Some Kind of Hero (1982, directed by Michael Pressman)

Eddie Keller (Richard Pryor) is a member of the U.S. Army, serving in Vietnam when he gets captured by the VC and spends the next few years in a POW camp.  During that time, he befriends another POW named Vinnie (Ray Sharkey).  Though the quick-witted Eddie is often able to outsmart his captors and their attempts to turn him into a propaganda tool, he finally snaps when he’s told that Vinnie will be allowed to die unless Eddie signs a “confession” in which he renounces both America and the war.  Hoping to save his friend’s life, Eddie signs the paper.

After 5 long years in the camp, Eddie finally returns to America.  He’s given a momentary hero’s welcome and then he is quickly forgotten about.  After all, everyone wants to move on from Vietnam and Eddie, by his very existence, is a reminder of the war.  However, Eddie can’t move on.  His wife (Lynne Moody) left him for another man while he was missing.  His mother (Olivia Cole) suffered a stroke and is now in a nursing home.  Worst of all, because Eddie signed that confession, the army considers him to be a traitor and is refusing to release his backpay.

What can Eddie do?  How about a rob a bank and then run off with Toni (Margot Kidder), a hooker with a heart of gold?

Like a lot of Richard Pryor’s starring vehicles, Some Kind of Hero is an uneven film.  Pryor was a skilled dramatic actor but he was best known as a comedian and, in most of his starring roles, there was always a conflict between his serious instincts and the demand that all of his films be funny.  Some Kind of Hero starts out strong with Pryor in Vietnam.  The scenes with Pyror and Sharkey in the POW camp are strong.  (In the novel on which the film was based, Eddie and Vinnie were lovers.  In the film, they’re just friends.)  Though there are funny moments during the first half of the film, the humor arises naturally out of the situation.  During the first half of the film, Pryor may make you laugh but he also makes sure that you never forget that he’s on joking to maintain his sanity.  But once Eddie returns to the U.S., Some Kind of Hero awkwardly turns into a heist film and the comedy goes from being darkly humorous to being broadly slaptstick.  Eddie, who could survive being a prisoner of war and who could usually outsmart the VC, is suddenly transformed into a naive klutz.  Richard Pyror does his best but the two halves of the film never seem to belong together.

Unfortunately, Hollywood never really figured out what to do with Richard Pryor as an actor.  Some Kind of Hero at least shows that Richard Pryor could be a strong dramatic actor.  Unfortunately, the film doesn’t really live up to his talents.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Michele Soavi 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 joyous 63rd birthday to Italian filmmaker Michele Soavi!

Soavi, of course, started his career as an actor.  You can find him in Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead and Lamberto Bava’s A Blade In The Dark and Demons.  Reportedly, he came close to playing the role that was eventually played by Giovanni Lombardo Radice in The House On The Edge of the Park.  Soavi, however, eventually moved behind the camera.  He was an assistant director on both Dario Argento’s Tenebrae and Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and The Brothers Grimm.

He also, of course, directed four of the greatest Italian horror films of all time, Stage Fright, The Church, The Sect, and Dellamorte Dellamore.  Though a family tragedy temporarily put his career as a director on hold, Soavi has since returned to directing.

In honor of Michele Soavi and his birthday, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Stage Fright (1987, dir by Michele Soavi)

The Church (1989, dir by Michele Soavi)

The Sect (1991, dir by Michele Soavi)

Dellamorte Dellamore (1994, dir by Michele Soavi)

Independence Days Of The Past

Though it was celebrated long before that, the 4th of July has been an official holiday since 1941.  In honor of the Fourth’s long history, here are some vintage photographs from Independence Days of the past.  As you can see, you don’t always need fireworks to celebrate America’s birthday:













I hope everyone has a good 4th of July!  Usually, I celebrate Independence Day by taking a lot of blurry photographs of the fireworks exploding in the sky above me and then posting them to twitter.  I won’t be doing that this year but I’ll still find a way to celebrate everything that’s good about my home country.

Music Video of the Day: Last Train to London by Electric Light Orchestra (1979, directed by Mike Mansfield)

John Cleese used to joked that, on the 3rd of July, the UK would celebrate “Dependence Day,” by setting up cardboard cut-outs of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and taunting them with shouts of, “Well, why don’t you go get your freedom, then!?”

Sadly, Dependence Day is not an actual holiday.  Perhaps it should be.  If the UK can celebrate Guy Fawkes Day without being sure whether or not it means to celebrate Fawkes’s plan to blow up Parliament or his death, I certainly think that time can be found to shout rude things at a caricature of John Adams.

Today, in honor of Dependence Day, I picked a music video for a song that has nothing to do with the American revolution but it does mention London and I guess that’s close enough.  This song was actually written because the members of ELO used to spend a lot of time riding the train between from Birmingham to London.