Tag Archives: Timothy Bottoms

Hambone and Hillie (1983)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Dog reunites with owner.

Hillie (Lillian Gish) is a 90-year-old grandmother returning to Los Angeles from her stay in New York. In order to board the plane she must put her dog Hambone in a cage, so that he can be transported separately. Unfortunately a young girl opens the cage and allows Hambone to escape, but only after the plane carrying his owner has already taken off. Hambone then goes on a cross-country trek to reunite with Hillie and has many adventures in-between.

Most dogs that are abandoned from their owners become strays and live on the streets, in rescue shelters or are taken in by a new owner, but they are definitely not homing pigeons that can somehow smell their owners scent from thousands of miles away. They also can’t read maps or road signs or even tell direction making this film’s premise totally ridiculous. Also, dogs, like with most animals, have very short attention spans, so the idea that this mutt is harboring a long-term ‘strategy’ even as he meets other people is absurd. Yes dog/owner reunions do sometimes occur but they almost always require another person getting involved in order to bring the pet back.

The film also cheats things by having the dog in Philadelphia during one scene and then in the next shot he is in Chicago, but without showing how he did it. His ability to survive on his own is also highly questionable. Since he is a domesticated pet he’d have no hunting or foraging skills especially when he goes through the forest and desert. We sometimes see strangers giving the dog water during his trek, but never showing him eating anything. After he crosses the desert you’d expect him to be at a near starving state with his ribs showing, but they aren’t. What’s even crazier is that after walking through the desert he then spots Hillie in a car driving away and he runs after the vehicle at full speed even though after what he’s been through he should barely be able to walk at all.

The acting is pretty bad too with O.J. Simpson and Candy Clark, whose birthing contractions become almost comical, giving the two worst performances. I also chuckled at how Timothy Bottoms gets listed in the opening credits as having a ‘special appearance’ even though there’s absolutely nothing special about it unless you count the moment where he refers to Gish, a woman who was 90 at the time and 60 years older than him, as a ‘young lady’.

The two children (Marc Bentley, Nicole Eggert) who take in the dog for a while are so squeaky clean that they become Stepford-like. The fact that their mother (Nancy Morgan) had brown hair, but they were blonde didn’t make sense either. Granted the father is never shown and maybe he did have blonde hair, but darker hair is the stronger gene, so unless they were adopted that’s what they should’ve had.

The only interesting bit is when a handicapped girl (Sidney Greenbush) puts a cross around the neck of a dog that was traveling with Hambone and tells this dog that the cross will help protect her, but then later this same dog gets hit by a car and dies, which was odd since the movie seemed pro-Christian and even has a scene where the girl’s grandfather (Alan Hale Jr.) reads from the Bible, so you’d think they’d show the dog that wore the cross not getting hurt, or miraculously escaping a close-call, but it doesn’t. What’s even more revealing is that when the dog gets buried the cross is then hung on the grave marker and the camera does a close-up on it that seems to be pushing a subtle pro-secular message by reminding the viewer that wearing the cross did nothing to help save the dog’s life.

Another odd element is that the dog shown on the movie’s promotional poster is not the same one that was used in the film. This might be because, and I’m only guessing here, that the dog in the movie had a freaky looking pair of eyes– not sure the breed– that made him look almost possessed and the film studio worried that his appearance might scare the children away from seeing the movie.

In either case this schmaltzy family film is a dud and even dog lovers will find it hard to take as only they or the most indiscriminating children could possibly enjoy it. Others should beware.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: April 24, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Roy Watts

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: VHS

The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder (1974)

crazy world 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Pretending to be crazy.

Vrooder (Timothy Bottoms) is a Vietnam Veteran who has returned from the war and is unable to cope with the stresses of everyday life, which eventually gets him checked into the psychiatric ward of a local VA Hospital. There he falls in love with Zanni (Barbara Hershey, but billed as Barbara Seagull) who works as a nurse there, but he is unhappy to find that she is already engaged to Dr. Passki (Lawrence Pressman). To escape his frustrations he hides out in an underground bunker that he has created near a local highway. The place comes complete with electricity and telephone service as well as an array of booby traps to tip him off if anyone comes near, but the heads of the local power and telephone companies’ start trying to track him down in an effort to stop his pilfering of their services, which could ultimately lead to an end to his days of freedom.

