Tag Archives: Robert Forster

The Delta Force (1986)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Elite operation rescues crew.

Based on the real-life hijacking of TWA flight 847, which occurred on June 14, 1985, the story centers on a Boeing 707, which gets hijacked by a terrorist group lead by Abdul (Robert Forster).  The terrorists take over the plane and force it to fly to Beirut, Lebanon where they then separate the Jewish passengers and those that were in the Marines from the others. These hostages are then transported to a prison cell in Beirut while twelve other terrorists come on board. Major Scott McCoy (Chuck Norris) and Colonel Nick Alexander (Lee Marvin) head the Delta Force team assigned to rescue the remaining passengers on board while killing off the terrorists.

The film was directed by Menahem  Golan who headed the Cannon Production Company which was notorious for producing a lot of cheap, cheesy, grade-B action flicks during the ‘80s and initially I was fearing the worst although this one is surprisingly tolerable and adequately funded. The opening scenes inside the plane prove to be moderately intense with Hanna Schygulla a stand-out as the brave stewardess.

The second act though veers off in too many directions with the hostages essentially becoming forgotten as it then focuses more on the elite squad of soldiers, which dilutes the narrative too much. Eventually they’re just too many characters to keep track of and too many scenarios that occur outside of the airplane until it becomes confusing and overreaching. A good film should stick to only a few main characters that the viewer can connect with and keeping them in the majority of the scenes, but this thing takes on more than it can chew making the viewer feel detached from what is going on the more it progresses.

The third act gets filled with a lot of over-the-top actions segments that looks like it was taken straight out of a comic book and diminishes the realism that had come before it. Norris shows no screen presence at all and only comes alive when he is doing an action stunt while Marvin, who was much older and not in the best of health during the production, shows much more onscreen energy. It almost seemed like it would’ve been better had Norris not been in it at all especially with the way the film tries to portray him as being this mystical, super human figure that borders on being corny.

The music is geared for an American propaganda film and the film’s mindset is that the US is always the good guy in no matter what foreign mission or policy it takes on. It also conveys the idea that might equals right while the proportion of terrorists who are killed, which is essentially all of them, compared to only one American soldier seemed way off-kilter.

Forster gives an outstanding performance as the villain as he literally disappears into role while conveying a foreign accent that seemed so genuine I almost thought his voice had been dubbed. The terrorists are portrayed as being just as nervous as the hostages if not more so, while at certain random moments showing a surprisingly human side, which is well done, but unfortunately everything else here is formulaic and fraught with too much of an emotional appeal.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: February 14, 1986

Runtime: 2Hours 9Minutes

Rated R

Director: Menahem Golan

Studio: Cannon Film Distributors

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

The Don is Dead (1973)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Two Mafia leaders feud.

After the death of his mob boss father, Frank (Robert Forster) finds himself embroiled in the middle of a feud between two rival crime families. Don Angelo (Anthony Quinn) comes to Frank’s aid and agrees to take over the family business and then once he dies everything will go to Frank. Luigi (Charles Cioffi) and his greedy lover Marie (Jo Anne Meredith) are not happy with this arrangement and in an attempt to weaken the alliance they arrange for Don to meet up with Frank’s girlfriend Ruby (Angel Tompkins) while Frank is away in Rome on business. The two immediately hit-it-off and begin a hot-and-heavy affair. When Frank returns and finds out about this he flies into a rage by first beating his girlfriend and then swearing further vengeance onto Don. Don in turn puts out a hit on Frank, which escalates an endless bloody mob war.

During the early ‘70s with the success of The Godfather studios were churning out mob themed films about as fast as they could be produced. Many of them were vastly inferior to Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece, but this one may be the worst. The biggest problem is the nauseating violence that takes up the entire second-half. In The Godfather the killings had a lyrical quality that became a cinematic achievement and indelible on the viewer’s memory, but here the shootings are quite mechanical. Instead of being shocking they’re monotonous and impede the film from becoming anything more than just a cheap, uninspired Hollywood rip-off.

The film also lacks a likable character, which creates no emotional bond from the viewer to anyone onscreen nor any concern for who gets shot and who doesn’t. Tony (Frederic Forrest) is the only one with any type of arch as he wants out of the business at the start, but by the end is a hardened crime boss, which is too similar to Al Pacino’s quandary in The Godfather and only further cements this as being a poor man’s version of that one.

Forster is good despite displaying a rather affected accent. Quinn is also okay, but his character has little to do particularly by the second-half when he becomes almost comatose after suffering a stroke. What annoyed me most though was that there was never any final confrontation between the two. The whole thing revolved around a misunderstanding that they had, so a meeting at the end between them seemed almost mandatory, but it doesn’t occur making an already flawed film even more unsatisfying.

