Horror on the Lens: Hotline (dir by Jerry Jameson)


Yay!  Brianne O’Neill (Lynda Carter) has a got a new job, working at a crisis hotline!

Boooo!  The serial called known as the Barber is now obsessed with calling her!

The Barber is known as the Barber because he cuts his victims’s hair before killing them, which as far as I’m concerned, make him even worse than a normal serial killer.  You have to wonder if he resents being known as the Barber as opposed to The Stylist.

Anyway, it’s up to Brianne to figure out why The Barber keeps calling her and to hopefully discover his identity.  For whatever reason, no one else seems to be that concerned about it.

That’s the plot of Hotline, a 1982 made-for-TV movie that is today’s horror on the lens.  It’s not a bad film, though it does inspire a certain amount of snarkiness while you’re watching it.  For the most part, though, it’s well-acted and effectively directed.  If you’ve got 95 minutes to kill, why not kill them with Lynda Carter, The Barber, and Frank Stallone?

Val’s Movie Roundup #19: Hallmark Edition


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Safe Harbor (2009) – As far as Hallmark movies go, this was one of the best I’ve seen. Although, it’s almost like it’s 20 years past when it should have been released. It’s about a retired couple played by Nancy Travis and Treat Williams. One day a judge shows up who knows Williams and just dumps a couple of toubled kids on them who need a place to stay. It’s a little of the blue, but okay cause Williams gives a bit of background later. Turns out Williams once punched a cop after that officer shot his dog. Apparently, Williams had been living under a bridge. It’s after that he joined the Merchant Marine. Quite a lot of important information that his wife apparently didn’t know after all those years. I almost expected him to say I also used to go by the name Arnold Friend and did something really bad once.

Of course the judge finds a way to dump a few more kids on them. The couple steps up and decides to take care of them. They meet a little resistance from a lady in Social Services, some of the locals, especially after a fire, and one of their mothers, but for the most part it’s just getting the kids over their issues. Doing that, the movie works. It just feels like something that should have been released in 1989 as it feels reminiscent of episodes of MacGyver.

Since Mystery Woman: Game Time felt the need to censor the word “butt” in the phrase “pain in the butt”, I was rather shocked that not once, but twice, Travis and Williams try to have sex before being interrupted by the kids.

This is one of the good ones.

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Notes from the Heart Healer (2012) – This has to be the most forgettable of the Hallmark movies I have watched so far. It’s a movie technically, but barely. It’s the third film in a trilogy and I’ve only seen this one. It’s about a writer who seems to be an advice columnist type. A lady turns up at one of her book signings. She has been fired, has no place to stay, and has a baby she can’t take care of. She tries to turn to the writer for help, but when the writer’s husband shows up, she runs away. Later on she drops the baby off at the writer’s doorstep.

What follows is a very forgettable story of the writer mulling over a child she had to give up for adoption and what to do with the baby she now has in her hands. There were only two parts that were memorable. First, during the film the writer jots down some diary entries and in one she mentions that cutting the baby in two story. Honestly, I’m not sure why, but what was memorable was that she felt the need to refer to it as a decision made by “Biblical” King Solomon. A war on Christmas type thing where we want to make sure you don’t divorce the widely known story from it being in the bible? I’m really just guessing. It just stuck with me like hearing someone say “up twice down twice” when saying the Konami code. Just not something I think I’ve ever heard someone feel the need to do when that story is referenced. The second thing is when the husband reacts to something about the baby in kind of an asshole manner, for lack of a better word. But it doesn’t really go anywhere.

There, that those are the things I strongly remember tells you how forgettable this one is. Maybe the first two were better. I’ll probably find out eventually.

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Mystery Woman: Vision of a Murder (2005) – Once again, we join Kellie Martin and Clarence Williams III for another murder mystery. I haven’t mentioned her in my earlier reviews of these movies, but there is a character played by Nina Siemaszko who is basically Martin’s Beth Davenport from The Rockford Files. She’s an attorney who is frequently part of the case and definitely is in this one. In this one Martin joins Siemaszko to go to a spa and take photographs of the place. Siemaszko is going there for the spa. It’s not just a spa, but a place that does plastic surgery and other such beauty treatments.

It’s run by Charles Shaughnessy so you know something is up. But just in case you didn’t, Felicia Day is in this looking and acting like “the dog who gets beat” in that lyric from the Alice In Chains’ song Man In The Box. She might as well be wearing a sign around her neck that says “I’ve got secrets to tell.”

Describing much more is spoiling it. A dead body turns up at the spa and Day turns out to be psychic. There is a funny scene where Kellie Martin pretends to be a doctor. Funny, since she’s most famous for her role on ER. And finally, that when you get near the ending, no, it isn’t clever enough to end the way you hope.

Still, decent entry in the series and one of two of them that Kellie Martin directed herself.

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Second Chances (2013) – Yet another Hallmark romance, right? Well, not exactly. Don’t get me wrong, there is a couple, but that’s not really where the story is. The story is with her kids. It’s also a Larry Levinson Production so apparently that means they must include goofs with technology. Not sure why that’s a thing, but it seems to be.

