Tag Archives: Shelley Winters

Over the Brooklyn Bridge (1984)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hoping to buy restaurant.

Alby (Elliot Gould) is tired of slaving away as a cook at a small Brooklyn diner run by both he and his mother (Shelley Winters). He dreams of owning a swanky restaurant in downtown Manhattan and finds the perfect place, but he needs help with the financing. He goes to his rich uncle Benjamin (Sid Caesar), who at first is reluctant to loan him the needed money, but eventually agrees. However, it comes with one big stipulation; Alby can get the money, but only if he ends his relationship with his live-in girlfriend Elizabeth (Margaux Hemingway), who his uncle has never liked since she’s not Jewish.

From the outset I internally groaned when I saw that it was produced by Cannon Pictures, which was notorious for making a lot of cheesy action flicks during the decade, but this one is approached differently. The script, by Arnold Shulman, who died at the young age of 48 before filming of his screenplay had even begun, is much more personal than the usual Cannon fodder as it delves into the close-knit, extended Jewish family who can be both a source of great support and hindrance.

I was happy too, at least initially, to see Hemingway get another shot at a co-starring role. She was a model, and granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, who broke into the movie scene with the controversial hit Lipstickwhere she played a rape victim, which was too demanding of a part for someone with so little acting experience. This role here was more reasonable, but without sounding too harsh, I couldn’t stand her voice. Her famous sister Mariel has a very pretty sounding one, so why Margaux got stuck with such an unusually raspy one that belied her otherwise young age I didn’t understand. I know when I watched Lipstickwhich was released 8 years earlier, her voice was only slightly raspy making me believe her smoking caused it to get worse and in my opinion the reason why her onscreen career never took-off.

Gould’s presence doesn’t help either. During the 70’s he was a cinematic counter-culture hero taking it to the establishment, but by the 80’s that persona was no longer in vogue, so he had to settle for benign, nice-guy parts, which is clearly not his forte. He tries hard, and at one point tells-off a few people in semi-classic Gould-style, but for the most part he’s quite boring. His attempt to portray a 36-year-old even though he was actually 45 doesn’t quite work and there’s no explanation for why this frumpy guy with a limited income is able to snare such a young, good-looking babe.

Winters, who seems born to play the meddling, overly-protective Jewish mother, which she did to great success in Next Stop, Greenwich Village, but here her character is too subdued making her presence transparent. Ceasar is a surprise. After his work in the 50’s TV-show ‘Your Show of Shows’ his later parts couldn’t quite match his unique talents, but he scores both on the comedy and drama end here. Carol Kane is a delight as she courts Gould and talks breathlessly about philosophy as she hurriedly walks in a New York subway and then later at her place reveals some very bizarre sexual fetishes. Burt Young has some very funny scenes too as Gould’s cynical friend who doesn’t shy away from expressing his low opinion of marriage.

The story though is too simple for such an a relatively long runtime and by the second-half becomes strained. The idea that Gould had such a great relationship with Hemingway as the movie wants us to believe is dubious as she immediately dumps him the second his uncle tells her to leave him and then callously throws Gould out of the apartment instead of being honest and telling him about her meeting with the uncle and then talking it out like a truly close couple would. Later when Gould, who still doesn’t understand why the break-up happened, calls her to get an explanation and try to make amends, she coldly hangs-up making it seem like he was way more into her than she was into him and thus causing this to be a weak romance instead of a strong one.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: March 2, 1984

Runtime: 1 Hour 43 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Menahem Golan

Studio: Golan-Globus Productions

Available: VHS, DVD-R

That Lucky Touch (1975)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Journalist and arms dealer.

Michael (Roger Moore) is an arms dealer who travels the globe looking for state-of-the-art weapons that he can sell. Julia (Susannah York) is a journalist who writes articles that abhors men who are into guns. The two reside in the same building, but have never met. One night Julia holds a party and while she is seeing her guests out her front door accidentally closes causing her to become locked-out of her apartment. Michael, who is on the outs with his ditzy, live-in girlfriend Sophie (Sydne Rome), decides to use this opportunity to put the moves on Julia. He invites her into his place, so she can call the landlord, but then unplugs the phone, so she’ll think it’s out-of-order and be forced to spend the night. Julia though turns-the-tables by ordering him out on the ledge and into the rainy night while demanding he get into her apartment through an open window. This then begins their love-hate cycle where every time they start to bond one of them finds out something about the other that they hate and thus begin to fight.

