Tag Archives: Tony Curtis

Lobster Man from Mars (1989)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 0 out of 10

4-Word Review: Teen makes bad movie.

J.P. Shelldrake (Tony Curtis) is a desperate Hollywood producer looking for a film that will be guaranteed to bomb at the box office so he can use it as a tax write-off to help him pay off his back taxes. He thinks he’s found the potential answer when he receives a film directed by a young novice Stevie Horowitz (Dean Jacobsen) entitled ‘Lobster Man from Mars’, which comprises to be a tacky send-up to cheesy ’50s sci-fi flicks, but the film surprisingly does well sending the desperate Shelldrake even further into a hole.

The film is the so-called brainchild of Stanley Sheff and Bob Greenberg who in 1977 were offered $50,000 by a studio to write a script in the vein of a low budget ‘50s movie, but the two decided instead to make it a movie-within-a-movie and use it as an excuse to poke fun at all the clichés many of those films had. Unfortunately once they completed the script the studio pulled out of the deal forcing them to spend the next 10 years looking for another studio to fund their project. Finally in 1987 they were able to secure financial backing and then just two days before filming was to commence Greenberg died in a car accident and thus never got to see the script he worked so hard on come to fruition and this film ended up being dedicated to his memory.

However, what may sound funny and clever in concept does not always reflect what ultimately comes out on the screen. The film relies too heavily on lame, corny humor as well as broad caricatures to propel it. Cheesy B-movies and Hollywood studio bigwigs are easy targets that have been satirized many times before and this parody fails to supply any new spin to it.

The benign, blank personality of the young filmmaker is completely wrong. I went to film school during the ‘80’s and met first-hand some ‘up-and-coming’ young directors to-be and they behaved nothing like the dull kid here. They always had a pretentious attitude about them like they were the next Kubrick or Spielberg in waiting. They would never have made a corny ‘50s styled flick as that would’ve been considered ‘unhip’ and instead they would’ve tried to emulate the latest trendy hit like Dune or Rambo or maybe even a gory slasher movie.

Bad movies are fun when the filmmakers were trying to make something serious, or ‘profound’ only to have it end up being unintentionally humorous yet this kid’s movie has obvious gags in it like he was trying to make something campy, which then kind of loses the whole point. I also kept wondering how the kid managed to find so many different actors to play the parts and how he was able to fund it.

Things would’ve been funnier had everything been filmed in his own house or backyard while they tried to poorly disguise it as being someplace else. All the parts should’ve been played by his high school friends or family members some of whom would be forced to double-up and play two or maybe even three different parts. The film should’ve also of had a third running storyline dealing with the behind-the-scenes calamity of how the silly movie got made in the first place. I’ve worked on several low budget 48-Hour projects and believe me the stuff that goes on behind the camera on those amateur productions is far more interesting than what you end up seeing on screen.

The ‘innovative’ movie-within-a-movie concept fails to work because it doesn’t cut back to the film producer screening the movie enough. Instead we’re forced to watch 15 to 20 minutes of the cheesy flick only to see the producer’s reaction for a brief half-minute and then back to the cheesy flick until it seems like that’s all there is and the secondary storyline becomes an afterthought.

The ‘twist’ where the kid’s movie inexplicably becomes a giant moneymaking hit is nothing more than a plot rip-off from the far superior and funnier The Producers and it doesn’t really make sense. First there’s no way the American public, as dumb as their movie tastes can sometimes be, would flock to see this kid’s awful flick to the tune of it becoming the highest grossing movie of all time. Even if it did make that much money wouldn’t it then mean that the producer would have enough money to pay off his back taxes and thus stay out of jail?

If you want to watch something genuinely funny then check-out an actual B-movie from the ‘50’s that was trying to be serious, but ended up not being instead of this thing that tries to be intentionally lame until it becomes just plain too lame. You’ll be far more entertained I guarantee it.

My Rating: 0 out of 10

Release: January 29, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 22Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Stanley Sheff

Studio: Electric Pictures

Available: DVD

The Bad News Bears Go to Japan (1978)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Shyster manages baseball team.

