Embracing the Melodrama Part II #60: Burnout (dir by Graham Meech-Burkestone)

404px-BurnoutLe sigh.

In the future, when I decide to do a HUGE and impractical series of reviews, I’m going to make sure that I only include films that I’ve already seen.  Because, seriously, I added Burnout without knowing much about the film, other than it was a Crown International Film.  Eventually, I hope to be able to say that I’ve reviewed every single film released by Crown International.  I knew that I’d have to watch and review Burnout some time so why not now?


Before adding the film to my list of films to review, I did at least read a synopsis of the film’s plot.  Here’s what it says on the back of Mill Creek’s Savage Cinema box set:

“A trouble teenager, whose sole desire is to become a great drag racer, almost ruins his own dreams when he spurns his dad’s racing advice.  But support from his girlfriend enables him to prove his abilities to the racing world.”

Hey, that sounds really melodramatic, doesn’t it?  (In fact, it sounds kinda like the plot of the film At Any Price…)  That’ll be perfect for a series called Embracing the Melodrama, Part II.  Let’s watch it right now…

Well, don’t bother.  Burnout is basically 75 minutes of stock footage with 15 minutes of bad actors mouthing really bad dialogue.  Whenever we watch the races, we hear an announcer saying stuff like, “This is really exciting!” or “This is his first time to race!” or “OH MY GOD!  THIS IS REALLY FREAKING EXCITING!” (okay, I may have imagined that last one) and you have to be thankful for the announcer because otherwise, you’d never know who actually won anything.  This is one of the worst acted, worst edited, worst directed, worst written films that I’ve ever seen.  And, after countless posts in which I’ve defended their films, I have to announce that this is probably a strong contender for the worst film to ever be released by Crown International.

Bleh!  Enough of this review.  Burnout is 90 minutes of my life that I will never get back.  I refuse to spend any more time thinking about it.


Embracing the Melodrama Part II #59: Hardcore (dir by Paul Schrader)


“Turn it off…turn it off…turn it off…TURN IT OFF!” — Jake Van Dorn (George C. Scott) in Hardcore (1979)

Jake Van Dorn (George C. Scott) is a businessman who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He’s a deeply religious man, a sincere believer in predestination and the idea that only an elite few has been prelected to go to Heaven.  Jake is divorced (though he occasionally tells people that his wife died) and is the father of a teenage girl named Kristen (Ilah Davis).

One of the first things that we notice about Jake is that there appears to be something off about his smile.  There’s no warmth or genuine good feeling behind it.  Instead, whenever Jake smile, it’s obvious that it’s something he does because that what he’s supposed to do.  Indeed, everything Jake does is what he’s supposed to do and he expects his daughter to do the same.

When Kristen goes to a church camp in California, she soon disappears.  Jake and his brother-in-law, Wes (Dick Sargent), fly down to Los Angeles and hire a sleazy private investigator, Andy Mast (Peter Boyle), to look for her.  A few weeks later, Andy shows Jake a pornographic film.  The star?  Kristen.

Jake is convinced that Kristen has been kidnapped and is being held captive.  Wes tells Jake that he should just accept that this is God’s will.  Andy tells Jake that, even if he does find Kristen, Jake might not want her back.  Finally, Jake tells off Wes, fires Andy, and ends up in Los Angeles himself.  Pretending to be a film producer and recruiting a prostitute named Nikki (Season Hubley) to serve as a guide, Jake searches for his daughter.

The relationship between Jake and Nikki is really the heart of the film.  For Jake, Nikki becomes a temporary replacement for his own daughter.  For Nikki, Jake appears to be the only man in the world who doesn’t want to use her sexually.  But, as Jake gets closer and closer to finding his daughter, Nikki realizes that she’s getting closer and closer to being abandoned.

Hardcore is a pretty good film, one that was shot in location in some of the sleaziest parts of 70s Los Angeles.  Plotwise, the film is fairly predictable but George C. Scott, Season Hubley, and Peter Boyle all give excellent performances.  (The scenes were Scott pretends to be a porn producer are especially memorable, with Scott perfectly capturing Jake’s discomfort while also subtly suggesting that Jake is enjoying himself more than he wants to admit.)  And, even if you see it coming from miles away, the film’s ending will stick with you.