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Scream for Help (1984)
The obscure "Winner" by Michael Winner
Between Death Wish II and Death Wish 3, Winner made this quickly forgotten thriller with a no name cast. It has the same over the top approach as his much more famous works, with so many memorable scenes and dialogue written by Tom Holland, best known for Fright Night and Child's Play. It's easily one of the most watchable bad movies of the 80's, so it's a huge shame that this is not on DVD. I would buy it immediately and play it for everyone i know. If you like R rated politically incorrect Nancy Drew mysteries that were made by your perverted uncle.... If you like Lifetime Original Movies on crack... If you want to see an even more outrageous version of The Stepfather, then this movie is for you.
Keys to Tulsa (1997)
Could of been great..
Had this been produced by a major studio with an experienced director at the helm, this movie would of been so much better. Keys to Tulsa contains both the look and music of countless straight to video/cable movies from the same period. Which is a shame because the cast is great and was clearly game for anything. Fans of David Cronenberg's Crash will find it amusing to see James Spader and Deborah Kara Unger reuniting, playing a trailer trash couple instead of a yuppie couple. But just like in Crash, their characters aren't exactly faithful to each other. However it's the beautiful Joanna Going who steals the show, looking like a skinnier and smaller breasted Alyssa Milano as the stripper named Cherry who is constantly under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol at all the wrong times. It's surprising to know that she was around 34 when she made this movie, as she looks more like 24. Adding more insult to her great performance, despite her large role her name nor picture is nowhere to be found on the region 1 DVD case from Artisan. Meanwhile, Cameron Diaz who only has a cameo that lasts a few minutes at the beginning of the film has second billing.
Jimmy n' Dean
Bandolero! is a run of the mill western which benefits from a watchable cast. This was the only time James Stewart and Dean Martin appeared in the same movie, i believe. The screenwriter James Lee Barrett would also write The Cheyenne Social Club, teaming Stewart with Henry Fonda. A movie which also shares the same cinematographer as this one, William Clothier, who shot billions of westerns.
But i'll be honest, being a man and all, i naturally watched this mainly for Raquel Welch. Although at this point in her career, she wasn't given much to do in movies except for wearing skimpy outfits or playing the damsel in distress, the latter of which she plays here. She was still a few years away from taking charge of her own western, Hannie Caulder. A movie that is shockingly still not on DVD, (taps my foot, waiting for an explanation). Despite Welch having a supporting role, you wouldn't know that from looking at the DVD cover which has a big picture of her front and center.
Aside from the cast, there's really not much else to rave about with this one. It's just an average western that is a nice time passer while it's on, and then pretty much forgotten within hours after watching it. Something that can be said for pretty much every western that came out in 1968.
Billion Dollar Brain (1967)
more like a 1 dollar brain
This film hasn't much to recommend, aside from some nice location photography in Finland (standing in for Russia). It's too boring and low key to appeal to those looking for a James Bond type of film, and too goofy to appeal to those looking for a serious spy film. The goofy plot would look more at home in a Matt Helm film, except this film doesn't have the bevy of beauties that are rampant in the Helm movies to keep the eye's interest. The sole female of note in the cast is Francoise Dorleac (Catherine Deneuve's sister), who unfortunately died in a car crash not long after shooting most of her scenes. Michael Caine and Karl Malden clearly had fun playing off each other in their scenes, it's just too bad that they weren't doing a better movie.
This was Ken Russell's first theatrical film. At the time he was more known as a TV director. Some of his usual trademarks are already present, such as an overabundance of odd characters and experimental editing techniques.
With a title sequence at the beginning by Maurice Binder, who was also behind the vast majority of the James Bond title sequences, they give you reason to believe that you're in for something on the level of James Bond. But alas, it wasn't to be. Billion Dollar Brain was the last of the Harry Palmer franchise at the time. Michael Caine returned to the role however, for two USA Network TV movies which i haven't seen (yet).
Tony Rome (1967)
The detective genre experienced a brief comeback after the success of the movie Harper in 1966, a movie that Frank Sinatra passed on. But after seeing his buddy Dean Martin having success with his Matt Helm series, Sinatra decided to do Tony Rome in hopes that it would be the first in a series as well. Tony Rome is very similar to Harper in plot and tone, leading me to assume that Sinatra must of regretted not doing Harper after all.
Harper was a flawed but entertaining film, Tony Rome is also flawed but not as entertaining, mainly due to the fairly uninteresting plot, not the actors. The actors are all game. The actresses aren't given a whole lot to do, other than sit and be window dressing. Jill St. John has some amusing scenes, but Gena Rowlands and Sue Lyon are wasted. Sinatra and the director Gordon Douglas had already worked together before, on the Rat Pack film Robin and the 7 Hoods in 1964. And after doing Tony Rome they would quickly follow that up with The Detective and Lady in Cement in 1968, which are also flawed but watchable.
a minor but worthwhile film
In the wake of Bob & Ted & Carol & Alice came a string of similar sex comedy/dramas including Loving. George Segal was on a role in the late 60's/early 70's, but this is one of his lesser known efforts from the period. And seeing how few votes this movie has gotten here on IMDb, it's still quite unknown despite being available on DVD since 2003.
The film has a typical plot of it's time: successful man throwing away his perfect life with wife and kids with his unfaithfulness. Eva Marie Saint who plays his wife is far more attractive than the woman he's seeing on the side, so it was hard for me to feel any sympathy at all for this guy. A young Sherry Lansing (the future Paramount producer) shows up in a small but memorable role, looking like the twin sister of Raquel Welch. She should of played the "other woman" instead, we would of understood why he was cheating on his wife a whole lot more. Not only did Lansing's career end not long after Loving, but the actress who played the other woman, Janice Young, vanished completely after Loving, as did the other major actress in the movie, Nancie Phillips. Neither of their IMDb listings list them as being deceased, so i'm definitely curious as to their whereabouts.
One major reason why this movie deserves more attention is that it now possesses more historical importance than ever before. As noted in the trivia section, there's a scene that takes place at a construction site, and that scene was shot on location at none other than the World Trade Center construction site, of all places.
Brother John (1971)
I want to walk the earth, like Kaine in..Brother John
Samuel Jackson's character in Pulp Fiction may want to walk the earth like Kane in Kung Fu, but i think he'd be even better at walking the earth like Kaine in Brother John.
Before director James Goldstone was directing disaster movies in the late 70's, he made some pretty good little films, and Brother John is one of them. This film would make for an interesting double feature with In The Heat of the Night, as they share many similarities. The only difference in Brother John being that Poitier's character isn't a police officer.
Every time one of John Kaine's relatives dies, he suddenly reappears in his home town to visit them on their death bed. No one can understand how he's able to know when to come, since no one in town has his address or phone number. He's traveled the world, "going where the wind takes him", and apparently knows every language in existence.
I'm surprised that this film has so few votes here on IMDb and isn't more known. It's been out on Region 1 DVD since 2003, although i think it's going out of print now, unfortunately.
To Sir, with Love (1967)
To Sidney With Love
1967 was a banner year for Sidney Poitier at the box office, with three massive hits in a row. Not only financially but critically as well. To Sir, With Love, In The Heat of the Night, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Not even Tom Hanks has had three huge hits in one year.
To Sir, With Love is kind of a mid sixties answer to the mid fifties high school film The Blackboard Jungle, which featured Sidney as one of the students, so everything came full circle. He was already pushing 30 when he did The Blackboard Jungle, so he could of easily of played Glenn Ford's role as the teacher. But a movie with a black teacher in the mid fifties was not likely. Even in To Sir, With Love there are a few racial issues addressed.
And we can't forget the students. Most of the male actors never went on to anything else of note, except for Michael Des Barres to an extent. On the female side though, we had of course, Lulu, who also sang the theme song. Anyone who has seen recent photos of her taken in the last ten years will probably agree with me that she has gotten extremely more attractive than she did 40 years ago. Then we have the cute as a button Judy Geeson as Pamela, who develops a bit of a crush on Sidney. Judy went on to work pretty steadily in films through the rest of the 60's and into the 70's. Then she kind of faded from view a bit, but did turn up again in a recurring role on the sitcom Mad About You. As well as appearing in the made for TV sequel of To Sir, With Love in 1996 i believe, along with Lulu also returning. Also of note is Suzy Kendall as a fellow teacher at the school. Suzy was only in her early 20's at the time but looked more like she was in her early 30's, so seeing her playing a teacher was odd but believable. Just like Judy, Suzy would work steadily through the rest of the decade and into the 70's before fading from view. Mostly appearing in Italian Giallo thrillers such as The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, and Torso.
The director of this film, James Clavell, led a life far more interesting than all his films put together. Wounded in WW2, then became a prisoner of war by the Japanese. Then came the Hollywood career as a writer/director, followed by a successful career as a novelist in the 70's and 80's, before dying at the age of 69. To Sir, With Love was originally a novel by E.R. Braithwaite, which Clavell then himself adapted into the screenplay.
This film is essential viewing for all Sidney Poitier fans.
You Only Live Twice (1967)
weakest of the Connery Bond films
The movies released in 1967 were either excellent or mediocre, there wasn't much middle ground. Unfortunately, You Only Live Twice leans toward the mediocre. That didn't stop it from being another massive box office success, of course. It has high production values, and cinematography by Freddie Young, who had won Oscars for Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago already. What sinks it is a very weak, by the numbers script, and forgettable Bond girls. Although the Asian actresses did do a pictorial in Playboy that year, which probably has given them a bigger fan base than they otherwise would have had they not.
By this film the Bond formula was getting tired. Spy films were still in vogue, but were moving away from the camp and more toward the serious. The Deadly Affair from Sidney Lumet and Billion Dollar Brain from Ken Russell come to mind. But in You Only Live Twice, it was merely business as usual, albeit on an even bigger scale than ever. Ironically, the director Lewis Gilbert was not known for large scale productions, yet his Bond films are among the biggest. Pretty much all of his non Bond films are small budget affairs. An even stranger choice comes in the screen writing department with Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, taking the place of the usual writers such as Richard Maibaum.
After watching this again, i thought to myself how it's not surprising that Connery wanted to jump off the Bond ship and move on (well, at least for a few years anyway). Many Bond fans dislike Diamonds Are Forever even more than this one for some reason, but i can't count myself among that group.
Per qualche dollaro in più (1965)
A Fistful of Dollars was merely the warm up, For a Few Dollars More quickly followed and raised the bar even further. Shot in 1965, but not released in the US until may of 1967, it was already the biggest box office hit in Italy's history by the time it was finally released here. Countless Italian westerns followed in For a Few Dollars More's wake, none of them came close to matching Sergio Leone's work.
For a Few Dollars More has so many memorable shots and scenes that i'd be writing for days if i listed them all here. Personally i tend to refer to this one as "the one where Lee Van Cleef lights a match using Klaus Kinski's neck". Even though Eastwood gets top billing, he actually doesn't do a whole lot, instead he sits on the sidelines, giving most of the spotlight to Van Cleef. And in the climax, he literally does just that.
Ennio Morricone's score is as classic as they come. Once you hear it, you remember it forever. I remember hearing my dad do the unforgettable whistling "music" from the film when i was a kid.
For a Few Dollars More is quite simply one of the best westerns of all time. But then again, everyone already knows that. The best part of all, is that Sergio Leone was not done yet, he still wanted to raise the bar even further with a few more westerns.
Per un pugno di dollari (1964)
Where it all began
Not only did this film rejuvenate the western genre, but it was highly influential on film-making in general. Keep in mind that this was shot in 1964, yet wasn't released in the U.S. until January 1967, which makes it all the more ahead of it's time. The plot is actually a fairly generic western plot, but Leone adds his own touches to the formula. And it was these touches, the unique Ennio Morricone music, the closeups of heads and eyes, etc. Oh, and the hiring of some American TV actor named Clint Eastwood turned out to be brilliant as well. Leone pictured names like Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson or James Coburn in the role, but Fonda and Bronson had no interest in traveling to Spain to do a western with some no name Italian director, and Coburn asked for too much money. After the success of the Eastwood trilogy, they all regretted their decisions. Fonda and Bronson would then be more than happy to do Once Upon a Time in the West, and Coburn with Duck, You Sucker.
Eastwood however, thought it would be neat to go to Spain and film a movie since he'd never been there before. He brought along some of his wardrobe and props from his show Rawhide. The last thing he expected was to become a huge star over night from some Italian western that surely hardly anybody would see.
To be honest, when watched today, "Fistful" comes off as fairly average, with only Eastwood's performance still holding up the best. The scene toward the beginning when he squares off with the men who "insulted" his horse represents the first classic Eastwood moment. The villains are adequate but nothing more. The music is too repetitive. Morricone would reach new heights with his subsequent efforts. But nevertheless, it's as essential as it gets when it comes to the western genre. When amassing a western DVD collection, Sergio Leone's westerns should be the very first titles on the checklist. Every other western is secondary.
One Million Years B.C. (1966)
One Million Years B.C.
After working on Jason and the Argonauts together, director Don Chaffey and Ray Harryhausen re-teamed yet again for this film. Jason and the Argonauts was actually not that big of a success during it's initial theatrical run, and by the mid sixties these kinds of films were even less "in style". So, not surprisingly, Raquel and her glorious frame was the center of attention in all it's promotion and it paid off. Martine Beswick is actually just as easy on the eyes in this, in my opinion, but nevertheless went on to having a mere cult following, while Welch became one of the biggest sex symbols of all time.
Harryhausen's dinosaur work in this is very impressive. The only lame choice was using real regular sized lizards in some scenes, blown up to look big. They should of went with stop motion model work throughout the whole thing. The film overall is weak story wise, but the presence of Raquel and Ray's effects boost my rating to a 6, where otherwise it would of gotten a 3 or 4 without them. All the characters sporting 60's hair styles adds to the camp factor.
This review pertains to the Region 1 91 minute DVD released in 2003. There's a 100 minute UK cut, but as shown in the restoration comparison featurette, Fox was mainly interested in using the highest quality print, not the longest print.
everybody's gotta learn sometime
I first watched this movie in October 2004. My relationship of over 4 years had just ended a few weeks prior, so this film couldn't of come at a worse time, or better time. I could relate to every word, and every scene. One of the first thoughts i had when my relationship ended, was wishing i could erase every memory of her from my mind to stop the pain. Few films today are successful at touching the viewer emotionally, and if anything, this one does TOO good of a job. So i commend the cast and crew of this film for their excellent work. Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Michel Gondry, Charlie Kaufman, Jon Brion, Ellen Kuras, and the amazing editing job by Valdis Oskarsdottir.
I recently watched this along with Kaufmans's Being John Malkovich as a double header. Two films that remind me that originality in films is still possible.