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Winner Take All?
Of all the employees that new program director Andy Travis (Gary Sandy) has had to work with in his brief time as program director at WKRP the most oddball yet perhaps the most talented is Dr.Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman). Whilst Johnny is a flighty and erratic primadonna, when the Doctor is in, few disc jockeys are his equal. Locked in a tight rhythm his top 40 rock morning drive time show has awakened the dead i.e. improved the radio stations ratings to the point where the industry has taken notice..
Having accepted a job in Los Angeles where he used to work and where his career was at its apogee (Where he said "Booger" on the air and got canned), Fever left Travis in a sudden bind to replace him. It isn't merely a huge setback for WKRP. Travis genuinely misses Johnny as does night-time deejay Venus Flytrap(Tim Reid), intern Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers) and receptionist Jennifer Marlowe (Loni Anderson).
Into this somber and forlorn environ, out of work DJs venture looking for work. Fever's eventual successor is one Doug Winner (Phillip Charles Mackenzie) - a young up and comer who found out about the job opening via record company eel Murray Gressler (Jeff Altman). Winner - agreeable and diplomatic, makes an excellent first impression. Even Les and Herb like him. Venus and Bailey remain unconvinced even as Winner performs admirably on air.
Yet Dr.Fever returns, fired again (This time for saying "Jive-Ass" on the air) and asks if they'll take him back at WKRP. Travis is more than happy to hire him back but it somehow doesn't seem right to just plug him right back into his old time-slot given how well Winner has been doing with it.
So Travis offers Fever the graveyard shift i.e. midnight til 6 AM as a temporary assignment until he can find him something better. Fever accepts. The awkward moment when a returning Fever's first shift changeover cedes the helm on air to Winner, who now occupies his old time-slot, is handled well by both men at first. Each is gracious up until a tell-tale baggie of white powder falls out of Winner's stack of new LPs.
Station manager Arthur "Big Guy" Carlson (Gordon Jump) unexpectedly shows up in the DJ booth just in time to see the packet and, with astounding naivete, asks what it is. Johnny decides not to rat Winner out even after Winner dares him to. The Big Guy leaves with the packet convinced by both that it is foot powder.
Johnny refuses to inform on Winner whom he finds contemptuous but enjoys watching Winner squirm as well as see him lament the loss of the not inexpensive bag of blow which Dr.Fever prescribed for the Big Guy to put on his feet.
Meanwhile Travis clues in that Winner has been receiving cocaine from Gressler in a pay for play exchange. Called onto the carpet in Carlson's office Winner tries to pin it on Johnny but neither Travis or Carlson buy in.
Why Fever doesn't inform on Winner right away is never explained. My guess would be that while Johnny wanted his old time-slot back he didn't want it back that way. My guess would be that just didn't feel right to a character who never fully shows deference to management in the entire run of the series. It may even have occurred to Johnny that he would not be believed. He has after all just been fired from the same Los Angeles station a second time for heavy-handed reasons.
Why Travis hires Winner in the first place even though skeevy Murray pushes for it is less difficult to puzzle out. A station like WKRP has few quality people walk through its doors looking to work there. Winner, has talent, appears professional because at some point in his career he likely was. He doesn't really put on an act (Though he probably wasn't high) in the interview.
Travis saw the young man Winner used to be, who is likely still there beneath the cokehead version which makes Winner do things he wouldn't do otherwise. A bad influence like Murray can lead nice people into some dark corners.
Travis is the most capable employee at WKRP but that doesn't mean he is perfect. It does mean that after he makes a mistake he is quick enough to catch it before it does lasting damage (A payola scandal could get a radio station decertified by the Federal Communications Commission). In keeping with his professionalism Travis doesn't dwell on the fact that he made a bad call. He goes to Carlson and explains why the young employee must be fired.
Phillip Charles Mackenzie was a comedic actor who COULD play straight man but was generally better known for flamboyantly off-beat characters. His characterization here hits all the right notes in showing the gritty desperation of an addict whilst suggesting what he might have been like before he started using.
There were other serious issues raised during the series. But this episode was among the best in that it struck a comfortable balance between the issue and the humour. As for why payola would happen at the 16th ranked station in an 18 station market, that is something only Murray Gressler might be able to explain if he actually existed. Per Winner's demands he is compensated with $600 worth of cocaine for playing Onslaught records - a hefty bounty for airplay on a station not many people listen to.
Fast-talking and skeevy seeming comedian Jeff Altman appeared in the film Record City (1978) which was about a record store. He was also in American Hot wax (1978) which was about DJ Alan Freed whose career was destroyed by the payola scandal of the early 1960s. He also appeared on episodes of Bandstand and Rock Concert. Thus Altman's appearance serves as legacy casting.
GLOW: The Liberal Chokehold (2017)
The Best Episode Of The First Season
Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling mastermind and financier Bash (Chris Lowell) has had his allowance cut by his rich mother Birdie (Elizabeth Perkins) who is alarmed by how much money he has spent in but a few short months. She becomes outraged when she finds out that it has been bankrolling a women's wrestling promotion. She'd be considerably more outraged if she knew how much out of that he was spending on hard drugs.
Bash, his director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), and the women of GLOW are left with a $9,000 shortfall in booking the venue for the next event. They hatch various schemes including a bikini car-wash to finance and keep the show going.
One scheme involves them gatecrashing Birdie's fundraiser against crack use, and pretending to be former crack addicts who took up wrestling as a way out of the drug scene. Each gives a laughable but nevertheless convincing testimonial before they ask for donations.
Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie) who wrestles as "Zoya the Destroya" uses the moment to make apology for her affair with her best friend's husband via an ambiguously worded pitch of contrition for an event which she says happened because she was under the influence. The best friend whose husband she jumped is of course Debbie Eagen (Betty Gilpin) - a fellow out-of-work actress who became a pro wrestler for GLOW. Debbie watches the semi-apology from across the room.
Sam brought cocaine. Sam thought he would have a good time. Sam did not have a good time. Sam found out that someone already made a movie out of an idea he thought was uniquely his. Then Sam tried to seduce wrestler Justine (Britt Baron) a woman young enough to be his daughter. The resultant surprise has lingering effects on him and consequently upon the production.
We see these characters try to scam money out of philanthropists which should be appalling. But after having seen them attempt to make money off a bikini car-wash their desperation to do go on with the show is readily apparent. Because of that it somehow seems less bad particularly when they have each shown how much they really are in need of a break if only so they can see what that is like.
Every one of the quirky characters on this extremely well-written comedy is likable. But the breakout stars are sure to be Jackie Tohn who plays party-girl Melrose, and Marc Maron as the lovably skeevy show director Sam.
Things Don't Just Happen...People Make Choices!
Desperate female performers, including out of work actress Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie - here looking like Nathalie Imbruglia with a hangover), struggling on the Los Angeles entertainment production scene flock to a mystery audition which some appear to think is porn and others seem to think is extras casting for a used car commercial. The auditions prove to be for something more bizarre for it's time i.e. women's professional wrestling on cable TV.
