A Movie A Day #201: L.A. Bounty (1989, directed by Worth Keeter)

Sybil Danning vs. Wings Hauser?  What could go wrong with that?

Cavanaugh (Wings Hauser) is an insane drug dealer who is also an artist.  When he is not coming up with elaborate ways to kill people, Cavanaugh can be found painting in his warehouse and talking to himself.  Cavanaugh spends a lot of time talking.  Ruger (Sybil Danning) is a former cop turned bounty hunter.  In the tradition of Clint Eastwood, Ruger rarely speaks.  Ruger has good reason to hate Cavanaugh.  When she was a cop, Cavanaugh killed her partner.  Now that Cavanaugh has kidnapped a local politician, Ruger is the obvious choice to track down Cavanaugh, get revenge for her partner, and save the next mayor of Los Angeles.

A typical low-budget late 80s action film, L.A. Bounty is distinguished by the contrast between the ferocious overacting of Wings Hauser and the underacting of Sybil Danning.  This was one of Danning’s final starring roles before she retired from the movies.  (She has recently returned, with cameos in two Rob Zombie productions.)  It is interesting to see Danning in the type of role that would typically go to either Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, or maybe even Chuck Norris.  According to the imdb trivia section for L.A. Bounty, Danning only has 31 lines in the entire movie, which is more than I can remember her saying.  Danning, however, is such a strong physical presence that she does not have to say anything to make her point or show how tough she is.  Hauser, on the other hand, never stops talking, moving, and laughing.  This is one of Hauser’s craziest performances, which is saying something.  From scene to scene, Hauser’s performance is so consistently bizarre that it keeps things entertaining.

L.A. Bounty may not be anything spectacular but fans of Danning and Hauser will not be disappointed.

Confessions of a TV Addict #3: The Marvel Super Heroes Have Arrived!

cracked rear viewer

Captain America and his costumed cohorts made their television debuts way before the Marvel Cinematic Universe began dominating box offices around the world. THE MARVEL SUPER HEROES debuted in 1966, at the height of the BATMAN camp craze, with Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, and The Sub-Mariner the rotating stars of this limited animation series. And I do mean limited – Grantray-Lawrence Animation literally made copies of the comic book artwork of Jack ‘King’ Kirby, ‘Sturdy’ Steve Ditko, and other Bullpen artists, transferred them to film and basically just animated the character’s mouths and an occasional swinging fist!

The cartoons (and I use that term loosely) were syndicated to local stations, who filled holes in their time slots with the mighty Marvel heroes. Some stations ran them as stand-alone series, while others used the segments as part of local kid’s shows. Up here in New England, we watched on WNAC-TV (Channel 7 at…

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Film Review: Patty Hearst (dir by Paul Schrader)

The 1988 film, Patty Hearst, is based on a fascinating true story.

In 1974, newspaper heiress Patty Hearst was a 19 year-old student at Berkeley who was kidnapped from her apartment by a group of self-styled leftist revolutionaries known as the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA).  The SLA was led by a charismatic escaped prisoner who called himself Field Marshal Cinque and who announced — via messages that Hearst read into a tape recorder — that Hearst was being held hostage in the name of social justice.  The police and FBI spent several months unsuccessfully searching for Hearst until one day, the SLA released an audio tape in which Hearst announced that she had now joined the SLA and would now be known as Tania.  Hearst was soon robbing banks and went from being a hostage to a wanted criminal.  When she was arrested in 1975, Hearst claimed to have been brainwashed by the SLA and people still debate whether she was a sincere revolutionary, a calculating criminal, or a victim.

(From what I’ve read about the Hearst kidnapping, I guess the modern day equivalent would be if Kendall Jenner disappeared and then resurfaced in Portland, setting cars on fire with Antifa.)

What can said for sure is that, after being arrested and convicted of bank robbery, Patty Hearst was sentenced to 7 years in prison.  Hearst served less than three years before her sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter.  Twenty years later, another President — Bill Clinton — gave her a full pardon.  Needless to say, the rest of the SLA did not receive a pardon or, for that matter, even a commutation.  The majority of them, including Field Marshal Cinque, died in a fiery explosion that came at the climax of a gun battle with police.  The rest were arrested, convicted, and ended up serving their full sentences.  Of course, while the majority of the SLA came from middle and upper middle class backgrounds, only one of them was the heir to a fortune.  When she was arrested, Patty may have given her career as being an “urban guerilla,” but ultimately, she was the granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst.

(Regardless of whether you believe Patty Hearst was brainwashed or not, it’s an undeniable fact that it’s easier to be a revolutionary when you know you won’t face any serious consequences if the revolution eventually fails.  If the members of the SLA were around today, they could just spend their time on twitter, retweeting John Fugelsang’s thoughts on Jesus.  But, in 1974, there was no twitter…)

Based on Every Secret Thing, Hearst’s own account of her kidnapping and subsequent life as a fugitive, Patty Hearst opens with the heiress (played by Natasha Richardson) being kidnapped and held prisoner by the SLA.  For the first fourth of the film, we see everything exclusively through Patty’s eyes.  She spends her days locked in a dark closet that’s so tiny that she can barely stand.  Whenever the door is opened, shafts a bright light flood both the closet and the screen, blinding not only Patty but the audience as well.  At first, Patty cannot even see the faces of the people who have kidnapped her.  All she knows are their voices.  Whenever that door opens, neither Patty nor the viewer knows whether she’s going to fed, berated, comforted, or raped.  All four of them happen to her, several times over the course of her time in that closet.  It’s harrowing to watch, all the more so because Natasha Richardson gives such an empathetic and bravely vulnerable performance as Patty.  When Patty is finally allowed to leave that closet, the audience is almost thankful as she is.  And, when Patty gets out of the closet, the look of the film changes as well.  It goes from being darkly lit to almost garishly colorful.  Patty’s entire world has changed.

The first part of the film is so powerful that it’s not surprising that the rest of Patty Hearst suffers by comparison.  Once Patty gets out of the closet and declares her allegiance to the revolution, she becomes a bit of a dead-eyed zombie and the focus naturally shifts to the rest of the SLA.  Ving Rhames gives a powerful performance as Cinque, the head of the SLA.  Cinque may be a passionate revolutionary but he also has a dangerous messianic streak.  Even worse, the film suggests, is Cinque’s lieutenant, Teko (William Forsythe).  Teko claims to be a revolutionary but ultimately reveals himself to be as much of a misogynist as those who he claims to oppose.  (Today, Teko would probably be one of those guys arguing that it’s okay for him to use the C word because he’s an “ally.”)  Whereas Cinque has no doubt about his revolutionary commitment, Teko always seem to be trying to prove something to everyone, especially himself.

Ultimately, Patty becomes almost a bystander to her own story.  For a time, she is the most famous bystander in the country.  Though the film is sympathetic to Patty, Natasha Richardson plays her with just a hint of ambiguity.  Ultimately, Patty comes across as someone desperately searching for an identity.  Since she is not sure who she ultimately is, it’s easy for Patty to become an “urban guerilla” and it’s just as easy for to her go back to being an heiress.  By the end of the film, it’s obvious that Patty is just as confused by her life as everyone else.

Patty Hearst was directed by Paul Schrader, who is best known for writing the scripts for such films as Taxi Driver and Rolling Thunder.  (Among Schrader’s other directorial credits: Blue Collar, Hardcore, American Gigolo, Cat People, and The Canyons.  Needless to say, he’s had an interesting career.)  In many ways, Patty Hearst is probably more relevant today than it was first released.  Considering that our culture is currently dominated by people pretending to be revolutionaries and celebrities famous solely for being famous, Patty Hearst feels rather prophetic.

Watching this film and experiencing Patty’s transformation from vapid heiress to brainwashed political activist to briefly notorious celebrity, I realized that we now live in a world of Patty Hearsts.

Music Video of the Day: Maxine by Sharon O’Neill (1983, dir. ???)

We’re going back to New Zealand. This time it’s for a hit song by Sharon O’Neill called Maxine.

The video is about a prostitute named Maxine who is followed by a case worker played by O’Neill who is unable to help her. Maxine gets kidnapped and killed. O’Neill is there when they wheel her into the hospital dead. In the end, we see O’Neill lay a flower at what is supposed to be her grave before they crane the camera upward to reveal how large the graveyard is. Just like her case is #1352, her death is #???, and is lost in the crowd.

O’Neill said the following about the inspiration for the song in an interview with the NZ Herald in response to a question about why she moved to Australia:

The record company, CBS, wanted to see if they could break me in Australia so they sent me over with my Kiwi band which had Dave Dobbyn in it – he’ll josh me for saying that. We worked the pub scene five nights a week and really schlepped it.

I was living in a hotel in Kings Cross when I got the inspiration to write Maxine. She was always out there working at 3am when we’d get home bleary-eyed from a gig in Newcastle.

In that same interview, she added some info about the video in response to another question:

[Q] What do you think about the way women are portrayed in the music industry now?

[A] I find some of the videos really explicit. It’s got to the point where young girls think that’s the way it’s got to be. Back in the 1980s they wouldn’t screen the Maxine video till after 8pm because she goes into the toilets with a razor blade. You’ve got people gyrating like they’re having sex but you can’t show that because it’s drugs. I mean she’s a junkie, she dies. It’s a terribly sad story.

She’s right about the drugs part. I believe I mentioned back when I featured Twilight Zone by Golden Earring that it wasn’t just censored for the topless spy scene, but also for the couple of seconds where we see lead-singer Barry Hay injected by one of the dancers. The scene exists as a way of sending him back to the stage-dimension that may or may not be only in his mind. I wonder how they covered that up seeing as it is a key-scene. It’s not like When The Lady Smiles where they could just play some footage from earlier in the video over the parts that are still censored on YouTube today.

I’d say, enjoy, but this isn’t that kind of video.