Wednesday, January 30, 2013

70's TV Week: Starsky and Hutch

Back again kids and this time with a cop drama.  Yes plainclothes cops busting down on the street crime, taking flack from the captain and deals with their snitches.  So grab a cup of coffee, sweat out the prisoner in interrogation and get the goods.   This is Starsky and Hutch.
Little old lady 120 pts!

The spoilers are cutting us off at every turn!

Defending the good citizens of Bay City California, Detective Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson (David Soul of Here Comes The Bride, Magnum Force, Salem’s Lot, World War III, Through Naked Eyes, The Yellow Rose and Tides of War) and Detective Dave Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser of Fiddler on the Roof, The Streets of San Francisco, The Waltons and Third Watch) work together, fight side by side and have the general friendship among men that are friends and partners.   Getting their orders from their commanding officer, Captain Dobey (Bernie Hamilton of Tarzan, The Swimmer, Walk the Walk, The Name of the Game, Hammer and Scream Blacula Scream)    Keeping their fingers on the pulse of the city Starsky and Hutch regularly squeeze their contact Huggy Bear (Antonio Fargas of Busting, Conrack, Foxy Brown, Carwash, The Ambush Murders, Crimewave and I’m Gonna Git You Sucka).  Armed with their wits, A Colt .45 and .357 Colt Python as well as usually Starsky’s 1974’s Ford Gran Torino the men of call sign Zebra Three, these no nonsense policemen, get their hands dirty and get the job done.  Occasionally they take Hutch’s battered Ford Galaxie and man it looks like a tank.
Dig it...

For most of the word on the street the fellas hit The Pits, Huggy Bear’s bar and while Huggy is supposed to be a bit of a rebel he always helps them out and in my opinion a fairly positive role model.  This is the first prime time series to show supporting black characters in a positive light for a change.  Writer and creator William Blinn (Bonanza, Shane, Here Come the Brides, The Interns, Hunter and Eight Is Enough)

While most cop shows are a gamble based on ratings, likability and coherent writing.  While I don’t think this series was that violent I am sure there was someone losing their marbles over it.  During season 4 the retuning the series made Glaser want to take off.  They attempted to bring in a younger brother of Starsky as some need to keep the title of the show but season 5 was eventually scraped and they passed on it all together.  There were even talks of a spin-off starring Huggy Bear as the main character but it did not make it past a 90 page screen treatment.  
Nah, not a big Stephen King fan.

With growing up with the era of CHiPs and Hill Street Blues, this gave buddy cop a decent definition and a sense of comradely to likes which seems to be duplicated again and again.  This was a diverting show, simple enough writing but with solid characters.
While Bay City may be fictional, Los Angeles San Pedro was not and by God a great location teeming for car chases and good gunfights.   Interestingly enough San Pedro’s Metro Division was used is the San Pedro City Hall these days.

70's TV Week: Vega$

What’s shakin’ babies?  Day 2 of 1970’s TV shows and I thought we need to examine the private investigator standing.  The place is Sin City itself and the adventures, hijinks and cases of damsels in distress.  Maybe a femme fatale or maybe a conspiracy but above all else, there will be leisure suits.  So grab a martini, turn on that hi-fi and kick back.  This is Vega$.
That cat can croon!

Spoilers can be a drag, man…

The year is 1978 in Las Vegas Nevada.  One would think that being a shamus in this town would be moot point given how secrets have a tendency to get out on its own but like any town husbands and wives are suspect of cheating on each other, water’s wet and the sky is blue.  An age of debauchery, devil may care attitude could put you in quite the pickle so at 200 buckaroos a day P.I. Dan Tanna (Robert Urich of Magnum Force, S.W.A.T., Soap, Tabitha, Spencer for Hire and Lonesome Dove) is on the case.  Hell or high water, possibly a dishy dame or two might distract him but his assistant Binzer (Bart Braverman of 20 Million Miles to Earth, Alligator, Hit and Run, The New Odd Couple and Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book) tries to help Tanna on the straight and narrow in the town full of gray areas.  
Of course I am too cool for letterbox. Why?

His mentor and reoccurring client Phillip “Slick” Roth (Tony Curtis of Some Like It Hot, The Sweet Smell of Success, The Defiant Ones, The Great Race, The Rat Race, Spartacus and Sex and the Single Girl) is the answer to Howard Hughes but less paranoia but dear God this man is too wealthy.  He flew a helicopter from one of his casinos over to the other.     Mind you Tanna has his eyes ever faithful to his lady friend Angie Turner (Judy Landers of Charlie’s Angels, B.J. and the Bear, Madame’s Place, The Love Boat and Stewardess School) a buxom blond that would turn a priest away from his vows.

 Now to keep in mind younger readers, you will be seeing buildings that Vegas ultimately decided to DESTROY!!!  That is I mean they felt this casinos were no longer of any use so if by chance you seen Dunes and are baffled well look to the leisure suits and disco belts and you will realize this is a timeline different from yours.   No you have not entered another dimension, you’re fine.   Writer/ Director/Producer Michael Mann (Starsky and Hutch, Crime Story, Miami Vice, Manhunter, and L.A. Takedown) cut his teeth under this project and started to develop his style of lighting, love of composure with dialogue and cut scenes.  With this project, the Miami Vice elements via episode blended so well that it translated to big film experiences such as: (Thief, Manhunter, Heat and Collateral).  
Who loves ya Tony?

 This has what you came to expect from a TV detective show; run ins with the cops,  fist fights via boxing, gunfights, car chases, car crashes, wooing the girl and getting bloody vindication sworn at him once a week.   Personally I would raise my rates to at least $500 a day but that’s just me.    Nice steady pace for a story arc to occur via the 1970’s as well.  I cannot help but agree.  Take your time and let the story envelop the audience.     Wisecracking, smart assed but built pretty boy with solid right hook, Dan Tanna does alright for himself but dear God do NOT let Binzer drive the T-bird man.   

Monday, January 28, 2013

70's TV Week: Battlestar Galactica

What’s happenin’ sports fans?   Back this week to bring you a view of television years past.  Some of which is thoroughly enjoyable, some slightly sexist and some very creative.  So strap in your cockpit, stand by my command and get ready to launch.  This is Battlestar Galactica.
Port nacelle needs polishing.

Spoilers may very well be the salvation of humanity…

Our series hails from the mind of TV producer and writer Glen Larson (Quincy, M.E.  , B. J. and the Bear, The Fall Guy, Magnum, P. I. and Knight Rider) bringing together a ragtag group of rebel fighters comprised of an ancient race of humanity.  Through this storyline it claims humanity was born far, far away in a completely other civilization before Earth had even formed bacteria.  The Twelve Colonies of Man or Kobol (The planet of humanity’s origin) separated to different portions of the galaxy to colonize various planets in the hopes of creating not so much an empire but a commonwealth.  The odd part is all these planets are roughly in the same binary star system (a celestial body of more than two stars in the same orbital rotation of one other) More than a thousand years has drug on in a war of Humans Vs the Cylons (A series of robots created to be warriors for a long dead reptilian race, it is speculated by many of the survivors of Galactica that the Cylons turned on their masters and wiped them out).
Starbuck is not a WOMAN!

One human man Count Baltar (John Colicos of Forbidden Journey, Anne of the Thousand Day, Raid on Rommel, Star Trek TOS, and The Starlost), traitor to the 12 Colonies apprised the Cylons on how best to wage a sneak attack thus annihilating the colonies in a vicious and swift battle.     220 ships left after this seething assault one lone capital warship Galactica protects the surviving homes as they search of a new home and a place for peace.  They embark on a quest (and who doesn’t love those?) to find the legendary 13th colony their history spoke of.  A planet designated as Earth.  Commander Adama (Lorne Greene of Bonanza, Sailor of Fortune, Earthquake, Roots, The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald and Galactica 1980) leads Galactica to the best of his abilities alongside his Executive officer Colonel Tigh (Terry Carter of The Phil Silvers Show, Foxy Brown, McCloud and Benji) they guide their overworked and understaffed fighter pilots and bridge crew to dangers untold.  Adama’s own son Apollo (Richard Hatch of Santa Barbara, All My Children, The Streets of San Francisco and Battlestar Galactica 2004 remake) is a fighter pilot alongside his buddies and fellow pilots Starbuck (Dirk Benedict of Chopper One, Charlie’s Angels, The A-Team, Murder She Wrote and Alaska) and Boomer (Herbert Jefferson Jr. of Detroit 9000, The Streets of San Francisco, World War III, The Devlin Connection and Apollo 13)

Here are little fun facts about the show for you all now.   All the colonies are both species of human and planet are named after the Zodiac constellations.  The bridge set cost of build was just shy of 2 hundred thousand dollars. This was the first weekly television series that budgeted over a million dollars per episode due to special effect processing the re-use of previous footage throughout the series when they could.  Don Johnson was up for the part of Starbuck but the Southern accent killed that gig for him.  Hmm Don Johnson as Starbuck…Interesting.  
Space...through fish eye lens.

Now this particular latter 70’s show lasted 22 episodes and was revived in 1980 as Galactica 1980 and unfortunately between the farfetched writing and lack of real coherent story telling it this series followed its predecessor.   Lasting all of 10 episodes it took 24 years to resurrect for a whole new generation, but that they say is another story.   Growing up with this show I enjoyed every facet with the exception of this unnecessary robo-dog Dagget.   Of course I found out later it was 3 different chimpanzees that got rotated in costume.   Bobo, put on the suit!  Bad Bobo!  No fling poop in suit!  Well this show had the feel of a Star Wars adventure, I didn't have to wait 3 to 5 years for it to be told.  Excitement, dogfights, gambling, wooing the pretty ladies.   Folks they are a bunch of space pirates and frankly I was alright with that.

70's TV Shows Week

Ladies and gentlemen!  Boys and girls!   After many weeks of in-depth looks into movies and various directors as well as writers the thought occurred to me I have not done any TV reviews in ages and I am correcting that little oversight.  So I have chosen 5 TV shows that made an impact to the American culture in one facet or another.   Wither or not you agree to that notion, hey that is entirely up to you and you alone.

So without further ado, I am turning the clock back to the 1970's on shows I recall and heard in great length about.   I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sydney Pollack Week: They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

Hi there and hello folks and have we a climax for your Sydney Pollack Week.  For all you ladies that were forcing yourselves to sweat to whatever Fonda Workout tape, you may delight watching her in this gruel struggle to get uphill.   So practice that soft shoe, bend at the knees and stay in until the bell rings.  This is They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
So about that Barbarella costume...

Spoilers have it pretty good compared to us…

Robert Syverton (Michael Sarrazin of Eye of the Cat, The Pursuit of Happiness, Harry in Your Pocket, For Pete’s Sake and Arrival II) once dreamed of being a film director recalls the events leading to a crime.  As a boy he saw a horse break its leg, after which it was shot and put out of its memory.   Flash forward to years later via 1932, he simply wanders off the Santa Monica pier and wanders into a rundown La Monica Ballroom.  The Master of Ceremonies Rocky (Gig Young of Navy Blues, Air Force, The Tanks Are Coming, The Gay Sisters, Air Force and Lust for Gold) as a substitute partner for the very cynical miscreant oddly named Gloria (Jane Fonda of Barefoot in the Park, Tall Story, The Chase, The Game Is Over, Any Wednesday, Fun With Dick and Jane and The Electric Horseman) a Jean Harlow lookalike Alice (Susannah York of Battle of Britain, Jane Eyre, Images, Gold, Sky Riders, The Shout, The Silent Partner and Superman) Sailor (Red Buttons of The Longest Day, The Sunshine Boys, Viva Knievel!, The Users, Movie Movie and 18 Again!) a nicknamed swabby.  Following these happy fun seekers is an out of work farmer (Bruce Dern of Hang “em High, Support Your Local Sheriff, Number One, Bloody Mama, The Cowboys, Silent Running, Black Sunday and The Burbs) and his pregnant wife Ruby (Bonnie Bedelia of The Gypsy Moths, Lover and Other Strangers, In Pursuit of Treasure, Salem’s Lot, Fighting Back, Die Hard and Die Hard 2)
Bruce Dern: Poster boy for sanity

These poor people are sweltering to death in a hot box of an arena for this event, barely managing to get along with their partners, petty thefts occur, a fatal heart attack struck a man down and in short a grand old time.   As a viewing of desperation it is indeed a learning lesson and breaks are almost null and void at the grand prize of $1500.  The couples are exhausted to the breaking point, nerves are frayed, medical conditions worsen chances to winning all for the paying spectators’ joy and glee.    Weeks go into the marathon in order to keep the viewers’ attention, Rocky stages various derbies of races with of course they contestants are garbed in track suits being paraded around in a circle like canter horses for the paying customer. 

Each contestant has their own hopes, dreams and despair as the story works its way.  No one appreciates a winner as much as they revel in the downfall of the loser.   Robert starts to question the integrity of the contest and starts to poke holes into this jam jar of lies.   Gloria loses faith in herself and life itself while longing for death’s release.
Feh, this is nothing compared to my workout sessions.

The cinematography is once again dolly track and a lot of elevated 360 spins to capture the hopeless expressions as well as the delight of the crowd.   Well this film was formatted for black & white but much to my disgust is shown in Technicolor.   Not a big fan as you may have guessed.  Panavision strikes again to capture every single nuance with its anamorphic.  A heart wrenching series of events unfold to the emptiness of being.  Pollack tells this tale with such passion it boggled my mind.  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sydney Pollack Week: The Slender Thread

Hey there again readers and boy I am just digging the nuance of this film today. Day 4 of Sydney Pollack Week and this is a stunning bit of footage and story.  How does a mere college student save the life of a woman that has long lost all hope?  Will there be tragedy?  Will hope reemerge itself? Two things are for certain, one it is in black & white and two I am so digging the opening aerial shots.    So put down that bottle of pills, stay on the line and for God’s sake think of what you are doing.  This is The Slender Thread.
Who loves ya, Sidney?

Spoilers don't just give up, dammit! 

Psychology student Alan Newell (Sidney Poitier of Lilies of the Field, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night, They Call Me Mister Tibbs!, Shoot to Kill and The Jackal) a volunteer worker at the Seattle’s Crisis Clinic, probably earning work credit for his scholastics and genuinely cares for people as well receives a call from one Inga Dyson (Anne Bancroft of The Last Frontier, Nightfall, The Miracle Worker, 7 Women, The Graduate, The Elephant Man, Garbo Talks and Agnes of God) an everyday housewife and mother but with a sorted secret of her past.   She explains to Newell she has taken an overdose of sleeping pills and that it is best to end it all.  While she appreciates the compassion of this total stranger she simply refuses to devulch her whereabouts.    
Get milk and then commit suicide. Got it.

Desperate to save this woman Newell gets ahold of his professor Dr. Coburn (Telly Savalas of The Dirty Dozen, Kelly’s Heroes, Escape to Athena, Kojak, The Muppet Movie, Faceless and The Commish)  in order to get a trace on the line via the police.   Through a series of flashback sequences it is hinted that Inga’s son may not be her husband’s biological child and has wedged distrust in their already rocky relationship.  Counseling never really covered this area I am guessing.   Her husband Mark (Steven Hill of The Fugitive, Mission:  Impossible, King, Eyewitness, Yentl,  The Firm and Law &Order), a commercial fisherman hoists himself out to the sea he loves and attempts to throw himself into work at the same time his wife is throwing herself to the brink of death.  Blissfully unaware (as most men are) that his wife is at the end of her rope he is out in the deep blue pushing past his pain.    Through the coordinated efforts of Detective Judd Ridley (Ed Anser of Police Story, Insight, Roots, Mary Tyler Moore, Lou Grant and Batman the Animated Series) and his fellow policemen they race a dangerous clock trying to find Inga before it is too late.

Hmm do I have any nitpickings?  Well I was blown away by the aerial shots of Seattle; I love how with absolutely no dialogue whatsoever showed these complete strangers’ lives would intersect and soon.  This huge cast of folks that have either or already made or just making it in the Hollywood and TV mainstream and the performances by all actors was sublime.    Now clearly the overall film was shot on studio location and most of the downtown Seattle shots had to be a bit rushed.  I get that and hey it looks like the editing was sound.  While I do thoroughly enjoy a good black & white I am proud to say I did not even know of this film’s existence and was pleasantly surprised of its overall creation.  
No, you shove off.  Heh Nautical humor.


I read a similar review on this film and the critic was just pointing out the goofs, like Inga’s previous suicide attempt she dove into the waters but when she was rushed to the hospital her hair was perfect.  Okay points for observation but the point of a review should be objective not simply what you like or thought was painful about a movie.   I just realized that this film was referenced in the latter film Three Days of the Condor.  So thought we would give a negative and a positive.  Bravo on this film and hurrah for those that give it a fair chance.  I can safely say you will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sydney Pollack Week: The Electric Horseman

Howdy buckaroos!   Day 3 of Sydney Pollack Week and we will examine how far a man can fall from grace and yet still have an award winning smile.   A story of a man that plummeted from the upper echelons of his career, sells out to be a corporate shill and still get the girl in the end.   Preposterous you say?   Perhaps but this little romantic thriller/comedy may surprise you.   So gather your spurs, get in the shoot and hang on for at least 8 seconds.    This is The Electric Horseman.
Absent of dignity

Spoilers be the damnedest things…

Sonny Steele (Robert Redford of This Property Is Condemned, Jeremiah Johnson, The Way We Were, Three Days of the Condor, The Last Castle and Spy Game) is a former championship rodeo rider fallen on hard times is using his last gasps of fame to market breakfast cereal.  Yes, Wheaties can help any fallen athlete in struggles of destitute but sadly he is plugging Ranch Breakfast.   His fat cat boss, Hunt Sears (John Saxon of Enter the Dragon, Mitchell, Desire, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Craving Heart and War Wolves) is not worried about keeping Sonny on a leash and therefore is all sorts of vile. 
Don't wanna go barefoot in the park, woman!

Chasing disappointment away with booze, Sonny is dressed in this ridiculous lit up cowboy suit and prances about almost as much as his equine counterpart Rising Star. It was only later is discovered the horse was drugged and previously injured.   Wow, Sin City lied to the world and you Sonny?  Say it ain’t so.   After discovering this horrendous mistreatment of an animal Sonny becomes disillusioned and disgusted with the current course of his life.   He then steals Rising Star from Caesar’s Palace where they are being held, gallops out the Strip and travels cross-country to release him in a remote canyon where majestic herds of wild horses roam.

Hallie Martin (Jane Fonda of Barefoot in the Park They Shoot Horses, Don’t They, Barbarella, Klute, Julia, Coming Home, The Morning After and Old Gringo), an inspiring TV reporter assigned to cover this decadent event hears of the reward that Sears offers and the lack of concern wither or not Sonny comes back alive so long as Rising Star is returned.  Sensing there is more to this story than Sears will cop to, tracks Sonny down for the headline that may just make her career solid.  She missed Watergate so it is Horse Thief or nothing.  Still struck me as odd that you drop 12 million clams on a horse and no protection in the event your star goes diva and rides away?   Guess even Vegas couldn’t cover the odds of that happening.
Aww what a downy clowny...

Okay this is the part where I will nitpick a bit.   The villains in this piece are a bit one-dimensional and easily thwarted in my opinion, the sheer bravado of out foxing the local authorities, the quest in question feels a bit farfetched but the story overall is got a good tone of one man sticking it to hypocrisy of just making a buck, romance is found on the way and while this is a late 70’s film the tone is more hopeful than the typical cynical writing of the time.   Writer Robert Garland (Steve Martin: Comedy Is Not Pretty, Toostie, No Way Out and The Big Blue) created a decent romp through the desert and made an unlikely pairing of two completely different people.   No I do not think the film is genius but it is clever and warm.   Also has starring Willie Nelson as a ranch hand with the infamous quote of the film and NO I am not about to ruin it but suffice to say it will curl and straighten your hair.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sydney Pollack Week: The Yakuza

Subete no kon’nichwa!   Welcome to the continuation of Sydney Pollack Week and have we hooked quite a whopper today.  A story of ill-gotten gains, family struggles, honor and the willingness to follow through, this film marks for an interesting dive into Western and Eastern culture clash.  So shoes off, serve the one next to you and do not hog the spicy tuna roll.   This is The Yakuza.
That is not a happy camper.

Spoilers are as much a gift as a curse…

George Tanner (Brian Keith of Arrowhead, The Parent Trap, The Quest, Hooper, Sharky’s Machine and Hardcastle and McCormick) runs the L.A. docks and foolishly got into bed with the Yakuza (Japanese Mafia), fell behind on payments and now they demand tribute or they will kill his daughter.  Tanner calls his old army buddy Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum of Undercurrent, El Dorado, Out of the Past, Cape Fear, River of No Return and The Big Sleep, a private eye that is well immersed in Japanese culture.  Tanner is counting of the life debt of one Tanaka Ken (Ken Takakura of The Path of the King, Golgo 13, Mushuku, The Homeless, Hakkodasan and Black Rain) to lead Kilmer around, defeat the Yakuza and save the girl.   Dusty (Richard Jordan of Rooster Cogburn, Logan’s Run, The Mean Season, Alibis and The Hunt for Red October), Tanner’s personal bodyguard will be traveling with Kilmer as well but he looks to be no more than a gunsel.  Like the man said, “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.”
Boomstick plus one!

Yeah two guys will be doing all this.  Infiltration, sabotage and a high count of homicide is on the order of the day.    I will also assigning Harry Callahan, John McClain and possibly Martin Riggs for this otherwise insane plan!

To abide an old debt to Tanner, Kilmer must go back to Japan and over 20 years of hurt, remorse and obligation.  During the occupation of Japan, MP Kilmer discovered a black market purchasing of American medical supplies by Eiko Tanaka (FYI Tanaka is the most common surname in Japan.  Think Smith or Jones) who he fell in love with, they romance and he even looks after her daughter Hanako as if she were his own, but for reasons a dopey Western round eye cannot fathom, she cannot marry him.  Sad and bitter Kilmer went back to the states, worked as a cop and then a shamus.   Tanaka Ken is former Yakuza and now a brilliant swords master teaching Kendo in a prestigious institute Kendo Hall in Kiyoto.

This film is a hybrid of Japanese discipline, honor with a smattering of American cynicism.  The story is simple yet elegant, the camera work from day to night is dolly tracked, handheld, long crane shots  and decent pan zooms of which is all hallmarks of a Sydney Pollack movie all shot on a Panavision anamorphic lens 35mm.   With solid collaborations with writers Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, American Gigolo, Raging Bull and Affliction) and Robert Towne (Chinatown, Heaven Can Wait, The Firm, Mission: Impossible and Mission: Impossible II) this flick has as much action as there is dialogue. 

A little side note, I started snickering seeing one of the Yakuza reading a Manga.  Comic books are for kids, buddy.     This thriller is bloody, gunfights and katana a plenty.  This is an interesting mesh of the cultures of honor and violence that both the Americans and the Japanese are capable; it also shows heart, spirit and the willingness to overcome great obstacles.   This film deserves the same restoration love that Peckinpah's The Getaway and Friedkin's French Connection did.   I find no faults in this film with the exception it is now over.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sydney Pollack Week: Three Days of the Condor

Hey all and welcome to the beginning of Sydney Pollack Week and I thought I would start us off with a thriller of point and counterpoint or if you prefer spy vs. spy.  With misinformation, a staggering body count and not knowing who to trust this struggle could prove to be very entertaining.  So synchronize your watches, prep a rally point and grab that phone in a shoe.   This is Three Days of the Condor.

Operator, I really want to direct...

Spoilers may surprise you…

With the Cold War in swing the Central Intelligence Agency is devising ways to control the flow of information, on us, on them and hey how about those guys over there.   Based on the novel Six Days of the Condor by author James Grady this political thriller film focuses on cryptography.  Hiding messages within prewritten text or a cipher that allows spies of different nations to not go strictly by courier or private broadcast.   Meet Joe Turner, (Robert Redford of Barefoot in the Park, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Downhill Racer, All The President’s Men, The Electric Horseman, Indecent Proposal, Sneakers and Spy Game) CIA analyst for a living decodes books from every portion of the world and with vast ability of micro processing…yeah well they still had to deal in 3 whole megabytes at a time. 

After a detailed report of a zero quality thriller novel his office was forced to read Turner expect the higher ups to let him know what they thought of his findings. This low interest novel is only translated in a few languages and not all of the regions are US friendly, coincidence?   As Turner does a lunch run for the office he finds all 6 members of his team assassinated where they sat or fell.  Panicked but still with his wits about him, Turner calls the CIA New York office and is told to arrange a meeting with fellow agents.  The meeting feels hinky and Turner hears the words of Admiral Ackbar in that, it is indeed a trap.
Y at-il une femme?

Barely escaping Turner picks Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway of Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown, The Thomas Crown Affair, Network, Supergirl, Midnight Crossing and Double Edge) a woman at random for a place to hold up.  Frustrated, nervous and holding a person hostage in her own apartment, Turner realizes he may have to rely on Ms. Hale, a total stranger because he has no one really to turn to.  After yet another attempt on his life by a false postman Turner kidnaps the deputy director of the CIA New York office Higgins (Cliff Robertson of Gidget, Midway, PT 109, Sunday in New York, The Best Man, Escape from L.A. and Spiderman 1 and 2) who enlightens Turner that the assassin was a Frenchman by the name of Joubert

Most of this movie is based in Washington and New York from tight pan zooms to exterior crane shots, this film clearly had a flexible budget allowing Pollack and crew to give it their all.   Lot of close up of eyes, to capture the vast level of emotion and the music is subtle and not overpowering the story as it unravels.  With a nice Panavision anamorphic lens we get the feeling of being in the movie and while the Eastman 100T is a monster to lug for any cinematographer, its Technicolor response to the scope of this movie is captured so well.  Looooved the Aerial shots of the Brooklyn Bridge. 
Hold it, Mugsy!

From both book and movie you can all feel the influence they gave for films like Mission: Impossible and Enemy of the State.  Granted I do not hear a film in mono recording too often but bravo.     Next to The Manchurian Candidate (1962 original) I do not think I have seen a grittier spy film that is more stories based and dialogue driven rather than action.  You want action based spy flicks hey we got James Bond, Jason Bourne and Xander Cage.     You however might enjoy a combination of action, compelling dialogue of the cynical timeline and a pretty decent score for soundtrack then look no further and have a blast.

Syndey Pollack Week

Hello folks.   Well this is a bit out of my usual depth when speaking about a public figure, a man who directed and produced 40 films.  A man that frequently collaborated with Robert Redford both in acting along side Redford as well as being behind the camera, his film Out of Africa was nominated for 11 Academy Awards receiving seven wins, including Pollack’s for Best Direction as well as Best Picture.  From suspense thrillers, dramatizations to romantic comedies, Pollack had Tinsletown on a string.  Working with the likes of Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Terri Garr, Paul Newman, Barbara Streisand and Jane Fonda to name a few; his open-heart approach he was a strong advocate for the Director’s Guild of America and founded with production office with screen writer Anthony Minghella (Maybury, Grange Hill, Inspector Morse, The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley) calling it Mirage Enterprises.  

It is this we will be exploring this week.  A body of what I would constitute Pollack’s finest works and proof there will never be another like him.  I hope this informs and entertains.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Ossorio Week: The Possessed

Back again all as we finish Ossorio Week with a lesser known film than the whole Blind Dead tetralogy.  It deals with gypsies, curses and absolutely no tramps and thieves.  Well maybe a theft or two; so hop in that bean bag chair, grab some Cheetos and a carbonated beverage.  This is The Possessed a.k.a. La endemoniada.
Why the long face, gypsy?

Spoilers will swallow your soul!

As it seems with most movies, there is always homage, something similar and a blatant rip-off.  The Possessed has the qualities of being a rip-off but only in the fact that it combines witchcraft and devil worship in the same sitting.   This under-budget made-for-TV movie starts us off with an immediate story of a gypsy woman is who was nabbed by the local fuzz.  I am guessing what herb she deals with. She is immediately a suspect of the disappearance of a small child and rather spending her less than golden years fending off the big mutha of cellblock D, she hurls herself out a window after admitting that she planned to sacrifice the little scamp to her dark lord and master: Carrot Top…um I mean Satan…I get them mixed up.  

Naturally her coven is most vexed on these proceedings, so they send the saucy gypsy (Kali Hansa of Les ebranlees, Diary of a Nymphomaniac, La cometesse perverse and the Lustful Amazons) to befriend the daughter of Police Commissioner Barnes, Susan (Marian Salgado of Hora once and Who Can Kill a Child?) as a convoluted plot of revenge.  After handing over a bizarre dagger and a bone necklace she tells Susan to keep these presents a secret from everyone.   Unbeknownst to naïve Susan, the weapon and necklace McGuffin were items belonging to the late witch and therefore…yeah she became possessed.  What? Did you want a cookie for guessing that?   Through the powers of darkness (or possibly half hearted FX makeup) the old witch claims the body of young Susan for her own.  Never before have you seen such levitation and well, mood swings!
Just hide the bong, kid.

Okay before I go any further, there are some issues to be addressed.  The following for your approval is thus: Castration, um baby sacrifice and some of the worse English dub actors I have ever heard.  Cashing in on any exploitation film that loves using the Devil as some end all standing for why people kill and maim.  While this seems to be fitting with this one and frankly I could have done without possessed Susan skipping along with a sack in hand.   Not a knapsack or hacky sack.   Yeah I really lost dinner appetite during that sequence of events. 
Lover/fiancée Anne (Lone Fleming of Tombs of the Blind Dead, Return of the Blind Dead, Bad Man’s River and It Happened at Nightmare Inn) worries of Susan’s behavior of late and consults Father Juan (Julian Mateos of Novela, Novios de la muerte, La Carmen and Teatro Club) in the possibility that Susan is possessed.     Susan is present to the coven’s baby sacrifice and she gets to gulp down some of that baby blood beverage too thus, beginning her down her dark and evil path of gypsy witch reincarnate.  The writing is confusing witchcraft or wicca for black mass so a lot of this story arc seems off its rocker.    

The production is not stellar, the lighting and my God the sound was less than impressive for this to be Ossorio’s fourth movie when the Blind Dead films were into their third.   The story feels as though it is forcing too many coincidences and facts down your throat and then pauses for a bit too long.   Hot and waaaaay too cold between cycles.   The violence is a bit over the top but then so is a lot of the film.   Oddly enough most of the violence is aimed as the vengeance of the coven sticking it to the man but you feel as though you could easily take a nap do to the padding of the film to get to that 90 minute marker.

The table is less wooden than the dubbing.
And with that we end our Ossorio week on a bit of a down note.   Stay tuned for next week’s installment of: well I haven’t actually thought of what to do next week.  Keep them eyes peeled for next week though.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ossorio Week: Night of the Seagulls

Day 4 of Ossorio week and things may be looking up as we journey into the final installment of the Blind Dead series.  Will there be terror?  Will there be dread and chaos?  Will jiggly girls dominate the screen?  Will there be a decent plot and I and talking about a cemetery.   Strap yourselves in, make peace with your deity and hold on tight!   This is Night of the Seagulls a.k.a. La noche de las gaviotas
Pesky Mormons at the door!

Spoilers raaann… they ran so far awaaaaaaayyyyy…

We open our film with… you guessed it, a flashback sequence.  Seems to be the theme set from the second opus Return of the Blind Dead so this could mean we are in for some thrills and blood spills.   If it has a faster pace than the third film I am all in favor.    Our location is in Cataluna Spain with its various ruins and monasteries for excellent background, already a step up for a cheesy alleged 16th century Spanish Galleon that the Scooby gang would have torched.    An aide, presumably the guard of a noblewoman scouts on ahead to see if there is any danger in the night, and yes it is shot at night with a decent lighting array.   Yay!  Budget increased!!    In travel to this little village the man is slain almost immediately by the then live Knights Templar and the lady is to be (dun dun dun) sacrificed.   Not sure if that means the fair sex is more appealing to demons and rites of that nature or if it is just blatant sexism.   Take your pick.   The tone of the movie is already set at the 8 minute mark; in that there will clearly be a coherent storyline again.   With clearly an off-screen dismemberment and some impressive body part props I think we may be in for a horror movie after all. Yay again! 
Psst.. you fart?

500 years later… back at the same quaint little fishing village, Dr. Henry Stein (Victor Petit of Topical Spanish, Hora once, La respuesta, Clara es el precio and Trampa sexual) and wife Joan (Maria Kosty of The Family, Fine, Thanks, El divorcio que viene, Las chicas del bingo and My Friend Washington) are moving in as clearly his practice will not only be necessary but welcomed.     The town acts a bit standoffish and the Steins are a bit at a loss for words.   Might have helped their case if they didn’t announce how drab the town looked and clearly the inhabitants are primitive savages.  That's a lousy bedside manner, doctor.   Henry is quick to anger and clearly when good cheer doesn’t get you your way there is always manhandling.    After finding the elder doctor’s house Henry and Joan are invited in and the elder doctor looks more nervous than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. 

We got some eerie music with a range of electric guitar and synthesizer to set the mood.   Sadly the Steins didn’t find a Crazy Ralph archetype to warn them off with mentions of a death curse or they would be spinning that Yugo outta there.   Henry sees the old doctor out via burrow and the elderly fellow tells him to not to pry into the town and never go out at night.   Abandoning the story arc created by Horror of the Zombies, Night of the Seagulls seems to bring all that was lacking in the third film such as: the shrouded horses, terrified villagers and in general well executed jump scares.  A little bit of stock footage from the first two movies is spliced and hell who can blame them when they looked as menacing as they did.

 It seems the Knights Templar now called roughly the Knights of the sea, and yet they escape their tombs riding out every seven years for seven nights to demand a sacrifice of a young maiden.   The kicker is the village seems to be perfectly fine with this notion that the lot of them garbed in black as some sort of cult straight out of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth.  So fine with it that the villagers themselves with a dark chapter of the lottery here, the Steins and Teddy (Jose Antonio Calvo of El mercenario II, Evilio, Torrente 2: Mission in Marbella and Torrente 4) the village punching bag/idiot finds out that one of the girls slated for sacrifice is Lucy (Sandra Mozarowsky of The Book of Good love 2, Beatriz, Hitler’s Last Train and Mortal Sin), a maid of all trades that frankly I really don’t know what her job title is.   Nevertheless her countless…um days of compassion and assistance must not be wasted.  On to save young Lucy!  
Fellas, we eat tonight!

The filmstock looks immaculate.  Not the hopeless grainy of the third film but a good solid print and of course the option of English voice dubbed or subtitles is presented.  Highly recommend the subtitles.  You get a better inflection in the tone of emotional states and hey you may learn a little Spanish.   No guarantees.   For some reason due to the windy cliffs our cult masses begin around 5 in the afternoon and are edited with late night shots.   Lighting may have been a bit of a hassle.  Getting a far amount of generators to run that many lights plus anchoring them down somehow.    Not quite as impressive as the first two but definitely a decent capper from the 3rd.    Maybe we can just view Horror of the Zombies as the Highlander 2 of the Blind Dead.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Amando Ossorio Week: Horror of the Zombies

Back again boys and girls as we trek further into our Blind Dead tetralogy.   The opening credits start us off with the same Gregorian chant yet again and I will be buggered if I know what they speak of.   I have it on good authority that there will be some surprises in store for us this time around.   So saddle up, settle in and get ready for this whirlwind of excitement.   This is Horror of the Zombies a.k.a. El buque maldito.
Tee hee!

A’ vast maties there be spoilers on this voyage of the damned!

Moving our location we find ourselves away from Portugal and on the happening streets of Madrid and it’s fashion week…in Madrid…didn’t know that was a port of call for such so I will just smile, nod and sally forth.     We see that world of modeling through the eyes of Noemi (Barbara Rey of El chulo, Zorrita Martinez, Rostros and Vampiresas) as she is looking for her missing roommate Kathy.  Her last known location was with her employer Lillian (Maria Perschy of Man’s Favorite Sport?, 633 Squadron, House of Psychotic Women, Fox Hunt and The People Who Own the Dark), a woman so cold to the touch you could keep a side of beef in her for a month.    Lillian states that Kathy (Blanca Estrada of I Hate My Body, Suesualidad, The Book of Good Love, Las locuras de Jane and Mystery on Monster Island) no doubt is a typical dumb girl and is shirking her responsibilities and shoos Noemi away.   Noemi threatens to call the police and Lillian looks genuinely nervous.   Later that day, Lillian explains to Noemi that Kathy is fine and in a boat in the Atlantic with another model partaking in a publicity stunt for a sportswear advertising campaign.   Yeah I am stumped how that helps the shareholders too folks.   
Curse you, He-Man!

 Say, wasn't there supposed to be Knights Templar in this flick?  This is where the story sort of detracts from the story presence of the second film.  With a foundation of explaining who the Knights are, what is their purpose and overall goals this film does a 180 and just leaves you thinking, “I really could be doing the laundry now.”   Methinks the producers or money lenders had too much influence and said, “Hey we want to see jiggly girls in bikinis!”    Ossorio went on record during his interview/documentary that he was less than satisfied with this film so you can be assured there will be some chop in the waters already.

Getting back to our riveting story, entrepreneur Howard Tucker (Jack Taylor of The Vampires’ Night Orgy, Call of the Blonde Goddess, Conan the Barbarian, Panther Squad and The Sea Serpent), sporting goods mogul hired both Kathy and second model for this brilliant concept to bring vast media attention as they are…out in the sea by a main shipping route.  Tee hee girlies all defenseless and in need of rescue.    I really do not get the crux of this plan but Tucker is convinced this will net him millions, since his car didn’t do so well.  Oh wait.. that was Jeff Bridges’ movie.  Boy that sounds much better to watch.   The girls report in every other hour via CB to inform us they are fine but this time around they see in the *ahem* Fog an ancient Spanish Galleon that crashes into their little speedboat.  They are forced to climb aboard as they are many miles from civilization.  Such awesome power does the ship emit, that it can turn day into night.  And more Fog than the Carpenter flick and yet it is less dense than the models.
Jazz Hands fail!

With no communication since their last contact, Noemi threatens to go to the press and Tucker’s henchman locks her up and collars her to a cot.  Yeah so now endangerment to human life, fraud and kidnapping is the order of the day.   For a business mogul Tucker seems a bit dumb.  Clearly he needs to just take Noemi for a little drive that ends with her in a trash compactor but hey I can only do so much for the guy.   Tucker and Lillian go to the girls’ aid after making a stop at the University for an expert on 16th century Galleons.   Keep in mind the description of the ship was so vague it bordered on a big boat.  

33 minutes go by with a tick tock of the slowest clock and finally a hint that the Knights Templar are even in this fricking movie.  OVER A HALF HOUR!!!!!   The pathetic attempt at a back story for almost every character except the ship’s parrot just drug on.   The parrot didn’t get much of a speaking part and was a womanizing booze hound. 

The production quality went really downhill, the lighting with fog looks atrocious, I feel like I watching a Scooby Doo mystery…with implied rape, slow pacing and death scenes that takes ages to start.  Yes it is about the same level grisly kills but it just felt forced.  Yes somehow we’re supposed to forget Tucker’s henchman clearly attacked Noemi prior to this rescue attempt.     That’s all for now folks.   Here’s hoping number 4 is a vast improvement.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Amando Ossorio Week:Return of the Blind Dead

Back again kiddies for Day two of Ossorio week as we journey further with a look at the continuation of the Blind Dead series. The story may just bring some new developments.   So get warm and snug in your sleeping bags and listen the tales of high adventure.  This is Return of the Blind Dead a.k.a. El ataque de los muertos sin ojos.

Spoilers can be an inconvenience….

Spa treatments of the 13th Century

Our film opens with of all things a flashback to 13th century Bouzano, Portugal.  An unruly mob of peasants of captured the Templar Knights and only by using sheer numbers.   The villagers plan on condemning these men for heresy, witchcraft and murder.   One of the knights swears revenge on the village for their persecution and you have to see the irony in that, now don’t you?    Prior to their deaths by fire each of the knights’ eyes are burned out via torch, on the off chance they can in fact raise themselves from the dead and seek bloody retribution. Then they are treated to a little fire, Scarecrow as they roasted alive.  I do not claim to be an authority on chainmail or a historian but the cloaks over the chainmail of our knights… well I can see the stitch patterns.  So it was either the work of demons from the Underworld or a Singer stitched it up hastily

    After that festive and happy scene we crank forward 500 years into the future as the village prepares for the anniversary since the Knights were defeated and the best way I know how to break into a celebration is to hurl stones at the village idiot.  Yes a gaggle of youngsters feel that is truly the best greeting for Murdo (Jose Canalejas of Django (1966 version), A Professional Gun, Horror Express, If You Shoot… You Live! And The Standard) the crippled buffon fends off stones until Monica (Loreta Tovar of Night of the Sorcerers, The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff and When the Screaming Stops) and Juan with his Manos, Hands of Fate handlebar mustache (Jose Thelman of Tombs of the Blind Dead, Night of the Sorcerers, When the Screaming Stops and Night of the Werewolf) shoo the little scamps away. 
Due to extreme recycling laws, kick the can is replaced with Kick the Murdo

Back in town square fireworks technician and former military captain Jack Marlowe (Tony Kendall of The Big Bust Out, They Were Called Three Musketeers But They Were Four, When the Screaming Stops, Giant of the 20th Century, Cop or Hood and Thrilling Love) converses with the Mayor (Fernando Sancho of I Was a Parish Priest, The Return of Ringo and The Big Gundown) his secretary/fiancée Vivian (Esperanza Roy of The Girl of the Nile, The Garden of Delights, It Happened at Nightmare Inn and The Book of Good Love 2) and Dacosta (, The mayor’s faithful man servant er um I mean aide.   With an expedient backstory, you get the feeling of bad blood between Mayor Duncan and Marlowe as it would appear they love the same woman.  Gasp a love triangle!  Well we all know that will end with quiet, dignity and grace.

Vivian and Marlowe go for a walk in the region as they just happen to stop by the very same ruins were the Knights Templar is buried.   Murdo spies on them making out and then speaks of the legend of Knights Templar.  After they both scoff at him he makes a blood sacrifice of one of the local girls in order to raise our nefarious Knights and bring death and destruction to all those who mocked him.   From flashbacks to current rampages this entire movie has taught me if you an attractive girl you will be topless, stabbed and receive the Mola Ram heart treatment.

 Lot of tight pan zooms and really impressive handheld work here and in 1973 that means they were still using thePFX_Gll Panaflex that still was a load and lug up these hilly terrains.  Possibly Vista Vision but they would have had to pry that from Paramount.  Similar to the anamorphic lens getting high residue shoots with a wide scope shot.   The outcome is a bit more plot, depth in the story from the first but a bit more graphic deaths and yet a far amount of topless shots.  I still feel bad for Ossorio not getting the spectral horse effect he really wanted.  Instead their heads are covered with a foul looking shroud symbolizing they are as undead as their masters.   I am thinking if you did a few spliced shots of the horses in full gallop combined with some foam and fiberglass dummies the riders could sit on in exterior night shots you would capture the effect.     Mind you a very simple but easy costume effect is their undead portion later with just using canvas tarps, smudging and smearing their cloaks with mud, dirt and local cow flop I guess.   A bit ominous and imaginative I have to say I am kinda pumped to see how this tetralogy finishes.