Embracing the Melodrama Part III #4: The Grasshopper (dir by Jerry Paris)


“It’s very simple what I want to be: totally happy; totally different; and totally in love.”

— Christine Adams (Jacqueline Bisset) in The Grasshopper (1970)

Seriously, is Christine asking for too much?

Total happiness?  That may sound like a lot but trust me, it can be done.

Totally different?  That’s a little bit more challenging because, to be honest, you’re either different or you’re not.  If you have to make the effort to be different, then you definitely are not.

Totally in love?  Well, it depends on how you define love…

At the start of The Grasshopper, Christine thinks that she’s heading to America to find love.  While an oh-so late 60s/early 70s theme song plays in the background, Christine leaves her small hometown in Canada and she heads down to California.  She’s planning on meeting up with her boyfriend Eddie (Tim O’Kelly) and taking a job as a bank teller.

Of course, it soon turns out that working in a bank isn’t as exciting as Christine originally assumed.  Eddie expects Christine to just be a conventional girlfriend and that’s not what Christine is looking for. As well, it’s possible that Christine may have seen Targets, in which O’Kelly played an all-American boy who picks up a rifle and goes on a killing spree.

And so, Christine abandons Eddie and heads to Las Vegas.  Since this movie was made in 1970 and Uber didn’t exist back then, Christine’s preferred method of traveling is hitchhiking.  This gives her a chance to meet the usual collection of late 60s weirdos who always populate movies like this.  One driver crosses herself when Christine says that she plans to have a baby before getting married.  Another is a hacky Las Vegas comic.

In Vegas, Christine applies for a job as a showgirl.  As she explains to sleazy casino owner Jack Benton (Ed Flanders), she “once did Little Women in school.”

“Did you do it nude?” Jack replies.

Yep, that’s Vegas for you!  It’s the city of Showgirls, Casino, and Saved By The Bell: Wedding in Vegas, after all!

Anyway, thing do get better once Christine meets and falls in love with Tommy Marcott (Jim Brown), a former football player who is now working as a door greeter in Jack’s casino.  Everyone tells Christine not to get involved with Tommy.  One of Jack’s men, a menacing hitman who looks just like Johnny from Night of the Living Death (he even wears glasses), warns Christine to watch herself.

Through a long series of events, Christine ends up on her own again.  The usual collection of 70s events occur: murder, drugs, prostitution, and ultimately a stint as the mistress of a rich man played by Joseph Cotten.  The important thing is that it all eventually leads to Christine and a skywriter getting stoned, stealing a plane, and deciding to write a message in the sky.

That’s when this happens:

Yes, it’s all very 1970!

Anyway, The Grasshopper is one of those films that tries to have it both ways.  Establishment audiences could watch it and think, “Wow, those kids are really messed up.”  Counterculture audiences could watch it and say, “Old people are such hypocrites.”  Oddly enough, The Grasshopper was written by future director Garry Marshall and it’s an incredibly overwrought film.  There’s not a subtle moment to be found in the entire film and the film’s direction is flashy but empty.  However, for those of us who love history, it’s as close to 1970 as we’re going to get without hopping into a time machine.

A Movie A Day #174: St. Ives (1976, directed by J. Lee Thompson)


Raymond St. Ives (Charles Bronson) is a former cop-turned-writer who desperately needs money.  Abner Procane (John Houseman) is a wealthy and cultured burglar who needs someone to serve as a go-between.  Five of Procane’s ledgers have been stolen.  The thieves are demanding a ransom and Procane believes that St. Ives is just the man to deliver the money.  But every time that St. Ives tries to deliver the money, another person ends up getting murdered and St. Ives ends up looking more and more like a suspect.  Who is the murderer?  Is it Janet (Jacqueline Bisset), the seductive woman who lives in Procane’s mansion?  Is it Procane’s eccentric psychiatrist (Maximillian Schell)?  Could it be the two cops (Harry Guardino and Harris Yulin) who somehow show up at every murder scene?  Only Ray St. Ives can solve the case!

Charles Bronson is best remembered for playing men of few words, the type who never hesitated to pull the trigger and do what they had to do.  St. Ives was one of the few films in which Bronson got to play a cerebral character.  Ray St. Ives may get into his share of fights but he spends most of the film examining clues and trying to solve a mystery.  The mystery itself is not as important as the quirky people who St. Ives meets while solving it.  St. Ives has a great, only in the 70s type of cast.  Along with those already mentioned, keep an eye out for Robert Englund, Jeff Goldblum, Dana Elcar, Dick O’Neill, Daniel J. Travanti, Micheal Lerner, and Elisha Cook, Jr.  It’s definitely different from the stereotypical Charles Bronson film, which is why it is also one of my favorites of his films.  As this film shows, Bronson was an underrated actor.  In St. Ives, Bronson proves that, not only could he have played Mike Hammer, he could have played Philip Marlowe a well.

St. Ives is historically significant because it was the first Bronson film to be directed by J. Lee Thompson.  Thompson would go on to direct the majority of the films Bronson made for Cannon in 1980s, eventually even taking over the Death Wish franchise from Michael Winner.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Secret World (dir by Paul Feyder and Robert Freeman)


(I’m currently cleaning out my DVR!  It’s going to take forever but I take like 20 capsules of Dexedrine a day so I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to stay awake until I’ve watched everything.  Anyway, I recorded the 1969 film, Secret World, off of FXM on February 1st.)

Poor Francois (Jean-Francois Vlerick)!  This eleven year-old has already experienced more tragedy than most people will have to deal with in a lifetime.  He was recently in a car accident, one that resulted in him being pinned underneath his mother’s body for several hours.  He now lives with his grandparents (Pierre Zimmer and Giselle Pascal) on their beautiful estate.  It’s a lonely life.  Francois spends most his time with his pet rabbit or, at least, he does until Wendy Sinclair (Jacqueline Bisset) shows up.

Wendy used to be his grandfather’s mistress.  She may still be.  The film is deliberately ambiguous about the current state of their relationship.  Grandma, of course, is not happy to see her.  Francois, on the other hand, becomes obsessed with her, watching her while she sleeps and even clipping off a lock of her hair.  For her part, Wendy good-naturedly tolerates Francois and his attention.

Then Olivier (Marc Morel) shows up.  Olivier is Francois’s uncle, a handsome and wealthy rogue.  The attraction between Olivier and Wendy is obvious, leading to both Francois and his grandfather growing jealous.  With all three of the men in love with Wendy, she eventually does have sex with one of them but the film deliberately declines to reveal whether she’s with Olivier or the grandfather.  (We only see a man’s hand and that man is wearing a glove as he approaches the naked Wendy.)

Secret World is a creepy little French movie, one of the many movies from the late 60s that featured boys and men lusting after Jacqueline Bisset.  Almost everything about this movie screams 1969, from the fashion to the cars to the oddly pretentious tone of the entire film.  Naturally, there’s the occasional jump cut and a few unnecessary close-ups.  There are hints of psychedelia in the shots where the sun shines over Olivier’s shoulder.  It even has a rather melancholy and ambiguous ending.  It’s a frequently gorgeous film, full of haunting shots of the French countryside.

And yet, the film adds up to almost nothing.  The movie was obviously trying to be a bittersweet coming-of-age story but it doesn’t work because the characters, as written, are almost all ciphers.  Francois is weird when we first meet him and he’s weird when we see him for the last time.  He’s one of those kids who is either going to grow up to be a writer or a serial killer.  Unfortunately, the film doesn’t seem to know which is true.

At first, I was expecting Secret World to turn out to be a horror film, mostly because little Francois was so creepy with the way that he was always staring at Wendy.  I’ve been stared at like that and it made my skin crawl.  As soon as Francois started wandering around with the scissors, I was like, “Merde!  Everyone in that château is about learn that there are worse things in the world than just ennui!”  But no, Secret World never followed up on any of those implications.  Instead, it just became a series of pretty and rather empty images.  There’s a lot of beauty but not much depth to be found in Secret World.

The Elements of Style: Steve McQueen in BULLITT (Warner Brothers 1968)


cracked rear viewer

bullitt1

Steve McQueen was the personification of 60’s screen cool in BULLITT, a stylish action film directed by Peter Yates. It’s the first of producer Philip D’Antoni’s cop trilogy, both of which (THE FRENCH CONNECTION and THE SEVEN-UPS) I’ve previously covered. Unlike those two films, the grittiness of New York City is replaced by the California charm of San Francisco, and the City by the Bay almost becomes a character itself, especially in the groundbreaking ten minute car chase between McQueen’s Mustang and the bad guy’s Dodge Charger.

bullitt2

Style permeates the film from the get-go, with the snappy opening credits montage by Pablo Ferro. Then we get right into the story, as San Francisco detective Frank Bullitt is assigned to guard mob witness John Ross, scheduled to testify before a Senate Subcommitte on crime. Hot shot politician Walt Chalmers wants Bullitt because of his reputation and PR value with the papers. Things go awry when Ross…

View original post 579 more words

Playing Catch Up: Welcome to New York (dir by Abel Ferrara)


Welcome_to_New_York_(2014)

Gerard Depardieu is naked a lot in Welcome to New York and I know you’re probably being snarky and sarcastically thinking, “Well, then I’m definitely going to track down this film…” but actually, the frequent display of Depardieu’s body gets to the heart of what makes his performance so memorable.  Playing an extremely unsympathetic role, Depardieu doesn’t hide the character’s depravity from the audience.  He reveals every inch of the character, from his flabby body to his empty soul.  It takes courage to bring such an unsympathetic character to life and talent to keep the audience watching and fortunately, Depardieu has both of those.

Welcome to New York opens with Depardieu (as himself) talking to a group of reporters and explaining why he’s decided to play a character based on Dominique Strauss-Kahn in Abel Ferrara’s upcoming movie.  It’s an interesting way to start, both because it features Depardieu’s scornful opinion of politicians and because it leaves no doubt that, even if Depardieu’s character has been renamed Devereaux, Welcome to New York is directly based on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case.

(Dominique Strauss-Kahn, of course, was the wealthy French socialist who many thought was going to be the next President of France until he was arrested after raping a hotel maid in New York City.  As a wealthy and well-connected white man, he was acquitted of raping the maid, who neither wealthy, well-connected, or white.   Throughout the trial, the usual collection of elitists complained about how Americans just didn’t understand French culture but, ultimately, Strauss-Kahn’s political career was ended by the scandal.)

Welcome to New York closely follows the facts of the Strauss-Kahn case.  Wealthy banker and politician Devereaux is in New York on business.  When he meets his daughter and her boyfriend, he spends the entire lunch asking them about their sex life.  When he returns to his hotel, he and his business associates hire a group of prostitutes and have one of the most depressing orgies ever captured on film.

I have to admit that during these first part of the film, I was often tempted to turn off Welcome To New York.  No, it wasn’t that the film was too explicit.  Instead, my problem was that Devereaux was such a dull character.  Devereaux has a lot of sex during the first third of the film but, at no point, does he seem to enjoy it.  Instead, he is detached from everything happening around him and it doesn’t exactly make for compelling viewing.

But, as the film played out, I realized that we weren’t supposed to find Devereaux in any way compelling.  Instead, Devereaux is portrayed as a hollow and empty shell.  For him, sex is all about entitlement and power.  After his is arrested for raping the hotel maid, Devereaux appears to be more surprised than anything else.  Rather than feeling regret at being caught or even fear that he might be convicted, Devereaux seems to be shocked that a man of his wealth would be held responsible for his actions.

After Devereaux is arrested, the film’s pace picks up a bit.  Devereaux’s wife, Simone (Jacqueline Bisset), flies to New York and takes over her husband’s defense.  It’s not that Simone feels that Devereaux has been wrongly accused.  In fact, Simone really doesn’t seem to care much for her husband in general.  However, Simone is determined that Devereaux is going to be the next president of France and she certainly has no intention of allowing some American criminal case to stand in his way.  Bisset gives a chilling performance as the almost fanatically driven Simone.

