Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986, directed by Jerry Paris)


Police Academy 3 opens with a state in the middle of a fiscal crisis.  Money has to be saved somewhere and the governor (Ed Nelson) has decided that it’s not necessary for the state to have two police academies.  I am not sure why the governor would be the one to make that determination since the previous two Police Academy films established that the academies are run by the city but I guess I should remember that I’m watching a Police Academy film and not ask too many questions.

Which academy is going to be closed down?  Will it be the academy run by Commandant Lassard (George Gaynes) or the one run by Commandant Mauser (Art Metrano, returning from the second film)?  Mauser is willing to use any dirty, under-handed trick to keep his academy open.  Meanwhile, Lassard has his most recent graduating class returning to instruct his latest batch of recruits.  Can Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg) and Michael Winslow’s human sound effects machine save the academy?

When I watched Police Academy 3 this weekend, I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t as bad as I remembered.  Maybe it’s because I watched it immediately after the first two films and my senses were dulled but Police Academy 3 turned out to be an amiable and enjoyably stupid comedy. It helped that two of the new recruits were played by Tim Kazurinsky and Bobcat Goldthwait.  Returning to the roles that they first played in the second movie, Kazurinsky and Goldthwait make for a good comedic team.  As for the rest of the Police Academy regulars, they all do their usual comedy bits like pros and without any fuss.  It’s predictable and sometimes, funny.

Police Academy 3 was the first Police Academy film to have a PG-rating and, as a result, the jokes were still as juvenile and crude as the first two movies but, at the same time, Police Academy 3 seems to have made peace with the fact that it’s target audience was a bunch of adolescent boys dropped off at the theater by their mothers.  Mauser is still regularly humiliated but no one gets a blow job while standing in front of a podium.  This is a Police Academy for the entire family, assuming that your family is easily amused and not too demanding.

Police Academy 3 is a dumb movie and the recurring joke about policemen accidentally entering the Blue Oyster Bar is even less funny the third time that it’s used.  There’s also a Japanese recruit who only seems to be included because, back in the 80s, American films were obsessed with making fun of Japan.  Despite all that, Police Academy 3 is still not as bad as the usual Police Academy sequel.

But what about Police Academy 4?  Check in tomorrow to find out if it’s also better than I initially remembered.

(It’s not.)

That’s The Way Of The World (1975, directed by Sig Shore)


Welcome to the down and dirty world of the music industry in the 1970s.

Coleman Buckmaster (Harvey Keitel) is a record producer who is known as the “Golden Ear,” because of his success at discovering new talent.  Coleman is the son of a jazz pianist (to whom he brings a birthday present of cocaine) and he is convinced that consumers are not as dumb as music execs assume that they are.  He believes that his latest group, known simply as The Group (but played by Earth, Wind, & Fire), have what it takes to become a big success despite not having a conventionally commercial image.

Coleman’s boss, Carlton James (Ed Nelson), disagrees.  Carlton orders Coleman to spend less time working with The Group and to instead devote his energy to producing a single for a new band called The Pages.  Led by Franklyn Page (Bert Parks), the Pages present themselves as being a clean-cut and wholesome family band.  Carlton is sure that their innocuous style and feel-good harmonies are going to be “the sound of the 70s.”  Coleman disagrees but he tries to balance working with both groups.  While he tries to make The Group into a success, he also tries to find something worthwhile in The Pages’ new single, “Joy Joy Joy.”  Complicating matters is that, against his better instincts, Coleman has fallen into a relationship with Velour Page (Cynthia Bostick), who is not as innocent as the band’s image makers makes her out to be.

Written by journalist Robert Lipsyte and directed by producer Sig Shore (he did Superfly), That’s The Way Of The World is an interesting look at what was going on behind the scenes of the music industry in the 70s.  It’s not the first film to suggest that the recording industry was run by unethical and corrupt record labels (nor would it be the last) but it feels authentic in a way that a lot of other music industry films don’t.  That’s The Way Of The World emphasizes just how manufactured most popular music is.  Insisting on trying to do something different, as the Group does, will only lead to you being snubbed by the industry.  Play ball and record music that means nothing — like the Pages — and you’ll become a star overnight.  Having a hit has less to do with the work you put into it and more with how many people your label is willing to pay off.  As one exec puts it, getting your record played on the radio (in those days before YouTube and Soundcloud) means resorting “payola, layola, and drugola.”  Harvey Keitel performs his role with his trademark intensity and Bert Parks is brilliantly cast as the thoroughly fake Franklyn Page.

