Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Burl reviews Beach Ball! (1965)

Ha ha, hepcats, it’s Burl, here to boogie with you on the beach again! Yes, I can’t seem to help visiting the beach on a pretty regular basis, at least cinematically, ha ha! Because here I am to chat about Beach Ball, another of the non-A.I.P. sun ‘n’ surf-stravaganzas! In fact it shares much with The Girls on the Beach, and would make such an ideal companion piece with the picture that if you double-billed them, you’d have trouble remembering which was which only a few hours later!
Just like GotB, we have a group of fellows and a group of ladies (faux-nerds this time, ha ha), and with the beach (and sundry other locations) as a backdrop, the picture chronicles their inevitable coming together! It seems we have a battle of the bands, and our boys are a group called, ha ha, The Wigglers! There are three Wigglers and their manager, the kooky and superannuated Edd Byrnes! Two of the Wigglers are handsome guys: Bango the drummer is played by Robert Logan, well known from Born to Race, Scorpion and Snowbeast, and Jack the guitar player is played by Aron “Cannonball” Kincade! There’s a sax player in this trio too, the goofy one of the group, and he’s played by none other than Don Edmonds, who also appeared in Home Sweet Home and Wild, Wild Winter, but happens to be the director of Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS too! Ha ha, what a strange career he had!
The girls, meanwhile, are so close to the ones from GotB that I suspect it might actually be the same quartet, ha ha! The plot is all the kids getting together to help the Wigglers keep their instruments from being repossessed by the persistent Mr. Wolf, so that they can play in the big Best Band Contest! Lots of terrific performances pop up at the flimsiest excuse, from people like The Righteous Brothers (whose hits I’ve never liked, but I liked the band here!), The Four Seasons, The Hondells and the terrific Walker Brothers! And of course the grand climax to the music is The Supremes, featuring a truly amazing hairdo on Diana Ross! Of course, ha ha, somehow The Wigglers come out on top of them all in the contest!
The running gag involving Mr. Wolf is that he keeps getting caught up in all the fun fun fun, or else is dosed with nitrous oxide, and always ends up in some mildly compromising position in the morning, being frowned at by cops! The cops in this case are one guy I didn’t recognize, and the great Dick “Smokey Bites the Dust” Miller! Ha ha, he’s as terrific as ever here, taking it smooth and easy and grinning as if stoned!
After a great scene where a beatnik mechanic turns the boys’ car into a spacemobile, there’s a speed chase! Then come endless scenes of farce, filmed on the sly at a car show, and then, as in GotB, the lads end up dressed as ladies! It’s a silly picture, but it has many, many scenes of pretty ladies shaking their bottoms to the beat, and lots of fine music, and many activities (car racing, skydiving, skindiving, and even a little surfing, ha ha!); and of course it has Dick Miller, which automatically makes it a must see! I’m going to go ahead and give Beach Ball two and a half wigglers!

Sunday 28 September 2014

Burl reviews Silver Bullet! (1985)

