4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Boris Karloff Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Today, TSL pays tribute to the one and only Boris Karloff, born on this day in 1887 in London.

It’s time for….

4 Shots From 4 Boris Karloff Films

Five Star Final (1931, dir by Mervyn LeRoy)

House of Frankenstein (1944, dir by Erle C. Kenton)

Black Sabbath (1963, dir by Mario Bava)

Targets (1968, dir by Peter Bogdanovich)


What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been: Orson Welles’ THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (Netflix 2018)

cracked rear viewer

The day has finally arrived. November 2, 2018. I ordered a free trial of Netflix specifically so I could watch the completed version of Orson Welles’ final film, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND . Welles worked on this project for over a decade, and the footage sat for decades more before finally being restored and re-edited. A film buff’s dream come true – perhaps. There were questions I needed answered. Was there enough salvageable material to make a coherent movie? Does it follow Welles’ vision? Would it live up to the hype? Was it worth the wait?

The answer: OH, HELL YEAH!!

Welles shot over ten hours of film, utilizing different film stocks (Super 8, 16mm, 35mm), switching back and forth from color to classic black and white, to create his movie, which is a documentary about the movie-within-the-movie’s director – a movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie. It took six years (from 1970-76)…

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Scenes That I Love: Boris Karloff Tells A Story In Targets

In the 1968 film, Targets, Boris Karloff gave one of his final performances.  It was also one of his best.

Karloff played an aging horror actor named Byron Orlok, a role that was based on Karloff himself.  Though once a huge star, Orlok’s style of horror has gone out of fashion.  As he explains it, the real world has gotten so scary that his horror films are now tame by comparison.  In this scene, Orlok proves that he can still give a compelling performance when he recites a short story about death and fate.

Reportedly, Karloff did this scene in one take and received a standing ovation after director Peter Bogdanovich called cut.


Lisa’s Way Too Early Oscar Predictions for April

Hi, everyone!

Well, it’s that time again!  It’s time for me to post my very early Oscar predictions.  I do this on a monthly basis.  I always make it a point to acknowledge that, this early in the year, this is something of a pointless exercise.  We’re still not far into 2018 and but, surprisingly, several excellent films have already been released.  Who knows what the rest of the year will be like!

So, as always, the predictions below are a combination of instinct and random guesses.  This month, I’ve kind of let my imagination run wild.  And you know what?  That’s the way it should be.  What’s the point of trying to predict stuff if you can’t have fun?

So, without further ado, here are my predictions for April!

(Click to see my predictions for January, February, and March!)

Best Picture


Black Panther

Boy Erased

First Man

The Happytime Murders

If Beale Street Could Talk

Mary, Queen of Scots

The Other Side of the Wind

A Quiet Place


Best Director

Ryan Coogler for Black Panther

Barry Jenkins for If Beale Street Could Talk

John Krasinski for A Quiet Place

Steve McQueen for Widows

Orson Welles for The Other Side of the Wind

Best Actor

Steve Carell in Beautiful Boy

Willem DaFoe in At Eternity’s Gate

Matt Dillon in The House That Jack Built

Ryan Gosling in First Man

John Huston in The Other Side of the Wind

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Viola Davis in Widows

Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Saoirse Ronan in Mary, Queen of Scots

Kristin Stewart in JT LeRoy

Best Supporting Actor

Peter Bogdanovich in The Other Side of the Wind

Russell Crowe in Boy Erased

Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

David Tennant in Mary, Queen of Scots

Forest Whitaker in Burden

Best Supporting Actress

Laura Dern in JT Leroy

Claire Foy in First Man

Nicole Kidman in Boy Erases

Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk

Margot Robie in Mary, Queen of Scots






Get Your Motor Runnin’ with THE WILD ANGELS (AIP 1966)

cracked rear viewer

Roger Corman  kicked off the outlaw biker film genre with THE WILD ANGELS, setting the template for all biker flicks to come. Sure, there had been motorcycle movies before: Marlon Brando in THE WILD ONE and the low-budget MOTORCYCLE GANG spring to mind. But THE WILD ANGELS busted open box offices on the Grindhouse and Drive-In circuits, and soon an army of outlaw bikers roared into a theater near you! There was BORN LOSERS , DEVIL’S ANGELS, THE GLORY STOMPERS , REBEL ROUSERS, ANGELS FROM HELL, and dozens more straight into the mid-70’s, when the cycle cycle revved its last rev. But Corman’s saga of the freewheeling Angels  was there first; as always, Rapid Roger was the leader of the pack.

