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Real name: Scott LeBrun
Birthdate: September 25
I bid you...velcome.
I'm a shameless movie fanatic who especially favours the following genres:
Favourite directors include:
George A. Romero
White Line Fever (1975)
A working man who's had enough!
Jan-Michael Vincent, at the peak of his charisma and movie stardom, registers strongly as good, honest young man Carrol Jo Hummer, fresh from a stint in the Air Force. He gets a loan, which he uses to pay for his own diesel truck, which he dubs The Blue Mule. Initially thinking of working for family friend Duane Haller (Slim Pickens), he ultimately decides to fight corruption in the transport business, making enemies out of slimy people like Buck Wessle (L.Q. Jones) and Cutler (Don Porter). Kay Lenz plays Jerri, the wife who stands by his side.
The prolific director Jonathan Kaplan, who at this time was firing off one entertaining B picture after another, wrote the script with Ken Friedman. Like so many other young directors during the 70s, he'd gotten his start working for Roger Corman, and was able to hone his craft. Here he creates an adequately paced, sometimes pretty serious (but never overly melodramatic), gritty little movie. It gets a lot of mileage out of its time honoured premise of one good man at war with a corrupt system.
Carrol Jo must do battle both on the road and off, and proves himself capable of handling himself in a number of scraps, which are often instigated by swaggering bully Clem (Martin Kove). The action in "White Line Fever" is well executed, and the photography, by Fred J. Koenekamp, is simply gorgeous. One sequence with Carrol Jo on the road as he makes his way to snowy Utah is breathtaking. This is overall very slickly made and engagingly written and performed.
A bright-eyed and earnest Vincent is extremely well supported by the lovable Lenz, ever amiable Pickens, and an effectively sleazy Jones. The cast features other familiar faces such as the ever reliable Dick Miller, and R.G. Armstrong as a prosecuting attorney. Sam Laws, Leigh French, and Kaplan regular Johnny Ray McGhee also appear. Cinematographer Jamie Anderson ("Piranha" '78) has a rare acting role here as Jamie, and Ann Dusenberry of "Jaws 2" is seen briefly as a barmaid.
David Nichtern does the flavourful score for this solid entry into the trucker cinema genre of the '70s. The ending is more low key than the viewer might expect, and may not be totally satisfying to some people.
Seven out of 10.
Where Eagles Dare (1968)
Shows its audience a great time.
"Where Eagles Dare" is an invigorating wartime (in this case WWII) action-espionage-thriller, extremely well directed (by Brian G. Hutton) and engagingly acted. It's very long, but very absorbing. Even at two hours and 36 minutes, it's never boring. The story, as concocted by Alistair MacLean, has got some delicious twists going for it, and it holds your attention from beginning to end. The characters are fun to watch, heroes and villains alike. And there's a fair bit of violence and TONS of explosions to add to its energy level.
The set-up is intriguing. A military operation is underway as a team of British commandos (with American Ranger Schaffer (Clint Eastwood) along for the ride) attempt to infiltrate a Nazi stronghold which is high in the mountains. Their mission is to liberate an American general (Robert Beatty) who's been taken prisoner. At least, that would SEEM to be the case...
Richard Burton is excellent in the lead role of the unflappable leader of the mission, Major Smith. As things go on, he's required to give a performance within the performance, so to speak, and does a commanding job. Eastwoods' role is to largely react to what's going on around him. His consternation is understandable. The rest of the cast does equally praiseworthy work: lovely ladies Mary Ure and Ingrid Pitt, Patrick Wymark, Michael Hordern, Donald Houston, Anton Diffring, Ferdy Mayne, and Derren Nesbitt.
Thanks to the capable second unit direction by Yakima Canutt, the action is first rate and the film really does leave you breathless at times. There are some absolutely convincing and hair-raising set pieces, especially on the sky trams going up and down the mountain. And even when a team of characters is making their escape, it's expectedly no easy task, and the enemy keeps the pressure on constantly. Finally, MacLeans' script has one last wonderful twist to sneak in before things are brought to a close.
Accompanied by majestic music composed by Ron Goodwin, this really is top notch screen entertainment.
Nine out of 10. .
L'isola degli uomini pesce (1979)
Note: this review pertains to the Americanized version, known as "Screamers", devised by Roger Corman. The balance of the original Italian film, "Island of the Fishmen", was kept, and a new prologue, written and directed by Miller Drake, and featuring Mel Ferrer and Cameron Mitchell, was filmed. All in all, this movie is great fun. It's pure nonsense, but it throws a couple of different ideas into its brew, with irresistible results for schlock lovers. We have treasure hunting (in two separate eras), biological mutations, the supposed Lost City of Atlantis, and an international cast also including Claudio Cassinelli, Barbara Bach, Richard Johnson, Joseph Cotten, and Beryl Cunningham.
Cassinelli plays Lt. Claude de Ross, a military doctor who's one of a handful of shipwreck survivors. They come across an isolated tropical island, populated by Creature from the Black Lagoon type monsters, and a number of humans, chief among them the dastardly Edmond Rackham (the charismatic Mr. Johnson of "The Haunting" and "Zombi 2"), his female companion Amanda (the stunning Ms. Bach), and her scientist father Ernest (Mr. Cotten).
The additional American footage actually doesn't stick out that much from the Italian film; the material was pretty hokey from the start. But it's got tons of atmosphere, a whole lot of beautiful scenery, some pretty gnarly creature suits, and flavourful music composed by Luciano Michelini. The acting in the main story is pretty good, with Cassinelli making for a studly hero and Bach as an appealing leading lady. Johnson comes off the best; he's one of those villains you actually can't help but like. People such as Mitchell, Ferrer, and Cotten were clearly hired for name value and don't get to do all that much.
If you're like this viewer, and are partial to this kind of thing to begin with, you should have a fine time watching this.
Eight out of 10.
St. Ives (1976)
Houseman makes it worth seeing.
Charles Bronson stars as the title character in this twist-laden tale of intrigue. Raymond St. Ives is a crime writer who's currently in need of some cash. He's hired by a devious career criminal, Abner Procane (John Houseman), who's written down several journals of his misdeeds. It seems that Procanes' journals have been stolen, and he needs St. Ives to act as a "go between", or deliver money to the thieves while retrieving the incriminating documents. But nothing goes as planned, and St. Ives, an inquisitive sort as well as a cool customer, becomes determined to find out what he's gotten himself into.
Even speaking as a fan of Mr. Bronson, it's really the supporting cast that brings this one to life. Bronson is fun, but the other parts are very well cast and each actor gets a chance to make an impact. Houseman is utterly delightful, looking like he's having a high old time playing such a likable scoundrel. The incredibly beautiful Jacqueline Bisset plays his associate Janet, and Maximilian Schell his psychiatrist. Harry Guardino, Harris Yulin, and Dana Elcar play assorted detectives (Elcar has the most priceless line reading in the whole movie), and Michael Lerner, George Memmoli, Dick O'Neill, Elisha Cook Jr., Val Bisoglio, Burr DeBenning, and Daniel J. Travanti fill out the rest of the main cast. One great joy is in seeing future stars Robert Englund and Jeff Goldblum (Goldbum having made his film debut in "Death Wish" as one of the muggers) as two of the young hoods who accost Bronson at one point.
The story itself, based on a novel by Ross Thomas, does keep the viewers on their toes while they work, like Bronson, to figure out what's what. Director J. Lee Thompson, who would work with Bronson again throughout the 70s and 80s, handles it all with finesse, with fine cinematography by Lucien Ballard and equally fine music composed by Lalo Schifrin as additional assets.
If you're fan of Bronson, Houseman, or Thompson, then by all means give this one a viewing.
Seven out of 10.
The Gauntlet (1977)
Not among Clints' best, but fun.
Clint Eastwood pays Ben Shockley, a tough, hard-drinking, washed up and not overly effective cop. Not much is expected of him, yet he's assigned to escort a "nothing" witness (feisty hooker "Gus" Mally, played by Eastwoods' gal pal of the era, Sondra Locke) to a "nothing" trial. However, he'll find that the truth is different from what he's been told, and that there are powerful people who will not want to see him accomplish his mission.
The movie, which works as something of a predecessor to "Midnight Run", is well shot (by Rexford L. Metz) in Panavision, and adequately paced. It has just as many decent character moments as it does thrills. The action is deliberately made to be way over the top, with tons of bullets pumped into a house, a car, and, eventually, a bus. So, as an exercise in excess, "The Gauntlet" does do its job.
Clint is fine as always. He still exhibits a trademark cool and his character displays an unexpected tenacity: he's going to prove that he's a better cop than people (including himself) might believe him to be. And Locke actually does just fine, in one of her better roles. You do like her more as the story plays out, and she and Clint work well together.
The supporting cast is excellent, especially Pat Hingle as Shockley's old friend and colleague Josephson. "Deliverance" villain Bill McKinney has a memorable role as a constable forced to drive Ben and Gus to a rendezvous. Other familiar faces include William Prince as the police commissioner, Michael Cavanaugh as the assistant D.A., Mara Corday as a jail matron, Doug McGrath as a bookie, Jeff Morris as a desk sergeant, and Roy Jenson as one of the three vindictive bikers.
The amount of firepower unleashed in this thing is truly mind-boggling. The final set piece is pretty damn intense, but there's a well executed helicopter / motorcycle chase preceding it that is exciting. It's true enough that "The Gauntlet" defies credibility at times, but those Clint fans just hoping for some good non-think entertainment should be satisfied with the amount of action doled out.
Seven out of 10.
Criminally Insane (1975)
Criminally funny is more like it.
Low-budgeted piece of junk marked a sidestep into slasher type cinema for adult filmmaker Nick Millard. It's become somewhat iconic among aficionados of bad B movies, if only for the performance of its leading lady, the imposing Priscilla Alden. Make no mistake: it's a VERY bad movie, in just about every respect. The music score in particular is egregious. Filmed in about five weeks for approximately $30,000, it just sort of plods along, but clocks in at a mere 62 minutes in length. Part of the pleasure is in watching the EXTREMELY tacky gore, which is plentiful and amusing in the way that only the brightest red paint can be.
The late, great Ms. Alden plays Ethel Janowski (an alternate title for this is "Crazy Fat Ethel"), an obese young woman who's just gotten out of a mental hospital where the doctors there seemed to really love giving her electro-shock therapy. Now her sole focus in life is on stuffing her face, and woe to any stupid person that gets in the way of her feeding frenzy. Ethels' trampy sister Rosalie (Lisa Farros) adds complication to Ethels' life by coming to stay with her while continuing to turn tricks for mindlessly horny men.
The superior character actor George 'Buck' Flower, here using his exploitation pseudonym of C.L. Lefleur, adds to the fun with his appearances as an investigating detective. There's also entertainment in seeing the surly Ethel being forced to deal with an escalating situation, killing one person after another to keep this killing spree a secret. As a result, that house starts stinking pretty badly. Viewers' jaws may drop when Rosalies' pimp / boyfriend John (Michael Flood) lets her know how he feels about the beating of women - which actually seems to turn her on!
Millard spices things further with his priceless nightmare sequence, an unqualified highlight. And the abrupt way that he resolves his own silly story does make perfect sense, knowing what we do about Ethel.
This is garbage, but it's GREAT garbage.
Seven out of 10.
Curse of the Stone Hand (1964)
As bad as anything bearing the Warren name.
Other reviews here indicate that the pilfered film footage in this "effort" by schlockmeister Jerry Warren comes from legitimately *good* Chilean movies, but you wouldn't know it from Warrens' bungling. He manages to make this assemblage of footage pretty dull and uninteresting. It still has some appeal for people channel surfing in the wee hours of the morning, and is not without atmosphere. "Curse of the Stone Hand" only really comes to life in scenes where the legendary John Carradine, one of Warrens' repertory players (and seemingly a man who could never say no to *any* script), appears. (However, that's because of Carradines' grandiose screen presence, not because of anything Warren does.)
The first tale is an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevensons' "The Suicide Club", in which a young man, desperate to rid himself of debts, enters a club where he thinks he can gamble his way to good fortune. The second story is derived from the 1945 feature "The House is Empty", regaling us with the experience of two brothers tormented by an older sibling. Warren attempts to tie all of this together with his "stone hand" nonsense, which has something to do with a curse on the residents of a house, and removes the dialogue from his source material in favour of narration.
Even at only 68 minutes, this is a little tough to get through. In compressing / editing the footage from the two Chilean features, Warren and company rob them of their effectiveness. There's still the entertainment value from the revelations provided, in any event. If you're a Carradine fan, you may feel let down from only seeing him in the brief additional scenes. Another of Warrens' regulars, Katherine Victor, also appears here.
At the very least, seeing this exercise in dullness may motivate one to see the Chilean films in their proper context.
Four out of 10.
Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
A feast for the eyes.
This viewer feels obliged to point out that his hometown - Winnipeg, Canada - is one of the two cities in the world to truly embrace Brian De Palmas' operatic spoof of the glam rock era. (The other being Paris, France.) Therefore, it's mystifying that it should have taken me so long to finally watch it, but now I'm glad that I have.
It's a thoroughly flamboyant, marvelously designed and decorated rock musical that combines the themes of Phantom of the Opera, Faust, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. William Finley stars as Winslow Leach, a naive, trusting singer-composer who is taken advantage of by conniving producer Swan (who's played by real-life singer-composer-actor Paul Williams). Several circumstances later, the disfigured Leach seeks revenge against Swan while falling madly in love with aspiring pop star Phoenix (the radiant Jessica Harper).
The late, great character star Finley and the engaging Williams were never better than in this funny and fast paced exercise in style. It gets off to a great start with opening narration by none other than Rod Serling. Well shot, by Larry Pizer, and designed, by Jack Fisk, it features some thoroughly catchy ditties by Williams. The parodies of such performers as Sha-Na-Na and the Beach Boys are spot on. De Palma is also most effective at capturing the insanity of the emerging shock-rock trend, especially with the effeminate rocker Beef, one of the all- time best roles for top character actor Gerrit Graham.
Harper is beautiful and extremely appealing and it's a shame that neither she nor Graham nor anyone else here ever became big stars. Williams is great fun, and Finley fully embraces the tragic arc of his character. Heavy set George Memmoli is also solid as Swans' gopher Philbin.
This film manages to maintain that feeling of fun throughout while also being rather sad at the same time.
Trivia note: Fisks' wife, actress Sissy Spacek, who went on to play the title role in De Palmas' next film, the feature adaptation of Stephen Kings' "Carrie", was the set dresser here. And look for such familiar 70s actresses as Jennifer Ashley, Janit Baldwin, Janus Blythe, Robin Mattson, Patrice Rohmer, and Cheryl Smith among the groupies.
Eight out of 10.
Men of War (1994)
Better than usual Lundgren vehicle.
Action genre icon Dolph Lundgren plays Gunar, a former Special Ops soldier turned mercenary. He's hired by sleazy corporate interests to force the residents of an Asian island to sign over the mining rights. Well, as you may expect, he experiences a change of heart when he meets the natives (including gorgeous Charlotte Lewis of "The Golden Child"), as do some of his comrades. The other members of the team remain mercenaries and become determined to complete the mission, leading to the inevitable all out war.
The capable direction is by veteran actor Perry Lang ("The Hearse", "Alligator"), who also co- stars as one of the young corporate creeps. Given that the script is co-written by indie favourite John Sayles, along with Ethan Reiff & Cyrus Voris ("Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight"), one can also expect this to be more well thought out and interesting than the run of the mill action film. It's quite serious (yet not totally without some humour), and the natives, as led by amiable young spokesman Po (B.D. Wong) are an inherently sympathetic bunch.
Of course, the natives do turn out to be pretty effective fighters once the stakes are raised. The set pieces are largely confined to the last half hour, but are intense and enjoyable once they occur. There are some nifty demises devised for our antagonists, and Dolph is given a formidable opponent with Trevor Goddards' over the top psycho mercenary Keefer. The location shooting in Thailand allows for some beautiful scenery, and it's all nicely shot by Rohn Schmidt.
The cast is above average for this sort of thing. Besides Dolph, Lewis, and Wong, the cast consists of Tony Denison, Tim Guinee, Don Harvey, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister (who, like Goddard, relishes chewing the scenery), Tom Wright, the lovely Catherine Bell (who looks mighty fine and also proves herself adept at kicking ass alongside the guys), Kevin Tighe as Dolphs' mentor, Thomas Gibson, and Aldo Sambrell, long ago co-star in Sergio Leones' "Dollars" trilogy, as a goon named Goldmouth.
All in all, this is good, rousing entertainment that genre aficionados will likely savour.
Seven out of 10.
Hit Man (1972)
This blaxploitation styled second filming of Ted Lewis's novel "Jack's Return Home" - filmed just the previous year as the crime classic "Get Carter" - is an acceptable diversion. It has a good cast playing a variety of seedy characters, and a lot of hip dialogue. It's anchored by the cooler than cool Bernie Casey, the former football player who segued into a respectable career as an actor. It's all familiar enough for those who've seen "Get Carter", although it comes up with some different settings for the action, such as a wildlife preserve and a dog fighting ring.
Casey plays a character named Tyrone Tackett, a tough as nails dude who travels from Oakland to L.A. to investigate the death of his brother Cornell. To do this, he must navigate the criminal underworld, including the adult entertainment business, making the acquaintance of people such as porn star Gozelda (a typically radiant Pam Grier).
"Hit Man" isn't anything special, but it's reasonably fun, with a script written by the movies' director, George Armitage. Produced by Roger Cormans' brother Gene (who was always more of a hands-on producer than his more famous sibling), its soundtrack (music by H.B. Barnum) is as engaging as anything else done for the blaxploitation genre. The cinematography is by future director Andrew Davis, who shot four features for Corman. There is some pretty potent violence near the end as well as a serving of female nudity.
Casey, who has a solid presence on screen, is well supported by Ms. Grier, Sam Laws as used car salesman Sherwood Epps, Candy All as Tyrones' niece Rochelle, Don Diamond as white mobster Nano Zito, Ed Cambridge as porno theatre entrepreneur Theotis Oliver, Roger E. Mosley as muscle man Huey, and Marilyn Joi as the aptly named Rita Biggs. Paul Gleason, a fixture in Armitages' filmography during this time, appears uncredited as a crooked cop.
Casey's Tackett does exhibit some of the same ruthlessness as Michael Caines' Jack Carter, and is overall enjoyable to watch.
Six out of 10.