35 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Gene Tierney is great in this film noir thriller
13 April 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Photographed in a beautiful technicolor format, Leave Her To Heaven, will be regarded as a film noir that strayed away from the formula of the genre. Heaven strays away from the dark alleys, dimly-lit backrooms and shadowy run-down buildings, opting instead to present a story against the most aesthetically beautiful milieu one is likely to find in any film made in 1945.

Scenic visuals aside, Leave Her To Heaven is the definitive film noir in every other way. Rife with deception, murder and the omnipresent femme fatale. The film opens in a tone reminiscent of Hitchcock's Strangers On A Train, as Richard Harland(Wilde) is introduced to his soon-to-be wife Ellen Berent(Tierney) on a speeding train. Early on in the picture, the audience is made aware of Berent's duplicitous nature. Hiding beneath a thin veil of kindness lurks the heart of a cruel, manipulative and ultimately, evil woman. An insanely jealous female, Berent would rather kill than share her husband's love. She proves this by drowning her brother-in-law and later, by throwing herself down a flight of stairs, thus killing her own unborn child. When Harland finally realizes that he might have married a monster it is just a little too late. Even in death, Berent attempts to ruin the lives of those who loved her. The ending is particularly interesting and a total surprise.

Gene Tierney seems to be having a great time in her role. She uses her unique facial features, a catlike bone structure and narrow gaze to her advantage. Notice the tight, squinty-eyed stare during Danny's death scene. Cornel Wilde might not have been the best choice for the role of Richard Harland. He is stiff and aloof in his performance. It is imperative to the story that the audience feel sympathy for his character, but due to his weak showing, it is hard to feel anything, let alone sympathy. Much has been made of Vincent Price's campy performance as the love-struck attorney. He is completely over the top and delivers his lines with the hastiness of auctioneer on a time limit. I have to admit, I loved it.

Special accolades go to director John M. Stahl who uses the lavish setting and the beautiful colors the way Aldrich might use a dark alley as a device to hide an unknown assassin. This is exemplified best in one specific sequence where the audience watches as blue-colored water undulates savagely as Darryl Hickman's character struggles to catch his breath. It is matched proficiently against the calm icy-blue gaze of Tierney as she watches in an unresponsive pose as Hickman dies a horrible death. The use of colors and the tranquil setting only worked to enhance the sheer direness of the whole moment and the despicable villainess of Tierney's character. It is a testament to Stahl who knew that sometimes change could be a good thing even in such a defined and formulaic genre.

Many have noted that film is, at times, highly unrealistic. Indeed, the plot does have an ample amount of noticeable holes. Some of the situations, including the final courtroom duel between two former acquaintances, tend to be a tad implausible. That aside, Leave Her To Heaven is a great installment in a long-line of trashy, seductive titles in the film noir genre. I highly recommend it despite its various flaws.
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Crowhaven Farm (1970 TV Movie)
A great, creepy classic from the seventies
12 April 2001
Early on in Crowhaven Farm, Maggie Porter is awakened from a deep sleep by the sounds of a little girl crying. The eerie sounds are coming from off in the forest somewhere. Concerned that someone, namely a child, might be hurt, Maggie makes her way out into the night in the direction of the sound. As she treks into the dark forest, the crying suddenly turns into a demonic cackle. The haunting laughter engulfs Maggie and she collapses in fright.

Working with a limited budget and the content-expurgate restrictions placed on made-for-television fare, director Walter Grauman is still able to construct a frightening movie in Crowhaven Farm. He does it by simply letting the viewers imagination fill in the blanks. The strange noises in the forest, the blurred images of pilgrims torturing a mother-to-be off in a nearby clearing. What do they mean? Grauman shows the audience something, fleetingly, and then forces them to use their own imagination to fill in what is missing. That is where the true horror lies within Crowhaven Farm.

When the original inheritor dies in a strange car accident, a young couple, Maggie(Lange) and Ben(Burke) inherit a large farm and hundreds of acres of forest land. Dogged by marital problems the couple are determined to make a fresh start in the new setting. Maggie senses something odd early on and her first inclination is to leave but Ben talks her out of it. The inclination turns out to be correct as Maggie begins hearing strange noises and seeing odd visions of people dressed in Seventeenth-century garb. When a young girl(Eilbacher) drifts into their life things quickly move from bizarre to down right terrifying. Maggie soon discovers a parallel between her problem and a two-hundred year old coven of witches who may have committed sacrifices on the very farm land she inhabits.

Crowhaven Farm elicits some great performances from its cast. Hope Lange is especially great. She offers a performance very reminiscent of Mia Farrow's panicky turn in Rosemary's Baby, as the woman who discovers all is not what it may seem. Cindy Eilbacher, Paul Burke and TV-movie regular Loyd Bochner are also very good in their roles. I particularly enjoyed John Carradine as the handyman.

Crowhaven Farm has the distinction of being one of those made-for-television films that stay with you long after you've seen it. Like Duel and Dark Night Of The Scarecrow, Farm represents what can be achieved with a little budget and a whole lot of imagination. I highly recommend this film, if you can find it. As of yet, the film has never been released to video.
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Inside the Osmonds (2001 TV Movie)
Portrait Of An American Success Story
5 March 2001
Sprinkled with a fine soundtrack and some very good acting, 'Inside The Osmonds' is a bio-pic that documents the meteoric rise and subsequent fiscal downfall of the Osmond family.

The story's main focus is on the family as they attempt to maintain their popularity while staying committed to each other throughout the turbulent seventies and early eighties.

Each family member is given time to develop, but the film focuses mainly on Donny and Marie. Especially, Donny (Patrick Levis) as he must endure his forced transition from praised musician to a veritable laughing stock on his daily variety show.

Many things are touched upon throughout the film, including the family's devotion to religion and Marie's weight problem which is merely glanced but not truly elaborated upon. One element that was allowed to flourish was the family's manipulation at the hands of television and recording executives.

The family remains consistently close until final scene when they lose all of their savings. Unlike other movies where this might have been a huge tragedy, in this film, the impact is sort of anti-climactic. They haven't really lost anything, they still have each other and to them, at least, that is truly all that matters.

Look for fine performances by Bruce McGill, as the over-protective but loving father George, and Veronica Cartwright, as the comforting Olive. The film will leave a sweet taste in your mouth, especially the final frame where the real Osmonds take center stage, where they belong, singing 'He aint' heavy, He's my brother'. Look for this one!
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Hip And Funny Update Of How To Marry A Millionaire
21 December 2000
Remaking old classic movies seems to be a trend the last few years. Whether it's on the big screen or on the small screen, audiences have been inundated with remakes. How To Marry A Billionaire is a hip, up-to-date take on Jean Negulesco's How To Marry A Millionaire. The story of three money-seeking women who set out to marry three millionaires. As anyone who has seen the film remembers the story concluded with the ladies redeeming themselves when they choose love over money and then getting both.

In How To Marry A Billionaire, the concept is similar but the tables are turned, as this time, it's three men looking for rich women. The characters are similar with John Stamos, as Tom, heading up the charge playing Bacall's intelligent, scheming character. Shemar Moore, as Jason, is the dim-witted, but kind-hearted ladies man/want-to-be-actor, he is obviously doing Monroe's character. Joshua Malina, as Mark, plays the deep-thinking, conservative character that Grable nailed down in the original.

The three poor bachelors pass themselves off a mega-rich movie producers in an attempt to land an equally rich partner and get married. The three soon find that the idea is much harder to pull off as they had originally thought, whenever emotions are involved, it usually is.

A truly sweet love story arises when Tom befriends a lonely painter on the beach, played by Gabrielle Anwar. She isn't rich but she has a kind heart and before long Tom is falling in love with her.

Will Tom choose love over money? Will Jason gets his big role? Will Mark realize something about himself that he had been suppressing all his life? Something that Grable was never allowed to reveal back in the 50's. You have to watch to find out. I'll let you in on a secret, the film is a remake remember.

Rod Daniel (Alley Cats Strike) is such a talented director that it boggles the mind to know that he is making TV-movies while guys like Danny Cannon are being allowed to direct big-budget Hollywood features. Anyways, try and check this movie out next time it comes on!
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Nightbeast (1982)
Mayberry vs The Predator?
11 December 2000
Nightbeast, although never able to rise above it's limited budget, still manages to leave a sweet taste in your mouth.

Reeling from a collision with a meteor, a spaceship crashes in the forest of a small town. The alien (which strangely resembles the 'Predator') comes stumbling out, angry and lost. He goes on a killing spree which includes some campers. The sheriff decides to ask the locals to help him go after the creature. The towns-people, mostly farmers, hunters and loggers, reluctantly agree. A violent, gory battle quickly ensues.

As I was watching Nightbeast I kept thinking to myself 'this is Mayberry vs The Predator'. Even the sheriff, reminded of Andy Griffith. I hated to admit it but I kind of enjoyed this film. There are some great moments, for example, there is a scene where an elderly hunter, who manages to shoot a weapon out of the creatures hand, falls to his knees and begins to weep. Plus, the creature is often shown fleetingly, like an apparition, and it is apparent that Dohler was hinting at something here but I couldn't figure it out.

Sadly, Nightbeast suffers from it's all too small budget. The special effects appear amateurish and the gore scenes look fake. The film also has problems with the plot, there are too many sub-plots. There is like three separate stories going on all at once and you are constantly jumping back and forth amongst them. Also, there is a rather weird sex scene between the sheriff and his deputy, that seems totally out of place here, as if it was inserted afterwards.

Outside of all these minuses, there is something I liked about Nightbeast. Maybe it is because of all the minuses that I keep coming back for more, the same reason I keep coming back for Plan Nine From Outer Space.
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One Special Night (1999 TV Movie)
One Special Night Revisits The Screwball Comedies Of Yesteryear
8 December 2000
James Garner and Julie Andrews unite for 'One Special Night' in this awkward, yet funny, romantic tale.

James Garner finds himself stranded at a hospital after a visit with his Alzheimer-stricken wife runs kind of late. Julie Andrews is a kindly but tough nurse who offers to give him a ride. The snowstorm raging outside isn't so kind. The two trek out into the storm and soon find that Andrews' Jaguar isn't quite made for the deep snow. Soon, the two are stranded in a forest in the middle of nowhere. The two eventually make their way through the bitter white landscape to a small empty cabin. They break in, spark up the fireplace and spend the night drinking coffee and talking.

There is a sub-plot involving Garner's family, that does take away from the film, as one other commenter mentioned. What does 'work' is the relationship that develops between Garner and Andrews. It reminded me of those great screwball comedies of the past. There is even a moment that involved sleeping arrangements. It reminded me of that great scene in It Happened One Night.

A cold raging snowstorm, a cabin. a nice, cozy fireplace and two interesting people. What a great way to spend a night. This is one of those holiday specials I hope they play every year. Garner and Andrews prove that just because your in your 60's doesn't mean you can't make a fun, sexy, romantic comedy.

Forget Gwyneth and Ben (they seem more in love with themselves rather than each other, anyways) and spend 'One Special Night' with Julie and James. You can't go wrong.
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The Most Poignant And Moving Cinematic Endings In A Long Time
4 November 2000
One cold night, four teenagers, coming back from a concert, find themselves stranded in the woods after their car collides with a tree. They decide to set up camp near the road so as to keep an eye out for passing cars. As a way to kill time, and since the setting is right, they decide to share some horror stories.

There are three stories in total. The first story is about lost love, the second story concerns lost innocence and the third involves the consequences of a tragic mistake and an eternal longing for forgiveness. Each story is an important element to the ending of the film. Reflecting what Jay Ferguson's character must be feeling as he sits on the presurface of an eternity of regret, lost love and lost innocence and, of course, forgiveness.

I can't believe that Campfire Tales hasn't garnered the cult status it deserves. It is loaded with elements that would keep a serious film fan tuned in for repeated viewings plus an ending that still packs an emotional punch each time you watch it.

I noticed traces of various other films in this Cooper outing including; Are You Afraid Of The Dark?, Jacob's Ladder, An Occurrence At Owl Creek, Strangeland, Groundhog Day and Friday The 13th. Sadly, though, this film is most often compared to Urban Legend, a film so lame it doesn't deserve the comparison. Where Legend meandered off into a silly campus-slasher flick, Cooper, misleads the audience into believing this will become another slasher outing but, eventually, as we learn, he has had more in mind all along. He even manages to insert an anti-DUI message in amongst the story.

Things to look for; the owl call just after the car careens off the road. Just a coincidence or a not-so-subtle reference to the above mentioned film? Who knows? Campfire Tales is one of my most endearing movie treasures and I hope, someday, it receives the attention it deserves.
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Addicted To Murder 2 is, simply, addictive!
14 October 2000
Kevin Lindenmuth is a truly talented filmmaker who can do more with a smaller budget than Joel Schumacher could do with all the money in the world. The Addicted To Murder series proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Addicted To Murder: Tainted Blood finds serial killer turned vampire slayer, Joel Winter, hunting the streets in search of his lost love Rachel. Huh? You make ask. Didn't Joel kill Rachel in part one.

When the film opens it seems confusing to anyone who may have seen the original film. At the end of that Addicted To Murder, if you recall, Joel has killed Angie and goes on to kill Rachel in an attempt to redeem his damned soul. So when the second one picks up, it doesn't make any sense. However, if you recall in the original, it jumps ahead from the point where Joel realizes that he is a vampire to the point where he has appointed himself a slayer. Tainted Blood attempts to fill in the blanks.

It succeeds, incredibly, in doing something that I wonder has ever been done before in film history. I've seen prequels and sequels, but never a film that fills in the years between one point and another, in a completely different film. Usually filmmakers place this extra footage at the end of a DVD or video in a sick attempt to tease the audience. But this is original and it works.

The ending has already been shown to the audience in the original film, it's just a matter of going along for the ride and watching our makeshift hero's transition from prey to hunter.

What a grand ride it is, indeed! Kevin Lindenmuth I salute you!
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Lori Ann Triolo Offers An Inspiring Performance In A Mediocre Film
19 August 2000
Brian Dennehy has proven himself a capable director who knows how to build suspense better than most directors working today. Shadow Of A Doubt and Indefensible: The Truth About Edward Brannigan are perfect examples of that.

A gruff, commanding attorney, Edward Brannigan(Dennehy) is forced to defend himself against a charge of rape after an awkward dinner meeting with associate, Rebecca Daly(Krige). The charge begins to take a toll on Brannigan and Daly's circle of friends who are forced to take a side.

The film uses every trick in the book to sway the audience back and forth in a struggle of truths. Is Brannigan a slimy, misogynist who can't comprehend that `no' means `no' or is Daly a neurotic, opportunist looking to bring down a legendary attorney? The suspense continues to build at a breakneck pace and even when things begin to unravel, you find yourself questioning things even more.

The talented ensemble of actors include; Lynn Redgrave, Reed Diamond, Benjamin Ratner and, last but not least, Lori Ann Triolo. The young, up and coming actress, absolutely steals the picture out from under her more famous castmates. Triolo, is like a breath of fresh air in a sometimes smoggy story. I never for once doubted her as a sexually charged dynamo, extremely intelligent lawyer and concerned friend who is forced to chose between colleagues and lovers. Rarely, am I awestruck by a performance the way I was with Triolo's. She owns the camera the same way Bette Davis did in her prime.

The subject matter of Indefensible: The Truth About Edward Brannigan might not appeal to most, especially since the subject seems to take a backseat to various plot devices. The one thing you can rely on is Lori Triolo and her brilliant performance. Check it out!
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Visitors of the Night (1995 TV Movie)
A Frightening Look At The Alien Abduction Phenomenon Through The Eyes Of Two Women
28 May 2000
When her daughter mysteriously disappears for a few hours, Judith English(Post) decides to confront her greatest fears and investigate what is happening. She realizes that her daughter is experiencing the same thing that she experienced as a little girl, abduction by aliens.

While watching Visitors of the Night, I found myself thinking how the film was like an extension of another film, Intruders. Both films take a serious look at the topic of alien abductions and both films concern a main character who believes she may or may not have been impregnated with an alien/human hybrid.

Although, unlike Intruders, the film takes a detour into the implausible near the end when Post's character begins to suspect that her daughter might not be what she seems. Without giving anything away, the ending doesn't tend to ruin the whole film.

Director, Jorge Montesi offers up another creepy outing that ufo enthusiasts will appreciate. Trivia buffs will note that Montesi would follow up this film with another ufo-related film a year later, Night Visitors.
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