An Offer You Can Refuse #22: Carlito’s Way: Rise To Power (dir by Michael Bregman)


After you watched Carlito’s Way, you may have asked yourself, “Gee, I wonder how Carlito came to power in the first place?  I wonder what he was like when he was young….”

Now, keep in mind, you may have asked yourself that.  I did not ask myself that.  To be honest, I didn’t really care.  Carlito’s Way pretty much told me everything that I needed to know about Carlito’s past.  Just the fact that people on the street respected him as soon as he got out of prison and that everyone was trying to get him to restart his life of crime told me that Carlito was obviously a big deal in the past.  So, I didn’t really need a prequel.

But, obviously, the people behind the 2005 film, Carlito’s Way: Rise to Power, disagreed.  I guess I can understand their logic.  When you’ve got a hit film, it’s only natural to try to do a follow-up.  And when the first film ends with the main character dying, you really don’t have much choice but to do a prequel.  And let’s give credit where credit is due.  Long before the movies were made, Carlito Brigante was the main character of two novels written by Edwin Torres.  Carlito’s Way: Rise To Power is based on the first of those novels and Torres reportedly said that he appreciated that the prequel stuck close to what he had written.  So, it’s not like they just made up this film’s plot out of thin air.

That said, it’s still not a very good film.  It takes place in the 60s, with young Carlito (Jay Hernandez) working his way up the ladder in New York’s drug chain.  His partners, who he met in jail, are Earl (Mario Van Peebles) and Rocco (Michael Kelly).  When they’re release from jail, they find themselves in the middle of drug war between Hollywood Nicky (Sean Combs) and the Bottolota Family, led by Artie (Burt Young).  The three friends play the two sides against each other while also dealing with all of the usual betrayals and random violence that one normally expects to find in a movie like this.  Luis Guzman shows up, playing a coke-snorting hitman named Nacho.  It’s a bit disconcerting since Guzman played a different character in Carlito’s Way but it’s still always good to see Luis Guzman.

Anyway, the main problem with Carlito’s Way: Rise to Power can be seen in the casting of the main characters.  Carlito’s Way had Al Pacino, Sean Penn, and John Leguizamo.  Rise To Power has Jay Hernandez and Mario Van Peebles.  Whatever gritty authenticity the film may be aiming for vanishes as soon as Mario Van Peebles looks straight at camera and smiles at his reflection.  As for Jay Hernandez, he’s a likable actor but he’s the exact opposite of intimidating.  You’d probably say yes if he asked you to prom but he does’t exactly come across like someone who could take over the New York drug racket.  When Sean Combs is the most dangerous person in your movie, you’re looking at trouble.

Director Michael Bregman attempts to imitate a bit of Brian De Palma’s style from the first film and Jay Hernandez does his best to sound Pacino-like in his voice-over narration but the end result is flat and predictable.  This is an offer that you can refuse.

Previous Offers You Can’t (or Can) Refuse:

  1. The Public Enemy
  2. Scarface (1932)
  3. The Purple Gang
  4. The Gang That Could’t Shoot Straight
  5. The Happening
  6. King of the Roaring Twenties: The Story of Arnold Rothstein 
  7. The Roaring Twenties
  8. Force of Evil
  9. Rob the Mob
  10. Gambling House
  11. Race Street
  12. Racket Girls
  13. Hoffa
  14. Contraband
  15. Bugsy Malone
  16. Love Me or Leave Me
  17. Murder, Inc.
  18. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
  19. Scarface (1983)
  20. The Untouchables
  21. Carlito’s Way

An Offer You Can’t Refuse #9: Rob the Mob (dir by Raymond De Felitta)


The 2014 film, Rob the Mob, tells the true story of a young couple in love who became minor celebrities when they robbed the mob.  Of course, they also ended up with a huge target on their back, which tends to happen when you repeatedly humiliate a bunch of angry men who have weapons at their disposal.

The year is 1992 and Tommy Uva (Michael Pitt) and his wife, Rosemarie (Nina Arianda) are professional criminals who, after getting busted for trying to rob a florist on Valentine’s Day, end up working at a debt collection agency.  Their boss (played by Griffin Dunne) spent time in prison for insider trading and he believes in giving convicts a second chance.  The problem is that Tommy doesn’t really want a second chance.  He’s actually pretty happy being a criminal.