Aroooo, it’s Burl with another werewolf picture for you! This one’s not quite up to the standard set by An American Werewolf in London, but it’s no Howling II either, ha ha!
In fact, it’s Silver Bullet, a movie I’ve been a little fond of, but not very fond of really, for years, ever since I saw it in the theater as a young lad! It is of course a Stephen King picture, made around the same time as, and with much the same crew as, Maximum Overdrive! Except that King didn’t direct this one – it was directed by a guy with a fairly TV style, who, immediately after this picture, went into TV directing and never came back!
For some reason the picture is set in the mid-70s, in Tarker's Mills, which I suppose must be one of those little Maine towns so dear to the author! James Gammon, the hard-assed coach from The Pom Pom Girls, appears as a comic drunk who gets his melon removed with one swipe of a paw that might have been borrowed from Grizzly! “Ha ha, thus was the beginning of our little town’s long nightmare,” intones posh-sounding lady narrator Tovah “Brewster’s Millions” Feldshuh!
Then we meet little wheelchair-bound Marty, played by Corey “Watchers” Haim, and his sister Megan Follows, who have a thorny relationship! The murders continue on a menstrual cycle, and pretty soon boozy old Uncle Red, which is to say Gary “Eye of the Tiger” Busey, gets involved! Uncle Red is the sort of fellow who’ll sit around telling obnoxious jokes and swigging from a bottle of Wild Turkey on the one hand, and construct fabulously unlikely mechanized conveyances for his disabled nephew on the other!
But who is the townsperson with the hirsute double life? Ha ha, could it be Uncle Red, who, we are told, visits Tarker's Mills on a monthly basis? Could it be mom or dad, or the touque-wearing bartender played by Lawrence “Tough Guys Don’t Dance” Tierney? Or the gas station guy who looks halfway like a werewolf already? Or could it be Reverend ‘Bout Town, the district’s brooding holy man, played by Everett McGill from Dune? Well, it’s one of them, that’s for sure! The kids’ suspicions settle on Reverend ‘Bout Town, and with Uncle Red’s help they decide to set a werewolf trap!
It’s a watchable enough picture, though not a very scary one! King’s script is full of his grotesque small-town caricatures and clunky dialogue! “Ha ha, you gonna make lemonade in your pants?” demands one character of another! But occasionally the dialogue works: “Ha ha, I’m too old to play The Hardy Boys Meet Reverend Werewolf,” grouses Uncle Red! But for all its faults – including, but not limited to, a baggy structure, unconvincing nighttime cinematography, a general silliness – the worst of them all is the rubbery werewolves themselves, which look a little like the one in WolfCop crossed with a honey bear!
Altogether the picture could use a bit more pep – there’s some gore and some suspense, but a certain liveliness is sadly absent! It still occupies a place in my heart, but I’m going to give Silver Bullet one and a half de-occulations by bottle rocket!

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Burl reviews The Girls on the Beach! (1965)

Ha ha, it’s all so wiggy! Yes, it’s Burl here with another beach party movie to review – no, not The Beach Girls again, but one called The Girls on the Beach! Ha ha, this is one from back in the genre’s heyday, or at least shortly after, and it’s not an AIP one with Frankie and Annette and all that, but a copycat released by another studio!
And I’ll freely admit that, although the AIP beach pictures have their charms, they usually get too silly for ol’ Burl, and I tend to prefer the outsider ones more: pictures like Ride the Wild Surf, Palm Springs Weekend, and even drab little numbers like Wild on the Beach! The Girls on the Beach is another that, I must say, I would choose over, say, Beach Blanket Bingo, if I were for some reason given a choice!
The Girls on the Beach begins as it means to go on, with some fine music from the Beach Boys laid over shots of bikini-girls running hither and yon up and down the sand! Then we repair to a club, where the Boys are actually singing, and there we not only meet the quartet of sorority sisters who will be our protagonists and the trio of lads who will pursue them by unethical means, but the duo of waiters played by none other than little Dick “Get Crazy” Miller and big Leo “Bog” Gordon!
Dick Miller, who sure does appear in a lot of the movies I review, ha ha, plays a character with an inexplicable hate for the Beatles! “I wish they’d go back to where they came from,” he grouses! “England?” asks Leo, but Dick shouts “No, under a rock!” But too bad Dick, because everyone else in the movie loves those boys from Liverpool, and that love figures prominently in the plot, or at least in what this picture offers up in place of a plot, ha ha!
And what is this “plot?” Well, the sorority sisters, who are the executive of their chapter, are called back to their beautiful beach sorority house – yes, ha ha, you heard that right! – by the house mother, who reveals that, first, a rich and vengeful sorority sister, along the line of Sabra from Sorority Girl, who was kicked out at some point in the past and whom we never meet in this picture, has bought the house’s mortgage and plans to foreclose on it unless the sisters can come up with ten thousand dollars in two weeks! Secondly, the house mother admits, she spent the ten thousand dollar nest egg the house had banked for just such an eventuality! But because she spent it on humanitarian causes, the girls forgive her and set to raising the money by entering contests and such! After all, enthuses one of the girls, “a daily newspaper can be the greatest treasure map of all!”
The lads, meanwhile, want to make time with the ladies, and concoct a fabrication! They’re personal friends of the Beatles, they claim, and can get the four superstars to come and play a benefit concert for the sorority house! A fake phone call from Ringo – that is, from one of the boys doing the worst Ringo impression ever – seals the deal! The boys realize things have gone too far, but, after the girls have sold a bunch of tickets to this chimeric gala, they fail to figure out how to fix it, and simply confess their wrongdoing! It’s up to the girls to dress in Beatles drag and warble some Fab Four-style tunes of their own, including one called “I Want To Marry A Beatle!”
Ha ha, all of this must have seemed absurdly square in 1965! But it has lots of funny moments today! There’s a great scene where one of the shirtless lads, as part of their gambit to impress the gals with their superstar connections, bellows out “Fellas, I’m telling you, next time we come down here, we gotta bring Rock!” Only a few scenes later, the fellows get trapped in the sorority house and must dress as ladies, then endure the groping hands of the frat brothers before they're able to escape!
It’s a lovely little picture with plenty of attractive ladies and fine music from the Beach Boys, the Crickets and cute little Lesley Gore! We also get Bruno Ve Sota from Attack of the Giant Leeches as a telegram man named Pops! Sure, the movie is dumb and silly, and the way the ladies seem to instantly forgive the boys after their subterfuge is a little south of realistic, but it still works as a fine little document of the times! I enjoyed it, so I’m going to give The Girls on the Beach two and a half phone calls from “somebody named Ringo?” Ha ha!

