Horror Film Review: All The Kind Strangers (dir by Burt Kennedy)

This 1974 made-for-television movie opens with photojournalist Jimmy Wheeler (Stacy Keach) driving down an isolated country road.  He’s driving across America, heading towards California.  However, when he sees a young child walking on the side of the road and struggling to carry two bags of groceries, Jimmy pulls over and offers the child a ride.

That’s a big mistake.  As Jimmy soon discovers, the child lives on an isolated farmhouse in the middle of nowhere.  He resides with his six brothers and sisters.  The family is led by Peter (John Savage), the oldest sibling.  Jimmy discover that there’s only one other adult on the farm.  The children refer to her as being their mom and Carol Ann (Samantha Eggar) certainly does seem to be busy, cooking dinner and keeping the house clean.  It’s only when the children leave the kitchen that Carol Ann finally tells Jimmy the truth.  She’s not related to the children.  Instead, she is someone who made the same mistake that Jimmy did.  She gave one of the kids a ride home and she’s never been allowed to leave.

It turns out that the children’s parents died a few years ago but, because the family lives so far away from town, no one has ever noticed.  Peter has been in charge of the family but he’s reaching the point where he no longer wants to spend his entire life on the farm.  He wants to experience Mardi Gras and then visit California.  So, Peter has been sending out the children to tempt random adults to come to the house, where Peter auditions them to see if they would be good parents.  Peter has decided that Carol Ann can be the mother.  Now, he just needs to find someone to serve as the father.

Jimmy seems like a good candidates, except for the fact that he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in the middle of nowhere and raising a bunch of odd children.  Unfortunately, Jimmy soon discovers that it won’t be easy to escape.  The farm is guarded by a pack of dogs and Peter has a way of taking care of all the kind strangers who fail their audition….

Even though it’s only 75 minutes long, All The Kind Strangers is a bit of a slow film and often, it seems like it can’t decide whether it wants to be a straight horror film or a family melodrama.  Add to that, one of the kids is played Robby Benson, who showed up in a lot of 70s films, always playing awkward teenagers.  Benson gives such a bizarrely over the top performance that it’s hard to take him or any situation in which he’s involved seriously.  (Benson also sings the film’s easy listening theme song.)  That said, the film still manages to create and maintain an effectively creepy atmosphere and Stacy Keach, Samantha Eggar, and John Savage all give good performances.  The fact that the kids aren’t evil as much as they’re incapable of understanding the consequences of their actions actually serves to make them even creepier than the typical demented children who appear in films like this.

All The Kind Strangers has its moments, even if it doesn’t make a huge impression.

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Christina’s House (dir by Gavin Wilding)

This 2000 straight-to-video film opens with a shocking and effectively violent scene in which an innocent girl scout is yanked into a dilapidated house and bludgeoned to death.  There’s even a slow-motion shot of crushed cookies falling to the floor.  It’s excessive, tasteless, and so ludicrous that it actually makes you think that Christina’s House could actually be, if nothing else, an enjoyably self-aware exploitation film.

Unfortunately, everything pretty much goes downhill after that scene.  The rest of the film deals with Christina (Allison Lange), a teenage girl with an annoying father named James (John Savage), an annoying brother named Bobby (Lorne Stewart), an annoying boyfriend named Eddy (Brendan Fehr), and an annoying admirer named Howie (Brad Rowe).  That may sound like a lot of annoying people for one person to deal with but Christina actually manages to be even more annoying than all of them.  Absolutely no one in this film comes across as being someone with whom you would want to be trapped in a murder house.

Anyway, Christina’s mom has been institutionalized in a Washington mental hospital so James, has rented out a nearby house.  (Naturally, it’s the same house where that girl scout was previously killed.)  James appears to be almost absurdly overprotective of and strict with Christina but it’s also possible that he might just be an asshole in general.  He’s certainly not happy that she’s dating Eddy, who is the local bad boy and who does stuff like hang out on the roof at night.  James would probably be happier if Christina was dating Howie, who has been hired to help fix up the house.  Howie’s so respectful and such a hard worker.  He’s a man who really knows how to handle a hammer.

Christina, however, has other things on her mind.  For one thing, young women are being murdered and the creepy sheriff (Jerry Wasserman) keeps coming by the house and asking strange questions.  Add to that, Christina sometimes thinks that she can hear someone or something in the attic.  Of course, every time that she tries to investigate, her father comes out of his bedroom and yells at her.