While the premise has potential the scenario is poorly plotted and hard to get into though the middle part does have some funny moments. The scene where Lee J. Cobb, who plays an army general, thinks he’s getting an important call from the President, as his red phone is blinking, but instead it’s from his scatterbrained wife, delightfully played by Shelley Winters, is hilarious. The segment dealing with Moore and York trying to get into her apartment is quite good too, but doesn’t get played-out enough as they take a trip to her landlord’s to get the key, but this part is never shown. However, so much time is spent with them trying to find every other way to get inside that I felt we should’ve included this part instead of suddenly cutting away and only implying what happened later.

What I didn’t like was the beginning where the scenes cut back-and-forth between Moore testing out some guns and York typing away without having any idea what they were doing, or why. It’s not until 15-minutes in that it gets revealed that these two live across from each other, which should’ve been established right away. The ending gets botched too as the second-half is spent on the couple, but ends by focusing solely on the secondary characters in an ill-advised screwball finale.

Moore’s acting helps. The glib way that he conveys his acerbic lines are amusing and I came away thinking he was much better in comedy and missed his calling by not doing more of them. York though seems miscast. She’s great in drama, but her comic timing is missing and she’s too hostile to the extent that you start to wonder why Moore’s character would have any interest in her at all. The part was originally intended for Sophia Loren, who would’ve been better and more age appropriate since there was only a few years difference between her and Moore versus the over 10-year gap that he had with York.

The supporting cast is solid especially Winters and Rome, but Cobb is the surprise as he spent his whole career doing dramas, but manages to be the funniest one here and it’s just a shame that this marked his final film appearance, he actually suffered a heart attack during the production. The soundtrack is pleasing too, but the flat script needed better fleshing-out.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: August 7, 1975

Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Christopher Miles

Studio: Allied Artists Pictures

Available: DVD (Region 2 Import) DVD-R (dvdlady)

Diamonds (1975)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Testing a security system.

Charles and his twin brother Earl (both played by Robert Shaw) share an intense rivalry that comes-out during their judo karate contests. Charles wants to top his brother at everything including getting the better of him at his own expertise, which is that of security specialist who has created a vault in Tel Aviv that holds a cache of diamonds and is supposedly impenetrable. Charles is determined to rob it and uses the help of expert safe crackers Archie (Richard Roundtree) and Sally (Barbara Hershey).

While the film has some great location shooting of Israel making it seem almost like a travel log of the region and the final third where the three try to pull off the elaborate robbery does get a bit intense, though it’s nothing special, the movie on the whole falls flat. A major reason is that it was directed by Menahem Golan, who along with his cousin created the notorious film production company The Cannon Group, which produced a lot of cheesy, bubble gum action flicks during the 80’s. This film works very much like those with poor character development, in fact there’s really no development at all, and a plot that steals all sorts of elements from other and better heist movies.

Overall it’s pretty much the same storyline as $, Perfect Fridayand to a lesser extent Topkapibut all of the things that made those movies so much fun to watch goes missing here. The lack of interplay between the characters is the biggest issue. Shaw, Roundtree, and Hershey are all great actors, but they’re not given anything interesting to say. The twin brother concept does not get played-up enough and Charles’ twin is seen just a few times with the only difference being a shaggy wig that Earl wears as opposed to Charles crew-cut, but both brothers have the exact same mole on the left side of their mouths and while identical twins can have many similarities, skin blemishes isn’t one of them. Shelley Winters also pops-up sporadically as an American tourist, but her part is completely inconsequential and not needed at all.

The heist itself does involve some sophisticated maneuvers including having them walk on the ceiling by using a suction-cup type contraption, but the film fails to show any of the preparation. In the other heist films seeing how the crooks rehearsed the robbery and working through their disagreements and divergent personalities was half-the-fun, but that all goes missing here. How Shaw goes about meeting Roundtree and company is pretty flimsy too as he catches them during the middle of an attempted safe cracking and then hires them on-the-spot supposedly because he’s been monitoring them for 5 years and feels they’d be a perfect match for his scheme, but why should it take him so long to come to this conclusion and these safe crackers must not be as cunning as they seem if they’ve been watched closely for 5 years and not had any hint that it was going-on.

