Tag Archives: Roy Scheider

Blue Thunder (1983)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: A technologically advanced helicopter.

Frank Murphy (Roy Scheider) is a LAPD officer still suffering from flashbacks from his time in Vietnam while working now as part of the air patrol division where he mans a helicopter at night and gives assistance to the cops on the ground.  Due to his expertise he is given the chance to helm the first advanced helicopter called Blue Thunder, which has abilities to fight crime like no other machine before it. As he tests out the new product with his partner Richard (Daniel Stern) he overhears a conversation, through using the machines built-in microphones that can pick up voices from inside buildings, talking about using Blue Thunder for nefarious means. Frank records the conversation and then gets hounded by the bad guys who are led by his lifelong rival from his army days F.E. Cochrane (Malcolm McDowell). To escape their clutches Frank boards the helicopter and flies all over the city of L.A. while waiting for his wife Kate (Candy Clark) to get the incriminating tape to a TV-station where it will be broadcast for the public to hear, but Cochrane, who is an expert pilot as well, gets into another helicopter and tries to shoot Blue Thunder down.

The script was written by the prolific Dan O’Bannon who also wrote the scripts for Alien and Total Recall. He got the idea for this one while living in L.A. and constantly having a police helicopters routinely fly over his neighborhood at night. The original script was darker in tone and portrayed Frank as a psychotic who steals the helicopter and terrorizes the city until he is finally shot down, but that idea got nixed and like with most big-budgeted Hollywood projects got toned down to help appeal to a wider audience.

Personally I would’ve found the original idea more interesting as it also contained political overtones that get completely washed over here. The story here is pretty generic with one-dimensional villains and situations simply thrown in to create cheap conflict and nothing more.

What impressed me though was the modern visual style and effects. It hardly seems like a mid-80s movie at all let alone one that was actually filmed in late ’79 and early ’80. The overriding sentiment has a trendy feel and the cinematography is vivid and colorful. The helicopter action is the film’s biggest selling point and no matter how dippy the story gets the exciting aerial footage more than makes up for it. I loved the way director John Badham captures all sides of Los Angeles from its glitzy skyline to its more grimy and rundown working class areas. It’s also nice to have a REAL helicopter REALLY flying in the air over the city instead of computer generated effects, which makes many of today’s movies look fake and cheapens them while still keeping many of the ‘80s action flicks superior.

Scheider has never been a leading man that I’ve found particularly impressive as his presence seems transparent. However here his laid-back demeanor nicely contrasts with McDowell’s hyper one and makes the bad guy seem even more vindictive. Stern is engaging as Scheider’s partner and it’s too bad this wasn’t made into a buddy movie with Stern’s character staying on for the whole time. Clark is also enjoyable particularly with the wild look that she elicits with her eyes and the car chase that she has with the cops in an abandoned lot of a drive-In theater.

This also sadly marks Warren Oates last project. It was filmed in 1980 and he did a few other films after this one, but this was released last. Oates is one of the most distinctive character actors to ever grace the screen and even in a bland supporting role like the one here he still finds a way to enliven it.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: May 13, 1983

Runtime: 1 Hour 49 Minutes

Rated R

Director: John Badham

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

The Outside Man (1973)

outside man 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hit man is marked.

Lucien (Jean-Louise Trintignant) is a French hit man hired by an American family to assassinate a mob boss (Ted de Corsia) who’s living in Los Angeles. He’s able to pull off the job relatively easily, but then after it’s over he finds that he’s been targeted by another hit man (Roy Scheider) who is relentless and chases Lucien all over the city. Nancy (Ann-Margret) is the stripper who comes to Lucien’s aid by getting her boyfriend to create a passport for him so he can return to France, but just as he is about to board the plane he decides instead to stay in the states and turn-the-tables on the man who’s chasing him while finding who is behind the double-cross.