Sunday 21 September 2014

Burl reviews Grizzly! (1976)

Grawww, it’s Burl! Ha ha, hope I didn’t scare you there – I was just doing my famous bear growl in honour of the movie I’m reviewing for you today, Grizzly! This was one of the very first Jaws rip-offs to appear in cinemas (it predated Attack of the Killer Squirrel by many years, at least) and the most cheerfully shameless of them all – Great White and Jaws 2 included! Ha ha, I’d have loved to see it in the drive-in, which is where, with every silver halide grain of its being, this picture was meant to be viewed!
Like Jaws (a phrase you’ll be reading plenty through this review), the movie concerns an unusually large predator moving through a tourist-heavy area in search of, or at least happy to find, human meat! The threat here is of course ursine rather than carcharadonic; and, though the movie was filmed in Georgia by the late William “The Manitou” Girdler, it’s supposed (I think) to take place in Yellowstone Park instead of Martha's Vinyard! Anyway, the mountains aren’t quite so tall as they should be if so, but certainly it’s implied that this is a particularly vast national park!
The grizzle-bear, which never seems as large as everyone says it is, roams the woods and sends limbs flying with every dubbed roar and swipe of its fur-coat paw! It seems to have a preference for ladies – and buxom twentysomething ladies, in this picture, possess as a cohort a mania for off-season camping that I’ve never seen manifest in real life! Ha ha!
A motley team of three men band together to hunt the grizz, of course! There’s Kelly, the always-grinning Mr. Ranger of the park, played by Christopher George from Mortuary and City of the Living Dead; the Mark Trail-ish Scott, as essayed by Richard Jaeckel from The Dark and Herbie Goes Bananas; and Don, a laconic helicopter pilot played by Andrew Prine from The Evil and Simon, King of the Witches, who apparently once survived a mass grizzly attack on his native village despite not being aboriginal at all! Ha ha!
At least one of these fellows won’t make it of course, but not before Don sets his jaw grimly and delivers his grizzly bear village massacre story! The bear itself, a heavy brown number, delivers his killer hugs with abandon! Finally, after a massive helicopter hunt, the big artillery is hauled out and Commando-style bazooka tactics employed!
Ha ha, even though he clearly must be killed, you feel kind of bad for the bruin! He does cause some damage, I will admit, and the aforementioned limbs and plenty of gouting blood must have pushed the boundaries of the PG rating! (As did Jaws!) But that was the 70s for you, and this is most definitely a movie of the 70s! Ha ha, like wines that only reveal their full spectrum of subtle aromas after time has passed, so many of these pictures (Bug, The Car, The Sentinel, the aforementioned Manitou) seem almost to enjoy the simple fact of their vintage, almost to revel in it!
The tough guy acting is pretty good all around, and other familiar faces, like Joe Dorsey from Club Paradise and the mysterious Kermit Echols, spice the concoction still further! Ha ha! There’s what usually gets called “attractive location photography” too, and an alarmist score that gets kind of jazzy when the mood strikes it! All of these things are credits!
The purloined story you might think would be a debit, but it doesn’t rest completely in that column; nor really in any column! It’s just there! It’s got a reasonable amount of pep and lots of bicentennial flavor, and my natural instincts tell me to give Grizzly two and a half legendary-but-almost-certainly-not-worth-tracking-down sequels!

Saturday 20 September 2014

Burl reviews Homer! (1970)

Ha ha, it’s time to think about a real Canuck obscurity, Homer! Never heard of Homer? Neither had I! But it seemed to be in the same category as the very enjoyable Rip-Off, and it even had the same actor, Don “Squirm” Scardino!
Initially it is very similar to Rip-Off, appearing to be a precursor to the “losin’ it” subset of the teen sex comedy genre just as much as Rip-Off foreshadows a different kind of teen sex comedy, the “four guys” template! And Homer himself, and the actor who plays him, very much anticipate the ginger heroes we find as essayed by Glenn Morshower in Drive-In, Stuart Goetz in The Van, Dennis Bowen in Van Nuys Blvd. and Gary Hershberger in Paradise Motel! Not to mention Ron Howard in American Graffiti, which this picture also predates!
The movie is indeed very Canadian, but it’s set in Wisconsin so that the Vietnam War can intrude on the narrative! For a long time it does not, and we get to know young Homer, who is trying to escape the town by hitchhiking out of it, guitar in hand! But the only ride he gets is from Bob “Starship Invasions” Warner, playing the fed-up town sheriff, who takes Homer straight back home! Along the way the young lad plays and warbles one of his original compositions, a faux-Dylan tune about shellacking hair!
Homer’s farmer dad is not very happy about this, but then farmer dad is not happy about much! He sure does hate Homer’s music, both the stuff he likes to listen to and the tunes he composes and sings! Homer hangs out with his buddies, particularly one who’s a soldier, and who’s just returned on a furlough before off heading to ‘Nam! Our redheaded hero also spends some quality time with his quasi-girlfriend, played by Mia Farrow’s sister Tisa “Zombie” Farrow! He treats her pretty shabbily I’m sorry to say!
Tensions between Homer and his farmer dad continue to ratchet up, and the relationship hits a new low when a drunken Homer crashes the family car! Homer’s stuff is taken away from him, and there’s a long montage showing him working hard on the farm! Within that, there’s an interval showing the farmer dad fixing up the motorbike Homer’s buddy left behind, and then riding it joyfully through the fields! He and his son seem to have reconciled!
But this détente is merely temporary! Homer’s buddy comes back from Vietnam in a box, and a devastated Homer takes it on himself to demonstrate against the war on the main street of the town, playing protest songs and chaining himself to the local statuary! Farmer dad is enraged and humiliated and puts a bit of a slapping on Homer! Things come to a head the next morning when Homer plays some Zeppelin at high volume, and then farmer dad angrily stomps his stereo into flinders! Homer has finally had enough, and we last see him hitching once again, this time getting a ride from a hippie van! Ha ha, it could be a smooth segue into the beginning of Loving & Laughing!
If you’re in the mood for it, Homer is a pretty good slice of faux-Americana, and it has a rock n’ roll soundtrack I'd have thought way beyond the resources of such a low-budget movie! We get the Zep already mentioned, and the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Cream, the Lovin' Spoonful, so forth! Scardino’s own songs are salted in there too, and some of them are okay! I particularly liked his opening tune, and sure would like to have a copy of it! I wonder if it ever got released as a single or anything!
Other virtues include several of the performances – Scardino is fine, and his farmer dad, played by Alex “Bloody Mama” Nicol, is really good - and the realistically shifting relationships between the characters! The photography is attractively pastoral, which is another big plus! It’s a trifle, but I both enjoyed it and respected its historical importance! I’d happily recommend Homer, and I give this picture two and a half unexpected sleepovers!