Ruth is no saint (She's doing her best friend Debbie's husband & Debbie just had a baby). She also doesn't appear to care whether or not she actually has any gift for acting to still want to do it after numerous indications from others that she isn't very good.
In fact none of the people depicted looks particularly heroic or even like someone you'd wanna know. They swear like women do now and use an argot that women use now. But as far as I remember women didn't call each other "dude" back in the 1980s or throw Fs and Cs around near as often.
The pilot episode strikes a universal tone that anyone should be able to understand. It shows us where someone has to get to that they might think taking up pro wrestling (without years of training, only the minor chance of success, excellent chance for injury and be insulted every step of the way) is a good idea.
The humour is of a drier, darker edgier variety. For instance during her cattle call audition with Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) - the sleazo cokehead producer/director of GLOW, Ruth is given not only a crude, cursory assessment of her physical appeal (Specifically her face) but one that sounds it was written by an insult comedian who can read her thoughts and knows how to word exactly the nuanced missive to her that she will have staring back at her in every mirror she sees thereafter.
That particular rock-bottom feeling, common to all of us at one time or another, is of the kind that started revolutions throughout history. Ruth does something else with it as do the other characters on GLOW. Many will laugh at these characters. Others will look at them with pity and an awkwardness recognizing similar circumstances.
Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling was a real life cable TV wrestling promotion that specialized in works performed by female sports entertainers. Its legacy of grooming women gladiators for TV stardom and wrestling glory cannot be overestimated. GLOW paved the way for generations of female performers in the wrestling ring.
At worst it was fun to watch. At its best, like any pro wrestling promotion, it reached a fairly high level of live performance art many times in any given year. But the characters in this series are composites and it very loosely articulates the chain of events in GLOW history.
As for feminist or post-feminist I don't know. Is there such a thing as "Post-post-feminist"?
Come to Bed (2017)
Probably Canada's Funniest Short-Film of 2017
Phil (Jason DeRosse) and his live-in girlfriend Claire (Stacey McGunnigle - usually red-haired but with dark brown hair here) have been together long enough where they have to schedule sex.
One night, while watching television in their pajamas, Phil is ready for some bedroom action but Claire just wants to watch TV and eat junk food (presumably not one of the many products McGunnigle has done a commercial for).
Can't blame Phil for getting turned on. Cutey Claire is wearing sexy leopard print pajamas and looks adorable in between stealing snack-bites and becoming entranced by what is on the screen in front of her. But she isn't feeling romantic for a couple of reasons that she and Phil don't find funny but that everybody else will.
DeRosse and McGunnigle wrote and performed together for many years with Toronto's legendary Second City comedy troupe. But McGunnigle is far better known.
In Canada, McGunnigle became "That woman from the commercial" (A title once held by Nancy Sakovitch, Natalie Brown, then Jennifer Baxter) as she starred in multiple ads on Canadian TV hocking different products as a shy, adorable but generally clueless character.
In this six-minute production, you can get a sense of why McGunnigle has gone further faster. She has all the star quality DeRosse lacks and she could improve Saturday Night Live or Orange Is The New Black were she to join the respective casts of either show.
Riptide: Diamonds Are for Never (1984)
Murray's Night Out
Perky flight attendant and gullible mark Connie (Kathryn Witt) agrees to deliver a package for her friend Artie (Peter Hobbs). He is a nice old man who has convinced her to deliver packages for him before. He tells her that very innocuous things (Insulin, diabetic chocolate) are in the packages and they are for his brother Walter Truman (John Anderson).
After collecting the latest package she forgets to ask him something and goes back to Artie's house just in time to see his murdered body as a mysterious hood George Bobbitt (Pepper Martin) stands over him with a gun. The man chases her but she manages to get away.
Los Angeles private investigators/seductive face-men Cody Allen (Perry King) and Nick Ryder (Joe Penny) are planning a hot double date with Tammy (Robin Evans) and Bambi (K.C.Winkler) - beautiful young female crew members who work for rival boat captain Mama Jo (Anne Francis) whom, rumor has it, is out of town.
Their business partner Murray Bozinsky (Thom Bray) is insulted that his buddies are trying to get him to go away for awhile so they can enjoy themselves. Bribed with guilt cash from them, the keys to Nick's vintage corvette, and a mandate to enjoy himself, Murray is persuaded to go out on his own without his two safety valves - Cody and Nick.
He has elected to go to the movies instead of an Aerosmith concert. Classic cartoons are playing at the local bijou and he can't resist. They've given him $70 which back in 1984 was enough to budget for a flick and buy movie theater popcorn.
There he finds Connie sobbing and terrified and he bonds with her. She has been hiding out in the theater from Bobbitt who chased after her. She is afraid to leave. Her fears are well-founded. The man is waiting right outside having cut off the entrance.
When she finally does leave it is with a sympathetic Murray who pledges the support of the Riptide detective agency and drives her back to the boat after failing to chase down the murderer in Nick's car. Murray can't handle the high-speed car chase and ends up in an accident. Not only does the baddie get away but the cops nab an irate Murray for reckless driving and speeding. But Connie is at least safe.
The police hear Connie's story and investigate but find no body or sign of a struggle due to the killer employing excellent cleaners. Back at the Riptide, Connie & Murray find tiny crystals they identify as diamonds in one of the insulin bottles inside the package which even conservative estimates suggest are worth a fortune. No sooner do they find the precious stones than they are abducted by Bobbitt. An unknown factor presents itself when Cody and Nick try go full John Wayne and try to rescue Murray and Connie.
Pretty solid entry although the baddies are a tad on the decrepit side. Having flight attendants smuggle illicit goods has long been a practice in the underworld. It has even happened in recent years despite considerably more stringent airline security and tougher penalties.
Kathryn Witt starred as Pam Bellagio on the CBS series "Flying High" during the 1978-79 TV season. She portrayed a flight attendant.
This episode is the only listed directorial credit for Gloryette Clark who was best know for editing for TV shows.
The Ocean Does Not Give Her Secrets To Just Anyone!
Los Angeles private investigators Cody Allen (Perry King), Murray Bozinsky (Thom Bray), and Nick Ryder (Joe Penny) travel to the Caribbean island of Martigua for a weeks vacation. The three of them dote on their beautiful friend and hostess Italian undersea explorer Giovanna Guilirini (Ava Lazar) but Cody is the one who gots the biggest crush on 'er, eh? They met her late in the second season (Episode 21 - Arrivederci, Baby).
Leading their expedition to find lost pirate treasure is world famous adventurer Angelo Guilirini (Cesar Romero) - Giovanna's father and captain of his own boat - the Arrivederci (All introduced on Season 2, Episode 21). The expedition has been fraught with sabotage which is suspected to have been orchestrated by alcoholic rival Captain Jack Schofield (Christopher Cary) and his decrepit wreck of a boat the Forty Fathoms.
When Cody, Murray and Nick confront Schofield he does not deny he wants the treasure but does deny he has committed any act of sabotage. He proposes they work together after showing them parts of the treasure he has found. They have the man-power and the technology but after ten years head start on them he knows where it might be. The uneasy partnership is tested when the sabotage continues. Unbeknownst to them an evil businessman and an icy German fence (Christoper Neame) are trailing them in hopes of stealing the treasure out from under them.
Amidst the treasure hunt story-line the cast also enact fantasy sequences which depict the Pirate & the Princess legend (Similar to the Highwayman poem) which is tied to the treasure. Perry King (Channeling Errol Flynn) portrays Captain William Tyson - the pirate. Ava Lazar portrays the princess he captures. Joe Penny (Channeling Cary Grant) portrays the first mate. Stylistically it conveys a classic cinema/women's romance novel vibe.
The inference we are meant to draw is that the show is a modern take on swashbuckling adventure. The characters have that Peter Pan quality which invites the comparison already anyway.
Gorgeous leading lady Ava Lazar was more than passable in her dual role. But she is the only female character we see. On a show that already featured himbos Cody and Nick they added a couple of guest himbo characters portrayed by Paul Land (As Guido) and Russell Todd (As Tony) respectively. They could have made both female and cast gorgeous actresses but didn't. For that and other reasons (Hokey writing mainly) this is not a personal favorite.
As an implicit appeal to female viewers the detectives spend a significant part of a scene at the end talking about how to best be considerate of Giovanna who is heartbroken over a personal betrayal.
Fans of the show Lost might pick up on a line of dialogue Nick says i.e. "I've never heard of ghosts haunting an entire island before."
The Key Is Finding The Primary Agent
Research scientist Don Orley (Paul Wilson) drives to a bar to meet with Los Angeles Spectre investigative journalist Marlene Lewis (Darleen Carr). He wants to blow the whistle on a nefarious plot to get a dangerous "food enhancer" called APS approved by the FDA when it isn't safe for consumption.
Looking anxious, red-faced and sweating profusely Orley is not the picture of prime health himself as he begins to reveal what he knows. He suddenly dies right in front of her after offering cryptic details on what it is about. The startled reporter believes the man was poisoned. She also thinks that she was too after having been given six months to live following a physical evaluation by her doctor.
Riptide detective agency partners Cody Allen (Perry King), Murray Bozinsky (Thom Bray), and Nick Ryder (Joe Penny) devote themselves to the case after hearing her story. As they delve into the project Orley was involved in they notice a trail of deaths made to look like accidents. They could each become chalk outlines on that very trail as they get closer to the scheme and the culprit behind it.
As an implicit appeal to female viewers the detectives spend an entire scene talking about how to best be considerate of their client's feelings - a woman who knows she has little time left to live. The warmth and sensitivity of the Riptide boys was supposed to be part of their cachet with that demographic. But it wasn't very subtle and could be interpreted as condescending. The character is after all, a journalist who is good at what she does and is unafraid to rattle cages. Any inky stained wretch - male or female knows the dangers.
The male demographic could easily relate to the brotherly dorm atmosphere of the life the guys lived aboard the Riptide. Because of that we see the comedic scene in which the guys try to get themselves organized to launder their clothes. It is a catastrophe and Cody hasn't even planned ahead enough to have something to wear to the laundromat. The first sight Ms.Lewis has of them features Cody shirtless (Hello ladies!) with he and the other two holding a long overdue pile of cruddy threads. These are overgrown frat-boys and we get constant reminders of it.
Implicit in that reminder is the sexist notion that they could really use a woman to take care of them - a trade off a lot of lonely women at home watching on TV at the time this was first broadcast would make after checking out Cody and Nick for an hour every week. It was a trade off women used to be called upon to make as their point of entry into a single adult man's life. That signal is continually put out there.
Old-fashioned women were probably very receptive. Insecure women who didn't particularly mind house work may have felt encouragement seeing a way in with these photogenic but nevertheless nasal-voiced immature himbos but only them or guys who looked as good. The important thing was the notion of an opening being filled on the Riptide with Cody and Nick.
As if to balance out how gender roles were changing a scientist friend of Murray's does him a favour then says he owes her one which she clarifies by saying "one" means "The one with the mustache" i.e. Cody.
Riptide: Home for Christmas (1985)
I Was Only Following Orders!
It is Christmas and Los Angeles private investigator/helicopter pilot Nick Ryder (Joe Penny) is feeling sick and irritable. He never much liked the holiday season anyway. Out of frustration his detective agency partners/best friends/roomies Cody Allen (Perry King) and Murray Bozinsky (Thom Bray) are getting ready to ask their moping buddy to walk the plank.
Nick gets a phone call from the Army Reserve who have an urgent assignment for Uncle Sam they want him to do. Unmarried and without his services engaged in professional matters he looks at it as the perfect opportunity to forget the holidays and fulfill a duty he is honored to do particularly given that a soldier with a family might otherwise have been made to do the job. He is given the responsibility of escorting the body of a deceased soldier home to Wyoming and co-ordinating an honor guard for the man's funeral. Cody and Murray are happy to see him off the boat for awhile.
Alone and melancholy on the long transport flight from Fort Tucker, Nick takes time to brood. He is unprepared when evidence suggests that the body in the casket he has accompanied is not who it is supposed to be. Having met the soldier's inconsolable father Ben Wilkinson (James Whitmore Sr.), Nick struggles with having to sort out what has happened and to handle Ben who has become convinced his son is still alive even though the chance is slim. Ben is a proud but kind man whom Nick has quickly come to admire.
Cody and Murray do their level best to help matters. They were in the army too and, like countless servicemen, still have unresolved feelings about their time in combat and feel loyalty to their fellow soldiers. But confronted with a criminal conspiracy involving elements of the army a more personal nerve is hit. As fans of the series know, it was a bizarre plot within the military was what brought the three detectives together years earlier. These disappointed patriots are particularly irked when the army is used for selfish ends by twisted individuals.
If there was a show that never needed a Christmas episode it was Riptide. Cody muses that it is 80 degrees outside their boat at the Los Angeles area King Harbor Marina which doesn't exactly suggest the climate the season is associated with. Around Christmas, Riptide and other shows set in warmer climates were like a visual vacation from the cold for those of us who lived north. Setting an episode elsewhere was counter intuitive.
An uncharacteristically serious, even bleak at times, entry like this one was a huge departure for this series. In fact, aside from the opening montage and a few scenes it doesn't even look like a Riptide episode. But none of that should detract from its value. The story and teleplay made from it are both solid and James Whitmore Sr. (His son directed this episode) was as good an actor as they ever brought in to guest star.
Your Eyes Always Tell The Truth
Riptide detective agency partners Cody Allen (Perry King), Murray Bozinsky (Thom Bray), and Nick Ryder (Joe Penny) have a productive evening attending to the very serious matter of watching Brief Encounter (1945) on cable aboard their boat. Murray starts bawling and his two alpha male buddies get misty eyed at the ending. It just has to be the time for their nemesis uber-macho cop Lieutenant Quinlan (Jack Ging) to come aboard offering them a case.
American government agent Malcolm Sawyer (Michael MacRae), in concert with the local police wants the private investigators to retrieve federal witness Renee St.Claire (Cristina Raines) - ex-supermodel turned mob-wife turned state witness. She is hiding from her mafioso husband Sonny St.Claire (Stewart Moss) in Santa Perlita - a small town in Northern Mexico. He killed her brother and he has sent men after her to prevent her from testifying against him.
They find her almost immediately (a little too easily) and immediately enact a plan to expedite her transport. Their scheme to use a decoy to sneak her out fails and they are ambushed barely escaping in the Screaming Mimi - Nick's dilapidated military helicopter.
The Mimi crashes in the mountains and Nick and Renee hole up in a grow op cabin to await rescue by the American military. This should invite questions about why they were hired for the job when they could have just sent in the military in the first place. A goofy plot-twist gets thrown in which muddles things even more.
A real criminal mastermind with a vast organization and demonstrable ingenuity like Sonny St.Claire would logically have little trouble finding his wife and dealing with her if he knew where she was. Logically he would know where she was if the guy who showed the Riptide boys where to find her was revealed to be in Sonny's employ. Therefore what are Boz, Cody and Nick doing in Mexico at all? Each plot hole is at least as big as that space between Cristina Raines's teeth.
While ultimately incoherent when it comes to plot there are very least a few decent action sequences. But the chief difference (Other than its poor overall quality) which sets it apart from other episodes is that a love story plays out with some surprising passion and intensity.
The opening scene alluding to Brief Encounter and Nick's maudlin love story turned steamy sex romp with Renee again emphasizes the nature of the characters. These are sensitive guys and each adventure provided that essential backdrop for a potential romance.
The other pay-off for female viewers are the continuous shots of buff superhunk Perry King sweating through a tank top whilst wearing a shoulder-holster simultaneously accentuating his traps, pecs and biceps. Not a very subtle appeal to female viewers but probably appreciated nevertheless.
I have liked Cristina Raines in a lot of things she has done but this role really didn't allow for much. Other than some hot love scenes, through which she acquitted herself quite believably. By the end the realization is clear that they didn't give her enough screen time to properly define those aspects of the character that are essential.
Comic relief I guess is meant to be derived from Boz with wearing a dress to act as decoy for Renee. Cross-dressing isn't funny no matter what actor has ever done it.
Down, Out & Dangerous (1995)
I Help You, You Help Me
Earnest and successful nice guy Brad Harrington (Bruce Davison) is having problems in his life at the worst possible time. His wife Monica (Cynthia Ettinger), who has a history of miscarriages, is pregnant, pressure at the investment firm where he works is high. He is also continuously provoked by his abrasive weasel of a neighbor Calvin Burrows (Stuart Pankin) who makes a mess of his beautiful back yard in a dispute where Calvin is technically in the right but unreasonable in resolving. Things escalate resulting in legal action.
Brad, a man with a lot to lose, meets Tim Winchell (Richard Thomas) a homeless hippie drifter who has nothing, is new in town and whilst not too proud to beg insists that he is not too proud to work for food or money either. Tasked with cleaning the huge mess Calvin has made of his back yard one weekend Brad thinks it is a happy coincidence. Tim is immediately cooperative, helpful and gracious in acceptance of any form of remuneration. Brad takes Tim home to help him with the clean up and the stranger proves to be a tireless worker.
Calvin is, of course, around and acting even more obnoxiously in wake of his court date with Brad. He also takes an immediate dislike to Tim showing even greater lack of respect for the shaggy vagrant than he has for Brad and insists on prodding both of them about the clean up of the mess which HE caused. A physical confrontation with Brad ensues in a rehash over their boundary dispute and Calvin falls and goes 'boom' with an ouchy that proves fatal.
Tim makes it look like an accident (which it was...except for the part where Tim made sure Calvin was dead by bludgeoning him a few times with the bricks he fell on whilst Brad wasn't looking). Brad knows how it looks given his disputes with Calvin and Tim is only too happy to remind him when a determined police detective (Jayson Bernard) investigates. A clash of wills ensues as Tim tries to use what he knows to blackmail Brad and milk him to the point of displacing him in his own life.
The real show here is the arc of the Tim character - a volatile and extremely violent outsider whose galling opportunism and resourcefulness suddenly erupt after he has shown every outward sign of being helpless at the beginning. His transitions showing different faces are not necessarily as long a reach as they might seem after we have seen things play out. Ultimately it helps if the viewer was not a big fan of the Waltons. That makes it less of a leap to see John-Boy go bug-eyed psycho.
Weaknesses in the production are readily apparent. The characters never really develop beyond being one-dimensional in a cheap TV movie version of those new-acquaintance-turned-maniac scenarios which have quite frankly being done to death time after time since Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951). There are no strong female characters beyond that of Brad's co-worker CeCe (Melinda Culea)
Improper Conduct (1994)
Poor Attempt At An Erotic Thriller
The office Christmas party at Frost Advertising is, instead of being a gathering inspiring teamwork and camaraderie, a showcase of varieties of unprofessional workplace behaviour. Not only are employees of both genders ruthlessly scheming to pair off sexually, they are also getting very loaded on punch spiked with hard liquor.
The owner (Whitman) of the company tops it off with his own unprofessional contribution by handing the much sought after promotion of head of the Los Angeles branch to Michael Miller (Laughlin) - his son-in-law from the New York office.
Everyone there who was up for the promotion has the evening and the holiday season which follows to be disillusioned perhaps enough to take their talents elsewhere or suffer in silence.
The new branch manager turns out to be a real creep. In this milieu he fits in rather than setting a new tone needed to create a more professional work environment.
He gets handsy with Ashley (Welch) - the agency art director. She is not well-liked by female colleagues because she has bedded half the eligible guys there. Ashley is way cuter and has more 'game' than them. She is not believed when she complains.
Some movies are so bad they are fun. This is not one of them. It features acting of a quality generally to be seen in a Mexican soap opera. Producers for the direct-to-video market expectorated a lot of flicks like this one.
Tahnee Welch - while she happened to be Racquel Welch's daughter, more strongly resembled Jamaican actress Martine Beswick. She didn't remind audiences of her mother in the least. Tahnee's inability to get out of her mother's shadow had more to do with her lack of acting talent. The performance of Nia Peeples in a supporting role suggests she would have been a better choice than Welch to play the lead.
At Close Range (1986)
Gripping Thriller Crossed With Coming of Age Drama
Small-town bad boy Brad Whitewood (Penn) goes off to stay with his namesake father (Walken) when things get sour at home with his mom (Perkins) and her beau (Autry). Brad Sr. is quirky, charismatic, charming and a career criminal who is potentially the worst possible influence for a son that already appears to have a screw loose.
Feeling a connection to his kin, an affinity for theft and wanting financial security to move in with his beloved girlfriend Terri (Masterson) young Brad asks to be brought in to the family business - a criminal theft and hijacking ring.
He isn't in for very long before he begins to feel like he is out of his depth with the level of criminality his father and uncles routinely engage in. Put his naivete down to youth.
When Brad rebuffs his father's entreaties to join in more thefts and says he is leaving town to settle down with Terri out of state Brad Sr. takes it personally and blames her. Young Brad gets busted on grand theft stealing with his friends and the feds try and shake him down to rat out his father and uncles.
Feeling the pinch of imminent federal indictment Brad Sr. takes brutal action. He has somewhat of a level of comfort with life on the edge because he has gotten away with whatever he wanted before over and over again. But the last time he was imprisoned he swore it would never happen again.
The perception that violent crime is a big city phenomenon is a gross generalization and misrepresentation of reality. Those that have lived in small towns know this quite well and have looked in the eyes of violent criminals some of whom are distant kin.
Brad Sr.is of course worse than any animalistic monster because at least they have a care for their offspring. This is communicated most powerfully in the final scene in the county courthouse where Brad Jr. begins his testimony and must not only identify the defendant - the most diabolical and bloodthirsty individual he has ever known but tell the jury that the man is his father. Young Brad chokes up and can barely get the words out in the most convincing and powerful moment in Sean Penn's long and accomplished career as an actor.
The brilliant part about the way the film ends is how efficiently it concludes the arc of the hero. This aimless young guy begins with trying to find out who he is by getting to know his father. He gets the answers he is looking for about himself but loses his innocence and most of the people in his life that he cared about.
Christopher Walken remains considerably than just an intriguing character actor who consistently steals scenes in supporting roles. He has often played the lead in mainstream films.
The Nature of the Beast (1995)
Fun Character Study
It is apparent that uptight and straitlaced salesman Jack (Henriksen) has stolen a briefcase of mob money from a Las Vegas casino and is hurriedly on the run to California behind the wheel of his company car. Beneath the facade of his business-like grace is the dark secret.
A feculent, verbose and irritating hitch-hiker by the name of Adrian (Roberts) stalks him and just won't leave him alone. It is far from luck of the draw that Adrian, a lurking spirit of decadent evil has found Jack on the long ride home and he is insistent they have a killer weekend together. The whole truth of crimes of the past haunts each of them in their summit of criminal minds.
Adrian enjoys making Jack feel uncomfortable and finds it pretty easy to do given that Jack is nobody's fool and appears to suspect him of being a particularly gruesome serial killer from the Most Wanted List who is loose in the area murdering people in cold blood. Whats more is the raggedy man doesn't deny it or a penchant for brutality. But he knows what Jack did and threatens to call the cops on him if Jack continues to avoid him or tries to ignore him subjecting him to what turns out to be the sensation of bittersweet purgatory.
This odd couple of lonely hearts on the road in what is a form of buddy movie are nevertheless nothing like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby as they are more like demonic aliens. The intensity of their interactions suggests a great deal more is at play. Of course the hard truth IS a great deal more at play and each moment they spend together brings the audience closer to the rude awakening that things are kind of what they seem to be but also kind of NOT what they seem to be.
A grave confrontation awaits as, left without options, there is only one way out to reconciling the deep terror of their differences at the end of their voyage.
Eric Roberts never ceased being an electrifying performer from the beginning of his cinematic career in the 1970s. But difficulties with drugs and occasional expressions of violence curbed some of the success the southern gentleman might otherwise have had in his career resulting in a dead end near the early 1990s. The quirkiness of his characterizations show a complete lack of fear when improvising.
Lance Henriksen remains the intriguing character actor who consistently steals scenes in supporting roles and can often play the lead. Like Roberts his attitude and charisma assert themselves behind the warped ethos and phony persona his character exudes.
One Side Of The Story
Fleeing her home and a domineering mother (Stone) in small town Florida, young Linda Boreman (Seyfried) shacks up with hairball cokehead creep Chuck Traynor (Sarsgaard) - a mysterious older man who is a hundred different kinds of bad news. She has been taught by her parents and Suburban American culture that sexual expression is bad - something she knows is not true and is especially not true to her.
Her rebellion with Chuck is liberating at first but only insofar as she gets to have sex without guilt. Chuck proves to be more domineering than Linda's mom and more physically brutal in imposing his will upon her. In a financial jam he coerces her into appearing in pornography i.e. a film entitled 'Deep Throat'.
The porn industry people Linda finds herself surrounded by are much like Chuck. The icky feeling they exude gives one the feel of emptying a cockroach trap. But for the first time in her life she feels special and even somewhat powerful after the unexpected hit she and the film become. Chuck remains abusive whilst mismanaging her career.
The title of the film 'Deep Throat' alludes to it but no one will ever fully understand the phenomenon that was Linda Lovelace without seeing excerpts of a specific act this woman performed on screen. Even the seasoned pornographers who worked with her were utterly astonished by what she did and how she did it. It wasn't a magic trick or CGI but nobody could believe their eyes and the sense was the equivalent of witnessing a superhuman feat.
The Entity (1982)
Though Well-Crafted It Is Difficult To Watch
Single mom Carla Moran (Hershey) working days as a receptionist and taking night school is raising a teen son and two young daughters in a rickety old bungalow. Things are difficult and she is barely able to keep her family housed and fed. The debts are piling up and there never seems to be enough time to kick back and relax except in the sanctity of her bedroom each night before she goes to sleep.
One night after a typically busy day she is brutally beaten and raped in her room by an invisible force. She does not call police out of fear of being labelled a weirdo. The first friend she tells automatically asks her if she is on drugs.
The torment continues as the aromatic, burly being vandalizes her room, attacks her in her bathroom and her living room in front of her children. He even invites himself along for rides in her car where he delights in jamming his foot down on the accelerator when she least expects it.
Seeing psychiatrist Dr.Sneiderman (Silver) she reluctantly relates the events she has been subjected to as well as showing physical injuries she could not have done to herself. He is certain it is some manifestation of psychosis. It may seem to audiences that he is humouring her but it is really the other way around. She draws him closer knowing that if he in some way can bear witness to what is happening to her that he can impel more formidable support to aid her.
A team of Sneiderman's colleagues meet with her and then debate what it really is. They have really listened to what she has had to say and to what Sneiderman has had to say. The audience can know that by their grasp of the details and their fascination with her case is evident. But their collective response is a product of what they have been schooled in. It would all be correct if what was happening to her was not real.
Her kids and her friend experience the phenomenon. She meets a couple of parapsychologists whom she invites into her home and they are immediately witness to classic poltergeist activity. Sneiderman consistently remains vehement in his the diagnosis he and his colleagues have formulated and schemes to get her away from the clutches of the parapsychologists.
But the phenomenon is all too real. Carla's boyfriend Jerry (Rocco) a new man in her life who senses reluctance in her but appears not to have a clue as to what she has been through discovers this the hard way. She is in no hurry to tell him not necessarily out of fear of how he'll react but out of avoidance of reliving the horror. He discovers in the most intense and horrific encounter of all that he is over-matched by the being.
Attention is drawn and held by the profoundly disturbing events depicted. As unsettling as it is riveting the result is a rare a mesmerizingly, chilling cinematic achievement that is extremely difficult for any who have an ounce of human empathy.
Once Is Not Enough (1975)
Goofy Soap Opera With Offensive Depictions Of Lesbian Characters
Formerly influential Hollywood producer Mike Wayne (Douglas) dotes on his beautiful daughter January (Raffin) who is recovering in a Swiss clinic after a scandalous motorcycle accident caused by the leading man of his last movie.
She was thrown and hit the wall of a villa high-speed, falling to the ground like a strand of under cooked spaghetti. After three years of the best health-care money can buy she can the 'restart' button on her life after it went haywire.
With his finances strained, Mike courts a wealthy lesbian Dee (Smith) offering companionship and evidently a beard of high society respectability which she covets. She accepts his hand in marriage asking only that he give up his career.
Tensions naturally erupt. January has a bad case of the Elektra Complex and resents her stepmother - angst which serves to make a facile dork like her seem a little less facile.
Dee, for her part, has a meticulous plan that January shall wed her cousin David (Hamilton) a womanizing cad and make a respectable man out of him polishing the standing of their not so noble house. Appearances are of the utmost importance to her even as, touched by love, she enjoys her Sapphic pair-bond with aging former movie actress Carla - her kept woman/girlfriend-on-retainer who happens to be a grade A creep i.e. a kindred spirit for Dee to snuggle with.
These are absurd characters who summarize their lives with a few lines of silly expositional dialogue that clue the viewer in on how vile they are and what nasty habits they have. Whilst failing to properly establish these characters the narrative introduces more of them including misanthrope writer Tom Colt (Janssen) who is clearly a thinly disguised but overly romanticized version of Norman Mailer. Running out of time the film fails to adequately conclude any of the arcs or backstories.
The gorgeous Deborah Raffin turned in some pretty appalling performances in her career. Doubtless her turn in this one was among the very worst any actress is capable of.
Creepy Greek actress Melina Mercouri who gave a pretty distracted performance in her own right can perhaps be forgiven. She had spent the previous seven years under numerous credible death threats for criticizing the military dictatorship of her home country.
Brenda Vaccaro received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress which she actually deserved for other work rather than the characterization she gave in this.
Depictions of lesbian characters in cinema have certainly evolved in the decades since this film was made. The way they are depicted in this film offer justification for complaints of negative stereotyping.
The Look of Love (2013)
The Most Boring Pornographer Who Ever Lived
"Not bad for a boy from Liverpool who arrived with 5 bob in his pocket" Liverpudlian spiv Paul Raymond (Coogan) becomes the world's most uptight and stodgy strip club owner/pornographer finding his way around British obscenity laws - among the most absurd and bizarre censorship regulations anywhere and makes a fortune many times over. Destined to be Britain's Hugh Hefner in every sense the Scouser does so in the most dry, laconic and business-like way possible.
As depicted here Raymond (nee Geoffrey Quinn) was at one point very attached to projecting an image of a self-made businessman who cherished family and country. In his own mind there was no contradiction between that and the outsiders view of him as a libertine/smut peddler. With the demeanour of a middle-aged drip perhaps he really was more the former than the latter. But he rather comically resisted the classification 'pornographer'.
The viewer can kid themselves that this real life figure was a flake or a creep. But the film captures Paul Raymond's normalcy in ways which don't conflict with the very human eccentricity on display that enabled him to live a lifestyle few could even imagine. It is not easy to illustrate the shocking things the man did without sacrificing that sense of human frailty which helps the audience relate to the character.
It is with self-effacing wit and charm that he publishes porn, has dalliances with several strange women at a time and bonds with his daughter Debbie by sharing the same cocaine - a disgusting drug with a disgusting method of use that two generations of party people have deluded each other and themselves about.
The Boat That Rocked (2009)
WKRP Did It Better
"That's the whole point of being the government - If you don't like something you make it illegal" Pirate station Radio Rock - staffed by a ragtag crew of hip misfits broadcasts Rock 'N" Roll from a decrepit ship in the North Sea. They resist government attempts to ban them. Along the way they make lasting friendships and have a great time.
Rock fans in the UK could only hear 45 minutes a day of popular music on the airwaves of licensed stations. It was not the staid Conservative Party in power at the time. A Labour government under Harold Wilson was into its second term. The progressive administration supposedly objected to pirate radio and Rock 'N" Roll. But there was never an attempt to ban Rock 'N" Roll as the narrative of this film continually implies the British government tried to do.
In fact the government was actually trying to ensure its own domestic broadcasting remained under its control. The disciplines of the free market were an anathema to Labour government socialism leaving its licensed BBC stations unresponsive to popular trends and market correction. Losing advertising dollars to pirate stations caused the government to intervene.
The popularity of Rock 'N" Roll on pirate radio led to it becoming the dominant format on licensed radio with disc jockeys from pirate stations being hired to ply their trade legitimately on public radio. There was not a crusade against Rock 'N" Roll. There was merely a market correction in UK broadcasting with minor, understated attempts at censorship.
The pirate radio station owners and jocks weren't the heroic freedom fighters as they are depicted in this film. These were a group who made a quick buck off of a market trend whilst not paying royalties to play music and accepting bribes from record companies to play certain songs at the exclusion of others without proper regard to quality of content.
There could be a very funny comedy made in telling this story. But that wasn't done here. This is not merely a bad movie. This is a bad movie that just won't quit. It leaves the viewer looking for an ending no matter how unsatisfying or baffling. This is the work of a director who evidently refused to allow it to be edited.
Night Heat: Better Part of Valor (1988)
The Hitchhiker Turns Drugstore Cowboy
Armed robber Mick Kurtz (Page Fletcher) and his dumb/drugged up partner Bobby Malik (Michael Rudder) knock over a small drugstore and steal all the pill bottles they can carry. Volatile Malik shoots the pharmacist dead before a confrontation with a pair of police detectives during his getaway with Kurtz results in Malik also shooting one of the cops - Colby Burns (Eugene Clark) of the Midsouth precinct.
Jubilant crankhead Malik is vexed by veteran drugstore cowboy Kurtz who is visibly disturbed the events. Kurtz has a street reputation as being hardcore and bad to the bone but he really isn't. He has just been at it long enough to get known by other criminals. A small-time thug who makes minor scores and then disappears until police attention is redirected to other cases he has long evaded capture. But he is well aware that every cop in the city is out looking for the shooter in his debacle with Malik.
Veteran cop Colby Burns's partner Freddie Carson (Stephen Mendel) blames himself for not doing more. So does Internal Affairs (or 'Special Investigations Unit' in Toronto). So does Burns's wife. Undercover narcotics cop Dave Jefferson (Clark Johnson) steps in to guide Burns's cop friends through the grubby local culture of hard drug users.
One of the things which made Canadian cop show 'Night Heat' so special was its multi-layered exploration of criminal cases which put it a notch above the standard 'police procedural' formula. The scope is wider and presented from different angles. We see supporting characters Burns and Carson featured prominently so that the depth of subtext will enrich other episodes by their mere inclusion.
A criminal like Mick Kurtz can be distinctly different than his associate Malik where in other such shows the two might be interchangeable or one might bully and coerce the other in a contrived backstory. The dynamic between Malik and Kurtz is different Eugene Clark's acting has never impressed me and his character was my least favourite on the show and I was hopeful Burns would get killed off. I also never found Stephen Mendel convincing as a cop but have found him quite convincing playing doctors - his most common kind of role. Their prominence in this makes it one of the least interesting episodes.
Page Fletcher is best known as his character in the cable anthology series The Hitchhiker where he had the title role of Rod Serling/Marlboro Man presenter of tales of the unexpected.
Nerene Virgin who guest starred in this episode and a few others as Colby Burns's wife combined teaching, acting, voice-over work and broadcast journalism in her career. Versatility helped performers in Canada's entertainment industry - not only keeping them employed but giving them a springboard to dabble in different things.
Night Heat: Dead Ringer (1986)
Familiar Faces Highlight A Badly Dated Mystery
Sleazeball detective Ed Mallory (Maury Chaykin) is staking out the Forest Hill manor of an adulterous drunk oil company executive John Lazaro. By chance he witnesses the executive's wife Laura (Michelle Scarabelli) arrive home with a guy named Stanton and it is evident that the two are getting affectionate. When her husband shows up a confrontation ensues resulting in the husband's death.
Midsouth precinct police Detective Kevin O'Brien (Scott Hylands), his partner Detective Frank Giambone (Jeff Wincott) are urged to accept straight-forward jealous husband story to explain murder and go after the mysterious Stanton. A nosy but naive neighbour confirms suspicions which jive with the wife's account as well as that of the morally objectionable private investigator. But tell-tale signs of a larger conspiracy are revealed as two more victims are discovered.
The mystery depicted as well as it's resolution are things that could not happen in a modern context and was probably based upon an old cop's second hand recollections of a real case he heard about from the 1960s or 1970s. Forensics are very different now and information about people is more readily accessible. As shown here though we have this baffling enigma that actually takes up enough precious police time for forty-some minute teleplay.
Like a number of the really terrific performers in Canada's small circle of screen actors back in the 1980s, Chuck Shamata did multiple episodes of Night Heat. In fact he did five portraying a distinctly different character each time. Michelle Scarabelli guest-starred on two episodes as a different character each time Maury Chaykin as. On this hoser cop show the term 'Usual Suspects' could have been a reference to the roster of guest-stars.
The Ernie Game (1967)
The Human Cul-De-Sac
Former mental patient, now starving ginger-haired, pockmarked writer/hipster Ernie Turner (Alexis Kanner) drifts around Montreal in winter 1966 stealing various items, romancing various women who are inexplicably attracted to him, couch-surfing and having the most insipid conversations imaginable. Slender, with brooding eyes and a mop of red hair that he sets off with sharp sideburns this Raggedy Andy is somewhere between beatnik and hippie. A sharp-dresser, he can be misidentified as cool. At very least he offers a change of pace.
He is a nice enough guy (though his irritating habitat of pranking people is off-putting particularly when they are complete strangers) and the charismatic vagabond artist-type he passes himself off as has fleeting charm for some women. A lot of them were bringing home strays like Ernie back in the 1960s. Those same women generally split up with guys like Ernie sooner rather than later because he is careless, irresponsible, probably unemployable and not suitable for nesting. Bad feelings often lingered after they tried and failed to change him.
The times when Ernie senses he will lose the women he loves he comes to realize where he is lacking and takes steps to address it. But he can only adopt the extrinsics (haircut, business attire) of responsible people and even then only up until he gets bored with it. The real day-to-day work of adulthood or just about any other pursuit is lost on him. Today's mental health professionals will identify various symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in Ernie and probably diagnose a very specific kind. But doctors then, and now would not be able to keep him under constant supervision because his case is not obviously that serious.
Where it has the possibility of becoming deadly serious is when Ernie buys a gun and convinces acquaintance Steve that they can do well for themselves committing armed robbery. As with the women Ernie has led on, the partner in crime is allowed to project the required seriousness upon Ernie to think they can make a go of it. Like Ernie's ex-girlfriends, Steve only finds out the problems Ernie has after being drawn in. Though he still inadvertently plays "Ernie's Game", i.e. an elaborate attempt to do something up until it becomes serious, Steve at very least doesn't get his feelings hurt the way they have.
While I find a number of scenes in this to be cheap, hokey and over the top there is a lot to like in what was captured here. The ending does not dull the sharpness of the portrayal of this troubled young man's odyssey. The resolution is realistic. The loser/hero protagonist used to be a recurring cliché of Canadian cinema. But so was the weirdo/outsider protagonist. Ernie is all of those and Kanner's multi-layered portrayal shows us how he can be interesting even as his character arc is limited. It can tell audiences a lot about a character if he doesn't change. Often it can tell us more about them then if they do.
A weak point of Canadian film is the preponderance of these characters that struggle to subsist or fit in. The foreign film festival circuit loves characters like these. Canadian movie makers made a number of these as their own version of European 1960s New Wave cinema not merely because it was trendy but because art-house fair like this was inexpensive enough for them to stage properly as they did in this joint Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/National Film Board production.
Alexis Kanner should have been a solid building block for Canada's parochial film industry particularly after a few years accumulating a solid reputation in British cinema and television as an uncommonly gifted actor. Lured back to his hometown of Montreal to play the title role in a feature he got an opportunity most don't. But there was not enough work to keep him here until the mid 1970s and by then he wanted to write and direct - very time-consuming pursuits he was unsuited for that kept him from acting.
Had he been inclined he could've augmented numerous Canadian productions in lead and supporting acting roles.
Movie debut of veteran Canadian film and TV star Jackie Burroughs.
Leonard Cohen performs a song during the party scene.
Kings and Desperate Men (1981)
Alexis Kanner's Flawed Masterpiece
Womanizing, boozing talk radio show host John Kingsley (Patrick McGoohan) has a large and rapidly expanding audience for his program on Montreal-based station JXYL. His condescending, bloody-minded persona irritates but also captivates listeners. Depending on the issue or the guest or the caller and each respective listener's views Kingsley can become the hero or the villain during his discussions which can often be dismissed as rants. He routinely humiliates callers and guests in debates. He can put them on air and cut them off as he pleases.
In his forum he is a towering presence and authority figure. It gives him the status of celebrity in public which he has used to marry into money and curry favor with the local elite. A Britisher, he never quite found his niche until he emigrated to Canada. The very unremarkable way this seemingly remarkable man conducts himself personally is galling for many. The most coherently Canadian aspect of the narrative is how alienated everyday Montrealers felt from the wealthy and powerful dwelling in the high-end Westmount area of the city.
At the end of his Christmas eve show during which his friend Judge McManus (Budd Knapp) appeared as guest, the two of them then attend the JXYL gala Christmas party. Suddenly a series of benign-seeming events serve to situate different people in the grasp of those with malevolent intent. Lured in a drunken state back to the studio where he broadcasts his show by a seductive woman (Andrea Marcovicci), he finds a shotgun pointed at him and it is made clear that her terrorist associates also have abducted Judge McManus and are holding Kingley's Westmount socialite wife (Margaret Trudeau) and child (Jean-Pierre Brown) in a separate location where they have a bomb. They demand air-time on his next show.
Kingsley is, at first, understandably quite blindsided by the group of people who forcibly disrupt his life and that of those he loves. But his reaction to the situation at various times during the hours that follow verges on the bizarre. He can't help but prod his captors in the time leading up to the show and very much during it. Pushing people's buttons is what he does and he is extremely effective at it whether the situation calls for it or not. That dialectic which should be explosive lingers a little too gently through the night at the studio until the show begins the next morning.
Lucas Miller (Alexis Kanner), a university lecturer who somehow (Never adequately explained and far from evident) decided to become the leader of a terrorist group has a bone to pick with the justice system and a court case that he wants to use Kingsley's show to retry. Once the broadcast begins it becomes less than clear at times whether Miller is using Kingsley as effectively as Kingsley is using him.
It becomes even less clear why people (At least six of them from what we see and hear) would follow Miller in terrorist acts so highly illegal that their lives as they knew them would certainly be over at the conclusion. The more we know about the court case the terrorists say they are so motivated by, the less it seems like anything.
The on-screen chemistry between longtime friends McGoohan and Kanner used to such great effect on episodes of The Prisoner (1967-68) is scarcely evident in their scenes together in this production. Whilst Kanner adapted the screenplay he never got a handle on portraying terrorist ring-leader Miller. Most of his performance appears to convey disconcerted bewilderment at how things unfold and in a way which deflates much of the tension needed for it to be effective. It might have been better if it had been a stage play particularly since Kanner's performance is one which looks more like it belongs on a stage.
As a film it doesn't quite work even though there are some entertaining moments. Director/producer/cinematographer Alexis Kanner (Purportedly on large doses of pills and Scotch during filming) took on far too much himself. The eccentric or perhaps even self-indulgent manner in which this film was shot and cut (Kanner was in the editing room with it in post-production for a couple of years - Shot in 1977, it wasn't released until 1981) goes along with the eccentric or perhaps even self-indulgent manner in which it was written and acted.
McGoohan is effective throughout as is Marcovicci as are veteran Canadian actors August Schellenberg and Frank Moore. Margaret Trudeau, the wife of Pierre Elliott Trudeau - then Prime Minister of Canada, somehow found herself cast in this much to the dismay of McGoohan who loathed her and her attempts at a performance (which most would agree came up lacking). This was around the time Mrs. Trudeau was hanging out with the Rolling Stones, prowling Studio 54 and doing various other things to embarrass the much older man she had married who was still trying to run the country.
Perhaps more puzzling casting is Robin Spry portraying a terrorist bomber. Spry is known for doing almost everything BUT acting in Canada's film industry.
Whilst it bears superficial similarities to the 1988 film Talk Radio for some bizarre reason Kanner felt that the 1988 film Die Hard was far more similar to the point where he unsuccessfully sought legal damages for copyright infringement. Of course neither Die Hard nor Talk Radio are taken from Kings and Desperate Men in any obvious, and certainly not any actionable way.
It remains one of the scant few contributions Alexis Kanner was able to make to Canada's domestic film industry. His gifts were not writing or directing or cinematography. He couldn't be happy just being an actor who triumphed in character roles and as anti-heroes in counterculture productions. There was so much more he could have done if he had made better choices.
Another 'New Acquaintance Turned Maniac' Thriller
Luxury airline tycoon Mike Regan (Pierce Brosnan) launches an app which is the private jet equivalent of Uber. His multimedia presentation to woo investors is sidetracked by glitches which are quickly fixed by Ed Porter (James Frecheville) - a mysterious recently hired IT guy.
Regan is eager to show his appreciation to this new employee and invites Ed over to his estate and introduces him to his wife (Anna Friel) and daughter. While there Ed fixes the wifi, updates the home security system and even the GPS in Mike's car cementing his status as Mike's favorite IT guy.
Ed, who doesn't pick up on social cues readily if at all, thinks he and Mike are friends and envisions not only regular social visits with the Regans but also romance with Mike's 17 year old daughter. Numerous faux pas by Ed result not only in his being rudely shunned by Mike but by his dismissal from his job.
Ed, who has made a convincing act of normalcy is in fact a heavy drug user with serious mental health issues. He takes the impasse very personally and uses the access he had to Regan's business home to hack in and cause trouble. The angrier Mike gets the more he menaces Ed who responds by making the attacks more severe.
There is nothing special about any aspect of this film. It is a reinterpretation of the 'New Acquaintance Turned Maniac' thriller Hollywood has been doing for decades. It isn't even a good one of those.
The characters never develop into being multidimensional. The story is as predictable and facile as the ending
Brilliant Concept Sabotaged By Clumsy Script
The story of a Southern mega-church headed by a family of sly hypocrites. Living in luxury and wielding influence how deep does the spirituality they claim really run? Are their sins products of their own human frailty exacerbated by a difficult world? Or are they bad people pretending to be holy?
It is about time a TV series dealt with the world of organized, profit-motivated religious organizations. A night-time soap take on an African-American mega-church in the Deep South is a novel approach to that telling the stories of people that have not yet been properly told in a fictional construct.
But my praise ends there. A solid cast in an interesting setting largely goes wasted in teleplay scripts so inept that they look like film school dropouts wrote them.
I love night-time soaps. I like the idea for this show as well as the story and the characters and the angle they take in relating the narrative. It is an imagined glimpse into a secret world of powerful people who profess piety and modesty but can't live it and we get to see them at their best and worst. I want to see it get multiple seasons.
But the scripts have to get better. They need to be outlined better and the dialogue needs to be more subtle in relaying information as well as doing so in a natural manner in which real people speak. So far they have tried to cram too much information in each sentence
Solitude Is An Honored Guest
Affluent spinster Martha Howard is stalked and nearly run down by a scuzzy psycho (Steven Keats). She calls the police and is met by San Francisco cops Mike Stone (Karl Malden) and Steve Keller (Michael Douglas). If the stalker didn't sufficiently terrify her the sight of Inspector Keller's 1970's sideburns, turtleneck shirt and loud sports-jacket probably did.
Stone doesn't believe her. She has made complaints to police before and they went nowhere. But Keller believes her and has proof she really is being stalked when she tape records her tormentor calling her up and threatening her.
The reason why she is being stalked is unclear though her poorly disguised affair with married Canadian cabinet minister Brian Downing (Edward Mulhare) raises suspicions which Keller and Stone argue over.
Also raising suspicion is the affair itself. Dashing, powerful, distinguished, jet-set Downing is married to a glamorous younger woman and could presumably have affairs with women more glamorous and even younger if he wanted. For whatever reason he has taken up with a woman (pleasant looking but no stunner) in her mid forties who dresses like a librarian and talks like one too.
As someone from Canada I found the portrayals of Canadians in this episode agreeable but baffling. The vast majority of Canadians don't have British accents, look like characters on night-time soap operas or dress like fashion magazine models.