Fever (1991, directed by Larry Elikann)

Ray (Armand Assante) is a formerly viscous ex-con who has just gotten out of prison and is now determined to go straight and live on the right side of the law.  After spending nearly a decade behind bars, all he wants to do is to reunite with his girlfriend, Lacy (Marcia Gay Harden), and make her his wife.  However, there’s a problem.  While Ray was locked up, Lacy moved on.  She’s now engaged to Elliott (Sam Neill), a liberal attorney who, unlike Ray, is a pacifist.  Even though Lacy is still attracted to Ray, she does not want to get back together with him.

Unfortunately, there’s a second problem.  Ray may have gone straight but his former criminal associates don’t believe him.  They want Ray to help them pull off a major crime and when Ray says that is no longer his thing, they react by kidnapping Lacy.  If Ray ever wants to see Lacy again, he’s now got to return to his life of crime.

There’s also a third problem.  Ray may be an experienced criminal but Elliott insists on tagging along with him while he’s following the kidnappers’s orders.  So now, Ray not only has to commit several crimes but he has to do it with an inexperienced partner who doesn’t even believe in firing guns!

Fever is one of those HBO films that used to show up all the time on cable in the 90s.  I watched it a few times back in the day, just because I was a teenage boy and the movie featured a good deal of nudity.  Even at that time, though, I thought it was a slow and frequently boring movie.  Rewatching it for this review, I was shocked to discover that it was even slower than I remembered.  It seems like it takes forever for Ray and Elliott to finally team up and for the movie to get going.  Though the plot description may make it sound like a buddy comedy, it’s actually a very tough and grim picture.  Armand Assante and Sam Neill are not actors known for their light touch and they both give very serious and gritty performances.  Unfortunately, the film’s pace never really matched the intensity of its stars and the film’s storyline isn’t strong enough to hold up under scrutiny.  Once you start to wonder if Ray would really let Elliott tag along with him, the movie itself falls apart.

Armand Assante is a good actor who rarely seems to appear in good films.  Fever is a good example of that.  Assante gives an excellent and complex performance (and both Sam Neill and Marcia Gay Harden are pretty good too) but Fever itself never really clicks.

Artist Profile: J. Oval

Who was J. Oval?

No one seems to be sure.  In the 50s and 60s, the covers of several Pan paperbooks were credited to “J. Oval.”  While almost every source that I’ve found seems to agree that J. Oval was a pseudonym, there does not seem to be much agreement on who the real J. Oval was or even whether or not there was actually only one artist using the J. Oval name.  The most convincing argument that I’ve found online was at Little Owl Ski, where a good case was made that J. Oval was a British illustrator named Ben Ostrick.

Regardless of who he was in the real life, J. Oval was prolific and talented cover artist.  Here are a few of his covers:


18 Days of Paranoia #5: New World Order: The End Has Come (dir by Duane McCoy)

Welcome, everyone, to the end of the world (again).  Today, the world ends in the 2013 film, New World Order: The End Has Come!

Demi (Melissa Farley) sits in a park, reading the Bible.  She’s reading the Book of Revelation or, as she calls it, “the scary one.”  As she gets in her car, she calls her friend, Christen (Erin Runbeck) and assures her not to worry.  “I don’t think we’re there yet.”  Then she puts the car in reverse and promptly runs over Jason (Daniel Spaulding).

Fear not!  Jason’s not injured and his career as an exotic dancer (I’m not kidding, it’s a plot point) is not damaged in the least.  In fact, Jason is so enchanted by Demi and her lack of driving skills that soon, they’re a couple!  And, fortunately, Jason has a single friend named Cedric (Will Roberts) so that means that Cirsten doesn’t have to be a third wheel whenever everyone goes out for the night.

Cristen and Demi may be good friends but we quickly discover that there are differences between the two of them.  Cristen doesn’t drink.  Demi gladly accepts a beer when Jason offers it.  Cristen likes to stay home and look after her younger brother.  Demi is all, “So, we’re going to that party, right?”  One thing that both of them do have in common is that, on Sunday morning, they giggle in church and check their messages instead of listening to the preacher.  I’m sure that won’t come back to haunt them….

Flash-forward by a few years or so and — oh no!  The world has totally changed!  Iran briefly conquered Europe and there was a huge war but, fortunately, a man named Aldo DeLuca, not only brokered peace but also come back to life after being shot in the head.  Some people think that Aldo didn’t really come back to life but instead, that his body was possessed by Satan.  Those people are threats to the New World Order and you can tell who they are because they’re the only people who refuse to get NWO tattooed on either their forehead or their hand….

“Wait a minute!” Demi says, as she thinks about everything that’s happened over the past year, “I’ve read this somewhere!”

That’s right, Demi.  You should have paid more attention to the Book of Revelations.  But you didn’t and now, everyone’s getting the mark except for you, Cristen, and a few others.  And, in order to eliminate people who refuse to get themark, the black-clad soldiers of the New World Order are now gunning people down in the streets while the brainwashed, soulless masses cheer.

The majority of this film is told in flashback, while Demi and Cristen are sitting in a prison area.  They’ve been given one final chance to either get the mark and live or to refuse and die.  Can you guess who sacrifices their soul and who willingly gives up their life?  In order to maitainn some suspense, I will not tell you who.  These are the things that I do for you.

Watching New World Order while on lockdown because of the Coronavirus was an interesting experience.  On the one hand, the film’s low budget is obvious in every frame and the acting is particularly amateurish.  (Just check out the scene where the Supreme Chancellor is greeted by a jubilant crowd of about 20 extras.) On the other hand, any movie about a totalitarian state using a crisis to come to power and destroy individual liberty is going to feel oddly compelling if you watch it while the country is literally shut down by government order.  I actually found myself falling under the film’s spell.  Normally, I’d make fun of the cartoonish NWO tattoos but instead, I found myself thinking, “What if they do decide to mark those of us who have been tested negative for Coronavirus in a different way from those who are sick?  And what if they do say that only people with the mark can enter a grocery store or see a movie?  And what if the mark eventually becomes a way of determining not who is healthy but instead of identifying people who never question the government?  What do we do then?”  I felt kind of silly after I wondered all that but …. well, not really.  I imagine that, right now, a lot of people are probably having reactions to films like this that they wouldn’t normally have.

Anyway, as a Christian scare film, New World Order will probably be best appreciated by scared Christians.  As a portrait of a society where people have sacrificed their freedom for a false sense of security, it feels like it could be dangerously prophetic.

Other Entries In The 18 Days Of Paranoia:

  1. The Flight That Disappeared
  2. The Humanity Bureau
  3. The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover
  4. The Falcon and the Snowman

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Piers Haggard Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, we wish a happy 81st birthday to one of the most underrated British filmmakers around, Piers Haggard.  Though Haggard made few feature films over the course of his career, he is best remembered for his work as television director.  Among Haggard’s triumphs: Dennis Potter’s Pennies From Heaven and Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass.

In honor of Piers Haggard’s long career and his birthday, here are:

4 Shots From 4 Films

Blood On Satan’s Claw (1971, directed by Piers Haggard)

Pennies From Heaven (1978, directed by Piers Haggard)

Quatermass (1979, directed by Piers Haggard)

Venom (1981, directed by Piers Haggard)

Music Video Of The Day: It’s Over Goodbye by Fran O’Toole and The Miami Showband (1975, dir by ????)

This was from a television appearance that the band did, shortly before  lead singer Fran O’Toole, trumpeter Brian McCoy, and guitarist Tony Geraghty were murdered by members of the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force on the night of July 31st, 1975.  At the time of the murder, the band was traveling home to Dublin after having performed in Northern Ireland.