Soon, Devereaux is under house arrest and staying at a rented house.  (For these scenes, Welcome to New York filmed in the same house that Strauss-Kahn stayed at during his trial.)  It’s while locked away in the house that Devereaux finally starts to realize that he has gone too far.  It’s in the house that Devereaux remembers the man he was once was and is forced to confront the man that he has become.

Welcome to New York is not always an easy film to watch but, thanks to Depardieu and Bisset’s ferocious performances, it’s a film that will reward patient viewers.

Film Review: The Thief Who Came To Dinner (1973, directed by Bud Yorkin)


0033bee5_mediumIn The Thief Who Came To Dinner, Ryan O’Neal plays Webster McGee, a Houston-based computer programmer.  After deciding that living in a capitalist society means that everyone steals from everyone else, Webster quits his boring job and decides to become a real thief.  Figuring that they can afford to lose a little wealth, Webster only targets the rich and powerful.  After he steals some incriminating documents from a crooked businessman (Charles Cioffi), Webster uses those documents to blackmail his way into high society.  Soon, Webster owns a mansion of his own and is living with a gorgeous heiress (Jacqueline Bisset, who played a lot of gorgeous heiresses back in the day).  Webster also has an insurance investigator after him.  Dave Reilly (Warren Oates) knows that Webster is a thief but he also can not prove it.  As Dave obsessively stalks him, Webster plots one final heist.

Until I saw it on TCM on Monday, I had never heard of The Thief Who Came To Dinner.  Directed in a breezy style by Bud Yorkin, The Thief Who Came To Dinner was an early script from Walter Hill.  Though the film is much more comedic than his best known work, it’s still easily recognizable as coming from Hill’s imagination.  The obsessive Dave and the coolly professional Webster are both prototypical Hill characters and their adversarial yet friendly rivalry would be duplicated in several subsequent Hill films.

The Thief Who Came To Dinner is an engaging movie that doesn’t add up to much.  The normally stiff Ryan O’Neal gives one of his better performances, though he struggles to hold his own whenever he has to act opposite the far more energetic Warren Oates.  Ned Beatty, Gregory Sierra, John Hillerman, Michael Murphy, and Austin Pendleton all appear in minor roles, making the film’s cast a veritable who’s who of 70s character actors.  And, of course, the film features Jacqueline Bisset at her loveliest.

The Thief Who Came To Dinner may not be well-known but it is an enjoyable and satisfying piece of 70s entertainment.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #30: The Sweet Ride (dir by Harvey Hart)


The_Sweet_Ride_FilmPosterThe 1968 film The Sweet Ride takes the audience on a ride through Malibu and reminds us all that, in many ways, the 1960s sucked.

The Sweet Ride opens with actress Vicki Cartwright (Jacqueline Bisset) losing her top while swimming in the ocean.  While Vicki panics and tries to figure out how to get back to the beach without anyone seeing her breasts, she’s spotted by a surfer named Denny McGuire (Michael Sarrazin).  Denny hands her a towel and then leads her back to the beach house that he shares with aging tennis player Collie (Anthony Franciosa) and stoned musician Choo-Choo (Bob Denver).

The rest of the film is a 90 minute tour of California beach life in the late 60s.  Despite Collie’s cynical warning against falling in love, Denny does just that, despite the fact that Vicki refuses to tell him anything about her past or even where she lives.  Meanwhile, Collie spends his time hustling on the tennis court and the married Choo-Choo pretends to be gay in an attempt to get out of being drafted.  (Choo-Choo probably could have gotten out of the draft by pointing out that he appears to be 40 years old but the filmmakers decided to have him walk around with a poodle and speak in falsetto.  Just in case you had any doubt that this film was made in 1968…)  It’s a mix of comedy, romance, and drama and it’s features footage of some real bands performing in actual Malibu nightclubs and that’s a good thing for all of us history nerds.