Thursday 18 September 2014

Burl reviews A New Life! (1988)

I say, ha ha! It’s Burl, and I’m here to review a picture about a real New York divorce! Ha ha, no, I’m not talking about Husbands & Wives, though I sort of wish I was! (Hey, ha ha, the style seemed pretty novel at the time, and Woody was all over the news!) Anyway, this is a picture by sometime Woody cohort Alan Alda, and I watched it recently precisely because it appeared by every indication to be the least interesting movie ever made!
Turns out I wasn’t far wrong! But I kept watching right to the end, because this was an after-the-fact example of a genre that fascinates me: the late 70s-early 80s adult comedy-drama! It’s My Turn and The Last Married Couple in America are both paragons of the form, and Alda’s first feature as a writer-director, The Four Seasons, is practically the epitome! So I stuck with A New Life, because it seemed like an extension of the same movie a decade on!
It begins as Alda is resentfully agreeing to a divorce from his wife, Ann-Margret, whom we know from Grumpy Old Men of course! Alda’s a shouty, type-A sort of fellow (he’s a Wall Street trader and wears a lab coat to work for some reason), and is resolutely old-fashioned in his understanding of the world! He seems to have almost pathologically ignored his wife through their marriage! His best buddy, meanwhile, on and off the trading room floor, is Barney Miller himself, Hal Linden, playing a chauvinistic silver fox!
So Alda and Linden hit the scene! Alda colours his beard and hair and purchases an all-new lifestyle suit! Ha ha, he looks as ridiculous as you can imagine! Thankfully a transgendered person robs him of these garments at the first opportunity! After a while he meets a lady doctor (Veronica “Cannonball” Hamel) whose mere touch makes his heart race, and from then on he’s in hot pursuit! Meanwhile Ann-Margaret meets a dashing but weird young sculptor (whose movie art was bland but not egregiously bad for once) played by John “Windy City” Shea!
Of course there are troubles! Shea turns out to be exactly as weird as he first appears, and Alda turns cartoonishly squeamish when Hamel becomes pregnant and he has to do gross things like be in the room while she’s having an ultrasound! Ha ha, I suppose the joke is that he’s such a nance after so many years of playing a doctor and doing meatball surgery (ha ha, yum yum!), but the squeamishness is so extreme and pathetic as to be unbelievable!
It’s all very bland and TV-like, thanks to the TV cast and the colourless directorial stylings of Alda! I recall his earlier movies (The Four Seasons and Sweet Liberty) as at least seeming like movies, but it’s been a while and I could be wrong! The picture at least comes to a relatively sweet and true-to-life close, with Ann-Margaret zooming around on her scooter, free, free, free! and Alda pushing a baby carriage around the park! Largely, however, it was as smooth and unexciting as I’d assumed it would be all these years, and I can’t recommend it with very much enthusiasm, or at all, really! Ha ha! I give A New Life one use of the F word as granted by a PG-13 rating!

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Burl reviews The Beach Girls (1982)

Hul-lo, hul-lo, it’s Burl at the beach! Ha ha, yep, it’s me, here with a review of another Crown International beach picture from back in the day, but not nearly as far back in the day as it seems to be from! Ha ha, I’ll explain! The picture is called The Beach Girls, and it was apparently made in 1982, but in almost every way it seems to have jetted in straight from 1976!
There’s just something about it! Maybe it’s the presence of James Daughton from that earlier Crown International classic Malibu Beach, or maybe it’s that the movie was probably shot on short ends left over from the mid-70s, or maybe it’s Ginger and Duckie, the pair of hormonal Id creatures which power this Tempest-like endeavor! Ha ha, the more I think about it, the more this appears to be a beach party adaptation of The Tempest!
Debra Blee, who would later appear as a shrill harpy in The Malibu Bikini Shop, is the Miranda figure, who is granted the use of her Uncle Carl “Prospero” Purdue’s beach house for the summer! Along for the trip are her pals Ginger and Duckie, who work together as the shapeshifter Ariel in my Shakespearian reading of the picture; and their laid-back, guitar-strummin’ pickup Scott, who makes a pretty fair Fernando! Chaos agents Ginger and Duckie quickly whip up a party by inviting everyone from the pizza boy to the diaper lady to get down and boogie! Skulking about like Caliban is the mustachioed gardener, played by Bert Rosario from Stick, who peeks through windows and fences at all the sunbathing and skinny-dipping ladies, and who eventually finds himself mud wrestling with a Chinese chauffeur! Ha ha!
There’s some nonsense about marijuana smuggling, and garbage bags full of pot that wash up on the beach and end up befogging and enchanting the partygoers’ minds, but it doesn’t add much that a few generously-filled joints wouldn’t have just as well! Adam “Frogs” Roarke, as Uncle Purdue, arrives in the middle of the party and magicks up a metaphorical storm by suggesting that he doesn’t want a party going on at his house after all! Meanwhile an astronomer neighbor trains his telescope on the beach house rumbustification while his perpetually irate wife hounds him unmercifully! The wife is played by the very familiar Mary Jo Catlett, who faced beach trouble of a different kind on Blood Beach! Ha ha!
 It’s got a lot of antics and quite a number of naked ladies, but it still seems kind of sluggish and slightly pep-free! It’s also even sillier than it should be, with the sad trombone making frequent appearances! But there’s enjoyment to be had nevertheless, and the consequence-free world it proposes is pretty attractive, ha ha! I can’t say it’s great, I can’t say it’s good, but it fairly lives up to its title, and that’s a pretty strong compliment right there! Ha ha, I give The Beach Girls one and a half pocket salamis!

Sunday 14 September 2014

Burl reviews Commando! (1985)

Ha ha, it’s Burl, and I’m back… with a review of an Arnold Schwarzenegger picture! No, not Total Recall again! It’s called Commando, and I’m sure you’ve all seen it, and I’d certainly seen it before too, being that it was one of the more popular films enjoyed by my school chums and I in the olden VHS days!
Commando is probably Arnold’s most stripped-down and basic action movie! It comes in at a lean 90 minutes and has almost enough story to half-fill that time! It seems Arnold is John Matrix, another of his curiously-named cod-American characters! Ha ha, why couldn’t he have played “Heinrich Obermayer” or something, just once? Though there is a moment here in which, after grumping about Boy George’s andr*gyny, he actually admits to being foreign, bellowing “When I was a boy in East Germany, ha ha, the Communists considered rock ‘n’ roll subversive – who knows, maybe dey right!”
Anyway, John Matrix has a little daughter, Jenny Matrix, ha ha, and she gets kidnapped by the henchmen of none other than Dan “Buckaroo Banzai” Hedaya, playing a dictator who apparently wants to stage a coup of Catalina! He’s got a merry band of henchmen helping him out, like David Patrick Kelly from Dreamscape, rocking a three tie-clip look; Bill ”Action Jackson” Duke (for my money the movie’s ringer), and of course Vernon Welles, “welles-known,” ha ha, from Weird Science and Innerspace! John Matrix has only a short time to catch up with his daughter, and thankfully Rae Dawn Chong, whom we’re familiar with from Fear City, is along to help him out!
Punchfights and shootslplosions ensue, all to the sounds of a James Horner score filled with steel drums borrowed from 48 Hours; and John Matrix pauses only to deliver a quip or drop David Patrick Kelly and his three tie clips off a cliff! It’s not to be believed how Rae Dawn Chong becomes his greatest helper after being virtually kidnapped by him, but perhaps the sight of this musclebound fellow swinging across the Sherman Oaks Galleria on a giant sausage-balloon simply captured her heart, ha ha! (Though it ought to be noted that, curiously, there’s no hint of r*mance between these two characters at any point in the picture!)
It all comes to a head at Hedaya’s island stronghold, where John Matrix blows people up and shoots them and throws saw blades at them and chops them with machetes, then finally impales Vernon Welles on a big pipe right through his chain mail and into an even bigger steam pipe! If they’d had the courage of their convictions, though, they’d have shown a moment where the transfixed Welles tilts forward and some sizzling, bloody giblets slide out; but Commando is nevertheless really the template for the Violent 80s Hollywood Action Movie, alongside Cobra and a few other dubious gems!
The picture is slick and quick, which should be no surprise as it was directed by Mark Lester: not the child actor from Oliver!, but the fellow who brought us such varied gems as Truck Stop Women, Roller Boogie and Armed and Dangerous! It gets rolling right off the bat, and most of the scenes have things going on in them! Schwarzenegger is as robotic here as in The Terminator, but you still root for the big lug – that rascal John Matrix, ha ha! I enjoyed the picture, even though the TV I watched it on made it look as though it had been shot on consumer-grade video! I’m going to give Commando – and nostalgia figures into this rating, ha ha – two and a half tie clips!

