Tag Archives: Rock Hudson

Showdown (1973)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Friends go separate ways.

Chuck (Rock Hudson) and Billy (Dean Martin) were once close childhood friends, but as they grew older their lives drifted apart. Now Chuck is a sheriff while Billy has become a bank robber. When he and his gang rob a train it is up to Chuck to track him down and bring him to justice.

This flat and lifeless concoction was the last film directed by George Seaton who seemed to be slumming when he did this one as it’s derivative and formulaic to the extreme with nothing in it that is diverting or memorable. Part of the problem is the tone. It starts out as a potential western comedy with Billy riding on a train and pretending to be a sheriff. When the train gets attacked by the bandits he convinces everyone to put their valuables into a sack, so he can ‘protect’ them only to shock the people by absconding with them instead, which is kind of funny and had the film stayed at this level it still wouldn’t have been all that great, but at least more entertaining.

Unfortunately the rest of the story turns into one long, drawn-out drama that is both slow and pointless. The flashbacks showing the men when they were children are neither amusing nor insightful and could’ve easily been scrapped. I was also under the impression initially that the two men were brothers and the story might’ve had more impact had they been.

The film’s title seems to imply some big, climactic finish, which doesn’t really occur. Instead of waiting until the end for the two men to meet up with each other it actually occurs during the second act and when they do there’s no big confrontation or fireworks, which makes their interactions as flat and boring as the rest of the film. There is some mild tension involving Billy’s former gang members who want to track him down in order to inflict revenge on him for shooting another member of the gang, but this story angle doesn’t get played up enough and they’re given only moderate screen time.

Martin is engaging despite coming off looking washed-up and far older than the 57 years that he was with his hair looks dyed and buffed up by some Hollywood stylist. Hudson though is unable to match Martin’s charm making it seem like it would’ve been better had he not been in it at all and instead just solely focused on Martin trying to escape the clutches of the other gang members. Even Susan Clark, who is a great actress, gets wasted and miscast as Hudson’s wife as she looks too young to have been married to him and was in reality 18 years his junior making it more appropriate had she played his daughter.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: June 20, 1973

Runtime: 1 Hour 39 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: George Seaton

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD-R (Universal Vault Series), Amazon Video, YouTube

Embryo (1976)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Accelerating the growth cycle.

Late one night while driving home in raging thunderstorm Dr. Paul Holliston (Rock Hudson) accidentally hits a pregnant dog with his car. He takes the dog home to his lab and is able to save one of the embryos by placing it in an artificial uterus and then injecting it with an experimental hormone that speeds up its growth cycle. Paul is so excited about the results that he gets one of his colleagues (Jack Colvin) to agree to give him an unborn human baby from a mother who had committed suicide. Paul uses the drug on the fetus and finds that it grows at an even more accelerated rate, which leads to many unforeseen and horrifying scenarios.

For a grainy looking, low budget production (the DVD transfer is horrible) the plot isn’t too bad and had me guessing all the way up to the end at how it was going to turn out. The story has a lot of holes and most likely won’t be plausible to a science purist, but Ralph Nelson’s competent direction keeps the drama moving at a brisk pace, so you never dwell on the absurdities for too long and for the undemanding viewer it may come off as believable enough. The film also has a unintentionally funny moment that may not have floored audiences back in the 70’s as it did with me and features Barbra Carrera reading the Bible, which she finds ‘illogical’ only to have Hudson a supposed scientist tell her that it’s an ‘accurate account of how life began’, which blew me away as I’m sure there are few scientists who would say that today.

Carrera does surprisingly well in a difficult role, but her ability to retain knowledge and learn things happens a little too quickly and isn’t interesting. I realize she’s supposed to be super smart, which is fine, but even a smart person needs to be taught how to read and the meaning of words to communicate, which is something that the film just glosses right over.

I was glad that there was a big age difference between the two stars and that a romantic angle wasn’t forced into the proceedings that would’ve just bogged everything down, but having the two end up going to bed together was almost as bad. Hudson had taken a very paternal approach to Carrera almost like she were his daughter, so when she asks him to have sex with her, so she can feel what it’s like, I would’ve thought it would be too uncomfortable and too awkward a situation for him to go through with.

Roddy McDowall has a great cameo as an arrogant chauvinistic chess player. There’s also an interesting car chase, a neat twist ending, and some good aging make-up effects, but Carrera’s dilemma of suddenly going from being healthy and vibrant to on the brink of death is jarring. It’s almost like the writers wrote themselves into a hole and couldn’t think of any way out of it except to insert having the character die from some mysterious illness even though the dog, who went through the same treatment, is not affected, which is a shame as the premise is intriguing and works for most of the way.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: May 21, 1976

Runtime: 1 Hour 44 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Ralph Nelson

Studio: Cine Artists Pictures

Available: DVD-R, Amazon Video

Avalanche (1978)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Sliding snow destroys resort.

David Selby (Rock Hudson) is a driven businessman determined to build a ski resort in an area that’s vulnerable to avalanches and despite the many warnings is able to get the building constructed and even have it host a ski tournament to kick-off its grand opening, but as the festivities get under way the snowfall continues. Eventually the weight of the snow on the nearby mountaintop becomes too much causing a massive avalanche forcing the guests at the resort into a fight for survival.

The film starts out with a lot of boring, poorly written soap opera-like drama that will put most viewers to sleep before the avalanche ever even takes place. The storyline concerning Mia Farrow’s and Rock Hudson’s marriage and his desperate attempts to ‘rekindle the old magic’ between them is particularly contrived as the vast age difference between the two, a whole 18 years, makes it look like the type of union that would have no chance of it working right from the start, so why even bother making it a part of the plot? The first 40 minutes are so draggy that you start hoping for the avalanche to happen and wipe out all the cardboard characters simply to provide some excitement.

The glossy cast if filled with some well known faces, but their parts offer them little to work with and in the case of Robert Forster, who acts as this environmentalist warning of the avalanche danger, is completely wasted. Only Cathey Paine, a lesser known actress, offers some diversion as a possessive girlfriend who becomes unhinged when she catches her boyfriend (Rick Moses) in bed with another woman and watching her try to kill herself by swallowing a bottle of pills only to be crushed by the snow a few seconds later is darkly funny. I also got a kick out of Jeannette Nolan sporting white hair, which you can tell is a wig because you can see her brown hair underneath it along the edges, and I felt this should’ve been shown falling off her head when the avalanches occurs, but of course it doesn’t.

The special effects, which would be the only reason to watch this thing anyways, gets highly compromised mainly because producer Roger Corman, in his patented stingy way, cut the budget in half just before production began and it definitely shows. The avalanche looks like nothing more than having the actors shot on a screen and then having styrofoam made snow blown in front of it. I also found the howling wind noise, which permeates every outdoor scene, to be irritating and unnecessary especially when all the trees in the background are completely still.

The third act, which deals with rescue efforts, offers some minor tension and is an improvement from the rest of the movie, which made me think they should’ve started it with this and then shown scenes of the avalanche happening, and some of the background ‘drama’, intermittently via flashback. The setting, which was filmed on-location at the Lodge of Tamarron in Durango, Colorado, is quite scenic. I even liked the snowmobile race, which has a Death Race 2000 feel to it especially the ugly wipe-outs.

Spoiler Alert!

Unfortunately everything else falls predictably flat, which includes the dopey ending where Hudson humbly admits that he allowed his greed to get in the way  and that the resort should never have been built, but this isn’t satisfying enough. He should’ve been handcuffed and thrown into prison, which is not shown nor any confirmation if this ever ultimately happened.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: September 29, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 31 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Corey Allen

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Coach kills pretty students.

Ponce (John David Carson) is an awkward teen in his senior year of high school that still hasn’t been out on a date. He suffers from having erections at the most inopportune times and too shy to ask out one of the many beautiful female students that populate his school. He also finds himself dealing with a series of murders of pretty coeds who turn up dead with funny little notes attached to them and he starts to suspect that the killer may be the school’s beloved football coach (Rock Hudson).

The film, which is based on a novel by Francis Pollini with a screenplay written by Gene Roddenberry starts out well with sharp, satirical dialogue and funny situations dealing with the police investigation, but then deteriorates into smarmy sex jokes and becomes nothing more than a teasing T&A flick. The script makes it obvious early on that the coach is the killer and had it not revealed this so quickly it could’ve made the film more of a mystery and given the ending an impactful twist.

