Tag Archives: Treat Williams

The Ritz (1976)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hiding out in bathhouse.

On the run from is homicidal brother-in-law (Jerry Stiller) heterosexual businessman Gaetano (Jack Weston) decides to hide out inside a Manhattan bathhouse unaware that it’s for gay men only until he’s already stuck inside. While there the overweight Gaetano gets harassed by an amorous chubby-chaser (Paul B. Price) as well as an aging starlet named Googie (Rita Moreno) who thinks Gaetano is a Broadway producer who can finally give her the long-waited break that she feels she deserves. Things get even worse when his brother-in-law finds out where Gaetano is hiding and proceeds to shoot up the place until he is finally able to weed him out.

For a farce, which is based on the hit Broadway play by Terence McNally and has much of the same cast recreating their roles for the movie, this thing is pretty much dead-on-arrival. The plot is thin and predictable and not enough happens to justify sitting through it. There are a few snappy lines here-and-there, but overall it’s effect is flat while filled with a lot of mindless running around that eventually grows quite tiring. Director Richard Lester has had success with this genre before, but the material here is unimaginative and second-rate and having everything confined to one setting gives it a claustrophobic feel.

The supporting cast gives the proceedings a boost and to some extent saves it from being a complete misfire. F. Murray Abraham nails it as a flaming queen and manages to elicit laughs with every scene he is in. Treat Williams is quite good as an undercover detective who’s a very well built man, but stuck with the voice of a 5-year-old. Jerry Stiller is surprisingly effective as the gun-toting bad guy and this also marks the film debut of John Ratzenberger.

Kudos must also go out to Moreno whose hilariously bad rendition of ‘Everything’s Coming up Roses’ is a film highlight. I also liked the precarious way that she puts on her eyelashes and the fact that her so-called dressing room is inside the building’s boiler room. The only performance that doesn’t work is Weston’s as his character is too naïve and his over-reactions to everything that occurs around him quickly becomes one-dimensional.

There may have been a time when this type of storyline would’ve been considered ‘fresh’ over even ‘daring’, but that time is long gone. In fact I couldn’t believe how tame and shallow it was. Whatever passed for farce back-in-the-day is no longer tangible, which makes this one relic that deserves its place on the back shelf of obscurity.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: August 12, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated R

Director: Richard Lester

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Video, YouTube

Why Would I Lie? (1980)

why would i lie 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: He’s a compulsive liar.

Cletus (Treat Williams) is a compulsive liar although he says they are simply ‘fabrications’ and tells them because it is his sincere belief that people don’t want to hear the truth and the lies are much more interesting. He gets a job at a welfare agency and gets involved with a young boy named Jeorge (Gabriel Macht) and trying to return him to his mother. The task turns into an uphill battle as the mother is nowhere to be found and relies heavily on Cletus’ lies to get him out of jam after jam. Whenever he does gets caught in one of his ‘fabrications’ he will always say ‘why would I ever lie about a thing like that?’ which quickly becomes the film’s catchphrase.

This goofy movie, which has never been released on DVD or VHS and had only a limited run during its initial release in August of 1980, seems unable to figure out what it wants to be. It starts out as a weird character study before moving into a quirky comedy and then ultimately devolving into a sudsy soap opera.  It’s unique for being filmed on-location in Spokane, Washington and even opens with a roaming, bird’s eye view of the city’s skyline, which has to be both a first and last.

The supporting female cast is the film’s biggest weakness as the characters are poorly written and defined. Valerie Curtain, who plays Cletus’ boss, decides to hire him for the job despite the fact that he clearly says some outrageous lies during the interview. When she becomes aware that he may be doing something improper in regards to the adoption process, she threatens him with legal action, so then Cletus pretends to romance her, which is so corny that it is an insult to any woman that the female character here could ever fall for it. He then meets Kay (Lisa Eichhorn) who after only knowing him for a few minutes invites him back to her place for sex, which even for the swinging ‘70’s seems outrageously forward and reckless. Then later when she no longer wants to go out with him because she’s not into any type of serious relationship Cletus advises her that he is ‘in love’ with her even though he’s only known her for a few days and like a hypnotist snapping his fingers this tacky line is somehow enough to get her to make a 180 degree turn and agree to move in with him.

The film also suffers from some very shallow logic. For instance Cletus is told that the boy’s mother may be in either Boston or Philadelphia, so using that little information he decides to take a trip to both cities in order to ‘search’ for her, which makes me wonder  how was he planning to do that. Will he knock on every door in each metropolis until someone with her name finally answers? I also thought that having the woman he is dating turn out to magically be the mother he is searching for and that she was simply living under a different name was too much of a cutesy coincidence and put this whole thing in the category  of a fluffy TV-movie if even that.

Williams manages to play the title role well enough that he keeps it watchable and even somewhat likable. The real scene stealer though is Macht in his film debut who goes by the name Gabriel Swann here. The kid is really adorable and his scenes with Williams are the best moments in the film.

