bottle and the gun accidently discharges and kills the young clerk. Now the two must go on the run and evade the police who are after them.

Unfortunately the basic premise here is highly flawed making it hard if not impossible to get into it. For one thing there was no one else in the liquor store to ID the young couple, so the police would not necessarily be looking for them. Secondly the clerk was shot by the store owner, not by Bobby or Rose and the gun is clearly in the man’s hands when he falls to the ground. A simply residue test would prove that he was the one who fired the weapon and it wasn’t just planted on him afterwards. Since there was no one else in the store Bobby and Rose could simply say that the owner and clerk got into an argument and the owner threatened to kill the young man, so in an effort to save him Rose hit the owner with a bottle, but the gun went off anyways. There would be no else to refute this barring that the owner did indeed die and even if he had survived it would simply be his word against there’s and ultimately he would still be the one caught holding the gun, so in essence these kids seem to be running for no real reason.

There is another scene later on where the two crash the car they are driving and conveniently find another one sitting in a dark alleyway. The movie doesn’t even bother to show Bobby hotwiring it, which is how they usually steal cars in the movies, but later on we see him turning the ignition to the car in an effort to start the vehicle. This then signals that the keys were left in the ignition when they found it and the windows rolled down, but how many cars does one find out on the street, or anywhere for that matter, that are like that?

I did appreciate that the film shows in slow motion their heads hitting and cracking the windshield during the accident as this is what will occur especially when the occupants are not wearing their seatbelts. Yet later on they go into a washroom and wipe the blood away with a wet cloth and it’s all gone, but bleeding from the head most likely means that the skull was cracked and would require stitches, which means continual bleeding even if the dried blood gets erased.

The location is wrong as well. The setting is Los Angeles, but several characters speak with southern tinged accents and just about all of them convey small town sentiments. Very little footage is shown of the two actually out on the open road and the music that gets played is a scattershot mix of ‘70s tunes that runs the gamut of musical genres and never gives the film any unifying sound or mood.

The supporting cast helps a bit. I enjoyed seeing Robert Carradine looking like he was still in high school. Tim McIntire adds some verve as an outspoken Texan who has no qualms mixing-it-up with anyone that he comes into contact with and Bartlett is engaging as the flaky mother, but the story meanders too much and goes nowhere. There were many road movies that came out during the 70’s and many of them were well done, but this isn’t one of them.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: April 29, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Floyd Mutrux

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD

Tag: The Assassination Game (1982)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Playing with dart guns.

A new fad has caught on at a nondescript college campus where students play an assassination game by killing off other students with dart guns. The one who assassinates the most while still surviving wins. Alex (Robert Carradine) who writes for the school newspaper decides to do an expose on the game in an attempt to better get to know its star player Susan (Linda Hamilton). Unfortunately for them the game’s 5-time champion Gersch (Bruce Abbott) has gone over to the dark side and now using real bullets in his gun. As the game whittles down to just Susan and Gersch the tension mounts for her to catch on to his murderous plans before it is too late.

For a low budget film with only the most modest of settings this thing isn’t too bad. The dialogue is snappy and the story proceeds at a good pace. The opening credits, which is a parody of the ones done on James Bond films is cute and it’s great to see Linda in her official film debut playing the same type of strong-willed female that brought to greater prominence in The Terminator franchise. Carradine is good too as her awkward suitor and the fact that this film plays against sexual stereotypes by having the male in more of a passive role is refreshing.

The film’s playful parody and the way the players take this silly game so very seriously is funny and having the second half shift to more of the conventional ‘psycho-on-the-loose’ plot made it less original and more formulaic. I understood why Gersch kills the first player using a real bullet, but was confused why he would keep on killing them and not go back to just using darts. He could’ve still retained his champion title and passed off the first killing as being possibly just an accident, but by continuing to kill people and harboring their corpses in the closet of his room was clearly going to lead to an eventual long jail sentence that even the craziest of persons could see coming. It also might have been more interesting had the identity of who was using real bullets was kept a mystery until the end.

Even with these drawbacks I still found myself entertained and the film has strong cult potential for fans of low budget 80’s flicks. It’s also interesting to note that Hamilton and Abbott, who first met while filming this, later ended up getting married and having one child.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 20, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Nick Castle

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: VHS

Joyride (1977)

joyride 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: This joyride turns joyless.

Scott (Desi Arnaz Jr.) is bored with his job and finds that his friend John (Robert Carradine) is too. With John’s girlfriend Susie (Melanie Griffith) in tow they decide to drive up to Alaska where they hope to get jobs on the pipeline. Unfortunately they end up facing a lot of unexpected problems and eventually are forced into robbery with the Canadian Mounted Police hot on their tail.

The film was written and directed by Joseph Ruben who later went on to do much better things, but this isn’t too bad for the most part. It has a good pace without any of the static drama or wooden dialogue typical with these types of features during that era. The situations are for the most part believable and mildly engrossing. The film also features two very unique scenes including that of a genuine pissing contest, which John wages and wins with some fellow bar patrons and a scene where the trio is forced to eat dog food that by the looks on their faces seems to have been the real thing.

Unfortunately the film tends to ramble and takes a lot of predictable dramatic twists while failing to add any new perspective to it. The characters seem ill-prepared for many of the expected problems that they face, which any sensible viewer could’ve predicted would happen from the get-go. It’s also unrelentingly downbeat. I was expecting a little more frivolity and humor, which could’ve helped and I also thought it was unrealistic that every person they meet in the town turns out to be corrupt, conniving or mean.

It’s interesting to some extent to see the next generation of baby boomers or those who were too young to get involved in the protest movement during the 60’s, but still trying to carry on the counter-culture torch during the mid and late 70’s. The four leads are all offspring of famous celebrities, which is the film’s one true novelty and I couldn’t help but wonder while I viewed this what their presumably more conservative parents must’ve thought while watching their kids in this playing characters that are quite jaded and with no shortage of sex, nudity and cursing.

Arnaz Jr. is the weakest link and quite transparent while lacking the charisma needed for a lead actor. Carradine is good and it’s nice seeing him not playing a nerd type. Griffith is cute and there’s even a glimpse of her bare bottom during one segment when she flashes some passing motorists. The most dynamic performance though goes to Anne Lockhart who appears later on and acts as a love interest for Scott. Her character is sassy and real while helping add some needed dynamics and it’s a shame she didn’t stay for the entire duration.

The second half where they decide to rob the payroll department and then go on a mad car chase across the northern Canada has a few fun moments. Unfortunately the viewer is left hanging as we are never shown if they ultimately get away or are caught, which is frustrating and ends up being a cop-out of the highest order.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: June 6, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: Joseph Ruben

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: DVD