Tommy has some issues with the Mafia, largely due to the fact that his father borrowed money from the mob to open up a shop and spent the rest of his short life being beaten and humiliated by loan sharks.  Tommy believes that the pressure is what led his father to an early grave.  Tommy’s mother (Cathy Moriarty), on the other hand, claims that it was the stress caused by Tommy being a criminal.  Regardless, seeing his father repeatedly mistreated has definitely left Tommy with some anger issues.

Even though Tommy claims that he hates the Mafia, he still seems to be rather obsessed with them.  At times, it’s hard to tell if Tommy is angry with the Mafia or if he’s just jealous about the fact that he’ll never be as rich or as powerful as the local neighborhood mobster.  Tommy starts to skip work so that he can observe the trial of John Gotti.  It’s while doing this that Tommy hears that guns are not allowed in Mafia social clubs.

Soon, Tommy is robbing those same clubs, taking all of the money that he can and humiliating the mobsters at the same time.  (He forces one group of paunchy gangsters to march outside in their underwear.)  With Rosemarie serving as his getaway driver, Tommy soon becomes something of a legend.  The mobsters even nickname the pair “Bonnie and Clyde.”  Because the Mafia doesn’t want to attract any unnecessary attention during the Gotti trial, Tommy and Rosemarie are able to get away with their activities for a while.  But then they make the mistake of stealing a list that could bring down the entire New York Mafia….

Rob the Mob is a bit of an uneven film.  The film starts with Tommy and Rosemarie getting high and then attempting to rob a florist and, in that scene, they both seemed like such idiots that I really wasn’t sure that I wanted to spend 104 minutes of my life watching a film about them.  Even after Tommy got out of a prison and got a legitimate job, he still seemed like such an unsympathetic loser that I found myself wondering why I should care.

However, once Tommy and Rosemarie start actually robbing the mob, the film picks up.  We meet Big Al, the temporary head of the New York mafia, and he’s played by Andy Garcia, who gives an intelligent and understated performance.  Big Al may be a mobster but he’s not an unsympathetic character.  The film presents him as being someone who has been unexpectedly thrust into a position of power and who is doing his best to keep everything from falling apart.  Then, as the robberies continue, Ray Romano shows up as Jerry Cardozo, a reporter who makes “Bonnie and Clyde” famous but who realizes too late that he’s also put their lives in even greater danger than they were before.  Over the past few years, Romano has gone from being a former sitcom star to being a surprisingly effective character actor and his performance here gives Rob the Mob its conscience.

Perhaps even more importantly, during the second half of the film, the chemistry of Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda finally won me over and I actually started to care about what would happen to Tommy and Rosemarie.  Tommy and Rosemarie find a reason for living in their criminal activities.  They go from being losers to being minor New York celebrities, even if they can’t reveal their actual identities.  They may be idiots but their love is real and there’s something very touching about how much they actually do care about each other.  It’s hard not to be happy for them, even if it’s obvious from the start that their story is not going to have a happy ending.

Rob the Mob is uneven but, in the end, it’s more than worth watching.  This is an offer you should not refuse.

Previous Offers You Can’t (or Can) Refuse:

  1. The Public Enemy
  2. Scarface
  3. The Purple Gang
  4. The Gang That Could’t Shoot Straight
  5. The Happening
  6. King of the Roaring Twenties: The Story of Arnold Rothstein 
  7. The Roaring Twenties
  8. Force of Evil

Film Review: Convoy (dir by Sam Peckinpah)


Well, it looks like we’ve got ourselves a Convoy!

The 1978 film Convoy opens with the image of a truck passing by some hills that have been covered with snow.  At a certain point, it actually looks like the truck is descending into a sea of white powder.  It’s an appropriate image because, to film lovers and cinematic historians, Convoy will always be associated with cocaine.

