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Needful Things (1993)
In the 1960's, the late Jack Weston and the late Claude Akins appeared in a Twilight Zone episode entitled "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street", in which the residents of suburban Maple Street, Anytown, USA experienced strange events on their street. As panic spread, the citizens began to turn against each other, with mounting violence and vandalism.
It turned out that the prime mover responsible for starting the trouble was a pair of aliens who were manipulating the citizens' electricity as a prelude to an invasion.
I thought about this Twilight Zone episode last night while I was watching NEEDFUL THINGS. Castle Rock seems to be a reasonably peaceful town until the arrival of the Max Von Sydow character Leland Gaunt, who no sooner opens his store when he manipulates the townspeople into calling their petty differences into the forefront(s) of their minds, magnifying those differences threefold (or more), and eventually turning against each other - with mounting violence and vandalism - just like in the old "Maple Street" Twilight Zone episode. The natural outcome is chaos; even members of the local clergy turn against each other in NEEDFUL THINGS. So much for pastoral counseling...
Leonard Maltin gave NEEDFUL THINGS 1.5 stars and proclaimed it a "bottom of the barrel bore." I disagree with him. I didn't care for the abundant foul language in the film; that and the violence justify the R-rating. But the acting was enjoyable. I found this to be an interesting movie, with an important message for our troubled times: It is much easier to react than it is to think...
Myra Breckinridge (1970)
Suppose they trashed a novel and nobody came?
For years, I had wondered about this film. Yesterday I saw it on DVD. What a waste of time and talent.
The movie is a disjointed crazy quilt with no flow, as if two script pages out of every five were deleted and left on the cutting room floor.
As Buck Loner, John Huston's dialogue is frequently mumbled. I guess it's tough to enunciate when you're semi-nude on a massage table and having an Indian squaw rub your butt before she jumps on you for a piggyback ride? Sorry Pocahontas, go back to the reservation.
At one point, Leticia Van Allen decks Buck Loner in front of her acting class before she dresses in black and white feather boas to sing a song about tasting the fruit. Don't ask. I couldn't figure it out, either.
I don't think Michael Sarne knew what he was doing when he scripted. At one point, Myra complains to Mary Ann about the decline of Western civilization (people who live in glass houses, Myra), during which Rex Reed walks through the scene and disappears without a word. Then Myra and Mary Ann hit the sack together, a vision that only a frontal lobotomy will erase. If Myron and Myra are the before and after sides of a sex change, how can they appear together in the same scene? Hold on to your stomachs, folks; there's more...
Nelson Sardelli (who?) plays this young guy Mario who resembles the Big Ragoo from the Laverne & Shirley TV show. His part consists of saying his full name, all 33 syllables, and making a pass at Leticia in a scene that probably inspired HAROLD AND MAUDE.
Tom Selleck makes a pre-MAGNUM P.I. appearance without a mustache as one of the "studs" and looks suspiciously like a young George Clooney. Leticia may have groped his character's gluteus maximus onscreen, but it's hard to tell because the editing is so sloppy that a five-year-old with severe myopia could have done it better.
And would someone please explain why they keep cutting away from the action to all those black and white clips from previous films? Unless they think they're going to improve this crud by saluting the salad days of famous dead people, I just don't get it.
The DVD extras include the AMC "Back Story" episode on MYRA, which claims that many cast and crew members were smoking pot behind the scenes. Boy, does it show. When Leonard Maltin panned MYRA as being a BOMB, he was being really kind.
Another DVD extra is the entire movie with Raquel Welch making snide remarks about it on the soundtrack, a la Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Did this improve the viewing experience? Nope, not one iota.
This is not the "event film" I expected. I recommend it only as a curiosity for completists of Mae West and/or Raquel Welch. Even then, I would recommend having root canal work done on an impacted wisdom tooth without benefit of Novocaine first before I ever condescend to watch this sorry train-wreck of a movie belly-flop into my DVD player ever again.
No stars. That's all, folks...
Kiss Me Goodbye (1982)
Possible spoiler alert
I have seen this movie several times and I don't understand why people pan it so mercilessly. It's a funny movie done in a stylish fashion with an appealing cast. The scenes at the wedding rehearsal (do I dare mention exorcism?) and at the country inn are a howl. There is no real violence, no lengthy nude scenes, and the characters don't use the "F" word in every sentence; more than you can say for many of the films being made today. I recommend KISS ME GOODBYE highly. It may not be the best movie you've ever seen, but it's pleasant and diverting and it isn't supposed to be Shakespeare, folks!
By the way, has it occurred to anyone that this movie basically reworks the plot of Noel Coward's BLITHE SPIRIT, makes minor changes, and reverses the genders?
Sweet Liberty (1986)
I have seen this film several times and on the most recent viewing, I noticed a continuity goof. Alan Alda's character Michael Burgess reads the Hollywood-ized script that has "not been taken" from his book and is outraged at the changes and historical inaccuracies. He spends the entire movie trying to make things right again, even going so far as to sabotage the filming. But then at the end, Michael accosts the director Bo Hodges and blithely apologizes for what he's done. If Michael Burgess is so outraged all through the film, why does he suddenly recant and apologize for his actions at the very end? He seems to be indecisive.
This jolted me a little, but did not diminish my enjoyment of this otherwise fine film and its gentle comedy. It's well worth seeing.
Underrated fascinating film with one little flaw...
I have seen TARGETS several times on video at home alone where nobody else's reaction to the movie would influence my own. TARGETS is a gripping and suspenseful piece of work that depicts the violent mess that civilization frequently seems in danger of becoming.
Boris Karloff's "Byron Orlok" character has a definite social conscience; he is actually concerned about the effects that his actions (starring in horror movie "heavy" roles) have on society.
The one fault I see in TARGETS is that Bobby goes on a killing spree for no apparent reason. The movie only runs ninety minutes and I would have liked to see more footage added to explain why Bobby kills. Otherwise I recommend TARGETS highly.
And whatever became of Tim O'Kelly (who played Bobby) in the first place? Such a good actor should keep working.