The film is cute, but a little too cute and was produced, believe it or not, by Hugh Hefner. It likens itself to being an offbeat comedy, but there really isn’t that much that is original about it and it comes off more like a tired anti-establishment flick with the proverbial authority figures portrayed in stale, one-dimensional ways. One could actually consider this as a weak cousin to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Vrooder being McMurphy, Passki being a toned-down male version of Nurse Ratched and the suicidal Alessini (Michael Cristofer) being like Billy Bibbit.

The only slightly diverting thing about this film, that otherwise suffers from having a limited budget and looks like it was shot initially on video and then later transferred onto film, are the scenes involving the heads of the power and telephone companies (Jack Murdock, Lou Frizzell) working together to track down the culprit who’s stealing their service. The climactic scene in which Jack Colvin plays an over-the-top Dirty Harry type cop obsessed with getting Vrooder and sending an entire armed police force into the forest to find him is amusing as is the mugshots shown of past felons who had stolen electrical and phone service, which were all made up of headshots from the film’s behind-the-scenes crew.

Bottoms is rather transparent, but Hershey, with her effervescent smile and naturally carefree persona, is far better as her simple presence naturally exudes the film’s hippie-like theme. This was the second of four films in which she was billed with the last name of Seagull and this was done as a personal tribute to seagull that she had accidentally killed while filming a scene in the movie Last Summer.

Albert Salmi, in a rare appearance without his mustache, is excellent in support as Vrooder’s good-natured, fun-loving friend Splint and I found it hard-to-believe that this same man who could play such a peaceful character so well would years later in real-life murder his wife before turning the gun onto himself. Elderly film director George Marshall also does well as the aging Corky and his performance should’ve merited supporting Oscar consideration.

This obscure movie also marks the film debuts of several performers, which includes not only Murdock’s and Cristofer’s, but Ron Glass’ as well who plays an hospital orderly and Dena Dietrich playing Vrooder’s mother who later became best known as Mother Nature in a series of commercials that ran during the ‘70s.

crazy world 1

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: October 18, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Arthur Hiller

Studio: 20th Century Fox

The White Dawn (1974)

white dawn 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Trapped in the artic.

In 1896 three whalers inadvertently become lost from the rest of their crew and stranded all alone on an artic island. There is Billy (Warren Oates) who is the impulsive and belligerent one of the bunch and Daggett (Timothy Bottoms) who is more quiet and introspective as well as Portagee (Louis Gossett Jr.). After wandering in the snow and cold for many days they finally come upon an Eskimo tribe who takes them in with food and shelter. The men though never seem to fully appreciate what the Eskimos have done for them while at times even exploiting their kindness, which eventually leads to tensions from both sides.

Filmed on-location on Baffin Island in northern Canada it is based on the novel ‘The White Dawn: An Eskimo Saga’ by James Houston who also wrote the screenplay. He lived with the Inuit people during the 50’s and 60 and helped spread their art and culture to the rest of the world. The film though doesn’t seem all that revealing. Much of what happens is rather predictable and with scenes that tend to ramble. There are also other moments that are a bit bizarre like the scene during a celebration where two girls take off their shirts and then lock lips and proceed to blow air into each other’s mouths at an accelerated rate that might’ve been more interesting had it been explained what exactly they were doing and why.

The characters are dull and transparent in Oates’ case genuinely unlikable. The Eskimos lack any individual distinction and most viewers will fail to find themselves emotionally attached to anyone onscreen. The film probably would’ve worked better had it been a smaller tribe and just one person that they had rescued.

There are also a lot of scenes featuring animal deaths and cruelty that may upset some viewers. On the one hand I liked that it kept things real and hunting is certainly a part of their culture especially at that time, but some of it does get graphic. One scene has the group grabbing a goose from different ends and then literally pulling it apart while later on they slaughter some walruses that are peacefully bathing in the sun.