The supporting cast is interesting, but essentially wasted although Jocelyn Brand (Marlon’s sister) has an amusing moment at the end. Severn Darden is good too as Cletus’ psychiatrist who does crossword puzzles while listening to his patients and then panics when he thinks one of them has jumped out the window. There is also a moment in the film where B.J. Thomas sings a song called ‘Me, You and You’, but unlike ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head’, which was famously done in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid this song is not memorable and does not help the film at all.

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My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: August 8, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Larry Peerce

Studio: MGM

Available: None at this time.

Dead Heat (1988)

dead heat

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: These cops are dead.

Roger and Doug (Treat Williams, Joe Piscopo) are two cops fighting bad guys that seem to be indestructible. They get shot at, but never die. Upon further investigation it seems some maniacal madmen (Darren McGavin, Vincent Price) have come up with a resurrection machine that can bring dead people back to life and they are being used as zombies to rob banks and commit other types of crimes. When the two cops end up being killed while on-duty they are put onto the resurrection machine themselves and ultimately making it dead cops chasing after the dead bad guys.

The film’s script by Terry Black is creative and has enough energy to be passably entertaining. Unfortunately the pace is too fast and the runtime too compact making the many elaborate twists and turns happen too quickly and conveniently and many times making no sense. Mark Goldblatt’s direction looks amateurish with a faded color and a film stock that looks like it was initially done on video and then transferred to film. The special effects are surprisingly good given the budget and for the most part the film’s only saving grace. The two best moments are when the two leads get attacked by produce at a meat market including that of a beheaded steer as well as when the Randi character (Lindsay Frost) decomposes right in front of Roger.

The acting is genuinely poor and Piscopo is especially weak, but has funny enough lines to at least be humorous. McGavin looks understandably embarrassed and seems to be simply going-through-the-paces while Price in one of his last film roles appears tired, old and frail.

William’s gives an okay performance and I liked how his is more subdued and educated character played off of Piscopo’s hyper one, but the way his character responded to things seemed weird. For instance when he finds out that he is dead and brought back to life for only a short time before decomposing he doesn’t respond with panic, but instead continues to go about his job in a very matter-of-fact way and when his partner is found dead in a particularly gruesome way he doesn’t react with any type of emotion or shock.

The film also fails to follow through on its own logic. For instance when Roger finds out he is dead and then gets cut on some glass he does not bleed, but later on when he gets shot there is blood coming out of his bullet holes. The bad guys cannot be killed by bullets because essentially they are dead already and yet somehow can still be stopped by electrocution or impalement with a pole, but why as essentially they should still be able to continue no matter what the injury.

The final act becomes like a cheesy B-horror movie that goes way over-the-top and overall the whole thing is badly disjointed. However, it’s an okay time-filler if approached with exceedingly low expectations.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: May 6, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 23Minutes

Rated R

Director: Mark Goldblatt

Studio: Image Entertainment

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

Hair (1979)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hippies versus the establishment.

A young draftee (Savage) goes to New York to join the army. Along the way he inadvertently walks into a ‘happening’ of hippies in Central Park who begin to socialize with him and the rest of the film looks at their efforts at trying to get him not to go.

It is easy to see how during its era this stage play would have been an exciting even vibrant experience. It perfectly captures the moods, thoughts and uniqueness of the period. However this film version doesn’t. It’s made ten years too late and the spirit just isn’t there. Even the protest rallies seem mechanical and manufactured. The period was known for its bright psychedelic colors and yet here everything is gray and bland. The camera angles should have been more unconventional and Twyla Tharp’s much ballyhooed choreography looks like nothing more than jumping around with song renditions that are horrible.

The hippies themselves are also a problem. For one thing Treat Williams looks too old as their leader. They also appear too clean-cut as these guys are literally sleeping on the streets and yet none of them have a beard.

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A few good moments do abound. Williams’ constant confrontations with the establishment are fun. Having them crash a society party and then having Williams dance on a table with Charlotte “Facts of Life” Rae is great. The dramatic twist at the end is powerful and really hits home at how impersonal and sad that war really was.

Savage looks and talks like the country boy he is playing, which is good, but his brief attempt at singing is downright awful. Brad Dourif was the original choice for the part and I think he would have done better.  Beverly D’Angelo is enticing as a snooty girl who transforms into a hippie one and Miles Chapin is amazing simply because he was a 28-year-old man that managed to convincingly look and act like a 17-year-old.

One quibble involves the wearing of the same army outfit by several different people. The uniform is originally worn by a general who is on the short side. They steal it and put it on Williams who is much taller and yet it still fits perfectly. They then put it on Savage who is much thinner and yet strangely it fits perfectly on him as well.

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My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: March 14, 1979

Runtime:  2Hours 1Minute

Rated PG

Director: Milos Foreman

Studio: United Artists

Available:  DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video