Continuing my quest to watch all these movies sitting in my DVR (so I can record more movies!), here are six more capsule reviews for you Dear Readers:
FIFTH AVENUE GIRL (RKO 1939; D: Gregory LaCava) – A minor but entertaining bit of screwball froth revolving around rich old Walter Connolly , who’s got problems galore: his wife (the criminally underrated Veree Teasdale) is cheating on him, his son (Tim Holt in a rare comedy role) is a polo-playing twit, his daughter (Kathryn Adams) in love with the socialism-spouting chauffer (James Ellison ), and his business is facing bankruptcy because of labor union troubles. On top of all that, no one remembers his birthday! The downcast Connolly wanders around Central Park, where he meets jobless, penniless, and practically homeless Ginger Rogers, and soon life on 5th Avenue gets turned upside-down! Ellison’s in rare form as the proletariat Marxist driver,
The year is 1974 and there’s nothing more dangerous than being a hippie in Baja California. That’s because psychotic business Sam Farragutt (played by Andy Griffith!) is on the loose. Sam likes to describe himself as being a hippie himself. “A hippie with money,” Sam puts it as he waves a hundred dollar bill in the face of a hippie without money,
Actually, there is one thing more dangerous than being a hippie in Baja California and that’s being an ad executive. Once again, Sam Farragutt is to blame. He’s willing to give his business to three ad execs but first they have to agree to go down to Baja and ride around with him on their motorcycles. The three ad execs are Terry Maxon (former child evangelist Marjoe Gortner!), Paul McIllvain (former Brady Bunch star Robert Reed!), and suicidal burn-out Warren Summerfield (William Shatner!). Warren is having an affair with Paul’s wife (Angie Dickinson!) but he’s still planning on committing suicide in Mexico.
However, going to Mexico gives Warren a new lease on life. After Warren discovers that Farragutt is responsible for the death of two hippies, he becomes determined to make sure that justice is served. Soon, Andy Griffith (!) is chasing William Shatner (!) across the Mexican desert. Someone’s going to die. Is it going to be Sheriff Taylor or Captain Kirk?
Pray For The Wildcats was a made-for-TV movie that aired the same year as Savages. Both movies were a part of Andy Griffith’s attempt to change his image after playing the folksy Sheriff Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show. Griffith is a good villain but the main appeal of Pray for the Wildcats is the chance to see William Shatner doing his thing. Shatner has a juicy role here, playing a man who is at first suicidal and then righteously indignant. He overemotes with the self-serious intensity that was Shatner’s trademark in the years before he finally developed a sense of humor about himself. The movie itself gets bogged down with unnecessary flashbacks and dated dialogue but the spectacle of Griffith vs. Shatner makes it all worth it.
Brian De Palma was a big deal back in the 70’s and 80’s, and his films like CARRIE, SCARFACE, and THE UNTOUCHABLES are still discussed. Yet works such as SISTERS, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, OBSESSION, BLOW OUT, and BODY DOUBLE seem unjustly neglected today, and some critics deride him for his over the top sex and violence. DRESSED TO KILL finds De Palma in full Hitchcock mode, an homage to PSYCHO that The Master of Suspense himself cited as more like a “fromage”, but one I find still entertaining.
The film begins with a sizzling hot shower scene with Angie Dickinson as Kate Miller, remarried mother of science nerd Peter (Keith Gordon, CHRISTINE ). Kate has problems in her marriage and with her own mom, not to mention being a nymphomaniac! She’s seeing psychiatrist Dr. Robert Elliott (Michael Caine ), but seemingly getting nowhere. We follow her to New York’s…
Gene Roddenberry’s post-STAR TREK career had pretty much gone down the tubes. The sci-fi series had been a money loser, and Roddenberry wasn’t getting many offers. Not wanting to be pigeonholed in the science fiction ghetto, he produced and wrote the screenplay for PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW, a black comedy skewering the sexual revolution, with French New Wave director Roger Vadim making his first American movie. The result was an uneven yet entertaining film that would never get the green light today with its theme of horny teachers having sex with horny high school students!
All-American hunk Rock Hudson was in the middle of a career crisis himself. After spending years as Doris Day’s paramour in a series of fluffy comedies, his box office clout was at an all-time low. Taking the role of Tiger McGrew, the guidance counselor/football coach whose dalliances with the cheerleading squad leads to murder…
If there’s such a thing as the quintessential “John Wayne Movie”, RIO BRAVO may very well be it. Producer/director Howard Hawks created the perfect blend of action and humor, leading an all-star cast through this tale of a stand-off between the good guys and the bad guys. RIO BRAVO’s theme has been done over many times, most notably by John Carpenter in 1976’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. Hawks himself remade the film, with Wayne again starring, as EL DORADO and RIO LOBO, but the original remains the best of the bunch.
The plot itself is pretty basic. When disgraced deputy Dude (called Borrachon, Spanish for ‘big drunk’) walks into a saloon looking for booze, no-good Joe Burdette tosses a silver dollar into a spittoon for kicks. Sheriff John T. Chance stops Dude from embarrassing himself, only to receive a whack in the head for his efforts. Dude goes after Joe and a fight breaks out, and Joe kills…
Lee Marvin was one tough son of a bitch both onscreen and off, awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded by a machine gun blast in WWII. The ex-Marine stumbled into acting post-war, and Hollywood beckoned in the 1950’s. His imposing presence typecast him as a villain in films like HANGMAN’S KNOT, THE BIG HEAT , and BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK. A three season stint in TV’s M SQUAD brought Marvin more acclaim, and he solidified that with his Oscar-winning role in CAT BALLOU, parodying his own tough-guy image. Marvin was now a star that could call his own shots, and used that clout in POINT BLANK, throwing out the script and collaborating with a young director he had faith in, John Boorman.
POINT BLANK is a highly stylized revenge drama centering on Marvin’s character of Walker. The nightmarish opening sequence shows how Walker was left for dead on deserted Alcatraz Island by…
Today’s Horror on the Lens is The Norliss Tapes, a 1973 made-for-TV movie that was also a pilot for a television series that, unfortunately, was never put into productions.
Reporter David Norliss (Roy Thinnes) has disappeared. His friend and publisher, Stanford Evans (Don Porter), listens to the tapes that Norliss recorded before vanishing. Each tape details yet another paranormal investigation. (Presumably, had the series been picked up, each tape would have been a different episode.) The first tape tells how Norliss investigated the mysterious death of an artist who apparently returned from the grave.
For a made-for-TV movie, The Norliss Tapes is pretty good. It’s full of atmosphere and features a genuinely menaching yellow-eyed zombie monster.