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Not as bad as people say
This edition of 'Airwolf' i.e., the fourth season of 'Airwolf' is hated by reviewers for the following 2 reasons: 1] The first three seasons starred Jan Michael Vincent in the lead role instead of Barry van Dyke who took over from the former. Naturally fans felt betrayed and were not inclined to like the new series lead.
2] The fourth season is indeed low budget compared to the first three seasons and all the footage of the Airwolf super-helicopter used in the fourth season is borrowed from the first three seasons.
Yet, Airwolf, Season 4, is not as bad as reviewers would have you believe. I started watching Season 4 recently with low expectations and I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the little-known Canadian actors who play the other lead roles in this series. Even the much-maligned reuse of helicopter footage from the previous seasons has been fairly well done by this show's editing department, considering that video-editing software did not exist in the 1980s.
A few episodes in Season 4 are actually fairly good. I suspect that if one watched Season 4 first and the first 3 Seasons later, the former would not seem so bad at all. Barry van Dyke's St.John (Sinjin) Hawke is actually more likable than Jan Michael Vincent's brooding performance as Stringfellow Hawke. Of course, one would expect that St.John, after his many years of captivity and ill-treatment in Vietnam, would be the one who is moody and morose. Not his younger brother Stringfellow who managed to avoid capture.
Another point that other reviewers have missed is that the tall, square-jawed Barry van Dyke seems more believable as an action hero than the short, slightly-built Jan Michael Vincent who somehow manages to beat up the bad guys during three seasons of this show. Yet, it is true that both actors give rather middling performances in their respective roles.
24 Hours to Kill (1965)
Lacks much drama
"Twenty four hours to kill" is set in 1965 Beirut at a time when that city perhaps deserved its soubriquet 'The Playground of the Middle East'. Needless to say, today's Beirut has a quite a different international reputation. It is interesting to see the Beirut of nearly 50 years ago in this movie when the French influence on the city was still evident. Other than that, there is little in this film that will hold the interest of the viewer. Lex Barker is somewhat impressive in the lead role and delivers his lines well, but Mickey Rooney adds nothing to this film. Austria-born Walter Slezak plays the villain, but it is not clear whether he is a Fez-cap wearing Turk living in Beirut, or an Arab who was bestowed with a Fez cap by the film's director who thought that every Arab wore one. Of course, in the 1960s, westerners thought Turks and Arabs to be equally exotic and interchangeable. Despite its Middle Eastern setting, local Lebanese are not much in evidence, in this flick. Instead, we have transplanted Westerners dealing with Walter's Slezak's Malouf. Yet, that is not enough to hold the viewer's interest.
Too many characters, some poorly drawn.
I just watched 'Deewaar' on a plane flight from India to Canada. I wondered why the Anand Verma character who sacrifices his reputation to save his family, would simply abandon his wife and 2 sons to become a perpetual traveler on Indian railway trains.
The movie makes only a feeble attempt to explain why Vijay Verma (Amitabh Bacchan) gets drawn to a life of crime. Both Ravi Verma (Vijay's younger brother played by Shashi Kapoor) and his mother seem like idealized caricatures than like real people. In spite of that, I somehow prefer Shashi Kapoor's performance over Amitabh's. The former seems to have more screen-time and lines than Amitabh does, yet 'Deewaar' is remembered as an Amitabh Bacchan vehicle.
Ravi Verma's romance with Leena Narang (Neetu Singh) is a distraction and does not add anything to the movie. Poor Neetu Singh. She is absent during much of this movie. It would have been better to get rid of her character altogether. The 2 songs in this flick are so unmemorable that the movie would have been better without them. And unique too, since song sequences are considered de rigueur in Indian cinema. Not having any songs in this movie would have made 'Deewaar' a high watermark in Indian film history. Vijay Verma's love interest Anita (played by Parveen Babi) is a far more interesting character than Leena Narang. She should have been given more screen time.
The film's premise that a police officer would be ready to kill his own brother for the sake of justice is highly unrealistic. But then, this is one plot hole that the viewer should be expected to overlook.
However it must be admitted that 'Deewaar' is worth watching by fans of Hindi cinema, if only because of its reputation. I am happy that I was finally able to view this film.
The Baron (1966)
'The Baron' is quite good
Recently, I have been watching 'The Baron' episodes on DVD. 'The Baron' is actually better than I had expected. Many of the episodes were written by the same writers who wrote for 'The Saint', starring Roger Moore. Think of 'The Baron' as 'The Saint' with Steve Forrest playing 'The Saint' who has somehow acquired an American background and accent. So it is not surprising that this series appeals to Saint fans such as myself. Steve Forrest, the brother of famous American actor Dana Andrews, is quite good in this old British television series. He has a good screen presence and looks rugged and strong, despite being middle-aged when this series was made. The only criticism that I can make is that this show has no attractive female characters. In contrast, other British TV series such as 'The Saint', 'The Avengers' and 'Dangerman' regularly featured attractive actresses from that era.
Yet another of the numerous TV movies starring television's original Perry Mason Raymond Burr and his secretary Della Street played by Barbara Hale. Both of them look their age in this telefilm which tries to explain away Raymond Burr's weight-encumbered locomotion as due to his character's knee surgery. Nobody would be fooled, however.
"Murdered Madam" has a good plot. Unfortunately, the script-writers make no good use of it. One expects some startling revelation would actually come out of the recording equipment which Suzanne Domenico, played adequately by Ann Gillian, installs in her house. But nothing does. Suzanne's colorful past is never explored even briefly in this film. It is just touched upon, making her character one-dimensional. The bankers' reason for their rendezvous at Suzanne's house, when revealed by Perry's cross-examination at the end of the movie, may have sounded high-tech when this movie was made, but is now well-known to people who are interested in such things.
Once again, Paul Drake is shown to be an inept detective who lets his quarry slip away from him more than once. In contrast, the Paul Drake of Erle Stanley Gardner's books was even more adroit than Perry Mason himself.
"Murdered Madam" will appeal to an older audience who grew up watching Perry Mason. I do not want to sound politically correct but such folks may not mind the stereotyped portrayals of the black maid, gay hairdressers with long pink hair and the general bowdlerizing of the madam character. However, those who grew up reading Gardner's books as opposed to watching his creation on TV will not be impressed by this telefilm or its over-the-hill stars.
The only attraction of "Harts in High Season" is Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers. Despite having aged a good 20 years since their hit TV series "Hart to Hart", they look the same. Their on-screen chemistry is good as ever. Otherwise, this movie is quite bad. Jonathan Hart (Robert Wagner) has to clear his name after being framed in Australia for what seems to be a murder. But he and his wife do not seem to be perturbed by this circumstance as they go about trying to resolve it. Both Wagner and Powers don't seem to be taking their roles seriously. While trying to prove Jonathan's innocence, the couple get into several sticky situations. Yet there is no suspense in this flick. The film's end is cliched. And unnecessary, as the Harts' troubles are essentially over 30 minutes before the film ends. I suppose the director had to stretch the film's length by half an hour with a "filler". There is also a 7 foot, 400 pound black villain named Tonga who seems to be there solely to be a racial stereotype.
This telefilm could have been an enjoyable light-hearted adventure. It had the right ingredients, namely the actors, the exotic Australian locale and a good though hackneyed plot.
Mayflower Madam (1987)
"Mayflower Madam" is a dull, insipid film about Sidney Biddle Barrows who ran a high-class call-girl ring in 1980s New York. The book by Barrows, on which this movie is based, is far more interesting because it tells the tale of how a well-bred WASP got into the escort service business. The book is prurient and titillating without being offensive. The movie is merely boring. Candice Bergen is miscast as the Mayflower Madam.
(Reviewed by Sundar Narayan)
The Brain (1962)
Science fiction meets Film Noir
If the science fiction elements were absent from this film, it would have been a good film noir movie. A remake of "Donovan's Brain", "Ein Toter sucht seinen Morder" (American title: The Brain), falls between two stools. In it, a scientist keeps alive the brain of a dead colleague while keeping the fact a secret from dead man's relatives who he suspects of murdering him; he turns detective and investigates.
The brain is kept alive in what looks a formalin-filled tank with wires sticking out of it - amateurish, but in keeping with the low budget science fiction films of that era. The film noir camera work is excellent as are the other film noir elements in this flick. The movie has a fast pace most of the time. Peter van Eych's acting is wooden at best and he looks too old for the part.
Worth watching if you are into old science fiction films of that era.
(Reviewed by Sundar Narayan)
Interesting to Indians
"Bloodstone" may be unknown to North American film buffs, but it was released with some fanfare in India, because the main character's sidekick is played by Rajnikanth, a South Indian mega star. Compared to the aplomb with which he plays his Tamil film roles, Rajnikanth is rather subdued as an autorickshaw driver in "Bloodstone". His fans will be disappointed as he takes a backseat to the lead character.
To non-Indian watchers, "Bloodstone" will come across as a run-of-the-mill adventure movie, albeit set in an exotic location. The title refers to a gem once owned by a Maharaja who put a curse on its future owners.
(Reviewed by Sundar Narayan)
I was waiting for a bus in southern India when I noticed the headlines in a Tamil newspaper banner announcing the Challenger disaster. Being interested in Space, I was saddened. In the following days, the Soviet Union callously spread a disinformation story in some Indian newspapers charging that the Challenger was secretly carrying explosives as part of a clandestine plot to militarize Space. Therefore, I watched "Challenger" with interest when it was first shown on television in 1990. I liked it then. I am not sure I'll think so now. Here are the impressions this film made on me at that time.
I identified with Julie Fulton as Dr.Judy Resnick, because of the character's feminism, an ideology in which I believed - at that time. I was a little annoyed by Christa McAuliffe because as a Social Studies teacher she proclaims (in the movie) that there are too many scientists in the Space Program and not enough ordinary people. The film only hints at the role of Roger Boisjoly, an engineer who urged NASA to cancel the Challenger flight because of faulty O-ring seals. Like all engineers, he was overruled (you guessed it; I am an engineer). The film follows the lives of the doomed astronauts during their final days - I was rather moved by that. Strangely, the film never shows the famous Challenger disaster footage. Maybe, it was too well-known.
(Reviewed by Sundar Narayan)