And, since The Sweet Ride was made in 1968, the whole film gets progressively darker as it reaches its conclusion.  Choo-Choo does get drafted and it’s hard to believe he’ll survive a day in Viet Nam.  Collie’s perfect life is revealed to be an empty facade.  Denny realizes that his friends are all immature losers.  And Vicki ends up getting assaulted by a high-power studio executive (Warren Stevens).  It all leads to more violence, disillusionment, and general ennui.

For some reason, The Sweet Ride shows up on FXM fairly regularly.  It’s a strange film because it doesn’t really work and yet it’s also compulsively watchable.  It tries to be about everything and, as a result, it often feels like it’s about absolutely nothing.  And yet, somehow, it remains compelling…

Why is the film compelling despite itself?  It’s not because of the main characters, that’s for sure.  The boys in the beach house are probably some of the least likable film protagonists in cinematic history.  Anthony Franciosa gave some great performances in his career (check him out in A Face in the Crowd and Tenebrae) but Collie is such a smug jerk that you find yourself hoping that someone will just punch him in the face.  Meanwhile, Denny tends to come across like a weak-willed and obsessive stalker and Choo-Choo — well, Choo-Choo often seems to be a character in a totally different movie.  As for Vicki, her character pretty much exclusively exists to be victimized.

Ultimately, I think The Sweet Ride is watchable because it is such an imperfect time capsule.  If I wanted to know what it was like to be alive in the 60s, The Sweet Ride is one of the films that I would watch.  It’s not the best film ever made but it is a chance to look into the past.

(Incidentally, The Sweet Ride was directed by Harvey Hart, who also directed the underrated Shoot.)

 

Embracing the Melodrama #31: When Time Ran Out (dir by James Goldstone)


If I had been alive in the 70s, I would have been terrified if I had ever found myself in the same general location of Paul Newman, William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Jacqueline Bisset, or Burgess Meredith.  Just based on the movies that they spent that decade appearing in, it would appear that disaster followed them everywhere.

Just consider:

Both Paul Newman and William Holden were trapped in The Towering Inferno. 

Ernest Borgnine and Red Buttons both ended up taking an unexpected Poseidon Adventure together.

Jacqueline Bisset was a flight attendant in the first Airport and nearly got killed by a mad bomber.

And finally, Burgess Meredith was a passenger on The Hindenburg.

Seriously, that’s a dangerously disaster-prone bunch of thespians!

So imagine how terrifying it must have been on the set of the 1980 film When Time Ran Out when all 6 of those actors — along with a lot of other disaster film veterans — were first gathered in one place.  People were probably running for their lives, both on-screen and off.

Lava3

When Time Ran Out takes place on an island in the South Pacific.  Shelby Gilmore (William Holden, playing yet another ruthless but essentially good-hearted businessman) owns a luxury resort that happens to be sitting dangerously close to an active volcano.  Oil rigger Hank Anderson (Paul Newman) is convinced that the volcano is about to erupt but Shelby’s son-in-law, Bob Spangler (James Franciscus), refuses to listen and claims that even if the volcano does blow, the resort will be safe.

(As a sidenote, why were William Holden’s son-in-laws always too blame in disaster movies?  First, you had Richard Chamberlain in The Towering Inferno and now, it’s James Franciscus in When Time Ran Out…)

Suspended over a volcano

Suspended over a volcano

You can just look at the film’s title (When Time Ran Out!) and guess that Bob is probably wrong.  However, Bob has other things on his mind.  First off, he’s cheating on his neurotic wife (Veronica Hamel) with a native islander (Barbara Carrera) who happens to be married to the hotel’s general manager, Brian (Edward Albert).  Brian also happens to be Bob’s half-brother and is therefore owed at least half of Bob’s fortune but nobody but Bob realizes that.

And, of course, there are other colorful guests at the hotel who will soon find themselves either fleeing from or drowning in molten lava.  There’s a white-collar criminal (Red Buttons) who is being pursued by a detective from New York (Ernest Borgnine, of course).  There’s also two retired tightrope walkers (Burgess Meredith and Valentina Cortese) and you better believe that there’s going to be a scene where one of them is going to have to walk across a plank that happens to be suspended over a river a lava…

Told ya!

