Tag Archives: Telly Savalas

Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Coach kills pretty students.

Ponce (John David Carson) is an awkward teen in his senior year of high school that still hasn’t been out on a date. He suffers from having erections at the most inopportune times and too shy to ask out one of the many beautiful female students that populate his school. He also finds himself dealing with a series of murders of pretty coeds who turn up dead with funny little notes attached to them and he starts to suspect that the killer may be the school’s beloved football coach (Rock Hudson).

The film, which is based on a novel by Francis Pollini with a screenplay written by Gene Roddenberry starts out well with sharp, satirical dialogue and funny situations dealing with the police investigation, but then deteriorates into smarmy sex jokes and becomes nothing more than a teasing T&A flick. The script makes it obvious early on that the coach is the killer and had it not revealed this so quickly it could’ve made the film more of a mystery and given the ending an impactful twist.

My main beef though is that it takes place in a high school instead of a college even though all the students look to be well into their 20’s. The fact that the coach has sex with the female students makes the thing seem off-kilter as does Angie Dickinson who plays a teacher who brings Ponce into her home to help him with his erection problem. If the setting was a college with the student characters over 18 than all this tawdriness would at least be legal and less outrageous.

The female students come off as being too free-spirited and reflect the counter-culture movement that occurred mainly on the college campuses of that era and not the high schools. They also all look too much like models. A realistic portrait of a high school class will have a variety of body types not just those of women ready to become cover-girls. I enjoy beautiful women as much as anybody, but the film should’ve had at least one average or overweight female in the cast simply to give it balance and avoid it from seeming too much like a tacky male fantasy, which is all this thing ends up being anyways.

Hudson, with his monotone delivery, is a weak actor and gave only one good performance in his career, which was in the film Giant. Yet here his discombobulated acting skills successfully reflect his character’s confused personality. Carson is a bland protagonist and his presence doesn’t have much to do with how the plot progresses. His character is put in solely for a dull side-story dealing with his attempts to get-it-on with his teacher in her home, which amounts to being just a dumb comic variation of Tea and Sympathy that is neither funny nor sexy.

The supporting cast is far better. Telly Savalas owns the screen as a relentless investigator. Keenan Wynn is hilarious as a dim-witted policeman in one of the funniest roles of his prolific career and he’s the best thing in the movie.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 26, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated R

Director: Roger Vadim

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD, YouTube

The New Interns (1964)

the new interns

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: More interns more drama.

It’s another year and time for a new set of young interns to infiltrate the New North Hospital.  Lew (Dean Jones) and Gloria (Stefanie Powers) who became engaged at the end of the first film are now married, but Lew is diagnosed as being sterile and the couple cannot have children, which causes a strain on their marriage.  The caustic Tony (George Segal) who used to be a gang member on the streets and has worked his way up to being an intern looks to leave his troubled past far behind only to have his new girlfriend Nancy (Inger Stevens) attacked and raped by his former gang member friends, which sends him on a one man mission for revenge.

Although the film goes on a bit too long and isn’t quite as compelling as the first one I still felt it was an improvement.  The stories and themes are grittier and don’t have the fluffy or formulaic romance angle. The fact that the interns are housed in a rundown condemned building in order to save on costs allows for some amusing moments as the tenants must make due with all sorts of quirks that come with the old building. There is also a rather startling scene showing an actual baby coming out of the womb who is not crying or breathing  and the doctors attempts to revive it, which is both disconcerting and vivid.

The only story thread that doesn’t work is the rape one. The biggest issue here being that Nancy flirts and even jokes with Tony while she is in the hospital and only a few hours after being attacked, which seemed highly unrealistic as is her acting like the whole incident was ‘no big deal’ and they should just move on from it and not bother to catch the perpetrators. Then a couple of days later she attends a party and something there subtly reminds her of the incident, which sends her into an irreversible catatonic state, which seemed too extreme in the other way. However, Tony’s confrontation with the rapist inside the hospital and his later operation on him to save is life is good.

Segal is impressive. He played so many touch feely lead roles during the 70’s that he acquired almost a benign persona, but here his character is quite brash and acerbic and his confrontations with the equally acerbic Dr. Riccio (Telly Savalas) are fun. Stevens is also quite good as his love interest and it is a shame that she ended up killing herself in 1970 just as it seemed that her film career was ready to take off.

As with the first film one can spot a lot of up-and-coming stars including Barbara Eden, Dawn Wells, George Furth, Marianna Hill, and Adam Williams. One can also spot Bob Crane very briefly during a wild party segment. There is also Sue Ann Langdon as a drug addicted prostitute who speaks in a hip lingo and fakes paralysis simply to get some drugs that will satisfy her fix. This also a unique chance to see Jimmy Mathers the younger brother of Jerry famous for starring in ‘Leave it to Beaver’ and who looks just like him.

A few actors reprise their roles from the first one including Savalas who appears here completely bald even though in the first one he had hair. Powers is effective as the opinionated and stubborn Gloria a woman unhappy that she can’t have a baby and unwilling to accept adoption as the answer. Kaye Stevens reprises her Didi character and takes part in a funny vaudeville act. There is also Michael Callan reappearing as Alec who in the first film ended up having a nervous breakdown, but no mention of that here. The part where he dresses up as a woman to get into the girl’s dorm and his ‘conversation’ with his therapist offer some added levity.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: June 1, 1964

Runtime: 2Hours 3Minutes

Not Rated

Director: John Rich

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Not available at this time.

The Interns (1962)

the interns

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Training to become doctors.

Based on the Richard Frede novel the film looks at a group of medical students going through a rigorous first year internship at the New North Hospital. All aspects of an intern’s experience are analyzed from their various moral quandaries to dealing with deaths of patients that they’ve become attached to and even sexism. We also get a glimpse of their private lives from their relationships and stresses to even their partying.

Although the film is entertaining and well-paced it is a bit too much like a soap opera. This comes to a particular head during the relationship sequences.  The characters seem to fall in love at first glance and the word ‘love’ gets expressed excessively until it becomes as irritating to hear as nails on a chalkboard.  It also has a mentality that every character ‘must’ magically find their life mate even if it seems particularly forced like with John (Cliff Robertson) who relentlessly chases after fashion model Lisa (Suzy Parker) even though she continually gives him the cold shoulder and the two can’t agree on anything including her need for an abortion from a unwanted pregnancy she had with another man. Alec’s (Michael Callan) is the only thread in this area that works as he proceeds to try to juggle two at the same time and the way he avoids a confrontation with the two while at a party is amusing.

There are some good scenes and even memorable moments. The best is when Lew (James MacArthur) finds an interest in obstetrics and delivers his first baby. The acrimonious relationship between Dr. Riccio (wonderfully played as usual by Telly Savalas who has hair here and isn’t completely bald as he usually is) and Dr. Bruckner (Haya Harareet) who he looks down upon simply because she is a woman, but eventually learns to respect is great. I also liked the party sequence the one moment in the film that gets lighthearted especially when 37 people try to cram themselves into a small closet in order to beat the world record.

The cast is interesting and eclectic. One can spot either an older veteran actor, up-and-coming star, or famous character actor in literally every shot. Robertson who sometimes comes off as stiff gives a strong all-around performance, which may be his best. MacArthur who would later costar in the long running series ‘Hawaii Five-O’ is also really good. Buddy Ebsen does well as a wise-cracking chief surgeon and it is great seeing the very young and beautiful Stefanie Powers as a nurse. John Banner who would later become famous for playing the incompetent prison guard Shultz on the long-running sitcom ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ can also be seen, but he is not given a single line of dialogue.

The film is glossy, but still compelling and if anything gives the viewer a good taste of what life of a medical intern is like. In 1965 the film was followed by a sequel The New Interns, which will be reviewed next Sunday.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: August 8, 1962

Runtime: 2Hours

Not Rated

Director: David Swift

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD

The House of Exorcism (1976)

house of exorcism

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Possessed by the devil.