Marvin Albert, who was famous for writing the Tony Rome detective novels, penned this script, which is based off of his own novel, but the results are slight. The conflicts between the characters are not riveting and everyone comes off as being quite stupid for allowing themselves to be so easily mislead making the bloodshed that results from it even more grotesque. Maybe that’s the film’s point, but there have been so many better movies on this same subject that there really was no need for this one and whatever message it attempts to convey dies with the rest of the carnage on the screen.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: November 14, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 55Minutes

Rated R

Director: Richard Fleischer

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Blu-ray (Region B/2), Amazon Video, YouTube

Cover Me Babe (1970)

cover me babe 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Student filmmaker alienates everyone.

Tony Hall (Robert Forster) is a student filmmaker who feels he is a great director in the making and not afraid to let everyone know it. He becomes obsessed with capturing reality as it is and people’s emotional responses. He goads those around him including his own girlfriend (Sondra Locke) into doing things they are uncomfortable with simply so he can capture that uneasiness and the facial expressions that come with it. Some feel he is going too far, but the more they try to reel him in the more boundaries he pushes.

I’ve attended a film school in Chicago back in the early ‘90s, so for me I found this plot to be intriguing. In a lot of ways, at least at the beginning, I thought they captured the arrogance of these young would-be student directors who are convinced they are the next Kubrick or Scorsese in-the-making quite well. Their elitist attitude and willingness to compromise good taste and common sense simply to attain a shock effect to get attention are all very real.

Unfortunately the film goes overboard especially with the lead character who quickly becomes unlikable. I don’t mind a certain bit of cockiness or a say-it-like-it-is persona, but this guy is downright rude, smug, abrasive and even cruel. You spend the whole time hoping someone will punch him in his face, but it never happens and I believe this is the sole reason why this film failed at the box office as no one wants to sit through an entire movie watching a person whose behavior they can’t stand.

His excessively rude attitude towards a studio head (Jeff Corey) who wants to offer him an opportunity make a feature film is particularly confounding. It’s similar to Troy Duffy the real-life subject of Overnight and the director of The Boondock Saints who became quite arrogant to everyone once he got himself a Hollywood contract, but at least in Duffy’s case he had gotten his proverbial foot-in-the-door and therefore felt it was ‘safe’ to let his obnoxious side out, but the Forster character here doesn’t yet have one and you’re compelled to feel that the guy must be mentally ill to think he ever will by behaving in the outrageous way that he does.

Forster gives a solid performance, but the character seems too similar to one he just got done doing in Medium Cool and bordered almost on type casting. Locke is okay as the girlfriend and can be seen fully nude at the beginning, but why she would want to stick with such a jerk is hard to understand and makes her character annoying because of it. I realize some gals have the ‘bad-boy syndrome’, but it goes overboard with it here.

The film lacks a cinematic touch and its best part comes at the beginning where we watch a student film with a dream-like sequence in a Federico Fellini style that is actually pretty good. Another memorable bit comes near the end where Forster broadcasts to a group of students his own film, which features a scene showing a man jumping off a ledge and then panning over to reveal the shocked expressions of the people on the ground who witnessed it as well as the students watching it on film.

cover me babe 2

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: October 1, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 25Minutes

Rated R

Director: Noel Black

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: None at this time.

Stunts (1977)

stunts

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Who’s killing the stuntmen?

Glen (Robert Forster) decides to join a movie production working as a stuntman when his brother mysteriously dies while doing a routine stunt. Soon more stuntmen meet similar fates. Will Glen be able to find out who’s behind these deaths before he becomes the next victim?

Director Mark L. Lester has done a lot of these standard low budget flicks and has achieved moderate success with them. The story itself is pretty basic and really doesn’t offer all that much tension or interest, but the pace is brisk and some of the stunt work entertaining. On a low-grade level it is okay.

I love Forster’s blunt, blue collar, say-it-like-it-is attitude and his presence elevates the story immensely. Bruce Glover who is the father of Crispin Glover plays one of the fellow stuntmen. Like his son he usually plays weird and eccentric characters, but here plays a normal one who you are even sympathetic to, which was a surprise turn.

The women characters aren’t locked into any dainty stereotype and are as tough and gruff as the men and I liked it. Fiona Lewis plays a journalist looking to write an article and what makes up the personality of stunt people and why they do it. She curses as much as Forster if not more and although the two eventually get into a relationship after a rocky start they continue to spar, which is fun. The beautiful Joanna Cassidy seems like just one of the guys and does all the same dangerous stunts they do and even knocks two guys flat on the their asses during a barroom brawl.