Spoiler Alert!

The crime itself gets pulled-off way too easily and there’s no moment where a crucial mistake gets made, or some sort of unexpected slip-up, so things never get as intense as it could’ve. There’s also an added character that gets thrown-in who kidnaps the son of the security guard in order to get the guard to give-out the combination to the safe, but no scenes are shown for how Shaw and company met this kidnapper, or what deal he made with him in order to get him to agree to along with their plans.

The finale has a very anti-climactic feel as Roundtree is able to retrieve the diamonds, but then Shaw forces him to put them all back, so they come away, after all that effort, empty-handed. Ultimately Shaw does hand him a $100,000 check, but this was paltry compared to the $10 million they would’ve gotten with the diamonds making the viewer feel like the film wasn’t worth sitting through if the characters just end up in the same situation that they were in when it began. While no movie that has Robert Shaw in it can be completely bad as his presence alone can elevate even the most inept material this one unfortunately does come close.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: October 22, 1975

Runtime: 1 Hour 48 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Menahem Golan

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: DVD-R

Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: He dreams of stardom.

In 1953 Larry (Lenny Baker), a young man in his early 20’s, decides to move out of his home in Brooklyn that he still lives in with his parents (Shelley Winters, Mike Kellin) and into an apartment situated in the artsy district of Greenwich Village. Larry dreams of becoming a movie star and feels the way to start his career is by living with fellow artists. He also wants to get away from his meddling mother, but finds no matter where he goes she always comes to visit many times at the most inopportune moments including when he’s holding wild parties, or making-out with his new girlfriend Sarah (Ellen Greene).

The film is loosely based on writer/director Paul Mazursky’s early life as a struggling artist, which is fine, but how much one likes this movie hinges almost completely on how much they can stand the main character. For me he wasn’t so likable. While I admit his mother was annoying she was still well-meaning and the way he constantly lashed-out at her seemed too angry and aggressive. I would’ve thought someone who had been raised in that type of overbearing environment all of his life would’ve figured out a more subtle way to placate his mom that wouldn’t have needed to be so abrasive. When he tells his neighbor lady (Rachel Novikoff) that he’s moving to Greenwich Village to ‘become a big star’ like it was going to be some automatic thing seemed a bit too deluded and you’d think by that age he would’ve been a little bit better grounded.

The friends that he makes, which include some early performances by Christopher Walken, Antonio Fargas, and Dori Brenner, are a bit off-kilter as well. For instance they visit a fellow artist friend named Anita (Lois Smith) at her apartment only to find her sitting inside the bathroom with her wrists slit and talking about how she wants to die. They manage to get her patched-up, but then return to the apartment a couple of weeks later with the same carefree spirit that they had the first time, but you’d think after what they witnessed they’d approach the place cautiously, or maybe never want to go there again, for fear that she’d try it again and this time succeed forcing them to witness a tragic sight and yet this bunch acts like for some reason the whole suicide thing will never reoccur only to be shocked when it does even though I as a viewer was completely expecting it.

The story is rather rudimentary and involves basic elements that seemed to be analyzed in a lot of coming-of-age films during the 70’s including having Larry’s girlfriend get pregnant and require an abortion, which wasn’t exactly a unique twist. I did though enjoy the scenes inside Larry’s acting class and the way his teacher (Michael Egan, who was portraying the legendary acting coach Herbert Berghof) challenged his students after his each performance that they gave in the class and requiring them to analyze why they portrayed a certain character the way they did. Not enough other movies capture the technical side to acting, so I felt these scenes stood out in a good way and were quite introspective to the craft. I also liked the dream sequence where Larry imagines himself as a successful star, but then this quickly turns into a nightmare where he sees himself booed by the audience and even has pies thrown in his face, which I felt brought out the insecurity many artists, especially actors, harbor, even the successful ones, where they secretly fear never being quite good enough.

