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 What Art/World/HW Films Have You Been Watching?
Gary Painter
Posted: Mar 3 2012, 01:13 PM


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Park Circus, the Glasgow-based distributor who showcased the new digital print of La Mort En Direct at the Glasgow Film Festival last week, will be giving it a wider release later this year, followed by a release on home formats - it's been available on French DVD in a number of issues for a while now, although I believe the most recent one, although cheap on Amazon France, has forced French subtitles if you select the English soundtrack.

Were you at the GFT screening Alan? Did they film the Q&A with Tavernier afterwards, for possible inclusion in a UK DVD/Blu release?

I've got an early 80s Beta version of it which features quite the most horrendously primitive pan-and-scanning I've ever seen!
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Alan Maxwell
Posted: Mar 3 2012, 07:00 PM


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Gary, I have the French DVD with the forced subs but have never got round to watching it - I kept meaning to get some software to remove them but am too lazy, and I'm glad as I really am happy to have seen it for the first time on the big screen. As you guessed, I was indeed at the Glasgow fest screening - an added joy was then seeing Keitel wandering around the exact spot where I'd parked my car while I came to see the film - and am delighted to see Park Circus continuing their excellent work.

Unfortunately I had to skip the Q&A afterwards due to timing. No idea if they were recording it for the re-release but I'm assuming they'll be doing something anyway given that I think they arranged his appearance in Glasgow.

Here's a few minutes of the director talking about it:
Tavernier discusses Death Watch in Glasgow

And Mark, re: BLACKTHORN, I saw this at the same festival and am equally grateful that it was on the big screen. Definitely where it deserves to be seen.
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Marty McKee
Posted: Mar 3 2012, 10:19 PM


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GUNFIGHTERS OF ABILENE (1960)—Directed by Edward L. Cahn. Stars Buster Crabbe, Barton MacLane, Rachel Ames. The great serial and cowboy star Buster Crabbe wrapped up his leading-man career with this independent production. He was 51 years old, still barrel-chested, and too rich from various investments and commercial ventures to continue eating dust on the Iverson Ranch. Hack writer (in the best sense) Orville H. Hampton (THE ATOMIC SUBMARINE) penned this tale of Kip Tanner (Crabbe), a gunfighter who returns to Abilene in response to a letter from his younger brother Gene. He faces an unfriendly reception from the townspeople and the law, who all believe Gene fled with $68,000 belonging to his fellow ranchers. Kip, of course, can’t believe his brother is a crook and pokes around to find an answer. Standing in his way: wealthy Seth Hainline (MacLean), who wants the deed to Gene’s Double T Ranch.

As directed by Cahn and produced by Robert E. Kent, GUNFIGHTERS OF ABILENE is solid but unspectacular and lacking in action. The old story of a gunfighter seeking redemption in clearing his brother’s name may as well be an episode of SUGARFOOT or even a ‘20s silent western for all the pep that Hampton puts into it. It’s always surprising the townspeople in these programmers never figure out for themselves how evil the rich baddie is until a handsome stranger proves it, though to be fair, I guess they never saw any B-westerns. Hell, GUNFIGHTERS is only 67 minutes long and not exactly boring, so it isn’t the worst way to kill time on a Saturday. Also with Richard Devon, Lee Farr, Russell Thorson, Hank Patterson, and Eugenia Paul.


