Embracing The Melodrama Part III #5: Jacqueline Susann’s Once Is Not Enough (dir by Guy Green)


“Only in the movies, baby.” 

— Mike Wayne (Kirk Douglas) in Jacqueline Susann’s Once Is Not Enough (1975)

Jacqueline Susann’s Once Is Not Enough (for that indeed is the unwieldy title of this little movie) opens with a shot of two Oscars sitting on an end table.  Those Oscars belong to Mike Wayne (Kirk Douglas), a legendary Hollywood producer who hasn’t had a hit in way too long.  He’s struggling financially.  He may even have to fire his maid (Lillian Randolph), despite the many years that she’s spent making sure he wakes up and remembers to take a shower before leaving the house.  What choice does Mike have but to marry Deidre Milford Granger (Alexis Smith), the world’s sixth richest woman?  Mike doesn’t even mind that Deidre is having an affair with Karla (Melina Mercouri).

That makes sense to everyone by Mike’s daughter, January (Deborah Raffin).  As Mike explains it, January’s name came about as a result of January being born in January.  So, I guess if I was Mike’s daughter, I would have been named November.  Everyone in the film thinks that Mike’s being terribly clever by naming his daughter after her birthday but, to me, that just sounds lazy.

Does January have some issues?  Well, when she returns to America after getting into a serious motorcycle accident in Europe, she greets her father by cheerfully saying, “I hope nobody thinks we’re father and daughter.  I hope they think you’re a dirty old man and I’m your broad.”

Agck!  That sounds like the set up for a Freudian nightmare but instead, the film’s rather blasé about the whole incestuous subtext of January’s relationship with her father.  Mike is soon pushed to the side as the movie follows January as she tries to make a life for herself in New York City.  Fortunately, she’s able to land a job at a magazine, working for her old college friend, Linda (Brenda Vacarro).  In college, Linda was smart and homely but she has since had so much plastic surgery that January doesn’t even recognize her.  Linda’s either found the greatest plastic surgeon in the world or else January is just really, really stupid.

Linda gets all the best lines.  While talking about all of the work that she’s had done, she takes the time to brag that she had everything fixed by her navel, which she declares to be perfect.  When January comments that Linda is beautiful, Linda replies, “And now ugly is in!  I want my old nose back!”

Linda is stunned to learn that January is still a virgin but that problem is solved once January goes out on a few dates with David (George Hamilton), who is Deidre’s cousin.  David and January go out to a club and January is shocked when a random woman throws a drink in David’s face.  Later, January goes back to David’s apartment, which turns out to be the epitome of 70s tackiness.  When January asks David why the carpet and all of the furniture is red, David replies, “I wanted it to look like a bordello.”

Things don’t really work out between January and David but don’t worry!  January soon meets the world-renowned author, Chest Hair McGee (David Janssen)!  Okay, actually his name is Tom Colt.

Tom spends almost the entire movie drunk and acting obnoxious but January falls in love with him.  And, of course, it has nothing to do with the fact that he’s the same age as her father.  No, of course not.  Instead, she’s charmed by the way he slurs the line, “Forgive me, I can’t take my eyes off of your ass!”

January is convinced that she and Tom are going to be together forever.  Of course, Mike hates Tom.  And there is the fact that Tom’s married.  Literally everyone in the movie tells January that Tom is never going to leave his wife but I guess we’re still supposed to be shocked when Tom tells her that he’ll never leave his wife.  He does, however, thank her for allowing “a broken-down old man” to “feel like a stud.”  In the end, nothing really works out for January but she’s such an annoying and vacuous character that you really don’t mind.