Drowning in debt small-time promoter Marvin Lazar (Tony Curtis) decides to take over the Bear’s baseball time by escorting them to Japan and managing them in a game against the Japanese champions run by coach Shimizu (Tomisaburo Wakayama). Problems arise though when Lazar runs out of money and is forced to partake in shady ploys to keep the team afloat.

The script was written by Bill Lancaster, who had penned the first one, and produced by Michael Ritchie who had been the director on the original, but the immense charm from the first installment is completely lost here. The wide-open poorly structured story lacks originality and filled with strained humor that will barely crack a smile.

The kids lack pizazz and play-off of tired caricatures that are no longer cute or funny. The biggest drawback is that the feisty Tanner who had been so prominent in the first two films is missing. It also looks weird and unrealistic that there is such a vast age difference amongst the kids in the line-up. Aren’t Little Leagues usually designed to be age specific? For instance there is usually a Pee-Wee division and then a 10 to 12 age division and so forth, so then why do we have kids here who look to be in the second grade matched with others who seem ready to enter the Junior High? Such a wide range in skill levels would make it virtually impossible to field a functional team from the get-go.

The playing ability of the team seems to have strangely regressed as well. In the first film they came close to winning the championship and in the second installment they did, but here they play like complete bumbling novices with no baseball experience at all.

Curtis is amusing, which helps save the film from being a complete disaster, but it hurts it as well because the script becomes geared completely around his character while the kids are overshadowed and forgotten. The story goes on long misguided tangents that have nothing to do with baseball at all including a segment dealing with Curtis challenging a Sumi wrestler to a match and the Japanese players getting involved in a singing contest, which begs the question if this is a movie about the Bears team then why is more screen time given to the Japanese one?

The side-story dealing with Jackie Earle Haley’s romantic foray is dumb too. He spots a young Japanese lady (Hatsune Ishihara) walking out of a nondescript store on a busy Tokyo street and for some reason becomes completely mesmerized by her and begins chasing her all around city and aggressively coming onto her like he’s a stalker, which would’ve scared any normal woman, but here this crazy behavior gets her to ‘fall-in-love’ with him despite the fact that she speaks no English.

The production values are surprisingly slick and the on-location shooting done in Japan is nice, but the script and humor is empty-headed and forgettable. It’s also interesting to note that George Wyner who appeared in the first film as the manager of the White Sox team appears here in a completely different part as a network executive.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 30, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Berry

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Midnight (1989)

midnight

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Horror hostess is goofy.

Midnight (Lynn Redgrave) is a Goth dressing host of a late night TV-show where she rises from a coffin to help introduce a bad B-movies. She has managed to attain a strong cult following and Mr. B. (Tony Curtis) the head of the TV-station where she works wants her to sign over the syndication rights, but she continually refuses. She then meets Mickey (Steve Parrish) and the two get into a relationship, but when he proves to be unfaithful dead bodies begin turning up including that of Mr. B.’s. Is Midnight the killer, or is she being framed by someone else lurking in the shadows?

There are a few snappy lines here and there, but overall this thing is a complete bore and too poorly paced to be entertaining. The film shifts so clumsily between comedy, satire and horror that it becomes hard to figure what audience the filmmakers where attempting to draw-in.

Redgrave’s send-up of Elvira and Vampira misses the mark completely. The wacky outfits that she wears is indeed eye-catching, but the camp level gets played up too much and the fact that she continues to display the same goofy persona that she has in front of the camera even while at home gets overdone and eventually quite annoying.

Curtis is far more entertaining and should’ve been giving a larger role. His hanging death in which he struggles in mid-air with a rope around his neck is actually impressive, but I did spend most of the film thinking about the white mop that was on top of his head and wondering if it was his real hair, or a wig. Parrish, as the young love interest, is thoroughly dull and drains what little energy this film has right out with his presence.

The strangulation death that occurs under water deserves some merit and I did enjoy the exteriors of Mr. B’s mansion as well as Midnight’s, but the attempts to satirize the behind-the-scenes wheeling’s-and-dealings of the entertainment world fall horribly flat and eventually becomes a joke onto itself.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: July 5, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 26Minutes

Rated R

Director: Norman Thaddeus Vane

Studio: Kuys Entertainment Group

Available: VHS

It Rained All Night the Day I Left (1980)

it rained all night 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Stuck in the desert.

Robert and Leo (Tony Curtis, Louis Gossett Jr.) are two losers working as gun runners who transport their goods in an old beat-up VW that looks to be seriously on its last leg. They meet up with The Colonel (Sally Kellerman) who is the widow of an actual Colonel that fought during WW II. She is now living alone with her nineteen year-old daughter Suzanna (Lisa Langlois) in an isolated ranch in the middle of the African desert. She hires Robert and Leo to help her oversee the water that she pumps to a nearby village. Since she feels that the members of this village had something to do with her late husband’s murder she has cut off their supply to it and only lets them have access to it at certain times of the day, which the two men feel is harsh. They do some investigating on their own and believe that it is neighboring rancher Killian (John Vernon) who is the real culprit to the murder, but trying to convince The Colonel of this, who has a romantic interest in Kilian, is another matter completely.

This obscure, low budget film is pretty much a botched mess from the get-go. Too much emphasis is put on comedy, but filmed by people who have no idea what is funny which forces the actors to carry-on with broadly written banter and insipid slapstick-like scenarios that is intended to be humorous, but falls resoundingly flat instead. The story and setting has some potential, but resorts to contrived, uninspired romance that becomes completely boring.

I’ll give Kellerman credit for lasting over six decades in the business, but her acting never seems to be effective. Her character is supposed to be a domineering, tough-as-nails lady, or at least that is how she is introduced as she even insists that the men refer to her as ‘sir’, but this quickly evaporates until she becomes just another aging, lonely female looking for love and companionship, which isn’t compelling, or original. Langlois as the daughter is equally transparent while delivering her lines as if she were half asleep. Why an attractive young lady such as herself would ever fall for a struggling 55-year-old man like the one Curtis plays here makes little sense and is pretty dumb.

The film is saved to a minor degree by the presence of Curtis. He was a top billed star during the ‘50s and 60s, but by the ‘80s his career had plummeted severely to the point that he was accepting minor, supporting roles in direct-to-video fare that next to no one saw. This film isn’t much better than those, but here at least he retains his engaging persona and helps lift the dead material to a somewhat tolerable level and his pairing with Gossett is odd enough to make it semi-intriguing.

This is a sad, almost embarrassing follow-up project for director Nicolas Gessner who had achieved critical acclaim with the Jodie Foster hit The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. Why he would choose this oddball thing to tackle next is a mystery as I’m sure he must’ve been offered better scripts, but in either case it’s a misfire that never manages to click at all.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: August 6, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 24Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Nicolas Gessner

Studio: Gaumont

Available: None at this time.

Boeing, Boeing (1965)

boeing boeing

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Fooling around with stewardesses.

Bernard (Tony Curtis) thinks he’s come up with the perfect plan where as a confirmed bachelor he can enjoy the ‘benefits’ of a relationship without ever having to take the ultimate plunge. Using the timetables of all the airlines he has devised a way where he can date three different stewardesses (Dany Saval, Christiane Schmidtmer, Suzanna Leigh) simultaneously without any of them knowing of the other ones. When one of them is on layover from their flights they come over to his pad for romance and passion and then promptly leave for their jobs only to have another one arrive from another layover. It works for a while before the expected complications ensue. Things get even worse when Bernard’s out-of-town friend Robert (Jerry Lewis) arrives and wants to get in on the action while Bertha (Thelma Ritter) Bernard’s long suffering maid feels that she’s had enough and wants to quit.

The flimsy premise kills itself from the beginning by having a main character that is unlikable. I’m as open-minded as the next person, but if one wants to enjoy the swinger’s lifestyle then they must be open and honest with their partner(s) for it to work. This guy lies to them at every turn, manipulates with their emotions and views them solely as sexual playthings for his own pleasure, which is about as callous and self-centered as they come. His scheme is full of potential holes and any halfway intelligent person would’ve known it wouldn’t work and avoided even attempting it from the start.

The women are portrayed as being painfully naïve and stupid and falling for every pathetic lie and story that the men tell them. I was hoping at some point they would wise up and turn-the-tables, which would’ve been really funny, but that never happens. Instead the viewer gets treated to one ‘madcap’ scheme after another as they try desperately to keep their ridiculous ploy going, which becomes tiring and annoyingly redundant.

The three actresses at least have some acting ability and aren’t just the usual wide-eyed models mouthing their lines, which helps a little. Ritter certainly makes for a good anchor, but even she becomes stifled by the story’s derivative theme. Lewis surprisingly is the best thing about the film and this is mainly due to the fact that he is much more restrained and not allowed to fall into his over-the-top shtick.

Based on the stage play by Marc Camoletti this thing might’ve at one time been considered a fresh and funny bedroom farce, but by today’s standards it is tame and dated and not good for even a few chuckles.

boeing boeing 2

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: December 22, 1965

Runtime: 1Hour 42Minutes

Not Rated

Director: John Rich

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Don’t Make Waves (1967)

dont make waves 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: House slides down cliff.

Carlo (Tony Curtis) is a single 40-something man traveling through coastal California when he decides to pull his Volkswagen beetle over to the side of the road and get out to enjoy the gorgeous view. Problem is that Laura (Claudia Cardinale) is pulling out and her car’s bumper hooks onto his and his car goes speeding down the hill and crashes. All of his money was in the car, so Laura agrees to allow him to stay at her place for a while, but then her boyfriend Rod (Robert Webber) shows up who throws Carlo out onto the beach where he becomes acclimated with the beach bums including beautiful Malibu (Sharon Tate). He wants to date her, but she has a muscular boyfriend named Harry (David Draper). Carlo though has a plan to steal her away as well as getting a cushy job as a pool salesman and a beachfront home that ultimately goes crashing down the cliff just like his car did.

Curtis is engaging in the lead and shows great flair for frantic comedy, but his character has no backstory, which makes him generic and undistinguished. His constant conniving including tricking Harry into no longer having sex with Malibu so he can get his hands on her isn’t all that appealing since Harry is a rather nice guy and I was hoping he would give Curtis a much deserving punch in the face in the end, which unfortunately doesn’t happen.

Cardinale is sexy. Her tan, sleek figure, Italian accent and feisty temper make every scene that she is fun and sensuous. The fact that the character is at times quite oblivious to her surroundings and at other points very observant makes her interesting and quite human.

Tate’s performance is weak and her amount of speaking lines quite limited. The part was originally intended for Julie Newmar who might have been a bit better. However, the scene showing her bouncing up and down on a trampoline while wearing a bikini that even gets shown in slow-motion and freeze frame will be more than enough to satisfy most males.

The film features some impressive stunt work. The opening bit where Curtis tries to catch up with his rolling car and even gets his pants leg caught on fire isn’t bad. The part where Curtis falls from a plane and goes free falling into the air without a parachute is quite vivid even though stuntman Bob Buquor ended up getting killed during the sequence. The best part though is at the end when Curtis’s ritzy home and pool go sliding down a steep cliff during a rainstorm and subsequent mudslide. The special effects are outstanding even by today’s standards. The mud flowing through the place and the shots showing five occupants forced to survive in the home in a Poseidon-like scenario when it gets turned upside down before finally sliding down onto the cusp of the ocean is entertaining enough to make sitting through the rest of it almost worth it.

Unfortunately outside of this and the breathtaking scenery the film is quite vapid. The story is too unfocused and doesn’t seem to know what kind of message it wants to make. The scenarios and situations are trite and offer no momentum or plot progression. The theme of a middle-aged man trying to get in with the young mod generation of the time was handled much more effectively in I Love You Alice B. Toklas, which starred Peter Sellers and came out around the same time.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: June 20, 1967

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Alexander Mackendrick

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video