Retro Television Reviews: The Master 1.5 “High Rollers”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a new feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Fridays, I will be reviewing The Master, which ran on NBC from January to August of 1984.  The show can be found on Tubi!

Viva Las Vegas!

Episode 1.5 “High Rollers”

(Dir by Peter Crane, originally aired on March 2nd, 1984)

“Hi, I’m Max Keller….”

This week’s episode The Master opens with Max (Timothy Van Patten) and McAllister (Lee Van Cleef) standing on top of a mountain in the Nevada desert.  McAllister explains to Max that a ninja will sometimes be required to quickly descend from a roof or a cliff to the ground below.  (Uhmmm …. okay.)  McAllister has Max rappel down the side of the mountain.  Though hesitant at first, Max does so and reaches the ground fairly quickly.  However, before Max can brag too much on himself, he discovers that McAllister is already down there, waiting for him.

“Expect the unexpected,” McAllister explains.

I already mentioned this last week but I can’t help but feel that Max’s “ninja training” is mostly just McAllister amusing himself by seeing how far he can push his student.

Weekly ninja training completed, it’s time for Max and McAllister to drive to …. VEGAS, BABY!

That’s right!  In this episode, Max and McAllister visit the ultimate American playground, Las Vegas.  Of course, there’s a long history of movies and television shows being filmed in Vegas.  In many ways, Las Vegas is the epitome of American ingenuity, a glitzy playground that has been built in an otherwise inhospitable desert.  Many great directors — from Martin Scorsese to Francis Ford Coppola to David Lynch to Paul Schrader — have found their inspiration in Las Vegas’s unique aesthetic.

Unfortunately, the Las Vegas that we see in The Master seems to be incredibly tacky.  There’s very little of the glitz and glamour that we typically associate with Las Vegas.  Instead, the action takes place in one rather dingy hotel and casino, the place where it looks like a month’s worth of chewing gum has been hidden under the tables and smashed into the carpet.  A group of thieves, led by the mysterious Blake (Art Hindle), are planning on forcing a showgirl named Tracy (Terri Treas) into helping them rob the hotel.  Tracy happens to be Max’s former girlfriend and, in fact, she’s the whole reason that he’s visiting Las Vegas in the first place.

Blake’s plan to rob the casino is ludicrously complicated.  Basically, his plan rests on convincing Tracy to flirt with the owner of the hotel and to convince him to invite her up to his room for a drink.  In the owner’s room, Tracy is to drug his drink and then, when he’s passed out, she’s supposed to steal his keys.  In order to make sure that she does this, Blake kidnaps her annoying 12 year-old daughter, Suzie (Angela Lee Sloan).

While Tracy is drugging the owner of the hotel, a bomb is set to explode at the nearby power station.  With all of Vegas plunged into darkness, it will be all the easier for Blake’s men to shoot tear gas into the casino.  While everyone’s disorientated, Blake will open the casino’s safe and then he and his associates will head to an abandoned western movie set in the middle of the desert.  From there, they will wait for the arrival of a helicopter that will take them to safety.

I mean, seriously, what happened to the concept of keeping things simple?  Blake’s plan is dependent on so many things happens at the exact right moment that there’s no way any halfway intelligent criminal would have agreed to have been a part of it.  Along with all of the obvious things that could go wrong, Blake also has failed to take into account that he might be followed to the old west town by a ninja and his idiot sidekick.

Which is pretty much what happens.  McAllister and Max show up at about the same time as the helicopter.

This leads to an elaborate fight in the old west town.  On the one hand, it’s a nice homage to Lee Van Cleef’s days as a spaghetti western star.  At once point, McAllister even tells Max that he feels oddly at home in the old west town.  “I always wanted to be a cowboy,” McAllister says.  On the other hand, it’s also pretty obvious that all of the action sequences and fight scenes feature not Lee Van Cleef but Lee Van Cleef’s much less stocky stunt double.  That takes away from the excitement of seeing Van Cleef return to his roots.

That said, there is a cool moment where Van Cleef’s stunt double jumps over the helicopter.

One of the good things about this episode is that we did learn a few new details about Max and McAllister’s relationship.  For instance, when Max wants to beat up Blake’s men, McAllister warns Max that he’s allowing his temper to control him.  Later, Max has an epiphany in which he realizes that, unlike Blake’s men, he could never bring himself to kill someone.  It’s actually a nicely human moment and it took me by surprise.  It’s a moment that suggests that The Master perhaps had higher ambitions than just being a typical action show.

