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Church bells ring morbidly, but New Jersey newlyweds Tracy Coogan and
Graham Sibley (as Denise and Danny Zanders) are very happily married.
Bounding out of the church, they take off in their "Just Married" car
with Mr. Sibley at the wheel and Ms. Coogan bobbing her head in his
lap. The honeymoon goes well, although one kiss does seem like a
foreshadowing bite. With a little "Endless Summer" (1966) music, Sibley
goes surfing. While the couple relaxes on the beach, an ugly zombie
emerges from the ocean. He falls full front on Sibley and spews dark
vomit down his throat. It appears like Sibley may die from the
encounter. Coogan is happy when her husband miraculously recovers, but
the couple faces a zombie challenge...
Neatly written and directed by David Gebroe, "Zombie Honeymoon" is essentially a love story. The horror and gore are present, but Mr. Gebroe does not focus on fright. This sort of monster drama recalls the supernatural characters explored by Dan Curtis on TV in "Dark Shadows" and Anne Rice in her "Vampire Lestat" novels. Explicitly, Mr. Gebroe's script identifies being a zombie as "an affliction." The couple must deal with the potentially monstrous condition and make it work in their marriage, or not...
Coogan and Sibley perform well and we understand their plight. Still, there is very an audience can invest in their characters. He likes to surf, she likes oral sex and they got married. They like Portugal, too. That's all great, for them. Generally, we are spectators and do not participate in their interests and activities. A couple of exceptions are among Mr. Gebroe's highlights. He intimately opens a scene by panning Coogan's legs as she dozes in her underwear, then discovers her groom sick in the bathroom. In this sequence, we are brought seductively and effectively into the drama. Lastly, near the end of the film, Coogan has a brief, dreamy vision of Sibley which shows a romanticism that should have been part of the story's opening.
***** Zombie Honeymoon (10/23/2004) David Gebroe ~ Tracy Coogan, Graham Sibley, Tonya Cornelisse, David M. Wallace
Highly-strung Danielle Savre (as Grace) receives some bad news. Her
husband feels their sessions with a psychiatrist are not working and he
wants to permanently end the marriage. Prone to spontaneous temper
tantrums, Ms. Savre has something called HPD. HPD is short for
Histrionic Personality Disorder (looked it up). A tragic mishap results
in Savre moving from her small town to the relatively big city of
Philadelphia. She wants to make a fresh start. Savre quickly goes
grocery shopping and sees a strikingly good-looking older man, with
great hair. The man is successful professor and writer Jefferson Brown
(as Robert Harris). No, he doesn't sport the trendy "neatly trimmed
beard" look, but the hair is perfect. Savre feigns dropping her
groceries in order to meet him...
Savre wants to seduce and marry Mr. Brown, but there is one problem. Brown loves his live-in girlfriend Krista Morin (as Erin Stevens)...
"The Perfect Stalker" scores points with its early reference to what they call HPD, which is an honest to goodness (or badness) condition. This helps explain the hundreds (or soon to be) of unhinged "Lifetime" TV movie characters. They demonstrate "erratic behavior, unwillingness to accept criticism," are "overly dramatic, emotional," and, best of all (for TV movie purposes), they act out sexually after becoming obsessed with a targeted mate. This is the basic plot for these stories, which are sometimes "based on a true story." Now, it all makes sense. Curtis Crawford and his crew are responsible for dozens of these formula movies. This one is above average, due to a well-balanced but necessarily unhinged lead performance by Savre. Her last attempt is a titillating delight.
****** The Perfect Stalker (12/30/2016) Curtis Crawford ~ Danielle Savre, Jefferson Brown, Krista Morin, John Koensgen
Four years after suffering through "The Wrong Woman" (2013), attractive
single mother Danica McKellar (as Ellen Plainview) has left her job in
the dentist's office. She has completed law school and is, presently, a
very successful defense attorney. This is great news because the
shrouded figure committing a murder in the opening minutes may be Ms.
McKellar's 17-year-old daughter Paige Searcy (as Julie Anne Plainview).
The college-bound young woman is suddenly arrested for the mysterious
stabbing. Police don't mess around and Ms. Searcy is rushed to jail
faster than you can say Jack Robinson. The police are convinced Searcy
is guilty. She says, "Mommy, I didn't do it!" but can't help much with
Nice to see veteran Veronica Cartwright as the main judge and "Cheers" to George Wendt in a small role...
The case is eventually solved and the mysterious murderer is positively identified. You'll have to watch to see if it's Searcy or someone else. Fast-talking police detective Jaleel White (as Gene Hamer) is convinced Searcy stabbed the teacher. His determination is inappropriately funny. Best girlfriend Caroline Sunshine (as Sylvie Garrett) is very supportive. She can't be cast as the unattractive best friend who is unable to attract boys when compared to Searcy, however. So, what was it about "The Wrong Woman" that warranted a sequel? Probably it was highly successful, commercially, meaning high ratings for the original and re-airings. Congratulations to director Richard Gabai and writer Leland Douglas.
*** Mommy, I Didn't Do It (1/1/2017) Richard Gabai ~ Danica McKellar, Paige Searcy, Jaleel White, Caroline Sunshine
In a Los Angeles-area library, a woman screams, "Maddy, Maddy!"
Apparently, her daughter has been abducted. No, wait, it's only a
nightmare. Over-protective mother Jennifer Taylor (as Claire) awakens.
Her pretty blonde daughter Mia Topalian (as Maddy Beauregard) announces
she is going out to a party in Westwood. When your teenage daughter
says she's going to a party in Westwood, you tend to worry. After being
assured there will be no drug-taking at the party, Ms. Taylor decides
to follow Ms. Topalian anyway. "Booze, pot and guys trying to get in
her pants," is how Taylor describes what she finds. Thanks to older
friend Danielle Chuchran (as Gina West), 17-year-old Topalian hooks up
with hunky 20-year-old Spencer Neville (as Tucker). Parked in a car,
the handsome young man is easily coaxed out of his shirt, but mother
Taylor arrives and spoils the fun...
Typically rollicking with derangement, "Stalked by My Mother" is another "Lifetime" TV movie from writer-director Doug Campbell. This one is interestingly plotted and would have benefited from a bigger budget, some story development and additional minutes (for pacing). The fast-motion and flashbacks are cheap and weigh it down. Also, most of the characters are not likable. Most notably, this is true for the mother, played by Taylor. Taylor emerges as the story's heroine and main character, but she's unlikable and stays that way. The story does hold your attention, with a few twists and turns. Midway, we're introduced to private detective Kevin Scott Allen (as Nick Fox). Drenched in alcohol and cheap cologne, "Nick Fox" is a highlight for Campbell and Mr. Allen. This supporting character is so engaging, he literally takes over the story during his time on screen.
**** Stalked by My Mother (9/26/2016) Doug Campbell ~ Jennifer Taylor, Danielle Chuchran, Mia Topalian, Kevin Scott Allen
While jogging, an attractive young blonde woman is attacked by a man
concealed by a dark hoodie. In broad daylight. Fortunately, a handsome
young man intervenes and scares off the attacker. The young woman is
18-year-old Gatlin Green (as Lily Becker). She has just discarded a
cheating boyfriend and is looking forward to college. The young man is
20-year-old Austin James (as Mick Grant). He's new in town and lives on
a boat in the marina. These two characters are mutually attracted, but
Ms. Green's "true crime writer" mother Brigid Brannagh (as Jennifer)
and others think our pretty protagonist should proceed very slowly with
Mr. James. James is cute, heroic, polite and muscular with or without
his shirt. He seems almost too perfect...
Not confirming anything, but "His Secret Past" means James' character. Of course, these TV movies are liable to pull a fast one on you...
Our first real clue may be the character not wanting to have his picture taken. Either James is miscast as an unattractive young man or he's secretly a picture picky actor. James does well in the role, with director Randy Carter growing him a smaller stature as compared to Green's tall, dark ex-boyfriend Alex Heartman (as Scott Ellison); note, he has no last scene. Also well cast is Green's concerned best friend Lindsay Bushman (as Kelly). Serving nicely as his own film editor, Mr. Carter makes the story and players smooth and natural. So, when the characters get rough, it means something. "His Secret Past" is routine but engaging. There is a lesson to be learned about calling 9-11 when you are in trouble. They put you on hold for a very long time.
***** His Secret Past (12/26/2016) Randy Carter ~ Gatlin Green, Austin James, Brigid Brannagh, Alex Heartman
A handsome man, with a neatly trimmed beard, lurks around a house in
the darkness. He seems to be attempting to break into the house, but he
is interrupted by a phone call. Inside the house, we briefly see a dark
figure creeping across the screen. This opening never really fits the
rest of the story, although you could rationalize it with a line or
two. "Inspired by a true story," the TV movie settles into place after
the credits. The handsome man with the neatly trimmed beard is Tilky
Jones (as Brian Lassiter). He moves into what looks like a dream house,
with his attractive wife Clare Kramer (as Rebecca) and their adorable
lemonade-selling pre-teen daughter Ashlyn Jade Lopez (as Maddy). Alas,
a title like "The Wrong House" shouts trouble ahead...
This is competently guided by Sam Irvin and his crew. The direction is steady, holds interest, and we accept Mr. Irvin's putting women on counter-tops as a stylistic touch. The location and a supporting cast of instantly too-friendly neighbors give it a suitably phony atmosphere. Others in the cast include fitness trainer Allison McAtee (as Kathleen Strickland) and former "Melrose Place" mainstay Thomas Calabro (as Carter)...
What ruins the supposedly "true" story is the half-time decision by a major character to separate from her husband. Given the many incidents preceding the discovery of strange underwear in her bed, her decision is inexplicable. Since the character is presented as sane and intelligent, she should never be given a second chance. "The Wrong House" never addresses this character's sudden lack of cognition.
**** The Wrong House (12/26/2016) Sam Irvin ~ Clare Kramer, Tilky Jones, Allison McAtee, Thomas Calabro
At his Los Angeles law offices, Herb's secretary is out sick. Eve (Eve
Arden) arrives and persuades Herb (Herbert Rudley) she should serve as
a temporary replacement. Very quickly, Kaye (Kaye Ballad) stops by and
joins Eve in the office. The two women cause comic uproar and almost
spoil a business deal. After lunching on Deviled eggs, Eve and Kaye
allow Roger (Roger C. Carmel) to work in the office, too. He is unable
to work at home without Kaye in the house. Naturally, Herb's office
becomes a madhouse. In this episode, Eve and Kaye continue following
Desi Arnaz and the series' writers (Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Davis)
"Lucy" antics. It's interesting to see them go for the concurrent "Lucy
Show" situation, with each playing the ditsy secretary. Herb would have
been great in the "Mr. Mooney" (Gale Gordon) role. Also, the
Mothers-In-Law assist in the marriage of "Bachelor Father" boy Jimmy
Boyd and "Dr. Pepper Girl" Donna Loren.
****** Herb's Little Helper (2/11/68) Elliott Lewis ~ Eve Arden, Kaye Ballard, Herbert Rudley, Roger C. Carmel
The new electric typewriter purchased by Roger (Roger C. Carmel) works
beautifully. Now, the Hollywood script-writer doesn't have the $100 he
borrowed from Herb (Herbert Rudley) to pay for the typewriter. Roger
hasn't been selling a lot of scripts. Eve (Eve Arden) gets money from
Herb's emergency fund and gives it to Kaye (Kaye Ballard) so she can
lend Roger the money to pay Herb. You know what they say about
borrowing or lending money when it concerns relatives. This is a very
funny episode, with the comedy coming from an outrageous situation. The
blackmail-themed plot recalls similar "Lucy" shows involving blackmail,
extra-marital affairs and even murder. In an early "I Love Lucy"
episode, Lucy genuinely thought Ricky was trying to kill her. The four
In-Laws have fun with the script and keep it fast-paced and believable.
With much extra mugging, Mr. Rudley is the stand-out.
******* Bye, Bye Blackmailer (2/25/68) Elliott Lewis ~ Herbert Rudley, Roger C. Carmel, Eve Arden, Kaye Ballard
While wearing one of her most Lucille Ball-type wigs, Eve (Eve Arden)
decides to have her blonde wig serviced. To have fun with Roger (Roger
C. Carmel), Kaye (Kaye Ballard) asks to borrow the blonde wig. He
becomes very amorous, even nibbling her ear. At first, Kaye likes the
attention. "Just relax and enjoy it," advises Eve. But, inevitably,
Kaye wonders if he really loves "some blonde woman" and not her. Many
episodes of "The Mothers-In-Law" recall earlier shows starring Lucille
Ball. For this one, an "I Love Lucy" script may have been used as the
story idea. In one Lucy show, the red-haired comedienne dons a wig to
see if a dark-haired woman would tempt Ricky, with similar results...
Lucy and/or Vivian Vance also wore wigs to resemble Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren. One odd thing about this episode is the fact that Eve later wears a red-haired wig to startle Herb (Herbert Rudley). He says he married a blonde, but Eve's hair color seems more red than blonde; in fact, Eve Arden often seems deliberately styled to make her look like the Lucille Ball concurrently starring in her own sitcom. When Jerry and Suzie see Eve, they ask, "Is that you?" In the half-hour's funniest line, she replies, "It ain't Lucille Ball!" She looked more like Lucy without trying, in the opening scene. With a familiar touch, Desi Arnaz directed this wig tale. It's a little too derivative, but still amuses.
****** The Wig Story (3/3/68) Desi Arnaz ~ Eve Arden, Kaye Ballard, Roger C. Carmel, Herbert Rudley
A typical dinner out with the Hubbards and the Buells ends with Roger
(Roger C. Carmel) not paying his fair share of the $38 check, plus $6
tip. Herb (Herbert Rudley) is furious with his "tightwad" neighbor and
plans to win back the money playing golf and gin rummy. Instead, Herb
loses more money. Soon, the tension has involved Eve (Eve Arden) and
Kaye (Kaye Ballard). Each takes her husband's side and 20 years of
friendship goes down the drain. For this one, Jackie Gleason's
"Honeymooners" writer Sydney Zelinka recycles situations and ideas very
well, showing an understanding of Desi Arnaz' comedy and his
characters. While derivative, it's still funny.
****** It's Only Money (3/10/68) Elliott Lewis ~ Herbert Rudley, Roger C. Carmel, Eve Arden, Kaye Ballard
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