Tag Archives: Steve Railsback

Trick or Treats (1982)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 0 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kid terrorizes his babysitter.

Linda (Jacqueline Giroux) gets a job as a babysitter to a bratty kid named Christopher (Chris Graver) who spends the entire night scaring her out of her wits with a relentless barrage of practical jokes. Unfortunately there is an even more sinister threat out there in the form of Chris’s long lost father Malcolm (Peter Jason) who has escaped from a nearby mental institution, where he was wrongly committed by Chris’s evil mother Joan (Carrie Snodgress) so she could be with her new boyfriend Richard (David Carradine). Malcolm has spent 15 years with a pent up rage and plans on taking it out on anyone that he finds inside the home.

First we’ll get to the two parts about this mess of a film that I liked. The scene where Malcolm gets accosted by two men from the mental hospital isn’t bad. The idea that two muscle bound hunks would drive over from the nearby sanitarium and strap on a strait-jacket with no questions asked to someone that the wife conveniently wants to get out of her life is ridiculous of course, but I liked the way the Malcolm character fights back and puts up quite a feisty effort to escape from them, which is interesting because so many horror movies never show the victim putting up much of a struggle. I also enjoyed the brief bits with Steve Railsback as an insecure actor getting ready to play Othello. Railsback hasn’t been known for his comic skills, but he proves quite amusing here.

The rest of the movie is as bad as any movie ever made and easily ranks in the top three of worst moves I have had the displeasure of seeing in my lifetime. Not only is there no horror, but the attempts at employing some misguided humor is even worse. The scenes inside the mental hospital are particularly lame and the kid, who was the son of the director, gets really annoying. The babysitter proves to be no better as she stupidly falls for his dumb practical jokes too many times until you start rooting for the killer to off her along with the stupid kid.

The film was written and directed by Gary Graver who had worked closely with Orson Welles as his cameraman during many of his later projects. Here though he proves to have no talent at all and this would be considered a complete embarrassment to even a novice filmmaker, which is probably why he ended up directing only porno movies after this. The most horrifying thing about it is having to sit through it and it in no way deserves the Blu-ray release that it got especially when there is so many better movies out there that have yet to get one.

My Rating: 0 out of 10

Released: October 29, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: Gary Graver

Studio: Lone Star Pictures International

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

The Visitors (1972)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: His past comes back.

Vietnam veteran Bill (James Woods) has moved back into civilian life while enjoying the quietness of the country with his girlfriend Martha (Patricia Joyce) and her infant son. One day in the dead of winter while Bill is away shopping two of his former war buddies Tony and Mike (Chico Martinez, Steve Railsback) come by for an unexpected visit. When Bill returns he is not happy to see them and when Martha asks him why he tells her of how while in Vietnam he had witnessed the two raping a woman and later he decided to report it, which got the two men sent to prison. Now that they are out he is afraid they may be looking for revenge. Tony insists that he’s forgiven Bill for what he did, but Mike’s intentions are much more ominous especially with the way he eyes Martha. As the night wears on the tensions mount until festering over into anger and mayhem.

The story is loosely based on an actual crime that occurred in Vietnam on November 19, 1966 when five American soldiers kidnapped and gang raped a 21-year-old Vietnamese woman who they later killed. One of the soldiers, who did not take part in the crime, but did witness it, reported the incident to his superiors, which eventually got the other men convicted and imprisoned.

The incident was first made into a movie in 1970 in Michael Verhoeven’s o.k. and then 19 years later Brian De Palma did another version of it called Casualties of War, which starred Michael J. Fox. This version differs from the other two in that it only alludes to the crime, but never shows it. Instead it hypothesis on what might’ve happened had those who were convicted came back to revisit the one that had turned them in.

Story wise the film works to a degree as it reveals things in layers, which helps hold the mystery and filming the majority of it inside one lonely, isolated house gives it an effectively claustrophobic feeling, but the production values are extremely low and resembles more someone’s lost home movie than a feature film directed by a one-time Hollywood legend. The background sound is mainly made up of a howling wind noise, which helps heighten the creepiness, but then during the second half director Elia Kazan inserts music, which becomes a distraction.

The ending leaves open a wide array of unanswered questions along with a lot of murky character motivations that makes the whole thing seem pointless and ill-conceived. The only interesting element to get out of it is seeing Woods and Railsback in their respective film debuts. Railsback is especially good in a part he seems born to play and one he honed to even greater success years later in The Stunt Man.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: February 2, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated R

Director: Elia Kazan

Studio: United Artists

Available: Amazon Instant Video

The Stunt Man (1980)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Convict becomes a stuntman.

Cameron (Steve Railsback) is on the run from the cops who unknowingly comes onto a movie set and inadvertently causes the death of one of the stuntmen. Eli Cross (Peter O’Toole) the film’s God-like director takes a liking to Cameron and decides to hire him on as the replacement stuntman. Cameron is initially reluctant as he has no experience, but decides it would make a good cover from the police who are still after him. He starts an affair with the film’s leading lady Nina (Barbara Hershey), but finds that it may be Cross that he should be the most afraid of and who may be planning to film Cameron’s death during a difficult underwater stunt in order to add realism.

This is another one of those film-within-a-film type movies with this one faring a bit better than the others. One of the best ingredients it has is showing the behind-the-scenes politics that go on during any film production as well as hitting-the-nail-on-the-head with its caricatures.

Railsback is fun in a rare leading role. The way he can get intense as well as convey the rugged, ragged personality of a war-weary veteran on the run and just trying to survive is completely on-target. His best moments are simply his frightened and confused facial expressions that he has while going through many of Eli’s elaborate stunt routines and not sure if he will be coming out of it alive or not.

O’Toole is in peak form and was nominated for the Academy Award playing an egotistical director, which he modeled after David Lean. Having a director make a film advocating the horrors of war and violence, but then beat-up or threaten numerous crew members any time they make a mistake is perfect irony. My favorite moment of his is when they are showing rushes of Nina’s scenes from that day to her parents and then to their shock he throws in a few scenes showing Nina naked and in bed with another man. Then the next day he informs Nina about it simply to upset her and get the needed reaction that he wanted for the scene.

Hershey is splendid as a Hollywood actress who at times is quite jaded while at other moments is very naïve, child-like and emotionally fragile. Allen Garfield as the film’s exasperated and beleaguered screenwriter is also quite good. I also liked Chuck Bail who essentially plays himself as a stunt coordinator who tries to teach Cameron the fundamentals of the business.

Dominic Frontiere’s booming orchestral score is quite distinctive and at times even stirring particularly during the chase sequence. There is an abundance of ironies and twists that keep things interesting throughout and at points a bit surreal, but it’s missing that one final delicious twist or payoff and has an ending that seems a bit like a copout.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: June 27, 1980

Runtime: 2Hours 11Minutes

Rated R

Director: Richard Rush

Studio: 20th Century Fox

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

Lifeforce (1985)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Space vampires destroy London.

Col. Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback) is the head of the space shuttle Churchill who along with a team of astronauts investigate a strange form that is attached to Halley’s Comet. There they find some humanoids in caskets and bring them back to the shuttle where the humanoids then destroy the entire crew with only Carlsen surviving. When a rescue mission arrives they bring the humanoids back to earth only to discover that the beautiful Space Girl (Mathilda May) is a vampire bent on destroying the entire city of London by inhabiting other people’s bodies. Carlsen then joins forces with Col. Colin Caine (Peter Firth) to stop this dangerous breed of vampires before it is too late.

The saying ‘too much of a good thing’ has never been truer than with this film. The screenplay, which was co-written by Dan O’Bannon and based on the Colin Wilson novel, takes on too much. Had this been a miniseries or an ongoing television ssow like ‘Lost’ it might have worked, but the dizzying pace and myriad of twists here become mind numbing. The elaborate story does not equal the characters that are generic and dialogue that is dull. The scenes in-between the action are boring. The film lacks atmosphere or a linear production design. A little bit of a set-up would have helped as well.

The special effects are okay, but some of the backgrounds particularly the ones seen when the team investigates where the vampires reside look like drawings with the actors matted over it. The sight of the dead, shriveled bodies are not scary because they reminded me too much of the host of the old TV-series ‘Tales from the Crypt’.

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May certainly looks great naked and I admired her courage to do a nude scene while in a room full of clothed men. However, we don’t see enough of her. There are long segments where she is not seen as she inhabits other people’s bodies, which takes away from the film’s erotic potential. The side-story involving her romance with Carlsen is cheesy and dumb.

Railsback proves once again why he is good in a psycho role, but not as a protagonist. The dark circles under his eyes and his intense Texas drawl make him seem creepy even when he doesn’t want to be. I also thought it was a strange coincidence that the date this story begins is August 9th, which is the same date that Sharon Tate and her friends were murdered by Charles Manon’s cult who Railsback famously played in the TV-Movie ‘Helter Skelter’.

Firth proves okay and I liked this jaded, hardened police detective played by someone with a very boyish face. It is also great to see Patrick Stewart in a small role as the head of a sanitarium.

The film gets more ludicrous as it goes on and is unwisely played with a straight-face where adding some humor would have made it more engaging and tolerable. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame should remake this and I’m convinced would do it a lot better.

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My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: June 21, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 56Minutes

Rated R

Director: Tobe Hooper

Studio: TriStar Pictures, The Cannon Group

Available: DVD, Blu-ray