Holiday Film Review: Carol For Another Christmas (dir by Joseph L. Mankiewicz)

Daniel Grudge (Sterling Hayden) is a wealthy American industrialist who served in World War II and who, despite seeing first hand the horrors of Hiroshima, still believes that war is sometimes the only answer.  He spends his Christmas Eve sitting in darkened study, thinking about his dead son (who was killed in combat) and listening to an old record.  When his nephew, Fred (Ben Gazzara), stops by, it leads to an argument about American foreign policy.  (Who stops by their uncle’s house on Christmas Eve to argue politics?)  Fred is do-gooder.  Daniel Grudge hates do-gooders.

So, naturally, it’s time for Daniel Grudge to be visited by three ghosts!  The Ghost of Christmas Past (Steve Lawrence) takes Grudge first to a troop ship that is full of coffins, representing the dead of World War I.  Then he forces Grudge to relive his own callous reaction to Hiroshima.  Grudge sees how his actions upset the nurse (Eva Marie Saint) who was traveling with him.  The Ghost of Christmas Present (Pat Hingle) invites Grudge to eat a feast in front of a camp full of refugees.  The Ghost of Christmas Future (Robert Shaw) takes Grudge to the future where, after a devastating nuclear war, a buffoonish leader (Peter Sellers) encourages his followers to continue to make war and to live only for themselves.  Grudge watches as his former butler (Percy Rodriguez) is murdered for advocating for peace.  Back at his mansion, Fred shows up again and Grudge must now decide …. will he support the work of the United Nations?

YEEEEESH!  What a heavy-handed movie!  Really, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at how unsubtle the film’s message was.  Originally made for television, A Carol For Another Christmas was actually co-produced by the United Nations.  It was the first of four UN-produced films that aired on ABC between 1964 and 1966.  Seen today, with all that we know about the UN’s signature mix of corruption and incompetence, the film’s message seems almost laughably naïve.   “Only the UN can bring peace,” the film says.  Tell that to Israel, the next time that the UN passes a resolution condemning it for existing and defending itself.  Say that only the UN can make the world a better place when some of the worst dictatorships on the planet are sitting on the Human Rights council.

The heavy-handed message aside, A Carol For Another Christmas was full of talent both behind and in front of the camera.  This was the only TV movie to be directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and, whatever else one might say about the film, he was responsible for some intriguingly moody shots.  The script was written by Rod Serling who, unfortunately, allowed his didactic tendencies to get the better of him and wrote a film where characters didn’t have conversations as much as they just gave speeches.  The cast, however, is uniformly strong.  Sterling Hayden, Robert Shaw, and Steve Lawrence are obvious stand-outs.  Pat Hingle does fine until his role is diminished to one long harangue.  Playing the so-called “Imperial Me,” Peter Sellers brings so much needed unpredictability to the film, even if his character is saddled with the film’s most heavy-handed moment.  The Imperial Me teaches his followers that the individual is more important than the state and that everyone should focus on “me” instead of “we.”  Cutting-edge satire this is not and again, there’s something rather offensive about the UN being held up as humanity’s last hope against rampant individualism. 

This is very much a film of its time.  The fear of nuclear war runs through every frame.  The disillusionment that came with the assassination of John F. Kennedy is present in the film’s open-ended conclusion.  What good is convincing one man when the rest of the world continues to think for itself? the film seems to be asking.  Dickens, I think, would probably say that Serling missed the point of A Christmas Carol and it’s hard not to feel that Dickens would be correct.

Live Tweet Alert: Join #FridayNightFlix for Road House!

As some of our regular readers undoubtedly know, I am involved in a few weekly live tweets on twitter.  I host #FridayNightFlix every Friday, I co-host #ScarySocial on Saturday, and I am one of the five hosts of #MondayActionMovie!  Every week, we get together.  We watch a movie.  We tweet our way through it.

Tonight, at 10 pm et, I will be hosting #FridayNightFlix!  The movie?  1989’s Road House!

The name is Dalton!  Everyone thought that Dalton would be bigger but he’s the second best bouncer in the world and if anything happens to Wade Garrett, he’ll be the absolute best.  He’s a legend but can he clean up the wildest bar in Missouri?  Will Ben Gazzara convince him to switch sides?  Will Doc convince him to give peace a chance?  And will Tinker ever get over his fear of polar bears?  Just remember, pain don’t hurt.  Be nice until it’s time not to be nice.  And always check the boots for blades.

If you want to join us this Friday, just hop onto twitter, start the movie at 10 pm et, and use the #FridayNightFlix hashtag!  I’ll be there tweeting and I imagine some other members of the TSL Crew will be there as well.  It’s a friendly group and welcoming of newcomers so don’t be shy.

Road House is available on Prime and Netflix!

See you there!

Retro Television Review: The Death of Richie (dir by Paul Wendkos)

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay.  Today’s film is 1977’s The Death of Richie.  It  can be viewed on YouTube!

It’s not a spoiler to tell you that this film ends with the death of a teenager named Richie.  It’s right there in the title.  We start the film knowing that Richie is going to die.  The only question is how it’s going to happen and who, if anyone, is going to be held responsible for it.

Played by Robby Benson, Richie Werner is a sensitive teenager living in the suburbs.  He’s painfully shy and he deals with that shyness by taking the drugs that are supplied to him by friends like Brick (Charles Fleischer) and Peanuts (Clint Howard, yes that Clint Howard).  His parents, George (Ben Gazzara) and Carol (Eileen Brennan), knows that Richie is struggling with both drugs and school.  However, neither one of them have a clue as to how to help him.  Carol spends most of the film silently hoping that things will somehow just magically get better.  Meanwhile, George can’t understand his son and, even worse, he makes no attempt to understand him.  George holds back his feelings and he’s obviously uncomfortable with his emotional son.  George is the type who retreats to his basement when he needs to get away from the world and yet, he can’t understand why his son needs a similar sanctuary.  When he discovers that Richie has set up a mini-bedroom in his closet, George destroys it.

Throughout the film, Richie tries to get his life straightened out.  He gets a job working at a restaurant but he quits after his friends laugh at his dorky uniform.  He tries to date a girl named Sheila (Cindy Eilbacher) but is heartbroken when he discovers that she’s going out with someone else.  When Richie tries to talk his dad, George refuses to listen.  When George tries to talk to Richie, Richie tells him to get out of his room.  Finally, after Richie crashes his car one last time, it leads to an act of shocking violence.  After all, the film is called The Death of Richie.

It’s also based on a true story, though there’s some debate over whether or not the film gets the story correct.  In real life, Richie’s named was George Richard “Richie” Diener and he lived in Long Island.  (The film appears to take place in a generic California suburb.)  Richie’s death inspired a magazine article and book, both of which inspired this film.  While I was doing research for this review, I came across a website about Richie’s death, one that argued that both the film and the book were too sympathetic to George’s version of what happened the day that Richie died.  The site has comments from many of the people who knew Richie and I recommend it to anyone who watches this film and want to know the other side of the story.

As for the film itself, it’s well-directed, intense, and, at times, rather heart-breaking.  As portrayed in the film, Richie is so desperate for some sort of approval that your heart just goes out to him.  Robby Benson is one of those actors who you come across in a lot of 70s films.  I’ve always found his performances to be a bit inconsistent and that’s certainly the case here.  He’s good when he’s allowed a quiet moment or two but there are other times when he gets so shrill that it takes you out of the reality of the film.  Ben Gazarra does a good job playing George as someone who loves his family but who is incapable of understanding his son’s pain.  Gazarra adds just a hint of ambiguity to his anger toward Richie.  Is he upset because Richie keeps getting trouble or has he reached the point where he’s just looking for an excuse to get Richie out of the family’s life?  According to the comments that I read at the blog mentioned above, both the film and the subsequent book based solely their portrayal of the last minutes of Richie’s life on George’s account.  Many people felt that there was more to what happened.

The film is a bit quick to blame all of Richie’s problems on the drugs.  While the drugs probably didn’t help, there are times when the film seems to suggesting that Richie would have been a happy, go-lucky kid if he had never taken that first Seconal.  Watching the film today, it’s obvious that there was a lot more going on with Richie than just weed and pills and it’s also obvious that calling the cops having them search his room while he watched was not the solution either.  Richie needed someone to talk to and, in the film at least, that was apparently the one thing that he could not get.  As the song says, things get a little easier once you understand.

The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald (1977, directed by David Greene and Gordon Davidson)

What if, instead of being shot by Jack Ruby, Lee Harvey Oswald had survived and been put on trial for the murder of President John F. Kennedy?

That’s the question asked by this television film.  John Pleshette plays Lee Harvey Oswald while Lorne Greene plays his attorney, Matt Weldon and Ben Gazzara plays the prosecutor, Kip Roberts.  The film imagines that the trial would have been moved to a small Texas town because Oswald presumably wouldn’t have been able to get a fair trial in Dallas.  While Roberts is forced to deal with his own doubts as to whether or not Oswald actually killed the President, Weldon is frustrated by Oswald’s paranoid and self-destructive behavior.  Oswald insists that he’s a patsy and that he was framed by “them” but he refuses to tell Weldon who they are.

With a running time of four hours, The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald is a courtroom drama that tries to be fair to both sides and which ends with a frustrating cop-out.  While Weldon presents all of the evidence that real-life conspiracy theorists frequently cite in their attempts to prove Oswald’s innocence, Roberts makes the case that was presented in the Warren Commission.  Unfortunately, the film ends up trying too hard to avoid coming down on one side or the other and just proves that it’s impossible to be even-handed when it comes to conspiracy theories around the Kennedy assassination.  It’s either buy into the idea that it was all a huge conspiracy involving mobsters and intelligence agents or accept that it was just Oswald doing the shooting as a lone assassin.  Trying to come down in the middle, as this film does, just doesn’t work.

John Pleshette does a good job as Oswald and bears a passing resemblance to him.  Because the movie refuses to take a firm stand on whether or not Oswald’s guilty, the character is written as being a cipher who claims to be innocent but who, at the same time, also refuses to take part in his defense.  Pleshette plays up Oswald’s creepy arrogance, suggesting that Oswald was capable of trying to kill someone even if he didn’t actually assassinate JFK.  Both Greene and Gazzara are convincing as the two opposing attorneys, even if neither one of them really does much more than offer up a surface characterization.

The majority of the movie takes place in the courtroom, with a few flashbacks to Oswald’s past included to keep things from getting too stagnant.  When the film was made, people were still learning about the conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination and The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald might have had something new to tell them.  Seen today, the majority of the film’s evidence seems like old news.  The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald never escapes the shadow of later films, like Oliver Stone’s JFK.

It’s hard not to regret that The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald wasn’t willing to come definitively down on one side or the other.  Instead, it ends by telling us that we’re the jury and that the only verdict that matters is that one that we come up with.  They could have just told us that at the start of the movie and saved us all four hours.

Parallel Lives (1994, directed by Linda Yellen)

A large group of people gather together one weekend for a fraternity/sorority reunion.  Since college, some of them have become rich and powerful.  Some of them are now famous.  Some of them are now seedy and disreputable.  They all have college memories, though there’s such a wide variety of age groups represented that it’s hard to believe that any of them actually went to college together.  After the men spend the day playing practical jokes and touch football and the women spend the night talking about their hopes and dreams, they wake up the next morning to discover the someone has murdered Treat Williams.  A pony-tailed sheriff (Robert Wagner) shows up to question everyone.

