From the Direct-To-Video Film Vault: Naked Obsession (1990, directed by Dan Golden)


Franklyn Carlysle (William Katt) is a fine, upstanding city councilman, with a rich wife (Wendy MacDonald) and a bright future.  Carlysle wants to be mayor and he’s come up with the perfect scheme.  He’s going to work with a developer to renovate Dante’s Square, the city’s notorious red light district.

One night, while Franklyn is driving through Dante’s Square, he’s carjacked.  Someone knocks him out before stealing both his car and his wallet.  When Franklyn comes to, he discovers that he’s being watched over by Sam Silver (played by Rick Dean).  Sam is apparently a homeless philosopher, who tells Franklyn that he’s been taking life too seriously and that sometimes, you just have to yell, “Fuck this shit!” at the top of your lungs.  When Franklyn asks where he can find a phone so he can call the cops, Sam leads Franklyn to the Yin Yang Club.  It’s there that Franklyn sees Lynne (Maria Ford), a dancer to whom he is immediately attracted.  Suddenly, his missing car and his stolen wallet no longer seem that important.  With his marriage already in trouble, Franklyn returns to the club the next night.

Franklyn soon discovers that Lynne has a thing for being choked during sex.  Even though Sam keeps telling him things like, “Nothing wrong with the dark – you spend half your life in it – trouble is, most people keep their eyes closed,” Franklyn is worried that his affair with Lynne will derail his mayoral ambitions.  However, when Lynne shows up dead, Franklyn finds himself dealing with a much bigger problem.  He’s now the number one suspect in her murder.  Things just get stranger as Franklyn discovers that he wasn’t the only one cheating, meets a masked, gun-wielding stripper, and discovers that Sam might not even be of this world.

William Katt and Rick Dean in Naked Obsession

It can be said, without fear of hyperbole, that Naked Obsession in the Citizen Kane of Roger Corman-Produced Straight-To-Video Maria Ford-Stripper movies.  This is largely due to the performance of the late, great Rick Dean in the role of Sam.  Sam’s not just just a homeless drunk with a motormouth.  As played by Dean, he’s a philosopher king and, the film hints, much more.  He comes across like an angel of the devil and he’s exactly what Franklyn Carlysle needs to liven up his too safe life.  Maria Ford, who specialized in playing troubled strippers in Roger Corman films, gives one of her best performances and, in the role of Franklyn’s secretary, Elena Sahagun, has some great scenes too.  Finally, William Katt classes up the joint, giving a real performance as Franklyn instead of just sleepwalking through the film.  Dan Golden’s direction emphasizes the surreal and, by the time the end credits roll, Naked Obsession will leave you wanting to spend a night or two at Dante’s Square.

Like so many classic films from the golden age of late night Cinemax. Naked Obsession has never been released on DVD or Blu-ray but it can be found on YouTube.

Horror Scenes That I Love: Carrie Destroys The Prom


Today’s horror scene that I love comes from 1976’s Carrie.

This scene starts out on a note of happiness with Carrie (Sissy Spacek) and Tommy (William Katt) being named as Queen and King of the Prom.  Things, however, get a bit ominous when Sue (Amy Irving) notices that bucket of pig’s blood and Nancy Allen and John Travolta hanging out underneath the stage.  Things get even worse when the coach (Betty Buckley) refuses to listen to Sue and tosses her out of the gym.

And then suddenly, there’s blood everywhere and Piper Laurie’s chanting, “They’re all going to laugh at you …. they’re all going to laugh at you….”

Is everyone really laughing at Carrie?  I believe some of them are.  Norma is definitely laughing because I think the shot of the coach laughing is included to let us know that some of the laughter is strictly in Carrie’s mind.  Nothing about the character would lead us to suspect that the coach would laugh.  In fact, seeing as how the coach just threw out Sue, it’s debatable whether she would even be back among the crowd by the time the pig’s blood came down.

(Plus, would everyone be laughing even with Tommy, the most popular kid in school, lying dead on the stage?)

Anyway, regardless of whether they were all laughing or not, we all know what happens next!

A Movie A Day #165: Big Wednesday (1978, directed by John Milius)


If there is a male bonding hall of fame, Big Wednesday has to be front and center.

This episodic movie follows three legendary surfers over twelve years of change and turmoil.  Jack Barlowe (William Katt) is the straight arrow who keeps the peace.  Leroy “The Masochist” Smith (Gary Busey) is the wild man.  Matt Johnson (Jan-Michael Vincent) is the best surfer of them all but he resents both his fame and the expectation that he should be some sort of role model for the younger kids on the beach.  From 1962 until 1974, the three of them learn about love and responsibility while dealing with cultural turmoil (including, of course, the Vietnam War) and waiting for that one legendary wave.

After writing the screenplays for Dirty Harry and Apocalypse Now and directing The Wind and The Lion and Dillinger, John Milius finally got to make his dream project.  Big Wednesday was based on Milius’s own youth as a California surfer and he has said that all three of the main characters were based on different aspects of his own personality.  Expectations for Big Wednesday were so high that Milius’s friends, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, exchanged percentages points for Star Wars and Close Encounters of  The Third Kind for a point of Big Wednesday.  The deal turned out to be worth millions to Milius but nothing to Lucas and Spielberg because Big Wednesday was a notorious box office flop.  Warner Bros. sold the film as a raunchy comedy, leaving audiences surprised to discover that Big Wednesday was actually, in Milius’s words, a “coming-of-age story with Arthurian overtones.”

I can understand why Big Wednesday may not be for everyone but it is one of my favorite movies.  It is one of the ultimate guy films.  Some of the dialogue and the narration may be overwrought but so are most guys, especially when they’re the same age as the surfers in Big Wednesday.  We all like to imagine that we are heroes in some sort of epic adventure.  The surfing footage is amazing but it is not necessary to be a surfer to relate to the film’s coming-of-age story or its celebration of the enduring bonds of friendship.  Katt, Vincent, and Busey all give great performances.  Considering their later careers, it is good that Big Wednesday is around to remind us of what Gary Busey and Jan-Michael Vincent were capable of at their best, before their promising careers were derailed by drugs and mental illness.  Be sure to also keep an eye out for infamous 70s character actor Joe Spinell as an army psychiatrist, a pre-Nightmare on Elm Street Robert Englund, playing a fellow surfer and providing the film’s narration, and Barbara Hale, playing the patient mother of her real-life son, William Katt.

One final note: At a time when the shameful stereotype of the psycho Vietnam vet was becoming popular and unfairly tarnishing the reputation of real-life vets, Big Wednesday was unique for featuring a character who not only joins the Army but who appears to return as a better person as a result.

Val’s Movie Roundup #18: Hallmark Edition


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Mystery Woman: Game Time (2005) – For those of you counting. This is my 7th Mystery Woman film. I believe that leaves me four more to see. As for this one, it’s average, which is honestly the best you can expect from most Hallmark movies. Although, my cable box seemed to disagree as the plot summary it gave me described it as a “humdrum whodunit.” In a string of Hallmark movies that screw up computer stuff, this one revolves around a computer game so it has it’s humorous moments.

It starts right off with one of them. A guy comes up to Kellie Martin in the bookstore and tries to show her a computer game mystery to sell in her store. Oh, and I’m getting really sick of the establishing shots of the bookstore in these movies. Do they honestly think we’ll be confused if they just cut to the inside? They show it over and over throughout the movies. But back to the plot. After identifying himself as working in the game business. Kellie Martin comes right out and gives a line that probably came right from the mouth of a politician in the early 90’s getting angry about the game Night Trap without actually knowing anything about video or computer games. She says they are “hours of mind-numbing glee watching some non-human kill and maim everything in it’s path.” I know she comes around over the course of the film, but Martin’s character is plenty young enough to know better. It’s a little ridiculous. But not as ridiculous as what he then says. He says he just “created the world’s very first computer game mystery.” Wow! That must have been news to Her Interactive who had been making Nancy Drew games for years prior. Not to mention going way back to the Sierra games and beyond. I played mystery games all the time as a kid in the 80s.

Then we meet a reclusive author played by William Katt. That’s right! The Greatest American Hero is in this and they kill him off in short order. What a shame. He should have been wearing the suit. He was asphyxiated, which according to this film either means poison or strangling. Honestly, I don’t remember one person saying that he couldn’t have just choked on a piece of a hot dog. What follows starts simple then turns to lunacy that I kind of expect from a movie made in 2005.

We do get to the see the game! It actually looks pretty cool. Seems to have around 35 levels, a trained killer squirrel, and you get to throw a cat at someone pointing a gun at you. That’s kinda cool. However, this game is treated like it’s some unpublished manuscript by an extremely well known author. We often buy that one of those will be worth millions to people, but an unreleased computer game mystery in 2005 is a little ridiculous. Even if they stop to give us an anti-piracy speech about all the money that is made pirating movies and games and tie it back to the Russian mafia with chemical weapons. Fresh off of Napster for this movie! There is also a speech equating playing games to drug addiction. The ending tries to tell us it was just meant to be humorous, but I don’t completely buy that.

There’s also some stupid scenes with Clarence Williams III doing tech stuff. He actually points to a screen that is basically white and reads off of it. It’s clear as day and they linger on it too with Martin coming up to join him and look at it. Then there’s the part where he opens up the hard drive that apparently took blows from a hammer, but it is in pristine condition. Then he describes computer forensics as not being hacking, but then uses a hard drive recovery tool called “H.A.C.K. v7.02”. He also throws around some hard drive jargon. It’s all kind of embarrassing.

But not as embarrassing as when Hallmark actually censored the word “butt” when Williams said “pain in the butt”. He says it. You can clearly see his lips. But the movie goes silent on that word then cuts to Martin. That seems a bit much and makes me wonder if it originally aired that way or if they actually received complaints about it.

Oh, well. This is average, but fun to laugh at the computer and gaming stuff.

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The Color of Rain (2014) – Isn’t it purple? I mean the title screams either The Color Purple, Purple Rain, or just self-important title. Anyways, this is about what happens when cancer kills off a wife and a husband, then have the widows and their children spend time with each other in a Hallmark movie. Yep, I could stop right here, but there a couple of things to mention.

It is boilerplate melodrama. It definitely relies on gender stereotypes. It’s either a Dad thing or a Mom thing or a boy thing with this movie. Couldn’t the poor guy at least know how to do his laundry? I know it’s based on real events as adapted from a book based on those real events, but please. And the kids really needed a little personality. They basically act like they are objects rather than kids. They just do what the plot tells them to do. It’s kind of annoying. It is a little heavy on the religious part, but that’s really not that bad except there is one scene where they are singing with the kids and oh my God, it’s 7th Heaven all of a sudden. Unfortunately, no one finds a joint then acts like a mass murder has happened.

Only two other things are worth mentioning. Near the end the tone shifts rather suddenly concerning their relationship, but then shifts right back without much resolution. They needed to iron that out more. The other thing is awesome. There is a scene where the two are emailing each other and I swear, I believe Lacey Chabert was using Linux. In particular some generic looking version of Ubuntu. Lacey Chabert using Linux in a Hallmark movie is pretty cool to me.

Hopefully you know what you are getting in terms of the content, but this is the quality of production you should demand from the Hallmark Channels. This is what I thought their movies were like till I actually started watching them. I’m up to 63 of them now.

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A Way Back Home/Shuffleton’s Barbershop (2013) – I don’t have much to say about the last two films. This has a troubled singer returning to his hometown only to find that the barber played by Danny Glover who was basically a surrogate father to him is dead. The singer had left town years prior angry about his father, his father’s relationship with his mother, and his brother in the military. I’m not sure if the brother was dead already when he left or not, but he’s gone by the time he comes back. Of course there are two ladies involved in this. This isn’t one where a romantic interest could be absent.

The movie as a whole is just kind of nice. You just sort of spend time with the singer and the folks in town with plot points revealing themselves whenever it’s convenient. Then before you know it, the movie is over. If it were a horror movie, then he would have discovered Glover dead and sought revenge on the town with Glover’s ghost egging him on. It’s close, except instead of revenge, it’s reconciliation with Glover’s ghost and the singer’s recollections of him egging him on.

This one’s okay, but easily forgettable.

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Undercover Bridesmaid (2012) – All you really need to know is that Brooke Burns is ordered to go undercover as a bridesmaid. She is confronted with overt female stereotypes even by Hallmark standards. But she doesn’t descend into Tasha Yar in a dress territory. Thank goodness! They just have her be the way she seems to naturally be in the Gourmet Detective movies and on The Chase. Just a little out of her comfort zone. She is put undercover because someone has made threats to carry out something bad during the wedding.

Really there’s only one more thing I think of that you should know. When I got to the wedding at the end, I thought I must have missed the resolution and was going to rewatch. If you find yourself thinking that, then don’t worry, cause you didn’t. It’s still going to happen.

This one is perfectly harmless. You’re better off with The Gourmet Detective movies, but this was better than Fixing Pete.

Halloween Horrors 2013 : “Carrie” (1976)


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Over at my “main” site — http://trashfilmguru.wordpress.com , for those who don’t know, don’t care, either, or both — I’ve been doing what every other goddamn movie blog in the universe does in the month of October: namely, review a bunch of random horror flicks. But come on — you didn’t think I was just gonna sit back and let Lisa Marie, Arleigh, Leonard Wilson, and everybody else have all the fun here on TTSL, did you?

Nah. I just had to muscle in and opine on a few macabre movie delights on these digital “pages” before the month was out, as well. And I might as well start with the one everybody’s talking about right now, Carrie, the 1976 classic directed, in his inimitable style, by Brain DePalma, based on the runaway best-seller by Stephen King, and starring Sissy Spacek as quite likely the most hapless horror heroine in history.

This film is significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that it was the first King “property” to be adapted for the big screen, thus announcing the arrival of a major new player on the scene who would go on, of course, to have a veritable industry of celluloid “translations” of his work sprout up over the ensuing decades, some of which were clearly — oh, wait, people these days are talking about a different Carrie altogether? One that just came out last week?

Well, I saw that one, too, but fuck it — I feel like reviewing this one first.

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Let’s backtrack to that “horror’s most hapless heroine” claim for a minute, shall we? It might sound like a bold claim, but I swear it’s true — think about it for a minute : poor Carrie White starts the movie by having her first period in the shower at school, she thinks she’s dying because her religious whack-job of a mom is too chickenshit to tell her about menstruation, she gets teased mercilessly by all the girls who witness her uncomfortable (to say the least) entry into womanhood, she has no friends to speak of, she’s stuck with a bunch of telekinetic powers that she doesn’t understand or know how to effectively control, she’s the butt of every cruel joke her classmates play, she has to listen to her idiot mother blather nonsense 24/7,  she gets invited to the prom as by the most popular kid in school strictly as an act of misguided charity, and then, just when she’s granted one moment of respite from the nonstop parade of tragedy that comprises her existence when she’s crowned world’s most unlikely  prom queen, she gets a bucket full of pig blood dumped all over her, freaks out and kills everybody with her “mind powers,” and goes home from the best/worst night of her life to find that mommie dearest has decided to kill her in Jesus’ name.

Talk about a gal who just can’t catch a break.

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Sure, it all seems a bit over the top — okay, it all is a bit over the top — but DePalma pulls out all the stops to draw you into this sordid little world of revival tent-reject parents (Piper Laurie), evil high school bitches (Nancy Allen), pussy-whipped wannabe-tough guys (John Travolta), well-meaning but ultimately ineffectual teachers (Betty Buckley), semi-guilt-ridden classmates (Amy Irving), jocks with out of control white-guy ‘fros (William Katt), and grounds the whole heady mixture in a turn-for-the-ages performance by Spacek that really makes you feel for the poor kid even — maybe especially — when she finally snaps. His always-stylish-and-inventive use of sound, split screen, and slow-burn tension keep you pretty well fixated on the proceedings throughout, and all in all you’ve just gotta say this still holds up as a pretty impressive cinematic achievement.

Of course, King hit on a fairly inventive little gimmick from the outset here — plenty of horror stories, fairy tales, fables, and probably even  nursery rhymes are little more than thinly-disguised metaphors for the onset of puberty and the scary transition from childhood into the ‘adult” world, but here he just dispensed with the pretense and doubled-down by ripping the mask off and piling the real, actual, non-metaphorical point on top of the , as we say in modern parlance, “genre trappings,” and as a result ended up penning a scary story for the ages.

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Classic visuals — you know, like the one reproduced directly above — hammer the point home in memorable fashion, to be sure, and what Carrie lacks in subtlety it definitely makes up for in sheer, shock-ya-senseless power. Audiences went wild for this flick back in ’76, and while that might not be saying much because they also went apeshit for every cheesy “patriotic” bicentennial gimmick, knick-knack, gee-gaw, and useless item of “home decor” that came out that year, in this case they were absolutely right — this is a nifty little barnburner of a movie that has aged as well as any wine you care to mention.

Carrie is aviailable on DVD and Blu-Ray from MGM, and it’s also currently playing on Netflix’s instant streaming queue, where it can be found under no less than three category headers — “horror,” “Halloween favorites,” and “cult movies.” So go check it out already — or check it out again already, as the case may be — and we’ll talk about that other  movie with the same title next time around.