Cannonball Run II (1984, directed by Hal Needham)


In 1981, director Hal Needham and star Burt Reynolds had a surprise hit with The Cannonball Run.  Critics hated the film about a race from one end of America to the other but audiences flocked to watch Burt and a group of familiar faces ham it up while cars crashed all around them.  The original Cannonball Run is a goofy and gloriously stupid movie and it can still be fun to watch.  The sequel, on the other hand…

When the sequel begins, the Cannonball Run has been discontinued.  The film never explains why the race is no longer being run but then again, there’s a lot that the sequel doesn’t explain.  King Abdul ben Falafel (Ricardo Montalban, following up The Wrath of Khan with this) wants his son, The Sheik (Jamie Farr, returning from the first film) to win the Cannonball so he puts up a million dollars and announces that the race is back on.  Problem solved.

With the notable exceptions of Farrah Fawcett, Roger Moore, and Adrienne Barbeau, almost everyone from the first film returns to take another shot at the race.  Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise are back.  Jack Elam returns as the crazy doctor, though he’s riding with the Sheik this time.  Jackie Chan returns, riding with Richard “Jaws” Kiel.  Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. return, playing barely disguised versions of themselves.  They’re joined by the surviving members of the Rat Pack.  Yes, Frank Sinatra is in this thing.  He plays himself and, from the way his scenes are shot, it’s obvious they were all filmed in a day and all the shots of people reacting to his presence were shot on another day.  Shirley MacClaine also shows up, fresh from having won an Oscar.  She plays a fake nun who rides with Burt and Dom.  Burt, of course, had a previous chance to co-star with Shirley but he turned down Terms of Endearment so he could star in Stroker AceCannonball Run II finally gave the two a chance to act opposite each other, though no one would be winning any Oscars for appearing in this film.

Say what you will about Hal Needham as a director, he was obviously someone who cultivated a lot of friendships in Hollywood because this film is jam-packed with people who I guess didn’t have anything better to do that weekend.  Telly Savalas, Michael V. Gazzo, Henry Silva, Abe Vigoda, and Henry Silva all play gangsters.  Jim Nabors plays Homer Lyle, a country-fried soldier who is still only a private despite being in his 50s.  Catherine Bach and Susan Anton replace Adrienne Barbeau and Tara Buckman as the two racers who break traffic laws and hearts with impunity.  Tim Conway, Don Knotts, Foster Brooks, Sid Caesar, Arte Johnson, Mel Tillis, Doug McClure, George “Goober” Lindsey, and more; Needham found room for all of them in this movie.  He even found roles for Tony Danza and an orangutan.  (Marilu Henner is also in the movie so I guess Needham was watching both Taxi and Every Which Way But Loose while casting the film.)  Needham also came up with a role for Charles Nelson Reilly, who is cast as a mafia don in Cannonball Run II.  His name is also Don so everyone refers to him as being “Don Don.”  That’s just a typical example of the humor that runs throughout Cannonball Run II.  If you thought the humor of It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was too subtle and cerebral, Cannonball Run II might be right up your alley.

The main problem with Cannonball Run II is that there’s not much time spent on the race, which is strange because that’s the main reason why anyone would want to watch this movie.  The race itself doesn’t start until 45 minutes into this 108 minute film and all the racers are quickly distracted by a subplot about the Mafia trying to kidnap the Sheik.  Everyone stops racing so that Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. can disguise themselves as belly dancers to help rescue the Sheik.  By the time that’s all been taken care of, there’s only 10 minutes left for everyone to race across the country.  After a montage of driving scenes and a cartoon of an arrow stretching across the nation (the cartoon was animated by Ralph Bakshi!), we discover who won the Cannonball and then it’s time for a montage of Burt and Dom blowing their lines and giggling.  Needham always ended his films with a montage of everyone screwing up a take and it’s probably one of his most lasting cinematic contributions.  Every blooper reel that’s ever been included as a DVD or Blu-ray extra owes a debt of gratitude to Hal Needham.  Watching people blow their lines can be fun if you’ve just watched a fun movie but watching Burt and Dom amuse themselves after sitting through Cannonball Run II is just adding insult to injury.  It feels less like they’re laughing at themselves and more like they’re laughing at you for being stupid enough to sit through a movie featuring Tony Danza and an orangutan.

The dumb charm of the first Cannonball Run is nowhere to be found in this sequel and, though the film made a profit, the box office numbers were still considered to be a disappointment when compared to the other films that Reynolds and Needham collaborated on.  Along with Stroker Ace, this is considered to be one of the films that ended Reynolds’s reign as a top box office attraction.  Cannonball Run II was also the final feature film to feature Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.  This could be considered the final Rat Pack film, though I wouldn’t say that too loudly.

Cannonball Run II is a disappointment on so many levels.  It’s hard to believe that the same director who did Smokey and the Bandit and Hooper could be responsible for the anemic stunts and chases found in this movie.  The cast may have had a good time but the audience is left bored.  Stick with the first Cannonball Run.

 

Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone 3.24 “To Serve Man” (dir by Richard L. Bare)


“It’s a cookbook!”

During the month of October, we like to share classic episodes of horror-themed television.  That was easier to do when we first started doing our annual October horrorthon here at the Shattered Lens because every single episode of the original, black-and-white Twilight Zone was available on YouTube.  Sadly, that’s no longer the case.  In fact, there is exactly one episode of the original Twilight Zone on YouTube.

Fortunately, that episode is a classic.  In 1962’s To Serve Man, an alien (Richard Kiel) comes to Earth and invites people to return to his home planet with him.  He leaves behind a book.  When everyone learns that the title of the book is To Serve Man, they excitedly decide that the book must be an instruction manual on how to help mankind.  The truth, as we learn in the episode’s classic finale, is something a little bit different.

Here’s the episode!  Watch it before YouTube yanks it down.

(This episode originally aired on October 2nd, 1962.  It was directed by Richard L. Bare from a script by Rod Serling.  It was based on a short story by Damon Knight.)

Enjoy!

Horror On TV: Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.9 “The Spanish Moss Murders” (dir by Gordon Hessler)


Tonight, on Kolchak….

People are turning up dead.  Well, what else is new?  That’s pretty much been the plot of every Kolchak episode so far.  However, this time, they’re turning up dead while covered with Spanish moss!

Oh my God, could it be the Cajuns?

Well, as a matter of fact, it is.  As Kolchak discovers when he investigates, all of the dead people were somehow connected to a comatose Cajun….

Richard Kiel, who played the monster in the previous episode of Kolchak, returns here to play yet another monster.

The episode originally aired on December 6th, 1974!

Horror on TV: Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.8 “Bad Medicine” (dir by Alexander Grasshoff)


On tonight’s episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, wealthy women are dying in Chicago and Carl Kolchak is on the case!  It turns out that it’s all connected to priceless jewels and a legendary monster known as the Diabelro, a creature has been cursed to roam the Earth and search for gems.

The Diabelro is played by Richard Kiel, who might be best known for playing Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

This episode originally aired on November 29th, 1974.

Enjoy!

Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone 3.24 “To Serve Man” (dir by Richard L. Bare)


“It’s a cookbook!”

During the month of October, we like to share classic episodes of horror-themed television.  That was easier to do when we first started doing our annual October horrorthon here at the Shattered Lens because every single episode of the original, black-and-white Twilight Zone was available on YouTube.  Sadly, that’s no longer the case.  In fact, there is exactly one episode of the original Twilight Zone on YouTube.

Fortunately, that episode is a classic.  In 1962’s To Serve Man, an alien (Richard Kiel) comes to Earth and invites people to return to his home planet with him.  He leaves behind a book.  When everyone learns that the title of the book is To Serve Man, they excitedly decide that the book must be an instruction manual on how to help mankind.  The truth, as we learn in the episode’s classic finale, is something a little bit different.

Here’s the episode!  Watch it before YouTube yanks it down.

(This episode originally aired on October 2nd, 1962.  It was directed by Richard L. Bare from a script by Rod Serling.  It was based on a short story by Damon Knight.)

Enjoy!

 

Horror on TV: Thriller 1.23 “Well of Doom” (dir by John Brahm)


For tonight’s televised horror, here’s another episode the Boris Karoloff-hosted anthology series, Thriller!

This episode, Well of Doom, shows what happens when two demons kidnap two men on their way to a bachelor party and force them to slog across the moors, to a mysterious castle.  This episode is full of atmosphere and it also features great work from Henry Daniell and Richard Kiel as the two demons.

Enjoy!

Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone 3.24 “To Serve Man”


On this day, 58 years ago, one of the most influential shows in the history of television, The Twilight Zone, premiered on CBS.  Created by Rod Serling, this anthology show not only featured some of the best actors and writers in the business but it also used tales of the unexpected to address some of the most pressing issues of the day.  (Many, if not all, of those issues remain relevant today.)  The Twilight Zone inspired a countless number of future filmmakers and writers and it remains popular today.  The annual New Year’s Eve and 4th of July marathons on SyFy continue to delight viewers both new and old.

When we first started doing our annual October horrorthon here at the Shattered Lens, every single episode of the original, black-and-white Twilight Zone was available on YouTube.  Sadly, that’s no longer the case.  As I sit here writing this, while several episodes from the show’s later (and largely unsuccessful) revivals have been uploaded,  there is exactly one episode of the original Twilight Zone on YouTube.

Fortunately, that episode is a classic.  In 1962’s To Serve Man, an alien (Richard Kiel) comes to Earth and invites people to return to his home planet with him.  He leaves behind a book.  When everyone learns that the title of the book is To Serve Man, they excitedly decide that the book must be an instruction manual on how to help mankind.  The truth, as we learn in the episode’s classic finale, is something a little bit different.

Here’s the episode!  Watch it before YouTube yanks it down.

Enjoy!

A Movie A Day #10: The Longest Yard (1974, directed by Robert Aldrich)


longest-yard-burt-reynolds

Once, Paul “Wrecking” Crewe (Burt Reynolds) was a superstar NFL quarterback.  That was until he was caught up in a point-shaving scandal and kicked out of the league.  When a drunk Crewe steals his girlfriend’s car, gets into a high-speed police chase, and throws a punch at a cop, he ends up sentenced to 18 months at Citrus State Prison.

The warden of the prison, Rudolph Hazen (Eddie Albert), is a football fanatic who, at first, is excited to have Crewe as an inmate.  The prison guards have a semi-pro football game and Hazen wants Crewe to coach the team and help them win a national championship.  Though initially reluctant and just wanting to do his time, Crewe relents after witnessing and experiencing the cruelty of the prison system.  Crewe forms The Mean Machine, a team made up of prisoners, and agrees to play an exhibition game against the guards.

At first, the members of the Mean Machine are just looking for an excuse to hit the guards without being punished but soon, they realize that they have a chance to win both the game and their dignity.  But Hazen is not above blackmailing Crewe to throw the game.

When it comes to understanding the Tao of Burt, The Longest Yard is the place to start.  Starting with a car chase and ending with near martyrdom, The Longest Yard is the ultimate Burt Reynolds film.  Paul Crewe ranks alongside Deliverance’s Lewis Medlock and Boogie Night‘s Jack Horner as Reynolds’s best performance.  Before injuries ended his athletic career, Reynolds was a college football star and, on the prison’s playing field, he holds his own with the large group of former professional football players who were cast to play the guards and the prisoners.  The Longest Yard’s climatic football game takes up over an hour of screen time and reportedly, the action was largely improvised during shooting.  Unlike most movie football games, the one in The Longest Yard looks and feels like a real game.

The Longest Yard was directed by Robert Aldrich, who specialized in making movies about anti-authoritarians fighting the system.  The scenes of Crewe recruiting and training The Mean Machine are very reminiscent of Aldrich’s best-known movie, The Dirty Dozen.  With its combination of dark humor, graphic violence, rebellious spirit, and Southern-friend melodrama, The Longest Yard is a movie that could only have worked in the 1970s.  The Adam Sandler remake may have made a lot of money at the box office but it still comes nowhere close to matching the original.

For tomorrow’s movie a day, it’s the best film of 2016, which also happens to be about a football player in prison.

thelongestyard

Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone 3.24 “To Serve Man”


You know what?

I’ve spent this October irritated by the lack of episodes of the Twilight Zone on YouTube.  I mean, I understand the importance of copyright laws and everything but seriously, how can you take away the Twilight Zone in October!?

However, I finally managed to find one — and exactly one — episode of The Twilight Zone on YouTube.  And it’s a classic!  (And who knows how long it’ll be available so don’t hold off on watching it!)  Here is the classic “To Serve Man” episode of The Twilight Zone!

Enjoy and bon appetit!

 

Sci-Fi Film Review: The Humanoid (dir by Aldo Lado)


humanoid

When all the editors of the site got together at the TSL offices and discussed who would review what during our sci-fi month, there were two films that I immediately claimed for myself.  One was Luigi Cozzi’s Starcrash, which is one of the best-known and most popular of all the Italian Star Wars rip-offs.  The other was The Humanoid, which is considerably less known.

What is The Humanoid?  It’s an Italian film from 1979 that was designed to capitalize on the popularity of both Star Wars and James Bond.  While the plot was largely ripped off from Star Wars (with a dash of The Golem tossed in for good measure), the film’s cast featured three performers best known for their roles in two then-recent James Bond films.  The Spy Who Loved Me’s Barbara Bach played the evil Lady Agatha.  Moonraker‘s Corinne Clery played heroic scientist Barbara Gibson.  Finally, the title character — the Humanoid — was played by none other than Richard Kiel, who previously played evil henchman Jaws in both of those films.

The main reason that I wanted to see it was because the film was directed by Aldo Lado.  Aldo Lado may not be as well-known as Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and Ruggero Deodato but he still directed some very memorable films.  Short Night of Glass Dolls, Who Saw Her Die?, and The Night Train Murders are all classics of their genre, combining shocking violence with Marxist political subtext.  What, I wondered, would an Aldo Lado-directed Star Wars rip-off be like?  Fortunately, The Humanoid has been uploaded to YouTube and I was able to find out.

The answer, to that question, is that the Aldo Lado-directed Star Wars rip-off isn’t very good.  But it’s so strange that it’s never less than watchable.

Allow me to attempt to explain the film’s plot.  If things get confusing … well, it can’t be helped.  That’s just the way this film works.  The Humanoid opens in outer space, with a lengthy opening title crawl that informs us that evil Lord Graal has escaped from prison and is planning on attacking the planet Metropolis (yes, the planet is named Metropolis) and overthrowing his brother, the benevolent ruler known as Great Brother.  As the title crawl disappears into space, the camera pans over to a giant spaceship and basically, it’s the exact same shot that opened Star Wars.  You have to admire a film that, in less than a minute, can rip-off Star Wars, Superman, and George Orwell.

Anyway, it turns out that Lord Graal is a tall and imposing figure who dresses in black armor, a black cape, and a black helmet.  (Sound familiar?)  He’s played by Ivan Rassimov, who played a lot of villains in a lot of Italian exploitation films.  Sadly, he never takes off that helmet so we never get to see the truly impressive head of hair that was almost always a highlight of every Rassimov performance.

humanoid_07

Graal’s main ally is Lady Agatha (Barbara Bach), who is actually several centuries old but she remains young by daily injections of a serum that is made up on virgin blood.  (The Bathory Method, in other words.)  Lady Agatha is really evil but she does have really great hair and she gets to wear this V-neck dress that is simply to die for and provides an interesting contrast to the amazingly boring white jumpsuits that all of the good people seem to be wearing.

The youth serum was developed by a mad scientist named Dr. Kraspin (played by five-time Oscar nominee Arthur Kennedy).  And Dr. Kraspin is good for more than just youth serums!  He’s also developed a method of mind control, a way to turn humans into … humanoids!

(“Come quickly!” Dr. Kraspin cries, at one point, “I am creating my first humanoid!”)

Dr. Kraspin tests his method out on interstellar police officer, Golob (Richard Kiel).  Good Golob has a beard and mustache and spends most of his time talking to his pet robot, Robodog.  (“This is my robot dog!” Golob enthusiastically says at one point.)  However, when Golob gets hit by Kraspin’s Humanoid Ray, the beard and the mustache vanish and Golob just growls.  Much as in The Golem, Kraspin places a device on Golob’s forehead which allows him to control Golob’s actions.

Good Golob

Good Golob

Bad Golob

Bad Golob

Meanwhile, Kraspin also has a grudge against Dr. Barbara Gibson (Corrine Clery) and sends Golob to destroy her.  However, Barbara is hiding out with enigmatic child genius Tom Tom (Marco Yeh) and the Han Soloish Nick (Leonard Mann).  And, fortunately for all of them, Tom Tom has the power to make crossbow-wielding angels descend from the heavens…

One of the things that makes The Humanoid an interesting viewing experience is that it’s essentially a kid’s film that was made for an exploitation audience.  Hence, scenes featuring cute Robodog and precocious Tom Tom are mixed in with scenes of brutal violence and a naked virgin being drained of her blood so that Agatha can remain young.  It makes for a notably odd viewing experience.

But that’s appropriate because The Humanoid is one weird movie.  Much as he did with Night Train Murders (which was “inspired” by Wes Craven’s Last House On the Left), Aldo Lado doesn’t allow The Humanoid‘s rip-off status to prevent him from tossing almost everything you could imagine into The Humanoid.  Full of melodrama, bad special effects, over-the-top performances, and way too much plot for a 90 minute movie, The Humanoid is one of those movies that simply has to be seen to believed.  It’s utterly ludicrous and, as a result, oddly likable.  It may not be good but it’s never less than watchable.

Golob and RoboDog

Golob and RoboDog