Parallel Lives was made for Showtime with the help of the Sundance Institute.  Today, it’s a forgotten film but, for some reason, it was very popular with American Airlines during the summer of 1997.  That summer, when I flew to the UK, Parallel Lives was one of the movies that we were shown.  (It was the second feature.  The first feature was Down Periscope, a submarine comedy starring Kelsey Grammar.  Fourteen year-old me enjoyed Down Periscope but, in retrospect, it wasn’t much of a flight.)  A month and a half later, when I flew back to the U.S., Parallel Lives was again one of the films shown on the flight!  For that reason, I may be the only person on the planet who has not forgotten that a film called Parallel Lives exists.

Parallel Lives, I later learned, was an entirely improvised film.  The huge cast were all given their characters and a brief outline of the film’s story and they were then allowed to come up with their own dialogue.  Unfortunately, no one did a very good job of it and the men were reduced to bro-ing it up while the women spent most of the movie having extended group therapy.  The story doesn’t add up too much and, even when I rewatched it from an adult’s perspective, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to get out of everyone talking about how different the real world was from college.  Technically, the film’s a murder mystery but you can’t improvise a successful murder mystery.  This film proves that point.

Of course, it doesn’t help that there are 26 characters, all trying to get a word in at the same time.  Some of the roles don’t make much sense.  Dudley Moore shows up, playing an imaginary friend.  (How do you improvise being a figment of someone’s imagination?)  James Brolin introduces himself to everyone as being, “Professor Doctor Spencer Jones” and that appears to be as far as he got with his improv.  Ben Gazzara is a gambler and Mira Sorvino is the prostitute that he brings to the reunion while Mira’s father, Paul Sorvino, moons the camera several times.  Jack Klugman is a senator with Alzheimer’s and Patricia Wettig is his daughter.  The majority of the movie centers around Jim Belushi, playing a reporter and falling in love with JoBeth Williams.  Liza Minnelli, Helen Slater, Levar Burton, Lindsay Crouse, Matthew Perry, Ally Sheedy, and Gena Rowlands all have small roles.  How did so many talented people come together to make such a forgettable movie and why did American Airlines decide it was the movie to show people on their way to another country?  That’s the true mystery of Parallel Lives.

Insomnia File #40: The Spanish Prisoner (dir by David Mamet)

What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If, at 3 in the morning on Wednesday, you were struggling to get to sleep, you could have flipped over to Flix and watched the 1998 film, The Spanish Prisoner.

Joe Ross (Campbell Scott) is an engineer.  He’s a quiet, polite, and always considerate man.  At one point, he’s told that he’s “too nice” and, watching him, you can’t help but agree.  Joe works in an otherwise bland office where the walls are covered with menacing posters that, in an accusatory manner, announce, “SOMEONE TALKED!”  Paranoia is in the air but Joe, for whatever reason, seems to be incapable of sensing it.

Joe has just invented something called The Process.  It’s deliberately left obscure just what exactly The Process is but we do know that it stands to make Joe’s boss, Mr. Klein (Ben Gazzara), a lot of money.  When Mr. Klein invites Joe and the company lawyer, George (Ricky Jay), to an island retreat, Joe assumes that it’s so Mr. Klein can offer him a lucrative cash bonus as a reward for creating the process.  Instead, it turns out that Mr. Klein has no interest in giving George any extra reward.  Instead, Klein feels that Joe should just be happy to be a part of the company.

On the island, Joe takes a picture of a mysterious man named Jimmy Dell (Steve Martin).  Jimmy offers to give Joe a thousand dollars for the camera.  Joe, instead, hands over the camera for free.  Later, Jimmy tracks down Joe and apologizes for his behavior.  He and Joe strike up an unlikely friendship on the island.  Upon learning that Joe will soon by flying back to New York, Jimmy gives Joe a package to deliver to his sister.  Joe agrees.

It’s not until Joe is on the plane and in the air that he starts to wonder about what’s inside the package.  It doesn’t help that his secretary, Susan (Rebecca Pidgeon), won’t stop talking about you never really know anyone and how easy it is to trick an innocent person into becoming a drug mule.  Finally, Joe steps into the plane’s lavatory, unwraps the package, and….

And that’s all I can tell you without spoiling the film.  The Spanish Prisoner is a film about a dizzying confidence game, one that is full of nonstop twists and turns.  No one in the film turns out to be who you thought they were when you first saw them.  At times, it can be a bit hard to keep up with the plot but that’s actually a part of the fun.  The Spanish Prisoner keeps you guessing and, fortunately, Campbell Scott gives a likable enough performance that you’re willing to explore the maze at the heart of this film with him.  Steve Martin is also wonderfully sinister as Jimmy, using his own “nice guy” image to keep us off-balance.

As you might expect from a film written and directed by David Mamet, the dialogue is heavily stylized.  The characters all move and speak at their own odd rhythm.  Lines that should be innocuous take on a dangerous edge and it becomes impossible not try to read between the lines of even the simplest of exchanges.  It creates a rather dream-like atmosphere, one in which you’re never quite sure what’s real and what’s just another part of the game.

The Spanish Prisoner is an intriguing mystery and one that seems like it will definitely reward repeat viewings.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed
  39. Disclosure

Film Review: Capone (1975, directed by Steve Carver)

capone-poster-1Over the course of his legendary career, filmmaker Roger Corman produced two films about the life of Al Capone.  The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, which starred Jason Robards as the famous Chicago mobster and featured Jack Nicholson in a two-line role, is the one that everyone remembers.  The other one was simply titled Capone and starred Ben Gazzara.

Capone opens in 1918, with Al Capone as a cunning young criminal who cons his way into the trust of Chicago racketeers Johnny Torio (Harry Guardino) and Frankie Yale (John Cassavetes, appearing in two scenes and probably using his salary to produce The Killing of a Chinese Bookie).  The tough and streetwise Capone works his way up, becoming Torio’s right-hand man before eventually betraying his boss and taking over the Chicago rackets himself.  Al rules Chicago with an iron fist and has an affair with a flapper named Iris (Susan Blakely).  After killing nearly all of his enemies, Al is taken down on a tax evasion charge and, after contracting syphilis, he ends up a pathetic and lonely man, sitting by his pool and ranting about his enemies.

Despite being one of the few movies to depict Al’s final days, Capone makes little effort to be historically accurate.  Instead, it’s a gangster film in the tradition of Little Caesar, The Public Enemy, and both versions of Scarface, complete with nudity, tough talk, and plenty of tommy gun action.  (Since this is a Roger Corman film, Capone also features Dick Miller and footage that was lifted directly from St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.)  There is nothing surprising about Capone but it’s still entertaining.

Al Capone has been played by everyone from Rod Steiger to Robert De Niro to F. Murray Abraham.  Ben Gazzara may not have been the most subtle Capone but he was one of the most watchable.  Gazzara played Al Capone like a snarling animal, always ready to bite anyone who gets too close.  My favorite Gazzara moments come at the end of the film, when a syphilitic Capone bugs his eyes and starts to rave about Bolsheviks.

Today, Capone is best remembered for featuring Sylvester Stallone in the role of Frank Nitti, Al’s right-hand man and eventual successor.  One year later, Rocky would turn Stallone into a superstar and his days of working for Roger Corman would be over.




Insomnia File No. 2: Stag (dir by Gavin Wilding)


What’s an Insomnia File?  You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable?  This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

Last night, if you were suffering from insomnia around 2:30 in the morning, you could have turned over to Flix and watched Stag, a dreary film from 1997!

And I know what you’re saying.  “Really, Lisa?  I could have watched a dreary film!  WHY DIDN’T SOMEBODY TELL ME!?”  Well, sorry.  Your loss.  Maybe next time you won’t be so quick to resist the call of insomnia…

Anyway, Stag eventually turns out to be pretty bad but it actually has a pretty good opening.  A bunch of rich guys get together in a big house and throw a bachelor party.  Whenever one of them first appears on screen, they get a freeze frame that tells us their name and gives us a few biographical facts.