We also learned a little more about Max’s backstory.  As he tells Tracy, his mother and his brother were both killed in a plane crash and he and his father had a falling out shortly afterwards.  Max says that he doesn’t know where his father is.  When Max says that, his relationship with McAllister suddenly makes a lot more sense.  Max puts up with McAllister because he’s looking for a new father figure.  That said, I’m still pretty sure that most of McAllister’s training exercises are just McAllister’s way of amusing himself at Max’s expense.

While I appreciated all of that, this episode was a bit too messy to really work.  The casino stuff was difficult to follow and, as I mentioned before, Blake’s big scheme was a bit too big for its own good.  I did like the fight scenes in the old west town but, unfortunately, the episode was nearly finished by the time that McAllister and Max arrived.  This episode had a lot of potential but it still felt like it was never as good as it could have been.

Next week: Max and McAllister hit up New Orleans!  Mardi Gras, baby!

Live Tweet Alert: Join #FridayNightFlix for Captain America!


Captain America (1990, dir by Albert Pyun, DP: Philp Alan Waters)

As some of our regular readers undoubtedly know, I am involved in a few weekly live tweets on twitter.  I host #FridayNightFlix every Friday, I co-host #ScarySocial on Saturday, and I am one of the five hosts of #MondayActionMovie!  Every week, we get together.  We watch a movie.  We tweet our way through it.

Tonight, at 10 pm et, #FridayNightFlix has got 1990’s Captain America!

No, it’s not the MCU Captain America.  Instead, this is the Captain America that was directed by Albert Pyun and which stars J.D. Salinger’s son!  Captain America battles not only the Red Skull but also climate change!

If you want to join us this Friday, just hop onto twitter, start the movie at 10 pm et, and use the #FridayNightFlix hashtag!  It’s a friendly group and welcoming of newcomers so don’t be shy.

Captain America is available on Prime!  See you there!

Music Video of the Day: Guess I’m Doing Fine by Beck (2002, dir by Spike Jonze)

Poor Beck.  I’m sure he’s cheered up by now though.

This video was directed by Spike Jonze.  This was two years after Jonze’s received his first Oscar nomination for Being John Malkovich and also the same year that Jonze’s released his second Oscar-nominated film, Adaptation.


The Eric Roberts Collection: Amityville Death House (dir by Mark Polonia)

Eric Roberts is The Warlock!

If you’re specifically watching the 2015 film, Amityville Death House, because of the presence of Eric Roberts (and seriously, who could blame you?), Roberts appears about four minutes into the film.  His first scene lasts about 50 seconds.  He pops up a few more times throughout the film and, each time, he’s onscreen for, at most, 20 seconds.  Every time that he appears, he is sitting in a room that has been decorated to look like a dungeon.  He never interacts with anyone in the cast and, indeed, it’s easy to tell that this is another one of these films where he did all of his scenes in one day and probably didn’t even have to leave his house.  He wears a mask throughout the entire film but there’s no mistaking his voice.

Amityville Death House takes place in the town of Amityville, New York and it features a house that looks like a smaller version of the infamous haunted house that appears in most of the other Amityville films.  That said, there’s not any reference to the supposed hauntings or the DeFeo murders or any of the other usual Amityville plot points.  Instead, this film deals with the spirit of a 17th century witch named Abigail, who was lynched by the inhabitants of Amityville.  Eric Roberts plays the Warlock who, for reasons that are never quite clear, hopes to bring Abigail’s spirit back into the realm of the living.

When Tiffany (Kyrsten St. Pierre) comes up to Amityville to check in on her grandmother (Yolie Canales), she finds Abigail’s old diary and realizes that her grandmother lives in Abigail’s former home.  Tiffany even reads aloud from the diary, which is not good news for her friends, Aric (Michael Merchant), Bree (Cassandra Hayes), and Dig (Houston Baker).  Her friends were just traveling with Abigail to help her out at her grandmother’s place.  They certainly weren’t expecting to end up under a witch’s curse thanks to Tiffany’s stupidity.

Even with a running time of just 75 minutes, Amityville Death House is a painfully slow film.  Scenes play out with no sense of pace or suspense and the characters are all paper thin.  The final ten minutes of the film are enjoyably weird, with the characters suffering from hallucinations, one person turning into a spider, and dialogue like, “She has the witch’s teats!”  But it takes such a long time for the movie to reach that point and there’s so much unnecessary padding on the way that many viewers will probably check out before getting to experience any of that.

On the plus side, though, Eric Roberts at least sounded like he was having fun.

Previous Eric Roberts Films That We Have Reviewed:

  1. Star 80 (1983)
  2. Blood Red (1989)
  3. The Ambulance (1990)
  4. The Lost Capone (1990)
  5. Love, Cheat, & Steal (1993)
  6. Love Is A Gun (1994)
  7. Sensation (1994)
  8. Dark Angel (1996)
  9. Doctor Who (1996)
  10. Most Wanted (1997)
  11. Mr. Brightside (2004)
  12. Six: The Mark Unleased (2004)
  13. Hey You (2006)
  14. In The Blink of an Eye (2009)
  15. The Expendables (2010) 
  16. Sharktopus (2010)
  17. Deadline (2012)
  18. Miss Atomic Bomb (2012)
  19. Lovelace (2013)
  20. Self-Storage (2013)
  21. This Is Our Time (2013)
  22. Inherent Vice (2014)
  23. Road to the Open (2014)
  24. Rumors of War (2014)
  25. A Fatal Obsession (2015)
  26. Stalked By My Doctor (2015)
  27. Joker’s Poltergeist (2016)
  28. Stalked By My Doctor: The Return (2016)
  29. The Wrong Roommate (2016)
  30. Stalked By My Doctor: Patient’s Revenge (2018)
  31. Monster Island (2019)
  32. Seven Deadly Sins (2019)
  33. Stalked By My Doctor: A Sleepwalker’s Nightmare (2019)
  34. The Wrong Mommy (2019)
  35. Free Lunch Express (2020)
  36. Her Deadly Groom (2020)
  37. Top Gunner (2020)
  38. Just What The Doctor Ordered (2021)
  39. Killer Advice (2021)
  40. The Poltergeist Diaries (2021)
  41. My Dinner With Eric (2022)

Previous TSL Amityville Reviews:

  1. The Amityville Horror (1979)
  2. Amityville II: The Possession (1981)
  3. The Amityville Cure (1990)
  4. The Amityville Haunting (2011)
  5. Amityville: The Awakening (2017)
  6. The Amityville Murders (2018)
  7. Amityville Cop (2021)
  8. Amityville Emanuelle (2023)

Retro Television Reviews: Hang Time 5.3 “Chicken Run” and 5.4 “Papa Please”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Thursdays, I will be reviewing City Guys, which ran on NBC from 1997 to 2001.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

This week’s episode of City Guys finds Chris getting stabbed and the neat guys failing to get vengeance.

Episode 5.3 “Chicken Run”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on September 22, 2001)

Here’s the plot of this episode of City Guys, according to Wikipedia:

Jamal is labeled a chicken when he refuses to fight a gang member. Wanting to get rid of his reputation, he fights the gang member. The gang member pulls out a knife and stabs Chris, who was trying to save Jamal.

I’m giving you the Wikipedia description because this is one of the episodes of City Guys that is not currently available on YouTube.  I actually watched this episode on Tubi, several months before I started this Retro Television Reviews feature.  What I remember is that Chris was stabbed while trying to protect Jamal but it wasn’t a fatal wound.  He did end up in the hospital, where Jamal swore that he would never fight again.  So, I guess Jamal was willing to fight to protect his reputation but he wasn’t willing to fight to avenge Chris.  What a jerk.

Let’s move on …. though I will say that if someone ever stabbed me, I would totally expect all of my friends and family to track that person down and enact some Biblical justice …. but whatever.  Let’s move on….


Okay, seriously, let’s move on….

Episode 5.4 “Papa Please”

(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on September 22, 2001)

Fresh from not being avenged, Chris proves himself to be the world’s biggest idiot when he meets Cassidy’s father for the first time.  Consider that Chris and Cassidy have been friends for five season and they’ve been dating off-and-on for years but this is his first time to meet Cassidy’s father.