Sunday 7 September 2014

Burl reviews The Sentinel! (1977)

Boogeda-boogeda, it’s Burl! Ha ha, I’m here to review one of those 1970s devil thrillers, and this is no The Exorcist or The Omen or The Legacy or even The Car – it’s the notorious shockshow known as The Sentinel!
Ha ha, the very first thing to mention about this picture is the extraordinary cast! By garr, you’ve got to see it to believe it! It seems everybody wanted to stop by the set of The Sentinel and just make an appearance for the sake of it, and maybe to get a free lunch! The second thing to know is that it was directed by Michael “Death Wish II” Winner, for whom it seems unsuited!
The picture involves supermodel of the world Alison (played by Christina Raines, years before she would go out for smokes in Nightmares), who is not quite ready to settle down with mustachioed pre-vampire Chris “Fright Night” Sarandon, and so spends the first third of the movie apartment hunting! We see several spectacular New York apartments, and learn the outrageous rents they’re asking – sometimes six hundred dollars a month or more for a spacious midtown Manhattan flat! Ha ha, scared yet? Meanwhile Alison starts pitching fits at work, which doesn’t amuse photographer Jeff “Into the Night” Goldblum or commercial director Jerry “F/X” Orbach!
Eventually she finds a place in Brooklyn, but on the river and with a great view of Manhattan! It’s huge and only four hundred a month, but the catch is that it’s the gateway to hell! Ha ha, more immediately, the problem is weird neighbours, like a pussycat-stroking Burgess “The Manitou” Meredith, or elderly blind priest John "Sunset Cove" Carradine or leotard lesbians Sylvia “The Funhouse” Miles and Beverly “Slow Burn” D’Angelo, who only fondle one another and behave as I suppose the people who made this movie expect lesbian ladies to behave!
José Ferrer from Dune is, of course, The Monsignor, and Arthur Kennedy plays his priest-in-chief! They know what’s going on, as does sinister real estate agent Ava Gardner, but when Raines is struck by a vision of her cake-eating reprobate of a father who is dead, ha ha, but who appears prowling around her apartment in grey-skinned dishabille, and whom she tries to send back to the grave at the point of a sharp kitchen knife! Soon detectives Eli “Circle of Iron” Wallach and McBain himself, Christopher Walken, are on the case, and ha ha, somebody should have given these two their own buddy cop show!
Sarandon, who has his own secrets, is trying to figure out what’s going on, and he enlists the help of such figures as Martin “Spaghetti Western” Balsam and William “Christmas Vacation” Hickey! Of course it all climaxes with what this poorly-directed and ugly-looking movie is most famous for: the parade of real-life freaks who purport to be denizens of hell! Ha ha, I suppose they might have needed the job, but it surely has a different feel than Freaks, where the unusual people have personalities and agency! Here they’re merely meant to be scary and shocking, like the lesbians!
At the end, after Tom Berenger from Last Rites shows up and we see that Alison has taken Carradine’s place, you might think to yourself “What did I just watch?” It’s a crude and loony movie, and the script is terrible, but it has a few compelling ideas, one scary scene, and some great makeup from the late, lamented wizard Dick “Spasms” Smith! It also occasionally manages an eerie atmosphere, despite doing almost everything wrong in attempting to generate same! Ha ha! Still, I’ll give The Sentinel one and a half mogey leotards! It’s no good, but oh, that cast! Ha ha!

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Burl reviews Summer Rental! (1985)