Spoiler Alert!

My biggest complaint though was with the ending where for some inexplicit reason Larry gets hired to play a part in a movie and whisked off to Hollywood even though I didn’t see what was so great about his audition, or why this scrawny guy stood out to the casting directors from all of the other men that were also vying for the role. I realize that Mazursky was basing this on his own life as he was able to escape to Hollywood after getting the starring role in the Stanley Kubrick drama Fear and Desire, but this only occurs to a small handful of people and the vast majority who move to Greenwich Village never really leave it, or if they do it’s most likely to the suburbs where they’re forced to get ‘real jobs’, or maybe even back home to their parents after they run out of money. If the movie has Greenwich Village in its title then that’s where it should’ve stayed as most people who live there probably ultimately wouldn’t like Hollywood as it’s a completely different vibe and sometimes it’s better being a big fish in a small pond, which I felt is the message that the film should’ve conveyed as the Hollywood twist seemed too dreamy.

End of Spoiler Alert!

Either way the film is helped immensely by Shelley Winters, who plays the overbearing mother to a T and comes complete with realistic crying spells. This should’ve netted her a third Oscar and for all purposes was her last great role as the parts she got offered after this were virtually all of the B-movie variety. Baker on the other-hand, whose only starring vehicle this was as he died, at the young age of 37, less than 6 years after this film came out, is an acquired taste. I don’t know if it was his extreme skinniness that got to me, he was 6’0, 145 pounds, but I just couldn’t really ever warm up to him and felt that Harvey Keitel, who had been considered for the part, would’ve worked better. You do though get to see Bill Murray, in his live-action, feature film debut, as a party guest as well as Jeff Goldblum as a humorously obnoxious struggling actor doing whatever he can to stand out and get noticed.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: February 4, 1976

Runtime: 1 Hour 51 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Mazursky

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

City on Fire (1979)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Title says it all.

When Herman Stover (Jonathan Welsh) gets fired from his job at an oil refinery he decides to get his revenge by opening the valves on the storage vats, which sends gasoline spewing out into the water system that soon sets the entire city on fire. Dr. Frank Whitman (Barry Newman) realizes that his hospital is in line of the approaching blaze and tries desperately to get the place evacuated.

Despite the American cast the film was financed by a Canadian production company and filmed on-location in Montreal with a few shots done in Toronto. While the movie bombed at the box office and later got mocked in an episode of ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ it’s actually decent on the special effects end.

In fact I found the effects to be quite impressive particularly at the beginning where two firefighters find themselves trapped in an apartment building in an actual blaze where the flames literally leap towards the camera and make the viewer feel like they are being engulfed by it. Most movies will show people set on fire, but only while wearing a protective body suit, but this one has them set ablaze while wearing regular clothes and with flames not only shooting out from their clothing, but their hair as well, which looked dangerous to film. It also graphically captures the charred burned skin of the victims.

The eclectic cast of old Hollywood veterans is fun for the most part with Ava Gardner hamming it up as an alcoholic newswoman trying to cover the disaster. It’s also nice seeing Shelley Winters playing a ‘normal’ person for once instead of a kooky, eccentric and she does it so well that she ends up not standing out at all, which never happens in any of her other movies.

Watching Susan Clark play a wealthy socialite who suddenly becomes a Florence Nightingale incarnate after the victims start piling up is too much of a dramatic arch and the film should’ve just had her as a regular nurse from the start. The part though where she helps with a delivery at least has the baby coming out of the womb with an umbilical cord as too many other movie births never show this.

Outside of the effects there’s little else to recommend. The scenes dealing with the culprit, played by Welsh, are dumb. For one thing he doesn’t seem unhinged enough to do what he does and in fact comes off as quite bland and even tries helping the victims later on. Also, when an employee gets fired they are usually escorted out of the building by security especially in a refinery and not allowed to just run around the facility freely and unmonitored like here.

It would’ve worked better had the number of characters been cut down to just a few and the story focused solely on their efforts to survive instead of coming off more like a news report trying to capture the chaos as a whole.  The idea of mixing pyrotechnic special effects with a lame storyline and hallow characters doesn’t work and becomes just a poor excuse for a movie.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: August 29, 1979

Runtime: 1 Hour 46 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Alvin Rakoff

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Religious lady goes crazy.

