A Movie A Day #51: The Drifter (1988, directed by Larry Brand)


the_drifterHow much keeffe is in this movie?

Don’t worry.  There’s Miles O’Keeffe in The Drifter. (™ MST3k)

While driving back to Los Angeles from a fashion show, designer Julia Robbins (Kim Delaney, long before co-starring on NYPD Blue) picks up and has a one night stand with a hitchhiker named Trey (O’Keeffe).  Even though Julia does not ever plan to see him again, she still gives him her grandfather’s stopwatch.  Trey is so touched by the gift that he shows up in Los Angeles and starts demanding to see her.  Julia, who already has a cheating boyfriend (Timothy Bottoms), doesn’t want anything to do with Trey.  When one her friends is murdered while staying at Julia’s apartment, Julia finally goes to the police and tells Detective Morrison (played by the director, Larry Brand) about Trey.  But is Trey the one who she should be worried about?

The Drifter is an above average example of the films that Roger Corman executive produced in the 80s and 90s.  The predictable plot won’t win any points for plausibility but Larry Brand did a good job directing and everyone in the cast (especially Delaney) contributed a decent performance.  The film has a twist ending that might take viewers by surprise but probably won’t.  As for where this ranks in the Miles O’Keeffe filmography, it’s better than Tarzan, The Ape Man but it’s still no Ator.

The Drifter was enough of a success that it got a quasi-sequel in 1990.  Larry Brand (and Detective Morrison) returned in tomorrow’s movie a day, Overexposed.

A Movie A Day #50: Survival Run (1979, directed by Larry Spiegel)


This poster for Survival Run reflects absolutely nothing that happens in the movie.

This poster for Survival Run reflects absolutely nothing that happens in the movie.

“We are young/ We are free/ Anyone know a better place to be?/ Takin’ it easy/ My baby and me….”

So goes the deceptively mellow opening theme song of Survival Run.  In this one, teenager Chip (Vincent Van Patten) and his five best friends take off for the weekend.  When their van breaks down in the middle of the desert, they light a campfire, sing a song, and have sex.

Takin’ it easy, my baby and me.  

When they later decide to search for help, they stumble across a group of men in the valley.  The men are being led by Peter Graves, who tosses one of the teens a beer and says, “This’ll put hair on your chest, kid.”  The kid looks down at his chest, says, “Where’d it go!?,” and then touches him armpits.  “There it is!” he says.

We are young, we are free

The men say they’re prospectors but they’re actually drug smugglers.  When the same teen who couldn’t find his chest hair is murdered, a fight for survival begins.  Despite that killer opening song, Survival Run takes forever to get started, the action scenes are poorly directed, and the teens are too stupid and poorly written to be sympathetic.  However, Survival Run does feature Peter Graves and Ray Milland as the two most unlikely drug smugglers in the world.  Peter Graves wears a red ascot and an all khaki outfit with rapidly spreading sweat stains.  Ray Milland wears a suit while sitting out in the broiling desert.  Milland, who was 72 at the time, spends most of the movie sitting.  One of the teenage girls thinks he’s intriguing.

Dangerous international drug smugglers Ray Milland and Peter Graves

Infamous international drug smugglers Ray Milland and Peter Graves

When I was growing up in Baltimore, Survival Run used to frequently come on TV in the afternoon.  I’m still not sure why but I imagine a lot of fans of the Biography Channel were tricked into tuning into this one, just to watch in shock as Peter Graves killed teenagers in the middle of the desert.  Ray Milland did this 35 years after winning an Oscar for The Lost Weekend.  As for Vincent Van Patten, he was the Van Patten who didn’t appear in Mel Brooks films or win an Emmy for his work on Boardwalk Empire.

Peter Graves and Ray Milland vs. the least known member of the Van Patten family.

Anyone know a better place to be?

A Movie A Day #49: Body Chemistry 4: Full Exposure (1995, directed by Jim Wynorski)


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After five years of kinky sex and murder, the Body Chemistry franchise ended with Body Chemistry 4: Full Exposure.

Like the third film, Full Exposure was directed by Jim Wynorski and produced by Andrew Stevens.  Shannon Tweed stepped into the role of murderous Dr. Claire Archer, replacing Shari Shattuck.  Shannon Tweed was always one of the most talented of the actresses who regularly appeared on what was then nicknamed Skinemax.  It wasn’t just that Tweed always seemed to being give it her all in her films’ frequent sex scenes.  Tweed also had the look and style of an old-fashioned femme fatale.  It was easy to imagine her trading sultry quips with Alan Ladd or Tom Neal.  This made Tweed perfect for the role of Claire Archer and her performance was a noticeable improvement on Shari Shattuck’s.  It’s just too bad the rest of the film was such a snoozefest.

