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Home from the Hill (1960)
Head For The Hills
I recently read the novel on which this film is based and was curious about how it was adapted. By the end of the novel everyone dies...well not everyone, but dad, mom, son and the wild boar are all dead. In the film, not everyone dies, plus there is an extra son played by George Peppard. The son from the book is played by George Hamilton. Near the end of the film the two Georges throw some punches at each other. I doubt George Hamilton could beat George Peppard in a fist fight in real life. If the two squared off in a tanning contest, I think we all know who would win that one. I realized when I watched this film that I like movies where the ending involves one of the characters walking off into the sunset with an uncertain future. Hamilton's character dropped out of high school, so he could focus on hunting in both the book and movie. Since he dies in the book, it does not matter that he is under educated. When he wanders off at the end of the film, I'm guessing he'll probably have to get his GED or somehow enroll again in high school if he want to improve his job prospects. We know he is a determined young man because near the beginning of the film he sat in the woods for two hours trying to catch a snipe. I liked the scene where Mitchum was really hung over and he dunks his head in the water trough. Before that Peppard drags him from the floozy's apartment where Mitchum had apparently spent a lost three day weekend. I think I recall reading once that Mitchum said he was hung over for most of the production of The Winds Of War, so maybe he didn't need to act much here. At any rate, he is brilliant and the most perfectly cast character other than Burt Mustin as the gas station attendant.
It Happened in Athens (1962)
The Modern Marathon Started Here
I was curious about It Happened In Athens because it featured a storyline concerning the first Olympic marathon held in 1896. That race was won by Louis Spiridon who is the main character in this film. At the end of the film it claims that it is not a biography about Spiridon. Like the movie Spiridon, the real Spiridon came from a humble background. According to the book 26.2 Marathon stories by Katherine Switzer and Roger Robinson Spiridon attained his running prowess because his family had a water transporting business and he would run alongside the cart each day racking up 8 to 16 miles. Unlike the movie Spiridon, the real Spiridon participated in the Greek Olympic trials where he finished 5th out of 38 starters. The actual Olympic race would feature 17 runners and 13 of them were Greek and they had more experience in long distant running than most of the other countries who for the most part featured middle distant runners. These middle distant runners tended to go out too fast and fade during the race which is how it is portrayed in the movie. There is an Irish runner who is shown to imbibe during the race in an apparent attempt at levity via the reinforcement of a tired stereotype. The real Spiridon actually stopped at mile 13 and tipped a glass of wine and announced to the crowd that he would win. In the movie there is a sign at the starting line that reads: 42 kilometers to Athens which is close to the current marathon distance of 26.2 miles. However, at the first modern Olympic marathon the distance was 40 kilometers or 25 miles. Spiridon's real-life girlfriend's cheered him on at mile 23 and her name was Eleni, which is the name of the Jane Mansfield character in It Happened In Athens. If she was half as cute as Xenia Kalogeropoulou who played his girlfriend in the movie, he was one lucky marathoner. Spiridon finished with a time of 2:58:50 (the current world record for men is 2 hours 3 minutes and 38 seconds) and as seen in the movie his victory was an immensely joyful occasion for the Greek people.
The Trouble With 8-Track
In "The Flip Side Is Death" we find out that Art Walker (Peter Haskell) needs the bank robbery loot because his music business is in trouble. It isn't overtly mentioned, but we learn why when it is revealed that he is a distributor of 8-Track cassettes, a format that, while certainly conducive to portable listening, had a shot lifespan with consumers due to reliability and usability. One of Five-0 strengths isn't fleshing out the characters of the good guys. Al Harrington's Ben, for example, doesn't even have a last name. It is therefore refreshing in this episode to learn that one of the patrolmen is a fan of Santana. It made me wonder what Danno liked to listen to in his free time. He didn't seem to have any qualms about smashing a Bob Dylan 8- Track cassette so perhaps he was one of those die hard folk fans who would have booed Dylan when he plugged in an electric guitar at Newport. And McGarrett seemed to show interest in playing the guitar in earlier episodes, but then apparently gave it up. Don Stroud played drums in "The Buddy Holly Story" but he doesn't get to do anything musical here; he just acts real mean and makes an excellent bad guy. In keeping with the music theme it should be noted that this episode was directed by Paul Stanley. I wonder if he ever directed Jean Simmons in anything?
Two Crummy Marines
This movie may be stupid at certain points, but it is never boring. I personally never tire of a well thrown hand grenade, and Frank Lovejoy tosses them with great skill in every other scene. Also, there's a nice twisted ankle moment featuring Mary Murphy. Not only does Mary severely injure her foot in an extremely painful manner while disembarking from a boat, but a true visual delight is seeing her drenched dress cling tightly to her shapely figure as she is assisted from the water. The twisted ankle is fortuitous for Tony Curtis in that he gets to help Mary hobble along across the beautiful Kua'i landscape. Before you know it, there's a little jungle love action going on between the two. How long their love will last is hard to tell because the corpsman at the end of the film seems pretty eager to move in on Tony's action, and as everyone knows, all's fair in love and war.
The Philadelphia Experiment (1984)
Three Or More Questions
There are a lot of questions surrounding The Philadelphia Experiment. How is it that 1940s era sailors got 1980s haircuts before they even traveled forty years into the future? How could Manfred Mann perform "The Runner" without worrying that a version of himself from 1964 might suddenly appear and rip out his vocal cords for singing such a typically idiotic 1980s type song? Why is that time travelers always make it look so easy to find a love interest? How was it that after screwing up the Philadelphia Experiment, the military still has complete confidence in Dr. James Longstreet to allow him to pursue his misguided experiments for the next forty years?
My rating: 9.7 and one half stars. The Philadelphia Experiment gets an extra half star because the time travelers see punk rockers at a diner out in the Nevada desert. Also, every car chase featured a vehicle flipping over.
Our Winning Season (1978)
Coming of Age in Track Shoes Flick
I saw this movie at Kmart for $3.99 and it was a price point I couldn't walk away from. I had never heard of it before, but the fact that it was from the 1970s and featured running as an element of the story appealed to me. As an added treat, when the credits began to roll I was pleased to see P.J. Soles was in the cast. Her part isn't big, but she always brings a special spark to her portrayals. Actually, all of the women in Season are appealing; good job casting director!
Scott Jacoby plays David Wakefield, a miler on the high school track meet who we learn from the opening scene, tends to run like a slower version of Prefontaine in that he goes out fast only to fade in the end. He acts as a rabbit for the team's resident jerk and stand out miler Burton (Robert Wahler).
His older sister's boyfriend, Dean (Joe Penny) a former track stand out advises him to start off slower and save it for the end (a.k.a negative splits), but it takes a rendezvous with a hooker with a heart of gold (Joanna Cassidy) and for Dean to go off and die in 'Nam for the advice to really sink in. I forgot to mention the film is set in the Sixties, and so when Dean heads off to Vietnam you know he is going to die. The ever appealing Jan Smithers plays his grieving girlfriend.
The film is sprinkled with teen high jinx, but it doesn't have the anarchy of an "Animal House." It reminded me of a cross between the "Class of '44" and "American Graffiti" but lacked the profundity of the latter film.
I thought it was interesting that the film didn't have a lot of adult figures in it other than some coaches and cops; parental figures are all off-screen. There's no music of the era blaring out of car radios or jukeboxes.
I noticed during the pot smoking scene that Dennis Quaid - and this is no great revelation - can inflate his cheeks like Dizzy Gillespie.
And at the climatic race at the end the stands are filled with extras who look like they are watching a track meet in 1978 given their attire and hair styles. Period pieces with large crowd scenes and limited budgets are always tough to pull off.
Mayday at 40,000 Feet! (1976)
Trouble In The Sky
If you are a fan of "Zero Hour" "Airport" and "Skyjacked" then you will probably be mildly entertained by "Mayday at 40,000 Fee!" TV movie "Mayday" doesn't quite take off like the theatrical distressed airplane films. Most of the talent in the movie are dependable TV actors. Luckily the "Love Boat" wouldn't set sail for another year, so casting director Marvin Page more than likely had less trouble with potential scheduling conflicts when booking the performers. It seems like Ray Milland spent most of the Seventies acting grouchy. It's nice to see him do this while also reprising his famous performance from "The Lost Weekend." I enjoyed Don Meredith's good old boy performance. He was a real scene stealer. This should come as no surprise since there is an old saying in Hollywood: Never act with children, animals or former quarterbacks of the Dallas Cowboys. Off-screen romances don't necessarily translate to on-screen, but I liked the chemistry between the Georges. In the plot department it wasn't too surprising that Linda's character primary function was to basically end up like Jacqueline Bisset in "Airport."
M Squad (1957)
Frank Ballinger, Chicago Cop
I recently saw Max Weinberg's Big Band and it was a real treat to hear them play the theme from M Squad - especially since I had just watched all the episodes of the series over the past year or so. Lee Marvin was one cool cucumber of an actor who wore a cool hat during the series run. It's great to see him walk the streets of Chicago in his relentless pursuit of criminal apprehension. Like Joe Friday, we never really see Marvin's Frank Ballinger off the clock, but unlike Friday it seems like when he does get the occasional day off, Ballinger might actually have a good time at a local windy city watering hole. I watched many of the episodes in the wee hours of the night, which was the perfect time to enter Frank's black and white universe of no nonsense crime fighting.
The Paper Chase: Hart Goes Home (1984)
Southern Comfort In The North Star State
Minnesota's favorite law student heads back to the farm in this episode. Looming off in the distance are the famous Minnesota Mountains as noted in the "Goofs" section. This episode also features Cooper Huckabee's "Dooley" and his good ol' boy southern accent. I guess in the Hollywood scheme of things it just isn't the country unless at least one character has an accent that originates from below the Mason-Dixon line. Even the name "Dooley" conjures up images of hound dogs, moonshine and the Darlings singing on The Andy Griffith Show. Still, I like this episode because no one is named Sven and Hart proves that the kids of Minnesota really are above average.
The Pom Pom Girls (1976)
They Sure Liked To Eat Hamburgers In This One
1976 was a mellow year. And California was the ground zero of mellowness. The main vibe of "The Pom Pom Girls" would seemingly be mellow tunes drifting out from an 8- track player in the back of a mellow yellow van while "getting it on" or even just "takin' it easy." And yet, the mellowness is but a light frosty layering over a nihilistic cake that makes up the brunt of The Pom Pom Girls. Do these kids care about anything other than engaging in behavior inspired by the Greek god Dionysus? It's all sex, beer and mellow rock and roll as far as they are concerned. They steal a fire truck, urinate in public and punch out the football coach. Sure, it's all in good fun, because you are only young once, but somehow the on-screen shenanigans rarely had the liberating stamp of youthful anarchy that the film seemed to be seeking.