Adelle (Debbie Reynolds) and Helen (Shelley Winters) are two mothers whose sons commit a gruesome murder. Once the two men are convicted the women decide to move across the country, change their names and open up a dance studio. Adelle meets a handsome bachelor (Dennis Weaver) who is full of money, but Helen’s fortunes don’t improve. Instead she wallows in depression while receiving threatening phone calls, which gets her paranoid that someone is out to get them. She tries to seek solace through her religion, but eventually the stress becomes too much and her psychic begins to crack.

The screenplay was written by Henry Farrell famous for penning the novel What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, which later became a big screen success. Unlike that one this was written directly for the screen and misses the textured richness of a backstory specifically how the two women first met or how their friendship blossomed.

On the visual level it starts out well and I enjoyed the use of old news reel footage to help introduce the story, but after that it goes into a lull with long, talky takes that fail to generate much excitement. The recreation of the 1930’s setting looks cheap and stagy and the film lacks a cinematic flair to help compliment it’s campy storyline. Originally director Curtis Harrington had implemented visual effects to be used in the transitions between the scenes, which would’ve helped immensely, but the producer hated them and forced them to be taken out.

On the acting end I felt Reynolds was rather boring and stuck playing a character that isn’t very interesting, which made me surprised that she put up $800,000 of her own money just to get it produced. The showy role is clearly Helen’s and Winters plays the part quite well and becomes the film’s main attraction. Usually she would take-on flamboyant-type characters, but this one required her to be more subdued and repressed and she is able to do it magnificently, which only proves what a gifted and versatile performer she was.

There are a few edgy but brief bits including the shot of a dead body that has been run over by a farm plow, which has some pretty good bloody effects. However, the shot showing a close-up of the women’s body who was the victim of the two sons isn’t effective because it supposedly gets posted in a newspaper as a lead in to the article about the crime, but no mainstream publication either then or now would print such a gruesome picture of a victim.

There were also several provocative scenes that got excised in an effort to the attain the GP rating, which included a shot of Winters kissing Reynolds on the lips as well as a murder scene that was originally intended to be much more drawn out than what it ends up being. The film’s final shot though is still well done and probably the only thing that makes sitting through this worth it.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: June 30, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated GP

Director: Curtis Harrington

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD

Wild in the Streets (1968)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rock star becomes President.

I was going to post this review the day after the election, but decided given the results that I might postpone it a few days as I didn’t want some readers who might feel a bit on edge with the outcome getting any more nervous. The film’s subject matter consists of what at the time was considered simply wild satire, but now in these crazy political times may actually hit frighteningly close to home.

The story centers around Max Frost (Christopher Jones) a rock star who has become a major teen idol to the nation’s young people. Senator Johnny Fergus (Hal Holbrook) is running for office and wants to campaign to lower the voting age to 18 in an attempt to garner support from young Americans, which in turn he hopes will get him into the Presidency. He asks for the assistance of Max to help him in his pursuit. Max agrees, but then promotes the idea to his fan base of lowering the voting age not to 18, but to 14. Fergus is ill-prepared for the onslaught of enthusiasm this idea has with the teens. He reluctantly agrees to compromise and pass a bill that allows this, but to his shock it gets Max elected President and not him. With Max in office things spiral recklessly out-of-control. Hippies take over the senate and pass extreme laws that send anyone over 30 into concentration camps where they are forced fed LSD.

The script by Robert Thom is unabashedly cynical, which is what I liked most about it. It takes no sides. The younger generation is exposed with just as much foibles as the older one. The film never compromises on its dark tone and the bleak scenarios get pushed to the ultimate extreme, but horrifyingly never fall all that far from the truth.

The film’s acerbic humor is refreshingly on-target. Director Barry Shear camouflages the low budget with a quick pace that emphasizes the frailties and reactions of its characters. Holbrook is superb as the idealist who gets a harsh dose of ugly reality that sends him more and more on edge. Shelley Winters is hilarious as Max’s narcissist mother who uses her son’s rise to fame as an opening for her own entrance into the spotlight. She appears sporadically throughout, but manages to own every scene that she is in when she does.