In Full Exposure, after getting away with three murders in the first two Body Chemistry films, Claire has finally been arrested.  She is on trial for killing Alan Clay (Andrew Stevens) at the end of the third film.  However, she has a hotshot lawyer named Simon Mitchell (Larry Poindexter) and she is soon up to her old tricks, having sex with Simon in his office, a parking garage, and an elevator.  Simon’s aide, Lane (Marta Martin), has come across proof of Claire’s crimes but Claire has a plan to take care of that.  She always does.

Full Exposure starts out as a typical Body Chemistry film, with neon-lit sex scenes, but it quickly get bogged down in lengthy courtroom sequences.  In the previous three films, Claire at least had some sort of motivation but here, it’s never clear why she would try to destroy her lawyer’s life during the trial instead of waiting until he had, at least, gotten her off the hook.  Tweed is a perfect Claire but the rest of the cast is just going through the motions.   Though Claire once again got away with murder, there were no more chapters to her story after this one.  The Body Chemistry franchise managed to do a lot with a very thin premise but Full Exposure shows, that by the fourth film, there was no where left to go.

A Movie A Day #48: Body Chemistry III: Point of Seduction (1994, directed by Jim Wynorksi)


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In Body Chemistry III, Jim Wynorski and Andrew Stevens take over the venerable franchise and things quickly get meta.

Alan Clay (Andrew Stevens, who also produced) is a TV director who wants to make serious films about the environment but his producer, Bob (Robert Forster), is only interested in exploitation films.  His wife, soap opera star Beth Chaney (Morgan Fairchild). wants Alan to direct her in a great role but Alan tells her, “I’m not a creative artist, Beth!  I’m a TV director who specializes in women-in-jepordy thrillers!”  That should make Alan the perfect choice to make a movie about Claire Archer.

Having gotten away with murdering both of her two previous lovers and her boss at the radio station, Dr. Claire Archer (Shari Shattuck, replacing Lisa Pescia) is now hosting her own TV talk show, Looking At You With Claire Archer.  She has also written a best-selling textbook called Sex and Violence and Vice Versa.  Her former colleague, Freddie (Chick Venerra, taking over the role played by Dave Kagen in the first film), has quit the sex research game is now a screenwriter.  He wants to write a script about Claire but he can not convince her to sign over the rights to her story.  Maybe a night with Alan can change her mind.

Claire’s soon up to her old tricks.  Alan wants to break it off with her, Freddie is figuring out that Claire is a murderer, and Beth wants to play her in the movie.

Featuring no one from either of the two original Body Chemistry films (even when Freddie sees a picture of Big Chuck from Part 2, an anonymous extra has replaced Morton Downey, Jr) and shot in Jim Wynorski’s signature “drop your top,” straight-to-video style, Body Chemistry 3 is a deliberate parody of the genre.  It’s easy to recognize Robert Forster’s Bob as being a stand-in for Body Chemistry‘s executive producer, Roger Corman while Freddie is the most obnoxious screenwriter since the one Tim Robbins killed in The Player.  All of that makes Part 3 more interesting than the first two Body Chemistry films.  If the sultry Lisa Pescia had returned to play Dr. Archer, it might even be a classic.  Shari Shattuck gives a game performance but lacks the demented intensity that Pescia brought to the role.

For tomorrow’s movie a day, Wynorski and Stevens return but Shannon Tweed takes over the role of Claire Archer in Body Chemistry 4: Full Exposure.

 

A Movie A Day #47: Body Chemistry II: Voice of a Stranger (1992, directed by Adam Simon)


body-chemistry-ii-the-voice-of-a-stranger-movie-poster-1992-1020211070Dr. Claire Archer is back!

Having gotten away with murder at the end of the first Body Chemistry, Claire (played again by Lisa Pescia) is now working as a radio psychologist, taking the 9 pm to 1 am slot at a station managed by a sleazy chain smoker named Big Chuck (played by real-life sleazy chain smoker Morton Downey, Jr.).  Claire invites her listeners to call with their deepest desires.  “Without pain, you’re not truly alive.”

One night, “John” calls.  When Claire looks at the list of callers and sees, “John likes rough sex,” she immediately put him on the air.  John is actually Dan (Gregory Harrison).  Dan is dating Claire’s call screener, Brenda (Robin Riker), who cannot recognize her own boyfriend’s voice over the telephone.  Dan is a former high school football star who left town and became a cop in Los Angeles.  When his violent impulses became impossible to control, Dan was kicked off the force and he returned home.  Dan wants to suppress his dark side but Claire has other ideas.

Body Chemistry II is a marginal improvement over the first Body Chemistry, because Dan is a more sympathetic victim character than Marc Singer was in the first film and Body Chemistry II puts Lisa Pescia’s vampy performance front and center.  Though both films tell the same basic story, Body Chemistry II is stylistically a very different film.  Body Chemistry II takes it cue from film noir, which means a lot of dark rooms with Venetian blinds.  Dan’s flashbacks and nightmares also add some surreal moments to Body Chemistry II, distinguishing it from the more straight forward first film.

Though there would be two more Body Chemistry sequels, this would be the last time that Lisa Pescia would play Dr. Archer.  Keep an eye out for Clint Howard, Jeremy Piven, and director John Landis, all of whom show up in small roles.

For tomorrow’s movie a day, Shari Shattuck takes over the role of Claire Archer in Body Chemistry III: Point of Seduction.

 

A Movie A Day #46: Body Chemistry (1990, directed by Kristine Peterson)


body-chemistry-1990-large-pictureDr. Tom Redding (Marc Singer) is a sex researcher, which in this film means that his workday consists of showing people clips from porn films, mixed in with educational films and pictures of Ronald Reagan.  Tom has a great career, a beautiful wife (Mary Crosby), and a funny best friend (David Kagan).  But everything changes when his research firm receives a contract from Dr. Claire Archer (Lisa Pescia).  Tom and Claire end up having a torrid affair but when Tom tries to break it off, Claire is not ready to give him up.  At first, Claire’s just sending him a box full of dead lobsters and a VHS porn tape but soon she’s using one overturned tiki porch and a tank of propane to blow up his house.

Back when Cinemax was still known as Skinemax, Body Chemistry was one of the channel’s mainstays.  Though the film was clearly designed to be a rip-off on Fatal Attraction, the sociopathic and manipulative Dr. Claire Archer actually has much more in common with Basic Instinct‘s Catherine Trammell than Fatal Attraction‘s Alex Forrest.  (Interestingly, Body Chemistry predates Basic Instinct by two years.)  Though the plot will never surprise you and the sex scenes are almost as uninspired as the saxophone that often accompanies them on the soundtrack, Body Chemistry is an enjoyably stupid “erotic” thriller. Much as Anne Archer, as the betrayed wife, was the only sympathetic character in Fatal Attraction, Mary Crosby plays the only sympathetic character in Body Chemistry.    If possible, Marc Singer’s adulterous husband is even less sympathetic than the one Michael Douglas played in Fatal Attraction but Lisa Pescia does a good job vamping it up as Claire Archer.

Body Chemistry led to not one but three sequels.  Tomorrow’s movie a day will be Body Chemistry 2.

 

A Movie A Day #45: Captives (1994, directed by Angela Pope)


captives

Rachel Clifford (Julia Ormond) is a dentist who has just divorced her unfaithful husband, Simon (Peter Capaldi).  Feeling directionless, Rachel shocks her posh friends by getting a part-time job as the dentist at Wadsworth Prison, the toughest and most notorious prison in Britain.  While most of the inmates in the all-male prison harass and proposition the attractive Rachel, she forms an unlikely friendship with Phil (Tim Roth), a sensitive inmate who is doing time for killing his previous girlfriend.  Phil and Rachel are both captives, Phil of the legal system and Rachel of her upper class existence.  With Phil getting weekly day releases so that he can take computer classes, he and Rachel become lovers outside of the prison walls.  When prison kingpin Tower (Colin Salmon) finds out about their affair, he attempts to blackmail both of them.

A British film which I don’t think ever got much attention in the U.S., Captives is a romantic drama that works because Julia Ormond and Tim Roth both give good performances and share a spark of passion.  Captives is one of the few films that could actually make a hookup in a public restroom seem romantic.  It’s just too bad that, after such a strong start, the movie gets bogged down in melodrama during the final twenty minutes.