Tag Archives: Vera Miles

The Initiation (1984)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: She has reoccurring nightmares.

Kelly Fairchild (Daphne Zuniga) is a college student plagued with reoccurring nightmares as well as suffering from amnesia in which she cannot remember anything that occurred before she was nine. She meets Peter (James Read) who runs a department dealing with sleep research. She hopes he can help her interpret these dreams, but her parents (Clu Gulager, Vera Miles) are greatly opposed to the idea. As these dreams continue to get worse she also gets involved in a sorority in which as part of an initiation ritual she along with her sorority sisters are required to break into her father’s department store and steal some items, but as they do they become stalked and eventually killed by a mysterious killer.

Zuniga makes for an appealing lead and is pretty much the only good thing about the movie as the story itself isn’t too interesting. It becomes clear from the start that the man she sees burning in her dreams is really her father and that the Gulager character was her mom’s lover who is now posing as her father while her real one got carted off to the mental hospital and having to watch someone spend almost two hours trying to figure out something that the viewer already knows isn’t compelling.

The plot is also full of a hundred and one loopholes including the fact that her father had to be institutionalized after received burns over forty percent of his body even though this rarely if ever occurs with real-world burn victims. How Kelly gets her amnesia is confusing as well since we later learn she never really did fall out of a treehouse like she had initially thought. The scene where the Gulager character gets murdered in his own drive way, but the mother does not find out about it until several days later is equally ridiculous because the killer immediately drives away with the dead body with no time to clean up, so the mother would’ve seen all the blood when she went into her own car, but apparently doesn’t.

There is also a scene involving one of the sorority sisters named Marsha (Marilyn Kagan) who tells the others about getting sexually violated by an older man when she was younger, which is not necessary since she is not a main character and what she describes has no connection to the main story. What is even worse is that after telling the others about it she then ‘miraculously’ loses her lifelong frigidity and is ‘cured’ from her horrible memories while also immediately hopping into bed with one of the frat boys, which becomes an insult to rape victims everywhere.

Spoiler Alert!

The film’s ending though is the most annoying. Halfway in I thought I had figured it out by guessing that it was actually Zuniga who was doing the killing. Well it turns out that I was half-right as it is really her twin sister, but there is no indication of this with anything that occurs earlier and still does not explain how it connects to Kelly’s amnesia, nightmares, or lost father. If anyone who has watched this movie can explain how this makes any sense I would appreciate it because it comes off as really dumb otherwise.

End of Spoiler Alert!

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: December 17, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: Larry Stewart

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Hellfighters (1968)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Put out the fire.

Chance Buckman (John Wayne) runs a company specializing in putting out oil well fires. His loyal assistant is the young and dashing Greg Parker (Jim Hutton) who on his off-hours is known to be quite the ladies’ man. When Chance is injured during a freak accident and sent to the hospital Greg call’s Chance’s estranged daughter Tish (Katherine Ross) to come visit him. When Tish arrives her and Greg fall in love and get married even though there is no initial chemistry and after only knowing each other for five days. The rest of the film deals with Chance and Greg quarreling over having his daughter, or any woman for that matter, on-site watching them put out fires as he feels it’s ‘not the proper place for a woman to be’.

If this were a documentary on the real Red Adair, which is who the Chance Buckman character is modeled after, this would have been an exciting and fascinating film. Unfortunately the drama in-between the fire scenes is lame and hooky. The characters and situations are generic and boring and the 2-hour runtime becomes almost interminable to have to sit through.

Politics aside I have always enjoyed Wayne as an actor. Yes he can basically only play one type of part, but he does it well. He knows how to have an onscreen presence, can usually own every scene he is in and can sometimes surprisingly show a good self-depreciating sense of humor as well. However, here he looks old, tired and washed-up. He goes through his scenes like he is sleepwalking and as bored with the threadbare material as the viewer. The silly barroom fight that he and his pals get into becomes ridiculous when you realize that it is old geezers in their 60’s and 70’s that are throwing the punches. The only good scene he has is during a humorous throwaway where he sits on a committee and much to his annoyed reluctance must decide what color to paint the company’s 1,400 nationwide bathrooms.

Despite the fact that she later told reporters that this film was “The biggest piece of crap I’ve ever done!” it is Ross who is the most engaging and quite beautiful in her bob haircut. I enjoyed the way her character stands up to Wayne and apparently behind the scenes the two did not get along and had quite a few arguments. Vera Miles as Wayne’s wife is badly miscast as she was 23-years younger than him and looks more like Ross’s older sister than her mother.

The opening 20 minutes where you see step-by-step how the men put an actual oil rig fire out is quite compelling and even educational, but it goes completely downhill from there and never recovers. By the end the whole thing becomes redundant and having the climatic finale takes place in South America where the men risk being shot at by guerrilla snipers adds little tension or interest making me conclude that the one thing that should’ve been set on fire was the script, but unfortunately it wasn’t.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: November 27, 1968

Runtime: 2 Hours 2 Minutes

Rated G

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray (Region B)