My main beef though is that it takes place in a high school instead of a college even though all the students look to be well into their 20’s. The fact that the coach has sex with the female students makes the thing seem off-kilter as does Angie Dickinson who plays a teacher who brings Ponce into her home to help him with his erection problem. If the setting was a college with the student characters over 18 than all this tawdriness would at least be legal and less outrageous.

The female students come off as being too free-spirited and reflect the counter-culture movement that occurred mainly on the college campuses of that era and not the high schools. They also all look too much like models. A realistic portrait of a high school class will have a variety of body types not just those of women ready to become cover-girls. I enjoy beautiful women as much as anybody, but the film should’ve had at least one average or overweight female in the cast simply to give it balance and avoid it from seeming too much like a tacky male fantasy, which is all this thing ends up being anyways.

Hudson, with his monotone delivery, is a weak actor and gave only one good performance in his career, which was in the film Giant. Yet here his discombobulated acting skills successfully reflect his character’s confused personality. Carson is a bland protagonist and his presence doesn’t have much to do with how the plot progresses. His character is put in solely for a dull side-story dealing with his attempts to get-it-on with his teacher in her home, which amounts to being just a dumb comic variation of Tea and Sympathy that is neither funny nor sexy.

The supporting cast is far better. Telly Savalas owns the screen as a relentless investigator. Keenan Wynn is hilarious as a dim-witted policeman in one of the funniest roles of his prolific career and he’s the best thing in the movie.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 26, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated R

Director: Roger Vadim

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD, YouTube

Lover Come Back (1961)

lover come back

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: They all want VIP.

Jerry Webster (Rock Hudson) steals clients from other ad agencies by throwing them parties filled with a lot of liquor and loose women. When Carol Templeton (Doris Day) who works at a competing ad agency finds out about this she goes on the offensive by getting Rebel (Edie Adams) a woman who attended one of Jerry’s wild parties to testify against him at the ad council board, which she hopes will get Jerry severely reprimanded. Jerry though gets Rebel to soften her testimony by promising her that she will be involved in the advertising campaign for a new product called VIP. The problem is that there is no such product, but Carol thinks there is, which leads to a lot of confusion including having Carol start a relationship with Jerry under the misguided notion that he is the chemist working on the new product.

The film is fast and fun for the most part although there isn’t as much physical comedy as in some of Day’s other vehicles, but makes up for it with some sharp dialogue. Although Day’s films have always been considered family friendly the film probably has just as much sexual references and innuendoes as any other movie.  There is even a scene where Day takes the Hudson character out to a strip club and has a stripper shed her pasties right on him. Even more amazing is the scene where the Day character actually considers having sex with Hudson before she is married to him. She ultimately doesn’t go through with it, but the fact that she was about to and even takes out a revealing nightie to wear seemed shocking enough.

Day’s costumes, which were designed by Irene Lentz who just a year after this film came out jumped to her death from a 14-story window, are chic and heighten the film’s visual appeal. I especially liked the variety of hats that she wears some of which go humorously over-the-top. I also got a kick out of Hudson’s garish suit that looks like it got splattered by twelve different cans of paint. My only complaint here is the absurdity of Day going to work looking like she is dressed for an elegant dinner party.

Day is gorgeous as ever, but her performance seems a bit one-note and amounts to nothing more than a collection of exasperated and perturbed reactions. It is actually Hudson who is typically a weak actor that steals it. The cocky way his character tries to finagle his way out of everything and his interactions with Tony Randall are the best.

The film ends with the two characters getting married, which I am sure fans of Day’s movies like and expect, but it really doesn’t make a lot of sense and seems quite contrived and formulaic. The script’s original ending had the two characters getting drunk and then checking into a hotel room, but Day insisted the characters get married instead even though it is unlikely any judge or minister would marry two people in a drunken state. The Hudson character was a raging playboy who could get attractive women whenever he wanted and clearly viewed sex as a conquest. It is most likely that after a few years of marriage he would get the itch to fool around again, which would culminate in an ugly divorce and make this ‘happy ending’ not so happy after all.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: December 20, 1961

Runtime: 1Hour 46Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Delbert Mann

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video