Our movie begins with the classic fuzz-tone guitar sound of Davie Allen, as Angels president Heavenly Blues (Peter Fonda ) rolls down the road to pick up club…

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A Movie A Day #213: Illegally Yours (1988, directed by Peter Bogdanovich)

This is really bad.

Richard Dice (Rob Lowe, wearing glasses and running around like a speed freak) is a loser who lives at home with his mother (Jessica James), his younger brother (Ira Heiden), and his mother’s boyfriend (Harry Carey, Jr.).  When he gets called for jury duty, Richard thinks that he will be able to easily get out of it but then he discovers that the defendant is someone from his part, even if she does not remember a thing about him.  Ever since the first grade, Richard has been in love with Molly (Colleen Camp) and now she is on trial for murder.  Richard lies about knowing who she is and gets selected for the jury.  When it starts to look like Molly might be convicted, Richard starts to investigate the murder himself.  His investigation leads him to two teenage blackmail victims (played by Kim Myers and Bodganovich’s future wife, Louise Stratten) and a tape of the murder being committed.  Illegally Yours attempts to be a screwball comedy but it just comes across as being frantic, with Lowe especially going overboard.  The actors all speak quickly but that can not disguise how lame most of the dialogue is.  The movie also comes with a clunky narration, a sure sign of post production desperation.

Made at a time when Peter Bogdanovich was mired in an expensive lawsuit over changes made to his previous film, Mask, Bogdanovich has said that he solely did Illegally Yours because he needed the money.  Bogdanovich has accurately described Illegally Yours as being the worst film that he ever directed.  Coming from the director of At Long Last Love, Nickelodeon, and Texasville, that is saying something.

Horror Film Review: Targets (dir by Peter Bogdanovich)


The year was 1968 and legendary producer Roger Corman had aging horror star Boris Karloff under contract.  Karloff still owed Corman two days of work and Corman was never one to let an opportunity pass him by.  Corman approached film critic Peter Bogdanovich and made him an offer.  Corman would finance any film that Bogdanovich wanted to make, on the condition that he stayed under budget, used Boris Karloff, and included some scenes from The Terror.  Bogdanovich agreed and the end result was one of the best films of Karloff’s long career.

Karloff plays Byron Orlok.  Orlok (named, of course, after the vampire in Nosferatu) is a veteran horror star who now finds himself working almost exclusively in B-movies.  When the film starts, he’s just announced his retirement.  Orlok is bitter that Hollywood never fully appreciated his talents but, beyond that, he’s come to believe that horror movies can never hope to compete with the horrors of the real world.  People have become so desensitized to horror that it’s impossible to scare them, he believes.  Orlok plans on making one final promotional appearance at a drive-in that will be showing his final film.  (His final film, of course, is The Terror.)

Meanwhile, there’s a man named Bobby Thompson (Tim O’Kelly) and he’s about to shock the world.  Bobby has just recently returned from Vietnam.  He works as an insurance agent and his cheerfully bland countenance hides the fact that Bobby is going insane.  He is struggling to pay the bills and he resents the fact that his wife is now working and that they have to live with his parents.  His strict and taciturn father continues to criticize him, especially after Bobby points a rifle at him during target practice.  Bobby, incidentally, loves his guns.  After he murders both his wife and his mother, Bobby uses that gun to start shooting at strangers.

Bobby starts his rampage by shooting at cars on the freeway but eventually, he ends up at the drive-in.  While The Terror plays out on the big screen, Bobby shoots at the men, women, and children who have gathered to watch the movie, proving Orlok’s point that cinematic horror cannot hope to match the horror of everyday life…

Even though it was made 48 years ago, Targets is a film that feels extremely relevant today.  As I watched the film, I couldn’t help but think about not only James Holmes’s 2012 rampage in Aurora, Colorado but also the more recent sniper attacks in my hometown of Dallas.  For me, it was interesting to see that apparently this stuff was going on even in 1968.  (We tend to think of mass shooting as being a recent phenomena.)  Targets is an open plea for gun control (which, again, is something that we tend to think of as being a relatively new thing).  I’ll leave the political debate for others to consider and instead just say that Targets is a chilling portrait of both madness and violence.