Jones is excellent in the lead and I considered him very much like James Dean both in is looks and acting method. He’s perfect for the role except in close-ups he looks middle-aged as he was already 30, which hurts the theme since anyone over 25 was considered the enemy. Diane Varsi is quite sexy as a flower child and I loved the scene of her first day in congress where she and her radical young followers send the elders in the room into a shocked free-for-all. The film also gives you a glimpse of famous child TV stars in early roles including Barry Williams, famous from playing Greg in ‘The Brady Bunch’ and Kellie Flanagan who went on the play Candice in ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’.

While I was impressed with the bird’s-eye-view of the mob scenes and how many people they were able to get to be a part of the teen protesters I still felt that there should’ve been violence and raw emotion in these sequences in order to have been more effective. The ending makes its point and then gets very heavy-handed and goes on too long repeating the same statement that the audience already got the first time, but overall I really liked this film and felt that now more than ever it’s quite timely.

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My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: May 29, 1968

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: Barry Shear

Studio: American Pictures International

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Visitor (1979)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Her daughter is evil.

Dark forces from another dimension conspire to use an 8-year-old girl named Katy (Paige Conner) as their centerpiece in creating an evil empire on earth. Dr. Walker (Mel Ferrer), while working under the cover of being a noted surgeon, heads the secret organization. He instructs local millionaire Raymond Armstead (Lance Henriksen) who made a pact with the group years earlier in order to receive his fortune, that he must impregnate his girlfriend Barbara (Joanne Nail) again, so that she can give birth to an evil son to complement their already wicked daughter Katy and allow the two to eventually reproduce a new offspring. Barbara though, who does not know of Raymond’s secret pact and feels leery of her child already, is unwilling to have another one, which forces him to use unethical ways to get her to change her mind.

This Italian production, which was filmed in Atlanta, Georgia, has gotten a bad rap from the critics and there have been several different cuts issued with some making more sense than others. For the most part it’s a mixed bag with lots of story loopholes and an ill-advised music score that seems better suited for an NFL highlight reel. The movie also defies any genre and jumps between several, but ultimate fails at all of them.

However, if taken as a cheesy over-the-top production then it’s not half-bad. The camera work, editing, special effects and sets are to a degree impressive. The scene where Glenn Ford’s character is driving down a busy highway only to have his eyes pecked out by an evil hawk, which creates a major road accident that culminates with the car tumbling onto a softball field is quite exciting. Katy’s cat-and-mouse foot chase with the John Huston character through the Atlanta streets and some abandoned buildings is also well done as is her ice skating foray in which she single-handedly takes out a group of much older and bigger boys by sending them flying through the windows of some nearby shops and restaurants.

Conner’s bad girl performance with her angelic face making a perfect contrast to her otherwise dark personality is great. Nail as her mother is equally beautiful and creates enough sympathy from the viewer to make the torment that she goes through unsettling to watch. Shelley Winters, in a rare turn playing a normal, likable character, is also excellent as the family’s housekeeper

The male cast though is wasted including Franco Nero who appears briefly only at the beginning and very end. John Huston and Glenn Ford were too old for their respective parts and casting younger actors in their roles would’ve made more sense, but seeing director Sam Peckinpah in a brief acting bit is fun.

The ending can’t quite equal the audaciousness of the rest of it, but there is enough weird, wacky, one-of-a-kind shit here to keep anyone especially those with an affinity for the bizarre entertained and amused.

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My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: March 22, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 48Minutes

Rated R

Director: Giulio Paradisi

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Poor Pretty Eddie (1975)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Wrong turn to hickville.

Liz Weatherly (Leslie Uggams) was simply looking for a break from her hectic touring schedule and a chance to take some nature photos when her car breaks down on a lonely southern dirt road near an isolated lodge run by an aging, overweight lush (Shelley Winters) and her much younger boyfriend Eddie (Michael Christian). Eddie recognizes Liz as being a famous singer and since he has dreams of that nature as well tries to convince her to help him get his foot-in-the-door, but his talents do not match his ambitions and he fails to impress her. He then delays the repairing of her car hoping to wear her down and work things into a sexual relationship. When she resists this he rapes her and traps her at the remote hotel with no vehicle for escape. When she goes to the police the backwoods sheriff (Slim Pickens) humiliates her further, which crumbles her inner strength and makes her feel like a droid to the perversion around her that ultimately has her forced into a shotgun wedding.

This turgid drama is full of provocative southern gothic elements and wallows in areas that others fear to tread. The creative camerawork and backdrop sounds are impressive especially for a low budget film and the slow motion violence adds an evocative touch that stays with you long after it’s over. The character’s sexual repression gets relayed in an equally interesting way by showing scenes of them sucking and slurping their food like it’s a sexual substitute.

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Prolific character actor Pickens gets one of his best roles as the slimy hick sheriff in a part he seems almost born to play and Dub Taylor is spot-on as a self-imposed backwoods judge who creates a makeshift trial in the middle of his ragtag bar while also amusingly comparing Yankees to hemorrhoids. Ted Cassidy is good as well and makes a strong impression despite having limited lines.

I was not as impressed with the female performances as star Uggams comes off as too cold and one-dimensionally rigid without showing any type of preliminary vulnerability. Winters is competent as always, but playing a lonely, aging, pathetic woman begging for love is too similar to the character that she played in Lolita and making it seem more like typecasting.

The climactic bloody shootout is fun, but ends up being more of a spectacle than anything.  B.W. Sandefur’s script lacks any type of twist, introduces psychological elements that it fails to follow through on and wades in tired southern stereotypes making this a warped piece of ‘70s cinema that falls just short of being a cult classic.

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My Rating: 6 out of 10

Alternate Titles: Redneck County, Heartbreak Hotel, Black Vengeance

Released: June 16, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 22Minutes

Rated R

Director: Richard Robinson, David Worth

Studio: WestAmerican Films

Available: DVD

The Mad Room (1969)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Children murder their parents.

In 1957 George (Michael Burns) and Mandy (Barbara Sammeth), a brother and sister ages 6 and 4, murder their own parents in cold blood. No one knows for sure which one of them did it except that their older sister Ellen (Stella Stevens) witnessed them standing over their dead bodies in blood soaked clothes. It was her testimony that got them locked away into a mental institution, but now 12 years later they are set free into Ellen’s care. Ellen is now living with and working for wealthy widow Mrs. Armstrong (Shelley Winters) who agrees to allow the children to move in to her sprawling mansion, but then the murders begin to reoccur, but this time Ellen decides to cover up for them in order to avoid the humiliation and publicity.

This film, which is a remake of 1941’s Ladies in Retirement starring Ida Lupino, starts out with a bang by using some interesting visuals during the opening credit sequence. We are also shown flowers finger painted by the children using the dead parent’s blood on the walls of the victim’s bedroom, which I felt sent this thing to unprecedented darker depths especially for its time period. Unfortunately the film cannot sustain its initial momentum and devolves into a talky script that lacks much action or scares. Director Bernard Girard’s stylish direction keeps it watchable, but the film fails to achieve its full potential. Dave Grusin’s excellent music score manages to keep the tension going even when the script can’t.

Stevens looks gorgeous, but unfortunately her acting is sterile. Her wide blue eyes seem to reflect her empty performance and her presence weakens the film. The younger performers who play her brother and sister upstage her particularly Sammeth in her film debut.

I have always loved Winters as a character actress, but her goofy character hurts the dark undertones at least at the beginning. She does improve as it goes along and I enjoyed the way she reacts when Ellen tells her about her sibling’s dark secret and I was disappointed she didn’t remain through the film’s entire duration. Beverly Garland is a scene stealer as an embittered alcoholic wife who makes a big stink at a party and then a little later commits a shocking act.

If there is one thing that really ruins the movie it is the lame, limp ending, which has to be one of the most uneventful finales I have ever seen especially for a thriller. When the credits started to roll I literally did a double-take and asked myself. That’s it?? We just sat through 95 minutes of buildup just for that?? This was also another film where I figured out its twist ending long before it happened and when the ‘surprise’ revelation does come about it is unexciting and even anticlimactic.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: May 1, 1969

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated M

Director: Bernard Girard

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video