Convoy was meant to be a relatively small-scale B-movie, one that was meant to capitalize on the popularity of a novelty song, as well as the recent success of other car chase films.  Instead, it became a notoriously troubled production that went famously overbudget and overschedule as director Sam Peckinpah turned Convoy into a personal statement about modern cowboys and independence.  When the film was finally released, it was the biggest box office hit of Peckinpah’s storied career.  However, because so much money had been spent making the film, it still failed to make a profit and the film is regularly described as being one of the many flops of the late 70s that eventually led to the power in the film industry shifting away from the directors and over to the studio executives.  Many in Hollywood grumbled that it was Peckinpah’s well-known cocaine use that led to him having such trouble with what should have been a simple B-movie.  That’s probably a bit unfair to Peckinpah as it’s been written that just about everyone in Hollywood was using cocaine in 1978.

Add to that …. Convoy‘s not that bad.

Convoy tells the story of Rubber Duck (Kris Kristofferson), a legendary trucker who has never joined the Teamsters.  He’s an independent.  Rubber Duck’s nemesis is Sheriff Dirty Lyle (Ernest Borgnine), who is also an independent.  He’s never joined the policeman’s union.  As Rubber Duck puts it, “There’s not many like us anymore.”

Anyway, for reasons that are only vaguely defined, Rubber Duck leads a convoy of trucks across the southwest while being pursued by the police.  It has something to do with protesting the law enforcement tactics of Dirty Lyle, despite the fact that Rubber Duck appears to kind of like Lyle.  Soon hundreds of other independent truckers are joining Rubber Duck’s convoy, all to protest law enforcement.  Among those in the convoy are Pig Pen (Burt Young), Widow Woman (Madge Sinclair), and Spider Mike (Franklyn Ajaye), who just wants to get home to his pregnant wife.  Traveling with Rubber Duck is Melissa (Ali MacGraw), who is supposed to be some sort of photojournalist.  Rubber Duck and Melissa fall in love but there’s only so much you can do with a love story when it centers around two of the least expressive stars of the 70s.  During the chase, Rubber Duck picks up some non-truckers supporters, including some religious fanatics in a microbus.  He and the truckers also drive through and destroy a lot of buildings, which kind of makes it look like the cops might have had a point.

What sets Convoy apart from other chase films of the 70s is just how seriously it takes itself.  There’s an undercurrent of melancholy that runs through the entire film.  Rubber Duck seems to know that America is changing and as people become more comfortable with the idea of sacrificing their freedoms, his days as an independent trucker are numbered.  Dirty Lyle also seems to be stuck in a permanent existential crisis, taking no joy in being a crook but still forced to do so by being a part of an inherently corrupt government system.  There’s a scene where a truckstop waitress offers herself up as a gift to Rubber Duck on his birthday and Peckinpah films it as if he’s making an Italian neorealist drama about Rome after the war.  When Spider Mike says that he has to get home to his wife, he says it with the pain of a man who knows that the system only cares about control and not happiness.  These aren’t just truckers.  These are men and women who are on the front lines battling a creeping culture of oppression.

Surprisingly enough, the film’s serious tone actually works to its advantage.  You may not fully understand why Rubber Duck is leading that convoy but you hope that it succeeds because you get the feeling that the world might end if it doesn’t.  When the film ends with Ernest Borgnine laughing like a maniac, it comes across less like a moment of amusement and more like an acknowledgment that the universe is a tragic farce.  Life is a riddle wrapped inside an engima and only Rubber Duck and Dirty Lyle seem to understand that fact.

Add to that, this is a film about independents refusing to allow themselves to be limited by the regulatory state.  In its way, it’s one of the most sincerely Libertarian films ever made and, with all of us currently living under “lockdowns” and hoping that our governors don’t join those who have already surrendered their better instincts to their inner tyrant (sorry, Michigan, Kentucky, and New Jersey), Convoy remains an important film.  Go, Rubber Duck, go!

 

Film Review: Blood Red (1989, directed by Peter Masterson)


The time is the 1890s.  The place is California.  Sicilian immigrant Sebastian Collogero (Giancarlo Giannini) has just been sworn in as an American citizen and owns his own vineyard.  When Irish immigrant William Bradford Berrigan (Dennis Hopper) demands that Sebastian give up his land so Berrigan run a railroad through it, Sebastian refuses.  Berrigan hires a group of thugs led by Andrews (Burt Young) to make Sebastian see the error of his ways.  When Sebastian ends up dead, his wayward son, Marco (Eric Roberts), takes up arms and seeks revenge.