For instance, one coke-snorting character is introduced as “Jon DiCapri: Soap opera star, spokesman for “Stars Against Drugs.”  A drunk guy begging for money is identified as “Timan Bernard: Accountant, Author of ‘Ethics in Business.'”  The pensive fellow standing by the window and a smoking a cigarette is “Daniel Kane: Gulf war veteran, post traumatic stress disorder,” while the guy running around in a wig and lingerie is “Ed Labenski: Contractor, church treasurer.”  My personal favorite of the introductions belonged to the guy with the neck tattoo and the terrible teeth.  We’re told that he’s “Pete Weber: Drug dealer, extortionist. Self employed.”

Of course, Pete Weber is also Andrew McCarthy, playing a character who is far removed from the world of Pretty In Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire.  And Daniel Kane is actually Kevin Dillon, taking part in the type of misogynistic hi-jinks that would later be celebrated in Entourage.  Jon DiCapri is actually William McNamara, who will always be remembered for his memorable death scene in Dario Argento’s Opera.  As for Timan Bernard, he’s played by John Henson, who was the host of that terrible Wipeout show that was on the air forever despite the fact that nobody in the world would admit to watching it.

And they’re not the only ones at this bachelor party!  The bachelor himself is played by John Stockwell, the director of movies like CheatersCrazy/Beautiful and In The Blood.  His best friend is played by Mario Van Peebles.  Even distinguished character actor Ben Gazzarra is at this bachelor party!

As I said, the film starts out well enough, with the men all acting like idiots and pretty much confirming everything that I’ve always suspected about bachelor parties.  But then the strippers show up and there’s a highly improbable accident and soon there are two dead bodies bleeding out on the linoleum floor of John Stockwell’s house.  The rest of the movie is pretty much the men yelling at each other and arguing about what they should do.  Some fear going to jail.  Some want to frame someone else.  Some want to cover up the accident.  A few suggest calling the police but then Andrew McCarthy rips the landline phone out of the wall and, since this movie was made in the 90s, that is literally all he has to do to keep everyone from contacting the outside world.

Despite some decent performances, the film turned out to be pretty tedious.  That said, as I watched it, I found myself wondering how my girlfriends and I would have handled a similar situation.  What if we were throwing a bachelorette party and suddenly Magic Mike ended up lying in the middle of the floor with a broken neck?  To be honest, I get the feeling we’d probably handle it in roughly the same way as the characters in Stag.  We would just be a lot more passive aggressive about it.

“Oh my God, is that guy dead!?”

“I don’t know but that’s what I think Heather said.  But it’s all Amy’s fault and … Bitch, everyone says it’s your fault so unless everyone in the entire world is wrong … whatever, Amy.”

“Oh my God, what are we going to do with him?”

“I don’t know but Vanessa said that maybe we should say that he like never showed up at the party and then she said that Jen said that … oh my God, are those new earrings!?”

“Yeah, do you like them!?”

“They’re so pretty!  Anyway, Jen said that maybe you should like go bury him somewhere…”

“Oh my God, Jen said I should go bury him!?”

“Well, I didn’t hear for sure but Tina said that she heard Vanessa say that Jen said that you should go bury him…”

“That bitch!  I am so going to kick her ass!  Oh my God!”

But anyway, the body would eventually get buried.  Just not by me.

ANYWAY!  What was I talking about?

Right … Stag.

It’s not a very good movie.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. The Story of Mankind

Shattered Politics #66: The List (dir by Sylvain Guy)

The List

“No one pays $15,000 for a back rub.” — Words of wisdom from The List (2000)

 Oh my God.

Listen, I have seen some truly terrible films before but very few were as bad as the 2000 thriller The List.  The List is not just bad.  Instead, it’s bad on a level that very few films manage to reach.  It’s almost as bad as April Rain and that’s pretty bad.

(It’s also currently available on Netflix, just in case anyone wants to take the risk.)

The film opens with a lingerie-clad woman (Madchen Amick) reading the U.S. Constitution to a fat, naked, middle-aged man.  We discover that he’s a judge when she calls him, “your honor.”

“I am no longer your honor,” the naked fat guy says, “I am your dishonor.  And, as for the founding fathers, fuck them.”


Anyway, then the police come rushing into the room and arrest both the woman and the judge.  It turns out that the woman is Gabrielle Mitchell (Madchen Amick), a prostitute who is exclusively used by the rich and powerful.  She has a list of her clients, one of whom happens to be the governor of New York state.

Despite the best efforts of her over-the-top pimp Dom Roselli (Roc LaFortune), Gabrielle is convicted and sentenced to prison.  Hoping to get a few years taken off of her sentence, Gabrielle testifies at the judge’s trial.  She hands the list over to yet another judge, Andrew Miller (Ryan O’Neal).

Andrew, who is conservative and very religious, has recently been nominated to the state supreme court.  However, now that he has the list, he find himself being threatened by shadowy figures, one of whom tries to stuff a cow’s tongue down his throat.  Or something like that. I’m not really sure what was going on in that scene and dammit, I’m not going to waste any more of my life trying to figure it out.

Meanwhile, Gabrielle’s associates are also being murdered.  Written in blood near every body: Snitching Pigs Die!

So, if a bunch of community theater actors got together with a film school drop out and attempted to make a film out of a script written by a 16 year-old with authority issues, the end result would look a lot like The List.  When Andrew  holds a press conference, there are about 6 reporters present and only two of them get to ask questions.  When the bad guys all meet to discuss what should be done about Gabrielle, they appear to be sitting in a community college study room.  When a character is found dead, it’s obvious that some crew members got a little bit enthusiastic about splashing red paint all over the set.  The actors may trip over their lines and they may seem frequently confused by what their saying but, obviously, this was one of those films were second takes were considered to be too expensive.

Did I mention that Ben Gazzara is in this thing?  Because he so is!  I can’t being to imagine what path could have led Gazzara from co-starring in Anatomy of a Murder to appearing in something like The List but, let it be said that he actually gives a pretty good performance.  Or, at the very least, he does the best with what he’s been given.

Ryan O’Neal on the other hand…

O’Neal wanders through the film, watching the action through bloodshot eyes and defiantly refusing to show the slightest hint of emotion or interest.  It’s an interesting idea actually, casting an actor who appears to be perpetually hung over in the role of a straight-laced, moralistic judge.

Usually, I make excuses for films that were obviously filmed with next to no budget but seriously, The List could have been made for Avatar money and it would still suck.  I’m sad to say that it doesn’t even manage to raise to the level of being so bad that it’s good.

Instead, it’s just bad.

But, in case you’re into that, it is on Netflix.

6 Super Trailers For A Super Weekend

Well, its Super Bleh weekend, the time of year when everything is just football, football, football!  And Lisa says, “A bleh on both your houses!”  Still, because I love theme posts, here’s the latest edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers — 6 Super Trailers For a Super Weekend!  Yay! 8)

1) J.D.’s Revenge (1976)

He came back from the dead to possess a man’s soul, make love to his woman, and get the vengeance he craved!

2) Texas Adios (1967)

Starring the best, the one and only Franco Nero!

3) H.O.T.S. (1979)

Trailers like this prove that it was apparently a lot easier to be considered attractive back in the 70s.

4) Inglorious Bastards (1977)

I think this film features a former football player so it goes with the whole Super Bowl theme.  Plus, the title was borrowed for Quentin Tarantino’s super Inglorious Basterds.

5) Wild Orchid (1990)

This film was directed by the super Zalman King who passed away on Friday.  R.I.P.

6) Roadhouse (1989)

The film co-stars the even more super Ben Gazzara, who also passed away on Friday. R.I.P.