But let’s back up here. The story begins with a firefighter and a 911 dispatcher. They kind of know each other from going back and forth on the radio during calls, but they’re really still strangers. He gets injured and needs to spend some serious downtime according to his doctor played by James Eckhouse of Beverly Hills, 90210 fame. He’s quite good and makes the most of the few scenes he’s in. The dispatcher gets her hours cut back and decides to rent out a room at her house to make up the difference. The firefighter decides to move in. That’s this movie’s excuse for the boy and girl to spend time together.

However, this is when the kids kind of take over the movie. They know that their Mom needs money so they decide to start charging residents of a nursing home a dollar for reading to them. These parts are the best parts of the film. It’s actually a shame that there had to be other parts cause if they had made that the whole film and let it go deeper then it could have been even better. But they don’t, so we do get a little romance between the two as well as some backstory on them. It really isn’t worth going into because you’re watching this for the kids and the two tech goofs.

The first tech goof comes really early in the movie. They obviously thought no one would notice and I don’t blame them here, but considering what it would have taken to make it right, it’s pretty stupid. If you have a better version of this then the one I watched on TV and can prove me wrong, then I’m all ears, but the firefighter picks up a sealed copy of a game the kid is supposedly playing from their living room table and talks to the kid about it. The kid isn’t a collector or anything. That sealed copy of the game is what he is supposedly playing. It’s weird because the two games under it are open. Again, if you have a higher definition copy and see differently, then tell me. But here’s what I was able to capture.

Notice the top of the box that shouldn't be shining if it were really open.

Notice the top of the box that shouldn’t be shining if it were really open.

The second goof, there’s no mistake. Throughout the movie there is a fake 911 dispatch screen. Fake because it’s in a Hallmark movie, but not fake because it looks ridiculous. That is, until for reasons beyond me, they felt the need to give us a closeup of the terminal portion of it where we can see that it’s a DOS command line. It’s open to a directory called “C:\Users\Art Department\” and apparently someone has been typing random crap in and trying to execute it only to get error messages.

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Like I said though, this is one of the better Hallmark movies, and the credit goes to the story with the kids.

Film Reviews: The Airport Terminal Pack


 Sometimes, you have to be careful which films you choose to watch over the course of the day. 

Such as, last Friday night, I heard the news that Jill Clayburgh had died and I ended up watching An Unmarried Woman.  This, along with the fact that I also watched the Black Swan trailer, led to me dancing around the house in my underwear, en pointe in bare feet, and doing a half-assed pirouette in the living room.  And I felt pretty proud of myself until I woke up Saturday morning and my ankle (which I don’t think has ever properly healed from the day, seven years ago, that I fell down a flight of stairs and broke it in two places) literally felt like it was on fire.  That was my body’s way of saying, “You ain’t living in a movie, bitch.  Deal with it.”

So, come Sunday, I decided to play it safe by watching something that I was sure wouldn’t lead to any imitative behavior on my part.  Since I had previously reviewed Earthquake on this site, I decided that I would devote some time to the movies that started the entire 1970s disaster movie genre — Airport.  Watching Airport led to me watching Airport’s three sequels.

I was able to do this largely because I own the Airport Terminal Pack, a two-disk DVD collection that contains all four of the Airport films and nothing else.  There’s no special features or commentary tracks.  That’s probably a good thing because these films are so extremely mainstream that I doubt the commentary tracks would be all that interesting except to people who love “Me and Jennings Lang had the same lawyer…” style stories.

The movies are a mixed bag of ’70s sexism, mainstream greed, and casts that were described as being “all-star” despite the fact that they featured very few stars.  They’re all worth watching as time capsules of a past time.  Some of them are just more worthy than others.

Below are my thoughts on each individual film in the collection…

Airport (directed by George Seaton)

First released in 1970, Airport was nominated for 10 Academy Awards (including best picture), broke box office records, and started the whole 70s disaster movie trend.  It also has to be one of the most boring, borderline unwatchable movies ever made.  The fact that I managed to sit through the whole thing should be taken as proof that I’m either truly dedicated to watching movies or I’m just insane.  Take your pick.

Anyway, the film is painstakingly detailed account of the every day operations of an airport.  Yeah, sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it?  Burt Lancaster runs the airport.  His brother-in-law Dean Martin flies airplanes.  Both of them have mistresses but we’re told that’s okay because Lancaster’s wife expects him to talk to her and Martin’s wife is cool with him fucking around as long as he comes home at night.  I would be tempted to say that this is a result of the film having been made in 1969 and released in 1970 but actually, it’s just an introduction to the sexual politics of the typical disaster film.  Men save the day while women get in the way.  And if you think things have changed, I’d suggest you watch a little film calledf 2012

The only interesting thing about the film is that Lancaster’s mistress is played by Jean Seberg who, ten years earlier, had helped change film history by co-starring in Jean-Luc Godard’s classic film Breathless.  Nine years later, after years of being hounded by the American press and the FBI for her radical politics, Seberg committed suicide.

