Horror on the Lens: Hotline (dir by Jerry Jameson)


Yay!  Brianne O’Neill (Lynda Carter) has a got a new job, working at a crisis hotline!

Boooo!  The serial called known as the Barber is now obsessed with calling her!

The Barber is known as the Barber because he cuts his victims’s hair before killing them, which as far as I’m concerned, make him even worse than a normal serial killer.  You have to wonder if he resents being known as the Barber as opposed to The Stylist.

Anyway, it’s up to Brianne to figure out why The Barber keeps calling her and to hopefully discover his identity.  For whatever reason, no one else seems to be that concerned about it.

That’s the plot of Hotline, a 1982 made-for-TV movie that is today’s horror on the lens.  It’s not a bad film, though it does inspire a certain amount of snarkiness while you’re watching it.  For the most part, though, it’s well-acted and effectively directed.  If you’ve got 95 minutes to kill, why not kill them with Lynda Carter, The Barber, and Frank Stallone?

A Movie A Day #162: Captain America (1979, directed by Rod Holcomb)


Captain America drives a Chevy Van!

In this attempt to turn one of Marvel’s first heroes into a weekly television star, Steve Rogers (Reb Brown) is a laid back 70s dude who has just gotten out of the Marines.  He owns a van (“a mellow set of wheels”) and he just wants to drive around America, drawing pictures, and doing his own thing.  Doctors Simon Mills (Len Birman) and Wendy Day (Heather Menzies) want Steve to follow in his father’s footsteps and get injected with the super powered FLAG formula.  Steve is just not interested.  The only Captain America that he’s interested in emulating is Peter Fonda in Easy Rider.  “I just want to kick back and find out who I am,” Steve says.

Steve does not really have a choice, though.  Evil billionaire Lou Brackett (Steve Forrest) wants the FLAG formula and attempts to have Steve killed.  In order to save Steve’s life, Dr. Mills injects Steve with the FLAG formula.  Not only does Steve now have super strength but, in the style of Col. Steve Austin, he now has super vision and super hearing.  To help Steve in his new life as crime-fighting super hero who will “stand up for the little guy,” Dr. Mills modifies both Steve’s Chevy Van and his motorcycle.  He also gives Steve a bulletproof shield.  Vibrainium is never mentioned and, for some reason, the shield is transparent, which makes it look like its made out of plastic.  At first, Steve wears his father’s old costume but then he designs a new one.  A super hero has to have super threads.

This was the first of two pilots for a proposed Captain America television series.  Unlike both The Incredible Hulk and The Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America never made it past the pilot stage.  Like many early comic book adaptations, Captain America‘s first pilot makes the mistake of straying too far from its comic book origins.  Instead of being an almost comically old-fashioned, straight arrow patriot, this Steve Rogers is a beach bum who gets his own groovy, bass-heavy soundtrack while riding his motorcycle up and down the coast.  Forget about the Red Skull, Baron Zemo, the Secret Empire, the Serpent Squad, or any of Captain America’s other regular enemies.  This Captain America specializes in more conventional, less interesting menaces.

Reb Brown is okay as this film’s version of Steve Rogers but there is nothing that makes the character special.  He’s just a big guy wearing a silly costume and carrying a transparent shield.  With his new origin story and his modified powers, this Captain America has more in common with The Bionic Man than Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s original character.

The van’s cool, though.

Captain America’s Bitchin’ Van

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: The Longest Day (dir by Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki, Gerd Oswald, and Darryl F. Zanuck)


As my sister has already pointed out, today is the 73rd anniversary of D-Day.  With that in mind, and as a part of my ongoing mission to see and review every single film ever nominated for best picture, I decided to watch the 1962 film, The Longest Day!

The Longest Day is a pain-staking and meticulous recreation of invasion of Normandy, much of it filmed on location.  It was reportedly something of a dream project for the head of the 20th Century Fox, Darryl F. Zanuck.  Zanuck set out to make both the ultimate tribute to the Allied forces and the greatest war movie ever.  Based on a best seller, The Longest Day has five credited screenwriters and three credited directors.  (Ken Annakin was credited with “British and French exteriors,” Andrew Marton did “American exteriors,” and the German scenes were credited to Bernhard Wicki.  Oddly, Gerd Oswald was not credited for his work on the parachuting scenes, even though those were some of the strongest scenes in the film.)  Even though he was not credited as either a screenwriter or a director, it is generally agreed that the film ultimately reflected the vision of Darryl F. Zanuck.  Zanuck not only rewrote the script but he also directed a few scenes as well.  The film had a budget of 7.75 million dollars, which was a huge amount in 1962.  (Until Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, The Longest Day was the most expensive black-and-white film ever made.)  Not only did the film tell an epic story, but it also had an epic length.  Clocking in at 3 hours, The Longest Day was also one of the longest movies to ever be nominated for best picture.

The Longest Day also had an epic cast.  Zanuck assembled an all-star cast for his recreation of D-Day.  If you’re like me and you love watching old movies on TCM, you’ll see a lot of familiar faces go rushing by during the course of The Longest Day.  American generals were played by actors like Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Henry Fonda, and John Wayne.  Peter Lawford, then the brother-in-law of the President of the United States, had a memorable role as the Scottish Lord Lovat, who marched through D-Day to the sounds of bagpipes.  When the Allied troops storm the beach, everyone from Roddy McDowall to Sal Mineo to Robert Wagner to singer Paul Anka can be seen dodging bullets.  Sean Connery pops up, speaking in his Scottish accent and providing comic relief.  When a group of paratroopers parachute into an occupied village, comedian Red Buttons ends up hanging from the steeple of a church.  When Richard Beymer (who is currently playing Ben Horne on Twin Peaks) gets separated from his squad, he stumbles across Richard Burton.  Among those representing the French are Arletty and Christian Marquand.  (Ironically, after World War II, Arletty was convicted of collaborating with the Germans and spent 18 months under house arrest.  Her crime was having a romantic relationship with a German soldier.  It is said that, in response to the charges, Arletty said, “My heart is French but my ass is international.”)  Meanwhile, among the Germans, one can find three future Bond villains: Gert Frobe, Curt Jurgens, and Walter Gotell.

It’s a big film and, to be honest, it’s too big.  It’s hard to keep track of everyone and, even though the battle scenes are probably about an intense as one could get away with in 1962 (though it’s nowhere near as effective as the famous opening of Saving Private Ryan, I still felt bad when Jeffrey Hunter and Eddie Albert were gunned down), their effectiveness is compromised by the film’s all-star approach.  Often times, the action threatens to come to a halt so that everyone can get their close-up.  Unfortunately, most of those famous faces don’t really get much of a chance to make an impression.  Even as the battle rages, you keep getting distracted by questions like, “Was that guy famous or was he just an extra?”

Among the big stars, most of them play to their personas.  John Wayne, for instance, may have been cast as General Benjamin Vandervoort but there’s never any doubt that he’s playing John Wayne.  When he tells his troops to “send them to Hell,” it’s not Vandervoort giving orders.  It’s John Wayne representing America.  Henry Fonda may be identified as being General Theodore Roosevelt II but, ultimately, you react to him because he’s Henry Fonda, a symbol of middle-American decency.  Neither Wayne nor Fonda gives a bad performance but you never forget that you’re watching Fonda and Wayne.

Throughout this huge film, there are bits and pieces that work so well that you wish the film had just concentrated on them as opposed to trying to tell every single story that occurred during D-Day.  I liked Robert Mitchum as a tough but caring general who, in the midst of battle, gives a speech that inspires his troops to keep fighting.  The scenes of Peter Lawford marching with a bagpiper at his side were nicely surreal.  Finally, there’s Richard Beymer, wandering around the French countryside and going through the entire day without firing his gun once.  Beymer gets the best line of the film when he says, “I wonder if we won.”  It’s such a modest line but it’s probably the most powerful line in the film.  I wish The Longest Day had more scenes like that.

The Longest Day was nominated for best picture of 1962 but it lost to an even longer film, Lawrence of Arabia.

A Movie A Day #75: Wanted: The Sundance Woman (1976, directed by Lee Philips)


This made-for-TV sequel to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid opens several years after the death of Butch and Sundance in Bolivia.  Etta Pace (Katharine Ross, reprising her role from the original film) is now a wanted woman.  Hiding out in Arizona, she does her best to keep a low profile.  But when Pinkerton detective Charlie Siringo (Steve Forrest) comes to town and one of Etta’s friends (Michael Constantine) is arrested, Etta knows that she’s going to need help to survive.  Crossing the border into Mexico, she teams up with revolutionary Pancho Vila (Hector Elizondo).  In return for helping him get his hands on a shipment of guns, Vila agrees to protect Etta.

Wanted: The Sundance Woman was ABC’s second pilot for a possible television series about Etta Pace’s adventures at the turn of the century.  The first pilot starred Elizabeth Montgomery as Etta and directly dealt with Etta’s attempts to come to terms with the death of Butch and Sundance.  While Katharine Ross returned to the role for the second pilot, Wanted: The Sundance Woman does not actually have much of a connection to Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.  Katharine Ross could have just as easily been playing Etta Smith as Etta Pace.

Wanted: The Sundance Woman is held back by its origins as a TV movie and a rather silly romance between Etta and Pancho Vila.  Hector Elizondo is hardly convincing as a fiery revolutionary and Steve Forrest is reliably dull as Siringo.  It is not really surprising that this pilot didn’t lead to a weekly series.  On the positive side, the film does feature an exciting train robbery and Katharine Ross is just as good in this sequel as she was in the original.  Even though she was talented, beautiful, and had important roles in two of the most successful films of the 60s (The Graduate and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), Hollywood never seemed to know what do with Katharine Ross.  While she did have a starring role in The Stepford Wives, Katharine Ross spent most of the 70s appearing in stuff like The Swarm, They Only Kill Their Masters, and The Betsy.  It’s unfortunate that Hollywood apparently did not want Katharine Ross as much Pancho Vila wanted the Sundance Woman.