Tag Archives: Sally Kellerman

Back to School (1986)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rodney goes to college.

Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) is a successful businessman who runs a national chain of clothing stores despite having never attained a degree. Now his son Jason (Keith Gordon) is attending a university, but he feels like dropping out. Thornton though doesn’t want to let him, so he decides to attend college with him in order to inspire him to remain in school.

The film would’ve been far more interesting had Rodney been poor and struggling to better himself by finally going back to school, which is much more relatable since many adults do this all the time. Making him already wealthy saps the potential drama and reality right out of the story making it more like a game that he is playing with no real consequence. He doesn’t even take any of his studying seriously, so the idea that he is at least broadening his intellect fails here too. The side-story dealing with him being a world class diver is equally ridiculous as this out-of-shape, beer guzzling, 65-year-old man looks like someone who would barely be able to run half a block before dropping dead of a heart attack let alone achieving any sort of complex dive that no one else could do.

Casting Adrienne Barbeau as his shrewish wife was a mistake as she lacks comic ability making the barbs that she trades with him unfunny and what’s a young and beautiful woman doing married to a homely dope like Rodney anyways? Okay, so Rodney’s character here has money and that’s why she married him, but that plays completely against his stand-up persona where he portrayed himself as being this loser that got no respect. The wife should’ve been a female version of Rodney looks-wise while also a nag and thus heightening the stakes for the character to go back to school and succeed. Having him later fall in love with his beautiful English professor played by Sally Kellerman makes even less sense as the two had intellectually nothing in common.

Keith Gordon is boring as Rodney’s son and having the story go off on a tangent dealing with his romance with a pretty coed (Terry Farrell) is derivative and should’ve been avoided as the film is only amusing when Rodney is in it and dull otherwise. Gordon also looks nothing like Rodney and it’s confusing why exactly he’s not ‘fitting-in’. Casting some fat, bulging eyed guy to play a young version of Rodney would’ve been funnier while also making his social ostracism more understandable.

Burt Young’s character adds to the already weird quasi-surreal atmosphere by playing Rodney’s chauffer who despite being out-of-shape, short and middle-aged just like Rodney he somehow also possess super human strength and able to beat-up and even intimidate much younger, more muscular guys. It was like there was no motivation at all by the writers to actually tell a story that made sense and they were simply throwing in any gag that they thought up and hoping some would stick.

Robert Downey Jr. as an eccentric socialist student was the only supporting character I liked, but he is not in it enough. The script should’ve had him rooming with Rodney and examining how these two very different personalities could get along while getting rid of the son character completely. Then we might’ve had a character driven comedy that was worth watching. The film though as it gets done here is too transparent and despite being filmed on-location at the University of Wisconsin in Madison poorly reflects the actual college experience and will remind no one that has attended college of what college life is really like.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 13, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Alan Metter

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube.

It Rained All Night the Day I Left (1980)

it rained all night 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Stuck in the desert.

Robert and Leo (Tony Curtis, Louis Gossett Jr.) are two losers working as gun runners who transport their goods in an old beat-up VW that looks to be seriously on its last leg. They meet up with The Colonel (Sally Kellerman) who is the widow of an actual Colonel that fought during WW II. She is now living alone with her nineteen year-old daughter Suzanna (Lisa Langlois) in an isolated ranch in the middle of the African desert. She hires Robert and Leo to help her oversee the water that she pumps to a nearby village. Since she feels that the members of this village had something to do with her late husband’s murder she has cut off their supply to it and only lets them have access to it at certain times of the day, which the two men feel is harsh. They do some investigating on their own and believe that it is neighboring rancher Killian (John Vernon) who is the real culprit to the murder, but trying to convince The Colonel of this, who has a romantic interest in Kilian, is another matter completely.

This obscure, low budget film is pretty much a botched mess from the get-go. Too much emphasis is put on comedy, but filmed by people who have no idea what is funny which forces the actors to carry-on with broadly written banter and insipid slapstick-like scenarios that is intended to be humorous, but falls resoundingly flat instead. The story and setting has some potential, but resorts to contrived, uninspired romance that becomes completely boring.

I’ll give Kellerman credit for lasting over six decades in the business, but her acting never seems to be effective. Her character is supposed to be a domineering, tough-as-nails lady, or at least that is how she is introduced as she even insists that the men refer to her as ‘sir’, but this quickly evaporates until she becomes just another aging, lonely female looking for love and companionship, which isn’t compelling, or original. Langlois as the daughter is equally transparent while delivering her lines as if she were half asleep. Why an attractive young lady such as herself would ever fall for a struggling 55-year-old man like the one Curtis plays here makes little sense and is pretty dumb.

The film is saved to a minor degree by the presence of Curtis. He was a top billed star during the ‘50s and 60s, but by the ‘80s his career had plummeted severely to the point that he was accepting minor, supporting roles in direct-to-video fare that next to no one saw. This film isn’t much better than those, but here at least he retains his engaging persona and helps lift the dead material to a somewhat tolerable level and his pairing with Gossett is odd enough to make it semi-intriguing.

This is a sad, almost embarrassing follow-up project for director Nicolas Gessner who had achieved critical acclaim with the Jodie Foster hit The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. Why he would choose this oddball thing to tackle next is a mystery as I’m sure he must’ve been offered better scripts, but in either case it’s a misfire that never manages to click at all.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: August 6, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 24Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Nicolas Gessner

Studio: Gaumont

Available: None at this time.