Told ya!

Eventually, that volcano does erupt and…well, let’s just say that When Time Ran Out is no Towering Inferno as far as the special effects are concerned.  The scene where one random fireball flies out of the volcano and heads for the resort is particularly amusing for all the wrong reasons.  Not only does the volcano apparently have perfect aim but it’s also painfully obvious that the fireball is streaking across a matte painting.  This is the type of film where, when people plunge into a river lava, they do so with heavy lines visible around their flailing bodies.  That, along with the cast’s obvious lack of interest in the material, adds up to make When Time Ran Out a film that is memorable for being so ultimately forgettable.

The Horror!

The Horror!

(It’s odd to consider that this film was directed by the same James Goldstone who directed such memorable films as Rollercoaster and Brother John.)

When Time Ran Out is something of a historical oddity because it was the last of the old 70s all-star disaster films.  (This may have been released in 1980 but it’s a 70s film through and through.)  The movie was such a monumental failure at the box office that it pretty much ended an era of disaster films.

For that reason, it also feels like an appropriate film with which to close out the 70s.  Tomorrow, we’ll continue to embrace the melodrama with the 1980s.

when time

 

Embracing the Melodrama #30: The Greek Tycoon (dir by J. Lee Thompson)


Theo and Liz: A Love Story

Theo and Liz: A Love Story

“The characters in this film are fictitious and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental”. — Completely And Totally False Disclaimer From The Greek Tycoon (1978)

In order to appreciate a film like 1978’s The Greek Tycoon, it helps to be a history nerd like me.

If you are, then you probably know that, 5 years after her husband was assassinated in Dallas, former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy remarried.  Her new husband was Aristotle Onassis, a Greek shipping magnate who was 23 years older than her and who had an unsavory reputation.  Onassis was one of the world’s richest men and was known for both his extravagant life style and for being a ruthless operator.  Depending on which books you read, Onassis is portrayed as either being either one of the world’s greatest villains (and, in fact, there’s a whole school of conspiracy theorists who believed that Onassis was somehow involved in John Kennedy’s assassination) or just a casually amoral rich man who treated his new wife like his latest trophy.  Either way, he was not the sort of person who Americans expected to become the second husband of a widowed first lady.

Of course, the Greek Tycoon is not about Aristotle and Jackie Onassis.  It’s about another Greek shipping magnate with a ruthless reputation who shocks the world by marrying the widow of a martyred President.  And, if you stick with the film all the way through the end credits, you’ll even see a disclaimer to prove it!

Anthony Quinn plays Theo Tomasis.  When we first meet him, he’s content to spend his time making crooked business deals and attending parties on a seemingly endless collection of white yachts.  He is grooming his son (Edward Albert) to take over the family business.  He loves both his wife Simi (Camilla Sparv) and his mistress (Marilu Tolo).  In fact, the only problem he has in his life is his business rival, Spyros (Raf Vallone, who played another Greek tycoon in The Other Side of Midnight).  Spyros happens to be Theo’s brother.  But other than that, Theo is content to spend all of his time dancing and breaking plates because, as the film reminds us every chance that it gets, he’s Greek.

However, things change for Theo when he meets Liz Cassidy (Jacqueline Bisset), the wife of young and charismatic Senator James Cassidy (James Franciscus).  Within minutes of meeting her, Theo is hitting on her but Liz loves her husband.  However, Sen. Cassidy soon becomes President Cassidy and this, of course, leads to Cassidy being assassinated while he and Liz are strolling down the beach.

Liz is soon married to the freshly divorced Theo and proving herself to be far more strong-willed than anyone realized.  Despite the anger and efforts of both Theo’s son and the dead President’s brother (Robin Clarke), Liz and Theo’s love endures and soon, they are such a glamorous and famous couple that its surprising that nobody ever suggests making a movie about them.