Today, The Way Of The World is best-known for its soundtrack, which was also one of Earth, Wind, and Fire’s best-selling albums.  Though the film was a bomb at the box office, the album was not.  The Group may have struggled to get anyone to listen but Earth, Wind, and Fire became the first black group to top both the Billboard album and singles charts.

Beware The Pages

Film Review: She Gods of Shark Reef (dir by Roger Corman)


Ah, Hawaii!

There is no state more beautiful than Hawaii and there are no people friendlier.  When I was 17 years old, my family spent a summer in Hawaii and it was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.  I can’t swim to save my life and I have a morbid fear of drowning but, when I was in Hawaii, I happily walked into the ocean.  Not far into the ocean, of course.  But still, everyone in my family was amazed.  Of course, eventually I saw a jelly fish floating towards me and I screamed and ran back to the beach.  (After reaching the safety of the beach, I realized that the jelly fish was actually just seaweed but still, it was scary-looking!)  Hawaii is just the type of state that makes you appreciate life and take risks.

For instance, consider the two main characters in Roger Corman’s 1958 film, She Gods of Shark Reef.  Chris (Bill Cord) and Lee (Don Durant) are brothers who live in Hawaii.  Chris has blonde hair and a good attitude towards life.  Lee has dark hair and a criminal nature.  Chris loves the ocean.  Lee loves to run guns.  After Lee kills two men, he stows away on Chris’s boat.  When the boat then hits a storm, Chris and Lee wash up on the shores of an isolated beach.  It’s a beautiful island but all Lee can think about is how he can make money off of his current predicament.  Bad Lee, bad!

Anyway, it turns out that the island is inhabited by an all-female village of pearl divers.  Everyone is excited by the arrival of two handsome, shirtless men.  Everyone except for Queen Pua (Jeanne Gerson), who doesn’t trust either one of them and who doesn’t appear to want anyone in the world to be happy.  She’s especially upset when Chris interrupts a plan to sacrifice a villager to the shark gods of the sea.  Chris not only rescues but also falls in love with Mahia (Lisa Montell).

While Chris is busy falling in love, Lee is trying to figure out a way to escape from the island before a rescue boat arrives.  Lee, after all, is a wanted criminal and the last thing that he wants is to go from being shipwrecked to imprisoned.  Lee comes up with a plan for himself, his brother, and Mahia to escape the island.  However, Lee being Lee, he just can’t overcome his greedy nature.  As quickly becomes obvious, Karma is not only a bitch but it’s a shark as well.

She Gods of Shark Reef was directed by Roger Corman.  Though the film’s low budget is obvious in every frame, Corman wisely decided to concentrate on the island’s beauty as opposed to the movie’s somewhat haphazard story.  This is one of those films where the action stops for nearly five minutes so that Corman can film a hula dancer.  But you know what?  That’s okay!  The beauty of Hawaii and the surrounding ocean carry the film.  You don’t watch for the plot.  Instead, you watch for the blue water and the green grass and the vibrant skies.  This is a film that you watch for the island scenery and the sharks.  Both of them are quite nice.

Horror on the Lens: The Screaming Woman (dir by Jack Smight)


Today’s horror on the lens is The Screaming Woman, a 1972 made-for-TV movie that’s based on a Ray Bradbury short story.

Olivia de Havilland plays Laura Wynant, who has just returned home from a stay at a mental institution.  Soon after her arrival, Laura starts to hear a woman crying for help.  Laura becomes convinced that the woman has been buried alive on her property but, because of her debilitating arthritis, she can’t dig the woman up on her own.  And, because of her own mental history, no one believes her when she tries to tell them about what she’s hearing!