(It could just be that James doesn’t want his daughter spending her nights wandering around in her underwear and searching for a vicious killer, in which case James probably has a point.  Still, he’s kind of a jerk about it.)

Who is the murderer?  Is it Eddie, Bobby, or Howie?  Or could it maybe be James?  What if the sheriff’s somehow involved?  Well, don’t worry!  The identity of the murderer is revealed about an hour into this 90-minute film and it’s exactly who you think it’s going to be.

If not for the extremely odd performance of John Savage, this film would be totally forgettable.  Savage was the film’s “prestige” actor, a performer who previously appeared in films like The Deer Hunter, the third Godfather, Do The Right Thing, and The Thin Red Line before finding himself in Christina’s House.  John Savage attacks the role of James with all of the ferocity of an actor who has gone from co-starring with Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken to playing second fiddle to Allison Lange and Brendan Fehr.  Savage yells every line and glares at his co-stars with the fury of a man on a mission of vengeance.  As a result, both the actor and the character that he’s playing come across as if they’re always just one annoyance away from putting his fist through a wall.  James may be written as an overprotective father but Savage plays him as being a borderline sociopath.  It’s such a totally inappropriate and misjudged performance that it becomes oddly fascinating to watch.  It takes a great actor to give as entertainingly bad a performance as the one given by John Savage in Christina’s House.

With the exception of Savage’s over-the-top theatrics and Jerry Wasserman’s memorably creepy turn, the rest of the cast is largely forgettable.   The problem is that, as written, most of the characters are fairly unlikable and you really don’t care whether they die or not.  When the killer eventually trapped Christina and Bobby in their new home, I found myself more worried about the house than either of them.

Christina’s House is available on YouTube and sometimes, it shows up on late night television.  (I saw it on This TV.)  It’s pretty dumb but if you’re  fan of good actors bellowing in rage, you might want to watch it.

Six Other Films From Crown International Pictures That Deserved An Oscar Nomination!

An hour ago, I told you about the only Oscar nomination that was ever received by Crown International Pictures, one of the most prolific B-movie distributors of the 70s and 80s.  That nomination was for Best Original Song for Crown’s 1972 film, The Stepmother.

Here are 6 more films from Crown International Pictures that I think deserved some Oscar consideration:

The Teacher (1974)

“She corrupted the youthful morality of the entire school!” the poster screamed but actually, The Teacher was a surprisingly sensitive coming-of-age story about a relationship between a younger man and an older woman.  Jay North and Angel Tompkins both give excellent performances and Anthony James shows why he was one of the busiest character actors of the 70s.

2. The Sister In Law (1974)

John Savage has been acting for several decades.  He’s appeared in a number of acclaimed films but he’s never received an Oscar nomination.  One of his best performances was in this melancholy look at love, betrayal, and ennui in the early 70s.

3. Best Friends (1975)

One of the strangest films ever released by Crown International, Best Friends is also one of the best.  A road trip between two old friends goes terribly wrong when one of the friends turns out to be a total psycho.  This well-acted and rather sad film definitely deserves to be better-known than it is.

4. Trip With The Teacher (1975)

Zalman King for Best Supporting Actor?  Hell yeah!

5. Malibu High (1979)

Surely Kim Bentley’s performance as a high school student-turned-professional assassin deserved some sort of consideration!

6. Don’t Answer The Phone (1980)

Don’t Answer The Phone is not a particularly good movie but it certainly is effective.  It made me want to go out and get a derringer or some other cute little gun that I could carry in my purse.  That’s largely because of the performance of Nicholas Worth.  Worth plays one of the most perverse and frightening murderers of all time and Worth throws himself into the role.  It’s one of the best psycho performances of all time and certainly worthy of a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

Cleaning Out The DVR: Empire of the Sharks (dir by Mark Atkins)

(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 178 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on February 1st, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded Empire of the Sharks, off of SyFy on August 5th, 2017!)

Welcome to the future!  It’s very wet.

That’s to be expected, of course.  In fact, now that 98% of the world is underwater, we should probably be surprised that the future isn’t more wet than it actually is.  What survives of humanity now lives on floating, makeshift communities.  Some of them are doing better than others, of course.

A warlord floats out there.  His name is Ian Fien (John Savage).  With the help of his main henchman, Mason Scrimm (Jonathan Pienaar), Fien has several communities under his grip.  Everyone is required to pay Fien his tribute.  Failing to do so means getting attacked by the sharks that Scrimm has under his control.