And perhaps that was a good thing because Chris totally blows it when he finally does meet Cassidy’s father.  First, Chris gets into an argument with him about whether or not Chris had the right away while crossing the street.  (Apparently, Cassidy’s father nearly ran him over.)  Then, once they get a booth at the Manhattan Diner (why not just meet on the roof of the school?), Chris says that he’s dating Cassidy because she’s hot and then he compares his radio show to Howard Stern despite having been specifically told not to mention Stern.

In other words, Chris is an idiot.

Cassidy’s dad forbids Cassidy to date Chris so Cassidy decides to pretend that she’s dating L-Train so that Chris will look better in comparison.  Cassidy’s dad takes an immediate liking to L-Train and soon, the two of them are golf buddies.  Good for L-Train.  He deserves a friend to play golf with.

While all this is going on, Al and Dawn are scandalized to discover that Ms. Noble is a smoker!  They force her to sit through a lecture in which Al dresses up like a giant cigarette.  I know I’ve said this before but …. MS. NOBLE IS THE PRINCIPAL!  SHE’S AN ADULT!  WHO CARES IF SHE SMOKES!?  It’s none of their business if she smokes!

Anyway, this leads to a dumb conclusion.  Chris is upset to learn that Cassidy has been pretending to date L-Train.  Cassidy’s Dad is upset that Cassidy has still been dating Chris.  “You never lied to me before,” says Cassidy’s Dad.  Really, never?  In the end, Chris convinces Cassidy’s Dad that he didn’t give him a fair chance by volunteering to stop seeing Cassidy if it’s causing trouble.  Cassidy’s Dad is so moved that he gives Chris permission to date his daughter.  Meanwhile, Dawn and Al convince several other students to pretend to smoke in order to show Ms. Noble that she’s a bad role model.

“It’s not easy watching someone you care about kill themselves,” Dawn says.


I hope Ms. Noble smoked every day for the rest of her life.

Retro Television Reviews: The Love Boat 2.17 “Second Chance / Don’t Push Me / Like Father, Like Son”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Wednesdays, I will be reviewing the original Love Boat, which aired on ABC from 1977 to 1986!  The series can be streamed on Paramount Plus!

This week’s episode of The Love Boat is all about second chances!

Episode 2.17 “Second Chance / Don’t Push Me / Like Father, Like Son”

(Dir by Allen Baron, originally aired on January 27th, 1979)

As usual, this week’s episode presents us with three different stories involving people on the cruise.  Two of them aren’t that interesting and I’m going to deal with them first.

Fred Beery (Roddy McDowall) is a nerdy guy who is sailing on The Love Boat to get away from his clingy, marriage-obsessed girlfriend, Christine (Tammy Grimes).  However, Christine shows up at the last minute and boards the boat with Fred.  Fred suddenly starts sneezing.  When Christine asks Fred to marry her, he sneezes and, for some reason, she assumes that was his way of saying yes.  Fred goes to Doc Bricker and wonders if he could be allergic to Christine.  Doc says that people can be allergic to one another.  Fred is excited because this gives him an excuse not to marry Christine.  But then Fred changes his mind and discovers that he’s no longer allergic to Christine.  However, Christine now finds Fred to be too clingy and doesn’t want to marry him and …. well, that’s pretty much the storyline.

This was a bit of an annoying storyline.  Even with Roddy McDowall in the role, Fred was not particularly likable.  Fred’s refusal to get married and his sudden “allergy” was played for laughs but, when seen today, it’s hard not to feel that Fred is basically deep in denial.  If this episode were made today, it would end with Fred finding the courage to come out and Christine realizing the real reason why he didn’t want to marry her.  But, since it was made in the 70s, it ends with Fred begging Christine to give him a second chance.

The second storyline featured Robert Mandan and Randolph Mantooth as a father and a son who were both in love with the same woman (Cathy Lee Crosby).  Crosby, however, was far more attracted to the older Mandan than the younger (and, it seemed, alcoholic) Mantooth.  In the end, Mantooth made peace with the idea of the woman he loved becoming his stepmother.  It sounds like the premise of a Lifetime movie.

But enough about those stories.  The story that actually worked featured Debbi Morgan as Stephanie Jackson, a recent parolee who Isaac convinced the Captain to hire to work in the gift shop.   When some pearl earrings go missing, Stephanie is the number one suspect because she was previously arrested for shoplifting.  Isaac has to figure out if Stephanie stole the jewelry or if she still deserves her second chance.  Eventually, it is revealed that Stephanie did steal the earrings but she also returned them hours later, locking them up in the gift shop’s safe.  Stephanie nearly returned to her criminal ways but had a change of heart.  After hearing her confession, the Captain tells Stephanie that she did the right thing and that she will continue to work at the gift shop.

I actually liked this storyline.  Some of that was because Debbi Morgan gave a good performance as Stephanie.  But also I liked the fact that The Love Boat was highlighting the importance of helping out the formerly incarcerated.  Too often, when people get out of prison, they find themselves without any opportunities.  Most businesses and stores will always find an excuse not to hire someone with a criminal record and, as a result, those recently released are not left with many options beyond returning to a life of crime.  If we’re going to insist that prison is about rehabilitation than we have to be willing to give the formerly incarcerated a chance to prove that they’ve been rehabilitated.  The Love Boat may have been a rather silly show but, with this episode, it sailed with an important message.

Next week: The Love Boat hosts a high school reunion!

The TSL Grindhouse: Amityville Cop (dir by Gregory Hatanaka)

2021’s Amityville Cop does not take place in Amityville.

Actually, as far as I can remember, we never learn the name of the city where this movie is supposed to be taking place.  But it definitely is a city and it’s not on Long Island so we can safely assume that it’s not Amityville.  It’s not even New York City, which would have at least made the film somewhat Amityville-adjacent.

Amityville Cop also does not feature the infamous house.  Nor does it feature a recreation of the DeFeo murders or any conversations about the Lutz hauntings or any of the other nonsense that we typically expect from an Amityville film.

In fact, there’s really no reason for this film to be called Amityville Cop, beyond the fact that Amityville is a recognized brand.

Instead, this is yet another remake of Maniac Cop.  This time, the cop in question was a rookie who was either sacrificed by a Satanic cult or who voluntarily chose to be possessed by a demon.  It’s a bit hard to follow exactly what happened, to be honest.  The head of the cult is played by Laurene Landon, who also appeared in two of Maniac Cop films.  Her role is brief but she’s around long enough to ensure that Officer Wilson (Lovie Johnson) will come back to life as a demon who wanders around in the city in his policeman’s uniform and who kills people for the least little infraction.  (“No loitering,” he says, before killing one unfortunate homeless man.)

Meanwhile, the non-possessed cops are pretty much useless.  Benson (Jason Toler) and his partner, Val (Nicole D’Angelo) are both infamous for roughing up suspects.  Tom (Leonard Zhang) is socially awkward and never hangs out with the other cops while off-duty because he’s always too busy taking care of his mother.  Cooper (Chris Spenelli) is boring.  Lewis (Craijece Danielle) is inexperienced.  Detective Clawson (Lisa London) always seems like she’s more interested in going after her fellow cops than the actual criminals.  And Chief Benson (Jeffrey Moon) is more concerned with throwing a New Years Party at the station house than actually solving any crimes.

Yes, the entire police force appears to be gathered at the station, partying and dancing as the New Year approaches.  It kind of makes you wonder just who exactly is on patrol in the city. Then again, it is New Years Eve.  It’s not as if that’s a time of the year that’s associated with people getting drunk and disorderly.  Anyway, the important thing that Officer Wilson eventually shows up for the party and soon, the killings start and Tom starts to consider which side he wants to be on.

Where to start with all this?  It’s not a very good movie.  You probably already guessed that.  The awkward dialogue is stiffly delivered, the kills are largely uninspired, and the characters themselves are not particularly interesting.  Benson, our nominal hero, literally bullies Tom to the extent that Tom is willing to sacrifice his soul to get revenge but the film never calls him out on it.  No one ever says, “Gee, Benson, maybe you went too far when you made fun of his mom.”  On the plus side, Officer Wilson is occasionally intimidating.  There was one scene where he suddenly comes running down a hallway and, for a few seconds, the film came to life.  But it’s hard not to feel that, in our cultural moment, Amityville Cop missed the chance to be something truly subversive.  At a time when many people are asking whether we need the police at all, this film asks whether we actually need any more Amityville films.

Previous TSL Amityville Reviews:

  1. The Amityville Horror (1979)
  2. Amityville II: The Possession (1981)
  3. The Amityville Cure (1990)
  4. The Amityville Haunting (2011)
  5. Amityville: The Awakening (2017)
  6. The Amityville Murders (2018)
  7. Amityville Emanuelle (2023)