The Screaming Woman features screen legend Olivia De Havilland giving a sympathetic performance as Laura.  It also features two other luminaries of the golden age of Hollywood — Joseph Cotten and Walter Pidgeon — in supporting roles.  It’s a good little thriller so watch and enjoy!

(And of course, I should mention that the great Olivia De Havilland is still with us, 103 years old and living in France.)

Coming Down The Mountain: Runaway! (1973, directed by David Lowell Rich)


Runaway! begins with a train starting a slow descent down a snowy mountain.  On board the train are collection of skiers, gigolos, conductors, and engineers.  One couple discusses their upcoming divorce.  An athletic father tries to bond with his less-athletic son.  A slick con artist tries to convince a depressed young woman not to throw herself from the train.  A group of skiers put on an impromptu concert, banging on their suitcases like bongo drums.  They get so loud that the conductor doesn’t even hear the engineer desperately trying to contact him.  What none of the passengers realize is that the train’s brake engines have frozen and the train is about to start hurtling down the mountain.  Unless the chief engineer can figure out a way to stop the train, everyone’s going to die!

Made for television in the year between the release of The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, Runaway! is a low-key but entertaining disaster movie.  With a running time of only 70 minutes, Runaway! doesn’t waste any time getting down to business and, even if it is a low-budget movie, there’s no way that an out-of-control train racing down a mountain can’t be exciting.

Compared to the other disaster movies of the era, Runaway! does not exactly have an all-star cast though there are some familiar faces.  Vera Miles and Ed Nelson are the divorcing couple while Martin Milner is the father who puts too much pressure on his son.  Ben Murphy is the gigolo who refuses to pay for a ticket on general principle while Darleen Carr is the woman who wants to jump to her death.  Most of them are just there as placeholders.  It’s obvious from the start that the real stars of the film are going to be the train and the mountain.  However, the famously gruff character actor Ben Johnson manages to make an impression just by being Ben Johnson.  Johnson plays the chief engineer and, as long as he’s manning the engine, you know that the train’s passengers are in good hands.

Runaway! has never been released on DVD or even VHS but it is currently available on YouTube.

Horror on TV: Thriller 1.31 “A Good Imagination” (dir by John Brahm)


In tonight’s episode of the Boris Karloff-hosted anthology series, Thriller, Edward Andrews plays a bookseller who discovers that his wife has numerous lovers.  Fortunately, he has a collection of books that is just full of good ways to take care of the competition!

This episode was written by Robert Bloch and was based on his short story.

Enjoy the little tribute to the power of literature!

 

Halloween Havoc!: A BUCKET OF BLOOD (AIP 1959)


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We can’t have Halloween without a good Roger Corman movie, and A BUCKET OF BLOOD is one of my favorites. This 1959 black comedy is a precursor to Corman’s THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, and I actually prefer it over that little gem. A BUCKET OF BLOOD skewers the pretentiousness of the art world, the 50’s beatnik scene, and the horror genre itself with its story of nerdy Walter Paisley, a busboy at a hipster coffee house learns making it as a famous artist can be murder!

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Walter’s a no-talent nebbish longing to be accepted by the pompous clientele at The Yellow Door, especially beautiful hostess Carla. When he accidentally kills the landlady’s cat, Walter covers it in clay (with the knife still protruding in poor little Frankie!), and brings it in to work. The grotesque sculpture causes a stir among the patrons, and Walter is congratulated for his brilliant work ‘Dead Cat’. Beatnik…

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Horror on the Lens: Attack of the Crab Monsters (dir by Roger Corman)


For today’s horror on the lens, we have the 1957 science fiction film, Attack of the Crab Monsters!

About a month ago, I watched this film along with Patrick Smith and all of our friends in the late night movie gang.   To be honest, everyone else seemed to enjoy it a lot more than I did.  It was a fun little movie but … well, maybe I was just having a bad night.

Here’s why you should take 62 minutes out of your Saturday and watch Attack of the Crab Monsters on the Shattered Lens.  First off, it’s a Roger Corman film and anything directed by Roger Corman automatically needs to be watched.  Secondly, it’s about giant crabs that communicate through telepathy.  And when was the last time you saw that!?

(“Last night,” someone in the audience shouts, “as the sun went down over the crab-covered beaches of Denmark!”  I pretend not to hear.)

Anyway!  Here, for your viewing pleasure, is Attack of the Crab Monsters!

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #22: The Cry Baby Killer (dir by Joe Addis)


That's Jack Nicholson with the gun.

That’s Jack Nicholson with the gun.

Two years ago, there was a rumor that Jack Nicholson had announced his retirement from acting because he was starting to suffer from memory loss.  Even though Nicholson’s people later claimed that this was false and that Jack was actively reading scripts, that rumor still left me feeling very depressed.  Jack Nicholson is such an iconic actor that it’s difficult to think that there will be a time when he’ll no longer be arching his eyebrows and delivering sarcastic dialogue in that signature voice of his.  When you look at a list of his films, you find yourself looking at some of the best and most memorable films ever made.  Chinatown, The Shining, The Departed, The Shooting, Easy Rider, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Nicholson has appeared in some truly great films.

But every actor, no matter how iconic he may be, had to start somewhere.  For Jack Nicholson, that somewhere was the 1958 Roger Corman-produced film, The Cry Baby Killer.  The good news is that the 21 year-old Nicholson starred in his very first film.  The bad news is that there’s absolutely nothing about Jack’s performance that would give you any reason to believe that he would eventually become one of the best known and most-honored actors of all time.  It’s not that Jack gives a bad performance.  In fact, it’s somewhat disappointing that Jack doesn’t do a terrible job in the role.  When you’re seeing the obscure film debut of a cinematic icon, you always hope that the first performance will either be amazingly good, shockingly bad, or just embarrassingly inappropriate.  But, in Jack’s case, he’s neither good nor bad and he doesn’t really embarrass himself.  Instead, he’s just bland.

Yes, you read that right.

Jack “HEEEEEEEEEERE’S JOHNNNNNNNY!” Nicholson was bland in his debut film.

As for the film itself, Jack plays Jimmy.  We’re told that Jimmy is 17 years-old and he’s still in high school.  (Since Jack Nicholson’s hairline was already receding at 21, we automatically have a difficult believing him in the role of Jimmy.)  Jimmy’s a good kid but he’s kind of stupid.  Also, his ex-girlfriend Carole (Carolyn Mitchell) is now dating an 18 year-old gangster named Manny Cole (played by Brett Halsey, who would later have a prolific career in Italian exploitation films as well as appearing in The Godfather, Part III).  Jimmy confronts Manny.  Manny has two of his thugs beat up Jimmy.  Jimmy grabs a gun off a thug and shoots someone.  Scared of going to jail, Jimmy runs into a store and takes three hostages — a stocker and a young mother with a baby.

The rest of the 70-minute film consists of an understanding policeman (Harry Lauter) trying to convince Jimmy to surrender while the crowd of reporters and observes outside the store hope for a violent confrontation.  The film does make a still-relevant point about how the media exploits the potential for tragedy but, for the most part, it’s pretty forgettable.

As I stated above, Jack is adequate but forgettable.  If I had seen this movie when it first came out in 1958, I would have expected handsome and charismatic Brett Halsey to become a huge star while I would have predicted that Nicholson would spend the rest of his career in television.

However, we all know that didn’t happen.  Jack Nicholson became an icon.  Sadly, Jack hasn’t appeared in a film since 2010.  Hopefully, he’ll give us at least one more great performance.  Who knows?  Maybe some aspiring screenwriter will write as script for Cry Baby Killer 2: Jimmy’s Revenge.

It could happen.

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Horror on TV: Night Gallery 2.22 “The Caterpillar/Little Girl Lost”


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For tonight’s televised horror, we have an episode of Night Gallery that was originally broadcast on March 1st, 1972. This episode tells two stories, one about government manipulation and then another about an earwig. The one about the earwig features a great performance from Laurence Harvey, who was dying of cancer while shooting this episode and who stopped taking his painkillers so that he could better portray his character’s suffering. Along with Harvey’s performance, The Caterpillar also features an absolutely perfect ending.


Enjoy!