Based on a novel by the same author who gave the world The Valley of the Dolls, Once Is Not Enough is a movie that manages to be both remarkably bad and also surprisingly watchable.  Some of that is because the film is a time capsule of 70s fashion, 70s decor, and 70s slang.  A lot more of it is because the cast is made up of such an odd mishmash of performers and acting styles that nobody seems like they should be in the same movie.  Kirk Douglas grimaces.  George Hamilton looks embarrassed.  David Janssen lurches through the film like a drunk trying to remember where he lives.  Alexis Smith and Melina Mercouri chew every piece of scenery they can find while Brenda Vaccaro shouts her lines as if hoping the increased volume will keep us from noticing what she’s actually saying.  Poor Deborah Raffin wanders through the film with a dazed look on her face.  Can you blame her?

Interestingly enough, Jacqueline Susann’s Once Is Not Enough actually was nominated for an Oscar.  Brenda Vaccaro was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.  Admittedly, Vaccaro does probably come the closest of anyone in the cast to creating an interesting character but I still have to wonder just how weak the Supporting Actress field was in 1975.

Anyway, this incredibly silly and tacky film is a lot of fun, though perhaps not in the way that it was originally intended to be.  Between the nonstop drama, the unintentionally hilarious dialogue, and the weird performances, the film plays out like a cartoon character’s dream of the 70s.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at another silly and tacky film from the same decade, 1978’s The Betsy!

A Movie A Day #278: The Power (1968, directed by Byron Haskin)


Who is Adam Hart?

That is the mystery that Professors Jim Tanner (George Hamilton) and Margery Lansing (Suzanne Pleshette) have to solve.  Someone is using psychic powers to kill their co-workers in a research laboratory.  The police think that Tanner is guilty but Tanner knows that one of his colleagues is actually a super human named Adam Hart.  Hart is planning on using his super powers to control the world and, because Tanner is the only person who has proof of his existence, Hart is methodically framing Tanner for every murder that he commits.

The Power is underrated by entertaining movie, a mix of mystery and science fiction with a pop art twist.  It was also one of the first attempts to portray telekinesis on film.  Similar films, like Scanners, may be better known but all of them are directly descended from The Power.  George Hamilton may seem like an unlikely research scientist but he and Suzanne Pleshette are a good team and The Power makes good use of Pleshette’s way with a one liner.  Also keep an eye out for familiar faces like Arthur O’Connell, Nehemiah Persoff, Michael Rennie, Gary Merrill, Yvonne DeCarlo, Vaughn Taylor, Aldo Ray, and even Forrest J. Ackerman as a hotel clerk.

 

Horror On The Lens: The Dead Don’t Die (dir by Curtis Harrington)


For today’s horror on the lens, we have a 1975 made-for-television movie called The Dead Don’t Die!

The Dead Don’t Die takes place in Chicago during the 1930s.  George Hamilton is a sailor who comes home just in time to witness his brother being executed for a crime that he swears he didn’t commit.  Hamilton is convinced that his brother was innocent so he decides to launch an investigation of his own.  This eventually leads to Hamilton not only being attacked by dead people but also discovering a plot involving a mysterious voodoo priest!

Featuring atmospheric direction for Curtis Harrington and a witty script by Robert Bloch, The Dead Don’t Die is an enjoyable horror mystery.  Along with George Hamilton, the cast includes such luminaries of “old” Hollywood as Ray Milland, Ralph Meeker, Reggie Nalder, and Joan Blondell.  (Admittedly, George Hamilton is not the most convincing sailor to ever appear in a movie but even his miscasting seems to work in a strange way.)

And you can watch it below!

Enjoy!

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #39: Where The Boys Are (dir by Henry Levin)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of 2017!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

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Before I talk about the 1960 film Where The Boys Are, I’m going to admit something.  Nearly a month ago, I started this mission to clean out my DVR.  I had 52 films to review and I said that I’d have it all done by Thanksgiving.  Of course, I failed to take into account that Thanksgiving is a holiday and, when you’re celebrating a holiday, that doesn’t always leave time to write 52 reviews.  So, I gave myself until the end of the first week of December.  And that’s when I realized that 52 reviews is not a small amount of work.  Especially if you want to make them decent reviews, as opposed to just posting a few sentences.  So, I’m abandoning all of my arbitrary deadlines.  I’ve got 14 more movies to review and I really hope that I’ll be done by the end of the year.  Maybe I will be, maybe I won’t…

But, seriously, I really hope that I am!

Anyway, now that I’ve cleared that up, let’s go to Where The Boys Are!

Released in 1960, Where The Boys Are was one of the first spring break films and it set the template for many films that would follow.  Because it is a piece of history, it’s one of those films that seems to regularly pop up on TCM.  It last aired on TCM on November 13th.  That’s when I recorded it.

Where The Boys Are tells the story of four girls who go to college in Maryland.  When we first see them, they are trudging across a snowed-in campus and there’s a distinct lack of handsome men around.  We listen as Merritt Andrews (Delores Hart) debates her far older professor about whether or not a girl should be “experienced” before getting married.  The professor thinks that all girls should wait for marriage.  Merritt disagrees.  What makes this scene interesting is that it’s almost totally done in euphemism.  Merritt never says sex.  Instead, she says making out and the professor has to ask her to explain what that means.

I mean …. 1960, amirite?

Anyway, it’s spring break so Merritt and her friends go down to Ft. Lauderdale.  After all … that’s where the boys are!  All of the girls have their own defining characteristic.  Merritt is the leader of the group, an intellectual with an I.Q. of 138.  Tuggle (Paula Prentiss) is smart and no-nonsense.  She’s a self-described “good girl” and her hope is to be a “baby-making machine.”  She intimidates some men because she stands 5’10.  Angie (Connie Francis) is athletic and naive.  And then there’s Melanie (Yvette Mimieux), who overcomes her insecurity and loses her virginity as soon as they arrive in Florida (though, of course, this is all handled via euphemism).

Over the course of spring break, all four of the girls meet a man or two.  Merritt meets Ryder (George Hamilton), who is not only an Ivy League student but has a tan to die for.  Ryder it turns out is very experienced (the film doesn’t seem to have the same issue with men being experienced as it does with women) and Merritt is forced to consider whether she’s really as ready for sex as she claims.  Melanie also hooks up with an Ivy Leaguer but it quickly becomes obvious that, despite going to Yale, Franklin (Rory Harrity) is a total heel.  (Oh, how you will hate Franklin.)  Tuggle finds herself competing for the attention of TV (Jim Hutton).  And Angie falls for a myopic jazz musician, Basil (Frank Gorshin).

Watching Where The Boys Are was an odd experience.  It’s an extremely dated film and it’s hard to believe that its euphemistic sex talk and extremely modest swimsuits were ever considered to be controversial.  There’s a hilarious scene where the girls are getting ready for their dates by changing into dresses that look more appropriate for cotillion than a night in Ft Lauderdale.  Needless to say, nobody is seen smoking weed or skinny dipping or doing any of the other stuff that we’ve come to take for granted as far as spring break films are concerned.  (That said, I get the feeling that both TV and Basil may have been stoned.  But definitely not Ryder.  From the minute Ryder shows up, you know he’s going to end up running a successful business and probably serving as an advisor in the Trump White House.)

There are a lot of jokes about people getting drunk, however.  It’s nice to see that, even in 1960, college students on Spring Break couldn’t hold their liquor.  I also found it interesting that not only did almost everyone in Where The Boys Are smoked but most of them looked really cool doing it.  In fact, I’d say that this film was probably the best advertising for cigarettes that I’ve ever seen.

For the most part, Where The Boys Are is a hit-or-miss comedy that’s distinguished by perfect casting.  Even though the film itself was dated, I felt that I could relate, in one way or another, to all of the girls.  Hart, Prentiss, Mimeux, and even Francis captured universal emotions and feelings in their performances and their friendship felt very true.

About 70 minutes into the film, Where The Boys Are takes a very serious turn and the film actually ends on a rather melancholy note, a reminder that not even a somewhat light weight comedy could escape the harshly judgmental morality of the time.  The sudden shift in tone took me by surprise but the film actually handled it well.  I just wish that it didn’t feel as if the filmmakers were punishing our characters for questioning the dictates of society.

On a final note, it’s interesting to note that Delores Hart, who played the sexually free thinking Merritt, later gave up her film career and became a nun.

So much for where the boys are.

Shattered Politics #62: Bulworth (dir by Warren Beatty)


BulworthSo, if you’ve ever wondered what happened to Robert Redford’s Bill McKay after he was elected to the U.S. Senate at the end of The Candidate, I imagine that he probably ended up becoming something like the protagonist of 1998’s Bulworth, U.S. Sen. Jay Bulworth.

As played by Warren Beatty, Bulworth is a veteran senator.  A former liberal firebrand, he may still decorate his office with pictures of him meeting Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King but Bulworth sold out a long time ago.  Now, he just says whatever has to say in order to get elected, including pretending to have a happy marriage. He has become a part of everything that’s wrong with Washington.

Sick of both politics and life in general, Bulworth decides that he’d rather be dead.  But, in order to make sure that his daughter collects on his $10,000,000 life insurance policy, Bulworth cannot commit suicide.  Instead, he arranges for a contract to be taken out on his life.  In two days, Bulworth will be assassinated.

Returning to California for his campaign, Bulworth gets drunk and suddenly starts to say what he actually believes.  He attacks the Washington establishment.  He attacks the voters.  He attacks the insurance companies and comes out for single payer health insurance.  With his desperate press secretary (Oliver Platt) chasing behind him, Bulworth spends the night dancing at a club where he discovers marijuana and meets a girl named Nina (Halle Berry).

(Platt, meanwhile, discovers that he really, really likes cocaine.)

Soon, Nina and Bulworth are hiding out in the ghetto, where Bulworth meets both Nina’s brother (Isiah Washington) and local drug dealer, L.D. (Don Cheadle), and gets a lesson about how economics actually work in the ghetto.  Soon, Bulworth is appearing on CNN where he raps his new political platform and suggests that the solutions for all of America’s problems would be for everyone to just keep having sex until eventually everyone is the same color.

Of course, what Bulworth doesn’t know is that Nina also happens to be the assassin who has been contracted to kill him…

I have mixed feelings about Bulworth.  On the one hand, the film starts out strong.  You don’t have to agree with the film’s politics in order to appreciate the film’s passion,  Bulworth is an angry film and one that’s willing to say some potentially unpopular things.  It’s a film about politics that doesn’t resort to the easy solutions that were proposed by some of the other films that I’ve reviewed for Shattered Politics.  Warren Beatty does a pretty good job of portraying Bulworth’s initial mental breakdown and Oliver Platt is a manic wonder as he consumes more and more cocaine.

But, once Warren Beatty starts rapping, the film starts to fall apart and becomes a bit too cartoonish for its own good.  You get the feeling that Warren Beatty, at this point, is just trying to live out the liberal fantasy of being the only wealthy white man in America to understand what it’s like to be poor and black in America.

Bulworth starts out well but ultimately, it begins better than it ends.

Shattered Politics #53: The Godfather Part III (dir by Francis Ford Coppola)


GodfatherIII2

Well, it’s come to this.

First released in 1990, The Godfather Part III was nominated for best picture (it lost to Goodfellas Dances With Wolves) but it’s got a terrible reputation.  Over the past two weeks, whenever I’ve mentioned that I was planning on reviewing The Godfather and The Godfather Part II for this series of reviews, everyone who I talked to mentioned that they loved the first two Godfather films and that they hated the third one.  Quite a few, in fact, suggested that I shouldn’t even bother reviewing the third one.  In their eyes, The Godfather Part III was like that one cousin who you know exists but, because he got caught cashing your grandma’s social security check, you never send a Christmas card.

But you know what?

It was never even an option for me to skip reviewing The Godfather, Part III.  First off, I’m a completist.  It’s long been my goal to review every single best picture nominee and, regardless of how much some people may dislike it, that’s exactly what The Godfather Part III is.

Plus, I love the Godfather movies.  I’m a fourth Italian (and, much like the Corleones, my Italian side comes from Southern Italy) and I was raised Catholic.  Let’s face it — The Godfather movies were made for me.  Even Part III.

So, with all that in mind, I recently sat down and rewatched The Godfather Part III.  And I’m not saying that it was an easy film to watch.  It’s a flawed film and those flaws are made even more obvious when you compare it to the previous two Godfathers.  It’s hard to follow up on perfection.  And I have to admit that, even though I had seen Part III before, I was still expecting it to be better than it actually was.  I had forgotten just how many slow spots there were.  I had forgotten how confusing the plot could get.  I had forgotten….

Okay, I’m really starting to sound negative here and I don’t want to sound negative.  Because I like The Godfather, Part III.  I think it’s a good but uneven film.  Some of my favorite films are good but uneven…

But this is a Godfather film that we’re talking about here!

The Godfather Part III opens in 1979, 20+ years since the end of the second film.  Tom Hagen has died off-screen (booo!) and Michael (Al Pacino) is nearly 60 and looking forward to retirement.  He’s handed the Corleone criminal empire over to the flamboyant Joey Zasa (Joe Mantegna).  Michael has finally become a legitimate businessman but he’s lost everyone that he loved.  Kay (Diane Keaton) has divorced him.  His son, Anthony (Franco D’Ambrosio), knows that Michael was responsible for killing Uncle Fredo and wants nothing to do with the family business.  Instead, Anthony wants to be an opera singer.  Meanwhile, his daughter Mary (Sofia Coppola) is headstrong and rebellious.  (Or, at least, she’s supposed to be.  That’s what the audience is told, anyway.  None of that really comes across on the screen.)

Now, the first two Godfather films featured their share of melodrama but neither one of them comes close to matching all of the schemes, betrayals, and plots that play out over the course of Godfather, Part III.  Let’s see if I can keep all of this straight:

As the film opens, Michael is receiving an award from the Vatican.  Kay, who is now married to a judge, shows up with Mary and Anthony.  Michael is obviously happy to see her.  Kay glares at him and says, “That ceremony was disgusting!”  (Damn, I thought, Kay’s suddenly being kind of a bitch.  Fortunately, later on in the movie, Kay’s dialogue was both better written and delivered.)

Then, Vincent (Andy Garcia) shows up!  Vincent is one of those handsome, sexy gangsters whose every action is followed by an exclamation point!  Vincent is Sonny’s illegitimate son!  He wears a cool leather jacket!  He openly flirts with his cousin Mary!  He has sex with Bridget Fonda!  He kills Joey Zasa’s thugs!  He convinces Michael to mentor him!

And, as soon as Vincent enters the film, suddenly every scene starts to end with an exclamation point!

And then, Michael goes to Sicily!  He gets swindled by the corrupt Archbishop Gilday (Donal Donnelly)!  He gets targeted by a corrupt Italian politician!  He confesses his sins to Cardinal Lamberto (Raf Vallone)!  Lamberto later becomes Pope!

Meanwhile, Don Altobello (Eli Wallach) is conspiring to kill Michael!  Because that’s what elderly Mafia dons do!  And then Kay, Anthony, and Mary all come to Sicily!  Anthony is going to be making his opera debut!  And soon Vincent is sleeping with Mary, even though they’re first cousins!

And even more people want Michael dead and I’m not really sure why!  Everyone goes to the opera!  We sit through the entire opera!  Meanwhile, enemies of the Corleones are killed!  And some Corleones are killed!  And it all ends tragically!

Okay, I’m starting to get snarky here and it’s probably getting a little bit hard to believe that I actually do like The Godfather, Part III.  And, as much as I hate to do it, there are a few more flaws that I do need to point out.  Sofia Coppola is one of my favorite directors and she has really pretty hair and we both have similar noses but …. well, let’s just say that it’s probably a good thing that Sofia pursued a career as a director and not as an actress.  Reportedly, Sofia was a last minute pick for the role, cast after Winona Ryder suddenly dropped out of the production.  It’s not so much that her performance is terrible as much as it’s not up to the level of the rest of the cast.  Watching this Godfather, you’re acutely aware of how much of what you’re seeing on screen was determined by Sofia’s inexperience as an actress.

And then there’s that opera.  Now, I know that I’m supposed to love opera because I’m a girl and I’m a fourth Italian.  And I do love big emotions and big drama and all the rest.  But oh my God, the opera at the end of the movie went on and on.  There’s only so much entertainment you can get out of watching actors watch other actors.

But, at the same time, for every flaw, there’s a part of the film that does work.  First off, the film itself is gorgeous to look at, with a lot of wonderfully baroque sets and scenes taking place against the beautiful Italian landscape.  Al Pacino brings a very real gravity to the role of Michael and it’s fun to watch him trying to win back Diane Keaton.  (In those brief scenes, The Godfather Part III almost becomes a romantic comedy.)  Talia Shire is obviously having a lot of fun playing Connie as being a Lady MacBeth-type of character.  (In fact, they needed to give Connie a film of her own where she could poison anyone who get on her nerves.)  And Andy Garcia does a great job as Vincent.  You watch him and you never have any doubt that he could be Sonny’s son.

The Godfather Part III may not live up to the first two Godfather films but what film could?

Shattered Politics #40: The Happy Hooker Goes To Washington (dir by William A. Levey)


happy-hooker-470-x-647

“God bless you, Ms. Hollander!  You have saved us from recession!”

— Dialogue from The Happy Hooker Goes To Washington (1977)

Le sigh.

The things that I do for this site!

If I wasn’t currently in the process of watching and reviewing 94 films about politicians and politics, I can guarantee that I would never have watched The Happy Hooker Goes To Washington.  However, while I was looking for films to review for this series, I went over to Netflix and did a search on “Washington.”

Guess which film came up first?

If you guessed The Happy Hooker Goes To Washington, you would be correct!  And you know what?  I watched this movie with an open mind.  As anyone who has read this site knows, I have never been shy about my love of old exploitation films.  The fact of the matter is that some of the most imaginative films ever made were low-budget grindhouse movies.  Nothing angers me more than elitist film bloggers who dismiss a film just because it originally played in grindhouse cinema.

But, honestly, The Happy Hooker Goes To Washington is just bad.  It’s boring.  The acting is terrible.  The jokes fall flat.  The attempts at political satire are about as clever as what you’d find on any site trying to read like the Onion without actually being the Onion.

In the Happy Hooker Goes To Washington, Joey Heatherton plays Xaviera Hollander, a former madam who is now a businesswoman, magazine publisher, and sex advise columnist.  She is apparently the world’s leading authority on sex.  We know this because, when she first appears, she’s surrounded by reporters.  “When sex is news, you’re news!” one of them tells her.

Xaviera has been called to testify in front of the Senate Committee To Investigate Sexual Excess In America.  And goddamn, this movie is stupid.  But anyway, Xaviera goes to Washington to stand up for sexual freedom.  Accompanying her is an attorney named Ward Thompson (George Hamilton) and, quicker than you can say “Fifth place on Dancing With The Stars,” Ward is explaining to Xaviera why her testimony is so important.

“We’re heading right into the teeth of a new puritanism,” he tells her.  “Under the new puritanism, there won’t be any happy hookers!”

Anyway, Xaviera testifies in front of the committee and we get a few flashbacks to some of Xaviera’s past accomplishments.  And then she gets recruited by a dwarf (Billy Barty) and is sent to seduce an Middle Eastern ruler and … well, it just keep going and going.  This is one of the longest 84-minute films ever released.

Anyway, this movie sucks.  (And so does Xaviera!  That’s the level of humor that you can expect when you watch The Happy Hooker Goes To Washington.)  It’s still lurking around Netflix.  Avoid it at all costs.