Yuma (1971, directed by Ted Post)

At the start of this made-for-TV western, experienced lawman Dave Harmon (Clint Walker) has just been appointed the new marshal of Yuma.  He’s served as the marshal of several towns, all of which were near rowdy army bases.  He’s a laconic, no-nonsense lawman who is quick with a gun and smart enough to negotiate with the local Indian tribes.

As soon as Harmon rides into town, he comes across the King Brothers (Bruce Glover and Bing Russell) making trouble.  He kills one of the brothers in a saloon and then takes the other one to jail, where he’s mysteriously gunned down during a midnight jailbreak.  It turns out that there’s a third Harmon brother, cattle baron Arch King (Morgan Woodward), and he rides into town looking for revenge.  He gives Harmon a set amount of time to find and arrest his brother’s killer or Arch and his men are going to return to town and kill Harmon.

Fortunately, Harmon has a witness to the jailbreak murder.  Andres (Miguel Alejandro) is a young, Mexican orphan who sleeps at the jail.  He witnessed the murder but he only saw that the killer was wearing what appeared to be army boots.  Harmon’s investigation brings him into conflict with the local army base’s commandant (Peter Mark Richman) and also leads to the discovery of a plot to defraud the local Indians.

The main problem with Yuma is that it was clearly designed to be a pilot for a weekly television series and, as a result, it introduces a lot of characters who don’t get much to do.  There’s a lot of talk about how Harmon is searching for the men who earlier killed his family but that subplot is never resolved.  (If Yuma had been picked up as a weekly show, maybe it would have been.)  Yuma has to set up the premise for a potential show and tell a complete story in just 70 minutes.  That’s a lot to handle and Yuma ends up feeling rushed and incomplete.

As a B-western for undemanding fans of the genre, it’s acceptable.  Clint Walker was a convincing lawman and the film was directed by Ted Post, who knew how to stage a gunfight.  But it’s not really a western that you’re going to remember for long after you watch it.

4 Shots From 4 Horrific Family Films: Spider Baby, The Baby, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Amityville II: The Possession

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, we have 4 shots from 4 films that all feature horrific families!

4 Shots From 4 Horrific Family Films

Spider Baby (1964, dir by Jack Hill)

The Baby (1973, dir by Ted Post)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, dir by Tobe Hooper)

Amityville II: The Possession (1982, dir by Damiano Damiani)

Dead Man Walking: Clint Eastwood in HANG ‘EM HIGH (United Artists 1968)

cracked rear viewer

Clint Eastwood  returned to America after his amazing success in Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name Trilogy as a star to be reckoned with, forming his own production company (Malpaso) and filming HANG ‘EM HIGH, a Spaghetti-flavored Western in theme and construction. Clint was taking no chances here, surrounding himself with an all-star cast of character actors and a director he trusted, and the result was box office gold, cementing his status as a top star.

Clint plays ex-lawman Jed Cooper, who we meet driving a herd of cattle he just purchased (reminding us of his days on TV’s RAWHIDE). A posse of nine men ride up on him and accuse him of rustling and murder, appointing themselves judge, jury, and executioner, and hang him. He’s left for dead, until Marshal Dave Bliss comes along and cuts him down, taking Jed prisoner and transporting him to nearby Ft. Grant. Evidence…

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A Movie A Day #305: Go Tell The Spartans (1978, directed by Ted Post)

One of the best films ever made about Vietnam is also one of the least known.

Go Tell The Spartans takes place in 1964, during the early days of the Vietnam War.  Though the Americans at home may not know just how hopeless the situation is in South Vietnam, Major Barker (Burt Lancaster, in one of his best performances) does.  Barker is a career military man.  He served in World War II and Korea and now he’s ending his career in Vietnam, taking orders from younger superiors who have no idea what they are talking about.  Barker has been ordered to occupy a deserted village, Muc Wa.  Barker knows that occupying Muc Wa will not make any difference but he is in the army and he follows orders.

Barker sends a small group to Muc Wa.  Led by the incompetent Lt. Hamilton (Joe Unger), the group also includes a drug-addicted medic (Dennis Howard), a sadistic South Vietnamese interrogator (Evan C. Kim) who claims that every civilian that the men meet is actually VC, a sergeant (Jonathan Goldsmith) who is so burned out that he would rather commit suicide than take command, and Cpl. Courcey (Craig Wasson).  Courcey is a college-educated idealist, who joined the army to do the right thing and is now about to discover how complicated that can be in South Vietnam.  At Muc Wa, the soldiers find a cemetery containing the graves of French soldiers who died defending the hamlet during the First Indochina War.  The inscription as the cemetery reads, “Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.”  

Because the film strives for realism over easy drama, Go Tell The Spartans has never gotten the same attention as some other Vietnam films.  Unlike The Deer Hunter, Platoon, Coming Home, and Born on the 4th of July, Go Tell The Spartans received no Oscar nominations.  It is still a brilliantly acted and powerful anti-war (but never anti-soldier) film.  It starts out as deceptively low-key but the tension quickly builds as the soldier arrive at Muc Wa and discover that their orders are both futile and impossible to carry out.  Vastly outnumbered, the Americans also find themselves dealing with a land and a culture that is so unlike their own that they are often not even sure who they are fighting.  Military discipline, as represented by Lt. Hamilton, is no match for the guerilla tactics of the VC.  By the film’s end, Vietnam is revealed to be a war that not even Burt Lancaster can win.

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #38: The Baby (dir by Ted Post)

(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Thursday, December 8th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)


On October 30th, I recorded The Baby off of TCM.

First released back in 1973, The Baby is a seriously strange little movie.  It’s about a 21 year-old man named Baby (played by David Manzy).  Why is he called Baby?  Because he lives in a crib.  And he wears a diaper that occasionally needs changing.  And he sounds exactly like a baby.  (Whenever he opens his mouth, the sound of an actual baby is dubbed in.)  When he’s alone with his babysitter, he eagerly sucks on her breast, half-nursing and half-perving.

Baby is the only son of Mrs. Wadsworth (Ruth Roman, giving a chillingly evil performance).  Mrs. Wadsworth was abandoned by her husband shortly after Baby was born and the film implies that she’s taken a lot of her hatred towards her ex out on her son.  Despite not liking her son, Mrs. Wadsworth is determined to hold onto him.  She gets a weekly welfare check from the state.  The money is supposed to be used to take care of Baby but Mrs. Wadsworth uses it to take care of herself and her two daughters.

Who are her daughters?  Alba Wadsworth (Suzanne Zenor) is an implied nymphomaniac who has a way with a cattle prod.   Germaine Wadsworth (Marianna Hill) is an actress and model who, it’s suggested, has incestuous designs on her brother.

That’s right — they’re a messed up family!  However, they do throw great parties, the type that are full of all the typical characters who you would expect to appear in a low-budget film from 1973.  Hippies, hipsters, aspiring disco dancers, they all show up.  Michael Pataki shows up as well!  You my not know the name but if you’re a fan of 70s exploitation films like me, you’ll immediately recognize Michael Pataki.

In order to continue receiving money from the government, the Wadsworths have to impress their case worker.  They’ve moved through several social workers and, for the most part, they’ve survived by being so strange that no one wants to spend too much time dealing with them.  However, their case has just been assigned to Ann Gentry (Anjanette Comer) and she actually takes an interest in Baby and his life with the Wasdworths.

Ann says that she thinks Baby could benefit from going to a special school.  The Wadsworths suggest that she mind her own business.  Ann, however, has no intention of doing that.  Ann refuses the give up on giving Baby a chance at a better life.

Sounds heart-warming, right?

Well, no.

At first, Ann seems like just another concerned do-gooder.  But, at the film progresses, we start to suspect that Ann might have some secrets of her own.  We’re told that she lost her husband in a car accident but the details are left intentionally vague.  What we do know is that Ann lives in a huge house with her mother-in-law (Beatrice Manley Blau) and we find ourselves wondering why, if her husband is gone, are the two of them still living together.

We also fin ourselves wondering: Does Ann have Baby’s best interests in mind?  For that matter, does anyone?

Being a 70s movie, it all ends with a violent home invasion that’s followed by a surprise twist.  The twist caught me totally off-guard and forced me to reconsider everything that I had previously seen.  It was shocking, it was borderline offensive, it was just a little bit ludicrous, and it was rather brilliant in its odd way.

The same can be said for The Baby as a whole.  This is one weird movie and you’ll never see another like it.  For that reason alone, The Baby is worth seeing at least once.

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: The Harrad Experiment (dir by Ted Post)

Earlier this week, when I reviewed the obscure Sissy Spacek film Katherine, I mentioned that I had seen Katherine as one of the three films included on the Classic Films of the 70s DVD.  The other two films included on the DVD were Born to Win and The Harrad Experiment.  Now, I have to admit that I’m having trouble recalling much about Born To Win but The Harrad Experiment … seriously, that’s a film that I’ll never forget.

First released in 1973 and reportedly based on a “daring” book about the sexual revolution, The Harrad Experiment opens with Sheila (Laurie Walters) hugging a tree and it’s all downhill from there.

Sheila Hugging A TreeSheila is excited because she’s just enrolled at Harrad College, an experimental school that’s run by Prof. Stuffy Q. Borington (James Whitmore) and his wife, Cougar Milf (Tippi Hedren).  Okay, I made up those two names.  Prof. Borington is actually named Philip Harrad and his wife is named Margaret but seriously, I like my names for them better.  Anyway, Philip and Margaret are obsessed with the need for society to throw off the shackles of sexual repression and Harrad College’s entire curriculum is devoted to students debating monogamy, taking yoga classes, and standing in a circle while holding hands and chanting, “Zoom.”  Everyone has a roommate of the opposite sex and they’re encouraged to have sex with every other student enrolled at the college.  (Interestingly enough, all of the students at the college appear to be heterosexual.)

Sheila, it turns out, is not only a virgin but is also so extremely prudish that you have to kind of wonder why she enrolled at Harrad College to begin with.  Her roommate Stanley (Don Johnson, who was so criminally hot here that it’s hard to believe that he would eventually end up playing the loathsome Big Danny Bennett in Django Unchained) has the opposite problem.  Stanley’s a long-haired rebel type and both Philip and Margaret are worried that he’s mostly attending their sex school because he just wants to get laid as opposed to getting laid and then discussing the social ramifications of getting laid.

Now, you’re probably thinking that The Harrad Experiment, being a film about sex, would feature a lot of sex.  Well, you would be wrong.  Instead, there’s a lot of scenes of Philip smoking a pipe and talking about sex and explaining why the concept of marriage is a dying one.  At one point, a students asks Philip to explain why, if he believes that, he’s still married to Margaret.

“We represent the past,” Philip explains, which is seriously such a cop-out.

(While I agreed with a lot of what Philip had to say about the prudish ways of our hypocritical society and I’m certainly not a believer in traditional marriage, I still found myself wondering what one would actually do with a degree from Harrad College.  This led to me imagining that annoying Everest College pitchman doing commercials for Harrad College — “You’re spendin’ all day on the couch, you ain’t getting none…” — and I started giggling for so long that I temporarily forgot that I was watching a movie.)

While there isn’t much sex, there is a lot of nudity and almost the entire cast (except for Whitmore, Hedren, and Fred Willard — yes, Fred Willard is in this movie) appears naked at some point.  That’s pretty good when it’s someone like Don Johnson but, unfortunately, the majority of the cast is made up of people like this guy:

Harrad Nudity

The Harrad Experiment is a slow, boring, and bad film but it’s one that everyone should see at least once, if just so they can say that they’ve seen it.  If nothing else, it’s a time capsule of the late 60s and the early 70s and we all know the only saying about those who forget the past.

Zoom indeed!

Film Review: Magnum Force (dir by Ted Post)

Today, we continue our look at the Dirty Harry film franchise by taking a look at the second film in the series, 1973’s Magnum Force.

Despite the fact that Dirty Harry famously ended with Harry Callahan throwing away his badge in disgust, Magnum Force reveals that Callahan (played again by Clint Eastwood) is still a member of the San Francisco Police Department.  He’s got a new partner (Felton Perry, a likable actor in a thankless role) but he’s still butting heads with his superiors at the department.  He’s also still got a way with the one-liners.  When Lt. Briggs (Hal Holbrook) brags that he never once had to draw his gun while he was in uniform, Callahan replies, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

While Callahan is busying himself with doing things like gunning down robbers and preventing an attempt to hijack a plane, a group of motorcycle cops are gunning down the town’s criminals.  They begin by killing a mobster who has just beaten a murder charge on a technicality but soon, they’re gunning down anyone who has ever so much as been suspected of committing a crime.  Alone among the detectives investigating the murders, Callahan believes that the killers are cops and, even worse, he suspects that his old friend Charlie McCoy (played by Mitchell Ryan) might be a member of the group…

Though it suffers when compared to Dirty Harry, Magnum Force is still an exciting and effective action film that is clearly a product of the same period of time that gave us such classics of paranoid cinema as The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor.  Whereas Dirty Harry took an almost documentary approach to capturing life and death in San Francisco, Magnum Force is a film that is full of dark shadows and expressionistic angles.

In Dirty Harry, the Scorpio Killer was both an obvious outsider and an obvious force of destruction.  The film’s dramatic tension came from the fact that he was so clearly guilty and yet nothing could be done to stop him.  The villains in Magnum Force are the exact opposite of Scorpio.  As chillingly played by David Soul, Robert Urich, Tim Matheson, and Kip Niven, the killer cops are distinguished not by their otherness but by their total lack of individuality.

In the film’s best scene, they confront Harry in a parking garage and basically tell him that he’s either with them or against him.  Sitting on their motorcycles, wearing their leather jackets, and with their grim faces hidden behind their aviator sunglasses, these cops are the ultimate representation of  faceless fascism.  After listening to their excuses, Harry asks if they consider themselves to be heroes.

“All of our heroes are dead,” one of them replies, delivering the film’s best line.

Obviously, Magnum Force was made to be an answer to those critics who claimed that Dirty Harry was a fascist film and it is a bit jarring, at first, to see Harry “defending” the system.  (“I hate the goddamn system but until something better comes along…”)  When Harry tells the killer cops, “I’m afraid you’ve misjudged me,” it’s not hard to see that this is the same message that Eastwood meant to give his critics.

However, what makes the killer cops in Magnum Force such interesting villains is that they are, ultimately, tools of the system that they’re attempting to destroy.  By killing off criminals as opposed to arresting them and putting them on trial, the killer cops are minimizing the risk of the flaws inherent in the system being exposed.  Hence, by defending the system, Harry is helping to expose and destroy it.

When I told Jeff that I was planning on watching and reviewing all of the Dirty Harry films, he suggested that I watch them in reverse-order.  His logic was that, since the films tended to get worse as the series progressed, watching them backwards would allow me to end my project on a happy note as opposed to a note of bitter disappointment.  I took his advice and I’m glad I did.  While I disagree with him about whether or not The Dead Pool is a better film than Sudden Impact, I do have to agree that the first two Dirty Harry films are dramatically better (and quite different in tone) from the ones that subsequently followed.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the third film in the series, 1976’s The Enforcer.

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (dir. by Ted Post)


Continuing my look at the original Planet of the Apes film series, we now come to the first sequel, 1970’s Beneath the Planet of the Apes.  Rather blandly directed by Ted Post and featuring only a cameo performance from Charlton Heston, Beneath the Planet of the Apes is rarely given the credit it deserves.  Yes, the first half of the film is rather forgettable but once you get through it, you discover one of the darkest films of the 1970s.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes begins with yet another human astronaut crash landing on the Earth of the future.  This astronaut is Brent and, as played by James Franciscus, he comes across as a slightly more earnest, far less charismatic copy of Charlton Heston’s Taylor.  Brent has been sent in search of Taylor.  Anyway, once he lands on the planet, he is quickly arrested by the apes, meets Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (David Watson, stepping in for Roddy McDowall), and then escapes with the still-mute Nova (Linda Harrison).  With Nova, Brent makes his way to the Forbidden City where he comes across the ruins of Grand Central Station and discovers that he’s actually on Earth. 

Yes, that’s right.  The first hour of this 95 minutes film is essentially just the first movie all over again.   And yes, this film’s (many) critics are correct when they say that this first hour drags and tests the audience’s patience.  Obviously, Brent may be shocked to discover he’s on Earth but it’s old news to us and many viewers are probably tempted to give up on this film before Brent even figures it out.

But don’t give up!  No, because if you stick with this film you’ll discover that, once Brent figures out where he is, things get really, really fucked up.

Essentially, Brent discovers that the ruins of New York City are now underground.  And in this underground city, there are people.  But they’re not people like Brent or Nova.  No, these are people who have been horribly scarred by radiation.  They’ve also mutated to the extent that they’ve developed the powers of telepathy and mind control.  Under the leadership of Mendez the Tenth (Paul Richards), they spend their time singing hymns to the Alpha/Omega nuclear bomb, or as they call it “The Holy Bomb.”  They keep the Holy Bomb in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

These mutants capture both Nova and Brent.  Brent is tossed into a cell and who else is there but Taylor?  And Taylor, believe it or not, has become even more sarcastic and scornful than before!  Seriously, Charlton Heston frequently spoke about how much he hated this film and it’s obvious in his performance.  Heston might not have been happy about being there but the audience is because, even if he is busy hating himself, Taylor brings a jolt of life to the film.

And just in time because the Apes, led by Urko (James Gregory), have invaded the forbidden city!  They gun down all the mutants.  Brent , Taylor, and Nova manage to escape their prison and all three of them are promptly gunned down as well.  As he dies, Taylor manages to set off the Alpha/Omega bomb.  We see a blinding white light followed by a somber voice over that tells us: “In one of the countless billions of galaxies in the universe, lies a medium-sized star, and one of its satellites, a green and insignificant planet, is now dead.”

And that’s it!  There’s no final credits, not even a black-out. Instead, on that note, the movie just stops.

Now, seriously, tell me that’s not a great movie.