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RANDOMLY RADICAL BAGFUL OF ECLECTIC REVIEWS PART ONE

James Daughton drives Dan & Chevy YEAR: 1986 Score: ***
SPIES LIKE US: Dan Aykroyd could have made the perfect straight man here. With technical jargon and a brain like a computer, it's extremely strange that director John Landis has him acting equally the buffoon as Chevy Chase, who'd have been a terrific sole clown: only here that role's stepped-on by a partner sharing absolutely zero chemistry within this remake of the old Bob Hope/Bing Crosby "Road" movies of long ago...

Making this an obvious attempt to get the Original SNL fanbase into the goofy and outdated, adventure-comedy template the director (and his generation) grew up on: the story of two expendables used as phony spies overseas, from the Arab desert to snowy Russia into a nuclear plot-line as dated as it comes, has involving moments while the journey provides safe popcorn-chomping entertainment value. And there are few decent one-liners... that which could've been uttered by any comic actor. Unlike Landis's THE BLUES BROTHERS or TRADING PLACES, the talent isn't retrofit into the surroundings. Instead, Dan and Chevy seem like guest stars in someone else's picture, and, this being nostalgic homage, perhaps they are.

Year: 1942 Rating: ***1/2
MOONTIDE: A better title than movie, and it's a strange movie at that. Not just because of an intentionally surreal barroom scene with the headless body of a woman/barfly with her head speaking a few feet away as our hero Jean Gabin reaches for a beer, trying to communicate with the headless body...

This during a night of blackout drinking; after which he feels falsely responsible for a murder heard about the next day, and there's a twist...

Creepy louse Thomas Mitchell is Gabin's partner, keeping him on a blackmail tightrope because of a likewise strangling murder that happened years earlier... Which only randomly gets in the way of perhaps the breeziest romance in Noirish Melodrama history. After rescuing Ida Lupino from drowning, Gabin's Bo Bo takes her to the live-bait waterfront shack where he'd started work counting fish. A hollow yet optimistic existence with only a dog by side, and, throw in a bizarre, philosophizing and existential sidekick in Claude Rains, not much really happens but it's nice seeing Gabin doing just that.

Groucho Marx getting screwed YEAR: 1968
SKIDOO: Otto Preminger probably didn't realize the Film Noir classics he made... especially with Dana Andrews... were psychedelic for their time, with a camera-gliding flow, even way back then, and there is NO flow here in the 1960's when flowing supposedly meant everything... In fact the camera's mostly stagnant, glued upon the now infamous idiocy as if SKIDOO were a two-hour Laugh-In skit...

Alexandra Hay painted in Skidoo
Take it from a former teen who, among a myriad of trips, dropped two tabs of acid to watch the VHS tapes PINK FLOYD LIVE IN POMPEII (decades before the terrible director's cut DVD) and then, after two tabs more, Bob Dylan DON'T LOOK BACK...

The latter who Preminger, experimenting with LSD at the time, wanted to score this mess about a mob hit-man... played by Jackie Gleason married to an intentionally annoying Carol Channing... sentenced to a futuristic-looking Alcatraz who decides NOT to kill a friend/convict ratting on the chief mobster because... well... all that doesn't matter but at the same time, the plot's always being pushed at the audience, which is what NOT to do when trying to make something relevant to, or entertaining for, cinema-going Acid-Heads: But no matter the target audience, SKIDOO is just plain bad and worse than that, completely boring.

Skiddo SCORES: *
And the otherwise talented Harry Nilsson's soundtrack is like brain-dead children's music. Which is how the cookie-cutter young hippies are depicted (led by a wooden John Phillip Law and a gorgeous Alexandra Hay) against the backdrop of a zany mafia-crime-genre parody starring horribly exploited has-been old-timers...

Mickey Rooney to Slim Pickens to Fred Clark to Groucho Marx wind up tripping on acid while acting as if they drank too much champagne at a wedding: Proving it's an extremely difficult if impossible high to imitate since people don't act one way or another on acid...

Cameras don't capture the electrified flashes in one's mind that makes exterior images pulsate (manipulating what's actually already there as opposed to making the user hallucinate what's not... which happens after days on speed, not LSD). And that baking/baked brain MUST HAVE good music to REALLY work, so... Tune in and drop out, fine: But not here, because, if you don't have a bad trip you'll have a downright lousy one.

Year: 1983 Rating: ***1/2
MAKING OF A MALE MODEL: Here's proof that the term "Cougar" wasn't invented to mean what it does now, back in the 1983 television movie when Joan Collins, famously considered the iconic DYNASTY Cougar i.e. seducer of younger men, describes how she sees Jon-Erik Hexum's would-be model, who she had talks into going from a manly Texas stuntman to a New York model...

"A cougar," she describes what she plans to eventually make of him, "ready to pounce!"

And also dated is when Hexum's Tyler Burnett complains about gay hairdressers when Collins, as successful agent Kay Dillon, points out that they go with the show-biz territory: one that Hexum is able to realistically combat with enough reluctance to not seem awkward that such a perfect-looking guy wouldn't have considered modelling in the first place (plus he'd soon meet a cool, unpretentious gay guy that'd become his best friend)...

Male Models Jeff Conaway & Jon Erik Hexum
He quickly learns the ropes, to climb the fashion rungs, leaning on Jeff Conaway's has-been model roommate (the gay friend) for Shakespearean-delivered advice while hitting auditions and strategic disco nightspots. But MAKING fails with another hard if impossible device to grasp (or recover from): That Hexum, star of the series VOYAGERS and soon cast in COVER-UP before his famous accidental death, would fall so pathetically hard for Joan: The rest of the Movie-of-the-Week melts into a sappy Lifestyle Channel romance, in reverse...

Here it's a guy that... despite quickly hitting it off with gorgeous girl-next-door Tamara Stafford, the next year's scream queen in THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART II... trades sappy, love-crushed seats in a role usually written for the ingenue: "Turned around," Joan says, "with an accent on you men!" And in that, it would have given the actress an interesting performance rather than Joan simply floating down river while Hexum, by wielding his laidback, humble persona, keeps from drowning in it.

year: 1957
WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION: Another extremely overrated classic, and this one always compared to Otto Preminger's ANATOMY OF A MURDER, and Billy Wilder's stagey direction of an Agatha Christie stage-play mystery of WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION couldn't be more different...

Ruta Lee & Tyrone Power WITNESS Rates: ***
The first is an existential courtroom drama about a man who's entirely guilty of murder; and here it's obvious someone's not telling the truth. Either a horribly aged once-perfect-looking Tyrone Power (with a gorgeous trophy in the wings played by Ruta Lee, pictured)...

He's accused of killing a rich old lady befriended for need of a loan on an egg-beating invention (?), or the title character in Marlene Dietrich, who gives the best performance overall, especially having to do with a twist that really only works in repose. Meanwhile, the always great acting team of Charles Laughton, as the flawed defense consul of the English Court, and real-life (contrived) wife Elsa Lanchester, are only pretty good here, going back and forth more like another kind of stage play. Comedy, perhaps. Which simply doesn't fit here, and with everything mounting to the last five minutes, like mysteries do, this isn't one for rewatching: another major difference between ANATOMY, a true classic that really needs a divorce (like GOODFELLAS from CASINO) from this otherwise semi-decent courtroom melodrama.

Year of Release: 1953 Score: **
CITY BENEATH THE SEA: What a complete letdown, and this coming from someone who loves movies about treasure hunters. Unfortunately, the main character, played by a stiff Robert Ryan, is so uptight, not only does he NOT go along with more energetic and assertive partner Anthony Quinn, to find gold on a sunken ship in a literal CITY BENEATH THE SEA from a volcano explosion hundreds of years ago...

Suzan Ball
But he moves in to snake the booty first, just to teach his partner a lesson: A lesson is also taught to the audience, who must weather this bland fine-feathered friend who's also an extremely weak central hero, keeping this movie from being edgy, or entertaining: And the two lovely ingenues are both gorgeous, and initially tough, independent and assertive, making their characters mean more than just looks and providing a built-in feeling of suspense within the anticipated romance. One is the captain of a small boat (Mala Powers) and the other a calypso singer (Suzan Ball, Lucy O'Ball's cousin, who would of cancer die soon after)...

But without Ryan or Quinn having to do much at all, both ladies melt to their touch in such a pathetic way. The singer actually asks Quinn, "What are you thinking?" after they'd known each other ten minutes. Meanwhile, as a b-movie, the low budget is deliberate, and mostly works... including scenes of the boys trudging in heavy "Diver Dan" style underwater gear with matte painted backgrounds. The technicolor is great looking, and otherwise these are capable actors and actresses. But this oceanic thriller is devoid of thrills, and pretty much... sinks upon impact.

Year: 1968 Score: **
THE BOSTON STRANGLER: Director Richard Fleischer's Police Procedural biopic, using the multi-screen effect ala MEDIUM COOL and THE THOMAS CROWNE AFFAIR, only works only until Tony Curtis is revealed as real life killer Albert DeSalvo, who, at the time this movie was made, was thought of as having multiple personalities, and, when filming started DeSalvo had escaped from the mental institution where he was to spend, most likely, the rest of his life: What's truly insane is the authorities thought a husband with two children and a full-time job (at a furnace) would kill eleven women without knowing exactly what he was doing, and how or why he was doing it...

The most effective scenes occurs within each crime, sans the culprit, while Henry Fonda makes a literally weak/passive lead protagonist, replacing comparably effective and edgy, every-man detective George Kennedy, who started out on the killers' trail: one that eventually hits a prolonged dead end and, socially liberal in all the worst ways, THE BOSTON STRANGLER makes a psychic seem logical, a psychologist completely infallible, and this particular madman a victim. And an uninteresting one at that. 
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