The film, which was done by a French production company, but filmed on-location in the states, is a lot of fun. The many offbeat touches and various stabs at dry humor keep it interesting and original while still remaining suspenseful and exciting. Some of the best moments include a hitchhiker (Edward Greenberg) who tries to convert Lucien to ‘Jesus’ as well the funeral, which eventually turns into a wild shootout amongst the various mob factions and has a corpse embalmed in a sitting position with a cigar in hand.

I also liked the way director Jacques Deray captures Los Angeles. Usually when a film is done in the City of Angels we always get shown shots of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, movie star homes, the beachfront and of course the great Hollywood sign, but here we see none of that. Instead the film captures the city’s less glamorous side including the rundown neighborhoods and even a shootout that takes place in abandoned buildings from an amusement park, which all helps to give the movie a unique vision as well as allowing the viewer to appreciate a side to the city that they may have not known even existed.

Trintignant is terrific and his perpetual look of confusion as he gets faced with one unexpected surprise after another is memorable and helps carry the film. Ann-Margret is solid as the streetwise, but kindly stripper and Scheider is quite good as the steely killer. Georgia Engel, who later became famous for playing Georgette on the ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’ is funny as a spacy housewife who comes into contact with Lucien as he is trying to run from his killer. I especially liked the way that when a gun is pointed in her face she doesn’t scream or panic, but instead responds with silence and a deer-in-headlights look. This is also a great chance to see a young Jackie Earle Haley in his film debut as her precocious 10-year-old son.

The film’s only real downfall is its ending, which is too downbeat and ambiguous. It’s almost like they spent so much time coming up with creative concepts for the rest of it that by the time they came to the end they just plain rang out of ideas, which is a disappointment, but as a whole it’s still a gem.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: January 18, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jacques Deray

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD (MGM Limited Edition Collection), Amazon Instant Video

Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York (1975)

sheila levine is dead and living in new york city

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Heartbreak in the city.

Sheila Levine (Jeannie Berlin) is a recent college grad who moves to New York City in search of a more exciting and glamorous lifestyle, but finds a long line of heartbreak and empty opportunities instead. When her younger sister gets married before she does she becomes jealous, but refuses to give up and continues to strive to make her mark no matter how small it might be.

Based on the Gail Parent novel the film manages to hit a few marks. Her nagging mother and the exchange that she has with a job placement coordinator at an employment agency is good. However, the idea that a woman’s sole purpose in life is to get married and then not have to work afterwards is seriously dated and will not connect with today’s viewers.

The main character isn’t exactly likable either. She is bossy and intrusive with her roommate and seems to think that because she is a college grad that should entitle her to only ‘creative’ and interesting jobs that doesn’t involve typing. She is also strangely naïve as she gets picked up by a middle-aged man (Roy Scheider) at a bar, goes back to his place for sex and then somehow thinks that means he is in love with her and is genuinely shocked when he bluntly tells her that he was simply appeasing his ‘animalistic instincts’. We are supposed to feel sorry for her, but instead it’s more fun seeing her get slapped down.

Berlin is the daughter of Elaine May who was the queen of sardonic humor and I came into this thing with high hopes, but her performance is only so-so. She does indeed look very Jewish and the perfect composite of the Rhoda Morgenstern TV character and a young Joan Rivers. However, her incessant whiny and nasally voice may be too much for some.

Scheider manages to be pretty solid. I was never impressed with his acting range, but here he gives quite possibly his best performance in what is most likely his least known role.Sidney J. Furie’s lifeless direction though makes the production come off like a filmed stage play with scenes that seem to go on forever.

Michel Legrand’s melodic orchestral score is out-of-place and better suited for a romance. There is also a song with a funky 70’s sound that gets played at regular intervals and becomes increasingly annoying.

I was expecting this to be a quirky, dry humored comedy, but found it to be more of a stilted drama that relied too much on the obvious and at times became almost painful to watch. The romantic angle between Scheider and Berlin is unbelievable and ultimately quite corny, which impedes the film from achieving any type of true potential.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 16, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 52Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Sidney J. Furie

Studio: Paramount

Available: YouTube