Tag Archives: rosemary forsyth

Black Eye (1974)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Find the walking cane.

An old walking cane with a distinctive silver handle that had been used as a prop in many old Hollywood movies is stolen by a prostitute named Vera (Nancy Fisher) after it is laid on top of a casket of deceased actor at his funeral. Later Vera is murdered inside her apartment by a man named Chess (Frank Ashmore) who retrieves the cane, but not before coming into a violent confrontation with Shep (Fred Williamson) a black private eye who lives across the hall from her. Chess manages to escape, but Shep decides to track him down in an effort to find out why everyone is after the cane and what secret it might hold.

The film is an okay blend of action and mystery that tends to show its cards to soon. The revelation for why the cane is so much in demand is quite predictable and makes the viewer feel like they wasted an hour and a half of their time watching a pedestrian plot that leads nowhere. Director Jack Arnold dresses the story up by inserting offbeat scenes and eccentric characters that only adds a mild diversion to the proceedings, but still culminates with a flat finish.

Former pro football player Fred Williamson who played for the Kansas City Chiefs during the ‘60s is the best thing about the movie. Other athletes who turned to film acting after their sports careers were over were not as adept in front of the camera. Jim Brown for instance was great on the gridiron, but lacked an ability to play anything more than a hardened tough guy whose facial expression never changed. Williamson has more of an appeal because he doesn’t take himself or his role too seriously while also showing an ability to play either comedy or drama.

His female co-stars though are wasted and really didn’t need to be in it at all. Theresa Graves looks beautiful, but her character has no integral link to the story the lesbian angle dealing with the relationship that she has with her white girlfriend (played by Rosemary Forsyth) seems to be thrown in simply to give the film a certain perceived ‘kinky’ edge. Forsyth for her part has her voice dubbed and for what reason I don’t know, but it’s distracting and unnecessary.

88 year-old Cyril Delevanti, in his final film appearance, is quite amusing as an elderly man who’ll stop at nothing to get his cane back, but character actor Richard Anderson is a detriment. He plays a father who hires Shep to find his missing runaway daughter (Susan Arnold). At the end Williamson and Anderson get into a fistfight with Anderson doing his own stunts, which looks fake. A shot capturing him lowering his foot towards the camera in a dramatic attempt to show him stomping on Williamson (with the camera working as being Williamson’s P.O.V.) doesn’t work because it is clear that he is restraining his foot so it doesn’t actually hit the camera and break it. If you’re going to do a shot from this angel then have the foot actually pounce onto the camera even if it means damaging it because that would make it appear more authentic, or otherwise don’t do it at all.

For those that enjoy blaxploitation flicks from the ‘70s you may give this one, which is based on the novel ‘Murder on the Wild Side’ by Jeff Jacks, a slightly higher rating than I did. Some of the action is good especially a scene where Williamson escapes out of a immobile elevator and shimmies his way down the elevator shaft, but overall there’s nothing else about it that is distinctive to raise it above all the other black action films that are out there.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: May 17, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jack Arnold

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD-R (Warner Archive), Amazon Video

Gray Lady Down (1978)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Submarine crew needs rescue.

Captain Paul Blanchard (Charlton Heston) is on his final submarine mission, but just as the vessel surfaces it gets struck by a Norwegian freighter, which sinks it to the ocean bottom. The navy’s rescue team is unable to get to the crew due to a rock slide that covers the escape hatch. Eccentric Navy Captain Gates (David Carradine) is brought in as he has created a submersible vehicle that can go down the depths of the ocean and remove the rocks from the sub, but his personality clashes with that of Captain Bennett’s (Stacy Keach), which further hampers the rescue efforts.

The story, which is based on the 1971 novel ‘Event 1000’ by David Lavallee gets off to a shaky start. Although the interiors of the vessel look quite authentic the exterior shots, especially those showing the crew sticking their heads outside the vessel’s port hatch, were clearly done on a soundstage in front of a green screen and nothing is worse than a film that tries hard to be meticulous in one area only to compromise in another. When the sub gets hit many of the crew, which were made up of stunt men and not professional actors, overreact giving it an unintentionally comical feel.

The cutting back and forth to scenes inside the Norwegian ship and how that crew becomes panicked was not necessary. Again, the acting gets a bit over-the-top here too and the dialogue is shown in subtitles due to them speaking in their native language. It might’ve actually added to the intrigue had we not seen what went wrong with the other ship to cause the collision especially since the focus of the film is on the rescue effort anyways.

Once the rescue gets going it gets better with a solid pace that keeps things on a realistic level and continues to throw in new twists that makes the attempted rescue continually more difficult. Although it does get to a point where it seems nightmarish scenarios are introduced simply for the sake of drama and almost like it was piling-on the problems making the submarine crew look like they were the most unluckiest people on the planet in order to have one bad luck situation happen after another.

The scenes involving Carradine and his relationship with his pal Mickey (Ned Beatty) as well as his animosity with Stacy Keach are more interesting than the ones involving the crew stuck in the ship. Part of the reason is there is no backstory given to any of the characters, so we never see them as three dimensional people and our empathy for their welfare isn’t as much as it could’ve been. A brief bit shows the wives of the crew upset at the news, but an added side-story would’ve helped. In fact I was genuinely shocked that Rosemary Forsyth, who plays Heston’s wife, has only a single line of dialogue. I realize she may not be an A-list star, but she has a respectable enough body of work to expect something more than a just a token walk-on bit and I’m surprised she took the part.