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William S. Wilson
Posted: Mar 4 2012, 01:36 PM


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THE DOMINO PRINCIPLE (1977) - Vietnam vet and convicted killer Tucker (Gene Hackman) is spending his time rotting away in jail until a mysterious organization springs him because he is the man to do a job for them. The organization is never named and the audience's only exposure is through several operatives (Richard Widmark, Eli Wallach, Edward Albert) who manipulate Tucker into pulling off an assassination by threatening the life of his wife (Candice Bergen). This Stanley Kramer thriller is a pretty frustrating experience as it vacillates from interesting to pretentious to downright idiotic. The pretension emerges with a pre-credit sequence talking about the manipulation of man ("How do you know you weren't manipulated to coming to this theater?") and extends to the film's intentionally vague assassination plot. I get it, conspiracy theories are great but you can't have the ominous bad guys so damn mysterious that the lead asks, "Who are you guys?" an hour into the film. The idiocy comes from some of the actions of Hackman's character. Early on the organization shows their power by killing off his lawyer after he meets him once. Yet, once reunited with his wife, he leaves her alone on several occasions, allowing the bad guys to snatch her over and over again. The overly paranoid script is downright incomprehensible at times, suggesting either studio interference or the belief that the actors will make anything look good. It is a shame too because there are some wonderful locations and, outside of Bergen, there is good acting from everyone. Particularly noteworthy is Albert as the oily "brains" of the operation. It is essential viewing for anyone who has a desire to see Mickey Rooney twirl his nipple hair though.


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Marty McKee
Posted: Mar 4 2012, 02:22 PM


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QUOTE (William S. Wilson @ Mar 4 2012, 01:36 PM)
THE DOMINO PRINCIPLE (1977) - Vietnam vet and convicted killer Tucker (Gene Hackman) is spending his time rotting away in jail until a mysterious organization springs him because he is the man to do a job for them. The organization is never named and the audience's only exposure is through several operatives (Richard Widmark, Eli Wallach, Edward Albert) who manipulate Tucker into pulling off an assassination by threatening the life of his wife (Candice Bergen). This Stanley Kramer thriller is a pretty frustrating experience as it vacillates from interesting to pretentious to downright idiotic. The pretension emerges with a pre-credit sequence talking about the manipulation of man ("How do you know you weren't manipulated to coming to this theater?") and extends to the film's intentionally vague assassination plot. I get it, conspiracy theories are great but you can't have the ominous bad guys so damn mysterious that the lead asks, "Who are you guys?" an hour into the film. The idiocy comes from some of the actions of Hackman's character. Early on the organization shows their power by killing off his lawyer after he meets him once. Yet, once reunited with his wife, he leaves her alone on several occasions, allowing the bad guys to snatch her over and over again. The overly paranoid script is downright incomprehensible at times, suggesting either studio interference or the belief that the actors will make anything look good. It is a shame too because there are some wonderful locations and, outside of Bergen, there is good acting from everyone. Particularly noteworthy is Albert as the oily "brains" of the operation. It is essential viewing for anyone who has a desire to see Mickey Rooney twirl his nipple hair though.

Yep, the film is a real mess, and Bergen is terrible (though the problem may be her obvious miscasting as a West Virginian housewife, rather than her performance). I like the opening half-hour that asks all the intriguing questions, but then they aren't answered adequately, and it all eventually falls apart copying GET CARTER.

I've been sitting on Adam Kennedy's novel for awhile, wondering if I should read it. Presumably, it was good enough to make a studio want to adapt it.


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William S. Wilson
Posted: Mar 4 2012, 03:52 PM


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QUOTE (Marty McKee @ Mar 4 2012, 02:22 PM)
and it all eventually falls apart copying GET CARTER.

You're totally right. In fact, it ends with almost the exact same shot.


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Marty McKee
Posted: Mar 4 2012, 10:47 PM


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THE HIDDEN HAND (1942)—Directed by Ben Stoloff. Stars Craig Stevens, Elisabeth Fraser, Cecil Cunningham, Milton Parsons, Julie Bishop, Willie Best. Lorinda Channing (Cunningham), the matriarch of the Channing family, breaks her brother John (Parsons), a homicidal maniac, out of the insane asylum he was sentenced to ten years earlier and disguises him as her new butler. Just for laughs, she fakes her own death and leaves a message about a fortune in cash hidden somewhere in the house that belongs to whoever finds it.

Her plan is to sneak around the house’s secret passages with John and watch her greedy nephews and their wives, whom she despises, try to find the money. For John, the house is a playground for murder, and the scary-looking Parsons is great sneaking around, wrapped in a cape, dropping poison pills into water pitchers, strangling people, or just hiding in a corner gleefully watching his victims step into deadly booby traps.

Fraser as Mary Winfield, Lorinda’s secretary, and future TV star Stevens (PETER GUNN) as Mary’s attorney boyfriend play the heroes, and Best provides broad comic relief as the cowardly black chauffeur. Best is a gifted performer, but his scaredy-cat routine becomes tiresome after the third or fourth occasion of him thinking he’s seeing a ghost, freaking out, but unable to convince the others of what he saw.

Not that THE HIDDEN HAND needs comic relief, because it’s funny enough as it is. Seeing the Channing rats get their just desserts is frequently hilarious, and the death of the Japanese cook (HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL’s Tong) is awesome. Packed with amusing surprises (the scene of the doctor getting framed for murder is simply brilliant) and skillfully paced at 66 minutes, THE HIDDEN HAND is a wonderful treat for mystery fans. Also with Frank Wilcox, Ruth Ford, Tom Stevenson, Roland Drew, Inez Gay, Marian Hall, George Guhl, and Monte Blue.


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Brian Camp
Posted: Mar 5 2012, 10:04 AM


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QUOTE (Marty McKee @ Mar 4 2012, 10:47 PM)
THE HIDDEN HAND (1942)—Directed by Ben Stoloff. Stars Craig Stevens, Elisabeth Fraser, Cecil Cunningham, Milton Parsons, Julie Bishop, Willie Best. Lorinda Channing (Cunningham), the matriarch of the Channing family, breaks her brother John (Parsons), a homicidal maniac, out of the insane asylum he was sentenced to ten years earlier and disguises him as her new butler. Just for laughs, she fakes her own death and leaves a message about a fortune in cash hidden somewhere in the house that belongs to whoever finds it.

Her plan is to sneak around the house’s secret passages with John and watch her greedy nephews and their wives, whom she despises, try to find the money. For John, the house is a playground for murder, and the scary-looking Parsons is great sneaking around, wrapped in a cape, dropping poison pills into water pitchers, strangling people, or just hiding in a corner gleefully watching his victims step into deadly booby traps.

Fraser as Mary Winfield, Lorinda’s secretary, and future TV star Stevens (PETER GUNN) as Mary’s attorney boyfriend play the heroes, and Best provides broad comic relief as the cowardly black chauffeur. Best is a gifted performer, but his scaredy-cat routine becomes tiresome after the third or fourth occasion of him thinking he’s seeing a ghost, freaking out, but unable to convince the others of what he saw.

Not that THE HIDDEN HAND needs comic relief, because it’s funny enough as it is. Seeing the Channing rats get their just desserts is frequently hilarious, and the death of the Japanese cook (HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL’s Tong) is awesome. Packed with amusing surprises (the scene of the doctor getting framed for murder is simply brilliant) and skillfully paced at 66 minutes, THE HIDDEN HAND is a wonderful treat for mystery fans. Also with Frank Wilcox, Ruth Ford, Tom Stevenson, Roland Drew, Inez Gay, Marian Hall, George Guhl, and Monte Blue.

Sounds like a great part for cadaverous character actor Milton Parsons, who always had great bits in films like this but was never onscreen for very long. Does he have a significant role here?

I recently saw him play a prissy English teacher directing a high school performance of "Romeo & Juliet" in the old TV series, "National Velvet," and he was hilarious.


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Marty McKee
Posted: Mar 5 2012, 10:11 AM


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QUOTE (Brian Camp @ Mar 5 2012, 10:04 AM)

Sounds like a great part for cadaverous character actor Milton Parsons, who always had great bits in films like this but was never onscreen for very long. Does he have a significant role here?

Yes. Parsons' role runs throughout the movie, and he's terrific in this dark comedy.


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Bob Cashill
Posted: Mar 5 2012, 10:12 AM


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The mid-70s were a down period for Hackman. NIGHT MOVES is a great movie, but it, like all his lesser credits, failed. SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE restored his boxoffice mojo, as I'm sure he intended.

Kramer was about finished, with only I think THE RUNNER STUMBLES left to come. (Not a great title to end on, but apt.) He was trying as always to grapple with cultural change but not really getting there. On TCM recently and out as a Sony MOD is BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN, which is at least more sustained throughout, with a good Billy Mumy performance (I hardly recognized Miles Chapin, who had dropped a lot of weight by the end of the 70s).


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Shawn Garrett
Posted: Mar 5 2012, 05:25 PM


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I went to the AFI to see Jacque Tati's PLAY TIME for the first time ever. I cried at the end and I can't even say why... something so inspiring about that traffic circle carousel, some lost childhood innocence of looking at the world gone forever...
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William S. Wilson
Posted: Mar 6 2012, 02:46 PM


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FIND THE BLACKMAILER (1943) – I recently finished up the 6-film Warner Archive Mystery set. All of the films were entertaining (Marty just reviewed THE HIDDEN HAND above and SH! THE OCTOPUS in the cult thread), but this one turned out to be one of the best. Down-on-his-luck detective D.L. Trees (Jerome Cowan) is hired by Mayoral candidate John Rhodes (Gene Lockhart) in order to find a real-life crow. Seems this porky politician is being blackmailed by a mystery person who claims the crow can utter some scandalous material about the man (I guess the courts were more accepting of evidence back in the day). While the plot doesn’t sound like much, this one is highly enjoyable thanks to the performances and snappy dialogue. Cowan, who was Bogart’s doomed partner in THE MALTESE FALCON (1941), sort of resembles John Waters and his Trees character is a hoot. He is always cracking wise ("the last four plays she was in had to be raided,” he says of the femme fatale’s stage skills) but is always one step ahead of the cops. The plot may be absurd (yes, a political candidate is scared of a bird ratting him out in a court of law), but director D. Ross Lederman keeps it moving so fast for its 55-minute length that you won’t be that bothered.


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Marty McKee
Posted: Mar 7 2012, 05:17 PM


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THE CRUEL TOWER (1956)—Directed by Lew Landers. Stars John Ericson, Mari Blanchard, Charles McGraw, Steve Brodie, Peter Whitney. Manly men and the manly things they do are the focus of this Allied Artists potboiler. Tramp Tom Kitttredge (Ericson, later on HONEY WEST) is mugged and tossed off a moving train. He’s taken in by Stretch Clay (McGraw), the boss of a small group of traveling steeplejacks that includes friendly Casey (Brodie), dull-witted Joss (Whitney), and bad girl Mary (Blanchard), also known as The Babe. Their latest job is a water tower, which is ably reconstructed on a soundstage for the actors (the rear screen projection is excellent) while stuntmen (or possibly actual steeplejacks) nimbly leap about the real thing for Landers’ camera. The manly stuff is mostly fighting—in bars, with rival steeplejacks, or with each other over women. Sometimes they even fight with rival steeplejacks in bars. It’s certainly an interesting milieu for a melodrama. Warren Douglas’ screenplay travels tried-and-true territory, but the acting is good, and Landers (HOT ROD GANG) keeps it all rolling along at a good clip. Give credit to director of photography Ernest Haller and his crew for schlepping their equipment way up there to get high POV shots. Also with Alan Hale Jr., Dick Rich, Carol Kelly, and Stafford Repp. Score by Paul Dunlap.


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Brian Camp
Posted: Mar 10 2012, 01:20 PM


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Since I finally got a scanner and can scan my old photos into the computer now, I dug out some of my old photos of 42nd Street and scanned them. I'll be doing an occasional series on 42nd Street theaters on my blog (link in my signature). The first entry is about LAST ACTION HERO and its use of 42nd Street as background for several scenes. I use some of the photos I took of the street when it was tricked up with fake marquee titles for the shoot.

Here's a teaser:
user posted image



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Alan Maxwell
Posted: Mar 11 2012, 12:06 PM


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SING YOUR SONG (2011) - Susanne Rostock's documentary on the life and work of Harry Belafonte occasionally borders on hero worship but never quite tips into hagiography thanks largely to the new footage of the man himself who grounds the film with his somewhat humble and honest interview. While there's no doubting Belafonte's entertainment legacy the film covers his more political side in equal depth and this proves to be the more interesting side of the story. From the civil rights campaigns in the USA to his ongoing efforts in global justice the film paints a portrait of a man determined to make the world a better place, whether it's through the racism that directly stood in the way of his career or issues on the other side of the world. Mobians will also no doubt be interested in the few minutes devoted to his forays into independent movies such as The World, the Flesh and the Devil.

MARY REILLY (1996) - Stephen Frears takes the wonderful story of Jekyll and Hyde and turns it into a dull period romance in this British flick which tells the story from the point of view of a servant girl (Jula Roberts) hired to work for Henry Jekyll. Perhaps it's because the book is a favourite of mine but I just thought this film was a real misfire from start to finish. If you're going to take the focus away from the main protagonist(s) of the novel you want something interesting to replace it with, but a shy servant with father issues in this case doesn't cut the mustard. Aside from the lack of action, one significant problem lies with the casting of Jekyll/Hyde himself. Apart from the fact that both men (played by John Malkovich) don't look that different, Malkovich always plays a bit creepy and unhinged and therefore further limits the contrast between the two characters. On the positive side, I was pleasantly surprised by Julia Roberts. I am not a fan but I have to admit that, apart from the weak attempt at an Irish accent, this is a really strong performance, one of the best I've seen her give and probably the main reason to watch the film.

JO NESBO'S HEADHUNTERS (2011) - the vogue for Scandinavian crime continues with this latest book-to-film translation about a man who holds onto his high-maintenance partner by carrying out a secret life as an art thief. The lure of a spectacular heist proves too much and opens a can of worms that leads to a trail of mayhem and murder across the country. I'm not familiar with the source so can't comment on its faithfulness, but can say that I enjoyed this rip-roaring ride from start to finish. Sure, far-fetched doesn't even begin to describe some of the set pieces but it's always thrilling and the next big twist is never far away so you are afforded very little time to stop and get hung up on the more outlandish details. The only real problem I had (and it's a minor one) is that the main actor is so obviously wearing a hairpiece that I spent a lot of the film waiting for it to be justified. That's a small distraction however from a really enjoyable movie that could easily be North by Northwest's younger European cousin in the thriller stakes.

IRVINE WELSH's ECSTASY (2011) - if only I'd had as much fun with this book adaptation - or indeed even a fraction of it. Drugs, drinking, swearing and Edinburgh nightlife - you know what to expect from Welsh's tale but it's far from another Trainspotting or even The Acid House. Although still set in Scotland, the film is a Canadian production and mixes Scottish talent (Adam Sinclair, Billy Boyd) with some international cast members. The latter is real mixed bag with Keram Malicki-Sanchez sporting one of the worst Scottish accents I've heard but Smallville's Kristen Kreuk being one of the few people who looks like she knows what she's doing. Everyone else is pretty forgettable. Everything about the film's look feels like it's trying to be another Trainspotting - apparently oblivious to the fact that about a decade and a half have passed since then - but there is no budget or talent to match. One in-joke referring to Danny Boyle's film is the solitary highlight of this one, but that does not invite a favourable comparison. Probably the worst film I've seen in a cinema this year.
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Marty McKee
Posted: Mar 11 2012, 07:53 PM


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QUOTE (William S. Wilson @ Mar 6 2012, 02:46 PM)
FIND THE BLACKMAILER (1943) – I recently finished up the 6-film Warner Archive Mystery set. All of the films were entertaining (Marty just reviewed THE HIDDEN HAND above and SH! THE OCTOPUS in the cult thread), but this one turned out to be one of the best. Down-on-his-luck detective D.L. Trees (Jerome Cowan) is hired by Mayoral candidate John Rhodes (Gene Lockhart) in order to find a real-life crow. Seems this porky politician is being blackmailed by a mystery person who claims the crow can utter some scandalous material about the man (I guess the courts were more accepting of evidence back in the day). While the plot doesn’t sound like much, this one is highly enjoyable thanks to the performances and snappy dialogue. Cowan, who was Bogart’s doomed partner in THE MALTESE FALCON (1941), sort of resembles John Waters and his Trees character is a hoot. He is always cracking wise ("the last four plays she was in had to be raided,” he says of the femme fatale’s stage skills) but is always one step ahead of the cops. The plot may be absurd (yes, a political candidate is scared of a bird ratting him out in a court of law), but director D. Ross Lederman keeps it moving so fast for its 55-minute length that you won’t be that bothered.

FIND THE BLACKMAILER (1943)—Directed by D. Ross Lederman. Stars Jerome Cowan, Faye Emerson, Gene Lockhart, Marjorie Hoshelle, John Harmon, Bradley Page. I suspect this incredibly short Warner Brothers B-picture is tweaking THE MALTESE FALCON. It even casts that film’s Miles Archer—actor Jerome Cowan—as another private detective, D.L. Trees. Mayoral candidate John Rhodes (Lockhart) hires Trees to track down a talking crow trained to chatter, among other incriminating phrases, “Don’t kill me, Rhodes!” The “bird fancier” who trained the crow is blackmailing Rhodes and is quickly found murdered, which puts the politician in a real jam. This 55-minute feature features typically frenetic Warners pacing and has enough dialogue to fill ninety minutes. Suspects include bookie Farrell (Page), the birdman’s assistant (venerable character actor Harmon, who was still active in the 1970s), and scandalous stage actress Mona Vance (game show mainstay Emerson). The performances are entertaining, particularly the wisecracking Cowan and Hoshelle, who shares smart chemistry with her leading man as Trees’ loyal secretary. Also with Wade Boteler, Robert Kent, and Ralph Peters. Director Lederman also made Lone Wolf and Boston Blackie mysteries.


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Marty McKee
Posted: Mar 12 2012, 08:31 PM


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RACQUET (1979)—Directed by David Winters. Stars Bert Convy, Lynda Day George, Phil Silvers, Edie Adams. Star Convy, most famous for hosting TATTLETALES, SUPER PASSWORD, and WIN, LOSE OR DRAW, claims to have rewritten this $850,000 comedy released by tiny Cal-Am Artists, a company known for classy films like THE ONE MAN JURY and THE TOOLBOX MURDERS. Why Bert wanted to take credit for this crass, juvenile, and unfunny tennis comedy, well, he took his reasons to the grave (brain tumor in 1991). However, considering credited writers Steve Michaels and Earle Doud’s resumes range from The Osmonds’ Saturday morning cartoon show to the hardcore PANORAMA BLUE, it’s unlikely Convy could have destroyed their RACQUET script too badly, and inept director Winters (SPACE MUTINY) would undoubtedly have messed it up no matter how good it was. Four credited editors and two directors of photography smell like production problems too.

Even if Convy hadn’t admitted to Boxoffice magazine he had rewritten the screenplay, you might have guessed anyway, because his character, Tommy Everett, is awesome. Tommy is a Beverly Hills tennis instructor who drives a Porsche, plays Bjorn Borg (cameoing as himself) to a standstill, and has every woman of all ages fall in immediate lust with him. Even teenagers and gay hookers on Hollywood Boulevard flip for him. Everett, in danger of being pushed aside at his country club in favor of a 22-year-old stud, plans to open his own tennis school. He needs a $200,000 down payment and hopes he can get it from one of the middle-aged housewives he’s been shtupping.

Convy may have had some heat coming off SEMI-TOUGH, but he’s terrible here and just not capable of carrying a comedy. RACQUET is packed with sex, race, gay, and fat jokes, but hilariously attempts to also play the romance card with a relationship between Everett and old flame Monica (George) that includes that always unwelcome trope of the 1970s: the slow-motion montage that includes kite flying on the beach, feeding each other, and slow kisses in the hot tub. A very bad movie, but your one chance to see Sgt. Bilko gobbling in a turkey suit. Also with Bobby Riggs, Katherine Moffat, Tanya Roberts, Bruce Kimmel, Terry Lester (ARK II), Monti Rock, Dick Yarmy, Ilie Nastase, and Susan Tyrell.


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William S. Wilson
Posted: Mar 12 2012, 09:24 PM


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QUOTE (Marty McKee @ Mar 12 2012, 08:31 PM)
RACQUET (1979)

...but your one chance to see Sgt. Bilko gobbling in a turkey suit.

For those not brave enough to view the film:

user posted image


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Patrick Lefcourt
Posted: Mar 13 2012, 09:03 AM


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QUOTE (Marty McKee @ Mar 13 2012, 02:31 AM)
RACQUET (1979) -- credited writers Steve Michaels and Earle Doud’s resumes range from The Osmonds’ Saturday morning cartoon show to the hardcore PANORAMA BLUE, it’s unlikely Convy could have destroyed their RACQUET script too badly

Don't know about Steve Michaels, but Earle Doud was a writer and co-producer (with Bob Booker) of "The First Family" comedy record, which won a Grammy and sold a zillion copies prior to 11/22/63. Doud and Booker split soon after and co-produced their own respective political satire albums, with Doud doing a couple of LBJ ones (including "Lyndon Johnson's Lonely Heart's Club Band"), one or two Nixon-related recordings with David Frye, and "The First Family Rides Again" with Rich Little as Ronald Reagan. Booker didn't have any better luck writing for film than Doud, considering THE PHYNX is on his resume.

This post has been edited by Patrick Lefcourt on Mar 13 2012, 09:03 AM
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Mark Tinta
Posted: Mar 16 2012, 08:40 PM


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MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (2011) - Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh, both Oscar nominees, are the whole show in this otherwise stale, predictable biopic based on the memoirs of Colin Clark, an ambitious go-getter who talked his way into a Third Assistant Director job on Laurence Olivier's 1957 film THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL. Clark is played by Eddie Redmayne, but the film is all Williams as Marilyn Monroe and Branagh as Olivier, both of whom inhabit their characters so thoroughly that they almost fool you into thinking this isn't as tired and cliched as it is. It's too bad such brilliant performances couldn't have been in something other than transparent Weinstein Company Oscar bait. We learn nothing about Marilyn Monroe that we didn't know before watching: she's on pills, she's got psychological issues, men easily fall under her spell, she's fickle and flighty, etc. Williams deserves a lot of credit for actually making Monroe a character instead of coasting on a Marilyn Monroe impression. Branagh, like Olivier, gets a little hammy on occasion, but he's brilliant still. But we know the drill. Colin will fall head over heels for this unattainable goddess who leads him on, he'll think he can "save" her, it'll jeopardize his chance at a real romance with a young studio assistant (Emma Watson), and all the guys at the inn he's booked at will laugh at his claims that he's working with Marilyn Monroe until she shows up at the inn to pick him up. Two great lead performances, but that's it. Also with Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh, Dougray Scott as Arthur Miller, Dominic Cooper, Zoe Wanamaker, Toby Jones, Jim Carter, and required-by-law appearances by Derek Jacobi and Judi Dench.


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