The film’s dark ending is interesting and the time the three attempt to escape from the tribe by stealing one of their boats is also intriguing, but otherwise I was aloof with it most of the way. I admire the attempt of bringing the Eskimo culture to a wider audience and the film really isn’t a bad movie, but it’s not a particularly gripping either.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: July 21, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Phillip Kaufman

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing (1973)

love and pain and the whole damn thing

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Introverts fall in love.

Walter (Timothy Bottoms) is a shy young man in his early 20’s riding through Spain as part of a cycling tour group. Impulsively he ditches this group and joins a bus touring one of which Lila (Maggie Smith) an equally shy woman in her 30’s is a part of. At first the two hardly speak, but eventually they get past their social quirks to form a tight, romantic bond.

The awkwardness and insecurities of the two characters is wonderfully captured and it is nice to see a film examine a romance between people that are not physically beautiful or affluent. The music score is subtle and Alan J. Pakula’s direction approaches the material in a nicely sensitive fashion along with the Spanish scenery that gives the production an exotic feel.

Smith is excellent as usual. Her performance and character is different from anything else that she has done making it a real treat to watch. The scene where she calls home to her family as well as the one where she gets locked inside a remote outhouse is quite amusing.

I would have liked to have seen a little more interaction with the other people on the bus as the supporting cast is almost non-existent and focuses too much on the two main characters making it seem like there are the only ones in the entire country of Spain, which gives the viewer a very isolated type of feeling. This may have been the intention and done as a way to show what it is like being introverted, but I didn’t care for it.

Although the two characters are offbeat the film follows too much of a romantic blueprint that eventually makes it formulaic despite a good start. Its biggest transgression is having one of the characters like in Love Story get afflicted with some mysterious illness that is never explained and put in to create cheap dramatic turmoil.

Overall though the film is okay and has a few touching moments. Those that enjoy romance may like it a bit better as well as fans of Maggie Smith.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 19, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated R

Director: Alan J. Pakula

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD

Rollercoaster (1977)

rollercoaster

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Extortionist blows up rollercoasters.

A young man who is never given a name and is played by Timothy Bottoms is able to make home-made radio controlled bombs that he attaches to roller coaster rides at amusement parks. He threatens to blow up a major one during a big event unless he is given 1 million dollars. It is then up to Harry Calder (George Segal) the chief investigator to find the extortionist and the two end up playing an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse.

The film’s pacing is poor. It opens with the extortionist blowing up a roller coaster and Segal coming to investigate and then all of a sudden it cuts to an uninspired ten minute segment involving Segal’s family life before it finally gets back to the investigation. Outside of seeing a young Helen Hunt as his daughter, the family scenes offer nothing and should have been scraped completely.

Despite having ‘disaster epic’ written all over it the filmmaker’s unwisely decided to make this more of an ‘intellectual thriller’ with very little action or special effects. The only real action/special effects come at the beginning when Bottoms blows up a coaster and everyone on it comes crashing down. However, it looks too sanitized and fake as it is far too obvious that it is dummies inside of the coaster cars and not real people.

As the villain Bottoms has got to be one of the dullest you will ever see. Absolutely nothing about him is interesting and there is no back story given as to why he is doing this or how he manages to be so very clever. Henry Fonda is wasted in a ridiculously small and insignificant role and one wonders why he would have even taken it.

Segal plays his part with a good ‘everyman’ quality that makes him easily relatable and it is nice to see him living in an apartment that is reasonably sloppy. It is also fun to watch him ride a roller coaster while everyone else is screaming he just sits there looking bored. Richard Widmark is equally good and possibly at his most gruff and abrasive and the sparing relationship that he has with Segal is entertaining. The intricate cat-and-mouse game that Segal plays with Bottoms isn’t too bad either. There are a few impressive shots where the camera is mounted on the front roller coaster car and then is glided along the tracks at high speeds giving the viewer of a very realistic feeling of actually being on a roller coaster.

Ultimately the film just does not live up to expectations and needed more special effects, more action, more suspense, and just plain more disaster. The bad guy should’ve been more distinctive and a much more prominent role for Fonda as some feel he may be one of the great actors of all time so if you got him use him.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: June 17, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 59Minutes

Rated PG

Director: James Goldstone

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD