Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Deliverance (dir by John Boorman)


1973’s The Exorcist is often cited as the first horror film to ever be nominated for best picture and technically, I guess that’s correct.  It was definitely the first best picture nominee to ever deal with a battle between humans and a malevolent supernatural force and no one can deny that The Exorcist has influenced a countless number of horror films.

That said, I think you could make the argument that Deliverance, which was nominated for best picture the year before The Exorcist, was in its own way, a horror film.  Certainly, every crazed hick slasher film that has come out since 1972 owes a debt to Deliverance.  Deliverance‘s ending has been imitated by so many other horror films that it’s become a bit of cliche.  Though there might not be any supernatural creatures in Deliverance, the film still features its own set of horrifying monsters.  The toothless redneck rapists (played by character actor Bill McKinney and rodeo performer Herbert “Cowboy” Coward) seem as if they’ve jumped straight out of a nightmare and into the movie.  Of course, they aren’t the only monsters in this film.  There’s also the (fictional) Cahulawassee River, which is due to be dammed up and seems to be determined to take out its anger on anyone foolish enough to try to navigate it.

Much as with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which came out just two years after Deliverance), the main theme here seem to be that you should be careful about going off the main road.  Just as the unfortunate hippies and college students in Texas Chainsaw Massacre proved to be no match for a clan of backwoods cannibal, the four middle-aged men at the center of Deliverance discover that they’re no match for either nature or its inhabitants.  At the start of the film, we watch as three of the men deal with the locals in a condescending and rather smirky manner.  Only one of them actually tries to be nice to the locals, engaging in a banjo duel with a young boy who clearly loves his banjo but who still refuses to smile or shake hands.  The boy knows what the men are getting themselves into them.  The boy knows what awaits them.

If you grew up in the South, as I did, you’ll recognize all four of the men.  It’s not just that they’re played by recognizable actors.  It’s that each one of them is a common archetype of the type of men you find down here.

For instance, there’s Lewis (Burt Reynolds), the self-styled alpha male with his leather vest and his bow-and-arrow and his constant talk about how society is eventually going to collapse and only the strong are going to survive.  You know that Lewis is full of it from the minute you see him but he’s so charismatic that you can also understand why the other three men have fallen under his control.

And then there’s Bobby (Ned Beatty).  Bobby is quick to laugh and quick to talk and quick to make a bad joke.  When he says that he’s a salesman, you’re not surprised.  From the start of the film, Lewis complains that Bobby isn’t strong enough or serious enough and, when the mountain men attack, Bobby is the one they target.  And yet, towards the end of the film, Bobby is the one who sells the hastily concocted story about what happened on the river.

Drew (Ronny Cox) is the nicest of the men.  With his glasses and his guitar and his rather touching belief that everything will be okay if everyone just tells the truth, Drew’s the prototype of the Southern liberal.  One can imagine him teaching in a community college and vainly trying to convince his relatives that segregation and nostalgia for the Confederacy is holding the South back.

And finally, there’s Ed (Jon Voight).  Ed smokes a pipe and it’s obvious that he’s someone who has a very secure life.  Ed is the one who is everyone’s friend.  He’s the one who sticks up for Bobby.  He’s the one who reminds Drew to wear his life jacket.  He’s the only one who can get away with (gently) mocking Lewis.  Ed seems like a nice guy but, at the start of the film, there’s a strange emptiness to Ed.  You get the feeling that the reason Ed is friends with everyone is because he doesn’t have any firm beliefs.  Instead, he just adapts to each situation and says whatever everyone wants to hear.  You can’t help but wonder what Ed believes.  By the end of the movie, of course, both Ed and the viewer have learned what Ed is capable of doing.

Cox, Voight, and especially poor Ned Beatty are all perfectly cast in their roles.  Burt Reynolds reportedly felt that this film was his best performance and he was probably right.  Director John Boorman captures both the beauty and the menace of nature, leaving you both in awe of the the river and fearful of what it can do those foolish enough to try to conquer it.  Interestingly enough, while Boorman was directing Deliverance, he was offered The Exorcist.  He turned it down, feeling that the script was too exploitive of the possessed child.  Boorman would, however, direct The Exorcist II: The Heretic (co-starring Deliverance‘s Ned Beatty).

(At the same time, Jon Voight was offered the role of Father Karras in The Exorcist but, like Boorman, turned the film down so he could work on Deliverance.)

