Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Friday 23 July 2021

Burl reviews A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy! (1982)


With a blast of Mendelssohn, it’s Burl, here to review a minor picture by the bespectacled comedian, upon whose private life I render no judgment nor pronouncement at this time! And I guess most of his pictures qualify as minor ones, though there are more than enough relatively major works salted into his vast filmography, the most recent and likely last of them being perhaps Midnight in Paris! (Or maybe that just seems major because of the time travel, ha ha!) But this picture, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, is decidedly minor!

It was intended as such from the get-go, apparently, and, in a largely salutary way, that intention shows! The picture is an amuse-bouche set in and around a country house in the early part of the century, with a group of mostly uptown folk gathering to celebrate, or to privately mourn, some upcoming nuptials! The house of course belongs to Allen’s character, Andrew, a stockbroker who spends most of his time inventing crazy things, like the machine that takes bones out of fish, or if you prefer, although there’s no point to it, it puts bones in fish! And he’s married to Adrian, played by Mary Steenburgen from Time After Time, who has lately been ignoring Andrew in the bedroom, causing him to spend ever more time in the barn crafting his inventions!

The picture begins with its only scenes away from the Andrew/Adrian property, in which we are introduced to the high-pated professor Leopold, played by José Ferrer from Dune and The Sentinel! Leopold is an intellectual and a blowhard, and he arrives at Andrew’s house in the company of his fiancée Ariel, played by Mia Farrow from Rosemary’s Baby! We also meet Andrew’s best friend Maxwell, a horndog medico played by Tony Roberts from Amityville 3-D! He invites candy stripe nurse Dulcy, essayed by Julie Hagerty from Airplane, along for the weekend, and thusly do we get our six main characters!

The relaxed and bucolic vibe of the movie kicks in once they’re all gathered at Andrew and Adrian’s house! Of course everyone is in love with Ariel: her Shakespearian name alone assures it! Andrew had once had his shot with Ariel, but blew it, and Maxwell falls deeply in love with her the moment he sniffs her! Ha ha! Now, I think this is one of the best performances Tony Roberts ever gave, but I must say that I found his instant obsession with Ariel one of the more irritating aspects of this picture, and it came as a distinct relief to me when he received an arrow in the heart!

Of course the picture is inspired by Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night, but with 70% more neuroses added in! There's an undercurrent of melancholy, of mourning for the ephemeral, with a key line being Ariel's observation that "This beautiful summer light doesn't last forever!" All the actors are good, and I particularly enjoyed Ferrer’s pompous academic, even if he was made a pretty easy target by Allen’s hastily-written script! There are some solid laffs, and the bohankie-farce aspect, which might have been tiresome had it been allowed to fully conquer the narrative, remains under control! It’s the easy country vibe, unusual for Allen, that makes the picture such a delight, and in perfect support of that we get marvelous cinematography from the great Gordon Willis, and lovely, pastoral second-unit shooting from that bearded Finn, Jeri Sopanen, who also shot My Dinner With Andre!

The last-minute detour into the lightly supernatural fits the movie well, and the use of Mendelssohn’s music is ideal! It’s a highly pasteurized work to be sure, but as light, enjoyable, and white as a glass of chardonnay on the lawn! Ha ha, I always enjoy a country house picture, especially ones as free from Chekhovian decay as this! I give A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy two and a half musical house slippers!

(And for anybody who's interested, this is my 900th movie review! How they do add up!)

Thursday 22 July 2021

Burl revews Time After Time! (1979)

Whizzing crazily through time, it’s Burl, here with a time travel suspense-romance that brings us from the gaslit streets of Victorian London to the hills and bridges and concrete canyons of modern-day, or at least 1979, San Francisco! Ha ha, yes, it’s Time After Time -  ha ha, no, not the Cyndi Lauper song, but the movie we all know and love from Mr. Nicholas Meyer!

The story begins in Victorian times, with Mr. H. G. Wells, as essayed by Malcolm McDowell from Get Crazy, inviting his friends over to hear about his invention of a time machine! Ha ha, his buddies don’t believe him, all except Dr. John Leslie Stevens, who turns out to be better known as Jack the Ripper and is played by Morgan himself, David Warner from Nightwing and The Omen; and when the bobbies come a-knocking, he flees the scene in the time machine, doodle-doodle-doo! Luckily the machine has an automatic come-back system, so Wells follows tout suite, and finds out that his new address is San Francisco circa ‘79! Ha ha!

Why San Francisco and not London, you may ask? It has something to do with a Welles exhibit being put on in the City By the Bay! In any case I don’t think we’re meant to think much about it: the focus is on Wells’s dislocation and his steep learning curve as he tries to get used to swingin’ 70s California life! After all, the first person he meets in the new century is a very young Corey Feldman, the lad from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter! Wells cleverly tracks the Ripper down by going to banks, and in doing so attracts the attentions of currency exchange officer Amy, played by Mary Steenburgen from A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy!

The movie bounces around from light fish-out-of-water comedy to tender romance to ripper murders in which mutilated prostitutes are hung up on lampposts! Charles Cioffi from Klute and Remo Williams appears as a police who’s trying to figure out why ripper murders are happening in Frisky, and meanwhile, at the same time Amy finally realizes who her gentlemanly new boyfriend actually is, and that he is in fact a time traveler, Amy’s pal from the bank is dismembered in an encounter with the murderous Stevens!

With its Miklos Rosza score, the film feels lushly appointed, even if it doesn’t always look that way! Ha ha, Meyer’s filmmaking skills are fairly basic, it must be said, and San Francisco has looked better in nearly every film set there that I can think of! (The Guy Maddin/Johnson Brothers pastiche film The Green Fog offers instructive and immediate confirmation on this - ha ha, even Herbie Rides Again has more Frisco atmosphere!) The premise is clever and engaging, and the actors are charming, but the movie also offers a distinct feeling of not fully rising to its potential! It’s nevertheless a fun divertissement, and something many are fond of!

I remember seeing it on TV as a youth, and I liked it then well enough, so I understand the residual fondness! But as pleasant as it is, ripper murders notwithstanding, its highs do not rise all that terribly high! It’s competent Hollywood entertainment, full stop, and so I give Time After Time two and a half pomme frites!

Wednesday 21 July 2021

Burl reviews Body Count! (1986)


With a just-west-of-Hogtown hello, it’s Burl, here to review some shot-on-video murder! I’m talking Emmeritus today, the Southern Ontario production house that made a series of desperately cheap SOV extravaganzas in the 80s - you probably know Blue Murder or The Tower! Today’s picture, however, is Body Count, and perhaps after all you recall that bizarre video box image lingering unrented in the video stores of your youth!

It seems there’s a murderer on the loose in Hamilton! There’s also a jerky cab driver who has a bad case of Resting Wayne Gretzky Face and who treats ladies abominably! I don’t know if this guy is supposed to be the hero of the picture, ha ha, but he’s frankly impossible to get behind! And for the first twenty minutes or so, we’re lazily invited to consider that the cab driver, Mark Stevens, and the handgun killer may be one and the same!

As the picture begins, an old lady has already been killed, with a card reading “1” left on her body! Soon, in a scene recalling the opening of Zodiac, a young couple having a night frolic in a park become numbers 2 and 3, and highly circumstantial evidence - a red cab such as the one driven by Mark, was observed near the scene - places the cab driver in the crosshairs of Hamilton’s non-crack murder squad! A raggedy, Seymour Cassel-looking cop with a curious polyglot accent is the main investigator on the case, and with every visit to Mark, his threats of arrest grow more immediate!

This is trouble piled upon trouble for Mark! He’s in hock with the loan shark who provided the money for him to buy his cab, and his romantically inconstant nature assures problems in that arena too! After taking a bizarre lady to a graveyard, he happens to meet the sister of one of the victims, who’s apparently just new in town and has nowhere to go! Heedless of the fact that he’s already in a relationship with a waitress, Mark shacks up with the bereaved young lady!

Meanwhile we meet the real killer, a crazed misanthrope called Paul Carter, played by Jonathan Potts from Jason X! An irascible doctor has given him a diagnosis of imminent cancer death, and that increases his feeling of having been hard done by, and does nothing to curtail his campaign of murder! To pass the time, he broods in his movie poster-decorated apartment, then kills his sweet landlady! But like Mark, he too meets a girl: an incompetent cashier played by Cynthia Kereluk from Mark of Cain; and they begin a relationship not dissimilar to the one between Joan Allen and Tom Noonan in Manhunter!

James Knapp from Revenge of the Radioactive Reporter plays a radio host who’s got the face for radio, sure, but the voice for silent film! He taunts the killer over his radio program, and later ends up being held hostage by him! Ha ha! It won’t be telling tales out of school to reveal that the idiotic cops finally shift their focus from the cab driver to the real killer, and blow him away in the only special effects sequence in the picture, which is to say a few squibs and some mild blood bags!

Ha ha, this is a pretty terrible movie! The shot-on-video aspect is one of its more ingratiating qualities, in fact, along with the scene where Mark receives a highly satisfying beatdown from the loan shark! Otherwise its appeal is strictly of the ironical appreciation variety, because by every conventional measure, this is awful! The theme song opening the picture, performed by a highly uncool funk band, is entertaining, but horrible! The acting is funny, but largely unspeakable! The endlessly talky scenes are simply straight-up deadly! Ha ha! In short, it’s Canadian filmmaking at its very worst, leaving even nobortniks like Tulips gasping in the dust of its ineptitude! I give Body Count one half of an After the Fall of New York movie poster!

Tuesday 20 July 2021

Burl reviews Bill & Ted Face the Music! (2020)

Ha ha dudes and dudettes, and a most excellent hello to you all! Yes, I’m here to review the very belatedly produced third entry into the Bill & Ted time travel fantasia series! Now, I’ve seen the first of the pictures, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but never the second, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey! So I was a little worried that I wouldn’t know the whole story of what was going on in this newest entry, Bill & Ted Face the Music!

Well, that turned out not to be a major problem! Familiarity with the characters and their adventures in the first picture proved sufficient background to the tale of Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan, who are older now and have not yet managed to compose the world-uniting song the future people prophecied they would write! While they and their band Wyld Stallyns did indeed enjoy a taste of fame, they are now has-beens, forgotten by everyone! Having married their Middle Ages princesses, they have each fathered a daughter who acts exactly in the manner to which we who have witnessed their previous excellent adventures are familiar: perpetual expressions of slacker bewilderment, regular use of overfancy language delivered in California surfer style, glee expressed in air-guitar solos! They’re stoners without drugs, and all too evidently unprepared for the challenges the narrative will throw at them!

Keanu Reeves, well known from John Wick Chapter 2, once again plays Ted, and Alex Winter from The Lost Boys is Bill! It all comes down to a plea from the future people to compose the cosmic song, and their efforts to race through time to snag it from their future selves, while evading a maudlin killer robot the future people have sent after them for some reason! The meat of the movie is their encounters with their future selves, three, five, eight years into the future, and the revelation that these older Bills and Teds are at once craftier, more venal, and even bigger imbeciles than their affable present-day incarnations! If you remember the small scene in the original picture in which pre-Excellent Adventure Bill and Ted, loitering in the parking lot of the Circle K, meet their slightly further along selves, who are friendly enough but also deliver both advice and needless riddles, then the middle act of this picture will be familiar!

William Sadler from Hard to Kill, Demon Knight, and Die Hard 2 returns from the second picture to play the German-accented, oversensitive Spirit of Death, while Hal Landon Jr. from Eraserhead and Amy Stoch from Summer School are fellow returnees, playing respectively Ted’s iron-nosed dad and his ex-stepmother/new stepsister! There are eventually more characters than the movie can really support, but the nature of the picture is such that the usual virtues we look for, like economy of action, elegance of design, or cleanliness of narrative line, don’t much count! Instead it’s gags and nostalgia, which the film delivers not in plenty, but in an acceptable quantity!

It’s a slicker and more expensive picture than the first one at least, and I’d imagine the second one too! It seems good-hearted and un-cynical, which is a refreshing thing in these crazy days, so I liked that! But ultimately there’s not a whole lot to it, and it doesn’t lodge in the mind for very long after a viewing! Maybe if I watch it again (and, having a nine year-old who’s grown to enjoy the slacker antics of Bill and Ted, I surely will), it’ll grow on me a bit, and someday find a place in an old Burl’s heart! Until then, I give Bill & Ted Face the Music two theremin solos!

Monday 19 July 2021

Burl reviews It's Alive! (1974)


Hello and a-goo goo goo to all of you, it’s Burl, here to review the king of the killer baby movies! Of course there’s only one picture that can really claim this title, and it’s Larry Cohen’s famous tale of cradle-creature terror, It’s Alive! I recall when I was in grade school, ha ha, and it must have been from a reissue when the sequel came out, because I was too young to have any consciousness of the original, but the whole schoolyard was abuzz with talk about the scene with the milkman being attacked, and the street running first white with milk, then red with blood, or anyway pink with the blood and milk flowing together in a cruel sauce!

The plot is pretty simple, even if the movie itself is not! Ha ha, Larry Cohen always was good with a concept, and he knocked it out of the park with this one: an atmosphere filled with pollution results in the birth of a baby which is larger, stronger, and much more murderous than your usual everyday run-of-the-mill infant! This bairn is clawed and befanged, and its first order of post-natal business, set to the sounds of an alarming Bernard Herrmann score, is to slash and claw the attending doctors and nurses, and then escape out of a skylight!

This doesn’t sit well with expectant father John P. Ryan, the stern-faced and almost Neanderthal actor we know so well from Avenging Force, The King of Marvin Gardens, and Three O’ Clock High! His poor wife, played by Sharon Farrell from The Premonition and Sweet Sixteen, survives the monster birth, but slowly loses her mind thereafter, and the baby himself prowls the sewers and shrubberies of Los Angeles and becomes the object of a police manhunt! Without showing too much of the infant, Cohen manages to instill a real sense of sympathy for it; while Ryan, in an excellent performance, goes from wanting to kill the child himself to being willing to lay down his life for it!

Cohen evidently liked to hire tall guys, because everyone in this movie is about 6’2”! Almost-old timers Andrew Duggan, whose final-ever appearance was in Cohen’s A Return to Salem’s Lot, appears as a scientist; Guy Stockwell from Santa Sangre pops up, and Michael Ansara from The Manitou is in there too! James Dixon, also fairly tall, plays a cop called Perkins, and I believe he was the only actor to appear in all three It's Alive movies, and in fact he was a guy who was in just about every Larry Cohen movie there is, and also Maniac Cop, which Cohen wrote and produced!

Cohen is, to me, a fascinating filmmaker! He’s got a singularly primitive style that sometimes makes it seem as though he didn’t know that much about making movies, until you discover the sophistication of the thing woven in, sometimes subsumed, other times on the surface sitting side by side with the primitivism! He’s a strange case, just like J. Edgar Hoover, ha ha, and it’s clear that he in fact knew plenty about making movies, but there were some things, like coherence and slick Hollywood professionalism, about which he simply didn’t care! He liked to use non-actors if he thought they’d be right for the part - real doctors to play doctors, real milkmen to play milkmen, that sort of thing - and that verisimilitude was simply more important to him than the usual day player’s imitative competence!

Like its first sequel, It Lives Again, this is a gritty little horror drama very self-conscious of its socio-political commentary! Of course there was no shortage of environmental thrillers in the 1970s, and this is certainly one of them; but it also seems to me to have a few things to say about modern fatherhood! What they are, I’m not sure, but I know that I connected with not just the father (being one myself), but the little fang-baby too! Like him, I was born with a terrible condition, but rather than making me eat people’s faces it made me unable to keep food down, and so was a real risk to my life but not to anyone else’s! An operation, cutting edge at the time, saved me, but it was touch and go for a while, and my father, on some level believing me doomed, sort of checked out emotionally! He was, and is, an excellent father, but in a way he never fully returned from that check-out, and so there’s a level on which I can appreciate the monster child’s sense of dislocation and his occasional urge to mutilate! Ha ha! So in the end, while it’s surely a flawed picture, I consider that it’s really got something, and what it’s got might be a little different for every viewer! I give It’s Alive two and a half French toasts!

Tuesday 6 July 2021

Burl reviews Pier 5, Havana! (1959)


Ày-üho, it’s Burl, here to review a picture shot, at least partially, in good old Havana, Cuba, reportedly in that small window of time between when Castro took power and when Americans figured out that he was a Communist! Ha ha, so it was against the odds, in an era when anti-Communist sentiment was still pretty strong and capitalism venerated as a universal balm, that a funny little anti-Bastista, pro-Revolution mystery-actioner was produced, which we now know as Pier 5, Havana!

It’s a picture made with economy by Edward L. Cahn, who also brought us Creature With the Atom Brain and Zombies of Mora Tau, but they nevertheless did get down to Cuba for some location work, and I even recognized some of the locations! Ha ha, I went to Havana in the 1990s and really enjoyed myself there, and one of the amazing things is that the city, its buildings and its vehicles, its bars and hotels and museums, and even many of its people, seem to have been preserved as in aspic from the very time period depicted in this picture! It’s quite a fascinating place, and I recommend a visit!

Pier 5, Havana is more or less a budget version of The Third Man, with a pugnacious American not overburdened by brains on the search for an old friend who has disappeared! There are big differences, though: here, the American is Steve Daggett, played by Cameron Mitchell from movies as diverse as Deadly Prey, Action U.S.A., Without Warning and Raw Force, and he’s more proactive than old Holly Martins was; while the missing figure, Hank, is a souse, but otherwise a jolly enough fellow rather than a murderous, amoral dealer of bad black market medicines!

Steve Daggett’s adventure through Cuba in its immediate post-revolution aftermath takes him first into the custody of amiable, crafty policeman Lt. Garcia, played by non-Hispanic Michael Granger from Murder By Contract! Garcia in turn takes Daggett to see his old love Monica, essayed by willowy Allison Hayes, perhaps most famous from Gunslinger; she had first married the disappeared Hank and then taken up with a penthouse smoothie called Ricardo, played by Eduardo Noriega from High Risk!

Daggett runs into trouble with a gang of Batista supporters, who put a brutal punching on him and leave him to crawl around on the floor like a hen! Nestor Paiva from Tarantula and Otto Waldis from Artists and Models are part of this gang’s brain trust, and their plot involves bombing various buildings being used by the new Castro administration! Ha ha, by Guevara!

When Hank, a man barely alive, stumbles out of the jeep with which he narrowly escaped from the Batista-ites, he turns out to be played by Logan Field from Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers! Ha ha, by this time Daggett is in full noir detective mode and the picture offers double dealings, phone booth knifings, fake crates of chocolate, gangplank rolldowns, and pierside punchfights: the whole bit! The action gets a little talky here and there, and the narrative complexity the picture initially teases us with has dissolved into beardwax by the conclusion! Still, the pro-Castro take is just so unexpected and strange that interest is maintained throughout, and it’s nice to see Mitchell in an heroic role, even if he comes off as a bit of a dimbulb! I enjoyed my viewing, and I give Pier 5, Havana a couple of aspirin!

Sunday 4 July 2021

Burl reviews Tales From the Darkside: The Movie! (1990)


Once upon a time, it’s Burl, here to review a multi-story, omnibus, portmanteau anthology horror picture! Ha ha, of course Dead of Night is the standard bearer for such works, and I’m here to tell you that this movie is no Dead of Night; nor, indeed, is it a Creepshow! No, in actual fact, the picture is Tales From the Darkside: The Movie!

Ha ha, I remember when this one came out in the theatres, but for whatever reason, even though I always like to see horror pictures on the big screen, I ignored it! And I continued to ignore it until recently, when a DVD of the movie came my way and I could ignore it no longer! It begins with a framing story concerning a suburban witch played by Blondie herself, Debbie Harry, well known from Videodrome, is preparing to fricassee a paperboy she has captured, played by Matthew Lawrence from Planes, Trains and Automobiles!

To distract her from her meal prep, the paperboy recounts three tales from a big volume he has found in his cell! The first is the most star-studded of them: laid on a college campus (a setting ol’ Burl always appreciates in horror movies), we meet a gang of students, including Steve Buscemi of Escape From L.A. fame as a nerdbody who has received a mummy by mail order, toffee-nosed rich boy Lee, played by Robert Sedgwick from Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home, who has cheated Buscemi out of a grant or a scholarship or something; the toffeenose’s even more toffee-nosed girlfriend, played by Julianne Moore from The Fugitive; and the girlfriend’s brother, who seems out of place in this tennis whites-wearing crew, essayed by Christian Slater of Hot Tub Time Machine 2! Soon the mean-faced mail order mummy, previously a reposing mummy, becomes a full-on walking mummy, and like his compadres in Dawn of the Mummy, exacts a little gory vengeance to the beat of the cloth-wrapped feet!

Next we meet a rich man, played by the always-welcome William Hickey from Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, who fears a local housecat and hires a gentleman assassin played by New York Doll David Johansen to take care of the fearsome feline! This one is based on a Stephen King story, but it’s one of his sillier ones, featuring as it does a scene in which the kitty forces its way into someone’s mouth and down his gullet! Ha ha!

The final story is the one that tries to pack in some emotional resonance, and it involves a downtown artist played by James Remar from Quiet Cool, who, despite being poor and unsuccessful, maintains a vast Soho warehouse studio that would tax the income of a Jeff Koons! He has a scary encounter with a gargoyle which wounds him and makes him promise never to tell anyone about it, and then leaves him be! Remar meets a pretty lady played by Rae Dawn Chong from Commando! They fall in love, get married, have kids, and if you can’t guess the twist then you’ve never read an EC Comic or a story by O. Henry!

With the stories told and the basting pan ready, the paperboy of the framing story must figure out a way to escape from the witch, and ha ha, I won’t give that part away! I will give away this fact, however: it’s not a great movie! But it’s not awful either: the cast alone (many of whom had appeared on the Tales From the Darkside TV show) ensures that! It’s slickly made, with some fine makeups and a moment here and a moment there, but it’s decidedly deficient in affrights, and in the end sits about on the level of, say, Creepshow 2! But for my money it doesn’t touch the Amicus pictures from yesteryear (though it does manhandle the later Milton Subotsky productions like The Uncanny and The Monster Club), and while it provides some fun, and the final story tries hard, I can only muster a rating of one and a half wire hangers for Tales From the Darkside: The Movie!

Friday 2 July 2021

Burl reviews Sweet Sixteen! (1983)


With a small town desert hello, it’s Burl, all revved up and ready to review a mystery slasher for you! Of course the movie is Sweet Sixteen, and although it is indeed a mystery and contains what it reckons to be a twist ending, the biggest surprise this picture has to offer is that it wasn’t directed by Howard Avedis or shot by Gary Graver! Ha ha! Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true!

As it turns out, Gary Graver shot some additional material for it, so it’s not as bereft of his touch as I had imagined! And the confusion in any case comes more from my own mind than anywhere else, because after all, the video box for this one and for Mortuary are similar enough as to intermingle in the mind when not directly confronted with them! That easy confusion is part of the the Vestron touch, I suppose - ha ha, that, and their lousy non-stick label glue!

But I digress, more than usual even! Sweet Sixteen is a mystery slasher set in Texas (but shot in California), and, though it never really commits to the “holiday/event slasher” bit, the script lazily attempts to connect a series of local murders with the impending sixteenth birthday of new-girl-in-town Melissa, played by Aleisa Shirley from Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone! Melissa is the subject of some nude scenes and no shortage of leering underwear shots, so it’s a good thing the actress looks well past the age she’s supposed to be, ha ha! It’s creepy enough as it is, and if the filmmakers wrestled at all with the need, per the film’s title, to make Melissa so young, against the desire to provide the genre’s requisite cheesecake, they evidently knuckled under completely to the latter obligation!

Bo Hopkins from Tentacles and Mutant plays the local sheriff on the case, and his kids, Marci and Hank, played by Dana Kimmell from Friday the 13th part 3 and Steve Antin from The Last American Virgin, are on the case too, especially Marci, who fancies herself a sleuth! In the end she doesn’t do much sleuthing though, other than blundering across the dead bodies left behind by the killer! Meanwhile, Patrick Macnee from A View to a Kill and Susan Strasberg from The Manitou play Melissa’s parents, and Don Stroud from Explosion and Django Unchained is a local racist with a grudge against the Indigenous peoples of the area!