However, Targets also works brilliantly as a tribute to Boris Karloff.  Though he may have never been as bitter as Orlok, Karloff is basically playing himself in Targets.  He’s portrayed as a cultured and kindly man who just happened to be very good at playing scary characters and Karloff gives perhaps his best performance in the role. Some of the best scenes in Targets are the scenes where Orlok (and, by extension, Karloff) discusses his career with his friend, Sammy Michaels (played by Bogdanovich).  You find yourself really wishing that you could have hung out on the set of Targets just to hear the stories that were told while the cameras weren’t rolling.

(Incidentally, Sammy Michaels was named after famed director Sam Fuller, who helped to write the film’s screenplay and provided a good deal of free advice to Bogdanovich.)

Targets works as both a horror film and a tribute to a great actor.  If for no other reason, watch it for Boris.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #95: 54 (dir by Mark Christopher)


“A guy named Steve Rubell had a dream: To throw the best damned party the world had ever seen and to make it last forever. He built a world where fantasy was put up as reality and where an 80-year-old disco queen could dance till dawn. Where models mingled with mechanics, plumbers danced with princes. It was a place where all labels were left behind. A place where there were no rules.”

— Shane O’Shea (Ryan Phillippe) in 54 (1998)

So, did you actually read that quote at the beginning of the review?  I don’t blame if you didn’t because not only is it ludicrous overwritten but it just goes on and on.  It’s one of those quotes that you read in a script and you think to yourself, “They better get absolutely the best actor in the world to deliver these lines,” and then you realize Ryan Phillippe has been cast in the role.

Except, of course, I doubt that any of those lines were found in the original script for 54.  54 is one of those films where, as you watch it, you can literally imagine the chaos that must have been going on during the editing process.  Subplots are raised and then dropped and the mysteriously pop up again.  Characters change both their personalities and their motives in between scenes.  Huge dramatic moment happen almost at random but don’t seem to actually have anything to do with anything else happening in the film.

In short, 54 is a mess but it’s a mess that’s held together by incredibly clunky narration.  Shane O’Shea, who spent the waning days of the 1970s working at Studio 54, narrates the film.  And, despite the fact that Shane is presented as being kinda dumb (think of Saturday Night Fever‘s Tony Manero, without the sexy dance moves), his narration is extremely verbose and reflective. It’s almost as if the narration was written at the last-minute by someone desperately trying to save a collapsing film.

I watched 54 on cable because I saw that it was about the 70s and I figured it would feature a lot of outrageous costumes, danceable music, and cocaine-fueled melodrama.  And it turns out that I was right about the cocaine-fueled melodrama but still, 54 is no Boogie Nights.  It’s not even Bright Lights, Big City.

54 does have an interesting cast, which makes it all the more unfortunate that nobody really gets to do anything interesting.  Poor Ryan Phillippe looks totally lost and, in the film’s worst scene, he actually has to stand in the middle of a dance floor and, after the death of elderly Disco Dottie (that’s the character’s name!), yell at all the decadent club goers.  Breckin Meyer is cute as Phillippe’s co-worker and Salma Hayek gets to sing.  Neve Campbell plays a soap opera actress who Phillippe has a crush on and…oh, who cares?  Seriously, writing about this film is almost as annoying as watching it.

Mike Myers — yes, that Mike Myers — plays the owner of the club, Steve Rubell.  The role means that Myers gets to snort cocaine, hit on Breckin Meyer, and vomit on the silk sheets of his bed.  I think that Myers gives a good performance but I’m not really sure.  It could have just been the shock of seeing Mike Myers snorting cocaine, hitting on Breckin Meyer, and vomiting on the silk sheets of his bed.

If you want to enjoy some 70s decadence, avoid 54 and rewatch either Boogie Nights or American Hustle.

Back To School #11: The Last Picture Show (dir by Peter Bogdanovich)

Monday is the first day of school down here in Dallas so it seems only appropriate that this latest entry in our Back to School series should be a look at one of those most quintessential Texas films ever made, the 1971 best picture nominee, The Last Picture Show.

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich and based on a novel by Larry McMurtry, The Last Picture Show takes place in 1951 and tells the story of two high school seniors, best friends Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges, reminding us once again why everbody loves him).  Sonny and Duane live in the rural town of Anarene, Texas.  With little to look forward to in the future, beyond perhaps getting a job working in the oil fields, Sonny and Duane are both intent on enjoying their final year of high school.  Sometimes, that means driving down to Mexico for the weekend.  Sometimes, it means going to the only theater in town and seeing a movie.  Most of the time, however, it means hanging out in a pool hall owned by the strict but fatherly Sam (Oscar winner Ben Johnson).  Often times they are accompanied by the intellectually disabled Billy (Sam Bottoms), who responds to everything with a blank smile and spends most of his spare time wandering around with a broom, futilely trying to sweep the dusty streets.


The charismatic and impetuous Sonny is dating the beautiful and self-centered Jacy Farrow (Cybil Shepherd), who is the daughter of the wealthiest woman in town.  Jacy knows that her cynical mother (Ellen Burstyn) is having an affair with an oil worker named Abilene (Clu Gulager) but she’s more concerned with her own future.  Even though she’s dating Sonny, Jacy still accepts an invitation from the awkward Lester Marlow (played by a memorably goofy Randy Quaid) to attend a naked indoor pool party.  At the party, she meets Bobby Sheen (Gary Brockette), who is rich and will be able to provide her with the future that Duane never will.  However, Bobby tells Jacy that he isn’t interested in her because she’s a virgin.  If nothing else, this gives Jacy a reason to stay with Duane, at least until after they have sex.

Meanwhile, the far more sensitive Sonny ends up having an affair with Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman, who won an Oscar for her performance in this film), the wife of the high school football coach.  It appears that Sonny truly cares about Ruth but then he finds himself being tempted by none other than his best friend’s girlfriend…

Sonny and Ruth

At heart, The Last Picture Show really is basically a small town soap opera, a Texas version of Peyton Place.  The difference between the two films — beyond the fact that The Last Picture Show just happens to be a 1oo times better than Peyton Place — is that The Last Picture Show doesn’t take place in a beautiful, idealized small town.  Instead, the town of Anarene is a believably bleak location, one that will be familiar to anyone who, like me, grew up in the American southwest.  A good deal of the success of The Last Picture Show is due to the fact that it was actually filmed on location in Archer City, Texas.

(Nothing annoys me more than when I see the mountains of California in the background of a movie that’s supposed to be taking place in North Texas.  We don’t have mountains up here.  For the most part, we don’t even have hills.  The land is flat.  You can see forever, if you know where to look.)

Of course, you can’t talk about The Last Picture Show without talking about Robert Surtees’s stunning black-and-white cinematography.  Not only does the black-and-white remind us that this is a film about a fading way of life but it drives home the fact that Sonny and Duane don’t have much to look forward to.  Growing up in Anarene means they are destined for lives without color or excitement.  In the end, can you really blame them for occasionally acting before they think?

Ben Johnson

Ultimately, the success of The Last Picture Show is due to a lot of things.  This was Peter Bogdanovich’s second film as a director and he did such an excellent job here that he’s basically spent the rest of his career trying to live up to this one film.  (That said, Bodganovich also left his wife for Cybill Shepherd — despite the fact that his wife was the one who suggested that he make this film and cast Cybill in the first place!  Don’t worry though — Polly Platt got her revenge by having a far more successful career than her ex-husband and she even produced Say Anything, a film that we will soon be looking at.)  The screenplay, by McMurtry and Bogdanovich, is full of sharp dialogue and memorable characters.  As for the performers, this is probably one of the best acted films ever made.  Jeff Bridges and Timothy Bottoms play off each other well, Cybill Shepherd is the epitome of casual destructiveness, and Ben Johnson is brilliantly cast as the film’s moral center.  My favorite performance comes from Ellen Burstyn, who delivers every line with just the right combination of contempt and ennui.

Ellen Burstyn in The Last Picture Show

Ellen Burstyn in The Last Picture Show

If you’re a Texan, The Last Picture Show is one of those films that you simply have to see.  And if you don’t enjoy it and if you don’t relate to at least a few of the characters (I related to Jacy, though I like to think that I’m a lot nicer in the way I treat people), then you’re not a real Texan.

It’s as simple as that.