While the film is best known for its sequences on the river, one should not overlook the haunting scenes of the survivors once they make their way back to civilization.  After having spent the previous 80 minutes or so presenting everyone in the backwoods as a threat, the final third of Deliverance actually emphasizes the decency of the townspeople.  When one of the men breaks down and starts to cry in the middle of dinner, everyone is quietly respectful of his emotions.  Towards the end of the film, as the survivors are driven out of town, they find themselves stuck behind the old country church, which is being moved upriver.  “Just got to wait for the church to get out of the way,” their driver says while the church’s bell mournfully rings for both the death of the town and the death of innocence.

(Of course, even with all the kind townspeople around, there’s still a somewhat menacing sheriff.  It’s just not a Southern film without a scary sheriff, is it?  “Don’t you boys ever do nothing like this again,” he says at one point.  The sheriff is played by James Dickey, the author of both the novel and the screenplay on which the film is based.)

Deliverance was nominated for three academy awards.  In the directing and the editing categories, it lost to Cabaret.  For best picture, it lost to The Godfather.  Deliverance, The Godfather, and Cabaret, all competing against each other?  1972 was a very good year.

A Movie A Day #197: Scissors (1991, directed by Frank De Felitta)


This is another dumb movie starring Sharon Stone.

In this one, Stone plays Angela Anderson.  Angela is a sexually repressed artist who is obsessed with scissors.  When she is attacked in an elevator by a man with a red beard, her neighbor, Alex (Steve Railsback), comes to her rescue.  Alex is an actor who lives with his twin brother, the bitter and wheelchair-bound Cole (Steve Railsback, again.)  When Angela finds herself locked in an apartment with a dead man (who has been stabbed with a pair of scissors and who has a red beard), who is responsible?  According to the dead man’s pet raven, it’s Angela.  “You killed him, you killed him,” the bird keeps saying.  But could it also have something to do with Angela’s obviously evil psychiatrist (Ronny Cox) and his politician wife (Michelle Phillips)?

This extremely ill-thought attempt at Hitchcockian suspense came out after Total Recall increased Sharon Stone’s profile but before Basic Instinct made her (briefly) a superstar.  Scissors, much like the later Intersection, is a film where Sharon Stone attempts to show that she really can act by playing a repressed character.  Instead, Scissors just reveals how limited Sharon Stone’s range was.  For all of the film’s attempts to duplicate Repulsion, Stone is never believable as someone on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  To her credit, Stone does try really hard, which is more than can be said for anyone else in the cast.  Railsback, normally a good actor, can barely summon up enough interest in the material to play one character, let alone two.  To buy what Scissors selling, it is necessary to believe that someone would come up with an elaborate scheme to drive Angela crazy but would still be careless enough to accidentally leave a door open at a key moment.

Dumb.  Just dumb.

Film Review: Captain America (1990, dir. Albert Pyun)


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I don’t read comic books. I’m not a big fan of superhero movies. I’m not particularly a fan of the Marvel movies we have been getting. I couldn’t get my hands on the 70’s Captain America movies. Jedadiah had the nerve to write about the Turkish Captain America movie before I started writing on Through the Shattered Lens. I don’t really even recall much about the Chris Evans’ Captain America movies except he’s kind of lovable, but vapid. None of that matters. This is pure cheesy fun. The only real crime this movie commits is not having a budget. That, and I think they thought they were making a Bond film. Let’s dig in because to not talk about this film in detail would be an injustice.

This movie drops you right into something that just screams Captain America: 1936 Italy.

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Get used to title cards. This movie has a bunch of them even when they aren’t necessary, or don’t make any sense. We are introduced to a child prodigy when the movie bothers to subtitle the actors speaking foreign languages so we can actually know what’s going on. I thought I had a dubbed version of this movie for awhile. In come the Nazis or Fascists and they take the kid and kill his family. A tape recorder is running during this because he was playing the piano. It winds up recording the murder of his family.

Now it’s off to Fortress Lorenzo. I know this because the title card tells me so.

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We are here because we need to watch the bad guys looking at stock footage of a white rat. Then the grand reveal!

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Okay, they are working with a low budget, but that is simply a rat they have turned into Red Skull Rat. We do actually get a real Red Skull (Scott Paulin) when they put the kid in what looks like an electric chair.

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There’s a female scientist (Carla Cassola) here who doesn’t like what is being done to this kid and escapes as they zap him. What part is she going to play in this movie? Wait for it later. It’s kind of awesome and really stupid.

Now we cut to 7 Years Later, which means 1943 because again, title cards told me so. Two of them in case I can’t add and to make sure I know that 7 years have past for…um…reasons? Now we are at the White House, which is in Washington, D.C. Thank goodness for this title card. Otherwise, I might have been confused.

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We find out that the scientist lady who escaped 7 years prior in 1936 Italy from Fortress Lorenzo perfected a process of taking a boy with birth defects and making him “as fast and as strong as an athlete” in America. Hitler already has Red Skull at this point. They plan to have a regiment of super soldiers and Steve Rogers has volunteered to be the first. You might be thinking right now that the few lines of dialog that were subtitled earlier mentioned how old the kid was so that adding 7 years would explain how Red Skull will appear as an adult. Of course not.

Now we go to Redondo Beach, California via another title card.

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Meet 1990’s Captain America (Matt Salinger)!

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I did not try to catch him with looks like that on his face. He does that all on his own throughout this movie. He limps around and says goodbye to the family and girlfriend. Now it’s off to a top secret diner with scientist lady. They get there one week later. I know this because another title card tells me so.

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It would have been very confusing without it. At least I thought it was them. It turns out it’s a couple of military guys who proceed to go through a secret entrance in the cloakroom and down to an underground lab. Of course Senator Kirby is there.

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Is that Jack Kirby? He really does call him Senator Kirby. He is also the only person he greets by name for no reason. They’ve kept all the details about this a secret between one guy and the lady because once they die, the movie can just randomly give Captain America his things without having to explain anything. How fast does that happen?

Zap him!

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I love how during this they cut several times to parts of his body that don’t appear to change to show he is getting stronger. His vitals signs are stable. Thank God! Also, thank God for plot convenience because there’s a traitor in their midst you see. He immediately shoots and kills both the guy and the scientist before getting himself electrocuted. Captain America also takes a bullet to the chest.

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Don’t worry about him. We now cut to him lying in a bed.

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I can’t tell you how much time has passed, where this bed is located, or if this building is the White House or not because there wasn’t a title card to tell me so. Taking a bullet to the chest is really going to put the Captain down for awhile, right? I mean he’s not Superman or anything. They even said that earlier. That’s not a issue for 1990’s Captain America. He hears something about the bad guys having a launch site and he’s up and ready in the blink of an eye.

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Then we cut to footage of a plane from so far back that we can’t tell it isn’t actually from 1943 or whenever it is now. He now has his uniform and his shield. The uniform is apparently fireproof and looks like it does because the scientist lady loved the red, white, and blue.

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Captain America says that there’s something nobody has talked about. It’s that he would like some backup. Captain America wasn’t paying attention earlier. Since the traitor killed off the guy and scientist lady, he is the only one of his kind. Captain America jumps out of the plane and within seconds is spotted.

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Then with probably the best special effects this movie has to offer, he throws the shield to knock down a guard tower. Cut to Red Skull who apparently is psychic because an alarm going off automatically means it’s Captain America.

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Meanwhile, Captain America is outside probably wondering why it’s necessary for him to be wearing the uniform when there’s no fire around. That’s of course when he blows some stuff up to make his own fire before entering the launch site. He spots Red Skull, says “holy mackerel”, and greets him by throwing his shield at him. Red Skull catches it without any trouble.

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He throws the shield into the ground. Red Skull proceeds to beat Captain America up and straps him to a rocket.

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He mentions New York while he is strangling Captain America, but then tells him the rocket is going to the White House. Captain America grabs Red Skull’s hand to make him come along for the ride so Red Skull cuts off his own hand, and the missile launches. Now we cut to Washington, D.C. again.

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I’m not sure where in Washington, D.C. though because the title card doesn’t tell me this time. It cuts to another building and then to what I think is a hotel room. There’s a kid there who is up at 4 A.M. because he wants to see the president since the title card said the set he is on is in Washington D.C. Mom puts him to bed and the kid makes a wish to be the president one day. The kid is having none of this. He gets up and grabs his decoder ring.

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I’d make a joke about Ovaltine seeing as that is a Captain Midnight decoder ring, but something way better is about to happen. The kid now goes to that place we saw earlier and sees this through his camera.

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Captain America sees the kid so he punches and kicks on the rocket till a wing breaks off. The rocket nearly hits the kid.

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Then the rocket misses the building. That’s right. Captain America kicked and punched a rocket he was attached to and it changed its trajectory to miss the target. You won’t see Chris Evans do that in any Captain America movie. Probably because it’s bullshit. Anyhow, we now cutaway to somewhere in Alaska.

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I’m not sure where in Alaska, but it certainly is “somewhere”. Wherever it is, the rocket crashes into the ground and there is a hand in a red glove sticking out of it now. I’m not sure rockets work that way so that missing the White House would place it in Alaska, but I’m no expert. However, I am an expert at reading title cards because I now know we are in Springfield, Ohio.

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This is the house of the kid from earlier who is talking to his friend about what he saw. Thanks to him we find out that was the White House earlier. The movie also helps you to know that Captain America kicked off a wing from the rocket because if you blink during that scene you’ll miss it.

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The kids decide they need to figure out who this guy on a rocket was. The blonde kid asks if he had a trident. The other kid says no, which means it wasn’t Sub-Mariner. The kid also rules out that it was the Human Torch because he would have blown up the rocket. Yes, the kids just ruled out that our current Captain America was strapped to the rocket. I would say that’s the coolest thing in this movie, but I’d be lying.

Now we fly through the decades to reach 1993. The kid grew up to be Ronny Cox who was elected as president in 1992. Ronny Cox is going to be leaving for Rome to try and negotiate a ban on “environmentally damaging industrial practices.” By that I mean he is going to Rome so that Red Skull can easily have him kidnapped.

We then cut to that place from earlier. There’s no title card, but thankfully it does look like the one that said the White House. Ronny Cox talks to a General Fleming who doesn’t like these new environmental guidelines President Ronny Cox has written up. He also isn’t happy that his leg lamp he had in A Christmas Story (1983) was broken because he’s played by Darren McGavin. Now we go to Fortress Lorenzo, Italy.

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First necessary title card we’ve had in awhile seeing as the shot of this place was so dark earlier that it could have been anything. Not sure why we really need to know this is Fortress Lorenzo though seeing as they could have just used the same establishing shot and then cut to Red Skull inside or other established villains. Inside we find that Red Skull is a ventriloquist on top of being psychic because he doesn’t actually move his lips, but we hear his voice.

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What’s that you say? He’s too far away in that screenshot to tell that his lips are closed? Don’t worry! His lips don’t move here either.

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Finally, Red Skull decides it’s time to speak with his lips. This is when we find out that it was Red Skull that hired Sirhan Sirhan to kill Bobby Kennedy and Oswald to kill JFK. Also, it apparently cost over $22 million to kill Martin Luther King. Because doing these things were so tough and they didn’t get anything for it, he decides that instead of killing Ronny Cox, they should implant something into his brain to control him. Red Skull also isn’t so red anymore and has hair. He also wears gloves so we can’t see that he has both of his hands. I’m going to just stop calling him Red Skull at this point. He’s Red “Blofeld” Skull, or Redfeld for short.

Now we cut to Alaska.

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It is the same shot from earlier, but minus the “somewhere in” and the blue tint. Some Germans from a West German Alaskan Field Station find Captain America. I know this because of an actual sign and not a title card. They brought him back in a block of ice where we get blurry shots, closeups of eyes, and ice falling on the ground. Captain America has broken right out of the ice and immediately leaves without saying a word.

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Captain America doesn’t have time to talk. He only has an hour left in the movie and hasn’t even made it back to California before going on vacation in Italy. That is his shield he is holding. It was nice of Redfeld to strap his shield to the missile along with him. No really, he did strap Captain America to the rocket with his shield.

It’s off to the White House now. Ronny Cox looks at a paper filled with a lot of nonsense text that is repeated in several locations. There is also a picture taken by a scientist at the Alaskan station that he so did not take because we saw him take a picture of Captain America’s back and not a profile shot. None of that matters because as Ronny Cox is about to toss the paper onto a table, we see that 150 convicts have been released.

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That must have been wonderful news for Menahem Golan who produced this movie. It meant there would be plenty of criminals on the street for Charles Bronson to shoot in Death Wish V (1994). Ronny immediately calls his old friend who now works for the Washington Dispatch, which was established in 1889. Again, I know this because an actual sign tells me. Don’t worry, the title cards come back. Ronny Cox’s old friend grew up to be Ned Beatty.

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He is here because he already did Superman (1978) so he needed to balance that out with a Marvel movie. Beatty is off to find out what happened.

Then we go to Rome via a title card and are introduced to Redfeld’s daughter.

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Why? Because Redfeld doesn’t do things himself anymore. He sends his daughter to deal with Captain America. How does that logic work? Redfeld couldn’t even keep his own hand against Captain America and he is a super soldier too. She’s not going to seduce him either. He is legitimately sending her to kill Captain America. Last time we saw Captain America he was in Alaska, but he has made his way to Northern Canada.

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I love how it cuts to Captain America breathing heavily against a tree, to a chopper in the sky, and then to a newspaper being held by one of the bad girls that says “British Columbia Gazette”. Maybe because they realized that Northern Canada could mean he was over near Hudson Bay or that they thought their audience wouldn’t know where British Columbia was located. This did come out in 1990 (sort of) so I’m going with option number two.

The ladies immediately spot Captain America to which he gives us another great look.

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Ned Beatty is also out here driving around because somehow! What follows is Captain America being chased through the forest by women on motorcycles. He throws and hits the daughter in her helmet before getting shot by her in the arm. That’s when Ned Beatty shows up because just roll with it. He asks Captain America who they were and he says Nazis.

Now we get what is probably the most ridiculous thing in the movie. As Ned Beatty talks to Captain America, he notices that Beatty has a tape recorder made in Japan and is driving a Volkswagen. Captain America isn’t looking so good here.

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That’s when this happens.

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Yep! Captain America just pretended to be car sick so he could steal Ned Beatty’s car. You won’t see Chris Evans do that. Most likely because Captain America isn’t supposed to be a car thief. I also love that it’s Ned Beatty in particular he leaves in the middle of the wilderness.

He keeps driving till he runs out of fuel, then gets into the back of a truck. The truck then drives by the camera with it’s back door open and ocean in the background, which means Captain America has reached California.

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He also has a trench coat now and a bag conveniently big enough to hold his shield. He is very confused by this lady who probably was once an extra on Baywatch. He then finally finds his house from the beginning of the movie. A car pulls up in front of the place and this woman (Kim Gillingham) gets out.

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That of course means it’s Captain America’s girl from the 1940s who looked like this.

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He tries to grab her, she hits him in the head with her purse, and Captain America falls to the ground.

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I guess he was crazy from the heat. Surprisingly, the credits say it is the same actress who played both roles. I don’t see it, but hair and makeup can do some amazing things. What did she have in her purse anyways that knocked him down so easily? We get a little reintroduction here between Captain America and his girlfriend in old lady makeup who is the mother of the blonde named Sharon.

Then we go back to Fortress Lorenzo where honestly Redfeld’s daughter appears to use the fact that Ned Beatty is a Pulitzer prize winning reporter as a reason that she couldn’t capture Captain America. I guess that means if Roger Ebert had been out there, then he would have also gotten Captain America to safety because he once won a Pulitzer prize. He also would have gotten his car stolen. She’s also convinced that the reporter can lead them to Captain America.

A few things happen now, but it just means that everyone knows where Captain America is now. What’s really important is that Captain America is now learning how to work a VCR.

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You can see that Redfeld’s daughter wasted no time whatsoever because she has already bugged the place and is listening in from the top of the frame.

I think you know what happens now. Ned Beatty shows up and dies. Captain America’s old flame dies. Her husband winds up in the hospital. Captain America and Sharon escape Redfeld’s daughter’s wrath. During this scene we also find out that scientist lady kept a diary because Captain America needs to know Redfeld’s real name. Oh, and while they don’t show it. It appears that Redfeld’s daughter electrocuted the old girlfriend to death offscreen. She doesn’t mess around. Neither does Captain America at the end of this movie. That’s another part that’s awesome about this film. The president has also been kidnapped by 20 heavily armed men. I don’t believe that. Redfeld only uses the baddest of the bad 1980s girls that money can buy.

Things have really gotten serious, but I’ll pare you the details.

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He goes to the previously secret diner, into the ladies room, knocks down a wall, and descends into the secret room. He finds the diary before having to defend himself from bad guys. Captain America really has two modes of fighting in this movie: ninja mode and street brawler mode. Either way, he wins through the power of wildly confusing editing. He wins, and it’s off to Italy with Sharon. Can you guess what happens next?

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Captain America again pretends he needs to puke, then takes the car to leave Sharon behind. This time it’s even better than before. The reason is because in about 1 minute of runtime she catches up to him making that taking the car scene pointless. They are at some people’s house who give them the tape recorder from the beginning of the film, they get it fixed, and they are off to have lunch so they can be attacked.

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Captain America runs away and discovers the two dumbest kids in Italy who don’t know to move when two people are running towards them with a car speeding behind the two people running towards them. Flip, confusing editing, Captain America pays for a bike, and they take that bike immediately off a cliff because it has no brakes. Captain America has no problem stealing cars, but he pays for bicycles.

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During all of this action one of the ladies dropped her purse with a picture of Redfeld inside, the weather magically changes to rain, and then they start driving to Fortress Lorenzo where the weather is just fine again. The bad guys are in pursuit. Do I need to show what happens next? Nah, she gets out, spots the bad guys, runs back to the car, and drives it away to draw the bad guys away from Captain America who she has now ditched. That appears to be the running gag in this movie. She is captured and held separately in the fortress with Ronny Cox. Captain America now dons the uniform once more and somehow climbs up on this ledge.

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You know the drill. Sharon and Ronny Cox escape on their own. Along with Captain America and crazy editing, they force Redfeld to a cliff where he apparently keeps his piano for some reason.

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Redfeld is going to set off a bomb so Captain America pulls out the tape recorder to remind him of the child he once was. Redfeld’s daughter also shoots Captain America in the arm again here. It’s a very touching moment as he remembers, his daughter looks on, and he looks off the cliff realizing what a monster he has become. However, he still wants to set off the bomb to destroy them both so Captain America throws his shield and knocks him off the cliff.

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I love how it looks like you can see someone dressed like Redfeld’s daughter push the dummy of Redfeld off the cliff.

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Redfeld’s daughter picks up a gun to shoot Captain America. Captain America’s shield is still in the air and on its way back to him. He tells her “heads up”, we hear it hit her, and he catches it. We never see her body or the shield connect with her head. Captain America just severed Redfeld’s daughter’s head with his shield. I can’t think of any other explanation.

With the bad guys defeated, Captain America looks off towards the sky for some reason.

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Then he appears in full uniform and transforms into his comic book character.

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But there’s one final piece of information we need to know. The nations agree to an environmental protection treaty. Ronny Cox says to remember those who have “sacrificed all to make our world a better place to live.” And “to Captain America, we are all back in the fight.” They even ask you in the credits to support The Environmental Protection Act of 1990.

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There is one more thing to mention here.

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This movie was an American and Yugoslavian co-production. That wasn’t unusual. Jadran Film worked on many co-productions. They would fall from being a powerhouse when Yugoslavia broke up. Yugoslavia was breaking up into separate states right around 1990. That means as Yugoslavia was about to break into separate states, they co-produced a movie about one of the most nationalist and patriotic superheroes in the world.

My final thoughts on this movie are to go enjoy the new Captain America movie, then come back and have some fun with this one. At the very least, it will make you appreciate that we are getting Marvel movies now that have proper budgets, good actors, and crews that put in an effort into making the films. 1990’s Captain America approves!

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Horror Film Review: The Car (dir by Elliot Silverstein)


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“THE CAR IS IN THE GARAGE” 

— Captain Wade Parent (James Brolin) in The Car (1977)

Yes, that’s right!  The car is in the garage and it’s hunting for blood!

The Car is a pretty stupid movie that doesn’t really work but at least it’s enjoyably stupid.  From the minute I started watching this movie, I knew that the only way I could recommend it would be if James Brolin shouted, “The car is in the garage!” at some point.  When he did, I had to cheer a little.  I love being able to recommend a movie.

The Car takes place in the small desert town of Santa Ynez.  Nothing much ever seems to happen in Santa Ynez, which perhaps explains why the police force is so large.  (Why wouldn’t you want to be a police officer in a town with no crime?  It wouldn’t be a very demanding job.)  Sheriff Everett Peck (John Marley) keeps the peace and sends his time talking about how much he hates bullies.  Wade Parent (James Brolin) is his second-in-command and has a 70s pornstache.  Wade’s best friend is Deputy Luke Johnson (Ronny Cox), a recovering alcoholic with impressive sideburns.  And then there’s a few dozen other cops.  Seriously, this tiny town has a HUGE police force.

One day, however, the police finally get something to do.  A black Lincoln Continental has suddenly appeared, stalking the roads around the town.  It doesn’t have a licence plate and the windows are tinted a dark red so it’s impossible to see who — if anyone — is driving.  Stranger still, the car’s doors have no handles.  When the car does show up, it seems to appear out of nowhere and once it’s run someone over, it seems to vanish just as quickly.

When the car first appears, it runs down two cyclists.  A few hours later, it kills an obnoxious hippie hitchhiker (John Rubinstein).  The only witness was alcoholic wife beater Amos Clements (R.G. Armstrong).  When Amos goes to the police, the car tries to run him over as well but instead, it ends up killing Sheriff Peck.

Now, Wade is in charge and he has to do something about the car.  Unfortunately, Wade’s girlfriend, Lauren (Kathleen Lloyd), made the mistake of screaming insults at the car when the car attempted to run down the school marching band.  Now, the car is stalking her.  Meanwhile, Luke is convinced that the car is being driven by none other than devil.  Wade says that’s impossible.  Luke points out that the car refuses to drive through consecrated ground.

And eventually, the car does show up in the garage…

The Car is one of the stupider of the many Jaws ripoffs that I’ve seen.  You’ll be rooting for the car through the entire film, which is good since the car kills nearly everyone in Santa Ynez.  (If any of them were likable, The Car wouldn’t as much fun to watch.)  It’s dumb but the film does have an appropriately silly ending and James Brolin does get to yell, “The car is in the garage!”

So, there is that.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Bound for Glory (dir by Hal Ashby)


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One of my favorite online film reviewers is Mitch Lovell of the Video Vacuum.  The thing I like about Mitch is that he doesn’t worry about how many Oscars a film has been nominated for or whether or not a film’s politics are currently in fashion.  Unlike a lot of online reviewers, he doesn’t worry about whether or not he’s going against the “accepted” views of the critical establishment.  Instead, he’ll watch a film and tell you exactly how he felt about it.

For example, Mitch Lovell’s review of the otherwise critically acclaimed 1976 best picture nominee Bound for Glory can be summed up in three words: “boring as fuck.”  Every other online review that I’ve found for Bound for Glory offers up polite but rarely inspiring praise for this rather lengthy film about the folk singer Woody Guthrie.  Most of those reviews do acknowledge that the film moves at its own pace but we are told that we will be rewarded for being patient.  If the review was written after 2010, you can be sure that the reviewer will be sure to say that Bound for Glory reminds us of why labor unions are still important and need to be protected from the Tea Party.  (The idea apparently being that, if a film has the right politics, it doesn’t have to actually be all that interesting.)  It’s all rather predictable and that’s why we’re lucky to have reviewers like Mitch Lovell around.  Whether you agree with him or not, it’s good to have a reviewer who will go against the conventional wisdom.

I recently watched Bound for Glory as a part of TCM’s 31 Days of Oscars and, to a large extent, I have to agree with Mitch Lovell’s review.  This is a movie that is not only long but which moves slowly as well.  It’s not that the film has a deliberate pace.  It’s just slow!  (If you want to see a film that makes good use of a deliberate pace, check out Barry Lyndon.)  David Carradine plays Woody Guthrie, a sign painter who, during the Great Depression, abandons his family in Texas and, by hopping trains, makes his way to California.  He works with fruit pickers.  He tries to convince his fellow workers to form a union.  He gets beat up a lot.

And he plays his guitar.

If there’s anything that remains consistent about Bound for Glory, it’s that Woody is always playing his guitar and that every time he starts to play, something terrible either has happened or does happen.  There’s a huge dust storm.  Woody plays his guitar.  A fight breaks out at a union meeting.  Woody plays his guitar.  A bunch of hoboes on a train get beat up.  Woody plays his guitar.  Woody shows up at a textile mill and starts to play his guitar.  He gets beaten up by a bunch of thugs.  Woody impresses Pauline (Gail Strickland) by playing his guitar and soon, he’s cheating on his wife.  Woody partners up with another folk singer, Ozark Blue (Ronny Cox), and they get their own radio show where Woody plays guitar.  Woody promptly gets fired.

It quickly became apparent to me that Woody Guthrie’s guitar was cursed.  Whenever he played it, poor people ended up getting oppressed.

In many ways, Bound for Glory is a prototypical example of what it means to be an acclaimed-at-its-time-but-subsequently-forgotten best picture nominee.  It’s a big epic film that tells a fictionalized account of a real person’s life story.  Woody Guthrie is best known for writing This Land Is Your Land, which is a song that I mostly associate with pretentious super bowl commercials.  As Bound for Glory details, Woody was also a union organizer and political activist but what’s odd is that the film keeps the exact details of what he believed rather vague.  We’re given the general idea of what Woody believed but we’re not given any specifics.  As a result, Woody just comes across like another part-time social protestor as opposed to being a true political thinker (much less a revolutionary).

On a positive note, Bound for Glory is impressive to look at.  The film’s cinematographer was the famous Haskell Wexler (who also directed Medium Cool, a film that was as upfront about its politics as Bound for Glory is vague) and Wexler captures some hauntingly beautiful images of the American wilderness.  The scene where a gigantic wall of dust crashes down onto a small Texas town is especially memorable.

Otherwise, though, Bound for Glory is pretty much a snoozefest.  It was nominated for best picture of 1976 and, when you compare it to fellow nominees like All The President’s Men, Network, Taxi Driver, and even RockyBound for Glory does feel a bit out of place.

Then when you consider some of the other films that came out in ’76 — Carrie,  Face to FaceThe Front, God Told Me To, Logan’s Run, The Man Who Fell To Earth, Marathon Man, The Omen, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Lipstick, Robin and Marian, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, and The Town That Dreaded Sundown — the nomination of Bound for Glory feels like even more of a mistake.

Oh well.

Occasionally, the Academy gets it wrong.

Shocking, I know.

Shattered Politics #61: Murder at 1600 (dir by Dwight H. Little)


Murder_at_sixteen_hundred_ver2Wow.

I have to admit that, seeing as how I was only 11 going on 12 back in 1997, I really wasn’t paying much attention to what was going on in the world at the time.  But, whatever it was, it must have been something big and scary and it must have left people feeling deeply suspicious of the government.  How else do you explain the fact that 1997 not only saw the release of Absolute Power, a film in which the President is a murderer, but Murder at 1600 as well.

Murder at 1600 opens with a White House maid finding the dead body of Carla Town (Mary Moore), an intern whose sole goal in life was apparently to have sex in every single room in the Executive Mansion.  (And, before you judge, that happens to be my goal in life as well.  So there.)  Streetwise homicide detective Harlan Regis (Wesley Snipes) is on the case!

And he’s certainly got a lot of suspects.  Could it be the Vice President (Chris Gillett)?  Or maybe Alvin Jordan (Alan Alda), the National Security Advisor?  Or how about Nick Spikings (Daniel Benzali), the bald-bef0re-bald-was-cool head of the Secret Service?  Or maybe it the President’s son (Tate Donavon)?  Or maybe even the President (Ronny Cox) himself!?

Fortunately, Regis is assigned a partner, Secret Service agent Nina Chance (Diane Lane).  When Regis first meets her, he’s all, “Oh my God, you’re a woman!”  And then Nina’s all, “I also won an Olympic medal for sharp shooting!”  And then Regis is like, “I bet that will be a relevant plot point before the film ends!”

Of course, Regis already has a regular partner, as well.  His name is Detective Stengel and he’s played by Dennis Miller, which just seems strange.  Stengel basically looks like Dennis Miller, sounds like Dennis Miller, and acts exactly like Dennis Miller, except for the fact that he’s a cop.  His jarringly out-of-place presence in this film just adds to Murder at 1600‘s general air of weirdness.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the North Koreans are up to no good and the President is being pressured to take military action.  However, he’s being distracted by this whole criminal investigation thing.  Will the country survive or did its future die at 1600?

(And why doesn’t the President just send in Team America to take care of the situation?  Or maybe James Franco and Seth Rogen.  There are way to deal with the North Koreans….)

(By the way, have you noticed how brave everyone online is when it comes to being snarky about the one country in the world that doesn’t have internet access?  If Kim Jong Whatevuh ever gets a twitter account, I bet everyone will start following him and asking him for retweets.)

Murder at 1600 is an enjoyably ludicrous thriller.  It’s one of those films that you’ll enjoy as long as you don’t take it seriously.  Take it seriously and you’ll end up asking question like why the FBI isn’t involved in the investigation and whether or not the solution to the film’s mystery is a bit too convoluted to make any logical sense.  However, if you simply decide to enjoy Murder at 1600 for what it is, an extremely pulpy thriller that’s full of nonstop melodrama, overwritten dialogue, and a healthy distrust of the government*, then you’ll find this to be an entertaining thriller.

At the very least, a White House full of potential murderers is probably a lot more realistic than anything that you might see in The American President.  

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* Oh, everyone knows the government sucks…