Hi, Burl here with another movie review – a fluffy summer holdover called Summer Rental! This was one of the first starring vehicles for John Candy: he’d spent years as a second banana – albeit a big one – supporting comedy stars like Tom Hanks (in Splash and Volunteers), Richard Pryor (in Brewster’s Millions), Bill Murray (in Stripes) and Elliot Gould (in The Silent Partner)! But thanks to this picture, we could look forward to such Candy-centric pictures as Armed and Dangerous and Uncle Buck!
Candy plays Jack Chester, an air traffic controller showing signs of burnout! He’s ordered to take a vacation, so he loads up the family and it’s next stop: Florida! There they take up residence in a seaside shack, and Candy meets two older men who will become important to what scanty shreds of a plot Summer Rental has to offer! The two men are Richard Crenna, whom we know from such films as Death Ship and The Evil, playing a local big-shot and sailor-man who’s managed to win the regatta every year for nearly a decade; and the other is a pirate restauranteur played by Rip “Extreme Prejudice” Torn, who becomes Candy’s ally and sailing mentor!
Karen Austin, whom we may know from Fish Hawk and Far From Home, plays Candy’s wife here, and does so in the same amiably boilerplate way as Stephanie Faracy would in The Great Outdoors a few years later! Kerri Green, who captured hearts in Lucas and The Goonies, plays his eldest daughter, and there are a couple of other kids as well!
The movie clocks in at a lean 87 minutes, but is very obviously missing entire subplots that someone (the studio, or maybe director Carl “All of Me” Reiner) decided should be given the chop! Ha ha, John “Demon Knight” Larroquette shows up as a solicitous vacationer who helps the family (minus Candy) get into a screening of Top Secret, and is perfectly positioned to serve as a romantic rival to Candy, but then poof! He’s gone! There was other stuff like that too!
Altogether it wrecks the image of the finely-crafted 80s Paramount entertainment machines I described in reviewing Footloose, because the movie is kind of muddled, ha ha! (It reminded me of another 1985 Paramount picture, Blue City, in that way!) There’s not a whole lot of forward momentum, or vim, or pep, or, frankly, laffs! Sure, Candy is funny and appealing, because he always was! Crenna and Torn are good too, but the script, I think, is the culprit here! Ha ha, no jokes! Reiner’s direction is a little bland too! It’s a pretty forgettable little fushtwanger and has all the plot of an actual vacation, so I’ll just give Summer Rental one and a half elderly Chinese pirates!

Burl reviews Footloose! (1984)

Ha ha, it’s Burl here, cutting loose, foot loose! Yes, today I’m reviewing a picture called Footloose, which is a movie I’d never seen before just the other day! It’s strange how many of these iconic 80s pictures I’ve never seen, considering how many 80s movies I have seen! Ha ha! But no, never seen Top Gun, never seen Dirty Dancing, never seen Risky Business or Bull Durham or Three Men and a Baby, never seen Six Pack or Stroker Ace or Yes, Giorgio!
But now I can hold my head up high and say to the world that I’ve seen Footloose! Ha ha, finally I am cut loose from that ash-grey pit where dwell those slumped and lumpen creatures who’ve yet to taste its charms, and like the characters in the movie, I now can dance like a man who carries a small portable trampoline with me everywhere I go!
Still, when I watched the picture I felt like I’d seen it before, because the story is so basic and so clearly told here in that 80s Paramount Pictures high-concept style! We all know the situation: big-city boy Ren comes for some reason to live in a little Utah town where they banned dancing after a local tragedy five years earlier! The local kids are so bored they spend their time doing death-defying stunts, and Ren must figure out a way to get their feet tapping again! (Little do we suspect that they’re all actually professional dancers, as the climactic hoedown reveals!)
So like Mickey Rooney and others before them, it is thereby resolved to put on the big event in a local barn! Of course The Reverend gives them a lot of static, but less than I was expecting! Ha ha, he turns out to be a decent guy, as shown in a weird, out-of-nowhere book burning scene, and at the end where he give his tacit consent to the dance!
Naturally Kevin Bacon, a familiar face from Friday the 13th, essays the role of the bristle-hair from the city, who drives a foreign car and knots his tie loosely like Sammy Davis used to! The Reverend’s daughter, who he falls for, is played by Lori Singer from Summer Heat; an actress I’ll always think of in connection with a story where she wouldn’t wear old-age prosthetics in Warlock, when she was supposed to have been struck with a curse of fast-aging, so they had to draw an old lady face over hers with grease pencils!
John Lithgow from The Big Fix plays the Reverend, and it’s funny to think that he did it the same year he played Lord John Whorfin! Actually there’s some Whorfin to the Reverend’s fire-and-brimstone sermons, ha ha! And his wife is none other than Dianne Weist, whose turn it wasn’t quite yet back when she did It’s My Turn; and Chris ”The Wild Life” Penn is very good as Willard, the amiable cowboy who befriends Ren in a genuinely charming scene!
You can tell that I think the cast is the most interesting aspect of the film! The rest isn’t bad—a little dumb, and though the songs are well-loved, I could conceive of a different, better soundtrack! But enough Monday morning quarterbacking! Footloose is classic 80s machine-tooled entertainment, and though I’m not in any hurry to see the remake, I can’t help but wonder how they updated it, or whether it needed updating at all! Ha ha, I give Footloose two handfuls of glitter!