Spoiler Alert!

The ending is tense and filmed in a way that you’ll never realize that the subs used were simply miniaturized models shot on a soundstage with smoked used for the underwater effects. However, the drama could’ve been heightened especially when one of the characters sacrifices their life to save the others, which should’ve come off as a shock, but the film telegraphs it, which lessens the effect.

End of Spoiler Alert!

Heston’s a stiff acting doesn’t always work, but here he’s excellent and despite being well over 50 appears amazingly young and agile. This marks Christopher Reeve’s film debut who looks absolutely boyish as well as a reunion of sorts for Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox who starred together 6 years earlier in Deliverance although here they do not share any scenes together.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: March 10, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 51 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: David Greene

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

The War Lord (1965)

the war lord 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Knight wants a woman.

Medieval tale set in the 11th century dealing with a Norman Knight named Chrysagon (Charlton Heston) who with his group of men take over a Druid’s Village and make it ready for the Duke who will then eventually rule it. During his time there Chrysagon meets the beautiful Bronwyn (Rosemary Forsyth) and becomes smitten. The problem is that Bronwyn has already been prearranged by her father (Niall MacGinnis) to marry Marc (James Farentino) yet Chrysagon imposes a little known right, which allows the Lord of a Domain to sleep with a virgin woman on her wedding night, but only if he agrees to return her back to her suitor by dawn. Her father complies, but then Chrysagon refuses to give her up once the night is over, which causes great outrage with the village as well as Chrysagon’s own men particularly his brother Draco (Guy Stockwell) who begins to challenge Chysagon’s authority.

The film paints a realistic portrait of medieval times by exposing the rigid social caste system that people were forced to live by with almost no ability for individual choice. The plot is compelling, but what I really enjoyed were the fighting sequences that take up almost the entire second hour and are filled with  ingenious maneuvers and creative attempts by each side to try and take advantage of the other without having the benefit of guns or any other form of ammunition.

Outside of Heston who is stiff as always the acting is uniformly strong. Stockwell who was the older brother of Dean lends a good menacing touch particularly with the way he starts out as loyal only to have his darker side slowly seep through. Richard Boone, best known for his starring role in the ‘50’s western ‘Have Gun-Will Travel’ is solid as Heston’s second-in-command and who remains amazingly stoic and sensible throughout. Forsyth is quite alluring as the love interest and Maurice Evans is also good as a meek and ineffectual Priest.

Director Franklin J. Shaffner, Heston, Evans and character actor Woodrow Parfrey all reteamed three years later to star in the much better known Planet of the Apes and while that film has gone on to become an influential classic this one has remained in relative obscurity, which is unfortunate as its production values are equally high, the story just as interesting and action sequence just as exciting making it yet another lost classic awaiting discovery by a new generation of fans.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: November 17, 1965

Runtime: 2Hours 3Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Franklin J. Shaffner

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray (Region B)

Texas Across the River (1966)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: A cheek slapping showdown.

This is a silly western spoof that borders on the inane and is just an excuse to give Martin another vehicle this time in a western setting. The story deals with the wedding between Don Andrea (Alain Delon) and Phoebe (Rosemary Forsyth) being stopped by the arrival of the U.S. Calvary headed by Captain Stimpson (Peter Graves). When they charge Don with murder he escapes to Texas and Phoebe tries to follow him later on. There she meets Sam Hollis (Dean Martin) and his Indian sidekick Kronk (Joey Bishop). Sam becomes smitten with Phoebe and when he later meets up with Don the two become instant rivals while reluctantly working together to allude the Calvary, which arrives in Texas to celebrate its statehood.

In many ways the production takes on Martin’s persona as everything is half-hearted. The humor and scenarios are quite standard. There are a few chuckles here and there, but more misses than hits. It’s so obvious when the actors are standing in front of a blue screen or using a stunt double that it almost looks like an amateur college production. The biggest insult though is that it is all about Texas and yet wasn’t even filmed there. It was done in San Diego and it shows. This is almost like deceptive advertising and for punishment the producers should be forced to spend a summer in the REAL Texas without any air conditioning.

Delon’s presence is good simply because he is French and he gives it a unique flavor, but the film doesn’t portray him as such and instead tries to pull off that he is SPANISH!! He also gets to be too much of a brawny do-gooder and in the end he becomes like Dudly-Do-Right with a French accent.

Bishop is funny simply because he is playing himself. The credits may say he is playing an Indian, but really it’s just Joey in a silly Indian get up. His headband alone looks like it was taken from somebody’s unwanted tie collection. In fact the overall portrayal of the Indians is badly stereotyped and if the film was better known it might merit protesting.

Forsyth gives the film’s best performance. However, having Martin pursue her looks off-kilter since he was old enough to be her father and her and Delon made a better couple. Of course since this is Martin’s vehicle he ends up with her no matter how forced or unnatural it looks.

If you are really easy to please or just a Dean Martin fanatic then you might find this film more passable. The cheek slapping showdown between Martin and Delon is cute and the running joke involving that ‘Texas Tea’ isn’t bad either.

Look carefully for Richard Farnsworth is his first major role as he is almost unrecognizable as the Medicine man.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: October 26, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Michael Gordon

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS