Horror On The Lens: Dead of Night (dir by Dan Curtis)


For today’s horror on the lens, we’re very happy to present to you, Dead of Night!

From 1977, this television film is a horror anthology, made up of three stories directed by Dan Curtis and written by Richard Matheson.  In the first story, a youngish Ed Begley, Jr. travels through time.  In the 2nd story, Patrick Macnee plays a man whose wife is apparently being menaced by a vampire.  And in the third story, Joan Hackett plays a mother who brings her dead son back to life, just to discover that sometimes it’s best to just let sleeping corpses lies.

The entire anthology is good, though the third story is clearly the best and the most frightening.  Not only is it scary but it’s got a great twist ending.

Enjoy!

Sahara (1983, directed by Andrew V. McLaglen)


The year is 1927 and famed automobile designer R.J. Gordon (Steve Forrest) dies before he can enter his latest creation into the Trans-African Auto Race across the Sahara Desert.  Wishing to keep her father’s dream alive and prove that she’s just as good a driver as the boys, R.J.’s daughter, Dale (Brooke Shields), enters the race in his place.  Since women are not legally allowed to compete, Dale has to pretend to be a man.  She does this by wearing a fake mustache, which she tosses off as soon she drives over the start line.  It has to be seen to be believed.

Dale and her team set out on the race and they quickly get caught up in a tribal war between two separate factions of Bedouins.  Dale is captured by the lascivious Rasoul (John Rhys-Davies), who attempts to have his way with her.  Fortunately, Dale is rescued by Rasoul’s nephew, Sheikh Jafar (Lambert Wilson).  Jafar is enchanted by Dale’s beauty and wants her to marry him.  Dale eventually agrees but, the morning after the wedding, she sneaks out of Jafar’s tent, jumps back in her car, and rejoins the race.  When she gets captured by the other Bedouins, they force her to stand on a rock while surrounded by panthers.  Like Brooke with a mustache, it has to be seen to be believed.

Sahara was produced by Cannon Pictures.  Menahem Golan, who gets a story credit along with his usual producers credit on this film, was a self-described fan of Rudolph Valentino and Sahara was his attempt to pay homage to Valentino’s performance in The Sheik, as well as cashing in on the adventure zeitgeist that had been launched by the box office success of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  With a budget of $15 million, Sahara was one of Cannon’s most expensive films and the end result was a mix of high production values and typical Golan-Globus goofiness.  The desert cinematography may be impressive but this is still a strangely old-fashioned movie starring Brooke Shields as a race car driver who speeds through the desert without once getting a hair out of place.  As attractive as she was, Brooke was never much of an actress and requiring her to show more than one emotion at a time, as Sahara often does, seems like the ultimate act of hubris.  Say what you will about the films that Cannon made with Bronson and Norris, the two Chucks always seemed like they were perfectly cast.  Shields also has no chemistry with Lambert Wilson, who looks embarrassed at having to pretend to be Rudolph Valentino.  On the plus side, Raiders of the Lost Ark alumni Rhys-Davies and Ronald Lacey are both present in the film and seem to know better than to take any of it seriously.  Rhys-Davies especially always seems to be on the verge of laughing at his terrible dialogue.

Though the view may be impressive, the script is bad and the lead actors are lost.  Avoid Sahara at all costs.

A Movie A Day #338: Raid on Entebbe (1977, directed by Irvin Kershner)


On June 27th, 1976, four terrorists hijacked an Air France flight and diverted it to Entebbe Airport in Uganda.  With the blessing of dictator Idi Amin and with the help of a deployment of Ugandan soldiers, the terrorists held all of the Israeli passengers hostage while allowing the non-Jewish passengers to leave.  The terrorists issued the usual set of demands.  The Israelis responded with Operation Thunderbolt, a daring July 4th raid on the airport that led to death of all the terrorists and the rescue of the hostages.  Three hostages were killed in the firefight and a fourth — Dora Bloch — was subsequently murdered in a Ugandan hospital by Idi Amin’s secret police.  Only one commando — Yonatan Netanyahu — was lost during the raid.  His younger brother, Benjamin, would later become Prime Minister of Israel.

Raid on Entebbe, a docudrama about the operation, was originally produced for NBC though it subsequently received an overseas theatrical release as well.  It’s an exciting tribute to the bravery of both the hostages and the commandos who rescued them.  Director Irvin Kershner directs in a documentary fashion and gets good performances from a cast full of familiar faces.  Charles Bronson, James Woods, Peter Finch, Martin Balsam, Stephen Macht, Horst Buchholz, Sylvia Sidney, Allan Arbus, Jack Warden, John Saxon, and Robert Loggia show up as politicians, commandos, terrorists, and hostages and all of them bring a sense of reality and humanity to their roles.

The film’s best performance comes from Yaphet Kotto, who plays Idi Amin as a strutting buffoon, quick to smile but always watching out for himself.  In the film, Amin often pays unannounced visits to the airport, where he lies and tells the hostages that he is doing his best to broker an agreement between the terrorists and Israel.  The hostages are forced to applaud Amin’s empty promises and Amin soaks it all up with a huge grin on his face.  Forest Whitaker may have won the Oscar for Last King of Scotland but, for me, Yaphet Kotto will always be the definitive Idi Amin.

It’s the original THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN- or is it? (United Artists 1960)


cracked rear viewer

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There’s a large hue and cry about the upcoming remake of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (and remakes in general) among classic film fans. “How dare they”, it kind of goes, “Why, that’s blasphemy!”. The truth is, Hollywood’s been cannibalizing itself since almost the beginning, and remakes have long been a staple of filmmakers. THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN is a remake of Akira Kurasawa’s Japanese film SEVEN SAMAURI, moved to the American west by producer/director John Sturges . And while quite frankly most remakes can’t hold a candle to the originals, this 1960 action epic can stand on it’s own as one of the great Western adventures.

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Sturges assembled a macho cast to tell the tale of bandits terrorizing a small Mexican village, and the seven hired guns who take on the job of defending them. Top billed is Yul Brynner as Chris, the black clad gunslinger who puts together the crew. First among them is 

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