When Mario Bava’s Lisa and the Devil, which was reviewed yesterday, failed to generate any business at the box office the film was reedited using footage cut from the first film as well as adding some new scenes. In this version Lisa (Elke Sommer) is a tourist in Spain who becomes possessed by the devil right out in broad daylight on the cobbled streets and in front of her fellow tourists. She is taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital and accompanied by Father Michael (Robert Alda). The doctors are unable to explain her condition medically and as she gets worse and more violent it is up to the Father to excise the demon.

This version is an improvement over the Bava one in fact Bava’s name doesn’t appear anywhere on the credits and instead the film’s producer Alfredo Leone is listed as the director under the pseudonym Mickey Lion. Obviously it’s a huge rip-off of The Exorcist and in some ways gets unintentionally funny particularly when the Priest has a conversation with the demon during the exorcism. However, it is still fun and more flamboyant than the original and at least has a coherent plot that helps propel the movie along. The only problem is that the exorcism scenes are intercut with scenes from the original film showing Lisa visiting the mansion and meeting up with the strange characters. Supposedly this is the alternative reality that she is in while the demon possesses her body, but it adds little and bogs down the pace.

Sommer comes off much better here than she did in the first one. The way she contorts her face during the possession sequence is entertaining and she does well under the difficult demands. Telly Savalas as the devil disguised as a butler is still wasted. He doesn’t even seem to be taking the part seriously and seems to give it a tongue-and-cheek approach, which doesn’t work.

Alda’s presence is rather bland, but Carmen Silva who plays Anna his wife before he entered into the priesthood is a stunner. She appears nude in a rather gratuitous flashback segment that should more than appease any self-respecting voyeur.

The ending has a little more pizazz than the original as well where the Father goes into an empty mansion and tries to fight off the demon while having snakes thrown right at him. It’s not the best, but not the worse either.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: July 9, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Directors: Mario Bava, Alfredo Leone

Studio: Peppercorn-Wormser Film Enterprises

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix streaming

Lisa and the Devil (1973)

lisa and the devil

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Where is the plot?

Lisa (Elke Sommer) is a tourist in Spain who gets lost and finds shelter inside a large mansion run by a butler Leandro (Telly Savalas) and a Countess (Alida Valli). Soon Lisa begins to experience strange occurrences and visions. People turn up dead and then alive again. When she tries to escape she finds that she can’t and is now stuck in a surreal world with no exit.

I am use to watching Italian horror films being strong on the visual end and weak with the plot, logic and character development especially when they attached to either Mario Bava or Dario Argento, but this one goes to the extreme. Nothing makes sense and scenes are thrown in haphazardly and go nowhere. The basic premise is too general and unfocused and the entire production seems to be an exercise in interesting camera work and nothing more. Yes there are a few atmospheric moments, but it all adds up to very little.

Had the special effects been gory or impressive I might have forgiven it, but for Bava standards they are lacking as well. For one thing there is very little gore to begin with and what we do see looks amateurish. The scene where a man gets run over by a car clearly looks like a mannequin and as the driver backs up and runs him over several more times it becomes even more obvious.

Sommer makes for a weak heroine. Her character is as vague and mysterious as all the others, so the viewer never gains any empathy or concern for her fate. Her short shoulder length haircut makes her look middle-aged and dowdy. Also, Sylvia Koscina her costar has facial features that are too similar to Elke’s and for a while I thought she was Elke with a brunette wig. Her best moment is actually her nude scene of which she looks great although I noticed her eye lids constantly fluttering when her character was supposedly asleep.

Normally I love Telly Savalas and he can be effectively menacing, but here he is sorely underused. The character pops in and out sporadically, but really doesn’t do much. I did like that he is constantly sucking on lollipops, which later became his trademark during his run on the ‘Kojak’ TV-series.

I was hoping for some grand over-the-top finale to make up for having to sit through all this, but it never came. The climax, which takes place inside a jet airliner no less, is as underwhelming as everything else. Not surprisingly this film was edited into a completely different story and reissued as The House of Exorcism, which will be reviewed tomorrow.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 9, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: Mario Bava

Studio: Leone International

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix streaming