Airport 1975 (directed by Jack Smight)

As opposed to its predecessor, Airport 1975 is actually a lot of fun in its campy, silly way.  This is the one where a small private plane (flown by Dana Andrews, the star of the wonderful film noir Laura) collides with a commercial airliner.  The entire flight crew is taken out and head stewardess Karen Black has to pilot the plane despite the fact that she’s obviously cross-eyed.  Luckily, since Black is a stewardess, she has a pilot boyfriend who is played by Charlton Heston.  Heston talks her through the entire flight despite the fact that she was earlier seen trying to pressure him into not treating her like an idiot.  Anyway, Heston does his usual clench-jaw thing and if you need a drinking game to go with your bad movie, just take a shot every time Heston calls Black “honey.”  You’ll be drunk before the plane lands.

There’s some other stuff going on in this movie (for instance, Gloria Swanson appears as “herself” and doesn’t mention Sunset Boulevard or Joseph Kennedy once!) but really, all you need to know is that this is the film where Karen Black acts up a storm and random characters keep saying, “The stewardess is flying the plane!?”

Odd trivia fact: Airport 1975 was released in 1974.

Airport ’77 (directed by Jerry Jameson)

In Airport ’77, a group of art thieves attempt to hijack an airplane which, of course, leads to the airplane crashing into the ocean and somehow sinking down to the ocean’s floor without splitting apart.  The crash survivors have to try to figure out how to get to the surface of the water before they run out of oxygen. 

In this case, our resident sexist pilot is Jack Lemmon who has a really ugly mustache.  He wants to marry head stewardess Brenda Vaccarro.  Vaccarro doesn’t understand why they have to get married to which Lemmon responds, “Because I want a wife and kids!”  The film also gives us Lee Grant as a woman who is married to Christopher Lee but who is having an affair with another man.  She also drinks a lot and dares to get angry when she realizes that the airplane is underwater.  While this sort of behavior is acceptable from Dean Martin, Charlton Heston, and Jack Lemmon, the film punishes Lee Grant by drowning her in the final minutes.

Technically, Airport ’77 is probably the best of the Airport films.  The cast does a pretty good job with all the melodrama, the film doesn’t drag, and a few of the scenes manage to generate something resembling human emotion.  (For instance, when the blind piano player died, I had a tear in one of my freaky, mismatched eyes.)  Unfortunately, the movie’s almost too good.  It’s not a lot of fun.  Everyone plays their roles straight so the silly plot never quite descends into camp and the key to a good disaster film is always camp.  This film also has the largest body count of the series, with most of the cast dead by the end of the movie.  (And, incidentally, this film did nothing to help me with my fear of water…)

The Concorde: Airport ’79 (directed by David Lowell Rich)

The last Airport movie is also the strangest.  Some people have claimed that this film was meant to be a satire of the previous Airport films.  I can understand the argument because you look at film like Concorde and you say, “This must be a joke!”  However, the problem with this theory is that there are moments of obvious “intentional” humor in this film (i.e., J.J. from Good Times smokes weed in the plane’s bathroom, another passenger has to go to the bathroom whenever she gets nervous) and none of them show any evidence of the type of wit and outlook necessary to come up with anything this silly on purpose.  Add to that, the film’s story is credited to Jennings Lang, a studio executive.  Studio execs do not take chances.  (Plus, the actual script was written by Eric Roth, who went on to write the amazingly humorless The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).

No, this film is meant to be taken seriously and oh my God, where do I start?

Our pilots are George Kennedy and Alain Delon.  The head stewardess (and naturally, Delon’s girlfiend) is played by Sylvia “Emanuelle” Kristel who, at one point, says, “You pilots are such men!”  “Hey, they don’t call it a cockpit for nothing, honey,” Kennedy replies. 

Meanwhile, Robert Wagner is trying to destroy the Concorde because one of the passengers is his girlfriend who has proof that Wagner has been selling weapons to America’s enemies.  So, he attempts to blow the plane up with a guided missile and when that fails, he sends a couple of fighter planes after them.  Kennedy responds by opening up the cockpit window — while breaking the sound barrier mind you — and firing a flare gun at their pursuers.  

After this, there’s stop over in Paris where Delon arranges for Kennedy to sleep with a prostitute who assures Kennedy that he made love “just like a happy fish.”

The next day, everyone returns to the exact same Concorde — despite the fact that just a day earlier they’d nearly been blown up by a squadron of fighter planes — and take off on the second leg of the flight.  Let me repeat that just to make sure that we all understand what this film is asking us to believe.  After nearly getting blown up by a mysterious squad of fighter planes, everybody shows up the next morning to get on the exact same plane.

Oh, and it never occurs to Wagner’s ex-girlfriend that Wagner might have something to do with all of this.

Now sad to say, Concorde is the one of those films that’s a lot more fun to talk about than to actually watch.  It should be a lot more fun in its badness than it actually is.  Still, the movie has just enough camp appeal to make it fun in a “what the fuck…” sorta way.

And that’s how the Airport series comes to an end.