Candice Rialson doesn’t fare quite as well. Her best assets are with her clothes off and trying to turn her a dramatic actress clunks. She doesn’t even have a single nude scene here, which seemed almost like a waste. However, the segment where she keeps flubbing up her lines and they have to do continual reshoots to the consternation of the director (Malachi Thorne) is amusing.

The DVD issue from Synergy Entertainment, which is the same version you get if you buy or rent it from Amazon Instant is atrocious and looks like it was transferred straight off of a faded VHS tape. To some extent I was willing to forgive it as the graininess help reflect the low budget drive-in feel, but this version also edits out any time a character says the F-word, which got annoying. The picture is so blurry I couldn’t even read the credits to find out who did the catchy title tune ‘Daredevil is Gonna Make an Angel Out of You’, but whoever did it did well as it has a nice gritty beat and fun lyrics.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: June 12, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Mark L. Lester

Studio: New Line Cinema

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Medium Cool (1969)

medium cool 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: The 60’s up close.

If you ever wanted to travel back in time and take part in the events of the tumultuous 60’s this film comes about as close to that as you can get. Watching this isn’t like viewing a movie, but more like an experience in itself. Acclaimed cinematographer Haskell Wexler who had previously worked in the documentary field heard that demonstrators were going to march at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago so he decided to hire a few actors and throw them into the fray while building a thin plot around it and creating a pseudo-reality effect. The story deals with news cameraman John Cassellis (Robert Forster) who meets and starts to date Eileen (Verna Bloom) who has just moved to Chicago from West Virginia with her 11-year-old son Harold (Harold Blankenship). As the convention and protests begin and John begins to cover it Harold runs away from home and Eileen goes into all the chaos to find him.

The scenes from the riots leave a major impact and even though I had already seen this film several times before I was amazed at how compelling it still was. Everything still seemed fresh with a clarity that makes you feel you are right there and a vividness that seems like it was filmed just yesterday. Watching the National Guard with their rifles raised marching down the streets of Chicago threatening crowds of people is incredible as is the sight of army tanks rolling down Michigan Avenue.  The people in the crowds are not actors and you see them getting clubbed by the police only a few feet from the camera. Watching them take the park benches in Grant Park and use them to build a shield from the police is exciting as are actual sound bites of reporters describing the action and at certain points being roughed up by the patrol as well. The look of fear and confusion on Bloom’s face at what she finds herself in the middle of it is authentic and helps build the tension.

Of course these scenes only make up the final fifteen minutes of the film, but the movie is filled with a variety of other unique moments that are all captured with the same vivid style and are equally memorable. The part where John and Eileen go to a roller derby and watch actual female players beat each other up with some even using their fists gets quite vicious. The scene showing hundreds of caged pigeons being set free and flying off in a giant flock that fills the sky is eloquent. There is even some effective erotica as a naked John chases his naked girlfriend Ruth (Marianna Hill) around his apartment before lifting her up by her legs and spinning her around in a circle.

The film also takes a great critical look at television news and the people who cover it. It shows how reporters and cameramen are very detached from the events and people that they are covering and how their need to capture that ‘great’ image or sound bite supersedes the human element.

Forster is perfect for the lead role. I loved his aggressive, blue collar, tough-guy attitude that perfectly reflects the Windy City. Peter Bonerz who plays Gus his sound man is great, but in the opposite way. His character is much more timid and wants to avoid confrontation at every turn and finds it difficult dealing with some black people who make him feel uncomfortable when he visits their apartment and even some young children when they start to climb on his car.

The only negative is that the song ‘Merry-Go-Round’ by Wild Man Fischer is not included in the most recent Criterion Collection DVD/Blu-ray release. The song was in the original release shown in theaters as well as the film’s first VHS version, which I saw. Unfortunately the song’s copyright holders sued Paramount stating that a VHS/DVD release is not the same as a theatrical/television broadcast, which they were under contract for to use and therefore could not include it in any later reissues, which is a real shame. The song has to be one of the strangest things you will ever hear and done by an eccentric one-of-a-kind artist. It has a weird alluring quality to it that gives personality and an extra edge to the film and in later versions gets replaced with ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ better known as the theme for The Harlem Globetrotters, which is just not as effective.

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: August 27, 1969

Runtime: 1Hour 11Minutes

Rated R

Director: Haskell Wexler

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray (The Criterion Collection)