The Boy Who Drank Too Much (1982, directed by Jerrold Freedman)

“He wet his pants on my mother’s rug!”

That’s what happens when you’re the boy who drinks too much.

In this made for television social problem film, a young Scott Baio plays Buff Saunders.  Buff is a high school student, a star hockey player, and an alcoholic.  He drinks because he grew up with an alcoholic father (played by Don Murray) and he learned early that drinking could make him feel confident whenever he was feeling insecure.  When Buff’s drinking gets out of control and he starts getting into fights, blowing off school, and seriously injuring himself, he is sent to a rehab center, one that is out of town so that the hockey team doesn’t find out that he’s an alcoholic.  His best friend, Billy (Lance Kerwin), rides the bus every day so that he can be there to support Buff but Buff’s own father cannot bring himself to come down there.  At first, Buff refuses to admit that he has a problem and won’t even speak up in the group meetings.  Eventually, even Billy starts to get tired of Buff’s attitude and his refusal to admit that his drinking has gotten out of control.  When Billy says that he’s not going to spend his birthday watching Buff sulk at rehab, Buff is forced to take a look at what his life has become.

The Boy Who Drank Too Much was basically an after school special that got the primetime movie treatment.  Scott Baio was in a lot of these movies, which is one reason why it is sometimes tempting to laugh at them today.  Baio was never really a bad actor but he was one of those actors who came across as being smarmy even when he was supposed to be playing a sympathetic or sincere character.  That’s especially true in The Boy Who Drank Too Much.  Even when Buff finally seems to be serious about controlling his drinking, you still never believe his sincerity.  When he apologizes for all the harm that his drinking has caused, he still seems like he’s waiting for the chance to grab the flask that he’s hidden somewhere in the room.  For the most part, though, that works for the character.  Baio’s playing an alcoholic who, for the majority of the movie, just tells people what he thinks they want to hear to get them off his back.

The movie does a good job of showing how a problem like alcoholism can be passed down through the generations.  Lance Kerwin and especially Don Murray both give good performances as the two people closest to Buff.  Murray appeared in and helped to produce a lot of social problem films like this one and it’s obvious that his heart was really in his performance here.  Ed Lauter took a break from appearing in every single Charles Bronson film to play Kerwin’s father and the lovely Toni Kalem, who was one of the most underrated actresses of the era, appears as well.  For a television production that’s trying very hard to be socially relevant, The Boy Who Drank Too Much isn’t bad.

Horror On The Lens: The Cloning of Clifford Swimmer (dir by Lela Swift)

Today’s horror on the lens is 1974’s The Cloning of Clifford Swimmer.

This short but entertaining sci-fi film may be a bit obscure but it’s a personal favorite of mine.  Check out my review here and then be sure to enjoy the show!

A Movie A Day #142: The Meanest Men In The West (1978, directed by Sam Fuller and Charles S. Dubin)

The Meanest Men In The West may “star” Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin and Sam Fuller may be credited as being one of the film’s two directors but don’t make the same mistake that I made.  Don’t get too excited.

There was once a TV western called The Virginian.  Starring James Drury as a ranch foreman, The Virginian ran for nine seasons on NBC.  A 1962 episode, which was written and directed by Sam Fuller, featured Lee Marvin as a sadistic outlaw who kidnapped The Virginian’s employer, a judge played by Lee J. Cobb.  Five years later, another episode features Charles Bronson as a less sadistic outlaw who kidnapped the Judge’s daughter.

The Meanest Men In The West mixes scenes from those two episode with western stock footage, a bank robbery that originally appeared in The Return of Frank James, an intrusive voice-over, and an almost incoherent prologue, all in order to tell an entirely new story.  Now, Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin are brothers and rivals.  After Marvin snitches on Bronson’s plan to rob a bank, Bronson blames his former friend, The Virginian.  In order to get the Virginian to come to his hideout, Bronson kidnaps Cobb’s daughter.  The Virginian manages to convince Bronson that he didn’t betray him, just to arrive back at the ranch and discover that Cobb has been kidnapped.  Meanwhile, Bronson and his gang set off after Marvin and his gang.  It ends with Charles Bronson, in 1967, shooting at Lee Marvin, who is still in 1962.