As you can see, it has a pretty impressive cast, and the familiar faces continue right into the margins! Michael Pataki from Graduation Day is a local grandee; Larry Storch from Without Warning is a bartender; Glenn Withrow from Armed and Dangerous is in there as a something or other; and Henry Wilcoxon from Caddyshack plays old man Greyfeather, because what movie like this would be complete without a little touch of offensive redface!

The idea is that any strapping young country lad who shows too strong an interest in Melissa is destined for a dicing, and the consequence of this criterion is that most of the victims are male, which is a refreshing change (though not as rare a thing as is often claimed; ultimately the victim gender ratio in 80s slasher pictures is about equal); but on the other hand tends to reduce the list of probable suspects to nearly a singularity! Ha ha!

There’s a terrific B cast, even if some of them aren’t trying very hard, and the lighting is not entirely awful, but there’s not a lot else to recommend this picture! The script is, I’m sorry to say, unremittingly terrible, the pokings numbingly infrequent, the “mystery” eminently solvable even to a viewer like ol’ Burl, and the Special Makeup Effects virtually non-existent! Also, there's a syrup-laden theme song that will have you rubbing at your ears like Curly Howard! Still, with that cast it remains watchable, and so I give Sweet Sixteen one and a half latherings!

Thursday 1 July 2021

Burl reviews Cindy and Donna! (1970)


Ohhh it’s Burrrrlllll, sweeeeet Burrrrllllll, where are you tooooo-niiiight??? Ha ha, that was an attempt to give myself a syrupy theme song, the sort of warbling tune we find in movies as diverse as Sweet Sixteen and Cindy and Donna! And of course it’s Cindy and Donna I’d like to ramble on about today - a Crown International special from the days before they turned fully to the teen sex comedy genre with pictures like The Pom Pom Girls, Van Nuys Blvd., Malibu Beach and The Van, and instead put all their energy into weird nudie dramas!

Cindy and Donna Weeks are sisters, and in fact the movie is really a portrayal of the entire Weeks family, which is spectacularly dysfunctional! At sixteen or whatever age she’s supposed to be (the actress is of course in her twenties), Cindy has already developed a sort of prudish housewife mien, while her sister Donna is a wild child with poor judgment skills! Their mother speaks in a bizarre accent that seems half New Jersey and half just plain Jersey; she’s a nagging, bitter lush who’s of no help to her daughters! Dad is a barfly with a bad case of wandering eye and a hankering for Donna which turns out to be reciprocal! Ha ha, yuck-o-bah!

The father also hankers after the world’s laziest erotic dancer, ha ha, who is played by Alice Friedland from The Young Marrieds and is the same age as Donna! Again, yuck-o-bah! Meanwhile the mother tries to pick up Dad’s barfly friends, but they just put her in the car and send her on her way! Cindy gets more and more prim as her family becomes more and more debauched, but finally she’s had too much, and something within her busts! First she enjoys (or doesn’t enjoy: it’s hard to tell) a touch of bohankie with her more worldly gal pal, and then near the end of the picture she makes a bold play for Donna’s boyfriend! Donna arrives home in the middle of it, raises an objection, and is commanded to leave her own house by the nasty jerk of a boyfriend! Donna flees, trips over a little red wagon, and is creamed by a passing vehicle! As Cindy scream-weeps for her sister, the syrupy title song begins again and the credits roll!

It’s a strange picture, ha ha! Of course there are plenty of ladies in dishabille, but I can’t tell if it’s the work of someone who earnestly wanted to tell the story of a crazy malfunctioning family and the tribulations of being the youngest daughter of such a clan, and then they added all the sex to make it marketable; or if they wanted from the get-go to make a sex picture and then came up with this weird quasi-drama in an attempt to make it dramatically respectable! I suppose it was probably the latter, but I like to think it was the former, and that it was a story director Robert Anderson - whose first movie this was at age fifty-three, and who later went on to make The Young Graduates - simply had to tell!

Not only is it a strange picture, it’s a bad one too, I’m sorry to say! No great filmmaking skills nor cinematic imagination are in evidence, and the simulated bohankie on display is pretty cheerless! It’s got a some value as an artifact or a curio, I suppose, but not a lot beyond that! I give Cindy and Donna one spark plug box mobile!