Tag Archives: Samantha Eggar

Curtains (1983)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review A very deadly audition.

Well-known movie director Jonathan Stryker (John Vernon) is producing a new film and aging actress Samantha Sherwood (Samantha Eggar) presumes she’ll get the starring role like with all of his other productions, but this time Stryker has a catch. He tells her that to prepare for the part she must commit herself to a mental institution to better understand the character she is to play. The desperate Samantha agrees, but then realizes Jonathan has no intention of getting her out once she is inside, so she escapes and seeks revenge at Jonathan’s secluded wintertime mansion where he is auditioning six younger actresses for the role. Now suddenly everyone starts dying off at the bloody hands of a masked assailant. Is the killer Samantha in disguise, or could it be one of the other actresses willing to kill in order to get the part?

The film starts out okay. I liked that we are shown a brief background to these actresses before they get to the mansion, which helps make them seem more like real people and less like caricatures. The mansion where the action takes place has an interesting exterior/interior and I loved the pristine winter time landscape, but that is pretty much where the good points end.

The narrative is horribly disjointed and most likely a result of a lot of rewrites and reshoots that had the production shelved for up to three years before it was finally released. The opening sequence done inside the asylum is clichéd to the extreme and makes the film come off as a complete campfeast. The idea that someone would intentional try to get themselves committed simply to get a movie role is stupid and overall there are no scares or frights at all.

The killings are mechanical and unimaginative. I couldn’t understand how this killer was able to sneak up on people and literally magically appear at the most in opportune times. For instance a victim, played by Lesleh Donaldson, manages to escape the clutches of the bad guy and proceeds to make more distance between her and him by running through a snow capped forest. She briefly stops to catch her breath by a random tree and wouldn’t you know that’s the one tree that the killer is hiding behind.  Another segment has a victim (Anne Ditchburn) dancing by herself in a big empty room where the killer somehow sneaks up right behind her, which I would argue couldn’t happen. Everyone has a sense when someone else starts getting too close to them, especially in a room devoid of anyone else, and she would’ve detected the killer’s presence long before he got right behind her.

The ending in which the killer chases the final victim through an array of old stage props inside the mansion’s basement gets overly prolonged. The young women end up looking too much alike, so it was hard to have any empathy for them because they weren’t distinctive enough and the story would’ve worked better had it taken the concept of Dead of Winter where just one woman goes to the isolated place for the audition and thus allow the viewer to create more of a connection to the protagonist.

The only bright spot is Eggar. Her starring movie roles from the ‘60s and early ‘70s were now long gone and much like the actress she portrays was forced to take cheap low budget horror offers to remain busy, but she still gives it a 110% effort. What impressed me was how different her character was from any of her others. In those earlier films she was mainly a young, sensitive and idealistic woman, but here she is cold, conniving and bitter proving that she must be a great actress if she is able to play such opposite personalities in the same convincing way. It’s just unfortunate that the filmmakers didn’t share that same type of professionalism as the sloppy execution destroys any potential that it may have had.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: March 4, 1983

Runtime: 1 Hour 29 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Robert Guza Jr.

Studio: Norstar Releasing

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

The Walking Stick (1970)

walking-stick

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Polio victim becomes pawn.

Deborah (Samantha Eggar) is a shy, lonely woman who suffered from polio as a young girl and now must rely on the use of a cane to get around. She still lives with her parents while suffering from claustrophobic tendencies due to being locked inside an iron lung as a child. She meets Leigh (David Hemmings) a struggling artist at a party and he asks her out. Initially she resists his advances, but eventually gives in. The two form a tight bound and even move in together, but her fairytale romance is short-lived once she realizes that she’s been pegged as a pawn and simply used by his gang for her inside knowledge of the auction house where she works to pull off a daring robbery.

The film, which is based on the novel by Winston Graham, is quite leisurely paced. To a degree I didn’t find this to be a problem as it still managed to hold my interest, but too much time is spent on the romance making it seem more like a drama.

The robbery and its planning doesn’t come into play until well over an hour in and seems like a whole different movie altogether. Certain hints should’ve been brought in from the beginning to make it clear to the viewer that despite all the romance this was still meant to be a thriller, which is just not obvious at all. The crime scenes do at least provide some action and quick edits, which normally would’ve made it exciting, but because it takes so long to get there it comes off as off-putting instead. The intended tension doesn’t work because we are less concerned if Leigh and his gang are going to get away with it and more upset at seeing Deborah being taken advantage of.

Eggar gives an outstanding performance and seeing this normally effervescent woman wearing a perpetual frown seemed almost startling, but she conveys her characters inner unhappiness quite well and mostly through her facial expressions alone. However, her character is also quite cold and acerbic. To a degree this is understandable as it’s clearly just a defense, but the viewer never sees enough of her softer side and therefore doesn’t emotional bond with her as they should.

Hemming’s more outgoing personality creates a nice contrast to Eggar’s introverted one, but his character is pretty benign. Dudley Sutton who plays his cohort would’ve made a better boyfriend as he is good at showing a dark side and would’ve kept the viewer more on edge.

The ending doesn’t provide any type of clear wrap-up and leaves a lot of loose ends hanging, which is a pity. The production values are decent and I liked the flashback scenes showing Debora being put into an iron lung, which is the film’s best cinematic moments, but the pace needed to be tighter with more emphasis placed on the story’s twists and turns.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: April 15, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated GP

Director: Eric Till

Studio: MGM

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

The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun (1970)

lady in the car

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Dead body in trunk.

Dany (Samantha Eggar) works as a secretary for Michael (Oliver Reed) who asks her to come to his place one evening to help him type an urgent report that needs to go out the next day. She agrees and then spends the night in his guest bedroom. The next morning she travels with his family to the airport where they board a plane for a vacation while she is instructed to drive their car back home, but along the way she takes a wrong turn and begins to come upon people who say they’ve seen her before even though she can’t remember them. Then she finds a dead body in the trunk and things get really bizarre.

The film, which is based on the novel by Sebastien Jasprisot and remade in 1992 and then again in 2015, has a certain appeal as the story is offbeat enough to keep you intrigued and manages to give a logical, or at least an attempted one, explanation at the end for why everything that occurs to Dany happened and the reason behind it. Unfortunately Anatole Litvak’s direction is bland despite a colorful opening montage and Reed, with his hair dyed gray, is miscast as a stuffy businessman.

One of the biggest issues though is the main character who behaves in ways that make little sense. Going to her boss’s place after work hours to write a report and even be instructed to drive his car back from the airport seems to be going well beyond the normal duties of an ordinary secretary and one that most likely would be met with resistance by anyone else and yet Dany obliges to his demands without question like she is a robot. Later a strange man (John McEnery) enters her car and makes an aggressive pass at her. Instead of leaving or running for help she instead gets into the car with him and takes him back to her hotel and goes to bed with him before she even knows what his first name is.

Spoiler Alert!

At the end we find out that Dany’s boss has set the whole thing up to make it look like Dany shot the man, whose dead body was in the trunk, in order to cover up for his wife (Stephane Audran) who was the one who really did it. Apparently she had been having affairs with many different men and shot this one when he refused to continue to see her. The husband was aware of all of these transgressions and would pay off the men to quit seeing her and when he found out that his wife had killed this one he concocts an elaborate scheme to get her off the hook, but why? Most men would not feel the need to come to the defense of an unfaithful wife especially one that continues to do it over and over again, which makes the whole storyline quite weak since it’s completely off-the-mark in terms of realistic human behavior.

End of Spoiler Alert!

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 22, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated R

Director: Anatole Litvak

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: None at this time.

The Collector (1965)

the collector 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Collecting women like butterflies.

Freddie (Terence Stamp) is a withdrawn loner who collects butterflies for a hobby. One day he manages to win a lot of money in a football pool and uses it buy an old, isolated house in the English countryside. The place has a very large cellar, which gives him the idea that it can be used as a prison. It is then that he decides to kidnap beautiful art student Miranda (Samantha Eggar). He keeps her in the cellar, but fixes it up making it seem almost like an apartment. He treats her with the upmost respect and even knocks before entering her room. He buys her art supplies so she can continue her work and makes an agreement with her that he will let her go after 4-weeks, but hopes in between then that she will fall in love with him.

The film puts an interesting spin on the old ‘psycho kidnapping a beautiful woman’ theme and for the most part succeeds. The viewer ends up feeling almost as sorry for Freddie as they do his victim as it becomes clear that through his social awkwardness he is in even more of a prison than she. The way the two try to communicate and connect, which only ends up driving the them further apart is fascinating and their contrasting views about the book ‘Catcher in the Rye’ as well as the paintings of Picasso are equally revealing.

Stamp gives one of his greatest performances in his already illustrious career playing a character who weaves from being menacing to vulnerable and childlike. Eggar makes for an appealing victim and apparently turned Stamp down years earlier when he had asked for her date while the two were students in acting school.

the collector 4

William Wyler’s direction is perfect as he wisely decides to pull back without adding any unnecessary Hitchcock touches and thus allowing the interactions between the two characters to propel the film. His superimposed, colorful shots of butterflies seen over the closing credits are a nice added touch. My only minor grievance is the Maurice Jarre score, which seemed too melodic without enough of the dark foreboding undertones that music for a thriller should have.

If you’re looking for the conventional thriller you may be disappointed as the emphasis is more on the psychological than the suspenseful. There are a few good tense moments including Miranda’s final attempt to escape during a nighttime rain storm, but for the most part the compelling element comes from the way these two multi-layered people deal with each other and ultimately reveal things about themselves that they didn’t know existed. The story also makes an excellent point of how everyone to a certain degree is trapped in a prison and the challenging if not impossible effort it can sometimes be to bond with others especially when reaching across different social-economic lines. The only thing that does get ruined is the ending, which no longer has the novelty or shock value that it once did.

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My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: June 17, 1965

Runtime: 1Hour 59Minutes

Not Rated

Director: William Wyler

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Why Shoot the Teacher? (1977)

why shoot the teacher 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Not a good job.

If you hate your job then watching the escapades of Max Brown (Bud Cort) dealing with his should make you feel a lot better about yours, or even lucky. The setting is 1935 and Max has traveled to an isolated farming community in Saskatchewan Canada in order to live out his dream of being a school teacher. The problem is that he must live in the dingy basement of the school that has no running water and an outhouse that gets regularly overturned by the rowdy school children, sometimes with Max in it, and he is only paid $20 dollars a month for his efforts, which even back then was a paltry amount. What is worse is that the district can’t even afford to pay him so instead gives him promissory notes and forces him to be dependent on the generosity of the townspeople for his food. Since he had to borrow money for his train ride up there he is unable to go back and forced to spend the harsh Canadian winter all alone while dealing with difficult students and indifferent parents and adults.

Cort really shines. The fact that through all his diversity he still remains civil and upbeat makes the character quite appealing even though he does evolve and at times compromises from his initial ideals. The best example of this is when he eventually, despite his initial reluctance, uses the strap on one of the older bigger students while the rest of the school children watch through the school windows. Although Cort is best known for his starring role in Harold and Maude I’d actually say this is his best all-around performance.

Samantha Eggar another under-appreciated and underused performer is terrific in support as Alice Field a woman transplanted from England who like with Max finds herself alienated and unconditioned to the harsh climate. She also has a really amusing line when she states “Canada is a nice country…sometimes…in the spring.”

Filmed on-location in the tiny town of Hanna, Alberta the sprawling wheat fields create a tremendous sense of isolation as well as a distinctive sense of natural beauty. The story is filmed during all three seasons, which makes the viewer feel like they are battling the rigorous Nordic climate right alongside Max. One of the funniest moments is when the word ‘Spring’ is flashed on the screen while a raging blizzard goes on behind it making Canada one of the few places that can make Minnesota, where I am originally from, seem like a mild climate.

The film is wonderfully vivid and creates a rich multi-textured tapestry of life on the prairie. By keeping everything on a realistic level it helps recreate what life must have been like for a lot of rural school teachers during the period, which is what makes it so fascinating. The film’s faded washed-out color and archaic low budget technical approach only helps to accentuate the look and feel of the period. There are shades of Wake in Fright here that also dealt with a man teaching school in an isolated school house while battling the elements and I found it interesting to note that Ted Kotcheff who was the director of that film was listed as a production consultant on this one.

My only complaint about the film was the misleading title. There is no shooting of any kind of the teacher, or even any talk of it. Why they came up with that title, which is based on the book with the same title is a mystery. Unfortunately it may give some people the idea that this is a violent film when nothing could be further from the truth and may turn-off potential viewers from enjoying this endearing slice-of-life comedy/drama.

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My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: June 23, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Silvio Narizzano

Studio: Lancer Productions Limited

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube