Tag Archives: Sharon Farrell

It’s Alive (1974)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Newborn is a monster.

Frank (John Ryan) and Lenore (Sharon Farrell) are excited about the birth of their second child, but during the delivery they find to their horror that the newborn is a freakish monster who kills all the doctors in the delivery room and then escapes out onto the streets. The police try to track it down while Frank initially avows to kill it himself, but when his paternal instincts eventually set in he has second thoughts.

This is for the most part a fascinating, offbeat look at the abortion issue that seems to be a continuing theme with writer/director Larry Cohen who also co-scripted Daddy’s Gone-a-Hunting. In many ways it’s less of a horror film and more of a character study as the main focus is on Frank and the way his feelings on the baby change during the course of the story. In fact it’s Ryan’s intense performance that’s the film’s mainstay and what really propels it.

The baby itself offers intrigue and I liked how his appearance is kept mostly a mystery throughout, which helps build even more fear, but then we never end up getting to see it up close, which is a big letdown. Instead it’s just fleeting long distance shots and even then that doesn’t happen until the very end. The only reason to see a movie like this is to get a genuine look at the thing and when that only gets teased it’s a rip-off.

The baby’s super intelligence had me confused too. Supposedly it’s deformed due to the mother taking some contraceptive pills, but how does this make the child super smart to the point that he is able to find the school that Frank and Lenore’s child goes to, in crowded L.A. of all places and then eventually Frank and Lenore’s house? This thing is just a few days old, so how is it able to read street signs and find places and be ‘pre-programmed’ as it were to know which school/house to go to?

I was also confused at how the baby was able to attack people by biting into their necks. If it’s a crawling baby shouldn’t the feet and ankles of the victim be the place that suffers injury? And how was the baby able to kill all the doctors and nurses in the delivery room? If he was attacking one of them couldn’t the others have ganged up on the little guy and overpowered him or even just ran out of the room and yelled for help or did they all just stupidly stand there as if frozen while the baby jumped onto each Dr. and bit into them one-by-one?

Never getting a clear consistent view of the baby, nor properly explaining what the ‘logic rules’ were was a big turn-off for me when I first saw this decades ago and I came away considering it a Grade-B schlockfeast with little redeeming value. Upon second viewing I’ve softened on it a bit and appreciated Cohen’s efforts especially on such a limited budget, but the screwy loopholes and flimsy effects ultimately hurts it either way.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: April 26, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Larry Cohen

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)

cant buy me love

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Geek dates hot cheerleader.

As a small tribute to Amanda Peterson who unfortunately died recently at the young age of 43 after many years of battling with drug addiction and even spending some time behind bars, I decided to review this film. Even though she was in 5 movies during the 80’s and starred in two TV-series including the short-lived, but critically acclaimed ‘A Year in the Life’ her part her as Cindy Mancini has become her signature role.

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The plot revolves around Ronald (Patrick Dempsey) a high school nerd who secretly has a crush on class beauty Cindy, but realizes that she is way out of his league. Then one day while attempting to buy a telescope that he has saved up for by spending the summer mowing lawns he comes into contact with her at a mall as she is attempting to replace a dress that she borrowed from her mother (Sharon Farrell) without her permission and then accidently ruined. She doesn’t have the money to buy a new one, so Ronald offers to use his telescope money to buy it, but under the condition that she pretends to be in a relationship with him and act as his girlfriend for one month. Cindy reluctantly agrees, but finds to her surprise that she starts to grow fond of him, but when the month is over and their pseudo-relationship ends Ronald uses his new found popularity to jettison to the top of the social scene while becoming quite obnoxious in the process. Cindy tries to rekindle the romance, but Ronald has found new conquests and has no time for her, which gets her angry enough that she eventually tells everyone about their secret deal.

This movie, which was filmed on-location at the Tucson High School in Tucson, Arizona, is a gem especially for an 80’s teen comedy and making it one of the better ones from that decade and quite easily one of the best teen romances of all time. Part of the charm is that it lives out the dream of every geek young and old who has ever fantasized about going out with the hottest girl in school, but then takes this wish fulfillment fantasy and puts it inside a realistic scenario. It also makes a good comment as to just how fickle and shallow the high school popularity game really is. The characters are much more multi-dimensional than in most teen comedies especially Cindy’s and I also liked the way the film keeps things real, but still manages to maintain the innocence of that age without ever seeming overly sanitized.

Dempsey is great and he manages to get you to empathize with his sad, geeky quandary without ever making it seem too pathetic.  The part where he stays up late one night and counts up all the days he had to go through before finally seeing a naked female breast is the funniest part in the movie. However, by-and-large this is Peterson’s vehicle and she is splendid. I loved how her character starts out as being just another superficial teen girl, but slowly evolves into becoming much deeper and introspective and exposing a lot of class along the way.

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Normally I hate bratty little brother characters, but a young Seth Green makes the one here quite enjoyable. I also liked how the parents are not portrayed as being overly authoritative relics of bygone era, but human beings as well and Cindy’s relationship with her mother where half time she seems more like the mature one is fun.

Of course the film does suffer from a few shortcomings. Ronald’s impassioned ‘why can’t we all just get along’ speech that he gives near the end may have merit, but comes off as too melodramatic and corny.  I also thought these kids who were all supposedly seniors behaved too much like they were still in middle school where the teen social caste system is much more rigidly followed, but becomes less important and more phased out as they enter the senior high. It is also inconceivable how anyone even an out-of-it geek like Ronald could ever mistake a PBS show dealing with Africa tribal dances with ‘American Bandstand’.

Despite being an 80’s movie it doesn’t seem all that dated and I think teens today could still relate to it. Sure the characters don’t have smartphones or the other technological gadgets of today, but the foundation of teen life is still there and the movie does a great job of speaking to them on their level without ever seeming like their talking down to them.

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My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: August 14, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Steve Rash

Studio: Buena Vista Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Out of the Blue (1980)

out of the blue 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Daddy disappoints his daughter.

Marginal drama detailing the trials of a teen girl (Linda Manz) whose father (Dennis Hopper) is serving a five year sentence for killing a busload of kids while driving drunk. She recognizes the weaknesses in her mother (Sharon Farrell) and idolizes her father because she thinks he is better yet when he is released she realizes he has faults as well, which culminates in a shocking and unexpected finale.

One of the big problems with this film is that it becomes as aimless as the characters that it portrays. Hopper’s free-form directing style is too loose and undisciplined. Intended dramatic elements come off as weak and insignificant. The story has interesting moments, but ultimately misses the mark. The gritty scenes look staged and hackneyed and everything seems too familiar like stuff we’ve seen hundreds of times before. Director/star Hopper keeps reaching into his bag hoping to pull out another Easy Rider, but his avant-garde style now seems tiring and predictable.

The dark, ugly ending is a definite shock and it is the only thing that raises this from being a complete misfire. Had the film started with the ending and used it as a springboard for the rest of the movie than it might have been more compelling. The very graphic crash of Hopper’s truck into the school bus is the only other part that is impressive.

Manz has certainly come a long way from Days of Heaven or even as the mouthy kid in The Wanderers. She is a more poised actress and ready to carry the film. Her streetwise attitude and background is still apparent, but more polished and contained. This was the film that was going to make her a star and it probably could have had it been better.

Farrell as the mother is effective simply because her physical looks nicely reflects the rough life of her character. It is also fun to see Raymond Burr in a bit part only because he seems so out of place with the setting.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 11, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated R

Director: Dennis Hopper

Studio: Discovery Films

Available: DVD