Have you ever wondered what would have happened if the famously self-indulgent directors Michael Cimino and Francis Ford Coppola teamed up to make a movie about the American Dream?  The end result would probably be something like Blood Red.  Like Cimino’s The Deer Hunter and Heaven’s Gate, Blood Red begins with a lengthy celebration (in this case, in honor of Sebastian’s naturalization ceremony) that doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the film but which is included just to make sure we know that what we’re about to see is more than just a mere genre piece.  Like many of Coppola’s films, Blood Red features a tight-knit family, flowing wine, and a score composed by Carmine Coppola.  The only difference between our hypothetical Cimino/Coppola collaboration and Blood Red is that the Cimino/Coppola film would probably be longer and more interesting than Blood Red.  Blood Red is only 80 minutes long and directed by Peter Masterson, who seems lost.  There’s a potentially interesting story here about two different immigrants fighting to determine the future of America but it gets lost in all of the shots of Eric Roberts flexing his muscles.

For an actor known for his demented energy, Eric Roberts is surprisingly dull as the lead but Blood Red is a film that even manages to make veteran scenery chewers like Dennis Hopper and Burt Young seem boring.  (Hopper’s bizarre attempt at an Irish brogue does occasionally liven things up.)  The cast is full of familiar faces like Michael Madsen, Aldo Ray, Marc Lawrence, and Elias Koteas but none of them get to do much.  Of course, the most familiar face of all belongs to Eric’s sister, Julia.  Julia Roberts made her film debut playing Marco’s sister, Maria.  (Because the film sat on the shelf for three years after production was completed, Blood Red wasn’t released until after Julia has subsequently appeared in Mystic Pizza and Satisfaction.)  She gets three lines and less than five minutes of screen time but she does get to briefly show off the smile that would later make her famous.  Today, of course, that smile is the only reason anyone remembers Blood Red.

Horror Film Review: Blood Beach (dir by Jeffrey Bloom)


“Nom nom nom nom,” says that monster under the sand.

“Agck!  Agck!  Agck!  Agck!” says the people above the sand.

And that’s all you really need to know about the 1981 film, Blood Beach.

Blood Beach takes place on a beach that also happens to be a hunting ground for this mutated worm thing that lives underground.  Basically, whenever anyone takes a stroll on the beach, they get sucked down into the sand and, for the most part, they’re never seen again.  Sometimes that’s not a bad thing, as in the case of a wannabe rapist who ends up getting castrated while being pulled down into the sand.  But, far too often, the victims are innocent people who were just walking their dog, chasing after their hat, or searching for buried treasure.

The beach becomes so well-known for being a death trap that the locals start to call it Blood Beach but, for some reason, that doesn’t seem to stop people from wandering out on the sand at inopportune times.  I mean, it would just seem logical to me that if there’s a monster killing people on the beach then maybe it would be a good idea to avoid the beach for a while.  I mean, you could go see a movie or you could lay out and work on your tan in your back yard.  Believe it or not, you do have the option of not going to a monster-infested location.

Strangely, there’s one person who is always on the beach but never gets killed.  That’s Mrs. Selden (Eleanor Zee), a somewhat odd woman who always seems to be nearby whenever someone is getting dragged into the sand but who never gets attacked herself.  Interestingly, Mrs. Selden never seems to be particularly concerned by all the carnage around her.  (One victim is even killed while specifically checking to make sure Mrs. Selden is okay.)  I kept expecting some sort of major twist where it was revealed that Mrs. Selden was a witch or something but it never happened.

Now, you would think that the presence of an underground monster would be the perfect excuse to call in the national guard but instead, the local police (led by John Saxon’s Captain Pearson) handle it.  Sgt. Royko (Burt Young) heads up the monster investigation, which in this film means that he kinda of stumbles from scene-to-scene, never looking particularly impressed by or interesting in anything that’s happening around him.  If anything, Royko seems to be annoyed that he’s having to give up time that he could be using to drink beer and watch TV and that attitude makes Royke the hero of this film.  Forget the scientist who wants to understand where the monster came from.  Forget the habor cop who wants to rekindle things with an old flame.  Royko doesn’t care about science or love.  He just wants to blow stuff up, which makes him the perfect audience surrogate

Anyway, Blood Beach sounds like it should be a fun movie but it’s not.  The movie delivers a lot of beach but very little blood.  There’s a lot of “nom nom” but very little “agck!”  Blood Beach is almost as much of a misfire as spending spring break in West Texas.

4 Film Reviews: Bridge To Silence, The Chocolate War, Kiss The Bride, Wedding Daze


Last week, I watched six films on This TV.

Which TV?  No, This TV!  It’s one of my favorite channels.  It’s not just that they show a lot of movies.  It’s also that they frequently show movies that are new to me.  For instance, last week, This TV introduced me to both Prison Planet and Cherry 2000.

Here are four other films, two good and two not so good, that This TV introduced to me last week.

First up, we have 1989’s Bridge to Silence.

Directed by Karen Arthur, Bridge To Silence was a made-for-TV movie.  Lee Remick plays Marge Duffield, who has a strained relationship with her deaf daughter, Peggy (Marlee Matlin).  After Peggy’s husband is killed in a traffic accident, Peggy has a nervous breakdown.  Marge and her husband, Al (Josef Sommer) take care of Peggy’s daughter, Lisa, while Peggy is recovering.  However, even as Peggy gets better, Marge still doesn’t feel that she can raise her daughter so Marge files a lawsuit to be named Lisa’s legal guardian.  While all of this is going on, Peggy is starring in a college production of The Glass Menagerie and pursuing a tentative romance with the play’s director (Michael O’Keefe).

Bridge to Silence is one of those overwritten but heartfelt melodramas that just doesn’t work.  With the exception of Marlee Matlin, the cast struggles with the overwrought script.  (Michael O’Keefe, in particular, appears to be miserable.)  The film’s biggest mistake is that it relies too much on that production of The Glass Menagerie, which is Tennessee Williams’s worst play and tends to be annoying even when it’s merely used as a plot device.  There’s only so many times that you can hear the play’s director refer to Peggy as being “Blue Roses” before you just want rip your hair out.

Far more enjoyable was 1988’s The Chocolate War.

Directed by Keith Gordon, The Chocolate War is a satirical look at conformity, popularity, rebellion, and chocolate at a Catholic boys school.  After the manipulative Brother Leon accidentally purchases too much chocolate for the school’s annual sale, he appeals to one of his students, Archie Costello (Wallace Langham), to help him make the money back.  Archie, who is just as manipulative as Leon, is the leader of a secret society known as the Vigils.  However, Archie and Leon’s attempt to manipulate the students runs into a roadblack when a new student, Jerry Renault (Illan Mitchell-Smith) refuses to sell any chocolates at all.  From there, things get progressively more complicated as Archie tries to break Jerry, Jerry continues to stand up for his freedom, and Leon … well, who knows what Leon is thinking?

The Chocolate War was an enjoyable and stylish film, one that featured a great soundtrack and a subtext about rebellion and conformity that still feels relevant.  John Glover and Wallace Langham both gave great performances as two master manipulators.

I also enjoyed the 2002 film, Kiss The Bride.

Kiss The Bride tells the story of a big Italian family, four sisters, and a wedding.  Everyone brings their own personal drama to the big day but ultimately, what matters is that family sticks together.  Directed by Vanessa Parise, Kiss The Bride featured believable and naturalistic performances from Amanda Detmer, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Brooke Langton, Monet Mazur, and Parise herself.

I have to admit that one reason why I liked this film is because it was about a big Italian family and it featured four sisters.  I’m the youngest of four sisters and, watching the film, I was reminded of my own big Irish-Italian family.  The movie just got everything right.

And then finally, there was 2006’s Wedding Daze.

Wedding Daze is a romantic “comedy.”  Anderson (Jason Biggs) asks his girlfriend to marry him, just to have her drop dead from shock.  Anderson’s best friend is afraid that Anderson will never get over his dead girlfriend and begs Anderson to not give up on love.  Anderson attempts to humor his friend by asking a complete stranger, a waitress named Katie (Isla Fisher), to marry him.  To everyone’s shock, Katie says yes.

From the get go, there are some obvious problems with this film’s problem.  Even if you accept that idea that Katie would say yes to Anderson, you also have to be willing to accept the idea that Anderson wouldn’t just say, “No, I was just joking.”  That said, the idea does have some comic potential.  You could imagine an actor like Cary Grant doing wonders with this premise in the 30s.  Unfortunately, Jason Biggs is no Cary Grant and the film’s director, comedian Michael Ian Black, is no Leo McCarey.  In the end, the entire film is such a misjudged failure that you can’t help but feel that Anderson’s ex was lucky to die before getting too involved in any of it.

A Movie A Day #235: Twilight’s Last Gleaming (1977, directed by Robert Aldrich)


In Montana, four men have infiltrated and taken over a top-secret ICBM complex.  Three of the men, Hoxey (William Smith), Garvas (Burt Young), and Powell (Paul Winfield) are considered to be common criminals but their leader is something much different.  Until he was court-martialed and sentenced to a military prison, Lawrence Dell (Burt Lancaster) was a respected Air Force general.  He even designed the complex that he has now taken over.  Dell calls the White House and makes his demands known: he wants ten million dollars and for the President (Charles Durning) to go on television and read the contents of top secret dossier, one that reveals the real reason behind the war in Vietnam.  Dell also demands that the President surrender himself so that he can be used as a human shield while Dell and his men make their escape.

Until Dell made his demands known, the President did not even know of the dossier’s existence.  His cabinet (made up of distinguished and venerable character actors like Joseph Cotten and Melvyn Douglas) did and some of them are willing to sacrifice the President to keep that information from getting out.

Robert Aldrich specialized in insightful genre films and Twilight’s Last Gleaming is a typical example: aggressive, violent, sometimes crass, and unexpectedly intelligent.  At two hours and 30 minutes, Twilight’s Last Gleaming is overlong and Aldrich’s frequent use of split screens is sometimes distracting but Twilight’s Last Gleaming is still a thought-provoking film.  The large cast does a good job, with Lancaster and Durning as clear stand-outs.  I also liked Richard Widmark as a general with his own agenda and, of course, any movie that features Joseph Cotten is good in my book!  Best of all, Twilight’s Last Gleaming‘s theory about the reason why America stayed in Vietnam is entirely credible.

The Vietnam angle may be one of the reasons why Twilight’s Last Gleaming was one of the biggest flops of Aldrich’s career.  In 1977, audiences had a choice of thrilling to Star Wars, falling in love with Annie Hall, or watching a two and a half hour history lesson about Vietnam.  Not surprisingly, a nation that yearned for escape did just that and Twilight’s Last Gleaming flopped in America but found success in Europe.  Box office success or not, Twilight’s Last Gleaming is an intelligent political thriller that is ripe for rediscovery.

A Movie A Day #150: Back to School (1986, directed by Alan Metter)


Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) started with nothing but through a combination of hard work and chutzpah, he started a chain of “Tall and Fat” clothing stores and made a fortune.  Everyone has seen his commercials, the one where he asks his potential customers, “Do you look at the menu and say, ‘Okay?'”  He has a new trophy wife named Vanessa (Adrienne Barbeau) and a chauffeur named Lou (Burt Young).  Thornton never even graduated from high school but he gets respect.

However, his son, Jason (Keith Gordon), doesn’t get no respect.  No respect at all.  Jason is a student at a pricey university, where he is bullied by Chas Osborne (William Zabka) and can’t get a date to save his life.  Jason’s only friend is campus weirdo Derek Lutz (Robert Downey, Jr.).  When Thornton sees that his son isn’t having any fun, he decides to go back to school!

Back to School is a predictable but good-natured comedy.  It is like almost every other 80s college comedy except, this time, it’s a 65 year-old man throwing raging parties and making the frat boys look stupid instead of Robert Carradine or Curtis Armstrong.  On the stand-up stage, Dangerfield always played the (sometimes) lovable loser but in the movies, Dangerfield was always a winner.  In both Caddyshack and Back to School, Dangerfield played a self-made man who forced his way into high society and showed up all of the snobs.  While Back to School is no Caddyshack, it does feature Rodney at his best.

Rodney may be the funniest thing about Back to School but a close second is Sam Kinison, who owed much of his early success to Rodney Dangerfield’s support.  Kinison plays a history professor, who has some very strongly held views about the Vietnam War and who punctuates his points with a primal screen.

Also, keep an eye out Kurt Vonnegut, playing himself.  Rodney hires him to write a paper about Kurt Vonnegut for one of his classes.  The paper gets an F because Rodney’s literature professor (Sally Kellerman) can tell that not only did Rodney not write it but whoever did knows absolutely nothing about the work of Kurt Vonnegut.

So it goes.

The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Amityville II: The Possession (dir by Damiano Damiani)


amityville_ii_the_possession

Agck!

The 1982 “prequel” Amityville II: The Possession is a film that is so grimy and icky and yucky and disgusting that you’ll want to take a shower right after you watch it.  And then you’ll probably end up taking two more showers, just to be sure that you’ve washed the film away.

Seriously, this is an amazingly disturbing film.

Claiming to show how that infamous house in Amityville, New York came to be haunted in the first place, this film opens with The Montelli Family moves into a big house with quarter moon windows.  The family patriarch is Anthony (Burt Young), a former cop who walks with a cane.  Anthony is an angry monster, an abusive husband, and a terrible father.  His wife, Dolores (Rutanya Alda), lives her life in denial, insisting that a new house means a new beginning and continually praying that her family will find peace.  Anthony and Dolores have four children.  The two youngest are at the mercy of their angry father.  Teenagers Patricia (Diane Franklin) and Sonny (Jack Magner) are both looking forward to the day that they can escape their family.

As soon as the Montellis move in, strange things start to happen.  It turns out that there’s a strange tunnel in the basement, one that appears to lead to nowhere.  When obscene messages appear on the walls of the house, Anthony starts to beat the youngest children but, fortunately, Sonny grabs a rifle and points it at his father’s head.  When the local priest, Father Adamsky (James Olson), shows up to bless the house, he ends up getting so disgusted at Anthony that he leaves without finishing.

In fact, Father Adamsy is a remarkable ineffectual priest.  When he attempts to talk to Sonny, he simply assumes that Sonny isn’t talking because he’s rude.  What Adamsky doesn’t suspect is that Sonny’s being rude because he’s been possessed by a demon for the basement!  When Patricia confesses that she and Sonny have been having sex, Adamsky doesn’t do anything about it.  When Patricia tries to call him to let him know that her brother appears to be possessed, Adamsky refuses to answer the phone and instead goes skiing for the weekend.

And, of course, while Adamsky is gone, Sonny grabs that rifle and, in a nightmare-inducing series of scenes, kills everyone in the house…

Of course, when Father Adamsky returns, he feels guilty and he decides to perform an exorcism.  MAYBE HE SHOULD HAVE DONE THAT EARLIER!  But no … he had to go skiing…

Anyway, Amityville II: The Possession is a deeply icky film.  It’s undeniably effective and has a lot of scary moments but it’s not an easy film to sit through.  Between Anthony beating his family and Sonny walking into Patricia’s room and asking her to “play a game,” this is a film that really gets under your skin.  You’ll never forget it but, at the same time, you’ll also never want to watch it again.

Interestingly enough, Amityville II was directed by Damiano Damiani, an Italian director who is probably best known for movies like A Bullet For The General and Confessions of a Police Captain, genre films that often featured a subversive political subtext.  Though Amityvile II is not overly political, the film’s portrait of the suburban Montelli family as a ticking time bomb does definitely fit in with Damiani’s other work.  Damiani reportedly set out to make the most disturbing film that he possibly could and he succeeded.

Tag Team Turmoil: …ALL THE MARBLES (MGM 1981)


cracked rear viewer

all_the_marbles

Before Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, before Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper , the worlds of professional wrestling and the movies had long been entwined. After all, they’re both show biz! Grapplers like Nat Pendleton , Mike Mazurki, Tor Johnson , Harold Sakata (GOLDFINGER’s Oddjob), and Lenny Montana (Luca Brasi in THE GODFATHER) made the successful transition from the squared circle to Hollywood, not to mention Mexican luchadores like El Santo and Mil Mascaras, who starred in the ring and in their own series of movies south of the border. Even early TV wrestling phenom Gorgeous George had his own feature film, 1949’s ALIAS THE CHAMP.

marbles

1981’s …ALL THE MARBLES was made just before the Hulkamania craze started a boom in pro wrestling’s popularity. It’s a serio-comic character study centering on small time manager Harry Sears and his two young charges Iris and Molly,  better known as tag team The California Dolls. Harry and Iris…

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