(Once 98% of your planet is underwater, you learn not to laugh at the possibility of being eaten by a shark.)

However, Fien has finally gone too far.  He’s kidnapped Willow (Ashley de Lange), the daughter of a shark caller who may have inherited her family’s ability to control the sharks.  Her boyfriend, Timor (Jack Armstrong), sets out to rescue Willow but it quickly turns out that he’s not going to be able to do it alone.  Fien is simply too powerful and his fortress too well-defended by both men and sharks.  Timor is going to have to travel to a floating bar and recruit a team of misfits to help him both rescue Willow and free his people from Fien’s tyranny.

If the plot of Empire of the Sharks sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a prequel to 2016’s Planet of the Sharks.  It’s also an Asylum film.  Of course, The Asylum is best-known for the Sharknado franchise but I think that, if they don’t also develop a Planet of the Sharks franchise, they’ll be missing out on a huge opportunity.  One of the things that I liked about both Planet and Empire was the amount of effort that was put into creating the future.  Each floating community is its own little world and full of details that will reward sharp-eyed viewers.

(I know that some people online complained that everyone looked too good, considering that they were living in a post-apocalypse wasteland.  That may be true but here’s something to consider.  Do you really want to spend 90 minutes watching ugly people?)

Anyway, I enjoyed Empire of the Sharks.  The movie is pure fun.  (Just the fact that the main villains are named Fein and Scrimm should tell you a lot about the film’s sense of humor.)  It’s a cheerfully crazy movie, featuring CGI sharks and a nicely demented performance from John Savage.  Hopefully, during this year’s shark week, we’ll get a third installment in the Planet of the Sharks franchise.


TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Part 13 (dir by David Lynch)

There are only five hours left in Twin Peaks: The Return and yet, there are still many mysteries to be resolved.  Considering that this is a David Lynch production, it’s entirely possible and probably rather probable that a good deal of those mysteries will never be resolved.

That said, all of the disparate elements of Twin Peaks: The Return have slowly been coming together, providing evidence — if any was needed — that Lynch knows exactly what he’s doing.  In some ways, tonight’s episode was Twin Peaks at its most straightforward.  And yet, nothing can ever be totally straight forward when it comes to Twin Peaks.

We wouldn’t want it any other way.

Tonight’s episode begins with joyful music playing in Las Vegas.  As Anthony Sinclair (Tom Sizemore) watches from his office, the Mitchum Brothers (James Belushi and Robert Knepper) dance down the hallways.  The three ladies in pink are with them.  And so is … Dougie Jones (Kyle MacLachlan), the man who Anthony was supposed to trick the Mitchums into killing!

The Mitchums have come to see Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray) and they’ve brought him gifts, all to thank him for introducing them to Dougie and for helping them to make money off of that insurance claim.  “A wrong has been made right and the sun is shining bright!” Bradley Mitchum declares.

Meanwhile, in his office, Anthony calls Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler) and tells him that Dougie is still alive.  Todd replies that it’s now Anthony’s responsibility to kill Dougie and he only had one day to do it, not the two days that he promised earlier.

The generosity of the Mitchums continues as both a new car and a jungle gym are delivered to Dougie’s house.  It’s quite a jungle gym as well.  It’s big, it’s lit up with neon, and everything about it just screams Vegas.  Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon) is quite happy.  So is Janey-E (Naomi Watts), which is good.  They deserve some happiness.

The next morning, in Montana, the evil Doppelganger Cooper arrives at a compound called The Farm.  Ray (George Griffith) has been hiding out at the Farm with Renzo (Derek Mears) and his men.  When they see the Doppelganger pull up, Ray comments that he killed the Doppelganger.  “You didn’t kill him too good, Ray,” Renzo replies.

Anyway, Ray volunteers to kill the Doppelganger a second time but it turns out that Renzo is something of an arm wrestling fanatic.  Renzo explains that if the Doppelganger can beat him, he’ll get control of the Farm and Renzo’s entire crew.  The only catch is that Renzo has never been defeated.  The Doppelganger says he doesn’t want the farm, he just wants Ray.

The arm wrestling goes about how you would imagine it would go — Renzo ends up getting his arm broken and then his face literally smashed in by one punch from the Doppelganger.  As for Ray, he confesses that it was Phillip Jeffries who hired him to kill the Doppelganger.  Ray explains that he never met Jeffries, he just talked to him on the phone.  Jeffries told Ray that the Doppelganger had something inside of him that “they” wanted.  (Killer BOB, perhaps?  BOB was seen directly inside of the Doppelganger during Part 8.) Ray holds up a ring that he was supposed to put on the Doppelganger’s finger.  Ray says that he got it from a prison guard right before they escaped.  The Doppelganger makes Ray put on the ring.  Ray then gives the Doppelganger a piece of paper with the coordinates that he says he got from Bill Hastings and his secretary (that would be Ruth Davenport).  The Doppelganger asks Ray where Phillip Jeffries is.  Ray says Philip is at a place called “The Dutchman’s.”  The Doppelganger proceeds to shoot Ray in the face.

And guess whose watching all of this unfold?  Richard Horne (Eamon Farren)!  Apparently, ever since fleeing Twin Peaks, Richard has been hiding out in Montana.  So, does that mean that the Farm and the late Renzo had a connection to Red?  If so, how is Red going to react to the Doppelganger killing Renzo and becoming The Farm’s new boss?  And does Richard looked so shocked because he never thought anyone would ever beat Renzo at arm wrestling (not to mention kill him) or is it because he realizes that the Doppelganger is probably his father?

Ray’s body appears inside the Black Lodge.  MIKE (Al Strobel) takes the ring and puts it on a marble table.

Back at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police HQ, something weird’s going on in the background.  We can hear a woman yelling as she apparently defecates on the floor.  She’s tased and screams, “I want to report a cop!”  Sitting in their office, the Fuscos aren’t too concerned.  It doesn’t even bother them when they receive a report that Dougie has the same fingerprints as both an escapee from a South Dakota prison and a missing FBI agent.  They laugh and throw the report away.

They barely notice as Anthony Sinclair wanders through the station, looking for Detective Clark (John Savage).  Clark is outside smoking a cigarette and he doesn’t appear to be very enthusiastic about the prospect of talking to Anthony.  Anthony asks Clark for the name of a good poison, one that would be undetectable.  Apparently, Clark also works for Duncan Todd.  Clark agrees to help Anthony get the poison.

In South Dakota, Chantal (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Hutch (Tim Roth) drive down the interstate and, as they enter Utah, discuss what it must be like to be a Mormon.

The next morning, after Janey-E drops him off at work, Dougie runs into Anthony.  A nervous Anthony offers to buy Dougie a cup of coffee at the pastry shop.  Since Dougie is obsessed with coffee, he agrees.  When Dougie gets distracted by a cheery pie in a display case and stands up to go stare at it, Anthony puts the poison in Dougie’s coffee.

When Dougie returns to the table, he is distracted by the dandruff on the back of Anthony’s suit.  Dougie places his hands on Anthony shoulders.  Mistaking this for a sign of friendship, Anthony breaks down into tears and shouts that he never meant to hurt anyone.  He pours out Dougie’s poisoned coffee.  Dougie responds by drinking Anthony’s coffee instead.

In Twin Peaks, at the Double R, Shelley (Madchen Amick) gets a call from Becky (Amanda Seyfried).  Becky’s in tears.  Steven, the man she tried to shoot, hasn’t come home in two days.

Back in Vegas, Anthony sits in Bushnell’s office and says that he’s come to confess.  Standing to the side, Dougie blankly repeats, “Confess.”  Anthony confesses to Bushnell that he’s been working for Duncan Todd and that he’s been lying to Bushnell for years.  Bushnell says that Dougie revealed all of this to him yesterday.  Bushnell asks if Anthony is prepared to testify against Duncan Todd.  Anthony says that he is.

Bushnell asks if Anthony is willing to testify “against the two cops that Dougie found.”

“He know about them too!?” Anthony says.

“Them too,” Dougie blankly repeats.

Anthony says he only wants to fix the mess that he made.  He says that Dougie saved his like.  “Thanks, Dougie!”

“Thank Dougie,” Dougie says.

In tears, Anthony does just that.

At the Double R, Norma (Peggy Lipton) has a meeting with the somewhat oily Walter Lawford (Grant Goodeve).  Apparently, Norma’s Double R is a franchise now.  Walter says that there are several profitable locations in Washington State but Norma is concerned that those locations are using inferior ingredients.  Walter argues that it makes good business sense to cut costs.  This entire scene, of course, feels like Lynch’s commentary on the studio executives who constantly tried to interfere with Twin Peaks the first time around.

Norma and Walter are apparently a couple, as well.  As they talk, they are watched by both Deputy Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) and Big Ed Hurley (Everett McGill), Norma’s former (?) lover and the husband of Nadine (Wendy Robie).

Speaking of Nadine, she is leaving her silent drape store when who should show up but Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn)!  As we’ve already seen, Nadine is a huge fan of Jacoby’s podcast.  She even has her own golden shovel hanging in the window of her store.  Dr. Jacoby says that the last time he saw Nadine, she was on her hands and knees, looking for a potato.

At the Palmer House, Sarah (Grace Zabrikie) is drunk and watching a boxing match.  Or, actually, I should say that she’s watching 30 second of a boxing match on a continious loop.  The announcer says, several times: “Oh the right hand catches the big guy by the ear!  And he finally goes down, hanging on the ropes.  Oh, the gentleman asks if he’s okay.  Look like, uh, round number one and two on the way.  Now, it’s a boxing match again.”

Elsewhere, Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) yells at Charlie (Clark Middleton).  An emotional Audrey says that she feels like she’s somewhere else, like she’s not sure who she is.  Charlie says, “This is Existentialism 101.” Audrey’s not amused and demands to know what she’s supposed to do if she can’t trust anyone and she’s not sure who she is.  Charlie replies that she’s supposed to go to the Roadhouse and look for Billy.  Audrey demands to know where the Roadhouse is.

“Are you going to stop playing games?” Charlie asks, “or am I going to have to end your story, too?”

Audrey starts to cry.

At the Roadhouse, none other than James Hurley (James Marshall) performs the song You and I.  Accompanying him are two backup singers who look like they could be Donna and Maddy.  Considering that the scene during the second season, in which James, Donna, and Maddy performed You And I, is regularly ridiculed by even the show’s biggest fans, you have to wonder if David Lynch is doing some deliberate trolling here.  Well, it does’t matter.  It’s a lovely song, one that perfectly captures the aching feeling of loss that runs through every minute of Twin Peaks: The Return.

At the gas station, Big Ed Hurley sits alone, staring at his gas pumps.

And that’s how Part 13 ends.

Twin Peaks on TSL:

  1. Twin Peaks: In the Beginning by Jedadiah Leland
  2. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.1 — The Pilot (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  3. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.2 — Traces To Nowhere (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  4. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.3 — Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  5. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.4 “Rest in Pain” (dir by Tina Rathbone) by Leonard Wilson
  6. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.5 “The One-Armed Man” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Jedadiah Leland
  7. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.6 “Cooper’s Dreams” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  8. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.7 “Realization Time” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  9. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.8 “The Last Evening” (directed by Mark Frost) by Leonard Wilson
  10. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.1 “May the Giant Be With You” (dir by David Lynch) by Leonard Wilson
  11. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.2 “Coma” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  12. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.3 “The Man Behind The Glass” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Jedadiah Leland
  13. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.4 “Laura’s Secret Diary” (dir by Todd Holland) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  14. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.5 “The Orchid’s Curse” (dir by Graeme Clifford) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  15. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.6 “Demons” (dir by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  16. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.7 “Lonely Souls” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  17. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.8 “Drive With A Dead Girl” (dir by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  18. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.9 “Arbitrary Law” (dir by Tim Hunter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  19. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.10 “Dispute Between Brothers” (directed by Tina Rathbone) by Jedadiah Leland
  20. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.11 “Masked Ball” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Leonard Wilson
  21. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.12 “The Black Widow” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Leonard Wilson
  22. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.13 “Checkmate” (directed by Todd Holland) by Jedadiah Leland
  23. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.14 “Double Play” (directed by Uli Edel) by Jedadiah Leland
  24. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.15 “Slaves and Masters” (directed by Diane Keaton) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  25. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.16 “The Condemned Woman” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  26. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.17 “Wounds and Scars” (directed by James Foley) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  27. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.18 “On The Wings of Love” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  28. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.19 “Variations on Relations” (directed by Jonathan Sanger) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  29. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.20 “The Path to the Black Lodge” (directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  30. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.21 “Miss Twin Peaks” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Leonard Wilson
  31. TV Review: Twin Peaks 22.2 “Beyond Life and Death” (directed by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  32. Film Review: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  33. Here’s The Latest Teaser for Showtime’s Twin Peaks by Lisa Marie Bowman
  34. Here’s The Newest Teaser for Showtime’s Twin Peaks by Lisa Marie Bowman
  35. 12 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Parts One and Two by Lisa Marie Bowman
  36. This Week’s Peaks: Parts One and Two by Ryan C. (trashfilm guru)
  37. TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Parts One and Two (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  38. 4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Twin Peaks Edition by Lisa Marie Bowman
  39. This Week’s Peaks: Parts Three and Four by Ryan C. (trashfilm guru)
  40. 14 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Part Three by Lisa Marie Bowman (dir by David Lynch)
  41. 10 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Part Four by Lisa Marie Bowman (dir by David Lynch)
  42. TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Parts Three and Four (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman 
  43. 18 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Part 5 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  44. This Week’s Peaks: Part Five by Ryan C. (trashfilm guru)
  45. TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return: Part 5 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  46. 14 Initial Thoughts On Twin Peaks Part 6 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  47. This Week’s Peaks: Part Six by Ryan C. (trashfilm guru)
  48. TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Part 6 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  49. 12 Initial Thoughts on Twin Peaks: The Return Part 7 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  50. This Week’s Peaks: Part Seven by Ryan C. (trashfilm guru)
  51. TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Part 7 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  52. Ten Initial Thoughts on Twin Peaks: The Return Part 8 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  53. This Week’s Peaks: Part Eight by Ryan C (trashfilm guru)
  54. TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Part 8 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  55. 16 Initial Thoughts on Twin Peaks: The Return Part 9 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  56. This Week’s Peaks: Part Nine by Ryan C (trashfilm guru)
  57. TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Part 9 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  58. 20 Initial Thoughts On Twin Peaks: The Return Part 10 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  59. This Week’s Peaks: Part 10 by Ryan C (trashfilm guru)
  60. TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Part 10 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  61. 16 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Part 11 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  62. This Week’s Peaks: Part 11 by Ryan C (trashfilm guru)
  63. TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Part 11 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  64. 20 Initial Thoughts on Twin Peaks: The Return Part 12 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  65. This Weeks Peaks: Part 12 by Ryan C (trashfilm guru)
  66. TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Part 12 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  67. 22 Initial Thoughts on Twin Peaks: The Return Part 13 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  68. This Week’s Peaks: Part 13 by Ryan C (trashfilm guru)

A Movie A Day #152: Bad Company (1972, directed by Robert Benton)

Missouri during the Civil War.  All young men are being forcibly constricted into the Union army, leaving those who want to avoid service with only two options: they can either disguise themselves as a woman and hope that the soldiers are fooled or they can head out west.  Drew Dixon (Barry Brown) opts for the latter solution but his plans hit a snag when he’s robbed and pistol-whipped by Jake Rumsey (Jeff Bridges).  When Drew coincidentally meets Jake for a second time, he immediately attacks him.  Jake is so impressed that he insists that Drew join his gang of thieves.

Jake’s gang, which include two brothers (one of whom is played by John Savage) and a ten year-old boy, is hardly the wild bunch.  They spend most of their time robbing children and are, themselves, regularly robbed by other gangs, including the one run by Big Joe (David Huddleston).  Their attempt to rob a stagecoach goes hilariously wrong.  Less hilarious is what happens when they try to steal a pie from a window sill.

Bad Company was the directorial debut of Robert Benton and it has the same combination of comedy and fatalism that distinguished both his script for Bonnie and Clyde and several of the other revisionist westerns of the 1970s.  While the interplay between Drew and Jake may remind some of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the film’s sudden bursts of violence feel like pure Peckinpah.  Fortunately, the combination of Robert Benton’s low-key direction and the excellent performances of Jeff Bridges and Barry Brown allows Bad Company to stand on its own.  Brown and Bridges make for an excellent team, with Bridges giving a charismatic, devil-may-care performance and the late Barry Brown holding his own as the more grounded Drew.  (Sadly, Brown, who appears to have had the talent to be a huge star, committed suicide six years after the release of Bad Company.)  This unjustly forgotten western is one of the best films of the 1970s.

Embracing the Melodrama #47: The Sister-in-Law (dir by Joseph Ruben)

The_Sister-in-Law(SPOILERS BELOW)

After watching enough old movies, I’ve become convinced that the early 1970s must have been the darkest and most cynical time in American history.  It seems like almost every film released from roughly 1970 to 1977 was required to end on a down note.  Even the happy endings were full of ambiguity.  (American Graffiti, a feel-good film according to the reviews that were written at the time of its initial release, ends with one of the characters dying in a car accident and another one MIA in Vietnam.)  I’m not complaining, of course.  I love a sad ending.

Maybe that’s why I so love the 1973 film The Sister-in-Law.  The film starts out as a typical melodrama from Crown International Pictures but it has one of the darkest endings that I’ve ever seen.  In fact, the ending is so dark that it’s pointless to review The Sister-in-Law without telling you how the movie ends.  So, consider this to be your final SPOILER WARNING:

CIP_LogoOkay, ready?

Robert Strong (played by John Savage) is a genuinely likable musician who has spent the last year or so hitchhiking across America.  He decides to visit his wealthy older brother, Edward (Will MacMillan).  It quickly becomes apparent that Robert and Edward are almost insanely competitive with each other.  A friendly day of fun in the pool ends with Edward nearly downing his younger brother.

Robert gets back at Edward by having an affair with Edward’s wife, Joanna (Anne Saxon).  However, Robert eventually breaks things up with Joanna and starts sleeping with Deborah (Meredith Baer), who happens to Edward’s former mistress.

Edward, however, has problems beyond dealing with his wife and his mistress.  It turns out that he’s made all of his money by smuggling drugs into America from Canada.  Now, the Mafia is demanding that Edward bring in a huge shipment of heroin.  Edward, however, convinces his brother to do it for him.

Robert and Deborah drive up to Canada and pick up the heroin.  However, as they do so, they talk about how sick they are of being used by Edward.  So, Robert and Deborah pull over next to a waterfall and, in a surprisingly lyrical scene, they dump all the heroin into the water supply.

And then they make love in the forest.

Well, the mafia wants to know what happened to their heroin.  So, Edward and Joanna get on an airplane and flee the country.  Meanwhile, Robert and Deborah are pulled over by two gangsters.  Robert is pulled out of the car and executed in the middle of the street.  The gangsters drive away.  Deborah collapses to her knees and sobs over Robert’s dead body.

The end.

Seriously, that’s how the movie ends.  The gangsters get away with it.  Hateful Edward and his self-centered wife escape the country.  Deborah is in tears.  And Robert, the one truly likable person in the entire film, lays dead in the street.

Not even David Fincher could make a film this dark.  And, honestly, the darkness at the heart of The Sister-in-Law feels considerably more potent and tragic than anything you could find in any Fincher film.  As played by a very young John Savage (who, just last year, played the President in Bermuda Tentacles), Robert is such a likable guy that you’re glad you got to spend a little bit of time with him before he was brutally murdered in the middle of the street.  Robert’s violent death sticks with you.

(Savage also sung several of the surprisingly catchy songs on the film’s soundtrack.)

Despite or perhaps because of the ultra-dark ending, The Sister-in-Law is one of my favorite Crown International films.  If nothing else, it proves that 1973 was apparently even darker than 2015.

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


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?

2014 in Review: The Best of Lifetime and SyFy


Hello there and welcome to January!

This is the time of year that the Shattered Lens usually takes one final look back at the best and worst of the previous year’s offerings in cinema, television, literature, and music!  Last year, I kicked things off by taking a look at the best that the SyFy network had to offer.

Unfortunately, SyFy didn’t produce as many original films in 2014 as they did in 2013.

However, my beloved Lifetime network remained a consistent showcase for some of the best and worst melodrama that one could hope for.

With that in mind, here are my nominees for the best films and performances that were featured on either the SyFy or the Lifetime network last year!  As always, winners are listed in bold.


Best Film

Battle of the Damned

Flowers in the Attic

Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever

*Lizzie Borden Took An Axe*

Sharknado 2

Starving in Suburbia

Best Actress

Kate Beckinsale in The Trials of Cate McCall

Maria Bello in Big Driver

Annie Heise in The Good Mistress

Tara Reid in Sharknado 2

*Christina Ricci in Lizzie Borden Took An Axe*

Kierna Shipka in Flowers in the Attic

Best Supporting Actress

Kendra Anderson in The Good Mistress

*Ellen Burstyn in Flowers in the Attic*

Clea DuVall in Lizzie Borden Took An Axe

Heather Graham in Petals on the Wind

Tina Ivlev in Death Clique

Izabella Miko in Starving in Suburbia

Best Actor

Trevor Donavon in Bermuda Tentacles

Mason Dye in Flowers in the Attic

Michael Keaton in Blindsided

Dolph Lundgren in Battle of the Damned

Patrick Muldoon in Finders Keepers

*Ian Ziering in Sharknado 2*

Best Supporting Actor

James Cromwell in The Trials of Cate McCall

David Field in Battle of the Damned

*Griff Furst in Status Unknown*

Judd Hirsch in Sharknado 2

Mark McGrath in Sharknado 2

John Savage in Bermuda Tentacles

Best Director

Doug Campbell for Death Clique

Deborah Chow for Flowers in the Attic

Anthony C. Ferrante for Sharknado 2

*Nick Gomez for Lizzie Borden Got An Axe*

Christopher Hutton for Battle of the Damned

Tara Miele for Starving in Suburbia

Best Screenplay

Kayla Alpert for Flowers in the Attic

Tim Hill and Jeff Morris for Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever

Stephen Kay for Lizzie Borden Took An Axe

Thunder Levin for Sharknado 2

*Tara Miele for Starving in Suburbia*

Griff Furst and Marcy Holland for Status Unknown

Flowers in the Attic

Tomorrow, I’ll continue my look back at 2014 by revealing my picks for the 16 worst films of 2014!

Previous Entries in Our Look Back At 2014:

Things That I Dug In 2014 Off The Top Of My Head



What Lisa and the Snarkalecs Watched Last Night #102: Bermuda Tentacles (dir by Nick Lyon)

Last night, the Snarkalecs and I turned over to SyFy so we could watch and live tweet the latest offering from the Asylum, Bermuda Tentacles!

Why Were We Watching It?

Because it was the first SyFy original film of 2014, that’s why!  Seriously, yesterday should have been a freaking national holiday.  (Sad to say but rumor has it that the SyFy network may be looking to phase out original films — like Bermuda Tentacles — in order to devote more time to episodic television.  I sincerely hope that the network will reconsider that plan.)

What Was It About?

The President (John Savage) has gone missing in the Bermuda Triangle.  It’s up to rebellious Chief Petty Officer Trip Oliver (Trevor Donavon) to save him!  But while Trip and his crew float around under the sea in a submarine, gigantic CGI tentacles attack Admiral Linda Hamilton and the entire U.S. Navy.  Could the two events be related?

What Worked?

What do I always say about Asylum films?  It all worked.  Asylum films are the epitome of low-budget fun and that was certainly the case here.  To be honest, those who criticize a film like Bermuda Tentacles are missing the point.

Asylum films are designed to be watched by large groups of snarky individuals.  That’s why I always look forward to watching them with the Snarkalecs.  And I have to say that we, as a group, were on fire last night!  We were all in full snark mood and it was a wonderful thing to behold.  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get #BermudaTentacles trending, largely because there were thousands of tweens tweeting about fucking Ashton Irwin at the same time we were tweeting about the movie.   But still, it was a good effort and everyone should be proud.

One thing that the Snarkalecs seemed to especially appreciate about Bermuda Tentacles was just how long, by Oval Office standards, the President’s hair was.

Thank you, John Savage, for not getting a haircut!

What Did Not Work?

I have to admit that, unlike TSL editor-in-chief Arleigh Sandoc, I’m hardly an expert as far as military history or ranks are concerned.  However, it was obvious, even to me, that the Navy in Bermuda Tentacles didn’t appear to follow any sort of real-world protocol.  Quite a few people on twitter doubted that an admiral would be on a destroyer and some had issues with a scene where the President referred to Oliver as being a “soldier” as opposed to being a “sailor.”  This really wasn’t a big deal to me because, quite frankly, I hardly expect Asylum films to be documentaries.  However, judging from some of the comments on twitter, it was a big deal to quite a few people who had actually served in the Navy.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I had a harder time than usual relating to the characters in Bermuda Tentacles, largely because they were all career military whereas I majored in art history.  I was happy to see that the Admiral was a woman and that none of the men in her command had any problems with taking orders from her.  I would hope that, if I was an admiral, I would be just as effective.

Lessons Learned

There’s nothing quite as uniquely fun as watching a SyFy film with the Snarkalecs.  I’m already excited for the SyFy premiere of Big Ass Spider next Saturday.