The Meanest Men In The West is so clumsily edited that the same shot of Charles Bronson holding a gun is spliced into a dozen different scenes.  Filmed on different film stocks, the Bronson scenes and the Marvin scenes look nothing alike and, since the two episodes were filmed five years apart, James Drury literally ages backwards over the course of the film.

The Meanest Men In The West is for Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin completists only.  I think Bronson and Marvin are two of the coolest individuals who ever existed and even I had a hard time making it through this one.  If you do watch it, keep an eye out for a young Charles Grodin, thoroughly miscast as a tough outlaw.

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night: The Cloning of Clifford Swimmer (dir. by Lela Swift)

Last night, I watched an obscure science fiction film, 1974’s The Cloning of Clifford Swimmer.

Why Was I Watching It?

It was nearly four in the morning and I couldn’t sleep.  So, I turned on the TV, checked the guide, and I saw that something called The Cloning of Clifford Swimmer was about to start on the Fox Movie Channel.  Pushing the info button on my remote control, revealed only that the film was made in 1974 and that “No cast information is available.”  Well, after seeing that, how couldn’t I have curled up on the couch and watched?

What Was It About?

Clifford Swimmer (Peter Haskell) is perhaps the least likable human being ever.  He’s an angry alcoholic who abuses his wife (Sheree North) and son (Lance Kerwin) and who has somehow managed to get into debt to the local loan shark (played by William Bassett, who is better known for playing the Sheriff in House of a 1,000 Corpses and doing the voice overs for those annoying Whataburger commercials).  Clifford hates his life and dreams of running off with his mistress and living on a boat.  If only he were free of his “responsibilities…”

Fortunately, he just happens to know the local mad scientist (Keene Curtis) who clones Clifford, using cells taken from Clifford’s tongue.  Once the clone takes his place at home and word, Clifford runs off with his mistress.  Fortunately, the Clone turns out to be the nicest, most gentle guy in the world and both his wife and son are overjoyed at the sudden change in personality that appear to have occurred within “Clifford.”  The real Clifford Swimmer, however, soon becomes disillusioned with life on a boat and decides to return to his old life.  Unfortunately, his old life doesn’t really want him back.  It all leads to violence, several murders, and a surprise twist at the end.

What Worked?

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Cloning of Clifford Swimmer.  Smartly written (and as melodramatic as any film called The Cloning of Clifford Swimmer should have been), this was a surprisingly thought-provoking little film and the “surprise” ending was executed very well and even came close to bringing tears to my sleep-deprived eyes.

Considering the film’s origins (which are discussed down below), this was a surprisingly well-acted film that is dominated by an excellent performance from Peter Haskell as Clifford Swimmer and this clone.  After I watched the film, I checked with imdb and I discovered that Peter Haskell (who passed away in 2010) was apparently a pretty busy television actor and he definitely had the looks of someone you would expect to find playing a doctor in a soap opera.  On the basis of his performance here, he was also apparently a pretty versatile actor.

What Did Not Work?

According to imdb, The Cloning of Clifford Swimmer was originally an episode of something called The Wide World Of Mystery which used to air on ABC back in the 70s.  However, even if I hadn’t done that bit of research, the film was obviously made for television.  By that, I mean that it has the flat, stagey look of a three camera sitcom.  As well, the fact that every climatic scene fades to black (for a commercial break) definitely disrupts the rhythm of the show.

That said, I have to also say that — last night at least — these “flaws” actually added to the film’s charm.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

If I were ever the type to be a home wrecker, I hope I’d be as stylish a one as Clifford’s mistress, Madeline Rivera (played by Sharon Farrell, who is also in one of my favorite movies of all time, Out of the Blue).  Seriously, her clothes were to die for.  That said, I would also hope that I would have better taste in men.

Lessons Learned

Sometimes, it’s not a bad idea to just stay up late and just watch whatever happens to come on.