Tag Archives: Rod Taylor

Mask of Murder (1988)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: A copycat psycho killer.

Chief Superintendent Jonathan Rich (Christopher Lee) and Police Chief Bob McLaine (Rod Taylor) surround an abandoned home where a killer, who has sliced the throats of several women in the town, is hiding-out. When the killer makes an attempt to escape he shoots and injures the superintendent forcing Bob to return fire and kill the fleeing suspect. Everyone in the town believes that with the bad guy now dead the killings will stop, but instead they continue. Could there be a copycat killer, or is it someone on the police force who’s studied the killer’s methods and is now playing them-out?

A very odd mix that seems at times to being a wanna-be slasher film and at other points a detective thriller and even a psychological study, but on all three levels it fails. The killings lack inspiration and no effort is made for build-up, tension, or atmosphere. They’re captured in a routine way and the special effects are unconvincing. Instead of looking like the victim’s throat is getting slashed it appears more like a streak of lipstick, or bright red nail polish.

The setting is a fictitious Canadian town, but was clearly shot in Sweden, as all the cars have Swedish license plates and the vehicles are much smaller than what you’d find in the North America at that time. The ambulances have a different sound to their sirens and there’s even business signs seen in Swedish. Having Valerie Perrine, who plays Taylor’s wife, go off to Bermuda with her lover Ray (Sam Cook) looks quite fake as we never see any palm trees, or beaches making it seem more like it was shot in a hotel room in Sweden.

Lee gives a solid performance, but he disappears for long periods and only comes back near the end. Despite being several years younger, Taylor, with his very worn, lined face, ends up looking much older. His presence is dour and his inner angst that comes out every once in awhile is neither riveting or intense. Taylor doesn’t carry the movie like a good leading actor should, but instead drags it down. Perrine for her part, isn’t in it long enough to make much of a difference though she does appear nude from the back.

Spoiler Alert!

The twist in which Lee realizes Taylor is the killer doesn’t come-off as any shocking surprise since the film leads us to this conclusion from the very beginning and therefore once it gets revealed it’s more ho-hum than anything. Having Taylor shoot his wife’s lover by tricking him into wearing the mask and thus allow himself to be killed by Taylor in an attempt to make it seem like he had ‘the real killer’ when really it was just a way for him to get rid of a rival for his wife’s affections was too easy of a way out. Most likely there would’ve been some overlooked loopholes in his scheme that would’ve eventually gotten him arrested, so watching him proudly walk away in the snow as the credit’s role doesn’t gel and more a flimsy ending that leaves open too many loose ends.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: December 1, 1988

Runtime: 1 Hour 29 Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Arne Mattsson

Studio: Master Film Production

Available: DVD-R (dvdlady.com)

The Picture Show Man (1977)

picture show man

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: They show silent movies.

During the 1910’s Pym (John Meillon) travels the Australian countryside with his son and piano player (John Ewert) while renting out the local theaters in the small towns that they come upon and showing silent movies to the townsfolk. He makes just enough to survive and keeps all of his money in his pocket as he doesn’t trust the banks. His biggest problem is the advent of talking pictures as well as competition from Palmer (Rod Taylor) a man who Pym personally trained in the business, but now seems to be making more of a splash.

What should’ve been a nice slice-of-life period piece turns out to be meandering and pointless instead with a script that lacks a plot and everything broken up into vignettes that are just barely passable. The film would’ve done better with a more centralized character and point-of-view as well as adding in some conflict and drama. It also should’ve stayed more focused on the silent movie theme instead of veering into other directions including romance and even horse racing, which are just not as interesting.

Upon his death last year at the age of 85 many obituaries listed this film as being Rod Taylor’s last major role, but it really isn’t. He appears only sporadically and seems to have almost a mystical presence about him. His confrontations with Pym are contrived and his character adds very little.

The only mildly interesting aspect of the movie is the addition of Major Lockhart and his wife (Don Crosby, Judy Morris) who come onboard with Pym to do fake psychic readings during the intermission of his movies. The couples constant bickering is amusing and the scene where the husband catches his wife making out with Pym in the projection room and proceeds to attack them with an ax and sets fire to the film while the customers sit on the other side of the wall singing a song and completely oblivious to what is going on behind them is pretty funny.

I also got a kick out of the shot showing the faces of the people who are completely mesmerized to the screen as they take in hearing dialogue for the first time in a movie. The dialogue itself is banal and even corny, but the fact that the people remain so compelled to it makes it without a doubt the best moment in the movie.

I also found Leonard Maltin’s review of this movie to be pretty amusing as well. In the 1991 edition of his Movie Guide he gives this film three-and-a-half-stars while calling it “Funny and moving” and “A must for buffs”. Then in his 2013 edition he gives this same movie only two stars and describes it as meandering and lacking in energy.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: May 5, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Power

Studio: Roadshow Distributors

Available: DVD

Zabriskie Point (1970)

zabriskie point 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Blow up the house.

Two young adults, a product of the turbulent sixties and from opposite ends of the social spectrum, meet and fall-in-love. Daria (Daria Halpern) is an anthropology student while Mark (Mark Frechette) is a dropout who’s wanted by the police. Together they try to endure the hypocrisies and materialism of a capitalistic society.

Writer/Director Michelangelo Antonioni’s camerawork is one-of-a-kind and if you see this film for one reason then see it for this. Everything gets captured in intricate, focused detail and the shots of the desert landscape are breathtaking. The scenes where Mark flirts with Daria while piloting his airplane while she is still on the ground is genuinely cool.

The sprawling, modernistic mansion in the middle of the barren landscape is visually imaginative. Seeing it get blown up is a bit depressing, but when it gets done 10 different times from 10 different angles then it becomes a unique cinematic experience. The exploding refrigerator and flying food, which is done in slow motion, as well as the ten or so different couples who make love on the desert floor at the same time is equally arresting.

Having the two leads played by amateurs with little or no acting experience ends up working well. There is a very natural and honest quality to their delivery that most professional actors in their quest to put on a ‘performance’ wouldn’t be able to convey. Rod Taylor on the other hand is wasted in a small and uninteresting role as is character actor Paul Fix.

This film was unfairly overlooked and criticized upon its initial release, but now deserves a fresh look. Having a scathing take on American society done by a foreigner isn’t quite fair, but his comments on capitalism are good nonetheless. The story itself is quite thin, but when it is as visually intoxicating and emotionally kinetic as this then who cares.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: February 9, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated R

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

Studio: MGM

Available: VHS, DVD

Welcome to Woop Woop (1997)

welcome to woop woop 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Oh those crazy Aussies.

Teddy (Johnathon Schaech) is a rather clumsy con man from New York who tries to escape a murder rap by going to the most remote place possible, the Australian outback. However, after coming into close contact with the eccentric people and lifestyles, he decides what he really needs is an escape from there!

This is the type of offbeat comedy that should give all other offbeat comedies a bad name. It takes all the same ingredients from all those other films, meshes them together, and then spits them out in a mechanical fashion. Unlike director Stephan Elliot’s earlier feature Priscilla Queen of the Desert there is nothing deep here to help balance the quirkiness. The film is just made to be silly and at times goes overboard with it. The pace is also too fast. The viewer is never allowed to soak anything in or even take a breath.

Schaech is not good in the leading role. He gives too much of a breezy performance, acting as if the whole thing is a joke. He never once even for a second displays the angst, anxiety, and basic overall exhaustion that anyone else stuck in the same situation would feel.

The portrayal of the Australian people is terrible. They take all the stereotypes of the down under folks and then play it up to the extreme. Here they are not just slightly eccentric people of a rugged and hearty nature. Instead they are complete Neanderthals who live like animals and have no level of sophistication. Yes, it does try to be somewhat fair by showing that Americans may have some primitive defects as well. Specifically in an opening sequence in New York City where every pedestrian is seen shooting at some birds flying by. Still the Australian segments are needlessly overdone and a bit insulting.

The one pleasant surprise is the appearance of Rod Taylor. He plays completely against type here. He’s Daddy-O a self-imposed, self-styled dictator of the town. His performance is gruff, campy, energetic, over-the-top, and hilarious all at the same time. His appearance here may actually be his career pinnacle.
Overall the film is similar in tone to all those formulaic bid budgeted Hollywood actioners, except here it’s aimed at the offbeat crowd. Everything is perfectly packaged to its core audience and overblown all at the same. It’s so forced at points that it almost becomes ridiculous. Yet some of the humor is funny, it has a feel good attitude, and it is without question LIVELY.

Watch for a real fun cameo by Tina Louise at the beginning.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: May 13, 1997

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: Stephan Elliot

Studio: Goldwyn Entertainment Company

Available: VHS, DVD