The Greek Tycoon is a big mess of a movie but it’s enjoyable if you know what inspired it.  (Of course, if you’re not into history and you don’t know anything about Aristotle and Jackie then you’ll probably find The Greek Tycoon to be one of the most boring movies ever made.)  To be honest, the story is never important in a film like this.  Instead, you watch for the clothes and the sets and they’re all properly glamorous in a 1970s sort of way.  Finally, you can watch this movie for Anthony Qunn’s unapologetically over-the-top performance as Theo.  I don’t know if you could necessarily say that Quinn gave a good performance here but, watching the film, it certainly does look like he was having fun.

The_Greek_Tycoon_36374_Medium

Guilty Pleasure No. 18: Class (dir by Lewis John Carlino)


Tonight, I’ve got insomnia.

Since I realized I wasn’t going to get any sleep, I decided I might as well watch a random movie via Encore On Demand.  That movie turned out to be Class, a dramedy from 1983.  (I love dramedies, especially when I’ve got insomnia.)  I just finished watching it about 30 minutes ago and what can I say?  If there’s any film that deserves to be known as a guilty pleasure, it’s Class.

Class tells the story of two prep school roommates.  Skip (Rob Lowe) is rich  and spoiled.  Jonathan (Andrew McCarthy) is poor but brilliant.  As the result of getting a perfect score on his SAT, Jonathan has already received a scholarship to Harvard.  Their friendship gets off on a rocky start.  Skip locks Jonathan outside while Jonathan is wearing black lingerie.  Jonathan responds with a fake suicide.  (Boys are so weird.)  Not surprisingly, Jonathan and Skip become best friends and even share their darkest secrets.  Skip admits to killing a man.  Jonathan confesses to cheating on his SAT.  One of the two friends is lying.  Try to guess which one.

When Skip also discovers that Jonathan is a virgin, Skip makes it his mission to help his friend get laid.  Skip pays for Jonathan to spend a weekend in Chicago.  While there, Jonathan meets an older woman named Ellen (Jacqueline Bisset).  Soon, Jonathan and Ellen are having a torrid affair.

Once Christmas break arrives, Skip takes Jonathan home with him.  Jonathan meets Skip’s parents.  Guess who turns out to be Skip’s mom.

Meanwhile, an officious investigator (Stuart Margolin) has shown up on campus.  What is he investigating?  SAT fraud, of course.

Class is a weirdly disjointed movie.  On the one hand, it attempts to tell a rather melancholic coming-of-age tale, in which a naive young man learns about love from a beautiful but sad older woman.  (This part of the film perhaps would have been more effective if there had been a single spark of chemistry between Andrew McCarthy and Jacqueline Bisset.)  On the other hand, it also wants to be a heartfelt comedy about two best friends who come from opposite worlds.  And then, on the third hand (that’s right — this movie has three hands!), it wants to be a raunchy teen comedy, complete with a stuffy headmaster, misogynistic dialogue, gratuitous nudity, and a lengthy scene where all of the students attempt to get rid of all of their weed and pills because they’ve been incorrectly told that there’s a narc on campus.  That’s three different movies being crammed into a 90-minute film.  Not surprisingly, the end result is an uneven mishmash of different themes and styles.

And yet, as uneven as the film may be,  I still enjoyed it.  As I watched, I knew that I should have been far more critical and nitpicky about the film’s many flaws but the movie itself is just so damn likable that I found myself enjoying it despite myself.  Ultimately — like many guilty pleasures — Class is a film that is best appreciated as a portrait of the time it was made.  Everything from the questionable fashion choices of the characters to the film’s not-so-subtle celebration of wealth and narcissism, serves to remind the viewer that Class was made in the 80s.

Finally, Class should be seen just for its cast.  It’s undeniably odd to see an impossibly young and goofy-looking John Cusack making his film debut here as a rather snotty student named Roscoe.  While Andrew McCarthy doesn’t have much chemistry with Jacqueline Bisset, he still gives a good performance and is simply adorable with his messy hair and glasses.  And finally, who can resist young Rob Lowe, who was just as handsome in Class as he would be 30 years later in Parks and Recreation?

Class did not cure my insomnia.

But I’m still glad I watched it.

Previous Guilty Pleasures:

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls