COOL HAND LUKE (1967)--Directed by Stuart
Rosenberg. Stars Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Strother Martin, Jo Van Fleet. One of Newman's best-remembered characters. Newman
is a rebellious parking-meter thief who refuses to buckle under to the authorities of a Southern prison. Highlights include
the car-washing sequence and Newman eating fifty hard-boiled eggs in an hour to win a bet...and, of course, warden Martin's
famous line, "What we have here is a failure to communicate." Great supporting cast includes J.D. Cannon, Clifton James, Morgan
Woodward, Joe Don Baker, Ralph Waite, Wayne Rogers, Dennis Hopper, Lou Antonio, Harry Dean Stanton and Anthony Zerbe. Kennedy
won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar; Newman and screenwriters Donn Pierce and Frank Pierson were nominated.
THE COOLER (2003)--Directed by
Wayne Kramer. Stars William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, Maria Bello. Meet Bernie Lootz (Macy), the unluckiest guy in
Las Vegas. He's such a loser that casino manager Shelly Kaplow (Baldwin) has managed to use him to great advantage as
the city's best "cooler". All Bernie has to do is stand next to someone on a winning streak, and said someone is sure
to lose a bundle. In one week, it will have been six years since Bernie started working off the books to pay back his
gambling debt to Shelly, and he wants to leave town. Complications ensue when he falls in love with Shelly's beautiful
waitress Natalie (Bello), since a happy Bernie is a useless Bernie to Shelly, as his "cooling" abilities have dried up along
with his depression. Anchored by Baldwin's Oscar-nominated performance as a lonely, frightening, fascinating and ultimately
sympathetic villain, THE COOLER is a neat little film. It also doesn't shy away from depicting sex realistically, showcasing
Macy and Bello nude and barely snaring an R rating. Also with Ron Livingston, Shawn Hatosy, Estella Warren, Joey Fatone,
Ellen Greene, Jewel Shepard and Paul Sorvino. Orchestral score by Mark Isham.
COP (1988)--Directed by James
B. Harris. Stars James Woods, Lesley Ann Warren, Charles Durning, Charles Haid. Offbeat cop drama would be just another action
film if not for the truly electrifying lead performance given by Woods. He's a high-strung detective investigating a string
of vicious killings. Ignore the plot and watch Woods. Haid (HILL STREET BLUES) plays against type as a brutal pimp. Good B-movie
dialogue by Harris.
COP AND A HALF (1993)--Directed by Henry Winkler. Stars Burt Reynolds, Ray Sharkey,
Norman D. Golden III, Ruby Dee. After finding success and a Golden Globe award on TV's EVENING SHADE, this was to be Burt's
big comeback to film stardom. Better luck next time, Burt. Reynolds is a maverick Tampa police officer who is forced to partner
with the only witness to a gangland murder: a ten-year-old boy (Golden) infatuated with TV cop shows. Lame comedy is dragged
down further by dull action scenes. Maybe kids would like it--very, very young kids. The director was the "Fonz" on HAPPY
DAYS. He and Reynolds reportedly didn't get along too well during filming.
COP HATER (1958)—Directed
by William Berke. Stars Robert Loggia, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Ellen Parker, Russell Hardie. When prolific B-movie director
William Berke died in 1958, he still had four films waiting to be released. Two of them, written by Henry Kane (MARTIN KANE,
PRIVATE EYE) and released through United Artists, were based on 87th Precinct novels by Evan Hunter using his Ed McBain nom
de plume. In the hottest week of the year, someone is gunning down cops in The City’s 87th precinct. Detectives Steve
Carelli (Loggia) and Mike Maguire (O’Loughlin, who was born to play cops) wear down their shoe leather following leads.
But will their dogged investigation identify their man before he can kill Carelli’s deafmute girlfriend Teddy (Parker)?
Berke captures not only the feel of McBain’s early novels, but also the exploitation value of a dog-eared True Detective
magazine of the era. He also demonstrates a nice eye for casting, giving early, if not the first, film roles to soon-to-be-notable
actors Loggia, O’Loughlin, Vincent Gardenia, Jerry Orbach, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Alan Bergmann, Glenn Cannon, and Steve
Franken. Hardie has a nice scene running a police lineup and sharing smartass remarks with the hoods arrested that day. Albert
Glasser composed the jazzy score.
COP KILLERS (1973)—Directed
by Walter Cichy. Stars Jason Williams, Bill Osco, Diane Keller, James Nite. Cichy, an associate producer of FLESH GORDON who
also worked on that X-rated spoof’s visual effects, wrote and directed this trashy crime drama. The actor who played
Flesh Gordon, Jason Williams, also stars here as Ray, one-half of the titular antagonists, along with Bill Osco, who also
produced both FLESH and COP KILLERS, as Alex.
These two yahoos, accompanied by a Rolls Royce and an inexplicable
soft rock soundtrack, encounter the Border Patrol while smuggling four kilos of cocaine from Mexico. Despite being outnumbered,
outgunned, and outtrained, Ray and Alex manage to kill all the cops and continue their journey. Their crime spree goes on
to include carjacking an ice cream truck and abducting a young woman named Karen (Keller).
Sleazy and violent COP KILLERS may be, but well-acted it
definitely is not. Osco (later to star in his director wife Jackie Kong’s THE BEING) and Williams are plenty woeful,
but the squeaky-voiced Nite as the irritating ice cream man is so pathetic that you’ll cheer for the villains to rub
him out. The bad acting, working in concert with the slack pacing and numb screenplay, makes it impossible to generate any
suspense. Why do these guys, on their way to collect $100,000 from drug dealers, stop to rob $33 from a gas station?
COP KILLERS may be one of the most obscure films ever to
receive a deluxe DVD treatment. Shot in 16mm and blown up to 35mm for its drive-in engagements, COP KILLERS may not have played
very much, if at all, on television and was certainly forgotten by almost everyone except those who made it. Sometimes you
find a diamond in the rough, but COP KILLERS is just rough. Eegee’s, the proprietor of the ice cream truck Ray and Alex
steal, is a real business still active in Tucson, Arizona, where COP KILLERS was filmed. Rick Baker provided the gory makeup.
General National Enterprises released it in 1977.
I can’t say that COP KILLERS is all that deserving
of a nice DVD, but Shriek Show did a pretty nice job with it. The key extra is the audio commentary track featuring Williams
and a moderator calling himself Adam Trash. It’s a good thing Williams is an animated speaker with a good memory, because
Trash is a hesitant, uninformed moderator who fails to ask Williams the most obvious questions and relies on the actor to
initiate discussion points. Williams tells us that COP KILLERS was shot in 12 days for $50,000 by porn filmmakers looking
for a quick buck until FLESH GORDON’s release. He’s also a good sport about the film’s technical deficiencies,
pointing out the occasional visible microphones and an amazing shot of the soundman sitting in the backseat of a car driven
by the stars.
Williams also pops up on camera for an interview that hits
the points not touched upon during the commentary. A ridiculous image gallery features a whopping two (!) images, neither
of them all that interesting, and a trailer collection features not just the spot for COP KILLERS, but also several other
drive-in flicks on DVD, including GRIZZLY and Bill Osco’s THE BEING.
COP LAND (1997)--Directed by James Mangold. Stars Sylvester Stallone, Robert DeNiro,
Harvey Keitel, Annabella Sciorra, Robert Patrick, Ray Liotta, Michael Rapaport, Peter Berg. COP LAND was considered something
of a comeback for Sylvester Stallone, playing his first so-called “serious” role since F.I.S.T. and PARADISE ALLEY
nearly twenty years earlier. Stepping outside his usual array of action movies and comedies to play the lead in COP LAND,
an emotionally and physically stunted local sheriff named Freddy Heflin, Stallone gained a reported forty points and earned
only Screen Actors Guild scale, as did all the name performers. He’s marvelous as Heflin, though his career didn’t
get the boost he was expecting, and he was back starring in underwhelming action movies DRIVEN and GET CARTER three years
Stallone is first among equals in COP LAND, playing the simple, unassuming sheriff of Garrison, New
Jersey, a small town just across the river from Manhattan and home to several New York Police Department cops who want to
live away from the city’s filth. Unable to join the NYPD because of a childhood accident that left him deaf in one ear,
Freddy is treated with polite condescension by the big-city cops who live in Garrison, including BMOC Ray Donlan (Keitel)
and Jack Rucker (Patrick).
Donlan’s fiefdom shows signs of cracking after his nephew, a cop nicknamed Superboy (Rapaport),
is involved with killing two young black men on the George Washington Bridge. Knowing the circumstances look hinky, Donlan
fakes Superboy’s death to cover a scandal, which brings Internal Affairs lieutenant Moe Tilden (DeNiro) onto the scene.
Freddy, a go-along-to-get-along guy who looks the other way at minor police corruptions, the way a little brother might kiss
up to his older brother’s friends, has some tough decisions to make when the coverup threatens to harm Garrison.
While COP LAND has the appearance of an ensemble piece, it’s really about Freddy Heflin, a
man who is weak, whose hearing--and by extension, his life--was irreparably damaged as a result of his feat of heroism, who
doesn’t seem like the brightest bulb, who has no family, but is still mooning decades later over the girl (Sciorra)
whose life he saved. And Stallone makes us root for the poor bastard to find the strength of character to stand up to men
I realize I’ve been solely focused on Stallone, but there’s a lot of good work in COP
LAND, particularly Liotta as the one cop who genuinely likes Freddy (the original idea was for Liotta and Stallone to play
each other’s roles) and Mangold, who wrote the script and directs with a sure hand. COP LAND did not do the box office
business that was expected, which is a shame, because it’s a tight crime drama with terrific performances and an unforgettable
hero in Stallone’s Freddy Heflin. Score by Howard Shore. Also with Janeane Garofalo, Noah Emmerich, Cathy Moriarty,
John Spencer, Malik Yoba, Edie Falco, Debbie Harry, and Frank Vincent.
COP OUT (2010)—Directed by
Kevin Smith. Stars Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Guillermo Diaz, Kevin Pollak, Adam Brody. Auteur Smith (CLERKS) directs for
the first time a script he didn’t write, a miserable buddy-cop comedy shot in New York for Warner Brothers. At least
he brought Harold Faltermeyer (BEVERLY HILLS COP) out of retirement to compose the lively score. Jimmy Monroe (Willis) and
Paul Hodges (Morgan) are crazy, out-of-control maverick New York cops serving a 30-day suspension for acting crazy and out
of control. Not funny, really, but crazy. They use their time off to chase a couple of burglars who stole Jimmy’s 1952
Andy Pafko baseball card and end up busting a Mexican drug gang. The villains are very boring, and their scenes bring the
movie to a screeching halt every time. What’s most amusing about COP OUT is the actor Willis’ bemusement alongside
Morgan’s (probably) improvised raving, though their banter eventually grows tiresome. Brody and Pollak are wasted as
rival cops intended to copy the gag-playing detectives in STAKEOUT. Also with Rashida Jones, Juan Carlos Hernandez, Michelle
Trachtenberg, Jason Lee, Fred Armisen, Francie Swift, and Seann William Scott. Filmed as A COUPLE OF DICKS, but Warners wimped
out and changed the title. The ridiculous 1-sheet is indistinguishable from the parody movie posters seen in Morgan’s
30 ROCK character’s dressing room.
COPS & ROBBERSONS (1994)--Directed
by Michael Ritchie. Stars Chevy Chase, Jack Palance, Dianne Wiest, Robert Davi. Yes, another bad Chevy Chase comedy. This
time he's a befuddled suburban father and fan of bad TV cop shows who allows a tough police detective to use his house to
stakeout his counterfeiter neighbor (former Bond villain Davi). No laughs, no imagination. It's like the filmmakers didn't
even try to make a good movie. Palance does a pretty good job parodying himself, but he's been doing that unintentionally
for many years. Ritchie won an Emmy in 1993 for his HBO movie about the Texas woman who hired a hitman to kill her daughter's
high-school cheerleading rival.
COPYCAT (1995)--Directed by Jon Amiel. Stars Sigourney Weaver, Holly
Hunter, Dermot Mulroney, Harry Connick, Jr. Not-bad thriller most notable for its cast--a pair of Oscar nominated actresses
(Hunter won in '93 for THE PIANO) and singer Connick in his film debut as an inbred serial killer. Weaver plays a neurotic
psychologist/serial killer expert who has spent the last 13 months confined to her apartment after an attack by Connick. When
some psycho begins slaughtering women in the style of famous past murderers (including Bundy and Berkowitz), Homicide Inspector
Hunter and partner Mulroney come to Weaver for assistance. Hunter is terrific; despite her diminutive stature and slight Southern
drawl, she is immediately believable in the role of a detective. Weaver also does a good job in the film's most difficult
role by not relying on the standard woman-in-peril clichs. The script provides plenty of red herrings, although you won't
have much trouble guessing which supporting characters will be bumped off, and even though many of the killer's feats are
not entirely plausible, Amiel's well-paced direction and the performances by Weaver and Hunter make COPYCAT watchable.
by Henry Selick. Stars Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Ian McShane, John Hodgman. The director of THE NIGHTMARE
BEFORE CHRISTMAS brings Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed fantasy novel to life…sort of…using stop-motion animation.
Keep the tots at home, for they’ll likely be scared out of their PJs by this tale of young Coraline (voiced by Fanning),
who seeks escape from her dull, inattentive parents by crawling through a secret door into an alternate world. There,
her Other Mother (Hatcher) cooks all her favorite meals, and Other Father (Hodgman) is fun and carefree. But, of course,
if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably comes at a stiff price. I won’t give much more away, except to
say that Selick’s imagination has really run wild in bringing to life Gaiman’s side characters, such as the sympathetic,
washed-up stage actresses living downstairs from Coraline and the eccentric Russian acrobat voiced by DEADWOOD’s McShane.
I saw CORALINE theatrically in 3D, which was a treat, but it should play just fine in 2D.
CORKY OF GASOLINE ALLEY (1951)—Directed
by Edward Bernds. Stars Jimmy Lydon, Scotty Beckett, Don Beddoe, Susan Morrow, Gordon Jones, Kay Christopher, Patti Brady,
Dick Wessel, Ralph Votrian. This sequel to GASOLINE ALLEY hit theaters just a few months later and reunites writer/director
Bernds (QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE) with the same stars. Since we last checked in with the Wallet family, oldest son Skeezix (Lydon)
and wife Nina (Christopher) have gained a couple of kids, baby sister Judy added a boyfriend (Votrian), and son Corky (Beckett)
and his wife Hope (Morrow) are still running a diner with friend Pudge (Wessel).
Despite the title, the regular cast members get equal
weight, and the plot revolves around outsider Jones (THE GREEN HORNET) as Hope’s freeloading cousin Elwood. He finagles
an invitation from patriarch Walt (Beddoe) to be a Wallet houseguest, and ends up destroying Corky’s diner, Skeezix’s
fix-it shop, and any goodwill the family showed when he arrived. CORKY plays more like an episode than a film, as if we’re
watching a series of events in the Wallets’ lives. It’s amiably paced with good work from its large cast of appealing
actors. Jones, who became a foil for Abbott & Costello on their sitcom as Mike the Cop, is a particularly funny blowhard.
It’s certain the GASOLINE ALLEY films were meant
to replace the long-running BLONDIE series on Columbia’s series roster, but they died out after just two. Frank King’s
comic strip was notable for its willingness to let its characters age, and Bernds made the same effort with the films. It’s
quite possible Scotty Beckett’s personal life, which by 1951 had already included a drunken driving arrest, a divorce,
and a second marriage to a woman he made pregnant out of wedlock, played a role in the studio’s decision to kill the
series. Also with John Doucette, Madelon Mitchell, John Dehner, Lester Matthews, Emil Sitka, Charles Williams, narration by
Paul Frees, and Kirk Alyn as Superman (playing on a television set).
CORPSE EATERS (1974)—Directed
by Donald R. Passmore and Klaus Vetter. Stars Michael Hopkins, Ed LeBreton, Terry London, Helina Carson. Notable
only in that it’s apparently Canada’s first gore movie, this low-budget under-an-hour (!) feature is mostly boring,
yet strangely intoxicating. It’s also not very scary, even though it features the popular gimmick of “warning”
the audience (with a warning sound and a clip of a retching middle-aged man) when something terrifying is about to happen.
An undertaker drives around a cemetery, thinking to himself about a young man reportedly killed by a bear, while his assistant
embalms the corpse and makes it up in its coffin. Then, two couples—one that has sex in front of the other—decide
to blow off a Sudbury rock concert and spend the night in a cemetery, where one of the dudes performs a Satanic ritual that
awakens the corpses. One of the women is eaten, and the remaining three make it to the hospital, where one of the men
eventually dies (the “bear” victim from earlier). Yep, it’s all a flashback, and it has a non-surprising
surprise ending. Pretty pointless and packed with padding for a 54-minute movie. Passmore, the original director,
was reportedly sacked partway through filming and replaced by Vetter. I doubt even writer/producer/makeup artist Lawrence
Zazelenchuk can tell who directed what. Howard Mahler actually gave this a U.S. theatrical release, I hope on the backside
of a double bill.
THE CORPSE VANISHES (1942)--Directed
by Wallace Fox. Stars Bela Lugosi, Elizabeth Russell, Luana Walters. Unbelievably bad Monogram "horror" starring Bela as a
nutty botanist who kidnaps young brides on their wedding day by dosing their corsages with a gas that makes them pass out.
He's assisted by hulking moron Frank Moran and giddy dwarf Angelo Rossitto (who play brothers!). Bela hopes to use the spinal
fluid of his victims (why they have to be newly married young women is never specified) to restore the youth of his bitter
aging wife (Russell). Only 64 minutes long, but it packs a lot of laughs. Also with Minerva Urecal and Tristram Coffin as
by Robert Hartford-Davis. Stars Peter Cushing, Sue Lloyd, Noel Trevarthen. One of Cushing’s worst features
is this crazily plotted and sleazily produced British thriller that also played under the ludicrous title LASER KILLER.
The premise isn’t bad, and it’s interesting to see what Cushing does with a terrible script. Dr. John Rowan
(Cushing) accidentally burns the face of his model fiancé Lynn (Lloyd). Out of guilt, he punishes himself by dedicating
his career to discovering a way of recovering her beautiful features, which he does by decapitating women and using their
pineal fluid and a laser to regenerate Lynn’s skin. While Sir John’s surgeon colleague (Trevarthen) wonders
whether Rowan is a serial killer, the dysfunctional couple goes away to their country home, where an increasingly unhinged
Lynn browbeats her conscience-ridden new husband into continuing his deadly treatments. In addition to a wildly stupid
final reel, CORRUPTION suffers from an awful Bill McGuffie score, one of the most inappropriate I’ve ever heard.
Cushing didn’t like the film much either, but he did go on to work again with the director on the also-scorned BLOODSUCKERS.
COSA NOSTRA, AN ARCH ENEMY OF THE FBI (1967)--Directed by Don Medford. Stars Efrem
Zimbalist Jr., Walter Pidgeon, Celeste Holm, Telly Savalas, Susan Strasberg, Robert Duvall, Robert Drivas, Philip Abbott,
Stephen Brooks. Warner Brothers, looking to squeeze more nickels out of its television properties, released “The Executioners,”
a two-part episode of THE FBI, as a feature film in overseas theaters. Perhaps executive producer Quinn Martin (THE FUGITIVE)
and Warners intended this from the beginning of production, since it’s packed with big-name guest stars--even for a
QM show (famous for paying top dollar for guest actors). Director Don Medford and cameraman Robert Moreno seem to have composed
their shots with a theatrical aspect ratio in mind, though it still looks like a television show.
Series star Efrem Zimbalist Jr. still takes top billing as stalwart FBI agent Lew Erskine, but the
story sets him back in second place in favor of Walter Pidgeon (FORBIDDEN PLANET) and Telly Savalas (THE DIRTY DOZEN) as mobsters
trying to avoid indictment by a New York grand jury. Probably because of the heat Martin took from the Italian-American community
for the ethnic gangsters on THE UNTOUCHABLES, the Cosa Nostra are decidedly WASPy, including Robert Drivas and Robert Duvall
(THE GODFATHER) as hitmen and Ted Knight (CADDYSHACK) as a gun dealer.
Savalas and Pidgeon play old friends whose families disapprove of their careers. Savalas hasn’t
lived with wife Celeste Holm in ten years, and Pidgeon’s daughter Strasberg (THE TRIP) proclaims “I haven’t
got a father.” Pidgeon fears Savalas, who’s still in love with Holm and yearns for their old life together, is
getting soft, which could mean that Telly might end up like the last two grand jury witnesses against them.
As a TV show, “The Executioners” (which aired in 1967) is pretty good television, but
it lacks scope and action. Cast aside, it’s a mystery why it was chosen to play for a paying audience. Maybe they didn’t
show up, which could explain why there wasn’t a second THE FBI movie. Pidgeon and Savalas, the real stars of the film,
are very good with Telly’s tentative mobster bouncing solidly off Pidgeon. Ken Lynch, Ted Knight, Wesley Addy, Ross
Elliott, Russell Thorsen, Dan Frazer, James B. Sikking, Jerry Douglas, Susan Seaforth Hayes, and Anthony Eisley co-star. Richard
Markowitz (THE WILD WILD WEST) composed the score using Bronislaw Kaper’s television theme over the main titles.
COSA NOSTRA ASIA (1974)—Directed by John Liao. Stars Chris Mitchum, Tony Ferrer,
Dick Chen, Ellie Chow, Larry Elkins. Bobby A. Suarez, who directed Mitchum in MASTER SAMURAI and AMERICAN COMMANDOS, produced
this action-packed concoction that combines a GODFATHER-inspired Mafia storyline with kung fu. It was directed by American-educated
Liao in Taiwan. According to Mitchum, he and Joseph Lai cobbled together the screenplay during the shoot based on Suarez’s
20-page outline. He and Suarez were also filming AMERICAN DAREDEVIL COMMANDOS at the same time, though that movie was never
finished. If you’ve seen any of the afore-mentioned Suarez pictures or THE ONE-ARMED EXECUTIONER, you can imagine what
COSA NOSTRA ASIA is like. In one scene, Mitchum’s Chris Ballenger and Ferrer as Hawaiian mob boss Tony Dee fight for
what is said to be four hours (!), though we see only a few minutes of it. They end up fighting with gladiator swords and
shields until finally collapsing in exhaustion. Ballenger is an Interpol agent who helps drive a wedge between the Hong Kong
mob and the Chicago Mafia led by Don Claudio (Elkins). Mitchum’s Lanky White Guy Fu is lame, of course, though it’s
funny he somehow late in the picture finds a white guy to fight who’s even worse at it than he is. At least the action
is plentiful, so stop trying to follow the plot.
THE COSMIC MONSTER (1958)—Directed
by Gilbert Gunn. Stars Forrest Tucker, Martin Benson, Gaby Andre, Alec Mango. During the 1950s, drive-ins were flooded with
science fiction programmers about giant insects rampaging cities and eating people. Only one of them came from Great Britain.
THE COSMIC MONSTER was based on a British television serial penned by silent-movie actress Rene Ray, who later adapted it
for a novel. Distributors Corporation of America, probably best known for releasing Edward D. Wood Jr.’s PLAN 9 FROM
OUTER SPACE, unleashed the feature version, written by Paul Ryder (THE GIRL IN THE PICTURE), stateside on a double bill with
THE CRAWLING EYE. Both films starred blustery American actor Forrest Tucker (F TROOP), who also starred in Hammer’s
THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN while in England.
Even if every other part clicked, THE COSMIC MONSTER’s
dire direction by Gunn (WINGS OF MYSTERY) would probably still sink it. Stodgily paced and woodenly performed by actors struggling
to find something in their flat characters to accentuate (even the normally avuncular Tucker appears deflated), the picture
plods along from one technobabble conversation to the next while the viewer awaits something resembling the shocks promised
in its poster (“Every second your pulse pounds, they grow foot by incredible foot!”). There must have been a lot
of disappointed viewers leaving the theater in 1958.
Mad scientist Laird (Mango) and his sensible assistant
Gil Graham (Tucker) are performing magnetic experiments. One accidentally tears a hole in the ionosphere, which causes cosmic
rays to turn a hobo into a psycho killer and cause insects to grow larger than humans. It takes about an hour into this 75-minute
movie for the melee between man and bug to get going, and even then the action is badly staged, shot, and edited with macro
photography of normal insects acting as unconvincing special effects.
Benson, memorable as Solo, the gangster that gets squashed
inside a car in GOLDFINGER, plays Smith, an alien who speaks perfect English with a British accent (his people have been monitoring
ours for years and even teaching their children about us). His performance is the best in the movie, though Smith plays like
a deux es machina. Amazingly, when he tells Tucker about his extraterrestrial origins, the American unbelievably accepts the
explanation without even an eyeblink.
THE COSMIC MONSTER is one of the rarest of ‘50s “big
bug” movies and deservedly so. Aside from one cool shot of a creature eating the face off some poor schmuck, there’s
little of interest in it, and Forrest Tucker seems uncomfortable in it. Also with Wyndham Goldie, Patricia Sinclair, Hugh
Latimer, and Geoffrey Chater. Music by Robert Sharples. Was seen in Britain as THE STRANGE WORLD OF PLANET X.
COTTON COMES TO HARLEM (1970)--Directed
by Ossie Davis. Stars Godfrey Cambridge, Raymond St. Jacques, Calvin Lockhart, Judy Pace. Actor Davis directed
the first film to be based upon the successful crime novels of Chester Himes. Harlem detectives Gravedigger Jones (Cambridge)
and Coffin Ed Johnson (St. Jacques) investigate a shady preacher named Deke O'Malley (Lockhart), and end up trying to find
a bale of cotton containing $87,000 before the mob gets to it. The screenplay, co-written by Davis, is a bit creaky
and crude, but it also features plenty of violence, car chases, humor, memorable Harlem locations and a dose of sex, courtesy
of the delectable Pace. Co-stars John Anderson, J.D. Cannon, Redd Foxx, Cleavon Little, Lou Jacobi, Eugene Roche, Melba
Moore, Dick Sabol and Emily Yancy. Cambridge and St. Jacques returned two years later in COME BACK, CHARLESTON BLUE.
Produced by Samuel Goldwyn, Jr.
COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE (1970)--Directed
by Bob Kelljan. Stars Robert Quarry, Roger Perry, Michael Murphy, Michael Macready. Quarry is the modern-day Los Angeles vampire
who kills all the young men in the cast and turns their girlfriends into his vampire brides. Low-budget feature is not bad,
but it doesn't really stand out. Quarry is pretty good as Count Yorga. Narrated by George Macready, producer/star Michael's
famous pop. Kelljan directed more vampire horror in THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA and SCREAM, BLACULA, SCREAM.
(1968)--Directed by Robert Altman. Stars James Caan, Robert Duvall, Joanna Moore, Steve Ihnat, Charles Aidman, Michael Murphy.
Early Altman effort stars Caan as a hot-tempered young astronaut who replaces veteran Duvall in a space launch. Caan's relationships
with mentor Duvall and wife Moore are strained as NASA races to reach the moon before the Russians. Was probably more exciting
in the days before Apollo. As usual for an Altman film, the acting is convincing. Look for a bit by future sitcom newsman
Ted Knight. Produced by William "Cannon" Conrad.
COUNTER MEASURES (1998)--Directed
by Fred Olen Ray. Stars Michael Dudikoff, James Horan, Wendy Schumacher. Conscientious objector ("You know what
that says to me?" asks one macho naval admiral. "Coward.") Dudikoff, a medic in the U.S. Navy, and his new partner Lieutenant
Swain (Schumacher, oddly billed as "Alexander Keith") take part in a goodwill mission aboard a Russian submarine, only to
discover it has been hijacked by a Russian terrorist (soap star Horan) who plans to use its coterie of missiles to destroy
his homeland's largest cities and start World War III. Although wounded and morally opposed to killing, Dudikoff is
the only man who can navigate the sub's underbelly DIE HARD-style and prevent Horan's plan from happening. Made by Ray
on the cheap, COUNTER MEASURES features what are surely the least convincing submarine sets in cinema history (the same roomy
sets painted in different Day-Glo colors represent the three subs seen in the movie) and one of the least imaginative stories.
Despite fine efforts from a veteran cast of familiar faces like Scott Marlowe, Francine York, Cliff Potts and Robert F. Lyons
and an amiable turn by Dudikoff, COUNTER MEASURES provides little reason to watch it. Also with Hannes Jaenicke, Victor
Raider-Wexler, Tracy Brooks Swope and Lada Boder (who has a nude scene). Andrew Stevens and Ashok Amritraj produced
under their Royal Oaks banner.
THE COUNTERFEIT KILLER (1968)—Directed
by Joseph Lejtes and Stuart Rosenberg. Stars Jack Lord, Shirley Knight, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Weston, Charles Drake, Mercedes
McCambridge. This Universal crime drama began as a 1966 episode of BOB HOPE PRESENTS THE CHRYSLER THEATER titled “The
Faceless Man,” which was directed by Rosenberg (COOL HAND LUKE) and written by Harry Kleiner (BULLITT). Apparently,
the studio brought in Lejtes to shoot new scenes that would expand the show to feature-length. The padding is quite evident.
Harold Clements (CHECKMATE) and Steven Bochco (HILL STREET BLUES) receive screen credit for the screenplay; Rosenberg and
Kleiner, who did most of the work, get nothing.
THE COUNTERFEIT KILLER has also been seen as CRACKSHOT.
It stars Lord, a few months before HAWAII FIVE-0 made him a TV superstar, as Secret Service agent Don Owens, who is sent to
San Pedro, California to investigate both the murders of five sailors and $1 million in funny money, which his boss Dolan
(Drake) believes are related. Posing as a hitman, Owens makes the acquaintance of waitress Angie Peterson (Knight), who nurses
him after a mugging, and pawnbroker Randolph Riker (Weston), who puts him in touch with Rajeski (Wiseman), the one in charge
of the counterfeit ring.
Of all the hours of television Universal pumped out in
the 1960s, it’s unclear why “The Faceless Man” was picked for theatrical release. It’s populated with
fine actors and offers a decent story, but it’s nothing particularly special, and I can think of some THRILLER and KRAFT
SUSPENSE THEATER episodes that would have made better features. The extra footage featuring McCambridge as a bartender and
Weston making a deal with Don Hanmer is obvious padding that goes nowhere. Quincy Jones provides a very good score, and the
movie/episode’s open ending indicates it may have been intended as a pilot. Also with Robert Pine (CHIPS), Nicholas
Colasanto (CHEERS), L.Q. Jones (THE WILD BUNCH), and George Tyne. Lord and Wiseman both were in DR. NO.
COUNTERFORCE (1988)—Directed by Jose Antonio de la Loma.
Stars Jorge Rivero, Andrew Stevens, Louis Jourdan, Robert Forster, Isaac Hayes, Kevin Bernhardt, George Kennedy, Hugo Stiglitz.
THE DELTA FORCE was the obvious inspiration for this trashy Spanish production, right down to the casting of Robert Forster
as more or less the same Arab terrorist. Also straight outta DELTA FORCE: George Kennedy, not as a kindly priest, but as sort
of Lee Marvin if Lee sat around on his ass barking orders. Writer Douglas Borton and director Jose Antonio de la Loma clearly
had THE A-TEAM on their minds too in this tale of a bantering four-man commando team that crosses foreign borders armed with
a lot of ammo. CounterForce has windbreakers and baseball caps with their logo all over them, and they are leader Jorge Rivero
(RIO LOBO), kung fu master Andrew Stevens (THE TERROR WITHIN), explosives expert Isaac Hayes (TRUCK TURNER), and new meat
Kevin Bernhardt (HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH). Their mission: to protect Kassar (Louis Jourdan), the popular ex-president
of an Arab nation, from the despot (Forster) who deposed him. Leading Forster’s enemy forces is the mysterious Blonde
(Hugo Stiglitz dubbed by Ed Mannix), a master of disguise in an Iron Maiden T-shirt. A surprisingly solid action flick, COUNTERFORCE
pieces together several competent action scenes and laces them with welcome humor—an extra effort that most movies on
this level wouldn’t bother with. Good stunts and editing. Ignore that CounterForce is shockingly bad at their jobs.
Joel Goldsmith composed the score.
COUNTERPLOT (1959) — Directed by Kurt Neumann. Stars Forrest Tucker, Allison
Hayes, Gerald Milton, Jackie Wayne, Richard Verney, Ulysses Brenes. Last film by producer/director Neumann, best known for
Tarzan movies and science fiction like THE FLY, KRONOS, and ROCKETSHIP X-M. He had been dead for a year by the time United
Artists released COUNTERPLOT, a mediocre crime meller that benefits from location shooting in Puerto Rico. Tuck plays Brock
Miller, on the lam in San Juan for a New York City murder he didn’t commit. Things aren’t all bad, since he’s
dating a hot nightclub singer, Connie Lane (Hayes), of whom his little boy sidekick Manuel (Wayne) is jealous. He yammers
about the real killer, but doesn’t seem too worried about it. He doesn’t even run with urgency. A better supporting
cast may have been able to make more of the trite story and dialogue by Richard Blake (INVADERS FROM MARS), and the independent
production’s low budget is evident in Neumann’s too few setups and unimaginative staging. Husky Milton (THE NAKED
KISS) as a sleazy lawyer, and local club owner Verney as a possible suspect are awful. Hayes (THE HYPNOTIC EYE) is fetching
in low-cut dresses, so COUNTERPLOT is at least of interest to Hayes fans. One of four Neumann films released posthumously,
COUNTERPLOT was also one of the last projects of pioneering cinematographer Karl Struss (DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE), who had
been reduced to exploitation pictures.
COUNTERSPY MEETS SCOTLAND YARD
(1950)—Directed by Seymour Friedman. Stars Howard St. John, Ron Randell, Amanda Blake, Lewis Martin. Based on the popular
radio drama COUNTERSPY, created by GANG BUSTERS’ Phillips Lord, this Columbia crime drama teams hero David Harding (St.
John) with Scotland Yard agent Simon Langton (Randell) to go after enemy agents stealing classified information about guided
missiles. The accidental culprit is Langton’s secretary, Karen Michelle (Blake), whose psychiatrist hypnotizes her in
their weekly sessions and gets her to recite top-secret info into his Dictaphone. This sequel to DAVID HARDING, COUNTERSPY,
which released earlier in 1950, is tightly plotted and contains a fair amount of intrigue. Once Harding and Langton learn
the doctor, a Czech émigré named Hugo Borne (Martin), is involved, it’s fun to watch their scheme to discover how Borne
is sneaking Karen’s recordings to the enemy. It isn’t a film you’ll remember for long, but it’s painless
and rarely dull. Also with John Dehner, Fred Sears, June Vincent, Charles Meredith, John Doucette, Gregory Gaye, Robert Bice,
Harry Lauter, Gloria Henry, and Douglas Evans. Blake later played Miss Kitty for nineteen seasons on GUNSMOKE.
COUNTESS DRACULA (1971)--Directed
by Peter Sasdy. Stars Ingrid Pitt, Sandor Eles, Nigel Green, Lesley-Anne Down. Hammer tackles the legend of Elizabeth
Bathory, who allegedly murdered hundreds of virgins so she could bathe in their blood, convinced it would restore her youthful
beauty. THE VAMPIRE LOVERS star Pitt is the elderly Countess Elizabeth, who is furious to learn that she must share
her late husband's inheritance with her daughter Ilona (Down), who has been away at school for many years. She instructs
the castle steward and her lover of 20 years, Dobi (Green), to kidnap Ilona, so she can pose as her own daughter. Dobi
is also charged with procuring young virgins to replenish the countess' blood supply. Talk about the shit end of the
stick; while Dobi is doing all that, Elizabeth is shacking up with a young lover, Toth (Eles), who believes the countess to
be Ilona. Director Sasdy mixes a bit of blood and nudity into the storyline, which is never as horrific as a film titled
COUNTESS DRACULA perhaps should be. It has the requisite Hammer production values, performances and score, however,
and is one of the studio's finer offerings from that period. Also with Patience Collier, Nike Arrighi, Maurice Denham
and Peter Jeffrey. Music by Harry Robertson. Filmed at Pinewood Studios.
COUNTRY CUZZINS (1970)--Directed
by Bethel G. Buckalew. Stars Rene Bond, John Tull, Jack Richesin, Debbie Osborne. One of several softcore "corn
porn" pictures directed by Buckalew and released by Harry Novak's Boxoffice International. The Peabody family, including
sexy Billie Jo (future hardcore star Bond), Jasper (Tull) and patriarch Richesin, spend more time having graphic sex with
one another than they do taking care of their farm. And when sophisticated cousin Prudence (Osborne) arrives from the
big city for a reunion, she has so much fun pounding 'shine that she invites the whole clan up to her mansion for a party.
Once home, she has a change of heart and asks her friends to show up at the bash dressed as hillbillies, all the better to
humiliate her clan. Wouldn't ya know that the Peabodys are so danged charming that the egg is on Prudence's face?
CUZZINS ain't particularly clever, but it is amiable and almost quaint. It also shows plenty of cute naked women, and
it's no surprise the effervescent Bond went on to quite a career in the adult film industry (after getting breast implants).
Keep an eye out for mainstream supporting actor Buck Flower as a sleazy talent agent. By the way, Bethel Buckalew was
reportedly a pseudonym for Peter Perry, who directed several films under his real name. Whether Buckalew was an actual
person who lent his name is unclear.
COURAGE UNDER FIRE (1996)--Directed
by Edward Zwick. Stars Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, Lou Diamond Phillips, Michael Moriarty. The first major studio Gulf War
drama scored a bit too well with critics during the mindless-action-flick-filled summer of '96. It's not a four-star movie,
but Zwick's (GLORY) combination of war heroics and mystery provides some engrossing drama. Denzel plays a career Army colonel
who is assigned to investigate whether or not Ryan, a major who died in combat while saving those under her command, is deserving
of a posthumous Medal of Honor. Washington's boss (Moriarty) and a sniveling White House liaison (Bronson Pinchot) are putting
pressure on him to wrap things up quickly, but a few too many discrepancies turn up while interviewing various eyewitnesses
to Ryan's act of bravery. Meanwhile, Washington is still wrestling with his own demons; he accidentally opened fire on an
American tank during a firefight in Kuwait, killing all the soldiers inside. The Army covered up the story, but the guilt
over what happens remains with Denzel. The screenplay by Patrick Sheane Duncan (MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS) is reminiscent of RASHOMON
as the various witnesses give slightly different versions as to what happened to Ryan that night. It falls over into melodrama
a bit too often (Washington's character is supposed to be a borderline alcoholic, although he seems able to balance his duty
and family life just fine), but the tales of stress under combat conditions (although Zwick is never able to avoid making
war look like exciting fun, a fallacy of many anti-war films) and good performances (except for Ryan--it's not her fault;
she's just miscast as a butch Army chopper pilot from Virginia) make this worthwhile. Good cast includes Zeljko Ivanek, Diane
Baker and Richard Venture. Music by James Horner.
COURIER OF DEATH (1984)—Directed
by Tom Shaw. Stars Joey Johnson, Barbara Garrison, Joan Becherich, Jon H. Schmeer, Mel Fletcher. Portland, Oregon is the setting
for this inept regional action movie starring Joey Johnson, who is as short in acting talent as he is in stature. In this
completely post-synched disaster with an inappropriate soft guitar score, Johnson plays high-end courier J.D. Blackman, who
loses both his partner and his wife (Becherich) to bad guys’ bullets on successive days. J.D. would rather mope around
the house crying on the shoulder of family friend Katie (Garrison), but when he gets a mission from his old Vietnam commander,
it’s one he can’t refuse. J.D. arms himself Rambo-style and goes looking for $76 million in bonds. Without engaging
the audience with excitement, style, or originality, J.D. bounces around town (with Katie driving him in her van!) shooting
guys (in the balls!).
Among the more absurd scenes find J.D. bickering (“You’re
an asshole!” “Go to hell!”) with his pilot friend Frank (played by director Shaw), who flies him around
to provide cheap production values. Also great is when J.D., who resembles a midget Tom Poston, turns down his hot friend
Katie’s offer to shower with him. Sure, he gets better offers all the time. COURIER OF DEATH is a pointless movie with
dumb, circular plotting and dialogue. The title is at least accurate, in that J.D. does cause many deaths, but Shaw’s
action scenes are slow and clumsy. Worth a few unintentional laughs, but other bad ‘80s regional actioners like PAROLE
VIOLATORS (San Jose) and THE INSTRUCTOR (Akron) are more fun. The Lightning Video tape contains a trailer for IT’S CALLED
MURDER BABY (sic), which is the R-rated cut of the John Leslie private eye porn DIXIE RAY, HOLLYWOOD STAR (with Cameron Mitchell!).
COUSINS (1989)--Directed by Joel
Schumacher. Stars Ted Danson, Isabella Rossellini, William Petersen, Sean Young, Lloyd Bridges. Danson goes into James Garner
mode, and is charming in this romantic comedy about a pair of cousins by marriage (Danson, Rossellini) who discover the affair
going on between their respective spouses and decide to have one of their own. Bridges is funny as Danson's active senior-citizen
father. From the director of FLATLINERS. A remake of the 1975 French film COUSIN, COUSINE.
COVER GIRL MODELS (1975)—Directed
by Cirio H. Santiago. Stars John Kramer, Tara Strohmeier, Lindsay Bloom, Pat Anderson. Following the same “3 Girls”
formula that made such films as SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS, THE STUDENT TEACHERS, and NIGHT CALL NURSES hits for Roger Corman’s
New World Pictures, director Cirio H. Santiago filmed this lumbering drive-in flick in Manila. FLY ME’s Howard Cohen
also wrote COVER GIRL MODELS, which plays as a less sleazy, more action-filled remake with three sexy young women getting
into scrapes in Hong Kong.
Mark (New World regular John Kramer), a mustachioed photographer
for a women’s magazine, recruits a trio of lovely models for an overseas photo shoot. In addition to posing in skimpy
bikinis, Claire (SIX-PACK ANNIE’s Lindsay Bloom) poses as a call girl to attract the attention of a movie mogul, Barbara
(Pat Anderson from TNT JACKSON and FLY ME) becomes an unwitting courier of secret microfilm sewed into the hem of her dress,
and bubbly neophyte Mandy (HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD redhead Tara Strohmeier) tries to learn the do’s and don’ts of
both modeling and lovemaking from stud Mark.
You know what to expect from a Santiago movie: inept fight
choreography, clumsy story construction, and plenty of breasts. None of the various subplots are presented very well, though
the vulnerable Strohmeier uses her nonchalant sexiness and charm to steal scenes. Most hilarious are the bad guys’ regular
attempts to kidnap Barbara, which are always thwarted by a mysterious Filipino with the widest collar of all time who always
appears out of nowhere just in time to kung fu her assailants.
The beautiful women and entertainingly bad action sequences
are enough to keep my eyes interested, though Santiago fills time with the girls posing for pictures or wandering around town
just to stretch to a releasable 73 minutes. Mary Woronov (DEATH RACE 2000) plays Mark’s editor in the opening scene
shot at the New World office, probably by second unit director Mel Damski (YELLOWBEARD). Also with Vic Diaz, Zenaida Amador,
Joseph Zucchero, Tony Ferrar, Ken Metcalfe, Joe Mari Avellana, and Rhonda Leigh Hopkins.
COWBOY BEBOP: THE MOVIE (2001)--Directed
by Shinichiro Watanabe. Stars the voices of Steven Jay Blum, Beau Billingslea, Wendee Lee, Melissa Charles, Jennifer
Hale, Daran Norris. Larger-than-life characters, dazzling visual effects, intricate gadgetry, loud explosions and enough
bloody violence to earn an R rating from the MPAA. Sounds like a typical summertime action blockbuster, doesn't it?
But COWBOY BEBOP: THE MOVIE is a little different in that it's an animated film. You've doubtlessly seen few R-rated
cartoons, but this one is more than a novelty. It's an entertaining adventure that shows how far animation and imagination
have come since the days of Jonny Quest's hovercraft.
Originally titled COWBOY BEBOP: KNOCKIN' ON HEAVEN' S DOOR
(an evocative title that unfortunately went by the wayside shortly after Columbia TriStar acquired it for American theatrical
distribution), COWBOY BEBOP: THE MOVIE is based on COWBOY BEBOP, a popular Japanese animated television series about four
futuristic bounty hunters. 26 episodes were made, and have been televised in the U.S. as part of Cartoon Network's entertaining
ADULT SWIM block. The same characters appear in the film: charismatic leader Spike Spiegel (whose English is dubbed
by actor Steven Jay Blum), gruff Jet Black (Beau Billingslea), tough grrl Faye Valentine (Wendee Lee) and eccentric computer
hacker Edward (Melissa Charles), a young girl whose appearance and behavior seems a bit out of place, even in this science-fiction
I'm not very familiar with the television series (where
perhaps Edward's demeanor makes sense), but I had little problem following the movie's storyline and no problem enjoying the
movie. The setting is Mars in the year 2070. More specifically, the metropolis of Alba City, which looks
a lot like New York City of Earth, except for that Eiffel Tower downtown and an even larger spectrum of ethnic disparity in
its population. Tired of eating the same boring noodles every day and forced to sustain themselves by capturing low-paying
convenience-store robbers, the Cowboy Bebop team is invigorated by the promise of 3,000,000 woolongs (that's a lot of money,
I'm sure) for their latest mission, the explosion of a chemical tanker in downtown Alba City. The destruction and the
deaths it caused were the opening volley in a bio-terrorism plot launched by rogue government agent Vincent Volaju (Daran
Norris), who has stolen a virus which causes "nanomachines"--microscopic robots made of protein--to infect the bloodstream
of its victims, causing almost-immediate death. Also to contend with is a sexy agent named Elektra (Jennifer Hale),
Vincent's former lover who becomes Spike's reluctant partner and a target of the same government forces that created the deadly
As with much anime, COWBOY BEBOP is wondrous to look at,
packed with realistic backgrounds, vibrant colors and a compelling energy that echoes that of its characters. Even the
"extras", the figures who occupy the back alleys and crowded streets of Alba City, are fully fleshed out, provided with characterization
that leaks through their detailed faces. It's a kind of "SF noir" that director Shinichiro Watanabe has created, mixing
mean-street atmosphere with a clean, futuristic dynamism that includes spaceships and monorails and pervasive advertising
on every marquee. The action is crisp and tightly edited, featuring truly exciting dogfights and shootouts and chases
and better martial-arts battles than you're apt to find in American live-action movies. Not even Buffy would be much
of a match for Elektra's slinky moves. Adding to the flavor is a wonderfully eclectic musical score by Yoko Kanno, which
bundles New Orleans-style jazz, 1970's-era funk, pounding techno and a few well-composed songs into a sonic buzz that reflects
the offbeat nature of the story and characters, as well as punctuating the action.
Ironically, COWBOY BEBOP in many ways comes across as less
of a cartoon than many live-action films. Certainly the dialogue carries a poetic elegance you won't find in any Bruce
Willis movie, and while the bad guy/good guy/girl-who-loves-them-both triangle has been done before, the writing and performances
here wring extra emotion from the situation, adding poignancy to the slambang action climax. On the other hand, there's
a lot of humor and fun that counterbalance the drama, and the concept of setting the finale at a massive Macy's-type Halloween
parade featuring fireworks and enormous pumpkin balloons really captures BEBOP's freewheeling spirit. If you're unfamiliar
with the Japanese anime style, COWBOY BEBOP may be a good way to get started, since its plot, action and characters so closely
mirror those of contemporary American cinema. It's exciting, well-paced (not that it couldn't lose ten minutes or so
in the middle) and absorbing enough to almost make you forget that everything you see is made of ink.
CRACK IN THE WORLD (1965)—Directed
by Andrew Marton. Stars Dana Andrews, Kieron Moore, Janette Scott. Excellent special effects and a good deal of suspense successfully
counteract the screenplay’s soap operatics and the somewhat stolid acting in this exciting British sci-fi thriller.
Scientist Steve Sorenson (Andrews), who’s quietly dying of cancer, believes he can drill to the center of the Earth,
bring the molten lava there to the surface, and use it as a virtually limitless energy source for generations to come. It
sounded like a good idea at the time. The nuclear missile his team fires into the Earth causes a massive crack that travels
around the globe, killing tens of thousands in earthquakes and tidal waves. Meanwhile, Sorenson’s marriage to Maggie
(Scott) is threatened by her feelings for her former lover and Steve’s partner, Ted Rampion (Moore). Eugene Lourie,
who also directed science fiction movies (like THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS), designed the production and supervised the
miniatures and matte paintings and explosions, and it’s all very well done. Some of the physical acting by Moore and
Scott during the climax looks dangerous and adds to the tension. They both also starred in DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS for executive
producer Philip Yordan. Also with Peter Damon, Alexander Knox, Jim Gillen, and John Karlsen. Music by Johnny Douglas. Released
CRACKERJACK (1994)--Directed by
Michael Mazo. Stars Thomas Ian Griffith, Christopher Plummer, Nastassja Kinski. DIE HARD at a ski resort.
Jack Wild (Griffith) is one of those typically burned-out movie cops--drunk, violent, abusive, disrespectful of authority.
A lone wolf. You know the drill. Determined to get Jack back on track after the deaths of his wife and children
in a car bomb meant for him, his brother and sister-in-law invite him for a vacation at a Rocky Mountain lodge located below
a huge glacier. Wouldn't you just know that the resort is scheduled to be robbed and destroyed by a squad of mercenaries
the very same night Jack and his family arrive? And that the terrorist leader (Plummer) is the same man who murdered
Jack's wife? How do screenwriters Michael Bafaro and Jonas Quastel pile up the coincidences and lazy plotholes?
Let me count the ways. To give CRACKERJACK (Wild's nickname) its due, it's watchable enough, thanks to Plummer's mugging,
plentiful fights and shootouts, and some surprisingly professional miniature effects. Griffith is little better than
wooden, and Kinski looks beautiful, but has very little to do. From the director of TIME RUNNER.
CRASH! (1977)—Directed by
Charles Band. Stars Jose Ferrer, Sue Lyon, John Ericson, Leslie Parrish. Charles Band’s first film as a director to
go out under his own name, not including an earlier sex film that played grindhouses with hardcore inserts. Not content to
merely ape the zillion car-crash pictures then populating drive-ins, Band and writer Marc Marais (CURSE OF THE DEAD) throw
in some EXORCIST-style supernatural shenanigans too. It has a decent sub-Schifrin wacka-wacka score by CROSS-WITS (!) composer
Andrew Belling and lots of totaled vehicles. Beyond that, CRASH! is relentlessly padded and dismal.
Bitter rich old Ferrer (BLOODY BIRTHDAY) blames his trophy
wife Lyon (the 30-year-old LOLITA star winding down her acting career) for the accident that put him in a wheelchair. To kill
her, he sends his Doberman pinscher out to maul her while she’s driving on a country road—it just leaps in her
Chevrolet Camaro convertible—and she crashes.
Lyon doesn’t die, but ends up hospitalized, amnesiac,
wrapped up like a mummy with glowing red eyes, and clutching a keychain idol like the one that tried to kill Greg Brady in
Hawaii (but without a customized music sting). That little hunk o’ iron brings the Camaro back to life and sends it
motoring around Southern California, crashing into and blowing up police cars, while doctor Ericson (HONEY WEST) and nurse
Parrish (THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION) try to figure out who she is.
For unintentional comedy, you can’t beat the scene
where the demon-possessed Lyon brings Ferrer’s wheelchair to life, crashes it through a door, and squishes the Doberman
to death. The poster claims fifty cars were destroyed, which may include Band’s ten-minute time-killing flashback to
all of second unit director Von Deming’s car stunts in the movie to that point. Andrew Davis, later an A-list director
(THE FUGITIVE), was one of the directors of photography; that two are credited and the film seems so chaotic and padded indicates
some behind-the-scenes production trouble. Also with Jerome Guardino, Richard Band, Reggie Nalder, and John Carradine.
CRASH AND BURN (1990)—Directed
by Charles Band. Stars Paul Ganus, Megan Ward, Ralph Waite, Bill Moseley, Eva LaRue, Jack McGee, Katherine Armstrong,
Elizabeth Maclellan. You’ll certainly feel ripped off after viewing this Full Moon effort. The marketing
features a cool-looking giant robot along the lines of Band’s ROBOT JOX and ROBOT WARS. What you get instead is
a tame ripoff of THE TERMINATOR and TEN LITTLE INDIANS with about two minutes of lifeless robot action at the end. It’s
2030, and global warming has ruined the atmosphere, making it nearly impossible to spend any length of time outdoors without
protection. Trapped in a former power station, which has been transformed into Waite’s low-wattage TV station,
a group of strangers has to discover which of them is actually a robot sent from the oppressive home office to kill them.
Is it the company messenger boy (Ganus), Waite’s granddaughter (Ward), the sleazy talk-show host (McGee), the schoolteacher
(LaRue), the handyman (Moseley) or one of the porn actresses (Maclellan, Armstrong)? Who cares? Slow-moving with
a clichéd script by J.S. Cardone (8MM 2), Band’s movie crashes and burns dramatically, despite reuniting the cinematographer
(Mac Ahlberg) and composer (Richard Band) of RE-ANIMATOR. Also with John Davis Chandler.
CRASH DIVE (1996)--Directed by Andrew
Stevens. Stars Michael Dudikoff, Frederic Forrest, Reiner Schone. This military-oriented direct-to-video action
movie is dumb enough to have been directed by Fred Olen Ray, but Ray's frequent employer, Royal Oaks Entertainment head Stevens,
did the duty this time. Dudikoff is James Carter, a former Navy SEAL and designer of the nuclear submarine U.S.S. Ulysses.
When the Ulysses is (easily) hijacked by five Russian terrorists, Admiral Pendleton (Forrest) deduces that only Carter can
prevent head baddie Richter (Schone) from destroying New York City with a nuke. Carter gains access to the sub by out
swimming it (!) and rapping a Morse code message on the hatch, spurring the radioman to understand his signal and open the
door. Like COUNTER MEASURES and AGENT RED, CRASH DIVE is essentially DIE HARD on a sub, as Dudikoff wanders around the
they-all-look-alike sets, bumping off the bad guys one at a time. Only two things really stand out about CRASH DIVE.
One is that co-star Catherine Bell, who looks fetching in her Naval uniform, surely landed her starring role on the JAG TV
series from this movie. And the familiar musical score by David and Eric Wurst, written expressly for CRASH DIVE, has
popped up in several DTV features since, including RANGERS, COUNTER MEASURES and ACTIVE STEALTH. Also with Jay Acovone,
Michael Cavanaugh, Clay Greenbush, Christopher Titus, Peter Avellino and Elena DeBurdo. Dudikoff's follow-up, COUNTER
MEASURES, was titled CRASH DIVE 2 in some regions.
CRASH LANDING (2006)—Directed
by Jim Wynorski. Stars Antonio Sabato Jr., Michael Pare, Brianne Davis, Rene Rivera, Kevin Dobson, Steve Eastin.
I fear Wynorski’s days as an interesting independent filmmaker may be long in the past. Although his soft-porn
quickies for late-night cable are likely even worse, amateurish productions such as the shot-on-video CHEERLEADER MASSACRE
and this poorly scripted and produced DIE HARD ripoff are light-years away from the light adventure and sci-fi quickies he
made in the 1980’s or even the competent B-star-filled “stock footage” action movies he churned out several
years ago. CRASH LANDING is in that same vein, but with much lower production values, community theater casting, and
Major John Masters (Sabato) is hired by wealthy Henderson
Davis (Dobson) to chaperone his daughter’s 22nd birthday party, which is to take place on a 13-hour 747 flight from
Chicago to Australia. I don’t know how a man, even a rich one, goes about hiring an Air Force officer to play
bodyguard, but there you go. The daughter, Rochelle (Davis), takes a disliking to Masters for absolutely no reason at
all, and her friends are your typical bunch of obnoxious beautiful (and Caucasian) young men and women.
Murphy’s Law exploded all over the screenplay by
Wynorski, Bill Monroe and Paul Birkett. The flight crew (led by the Middle Eastern-looking Rivera) hijacks the 747,
which is fatally damaged and heading smack into a monsoon. Meanwhile, the pilot is wounded, leaving Masters as the only
one aboard who can fly the plane, which is leaking fuel and can only land on a tiny atoll manned by a handful of Army Air
Corpsmen who have to build a runaway long enough to accommodate a 747 in about an hour in the middle of a Category 3 storm.
Never mind that the men were earlier bitching about how they were going to finish the job in five days!
The film’s biggest problem is that none of these
handicaps seem very difficult to overcome. Masters takes out all five hijackers with incredible ease, and when Captain
Williams (Pare) needs to explode a giant rock blocking the runway he’s digging, hey, it’s a cinch. We never
really see the men on the ground clearing the runway—it just appears. A cop (Eastin) stumbles onto a few accident
victims, and—completely off-screen—solves the mystery and discovers the hijacking. Clumsy continuity finds
Dobson still hanging around the airport several hours after his daughter’s place departed (probably because the actor
filmed all of his scenes in one day there), not that he ever seems overly concerned with her fate. He probably read
the end of the screenplay.
Hidden Fortress’ visual effects work is unbearable.
It’s no exaggeration to say that rear-projection effects of the 1940s provided a more realistic look than Hidden Fortress’
green-screen shots, and the grainy cartoon airplane exteriors are the pits. They seem to fit with the cast though; Wynorski’s
apparent strategy to cast women he’d like to sleep with over women who can act is evident here. Female lead Davis
is a dreadful actress, yet still better than the two bimbos whose car flies over a cliff in an early scene (created solely
to allow Wynorski to use more stock footage).
Whereas one used to be able to count on Wynorski to deliver
a professional-looking film with humor, action and good-natured nudity (he drops the ball on a bathtub scene in CRASH LANDING),
he now seems only interesting in churning out as many films as possible for a paycheck. He never was a subtle or artistic
filmmaker, but he at least used to be a reliable craftsman. I don’t believe he still is. Also with John
Beck, Sandra McCoy, Robert Clotworthy, Haley Joel, Mercedes Colon and Stefanie Sherk.
CRASHING LAS VEGAS (1956)—Directed
by Jean Yarbrough. Stars Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Mary Castle, Don Haggerty, David Gorcey, Jimmy Murphy. One of many Bowery
Boys movies to revolve around Sach (Hall) receiving (temporarily, of course) some sort of superpower, CRASHING LAS VEGAS is
also notorious for being Leo Gorcey’s last. Heartbroken after the 1955 death of his father Bernard, who played Louie
Dombrowsky in the series, in an auto accident, Leo began hitting the bottle big time. His drinking affected his performance
in CRASHING LAS VEGAS so badly that he was forced to give up acting. Stanley Clements joined the team for seven more Bowery
Boys outings; though they have their share of scattered laughs, the Bowery Boys just weren’t the same without Gorcey,
and the Clements-starrers should be considered amusing postscripts at best.
This entry also adds a Bowery Boy—Myron (Murphy),
though he makes next to no impression in the few films in which he appears. He accompanies Sach, Slip (Gorcey), and Chuck
(David Gorcey) to Vegas, where the boys hope to use Sach’s new psychic powers to strike it rich. Of course, some crooks
find out about Sach’s talent, and use buxom Carol (Castle) to seduce him into revealing it. Aside from Allied Artists’
hilariously cheap depiction of a Vegas casino on a B-picture budget, CRASHING LAS VEGAS’ funniest bit is a game show
parody that provides the boys with their means for getting to Las Vegas. Of course, the film is more sad than funny, due to
Gorcey, who is clearly blasted in just about every scene. He appeared in only two more films—a cameo in IT’S A
MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD and alongside Huntz Hall doing creaky slapstick in SECOND FIDDLE TO A STEEL GUITAR. Also with Mort Mills,
Terry Frost, Jack Rice, Emil Sitka, and Nicky Blair.
THE CRAWLING HAND (1963)--Directed
by Herbert L. Strock. Stars Rod Lauren, Sirry Stephan, Alan Hale Jr. Wacky low-budget horror film shot in Florida about a
medical student who finds an amputated arm on the beach, which takes over his mind and forces him to strangle people. The
arm belonged to an astronaut who went crazy in space and was blown up by NASA scientists. You'll love this for the cast alone;
besides the Skipper from GILLIGAN'S ISLAND (as the sheriff), look for Allison Hayes, Peter Breck and Kent Taylor. Strock also
wrote and edited this silliness. He also made I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN.
by David Schmoeller. Stars Klaus Kinski, Talia Balsam. The director of TERROR TRAP shot this Empire production at Charles
Band’s Rome studio. Just from the plot description, you can see it has Klaus Kinski written all over it. Who else could
play a deranged son of a Nazi doctor who creeps through his apartment building’s heating vents to spy on the shapely
young lovelies living there? The big question is why do these women agree to rent rooms from someone as obviously crazy as
Klaus? He has the place boobytrapped with rats and spears, and keeps a tongueless woman (he cut it out, of course) caged in
the basement. Eventually he goes double dog nuts, puts on ladies’ makeup and Pop’s old uniform, slaughters his
tenants, and chases journalism student Lori (Balsam) around. CRAWLSPACE works up a bit of suspense, but the story is very
thin, and all the murders take place off-screen, which is a disappointment. Very nice Pino Donaggio score, but I can’t
recommend anything else about this movie. Also with Sally Brown, Tane McClure, Barbara Whinney, Carole Francis, and Kenneth
Robert Shippy as the worst Nazi hunter ever.
THE CRAZIES (1973)--Directed by
George A. Romero. Stars Lane Carroll, Will MacMillan, Harold Wayne Jones. Five years after his landmark NIGHT
OF THE LIVING DEAD, Romero once again terrorized small-town Pennsylvania in this effective low-budget thriller. After
a plane carrying a virus that turns its victims into raving homicidal maniacs crashes near Evans City, the Army invades the
small town, declaring martial law, setting up roadblocks and using deadly force against those citizens who oppose the containment-suit-wearing
soldiers who burst into their homes. While a dyspeptic scientist races to find a cure, a group of five residents, including
a pair of volunteer firemen and the pregnant wife of one of them, attempt to discover what's happening to their town.
It's quite crudely directed and amateurishly acted, but THE CRAZIES is one of Romero's better-paced pictures and offers a
nihilistic flavor that will be familiar to NOTLD fans. Originally titled CODE NAME: TRIXIE. Also with Lynn Lowry,
Richard Liberty, Harry Spillman and Richard France. Romero plays the town's effusive mayor, and Carole Bayer Sager and
Melissa Manchester wrote the optimistic closing theme song.
THE CRAZIES (2010)—Directed
by Breck Eisner. Stars Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Danielle Panabaker, Joe Anderson. Writers Scott Kosar (who also scripted
the AMITYVILLE HORROR and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remakes) and Ray Wright and SAHARA director Breck Eisner were smart to remain
faithful to George A. Romero’s original 1973 film, which wasn’t much of a hit, but remains one of the horror legend’s
better pictures. It also doesn’t waste any time jumping into the story, which concerns a small Iowa town overrun with
a virus that turns Joe and Jane Sixpack into murderous lunatics. Olyphant, who next played another beleaguered lawman on FX’s
JUSTIFIED, is local sheriff David Dutten, who heads for the hills with pregnant wife Judy (Mitchell), deputy Russell (Anderson),
and teenage Becca (Panabaker), which isn’t easy after the government drops in to clamp a lid over the town. Scenes of
civil unrest, concentration camps, and black helicopters are just as unsettling in this post-9/11 world as the many gory murders
and gooey makeup effects. After only two features, Eisner has established himself as a fine craftsman with a good sense of
pacing and visual style. THE CRAZIES isn’t flashy, but it gets the job done as a scary little B-picture. Glenn Morshower
(24) shows up briefly, and Romero fans may spot actress Lynn Lowry from the original CRAZIES.
CRAZY MAMA (1975)—Directed
by Jonathan Demme. Stars Cloris Leachman, Stuart Whitman, Linda Purl, Donny Most, Ann Sothern, Jim Backus, Marie Earle, Bryan
Englund. BIG BAD MAMA starring Angie Dickinson was an enormous hit for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures—the studio’s
biggest to date—so it should come as little surprise that Corman had the similar CRAZY MAMA in theaters a year later.
Somehow, he convinced Academy Award winner Cloris Leachman (THE LAST PICTURE SHOW) to star in it. Leachman was no past-her-prime
matinee queen trying to hold on to old glory (as when Corman cast Shelley Winters in 1970’s BLOODY MAMA). She was extremely
popular on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and in TV-movies, getting nominated for Emmys almost every year, and it’s a mystery
why she chose to do a low-budget comic action programmer for drive-ins.
One guess is that she saw something in director Jonathan
Demme that Corman did and the rest of the world soon would. Later the Oscar-winning director of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and PHILADELPHIA,
Demme broke into Hollywood the way many other filmmakers did—in Corman’s trenches at New World. After writing
and/or producing the women-in-prison flicks THE HOT BOX and BLACK MAMA, WHITE MAMA, Demme made his directing debut with another
one, CAGED HEAT, which garnered critical acclaim unusual to the genre. More importantly, it made New World money and influenced
Corman to hire Demme to direct another violent melodrama with female leads: CRAZY MAMA.
With more humor and less sex and violence than BIG BAD
MAMA, Demme’s film suffers from its lack of exploitation elements. The director and screenwriter Robert Thom (DEATH
RACE 2000) are going for a screwball vibe in its attempt to parody 1950s kitsch, but instead they’ve created a lot of
racket and wheel-spinning. A soundtrack packed with hit singles (“All I Have to Do Is Dream,” “Money,”
“Lollipop”) and Burma Shave spoofs are little substitution for wit.
Frustrated with the system after banker Albertson (Jim
Backus) takes their California beauty shop, Melba (Leachman), her mother Sheba (Ann Sothern), and her pregnant daughter Cheryl
(Linda Purl) steal a car and head to Arkansas to buy back their long-ago-foreclosed farm. To get the money, they pull a series
of robberies with the help of Cheryl’s meek boyfriend Shawn (Donny Most), 82-year-old Bertha (Marie Earle), greaser
Snake (Bryan Englund, Leachman’s son), and gambling sheriff Jim Bob (Stuart Whitman), who becomes Melba’s new
Editors-turned-directors Allan Holzman (FORBIDDEN WORLD)
and Lewis Teague (ALLIGATOR) try to piece together a cohesive story, but too many plot points are lost in the cacophony (like
John Aprea’s photographer character), and the postscript showing us the fates of the surviving characters feels like
a copout. The section of the Griffith Park Zoo also used by director Bob Kelljan in RAPE SQUAD doubles here for the Oklahoma
Also with Dick Miller, Sally Kirkland, Carmen Argenziano,
Beach Dickerson, Clint Kimbrough (husband of co-writer Frances Doel), Will Sampson (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST),
and Tisha Sterling, who plays a younger version of her real-life mother Sothern’s character. You can see Dennis Quaid
making his (silent) film debut as a bellhop and THE WIND AND THE LION director John Milius as a bearded cop. Demme, who stepped
into CRAZY MAMA after Shirley Clarke (THE COOL WORLD) dropped out, made a third film for Corman—the action picture FIGHTING
MAD with Peter Fonda—though it was produced for 20th Century Fox.
CRAZY OVER HORSES (1951)—Directed
by William Beaudine. Stars Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Ted de Corsia, Allen Jenkins, Bernard Gorcey, Gloria Saunders, Tim Ryan.
The Bowery Boys, collecting a $250 debt for Louie (Bernard Gorcey), accept a race horse named My Girl as collateral. The horse’s
name provides a little mistaken-identity humor when Slip (Leo Gorcey) and Sach (Hall) assume Flynn (screenwriter Ryan) is
actually giving them his daughter Terry (Saunders). Mobster de Corsia and his gang switch their nag, Tarzana, for My Girl,
so they can win a big race. The boys find out and instigate a game of Musical Horses. Jenkins (SH! THE OCTOPUS) is funny as
de Corsia’s henchman. Also with Bennie Bartlett, David Gorcey, William Benedict, Russell Hicks, and Michael Ross. Sach
wears blackface in one shocking scene. Saunders went on to play the slinky Dragon Lady opposite John Baer in the TERRY AND
THE PIRATES TV series. Co-star Ryan wrote more than a dozen Bowery Boys features, as well as the infamous BELA LUGOSI MEETS
A BROOKLYN GORILLA.
CREATURE (1985)—Directed by
William Malone. Stars Klaus Kinski, Stan Ivar, Wendy Schaal, Lyman Ward, Robert Jaffe, Diane Salinger, Annette McCarthy, Marie
Laurin. Filmed as THE TITAN FIND and released with a new title as creative as its plot, CREATURE is one of many ALIEN rip-offs
about gooey space monsters with big teeth that chomp on astronauts with paper-thin personalities. The second film by writer/director
Malone (whose next film was THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL), CREATURE does a nice job creating a mood and delivering cheap violent
thrills on a $750,000 budget. The miniature work and production design by future Oscar winners Robert Skotak (ALIENS) and
Dennis Skotak (THE ABYSS) are very good, as are the many gore effects. Really, the goo is the best reason to watch CREATURE—faces
are ripped off, heads explode, and blood splashes everywhere.
An American research team travels to Titan, one of Jupiter’s
moons, to investigate some ancient artifacts that left a previous expedition dead. They discover their West German rivals
have beaten them there, but have all been brutally murdered. That is, except for one: creepy Hans Hofner (Kinski, who leads
the league in creepy German portrayals), who informs the new arrivals they’re being stalked by a 200,000-year-old creature
that subsists on human blood and can control the dead using squishy control devices attached to the back of the corpses’
Besides Kinski, whose star-billed role as a lascivious,
sandwich-chomping astronaut is really just a five-day cameo, the only satisfactory performances are given by pretty Schaal
(THE ‘BURBS) as a brainy scientist (who is forced by the script to do some pretty idiotic things) and Ivar as the ship’s
captain. You’ll instantly recognize Ward, who plays the arrogant corporate lackey who’s responsible for the party’s
trouble, as Matthew Broderick’s clueless dad in FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF. Co-writer Alan Reed is actually Robert
Short, the visual effects artist who won an Academy Award for BEETLEJUICE. The orchestral score by Thomas Chase and Steve
Rucker makes the action seem more exciting than it actually is, and helps to lend a “big-budget” feel to the proceedings.
CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE (1976)—Directed
by Joy N. Houck Jr. Stars Jack Elam, John David Carson, Dennis Fimple, Thurman. Obviously inspired by Charles
Pierce’s successful low-budget Sasquatch “documentary,” THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK, another noted Southern
exploitation filmmaker tries to raise forearm hairs with this padded though watchable PG horror movie. Chicago grad
students Rives (Carson) and Pahoo (Fimple) drive a van to Louisiana, where they plan to investigate sightings of a hairy 8-foot
biped that has reportedly been attacking the locals for decades. The small town of Oil City is tight-lipped about the
“Creature,” and the local sheriff (Thurman) advises the boys to get on back home, y’hear? Carson and
Fimple (usually cast as comic-relief rednecks or heavies) take advantage of the monster’s infrequent appearances to
fill time with characterization, such as Fimple’s preoccupation with hamburgers. More monster attacks and less
male bonding would have been preferable, particularly a subplot involving the guys’ romantic pursuit of a pair of local
jailbait that goes nowhere, but you could do much worse than to spend screen time following these likable guys. Top-billed
Elam plays a supporting part as a crazy old local drunk who tries to shoot it out with the monster in his shack. Also
with Dub Taylor and Jim McCullough Jr., who also wrote the screenplay for his father the producer, Jim McCullough. Music
by Jaime Mendoza-Nava, who also shot THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK.
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954)--Directed
by Jack Arnold. Stars Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning, Whit Bissell. One of the best and most popular Universal
horror films of the 1950s. Explorers in the Amazon discover an intelligent Gill Man and try to capture him for study; the
creature knows how to fight back, killing many people, while falling in love with the lovely Adams. Very similar to KING KONG,
but on a smaller scale. Arnold generates a certain amount of suspense, even though, unlike many other monster movies, the
creature gets a lot of screen time. Adams is a gorgeous heroine; the sight of her swimming in a white one-piece bathing suit
while the Gill Man looks on will linger in young mens' minds forever. Originally released in 3-D. Ben Chapman played the Gill
Man on land; Ricou Browning in the water. Universal makeup artists Bud Westmore and Jack Keven created the creature's memorable
look. From the director of THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN.
CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA (1961)—Directed
by Roger Corman. Stars Antony Carbone, Betsy Jones-Moreland, Robert Towne. Even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve
probably read about CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA’s unusual production. Producer/director Roger Corman, who was already
in Puerto Rico to make BATTLE OF BLOOD ISLAND and LAST WOMAN ON EARTH back to back, decided to squeeze in a third film while
he was there. He called his favorite writer, Charles B. Griffith (LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS), in Hollywood and told him he needed
a comedy script. Oh, and it had to be written for the actors Corman already had on location, and he needed it in a week. Four
days after Griffith’s screenplay arrived in Puerto Rico, Corman’s cameras were rolling on the same cast he had
just wrapped on LAST WOMAN ON EARTH.
One of those actors, hiding behind the pseudonym “Edward
Wain,” is Robert Towne, the renowned screenwriter who later won an Oscar for CHINATOWN. Corman hired the struggling
young scribe to pen LAST WOMAN ON EARTH, and when he was late delivering pages, Corman brought him to Puerto Rico to double
as writer and co-star, even though Towne had no acting experience. Landing the lead in CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA only
because he happened to still be on the island, Towne as Wain plays secret agent SK150, who’s undercover as Sparks Moran,
a member of American gangster Renzo Capetto’s (Antony Carbone) yacht crew.
Fleeing Cuba with a bunch of refugees and a strongbox of
stolen Castro gold, Capetto plans to keep the treasure by knocking off the Cuban nationals one at a time and blaming their
disappearance on a sea monster. Only—gulp—there really is a sea monster that’s killing the crew. Someone
it doesn’t get too quickly enough is Pete Peterson (Beach Dickerson), a numbskull who speaks in annoying animal sounds
(open mouth, insert dubbed-in wildlife noise). Capetto and Sparks also play two-thirds of a romantic triangle with comely
Mary Belle Monahan (Betsy Jones-Moreland), who turns plenty of heads as Renzo’s moll.
CREATURE’s genesis as a script written in one week
is obvious. It’s hard to blame Griffith, who more or less rewrote his BEAST FROM HAUNTED CAVE screenplay—understandable
considering the strict deadline Corman gave him. It features Griffith trademarks, including weird sight gags and funny names.
The monster, which was reportedly built by Dickerson and played by newcomer Robert Bean (who also portrays Mary Belle’s
brother), is a ridiculous concoction of oilcloth, steel wool, and tennis balls. I guess it works fine in a comedy, but I doubt
drive-in audiences in 1961 expected one. Produced by Corman’s Filmgroup, when CREATURE was sold to television, Corman
hired Monte Hellman (ROAD TO NOWHERE), who had done the same for BEAST FROM HAUNTED CAVE, to film another eleven or twelve
minutes of padding to fill a 90-minute timeslot (the theatrical cut runs less than an hour).
CREATURE OF DESTRUCTION (1965)--Directed
by Larry Buchanan. Stars Les Tremayne, Aron Kincaid, Pat Delany. AIP gave Texas filmmaker Buchanan about $75,000
each to remake several of their pictures to sell to television, including 1956's THE SHE-CREATURE. Tremayne takes the
Chester Morris role as Basso, a stage hypnotist playing a swanky resort who predicts a series of baffling murders that are
being committed by a sea monster. Oh, brother, wait 'til you see it--a man wearing a green rubber suit with ping-pong-ball
eyes. It's about as scary as a pair of bunny flip-flops. Of course, Basso can predict the murders, because he's
causing them, using his hypnotic powers to regress his pretty assistant (Delany) into the killer creature. Beach movie
regular Kincaid, reluctantly finishing up his AIP contract, is hilariously miscast as an Air Force psychologist investigating
Basso. Filmed almost entirely within a country club in Lake Texoma, Texas, CREATURE is a typically inept Buchanan monster
picture, full of dreary pacing, stilted performances, laughable suspense and cheap production values. Also with Neil
Fletcher and "Special Guest" Scotty McKay. The score was compiled from previous AIP soundtracks.
CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN (1955)--Directed
by Edward L. Cahn. Stars Richard Denning, S. John Launer, Michael Granger, Gregory Gaye. One of the all-time great
titles adorns this Columbia science fiction movie, which doesn’t quite live up to its name, but what could? It’s
pretty entertaining nonetheless, and clips right along at a just-right 69-minute pace. Denning is perfectly cast as
a police scientist investigating a series of murders that appear to have been committed by a bulletproof assailant with super-strength.
Revenge is the motive, as exiled gangster Granger returns to Los Angeles to kill those responsible for his imprisonment.
He recruits a former Nazi scientist (Gaye), who electronically returns corpses to life as obedient radio-controlled zombies,
which are then sent by Granger to crush his enemies. Of course it’s silly, but also quite fun, and even manages
to be poignant when Denning’s best pal, detective Launer, becomes one of Gaye’s creatures. By the way, there
are actually several “creatures” in the film, and one highlight is their fight with cops on the front lawn of
Granger’s estate. Also with Angela Stevens, Tris Coffin, Pierre Watkin and Linda Bennett. Watch for a blooper
when Denning sends the little girl playing his daughter upstairs to her room. In the background, you can see her stop
and sit at the top of the stairs, probably because that was the edge of the set!
CREATURE WITH THE BLUE HAND (1968)--Directed
by Alfred Vohrer. Stars Klaus Kinski, Harald Leipnitz, Diane Korner. Dave Emerson (Kinski, who doesn't look anything
like a "Dave Emerson") breaks out of the insane asylum where he has been sentenced for a murder he claims he never committed
and returns to the family castle to hide out. No sooner is he back than a series of brutal murders occur on the grounds,
the victims apparently slashed to death by a blue metal claw. Scotland Yard inspector Craig (Leipnitz) investigates
the crimes, not an easy task considering the red herrings in this Edgar Wallace story, which include Dave's beautiful sister
(Korner), the butler, the director of the mental institution and even Dave's twin brother Richard (also portrayed by Kinski)!
This colorful, eccentric mystery includes all the hallmarks of a West German krimi, including secret passages, lurid murders
and an uneasy deathtrap involving a room filled with rats and snakes. An odd footnote to CREATURE's production history--twenty
years later, rights owner Sam Sherman directed new footage of gore and nudity and crudely spliced it into the film, creating
an ugly hybrid titled THE BLOODY DEAD, which should probably be avoided.
THE CREEPING FLESH
(1973)--Directed by Freddie Francis. Stars Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Lorna Heilbron. Good British chiller in the Hammer
vein starring Cushing as a scientist who returns from an expedition to New Guinea with a mysterious skeleton. When the bones
get wet, they come back to life. Cushing's unscrupulous brother Lee steals the skeleton during a rainstorm. Bad move, Chris.
Also with Michael Ripper and George Benson.
THE CREEPING TERROR (1964)—Directed by Art J. Nelson. Stars Art J. Nelson,
William Thourlby, Shannon O’Neil, Brendon Boone, John Caresio, Byrd Holland. THE CREEPING TERROR routinely appears on
Worst Film of All Time lists for a very good reason: it’s terrible. It’s also boring, the worst sin any film can
commit. Considering the backstage drama, perhaps it’s no surprise TERROR came out so poorly. According to co-star Thourlby,
director/writer/producer/star Nelson vanished during shooting with a bunch of investors’ money. Thourlby managed to
snatch the negative and finish the film, but there was probably no saving this badly produced, indifferently acted, clumsily
directed, and flatly photographed clunker. The monster really does look like a matted shag carpet, and characters don’t
understand they could easily avoid being eaten by the slow-crawling “terror” by just stepping away from it.
Nelson’s biggest mistake, if just one can be chosen, was to lay pointless narration over the
picture, describing what characters are doing or saying to one another. The local sheriff (Holland), his chief deputy Martin
(Nelson, billing himself as Vic Savage), and Martin’s newlywed wife Brett (O’Neil) investigate what they initially
believe to be a plane crash. Discovering a strange undamaged craft, the sheriff slips inside and is killed. Martin calls in
the military and a scientist named Bradford (Thourlby). Meanwhile, the space creature wanders around the countryside eating
people, including a girl in a bikini who crawls inside Jon Lackey’s laughable monster suit while the same screaming
sound effect is repeated on the soundtrack.
What little dialogue is in the movie is badly dubbed. Sometimes the actors’ lips are moving,
sometimes not. But usually the dialogue is expressed by the omniscient narrator, who describes it over scenes of two people
talking. There’s a weird and pointless scene in which Martin invites his fellow deputy Barney (Boone) over to his house
and then makes out with his wife in front of him. One wonders whether director Nelson just wanted to kiss a pretty actress.
You may recognize Boone (billed as Norman Boone), who appeared in a lot of TV shows later and was a regular on GARRISON’S
CREEPOZOIDS (1987)--Directed by
David DeCoteau. Stars Linnea Quigley, Ken Abraham, Richard Hawkins, Michael Aranda, Kim McKamy. Cheap, boring
post-apocalyptic ALIEN ripoff about five futuristic Army deserters who hide out during an acid rainstorm inside an abandoned
scientific facility. Between shower scenes and putdowns, the soldiers are ripped apart by one of the failed experiments,
a gooey, stiff-looking monster that roams the hallways. Linnea pops her top, which counts for something. DeCoteau
must have been desperate to pad the film, throwing in a silly-looking mutant baby near the end, but even at 72 minutes, the
film drags. He made this one for Charles Band's Empire Pictures and still directs several shoddy direct-to-video movies
CREEPSHOW (1982)--Directed by George A. Romero. Stars Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, E.G. Marshall,
Fritz Weaver, Adrienne Barbeau, Hal Holbrook. An homage to the EC horror comics of the 1950s, this collaboration between the
director of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and writer Stephen King is a collection of five short vignettes, all with twist endings
and touches of black humor. All are good; the final segment with Marshall battling an army of cockroaches is the best. King
has a role in one story as a redneck farmer afflicted with a space disease after coming into contact with a strange meteor.
Makeup by gore expert Tom Savini.
CREEPSHOW II (1987)--Directed by Michael Gornick. Stars George
Kennedy, Dorothy Lamour, Lois Chiles, Tom Savini. Inferior sequel to the 1982 hit, despite the participation of original writer
Stephen King, producer George A. Romero and special effects guru Savini. Savini also acts in this one, introducing the three
stories as a character called "The Creep". A wooden cigar store Indian comes alive to avenge the killings of storeowners Kennedy
and Lamour; four sex-starved teens are stranded on a raft by a killer oil slick; the ghost of her victim chases hit-and-run
driver Chiles. King does a cameo as a truck driver. Gornick was the cinematographer on the original CREEPSHOW.
THE CREMATORS (1972)—Directed
by Harry Essex. Stars Marvin Howard, Maria de Aragon, Eric Allison. A giant fireball from outer space (represented
by a cheap and unconvincing animated optical effect) rolls across the western United States, incinerating various victims,
while some scientists try to figure out what’s happening. Plodding pacing, poor acting, and shoddy special effects
combine for a sleep-inducing experience. Essex also directed OCTAMAN and the original I, THE JURY, but is best known
for writing IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE and CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON for Universal-International.
THE CREW (2000)--Directed by Michael
Dinner. Stars Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Reynolds, Dan Hedaya, Seymour Cassel. Just call it GRUMPY OLD GOOMBAHS. Less than a month
after GRUMPY OLD ASTRONAUTS--otherwise known as Clint Eastwood's SPACE COWBOYS--hit theaters nationwide, Touchstone has released
another feel-good movie about a quartet of raucous oldsters living a sedentary existence but awaiting that one big last ride.
Director Michael Dinner, who spent the 1990s doing fine work in television (THE WONDER YEARS, CHICAGO HOPE), has assembled
a fine cast of character actors--Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Reynolds, Dan Hedaya and Seymour Cassel--and while the final product
isn't all it probably should have been considering the talent involved, THE CREW is an agreeable lark that works just fine
for the hour-and-a-half it takes to unspool.
Screenwriter Barry Fanaro hasn't strayed too far from the Miami Beach
retirement hotel milieu that won him an Emmy for writing THE GOLDEN GIRLS. In fact, Betty White and Estelle Getty could very
well be living just down the street from THE CREW's main characters, former New Jersey goodfellas who have retired to Florida's
easy lifestyle: Bobby (Dreyfuss), the group's fast-talking leader; intemperate Bats (Reynolds), whose nickname descends from
his weapon of choice; dimwitted but sweet-tempered Brick (Hedaya), who keeps in touch with all his old pals via Christmas
cards; and ladies man Mouth (Cassel), who prefers to let his libido do his talking.
Fanaro's script begins pretty slowly--although Dreyfuss's
spirited narration helps--until the plot finally begins to kick in after the first reel. When their landlord threatens to
raise their rent--thanks to an influx of wealthy young tenants moving in--our heroes concoct a cockamamie plan to scare them
off by kidnapping a stiff from the morgue where Brick works and faking a brutal shotgun murder in their lobby. Unfortunately,
the corpse was formerly the Alzheimer's-stricken father of South American druglord Raul Ventana (Miguel Sandoval), who believes
a rival gang is targeting him. Sandoval, on oily display as a sinister suspect in A&E's reruns of the brilliant '90s series
MURDER ONE, has a fine time spoofing the typically Hollywood south-of-the-border drug dealer. To make matters worse, Mouth
has innocently blabbed the plan to heavy-breasted hooker Ferris (Jennifer Tilly), who blackmails the boys into whacking her
rich Jewish stepmom Pepper (Lainie Kazan). Throw in some inept Latin henchmen, a rat with a fiery tail, and a subplot involving
Bobby's long-lost daughter Olivia (Carrie-Anne Moss of THE MATRIX), who's assigned to investigate the murder along with her
philandering partner Steve (Jeremy Piven), and you've got a plot that doesn't really hold much water, but then again, isn't
really supposed to.
THE CREW's biggest delight is its cast. Dreyfuss, one of Hollywood's most intelligent actors,
bestows Bobby with a wry bite that accounts for much of the movie's humor. Between this and his splendid turn as the U.S.
President in CBS's live FAIL SAFE broadcast earlier this year, Dreyfuss proves he's still among Hollywoods most pliant stars.
Reynolds continues to skillfully switch from movie star to character actor, while Hedaya and Cassel are often hilarious in
less showy roles. The subplot involving Moss and Piven really doesn't amount to much--and maybe should have been pared even
more in a B-story seemingly leftover from Fanaro's sitcom days--but the actors do the best they can in their very thinly written
Produced by Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed GET SHORTY and may have been able to give this movie that extra
push towards excellence (then again, considering WILD WILD WEST, maybe not), THE CREW works best as a showcase for its four
talented stars and the textured Florida cinematography by Juan Ruiz-Anchia. Keep a sharp eye peeled for the great Italian
character actor Frank Vincent, who has played dozens of paisans going back to RAGING BULL and appears here as a gun dealer,
and stick around for the closing credits to hear a spirited song called "Old Man Time", which is performed by none other than
Joe Pesci! Also with Fyvish Finkel, Casey Siemaszko and Billy Jayne. Music by Steve Bartek.
CRIME CLUB (1973)—Directed
by David Lowell Rich. Stars Lloyd Bridges, Barbara Rush, Paul Burke, Victor Buono, Richard Hatch. Charles Larson (THE F.B.I.)
wrote and produced this unsold pilot about an exclusive Los Angeles club of judges, detectives, attorneys, policemen, and
other law enforcement figures who were available to brainstorm various mysteries. Bridges stars in the opener as private eye
Paul Cord, who returns to his former home of Santa Luisa, California to investigate the apparent suicide of a young friend,
Hugh London (Hatch), son of his former flame Denise (Rush) and her husband Robert (Burke), who despises Cord. Paul’s
dogged examination of the clues lead to several red herrings, many of them Hugh’s friends and family, and to attempts
on his life. Rich crafts a fine mystery that emphasizes plot over action using a very good cast of actors, which also includes
Martin Sheen, Cloris Leachman, David Hedison, Belinda J. Montgomery, Frank Marth, William Devane, Alan Napier, and Mills Watson.
Like THE NAME OF THE GAME, SEARCH, and other popular shows of the era, CRIME CLUB would have featured alternating leads Bridges,
Buono (as a crafty judge), and another uncast actor.
CRIME CLUB: THE LAST KEY (1975)—Directed
by Jeannot Szwarc. Stars Robert Lansing, Scott Thomas, Eugene Roche, Barbara Rhoades, David Clennon, Michael Cristofer. Thomas,
whose shortlived series THE NEW LAND had recently been cancelled, stars in this pilot about an exclusive club of crimefighters
based in New York City. CBS had tried this idea two years earlier with Lloyd Bridges in the lead. Like THE NAME OF THE GAME,
the series would have featured Thomas, Lansing (12 O’CLOCK HIGH) as defense attorney Alex Norton, and character actor
Roche (THE CORNER BAR) on alternating weeks. A creep named Frank Swoboda (Cristofer, who later became the big-time writer/director
of ORIGINAL SIN with Angelina Jolie) confesses to a series of icepick killings. He didn’t do it—museum photographer
Peter Karpf (Clennon) did—but he takes responsibility so he can bask in the attention. Swoboda’s stripper sister
Angela (raven-haired Rhoades) doesn’t believe Frank’s story and hires private eye Jack Keesey (Thomas) to find
the real killer. I love the idea of a Crime Club, and an early scene of the club’s members reenacting a murder and spitballing
possible solutions is fun. I don’t know why neither pilot took off, and I’d like to see some producer give it
another shot. Writer Gene Kearney (KOJAK) takes a few liberties in logic, but his script is, in all, a fine procedural. Guest
stars include Biff McGuire, Kathleen Beller, M. Emmet Walsh, Carl Gottlieb, and Martine Beswick. Director Szwarc, Kearney,
and producer Jack Laird knew each other well from working together on NIGHT GALLERY.
CRIME DOCTOR (1943)—Directed by Michael Gordon. Stars Warner Baxter, Margaret
Lindsay, John Litel, Ray Collins. First of ten Columbia B-pictures starring Oscar winner Baxter (IN OLD ARIZONA) as the Crime
Doctor, a sleuth created by Max Marcin for CBS Radio in 1940. A man is tossed from a speeding car and found by partying college
students, who take him to a hospital. When he revives, he can’t remember who he is. Taking the name Robert Ordway, the
man (Baxter) moves in with his physician, Dr. Carey (Collins, later police lieutenant Tragg on PERRY MASON), and begins studying
for a medical degree. Ten years later, Ordway opens a successful practice with Carey. Hilariously, the 54-year-old Baxter
plays Ordway at ages thirty and forty and not believably. Baxter and Collins were actually the same age, though Collins, who
portrayed the Crime Doctor on radio, is playing older.
Ordway becomes a pillar of society, including the head of the parole board. Some crooks, including
the sly Emilio Caspari (Litel, who is terrific), suspect Ordway is actually Phil Morgan, who doublecrossed them for $200,000
of stolen loot and was murdered by them, or so they believed, for it. With a nervous mixture of relief and worry in believing
he may have been a criminal, Ordway investigates Caspari and his accomplices on his own. CRIME DOCTOR has a bit more going
on than most of these ‘40s B-mysteries do and is nicely anchored by Baxter’s stalwart turn. The crooks aren’t
sure whether or not Ordway is faking his amnesia, which makes them dangerous. Gordon had Boston Blackie and Lone Wolf quickies
under his belt already when he tackled his first and last Crime Doctor. He later directed Doris Day movies and sitcoms.
THE CRIME KILLER (1985)--Directed
by George Pan-Andreas, Leo G. Morrell. Stars George Pan-Andreas. I have no idea who Greek filmmaker Pan-Andreas
is, but he certainly assembled a wonderfully inept and frequently hilarious vanity production. He plays Zeus, a cop
who is tossed off the force for killing two corrupt cops in self-defense. After the U.S. President’s wife and
child are murdered, the CIA forces Zeus to return to crime fighting, not that Zeus needs much urging. After all, he
is the Crime Killer. For some reason, he recruits two old ‘Nam buddies to train for thirty days under an asshole
drill instructor, even though they don’t use any of their new training on their mission. Really, I wouldn’t
spend much time trying to figure it all out. It’s entertaining enough just listening to Pan-Andreas earnestly
reciting his wonky dialogue (did I mention that he also wrote the screenplay?) and engaging in head-scratchingly obtuse conversations
with the overboiled Morrell as Zeus’ police boss. The first reel is a little tough to sit through, because the
direction is so inept and the photography so dark that it's hard to tell what's going on. After the titles finally roll
(illustrated by Greek imagery that has nothing to do with the movie, like a statue that fires beams from its eyes!), it's
one mockable moment after another, including gratuitous 'Nam flashbacks, slow-mo kung fu (that shows the actors' kicks missing
one another by a mile), inappropriate humor, crazy plot points and ridiculous dialogue. I'm sure the story of how George
Pan-Andreas talked someone into giving him money to write, direct and star in this movie (which was released on video by New
World) is fascinating.
CRIME STORY (1986)--Directed by
Abel Ferrara. Stars Dennis Farina, Anthony Denison, Bill Smitrovich, Darlanne Fluegel, David Caruso. Michael Mann (THE INSIDER)
was the executive producer of this feature-length pilot which aired on NBC. Set in Chicago during the early '60s, CRIME STORY--both
the pilot and the series--followed two charismatic characters: slick mobster Ray Luca (Denison), who's trying to make inroads
among the connected bigwigs of the Windy City, and Lt. Mike Torello (Farina) of the Chicago Police Department's Major Crimes
Unit. Torello and Luca become archenemies after Ray guns down a pair of Mike's friends--one a cop, the other the son (Caruso)
of a close friend. Fluegel (TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.) plays Torello's wife, while Smitrovich (Corky's dad from LIFE GOES ON)
is solid as his partner.
Like Mann's previous series, MIAMI VICE, CRIME STORY showcases a lot of style--slick production
values; gritty camerawork; lots of period music, clothes and cars--but it isn't style over substance. It's very sharply written
and acted, especially by Farina, a relative neophyte to film who was a real-life Chicago cop for nearly twenty years. His
tough but sensitive portrayal clashes well with Denison's oily performance as he plots a clever course up the Mob ladder.
Credit casting director Bonnie Timmerman with much of the show's success. The supporting cast includes Billy Campbell, Stephen
Lang, Eric Bogosian, William Russ, Ted Levine, Michael Rooker, Joseph Wiseman and Jon Polito, many of whom were unknowns at
the time. Todd Rundgren composed and conducted the score. Del Shannon re-recorded his #1 hit "Runaway" for use as the theme.
Despite much critical acclaim, NBC cancelled the series after two seasons. The show really got way out there. After
the first 13 episodes, the setting switched to Las Vegas, and the season ender found Luca being zapped on a nuclear bomb testing
range! Somehow he survived to see Season Two, and moved to Central America with Torello still on his tail.
CRIME ZONE (1988)--Directed by Luis
Llosa. Stars David Carradine, Peter Nelson, Sherilyn Fenn. Roger Corman produced this cheap SF actioner in Peru.
In the oppressive future, martial law has made major crimes almost extinct. It goes without saying that the government's
totalitarian reign has also mostly wiped out freedom and joy. So much so that ex-cop Bone (Nelson) and hooker Helen
(Fenn, just after popping her top for Charlie Sheen in THE WRAITH) want to escape to a legendary city where rule is more democratic.
Shady Jason (Carradine) offers them that chance, but only if they perform a series of robberies for him first. Jason
turns out to have a hidden motive for his recruitment of the two lovers, but it's doubtful you'll wait around long enough
to discover what it is. Murkily lensed by Cusi Barrio, CRIME ZONE is hard to see and hard to sit through, jammed with
limited actors emoting on cheap sets. Carradine seems to have put some thought into his role, but there's little else
to recommend in Llosa's film. The director did become one of Corman's few Concorde/New Horizons discoveries to move
up to major studio films, helming SNIPER, THE SPECIALIST and ANACONDA before returning to Peruvian television. Music
by Rick Conrad. Carradine and wife Gail Jensen were associate producers.
CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (1989)—Directed
by Woody Allen. Stars Martin Landau, Anjelica Huston, Alan Alda, Woody Allen, Mia Farrow. One of Woody’s
best films is this light mystery that focuses on two separate subplots that seemingly couldn’t be more disparate in
subject and tone. Landau plays a prominent physician who decides to murder his neurotic mistress (Huston) when she threatens
to reveal their affair to the community. Meanwhile, broke documentary filmmaker Allen, unable to finance the “important”
work he wants to do, is forced to shoot a puff piece about his smarmy brother-in-law (Alda), a jerk who produces lousy TV
sitcoms. Landau was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, even though he clearly has the lead role.
He didn’t win, even though he’s even better here than in ED WOOD, the film for which he finally won the Oscar.
All of the performers do great work, but Landau is the standout. Allen received Oscar nominations for his direction
and screenplay, which is tight, thoughtful and often hilarious. Sam Waterston, Jerry Orbach, Claire Bloom and Joanna
Gleason are in it.
CRIMES OF PASSION (1984)--Directed by Ken Russell. Stars Kathleen Turner, John
Laughlin, Anthony Perkins, Annie Potts, Bruce Davison. Ridiculous thriller with Turner as a respectable fashion designer by
day, exotic hooker "China Blue" by night. Perkins proves once again there's no role he won't take by portraying a psychotic,
perverted, twitchy, masturbating priest named Peter. Turner looks great with no clothes on, but there's no other reason to
watch this dumb film. Music by Rick Wakeman of Yes. From the director of TOMMY.
by Sam Raimi. Stars Brion James, Paul L. Smith, Reed Birney, Sheree J. Wilson. This very strange comedy was co-written by
Raimi and the Coen brothers, Ethan and Joel, who earned an Oscar nomination for their FARGO screenplay. Raimi returned the
favor by directing second-unit on THE HUDSUCKER PROXY. All involved with CRIMEWAVE were reportedly not very happy with the
results, but it does have its moments. James and Smith are psycho exterminators who also work as hitmen. Birney is a schmuck
framed for a murder, and relates the narrative in flashback while on death row. Bruce Campbell appears briefly as The Heel
("Why don't we go back to my place for a little Scotch and sofa?"), but should have played Birney's role (allegedly the film's
backers didn't think Campbell was charismatic enough for the lead; why did they believe Birney was?) Also with Louise Lasser,
Emil Sitka and Ted Raimi. The crazy slapstick humor and violence foreshadow Raimi's next feature, which was EVIL DEAD 2. By
the way, James was not dubbed; that weird cartoon-like voice he uses was his own. Produced by Robert Tapert. Music by Joseph
CRIMINAL LAW (1988)—Directed by Martin Campbell. Stars Gary Oldman, Kevin Bacon, Tess
Harper, Joe Don Baker, Karen Young, Elizabeth Shepherd. After several years directing British television shows, including
the acclaimed miniseries EDGE OF DARKNESS, Campbell moved to the American big screen with this thriller laced with a clever
casting gimmick. Oldman, then best known as Sid Vicious in SID AND NANCY and Joe Orton in PRICK UP YOUR EARS, plays straight-laced
attorney Ben Chase, and perennial nice guy Bacon (FOOTLOOSE) co-stars as a rich psycho named Martin Thiel, who may also be
a killer. Chase manages to get Thiel acquitted of the nasty rape and murder of a woman whose body was mutilated. More victims
follow, one of whom is also burned to obliterate evidence on and in her, and Chase begins to believe these women would still
be alive if he hadn’t been so good at his job. Head games ensue as Chase tries to help cops Harper (TENDER MERCIES)
and Baker (MITCHELL) put his client away, while Thiel plays the “we aren’t so different, you and I” card.
It isn’t just the reverse casting that makes CRIMINAL LAW interesting, but also the casting of two stars who look alike
on both sides of the coin. Campbell (GOLDENEYE) and scripter Mark Kasdan (SILVERADO) fumble about with motivations for murder
and false scares, making CRIMINAL LAW a flawed, but moderately intriguing crime drama. Score by Jerry Goldsmith.
THE CRIMSON CODE (1999)—Directed
by Jeremy Haft. Stars Patrick Muldoon, Cathy Moriarty, Tim Thomerson, C. Thomas Howell, Fred Ward. MELROSE PLACE pretty boy
Muldoon and RAGING BULL starlet Moriarty, eight years his senior, are an unlikely romantic duo in this watchable serial killer
flick. Both play FBI agents and partners assigned to a task force that tracks serial killers. They also strive to be selected
for their boss Heywood’s (Thomerson) “Red Team,” the squad that actually apprehends the killers. While investigating
a murderer named The Silencer, so dubbed because of his habit of cutting the tongues from his victims, Muldoon discovers two
serial killers have died in mysterious accidents and six others have vanished over the last eighteen months, leading him to
believe that someone is murdering them—a “serial killer killer,” so to speak. CRIMSON offers few surprises
and more than a few annoying plotholes, but Haft manages a bit of suspense here and there, and the veteran supporting cast
makes up for Muldoon’s emptiness and an atrocious performance by Howell as the Silencer, who must have prepared by shaving
his head, glowering into a mirror, and listening to tapes of Mark Hamill voicing the Joker in TV cartoons. Originally titled
RED TEAM, a more interesting title. Filmed in Winnipeg.
THE CRIMSON CULT (1968)--Directed
by Vernon Sewell. Stars Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Barbara Steele, Michael Gough, Mark Eden. Former TWILIGHT ZONE and
STAR TREK scribe (as well as noted science-fiction author) Jerry Sohl adapted this unsuccessful waste of four horror movie
icons from a story by H.P. Lovecraft. A young man (Eden) travels to the English mansion of J.D. Morley (Lee) to investigate
his brother's disappearance. There he has hallucinations of an exotic green-skinned woman (Steele) wearing a goat headdress
surrounded by leather-clad sadomasochists in a torture chamber. Karloff plays a good-guy professor of the occult who tries
to help Eden, while Gough is pretty embarrassing as Lee's idiot servant. It's great to see Lee and Karloff sharing scenes
together--and they certainly do their best--and Sewell tries to keep things interesting by tossing in all sorts of psychedelic
effects, but the story just isn't interesting. This was Karloff's last major production; he later shot some scenes for director
Jack Hill in a Hollywood studio that were used in four low-budget Mexican horror movies. Karloff died February 2, 1969 at
age 81. Also with Virginia Wetherell, Rosemarie Reade and special guest Rupert Davies. Music by Peter Knight. Produced by
Tigon Films, which attempted to mine the same genre ground already covered by Hammer and Amicus. Originally released in England
as CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR, it has also been seen as CURSE OF THE CRIMSON CULT and THE CRIMSON ALTAR.
THE CRIMSON GHOST (1946)--Directed
by Fred C. Brannon and William Witney. Stars Charles Quigley, Linda Stirling, Clayton Moore. One of Republic's
last great serials is this 12-chapter masterpiece, which pits two-fisted scientist Duncan Richards (Quigley) against an evil
mastermind called the Crimson Ghost, who conceals his true identity behind a marvelously effective skull mask. The Crimson
Ghost's target is a device called the Cyclotrode, which, despite its cheapjack design, is able to short-circuit all electrical
equipment, including automobiles and airplanes. Imagine what a weapon it could be if fallen into the wrong hands.
GHOST features a lot of terrific, energetic fights; in Chapter One, Quigley (or likely his stunt double) actually runs up
the side of a wall and flips over Jackie Chan-style to get the drop on his opponent. Future Lone Ranger Moore glowers
well as the Crimson Ghost's chief henchman, and the appearance of the beautiful Stirling, who had previously headlined her
own serials, THE TIGER WOMAN and ZORRO'S BLACK WHIP, is always a plus. THE CRIMSON GHOST was re-released theatrically
in 1966 in a cut-down version called CYCLOTRODE X, and it's also available on videocassette in a colorized version under its
original title. Dependable stock players Kenne Duncan, Stanley Price, I. Stanford Jolley, Tom Steele, Dale Van Sickel
and Bob Wilke also appear.
RIVERS (2001)--Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz. Stars Jean Reno, Vincent
Cassel, Nadia Fares. This taut French crime drama has often been compared to
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and SEVEN, I suppose because on the surface it's about two detectives--one young, the other older--pursuing
a serial killer who mutilates his victims and displays them in a gruesome manner. That
CRIMSON RIVERS really isn't any more similar to those American hits than that does not mean that it isn't worth watching. It definitely is. Columbia/Tri-Star
chose to release it directly to video in the U.S., which is a shame, because I think it could have attracted a healthy box
office similar to that of, for instance, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (rumors of an American remake are imminent).
In CRIMSON RIVERS, or LES RIVIERES POURPRES as it's known in its home country,
homicide detective Niemans (Reno of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and THE PROFESSIONAL) is called to investigate the brutal mutilation
and murder of a librarian who was found hanging from a snowy mountain hundreds of feet over the university where he worked. His hands had been hacked off, his eyes gouged out, and his body suffered five hours
of pre-mortem torture. Simultaneously a couple hundred miles away, a younger,
hipper detective, Max Kerkerkian (Cassel, BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF), looks into two seemingly unrelated, unimportant cases: the desecration of a young girl's grave and a breaking-and-entering at an elementary
school. Eventually, clues lead the two policemen to a common path--a surprisingly
complicated and sordid one involving incest, baby switching, Nazis and an intense young glaciologist named Fanny (Fares).
One of CRIMSON RIVERS' great joys is untangling its complex plot, which
unravels at just the right pace, never allowing us to get too far in front of the story's protagonists, but not leaving us
scratching our heads either. Each step Niemans and Kerkerkian take plugs another
piece into the jigsaw puzzle, and, although Kassovitz purposely lets us on to the killer's identity earlier than you'd expect,
it's to his credit that the revelation doesn't cause the story to flag. Kassovitz
also knows how to aim his camera at precisely the right spot to generate the most suspense, and as far as his action scenes
go...let's just say that CRIMSON RIVERS features one of the wittiest foot chases I've seen in quite some time. Reno's world-weary wisdom and Cassel's cocky energy work well together, and their performances are aided
by the fact that both dubbed their own voices for the English-language release. Although
it seems like hardly a month goes by that Hollywood isn't tossing another forgettable serial killer movie out to theaters,
CRIMSON RIVERS is one that'll bring back your faith in this overcrowded and more frequently underwhelming genre.
The DVD features CRIMSON RIVERS in both French and English. Since the stars dubbed their own voices, I chose to watch in English with English subtitles (for the instances
in which the French accents were a bit difficult for me to decipher), and that felt like the right way to go, since the English
subtitles removed a lot of the naturalism from the dialogue, nuances that would have been missed if I had used them with the
original French soundtrack. Thierry Arbogast's cinematography and Bruno Coulais'
score are top-notch. Also with Dominque Sanda (THE MACKINTOSH MAN), Jean-Pierre
Cassel, and Kerim Belkhadra.
RIVERS II: ANGELS OF THE APOCALYPSE (2004)--Directed by Olivier Dahan. Stars Jean Reno, Benoit Magimel, Christopher
Lee, Camille Natta. Good sequel that isn’t as good as the original, but still worthwhile. Jean Reno returns
as Parisian detective Niemans, who investigates the strange murder of a man found entombed Poe-style behind the concrete wall
of a monastery. Later, a customs agent is murdered by a robed figure who uses a nailgun to crucify his victim. Meanwhile,
a younger detective (Benoit Magimel) runs over (literally--with his car!) a raving man who bears resemblance to Jesus Christ
and rants about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The two detectives join forces when they learn their cases are
connected, and a third detective (Camille Natta), a religion expert, discovers that the victims all bear the same names and
occupations as the real Jesus' twelve apostles.
Lee is the main villain, an ex-Nazi, but the subordinate villains are a lot of fun. They're sorta like ninja priests.
Faceless assassins dressed in brown priest robes, these guys confound the cops with amazing physical agility and strength.
The movie's best setpiece has Magimel chasing one of these guys on foot halfway across Paris, bouncing off of buildings, leaping
through glass windows, jumping on and off of trains, and climbing into an abandoned steel mill. It's an amazing foot
chase, even better than the witty one in the original CRIMSON RIVERS.
fact, director Olivier Dahan makes wonderful use of interesting locations in addition to the mill, including the famous Maginot
Line, which includes hundreds of miles of underground tunnels and waterways built to fortify the French border against the
Germans in World War II. Dahan stages some intriguing, creative killings and boosts the bad guys' credibility by having
them thwart Reno and Magimel's opposition at every turn. Luc Besson's script suffers somewhat from its implausible premise,
although I was mostly able to swallow it fine. The story is ridiculous, but Dahan's stylish direction keeps it from
flagging. The leads have no chemistry together, and their characters are thinly developed to the point where it didn't
really matter who the detectives were on the case. It could just as easily have been Starsky and Hutch on the job.
I still recommend CRIMSON RIVERS II on the basis of its taut action scenes, slick visuals, catchy score and Christopher Lee.
CRIMSON TIDE (1995)--Directed by Tony Scott. Stars Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, George Dzundza,
Viggo Mortensen. This slick thriller was an early box-office hit in the summer of '95. Russian rebels are threatening a nuclear
attack against the U.S., so a nuclear submarine (the U.S.S. Alabama) is launched into the Pacific in case a preemptive strike
is needed. When orders to attack come from Washington, Captain Hackman wants to nuke the rebels immediately, while executive
officer Washington would rather wait for confirmation. After all, a launch of nuclear missiles would mean the beginning of
World War III. Soon the sub has been split into two separate cadres, each threatening mutiny against the other. Film is hampered
by an awkward opening featuring some dull exposition and a schmaltzy, sell-out ending, but director Scott does a terrific
job of making the submarine scenes properly realistic and claustrophobic, and leads Hackman and Washington bring enough skill
to their characters to make neither of them totally right or wrong. The only villain here is war itself. Michael Schiffer's
screenplay contains enough technobabble to make Tom Clancy's fans happy, but it doesn't get in the way of the suspense. Quentin
Tarantino did an uncredited rewrite, adding dollops of humor and pop-culture references. Also with Matt Craven and Rick(y)
Schroeder. Music by Hans Zimmer.
CRIPPLED AVENGERS (1978)--Directed
by Cheh Chang. Also known as RETURN OF THE 5 DEADLY VENOMS, this Shaw Brothers production takes a potentially tasteless
concept and turns it into a really nifty kung fu movie. An old man and his adult son, whose hands have been replaced
with metal ones that fire deadly darts, run their village using fear and use their formidable kung fu to cripple their victims.
They poke the eyes out of one, deafen another, cut the legs off of a third, and squeeze one’s head in a vice so tight
that he becomes an “idiot”. The four spend three years in service of a martial arts master who teaches them
how to use their disabilities to great advantage in battle, and then they return home for a revenge-soaked showdown with their
tormentors. Cheh has fashioned no cheap kung fu quickie. There’s lots of style and widescreen grace in his
picture, which has scenes that may remind you of current Hong Kong dramas like HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS and HERO. Unlike
the graceless followup, CRIPPLED MASTERS, which used actors with genuine handicaps, the stars of CRIPPLED AVENGERS fake their
infirmities well and do an excellent job of fashioning their martial arts to fit their characters.
THE CRIPPLED MASTERS (1982)--Directed
by Joe Law Chi. The print I saw carried no credits. I won't say much about it, since it's so crazy, it's best
if you discover it for yourself as the film goes along. Suffice to say that a guy who has his arms chopped off and another
guy who has his legs dissolved with acid train themselves to learn kung fu so they can kick the asses of the people responsible.
The dubbing and storyline are as ridiculous as you would expect from a Hong Kong production of this vintage, but there's lots
of fighting. And not just normal kung fu either, but lots of fighting involving guys with no arms or legs. The
actors really were missing their limbs, which makes their feats more amazing. I suppose some would consider the concept
to be tasteless, but it definitely shows, in a warped way, the physically handicapped overcoming their flaws to triumph over
CRITICAL MASS (2000)--Directed by
Fred Olen Ray. Stars Treat Williams, Udo Kier, Lori Loughlin, Andrew Prine. When the second shot of a Phoenician
Entertainment movie is a sign reading "Cyberdyne Industries", I know damn well what the first ten minutes are going to be
like: a lot of exploding police cars, an exploding office building and a freeway chase between a van and a helicopter.
How did I know this? Because that's what happened in the film that Ray stole his stock footage from: TERMINATOR
2: JUDGMENT DAY. The climax is swiped from UNIVERSAL SOLDIER, a process that finds two buses chasing each other atop
a desert plateau in the long shots, but the actors are seen in their close-ups standing in a grassy field.
I guess it's a testament to Ray's professionalism that
CRITICAL MASS is as watchable as it is, despite the sloppy production and dumb scripting by someone whom I suspect of being
Phoenician regular Steve Latshaw using a pseudonym (the coffee-swilling government worker gives him away). A terrorist
group led by Sampson (Kier) steals an atomic bomb from "Cyberdyne" and hijacks a closed-down nuclear power plant on its last
day of operation. Only a handful of security officers are on staff, including Mike Jeffers (Williams), an amiable fella
and bad gambler who lost his previous job as a local sheriff following a scandal in which several federal agents were killed.
Also on the premises are Senator Cook (Prine) and his press secretary Janine (Loughlin). Kier's men murder everyone
except Jeffers, Cook and Janine, who manage to hide deep in the bowels of the plant. Yes, it's DIE HARD in a power plant,
as Jeffers bounces around, knocking off Udo's guys before the Eurobaddie can detonate his bomb.
Much of CRITICAL MASS' amusement value comes in watching
Ray's dumb fantasy world operate. A Defense Department worker wearing a miniskirt. People who forget to lower
their voices while hiding from other people standing just feet away. Federal law enforcers who decide not to become
involved in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, preferring to let the local hick sheriff take care of it. As usual, Williams
is a real sport, while Loughlin provides solid (and solidly attractive) support. I don't know Phoenician would be able
to stay in business if not for the cooperation of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, who constantly provide the
company with locations. CRITICAL MASS is fun for what it is, but what it is ain't a whole lot. Nice to see Prine,
Charles Cyphers (HALLOWEEN), Blake Clark and Richard Gabai working, though. Also with Shanna Moakler, Doug McKeon, Richard
Anthony Crenna and Richard McGonagle. Music by Neal Acree.
CRITTERS (1986)—Directed by Stephen Herek. Stars Dee Wallace Stone, M. Emmet
Walsh, Billy Green Bush, Scott Grimes, Terrence Mann, Nadine Van der Velde, Don Opper. New Line Cinema, which already had
the Freddy Krueger horror franchise, launched another with this uneven swipe of GREMLINS. CRITTERS was the directorial debut
of Stephen Herek, who went on to make bigger Hollywood films like MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS and THE MIGHTY DUCKS, but to this
point had toiled in Roger Corman’s New World system as an editor and production assistant.
The tiny town of Grovers Bend, Kansas is invaded by nasty round creatures with glowing red eyes,
sharp teeth, and quills they can shoot like a porcupine. These Krites are escaped convicts from a prison asteroid and are
pursued to Earth by a pair of shapeshifting alien bounty hunters, one of which assumes the form of rock star Johnny Steele
For all their murderous fury, the Krites do less physical damage than the hunters, whose choice of
weaponry is like swatting flies with an A-bomb. The furballs land their stolen spaceship on a farm belonging to the Brown
family—patriarch Jay (Bush), mom Helen (Stone), teenage daughter April (Van der Velde), and young horror fan Brad (Grimes)—who
team up with sheriff Harv (Walsh) and drunken manchild Charlie (Opper) to battle the wee beasties.
Give most of the credit for CRITTERS to Stephen and Charles Chiodo, whose company designed, built,
and operated the Krites and imbued them with personality and a definite sense of menace. Herek goes for a light touch that
occasionally undercuts the horror, and it’s hard to tell whether he’s aiming for an adult or juvenile audience
(GREMLINS was clearly meant for adults who still enjoyed Chuck Jones cartoons). Also with Lin Shaye, Ethan Phillips, and Billy
Zane (TITANIC) as April’s “dork from New York” boyfriend. Score by David Newman.
CRITTERS 2 (1988)—Directed by Mick Garris. Stars Scott Grimes, Terrence Mann,
Don Opper, Liane Curtis, Barry Corbin, Herta Ware, Roxanne Kernohan. Many CRITTERS cast members returned for the New Line
sequel, which was the film directing debut of horror stalwart Garris (THE STAND) and was written by Garris and David Twohy
(PITCH BLACK). It’s an entertaining little monster movie, but suffers the same problem as the original, which is that
its silly humor (including cartoon sound effects and the aliens having a word in their language for “bitchin’”)
seems aimed at kids, but it’s packed with PG-13 nudity, profanity, and gore.
Teenager Brad Brown (ER regular Grimes) returns to Grovers Bend to spend Easter with his grandmother
(Ware), just in time for some Krite eggs to get mixed in with the church’s Easter egg hunt. CRITTERS 2 plays out much
the same way as the original, except the little hairballs terrorize the whole town, rather than just the Browns’ farmhouse.
Town drunk Charlie (Opper) has since joined shapeshifting bounty hunters Ug (Mann) and Lee (Kernohan, who whips out the gratuitous
breasts), and the trio returns with their gigantic guns to kill the Krites. Oddly, nobody recognizes Ug as rocker Johnny Steele.
Musta been a one-hit wonder.
Corbin (NORTHERN EXPOSURE) replaces M. Emmet Walsh as Sheriff Harv, and Curtis plays the spunky teen
female lead. Garris had little budget to work with—the town of Grovers Bend is obviously a bunch of flats erected in
a large parking lot—but he juggles it well, and the lo-fi critters are fun villains. Also with Eddie Deezen (“Kill
more Krites!”), Tom Hodges, Sam Anderson, Lindsay Parker, and Lin Shaye. Orchestral score by Nicholas Pike (GRAVEYARD
SHIFT). It’s funny to think about Mann starring in LES MISERABLES on Broadway in between CRITTERS movies. Hard to believe
this got made before GREMLINS 2 did.
CRITTERS 3 (1991)—Directed by Kristine Peterson. Stars John Calvin, Aimee
Brooks, Don Opper, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Cousins, Joseph Cousins, William Dennis Hunt. New Line released CRITTERS 3
directly to video in the winter of 1991. Ah, let’s face it, you only care about this movie because it’s the film
debut of 16-year-old GROWING PAINS co-star DiCaprio. Director Peterson’s specialty was making softcore erotic thrillers
for Roger Corman, which didn’t come in handy when helming a PG-13 monster movie.
Widower Clifford (busy ‘70s TV actor Calvin), his teenage daughter Annie (Brooks), and his
young son Johnny (the Cousins twins) pass through Grovers Bend (which has apparently transported from Kansas to Arizona) on
their way to L.A. and accidentally pick up some Krite eggs. Where did they come from, and where did they get their new powers?
The end of CRITTERS 2 indicated all the Krites were blown up for good.
Screenplay by David J. Schow (THE CROW) is filled with coincidences, clichéd characters, implausibilities,
and critters farting. It also rips off a bowling gag from CRITTERS 2. The Krites make their way to the basement of Annie’s
slum apartment building, which also catches on fire and has its power and communications cut off by its evil new landlord
(Hunt). Can the (surprisingly few) residents of the building make it to the roof before being consumed by fire or Krites?
Brooks is a plucky Final Girl, and DiCaprio is more believable than his adult co-stars, though he
would probably rather forget this film exists. Also with Katherine Cortez, Geoffrey Blake, Jose Luis Valensuela, Diana Bellamy,
Frances Bay, Bill Zuckert, and Terrence Mann back as Ug if you hang in there long enough. CRITTERS 3 is bad, but ends with
a tacked-on “trailer” for CRITTERS 4 that looks intriguing.
CRITTERS 4 (1992)—Directed by Rupert Harvey. Stars Don Opper, Terrence Mann,
Angela Bassett, Brad Dourif. Critters go to outer space and battle Angela Bassett, one year before her Oscar-nominated performance
in WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT. She (or her butt double) even has a PG-13 nude scene. Bassett must have filmed this
just before BOYZ IN THE HOOD and MALCOLM X, and it’s weird to see her in a direct-to-video sci-fi movie with a 4 in
its title. She’s good as a spaceship pilot and helps bring some elegance to a movie that isn’t very good.
CRITTERS 4 opens with the closing scene of CRITTERS 3: bumbling bounty hunter Charlie (Opper) receiving
instructions not to destroy the last two Krite eggs in existence. While placing them aboard a transport vehicle, he stupidly
pulls a FAR OUT SPACE NUTS and falls into suspended animation. Fifty-three years later, he and the eggs are revived aboard
a space station, where the Krites hatch and start chomping the crew.
Harvey, directing his first and only film, takes 37 minutes to present the first critter attack,
killing time until then with bickering astronauts in 1990s haircuts who say “chill out.” Sets and script feel
incomplete, and producer Harvey allowed himself only two Krites (which don’t even shoot their cool poison quills). As
the executive producer of 1982’s ANDROID (which also starred Opper), Harvey swiped visual effects footage from that
Roger Corman sleeper to get extra production value on a slim budget.
CRITTERS 3 is a bad movie, but it at least tried to give its audience what they wanted. CRITTERS
4 pleases nobody. Also with Anders Hove (SUBSPECIES), Paul Whitthorne, Eric DaRe, Anne Ramsay (MAD ABOUT YOU), and the voice
of Martine Beswicke. Mann shows up in his fourth CRITTERS movie and the third in which he walked through.
CROC (2007)—Directed by Stewart
Raffill. Stars Michael Madsen, Peter Tuinstra, Sherry Phungprasert. The director of THE WILDERNESS FAMILY, MAC AND ME, MANNEQUIN
2, and THE ICE PIRATES makes a killer crocodile flick for the Sci-Fi Channel. Do you think it will be good? It isn’t,
but Madsen’s crusty turn as a Quintesque crocodile hunter almost makes it worth your while. The special effects are
better than the CGI crap that usually turns up in these cheapjack monster movies, and the Thailand location shooting provides
extra production value (and a great excuse to showcase lovely Asian girls in bikinis). Greedy mobsters who want to take over
the tourist trap owned by Jack McQuade (Tuinstra) break into his croc farm and let some out. One is blamed for the death of
some teenagers, but only Jack believes the real culprit is a vicious 20-foot crocodile that’s still on the loose. You’d
be much better off watching ROGUE.
CROCODILE DUNDEE (1986)--Directed
by Peter Faiman. Stars Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, Mark Blum. Amiable comedy from Australia was a surprise box-office smash,
thanks to the considerable charms of former TV star Hogan. He plays Down Under adventurer Dundee, who saves gorgeous American
reporter Kozlowski from a crocodile attack and returns with her to New York City. There he encounters challenges by transvestites,
hotel bathrooms, and Kozlowski's boyfriend (Blum). Hogan and Kozlowski fell in love shooting this film, and they later married.
Hogan co-wrote the script for this, his film debut.
CROOKED (2007)—Directed by
Art Camacho. Stars Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Gary Busey, Fred Williamson, Olivier Gruner, Martin Kove.
Maybe it's true. You really can't go home again. I haven't seen a Don "The Dragon" Wilson movie this bad since...REDEMPTION,
which also was directed by Art Camacho. CROOKED is as paint-by-numbers as they come with nobody involved acting as though
they gave a damn. It's almost completely lifeless. Everyone moves and speaks in slow motion. Editing is awful, as many shots
go on for a second too long, after everyone has finished speaking or moving out of frame. You can't really fault Wilson and
Olivier Gruner much, because they act about as well as they usually do. It's obvious, though, unless Camacho is an even worse
director than I think he is, that The Dragon's fighting skills have waned. He's not yet at Seagal-level where a double does
all the fighting with jiggly closeups of his head cut in, but he's not far from Chuck Norris WALKER, TEXAS RANGER either.
And Gary Busey... He's pretty shameful. Camacho deserves
blame too, because he obviously gave Busey no direction whatsoever. Busey makes no attempt to play a big-city police captain.
He rambles on about the same flaky New Age-y stuff that he does in interviews, and he may well have believed he was filming
a new episode of I'M WITH BUSEY. Fred Williamson, who is third-billed, surely shot all his scenes in one night, and is gone
from the picture less than 15 minutes into it.
Bill Martell's story is strictly standard stuff. Some cops
(including Fred) and the government witness they're protecting are all killed by a young mobster named Nugentti (Michael Cavalieri)
and a cop on the take, whose face we don't see. However, you'll guess his identity approximately 0.29 seconds after he appears.
Escaping is Angel, a sexy hooker (Diana Kauffman) on her first assignment, who's hiding in the bathroom when the baddies shoot
up the joint. She gets away with a key to a locker holding some money, and even though this plot point occasionally rears
its head, nobody seems very committed to it. Busey assigns two cops who hate each other to the case. One is straight-laced
Homicide dick Wilson; the other, rebellious Vice cop Gruner. For some reason, Busey appoints them U.S. marshals, even though
1) I don't think he can legally do that, 2) there's no reason they need to be marshals, and 3) this is another plot point
Wilson and Gruner quickly grab Angel and take her to a
series of safe houses, each of which is eventually invaded by Nugentti's ninja-clad goons, who are summarily dispatched by
the heroes in lumbering fashion. Camacho and Martell attempt a red herring--how do the bad guys always find the hiding place?--by
having Angel place a surreptitious phone call. We never learn who she called or why, even after it's established that she
isn't the one selling Wilson and Gruner out.
Oh, yeah, Martin Kove appears in this movie too, oh so
briefly and with little purpose. I guess if you're a Don "The Dragon" Wilson fan, you might want to check this one out.
He and Gruner get to play sex scenes with topless large-breasted silicone-enhanced actresses and occasionally kick a stuntman
in the face. CROOKED both looks and sounds cheap with drab digital cinematography, flat sound and a wretched score. To be
fair, everything in the trailer actually occurs in the movie, but it's a lot more interesting in two minutes than it is in
CROSSFIRE (1947)--Directed by Edward Dymytryk. Stars Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan.
Ryan is brilliant as a psychotic anti-Semite who brutally beats to death a Jewish Army officer. Young plays a pipe-smoking
cop trying to unravel the mystery. Adapted by Richard Brooks from his own novel, which was about the death of a homosexual.
That subject was still taboo at that time, so the victim was made a Jew in the screenplay. The story is still powerful though,
and Ryan found himself typecast as killers for a long time. He and Brooks had been in the service together, and lobbied hard
for the role of Montgomery. Film was a box-office hit.
by Alvin Rakoff. Stars Roger Moore, Claudie Lange, Alexis Kanner. In a role not far afield from THE SAINT, the
TV series that make him an international star, Moore plays a London advertising executive who is tricked into hiring a certain
Hungarian model (Lange) for a major layout. It’s all a manipulation that lands him on the run from the law and
in the middle of an assassination plot. Producer Robert Baker could have jacked up the budget a little bit—it
seems like Moore plays half his scenes in front of an unconvincing rear projection—but Rakoff keeps the pacing strong
and the action scenes relatively exciting. CROSSPLOT is lightweight entertainment with an appealing turn by Moore.
Also with Bernard Lee, Martha Hyer and Derek Francis.
THE CROW (1994)--Directed by Alex
Proyas. Stars Brandon Lee, Ernie Hudson, Michael Wincott, David Patrick Kelly, Bai Ling, Michael Massee. Will always be known
as the movie Lee was filming when he was accidentally killed on the set by a dummy bullet fired from a prop gun. It's too
bad the movie isn't a fitting memorial. Slick but slow-moving film about Eric Draven (Lee), a rock musician who is killed
along with his fiance by a gang of punks. A year later, a crow brings him back to life, and Draven swears vengeance against
the four hoods that killed him. The visual style is strongly influenced by the BATMAN movies. Lee really doesn't do much except
fire a lot of guns and dispatch a few karate kicks, but it is clear he had some screen charisma, and very well may have become
an action star in the Schwarzenegger/Seagal mode. It's too bad we'll never know. Interesting cinematography by Dariusz Wolski,
but Proyas's style-over-substance music-video background betrays him. Music by Graeme Revell. Based on the comic-book series
by James O'Barr. Followed by a flop sequel and a TV series.
CRUEL JAWS (1995)—Directed
by Bruno Mattei. Stars David Luther, George Barnes, Kristen Urso, Scott Silveria, Richard Dew. “There’s only two
ways to kill (a tiger shark): kill them or starve them.” That pretty much sums up the absurdity of this Italian JAWS
ripoff by horror hack Mattei. If you loved TROLL 2, this incredible mix of silly plotting, terrible acting, stock footage
poaching, and inappropriate music choices (including the theft of John Williams’ STAR WARS theme) should turn you on
just the same. Hampton Bay is plagued by shark attacks—just before the big regatta! The sheriff (Luther) wants to close
the beaches; the greedy hotel magnate (Barnes) wants to pass off the grisly deaths as boating accidents. The magnate is also
evicting the hilariously Hulk-Hogan-looking Dag (Dew), who runs a tourist attraction with his teenage son (Silveria) and his
crippled little girl (Urso). Most, if not all, of the shark footage is cribbed from GREAT WHITE, and the storyline is obviously
straight outta Spielberg’s movie. “We’re gonna need a bigger helicopter!”
THE CRUEL TOWER (1956)—Directed by Lew Landers. Stars John Ericson, Mari Blanchard,
Charles McGraw, Steve Brodie, Peter Whitney. Manly men and the manly things they do are the focus of this Allied Artists potboiler.
Tramp Tom Kitttredge (Ericson, later on HONEY WEST) is mugged and tossed off a moving train. He’s taken in by Stretch
Clay (McGraw), the boss of a small group of traveling steeplejacks that includes friendly Casey (Brodie), dull-witted Joss
(Whitney), and bad girl Mary (Blanchard), also known as The Babe. Their latest job is a water tower, which is ably reconstructed
on a soundstage for the actors (the rear screen projection is excellent) while stuntmen (or possibly actual steeplejacks)
nimbly leap about the real thing for Landers’ camera. The manly stuff is mostly fighting—in bars, with rival steeplejacks,
or with each other over women. Sometimes they even fight with rival steeplejacks in bars. It’s certainly an interesting
milieu for a melodrama. Warren Douglas’ screenplay travels tried-and-true territory, but the acting is good, and Landers
(HOT ROD GANG) keeps it all rolling along at a good clip. Give credit to director of photography Ernest Haller and his crew
for schlepping their equipment way up there to get high POV shots. Also with Alan Hale Jr., Dick Rich, Carol Kelly, and Stafford
Repp. Score by Paul Dunlap.
CRUISING (1980)--Directed by William
Friedkin. Stars Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, Karen Allen, Richard Cox, Don Scardino. A very controversial and surprisingly graphic
crime drama starring Pacino as Steve Burns, a young New York City policeman who is sent undercover by Captain Edelson (Sorvino)
to investigate the bloody slayings of homosexuals involved in the grimy S&M scene. More than just a whodunit, CRUISING's
thrills are also psychological as Burns gradually becomes more comfortable cruising the bathhouses and gay bars in his search
for the killer. He strikes up a friendship with his gay neighbor Ted (Scardino), and gradually becomes desensitized to the
aberrant sex practices he witnesses during his investigation. It all leads up to a fascinating twist ending in which the explicit
killings continue, even though the main suspect has been arrested.
Friedkin caught a lot of controversy from gay activists--even
while CRUISING was being filmed--because of its portrayal of homosexuals as deviants and murderers. I can understand why they
might feel this way (Ted is the film's only sympathetic gay character), but Friedkin took care to explain in an opening disclaimer
that his film doesn't group all homosexuals together, but chooses to examine one small segment of gay culture. It's hard to
believe CRUISING could get an R rating today, as Friedkin fills the screen with more male nudity, orgies, gay kissing and
simulated sex acts than I can remember ever seeing in a mainstream studio feature. Friedkin's screenplay doesn't always hold
water during the police procedural scenes, but, although his depiction of Pacino's immersion into the S&M underworld is
dark and disturbing, I was engrossed at the same time I was repelled. Which, I imagine, was precisely Friedkin's intent.
with Joe Spinell and Mike Starr as a pair of closeted cops, Jay Acovone, Gene Davis, Allan Miller and Sonny Grosso. Keep your
eyes peeled for early appearances by James Remar, Ed O'Neill, William Russ, Leo Burmester and Powers Boothe. Jack Nitzsche
provided the sparse score, which is punctuated by several punk tunes. Friedkin followed CRUISING with another critical bomb,
DEAL OF THE CENTURY.
THE CRUSH (1993)--Directed by Alan Shapiro. Stars Cary Elwes, Alicia Silverstone,
Jennifer Rubin, Kurtwood Smith. This ode to statutory rape stars Elwes as a magazine journalist who rents a room from a wealthy
Beverly Hills couple. Their voluptuous 14-year-old daughter (in a star-making performance by drop-dead gorgeous Alicia Silverstone)
falls for Cary in a big way--so much that when he rebuffs the assertive blonde's advances, she attacks his perky girlfriend
(Rubin) and tries to kill him! Director Shapiro often photographs Silverstone in bikinis and various stages of undress, which,
considering the actress's age, makes the viewer uncomfortable. The thriller portions are laughable, especially the climax.
Graeme Revell composed the score. Silverstone won three MTV Movie Awards for this film, and went on to star in three Aerosmith
CRY BLOOD, APACHE (1970)--Directed by Jack Starrett. Stars Jody McCrea, Joel McCrea, Jack
Starrett, Don Henley. Violent and crudely made western shot without synchronized sound. Jody McCrea (who also produced) and
his band of outlaws kill and rob a group of Indians. The Native American survivors band together to slaughter the evil white
men one by one. Western legend Joel McCrea (Jody's pops) as the lone survivor remembers the tale in flashback. Starrett's
third film as a director (after RUN, ANGEL, RUN and THE LOSERS, both starring William Smith) is a major step down; it seems
to basically be a glorified home movie (veteran heavy Tessier directed the second unit). Now you know the type of people Henley
was hanging out with before the Eagles hit it big in 1972.
A CRY FOR HELP (1975)—Directed by Daryl Duke. Stars Robert Culp, Elaine Heilveil.
Culp (I SPY) is outstanding as cynical alcoholic radio host Harry Freeman in this tight against-the-clock thriller by COLUMBO
creators Richard Levinson and William Link and MURDER, SHE WROTE creator Peter S. Fischer. Freeman regularly berates the listeners
who call in to his early-morning program. Then a young runaway (Heilveil) calls. She sounds fragile and frightened and talks
about suicide. Harry gives her the bum’s rush, as usual, but soon after begins to believe the call was genuine. From
the DJ booth, he engineers a frantic investigation, pleading with police, psychiatric professionals, and the radio audience
to identify and find the girl before it’s too late. Duke (PAYDAY) tells Fischer’s story more or less in real time,
and it really moves. If A CRY FOR HELP has a major flaw, it’s that it would have played better in the dead of night,
rather than morning drive. Heilveil is awfully sympathetic and makes her character deserving of Harry’s efforts to save
her (and, in doing so, he redeems himself as well). Also with Michael Lerner, Ken Swofford, Chuck McCann, Bruce Boxleitner,
Ralph Manza, Lee de Broux, Lieux Dressler, Granville Van Dusen, and Julius Harris.
CRY OF A PROSTITUTE (1974)—Directed
by Andrea Bianchi. Stars Henry Silva, Barbara Bouchet, Fausto Tozzi, Vittorio Sanipoli. Silva is at his most badass in this
grim crime drama that opens with a beheading and heroin stuffed into a dead boy’s tummy. He’s an American-educated
Mafia hitman named Tony Aniante who whistles a tune before each kill. He is summoned to Sicily to stop a gang war, but, YOJIMBO-style,
ingratiates himself with both sides. A prostitute does cry, but only because Tony takes a belt to her (and you thought he
was the movie’s hero). As played by Barbara Bouchet, among the most carnal of Eurocult actresses, ex-hooker Margie,
the wife of a Mafia don, fellates a banana (Silva’s poker-faced reaction is priceless) and rubs milk on her body to
run Tony’s motor. Violent movie racks up a heckuva body count and some impressive action sequences, including a stalk-and-shoot
staged within a labyrinthine Sicilian neighborhood. Silva’s character—an asskicker of few words with a childhood
secret that fuels his revenge among the underworld—is somewhat reminiscent of Charles Bronson’s in ONCE UPON A
TIME IN THE WEST.
CRY RAPE! (1973)—Directed by Corey Allen. Stars Andrea Marcovicci, Greg Mullavey,
Peter Coffield, Joseph Sirola, James Luisi. HAWAII FIVE-0 creator Leonard Freeman and his story editor Will Lorin wrote and
produced this absorbing drama about the trauma of rape, which was not a subject television often took seriously in 1973. As
exploitation or as an easy way to get a female guest star involved in the plot, sure, but rarely as adult drama.
Marcovicci, making her TV-movie debut, plays Betty Jenner, a young woman who is raped in her home.
Allen clinically shows the steps taken to collect evidence by the physicians and policemen, who are impersonal, suspicious,
cynical, but not uncaring. Detectives Sloane (Sirola) and Kroger (Luisi) arrest a young man named Andy Coleman (Coffield,
who, like Marcovicci, receives an Introducing credit) for the rape of Betty and three other women. He fits the description,
and two of the victims, including Betty, identify him in a lineup, but Andy firmly maintains his innocence. Convincingly.
So who’s telling the truth?
After focusing on Betty in the beginning, Allen and Lorin switch to Andy’s story and the embarrassment
he suffers as an unjustly accused rapist. Lorin’s teleplay earned an Emmy nomination, and his work—if not the
accolades—are equaled by Allen, who coaxes strong performances from his inexperienced leads and stages a terrific foot
chase to cap the film. Although the plot degenerates into implausibility, the sincere playing and direction keep you engrossed.
Also with Paul Comi, Robert Hogan, Whit Bissell, Phillip Pine, Howard Platt, Lesley Woods, George Murdock, Frank Maxwell,
Kenneth Washington, Paul Mantee, and Joby Baker. Al Adamson was the associate producer, and CRY RAPE! is easily his most reputable
CRY SWEET REVENGE (1977)—Directed
by Geza von Radvany and Al Adamson. Stars O.W. Fischer, Herbert Lom, John Kitzmiller, Olive Moorefield, Marilyn Joi.
In 1965, an expensive German production of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel UNCLE TOM’S CABIN played around
the world, including the U.S., to enthusiastic response. Leave it to huckster Sam Sherman at Independent-International to
land the American rights and turn it into a nasty exploitation movie. Sherman enlisted schlock director Al Adamson to film
new scenes of violence, nudity, and depravity, including an opening rape (with Marilyn Joi as the topless victim) and a long
sequence about a runaway slave who sleeps with a white woman and is then raped and tarred by three white men.
I-I released the now-R-rated movie with a marketing campaign
that compared it to MANDINGO and DRUM. CRY SWEET REVENGE is the title used for the 93-minute version Sherman released in Australia.
While it’s difficult to argue with Sherman and Adamson’s decision to sleaze it up, because they did make money
with it, you can tell that von Radvany’s original film has moments of class and high drama that don’t mix well
with the new scenes. Noted European star Lom is the loathsome Simon Legree, and Kitzmiller—Bond’s sidekick Quarrel
in DR. NO—is Uncle Tom. I-I re-released it as WHITE TRASH WOMAN, which must have blown the minds of anyone who paid
to see it.
CRYSTAL HEART (1987)--Directed by
Gil Bettman. Stars Tawny Kitaen, Lee Curreri, Lloyd Bochner. Pallid drama is a slight remake of THE BOY IN THE PLASTIC BUBBLE.
Curreri was born without immune defenses, and must remain encased in an artificial environment. He falls in love with a sexy
rock star (Kitaen). Funniest scene finds the two leads attempting to make love through a sheet of plexiglass. Kitaen looks
great nude, but that's about the only reason to see this.
CUJO (1983)—Directed by Lewis
Teague. Stars Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Danny Pintauro, Christopher Stone, Ed Lauter. ALLIGATOR director Teague is perfectly
cast for this suspenseful killer-pup flick from the pen of Stephen King (though he reportedly replaced Peter Medak during
production). It’s still one of the best King adaptations with its natural performances and one corker of a third act.
I imagine most people who watch CUJO soon forget the first half, which chronicles the crumbling marriage of Donna (Wallace)
and Vic (Kelly) Trenton, their timid little boy Tad (Pintauro), Donna’s unsatisfactory affair with handyman Steve (Stone),
and the family of mechanic Ed Camber (Lauter), who exist only to set in motion the extended setpiece that makes up most of
the second half. Tautly staged by Teague, it traps Donna and Tad inside the tiny Trenton Pinto with no defense against the
Cambers’ rabid St. Bernard Cujo. Little Pintauro is either one of the best child actors I’ve seen or he’s
really terrified in his scenes with the dog, because his hysterical crying is chilling. Likely, any CUJO remake would jettison
the subtext developed in the opening scenes in favor of a larger body count. Also with Mills Watson, Sandy Ward, Kaiulani
Lee, Jerry Hardin, and Billy Jacoby. Charles Bernstein’s score is very good. Teague’s next film was another King
movie, CAT’S EYE.
CULT OF THE COBRA (1955)—Directed
by Francis D. Lyon. Stars Richard Long, Faith Domergue, Marshall Thompson, William Reynolds, Jack Kelly, David Janssen, Kathleen
Hughes, James Dobson. This agreeable horror movie plays pretty stodgily under the frumpy hand of B-movie director Francis
D. Lyon (DESTINATION INNER SPACE), but it’s definitely worth viewing for its amazing cast of young contract players
who went on to television stardom.
Richard Long (THE BIG VALLEY), Marshall Thompson (DAKTARI),
David Janssen (THE FUGITIVE), William Reynolds (THE FBI), and Jack Kelly (MAVERICK) play G.I. buddies in Asia just after World
War II. For kicks, they sneak into a snake-worshipping ceremony, but a sixth pal (James Dobson) does something stupid, one
of the cultists is killed, and Dobson soon dies of a cobra bite. Weeks later, the five survivors return to New York City,
where sad sack Thompson, who has just lost his girlfriend (Kathleen Hughes) to roommate Long, takes up with pretty new neighbor
Faith Domergue. Who is a deadly snakewoman looking for revenge.
There was a time when the five male stars were on television
constantly, either in prime-time series or in movies playing in late night, and watching their familiar faces earnestly learning
their craft in the 20s and early 30s is great fun. So is the movie, by the way, particularly the first couple of reels in
which Lyon and U-I’s production designers create a visually appealing backdrop for exotic adventure.
Once the action shifts to Greenwich Village, the film settles
into a routine of actors being bumped off one by one, a slight precursor to a later generation’s slasher flicks. The
men are unsurprisingly killed in reverse order of their billing, which throws cold water on the suspense. On the other hand,
Lyon handles the shock scenes fairly well, and the sloe-eyed Domergue is perfectly cast as the mysterious femme, er, snake
fatale. Universal released it on DVD as part of its Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection set, but it’s straight-up horror
without a touch of science fiction. Also with Leonard Strong, Walter Coy, Olan Soule, Bing Russell, and Ed Platt (GET SMART).
THE CURIOUS FEMALE (1970)—Directed
by Paul Rapp. Stars Angelique Pettyjohn, Charlene Jones, Bunny Allister, Michael Greer. After a decade of working as Roger
Corman’s assistant director on films like PIT AND THE PENDULUM and THE TRIP, Rapp got the urge to direct a film of his
own. The result is this futuristic sex comedy starring Angelique Pettyjohn, a pneumatic blonde best known for guest shots
on GET SMART and STAR TREK.
In 2477, when an oppressed society is ruled by the Master
Computer, a group of horny young people gather regularly in a cave to screen stag movies from 1969. The bulk of Rapp’s
film is THE THREE VIRGINS, the film-within-a-film, about Susan (Pettyjohn), Pearl (Jones), and Joan (Allister), who use a
computer dating service to find their soulmates. With a script by Winston Paul, songs and score by Stu Phillips (BEYOND THE
VALLEY OF THE DOLLS), and professional but flat lighting by Don Birnkrant (ATTICA), THE CURIOUS FEMALE plays very much like
a protracted LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE with boobs. Meta jokes about low-budget filmmaking of the 1960s are pretty good.
The cast isn’t bad at light comedy, particularly
Greer (SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS) as Bixby, the dating service head who deals with a variety of oddball customers. The rape and
gay humor haven’t aged well, but the rest of the material is relatively harmless—quaint, even. The leading ladies
are attractive and happily not shy. Top-billed Pettyjohn is constantly photographed in—and out of—costumes that
accentuate her tremendous bust. You’ll probably recognize Joshua Bryant, Lincoln Kilpatrick, and maybe Ron Gans, who
is better known for his tremendous narration of drive-in trailers. One of many films of the era to use what I call the Mary
Tyler Moore font in its credits. Rapp’s next and last film was GO FOR IT, a surfing documentary narrated by Gans.
THE CURSE (1987)—Directed
by David Keith. Stars Wil Wheaton, Claude Akins, John Schneider, Kathleen Jordon Gregory, Malcolm Danare, Amy Wheaton, Cooper
Huckabee, Steve Carlisle, Hope North. Actor Keith (AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN) made his directing debut with this terrible
Italian horror movie produced by Ovidio Assonitis (PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING) with second unit direction by Lucio Fulci (THE
BEYOND) and a screenplay by David Chaskin (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 2). THE CURSE is based on H.P. Lovecraft’s
“The Colour Out of Space,” which also inspired DIE, MONSTER, DIE and CREEPSHOW.
A meteor screams outta space and plops down on the Tennessee
farm of Bible-thumping Nathan Crane (Akins), where he rules his wife Frances (Gregory), dimwitted fat son Cyrus (Danare),
and stepchildren Zack and Alice (the real-life Wheaton siblings). The visual effect of the meteor touching down is honestly
the worst ever seen in a film released by a major Hollywood studio. While the local physician (Huckabee) and realtor (Carlisle)
cover up the meteor’s existence, the space rock infects the local water supply, which turns people who drink it into
THE CURSE is probably the first film to turn a Tennessee
Valley Authority rep (THE DUKES OF HAZZARD’s Schneider) into a hero. Most of the acting is terrible, though not Akins,
who brings a little humanity to his harshly drawn Fundamentalist. The horror unfolds on the colorless sets too slowly, and
when it does, it builds to little more than a lame crumbling miniature. The three CURSEes that followed have nothing to do
with Keith’s film. Also with Steve Carlisle and Hope North. Music by Franco Micalizzi (VIOLENT NAPLES).
THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957)--Directed
by Terence Fisher. Stars Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart, and Christopher Lee as the Monster. The beginning of
Hammer Studios's reign as the leading producer of quality horror films. Cushing is the mad doctor who creates a living creature
from old body parts stolen from cemeteries. Lee is very good as the Monster, second only to Boris Karloff. Lee also played
the Mummy, Fu Manchu, and Count Dracula. Film features typically high Hammer production values, plus plenty of blood and sex.
Script by Jimmy Sangster.
CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN (1958)--Directed by Edward L. Cahn. Stars Richard
Anderson, Elaine Edwards, Adele Mara. Probably your only chance to see character actor Anderson's (THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR
MAN) in a starring role. He doesn't appear to be enjoying himself as Dr. Paul Mallon, a scientist investigating the remains
of a man turned to stone during the destruction of Pompeii 2000 years earlier. The Faceless Man was a gladiator who cursed
the village to doom when he was denied the love of a senator's daughter. Turns out Mallon's artist fiance Tina (Edwards) is
the reincarnation of the creature's lover, bringing the plaster caster back to life to stalk again and save her from Pompeii's
demise. Of course it shambles along so slowly you would think anyone could outrun the beast, but it manages to strangle and
crush a few people along the way to its bubbling demise.
About the only thing that shambles more slowly than the Faceless
Man is the script by SF vet Jerome Bixby, who's probably better known for his TWILIGHT ZONE ("It's a Good Life") and STAR
TREK ("Mirror, Mirror") teleplays. Filled with much tongue-twisting gobbledygook posing as dialogue and little pace or logic,
CURSE hits all the perfunctory keys on its way to a pull-it-out-of-your-ear climax. Anderson, the nominal hero, does nothing
to save his love from her watery fate, and spends much of his screen time flat on his back after another butt-whipping by
the creature. Also with Luis Van Rooten, Gar Moore, Felix Locher (FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER), Jan Arvan and Bob Bryant, who
wore the Faceless Man costume designed by Charles Gemora. Played in some scenes by a papier-mch figure, the Faceless Man suit
looks okay in black-and-white, although it always looks more like plaster than stone. One of five films directed in 1958 by
Cahn, including IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE, which was also penned by Bixby. Music by Gerald Fried.
OF THE PINK PANTHER (1983)--Directed by Blake Edwards. Stars Ted Wass, Joanna Lumley, Herbert Lom. Embarrassing attempt
to make money off the brilliant talent of Peter Sellers three years after his death. Wass is a Clouseau-like bumbling New
York cop who travels to England to find the missing Inspector Clouseau. Sellers, David Niven, Robert Wagner, and Capucine
are seen mostly through old footage from the cutting room floor. Slickly made by Edwards, but a bit on the ghoulish side.
Niven was so ill, he had to be dubbed by Rich Little! With Robert Loggia, Harvey Korman, Burt Kwouk and a surprise appearance
by Roger Moore. Believe me--Ted Wass is no Peter Sellers.
CURSE OF THE VOODOO (1965)--Directed by Lindsay Shonteff.
Stars Bryant Halliday, Dennis Price, Lisa Daniely. An arrogant white hunter (Halliday) on an African safari shoots and
kills a lion. One of the local tribes, the Simbaza, which worships lions, places a curse upon him. He could care
less, until his return to London, whereupon he is beset by hallucinations and visions of Simbaza assassins. As his doctors
scratch their heads looking for a medical cause of Halliday's odd behavior, the hunter begins drinking more and more, influencing
even his bitter estranged wife (Daniely) to look after him. Also known as CURSE OF SIMBA and VOODOO BLOOD DEATH, CURSE
OF THE VOODOO is a very boring movie, stocked with long takes of characters walking, driving and dancing and offering one
of horror cinema's most unlikable heroes. Halliday, quite frankly, deserves all the punishment he receives, making it
difficult to root for his eventual cure. Composer Brian Fahey works hard to make us care, but no go. Mystery writer
Leigh Vance and THE AVENGERS scribe Brian Clemens combined on the dull screenplay. Released Stateside by Allied Artists.
CURSE II: THE BITE--See THE BITE.
by Richard Ciupka and Peter Simpson. Stars John Vernon, Samantha Eggar, Linda Thorson, Lynne Griffin, Lesleh Donaldson. The
director’s credit for this troubled Canadian production goes on-screen to “Jonathan Stryker,” the egomaniacal
filmmaker played by Vernon. Ciupka and producer Peter Simpson battled during the film with each man shooting about half the
picture with his own vision of what it should be. Two-and-a-half years after the start of production, Jensen Farley Pictures
finally released it in America.
Director Stryker is auditioning beautiful actresses at
a spooky old mansion. Someone in a creepy old-lady mask is stalking the estate and slashing the hotties to death. Could it
be middle-aged movie star Samantha Sherwood (Eggar), who checked herself into a mental hospital as research for Stryker’s
new film and found herself stranded there by her scoundrel director? Is it has-been Brooke (Thorson), who tells the assembled
that she would kill for the leading role? They sound too obvious, don’t they? Hey, maybe it’s the creepy handyman,
The change in directors is obvious. The story makes no
sense. The killer’s identity appears to be arbitrary. There’s a weird scene in which Eggar explains that she escaped
the asylum to an unidentified woman who throws photos of Stryker’s girls into a fireplace and is never mentioned again.
By the time of the big chase at the end, I had no idea what was going on or even which characters were alive or dead. And
since everything moves so slowly, I had a lot of time to think about it. And what is up with that damn doll? I like the final
shot and the curtain effect that wipes from one scene to the next, but CURTAINS is a poor slasher. Also with Anne Ditchburn,
Sandee Currie, Deborah Burgess, Michael Wincott, and Maury Chaykin as Thorson’s flamboyant agent. Score by Paul Zaza.
Some of the effects makeup is by Greg Cannom.
THE CUT MAN CAPER--See POLICE
STORY: THE CUT MAN CAPER.
THE CUTTER (2006)--Directed by
Bill Tannen. Stars Chuck Norris, Joanna Pacula, Daniel Bernhardt, Bernie Kopell. 35 years after memorably fighting
Bruce Lee in the Rome Colosseum in RETURN OF THE DRAGON, Chuck Norris is as famous now as he ever has been. Conan O’Brien’s
LATE NIGHT jabs at Norris’ long-running WALKER, TEXAS RANGER TV series and the spoofy list of “Chuck Norris Facts”
that have been making the Internet rounds (“When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s
pushing the Earth down.”) have pulled the chopsocky star back into the national spotlight, five years after WALKER left
the airwaves. Taking advantage of the new buzz, which reveals Norris as a man with a sense of humor, Nu Image has released
the first major Chuck Norris film in a decade.
THE CUTTER was filmed in Spokane, Washington with director
Bill Tannen, with whom Norris worked on HERO AND THE TERROR, an unexceptional serial-killer thriller that came near the end
of the star’s exclusive contract with Cannon in the 1980’s. “Unexceptional” also describes THE
CUTTER, which may have been made with Norris’ middle-aged WALKER target audience in mind, since only a couple of cast
members appear to be under the age of 40.
The intriguing opening finds Dirk (played by Daniel Bernhardt,
a Swiss Van Damme-lookalike who starred in three BLOODSPORT movies), an assassin and master of disguise, swooping down to
an archeological dig in the Sinai, murdering all the treasure hunters, and swiping the priceless Breastplate of Aaron right
off a dusty mummy’s chest. The breastplate is encrusted with perfect gems that must be cut into smaller pieces
for sale on the black market. Dirk takes the stolen artifact to Spokane, where he kidnaps Isaac Teller (Bernie Kopell,
“Doc” from THE LOVE BOAT), an elderly diamond cutter and Auschwitz survivor, and forces the old man to work his
craft on the spectacular gems. Isaac resists, giving his niece Elizabeth (Joanna Pacula) time to hire John Shepherd
(Norris), a private detective who specializes in kidnap cases.
Writer Bruce Haskett’s plot doesn’t grow
much from there, stringing together a few mildly effective chases and fight scenes between easy-to-follow clues and investigative
techniques familiar to WALKER’s family-friendly audience. Shepherd is, of course, a “lone wolf” who
doesn’t bow to authority, represented in THE CUTTER by Parks, an officious FBI agent played by Nu Image regular Todd
Jensen. Marshall Teague, who played the heavy in both the first and last WALKER episodes, and Tracy Scoggins (still
shapely in her 50s) are friendly Spokane cops. Handsome Dean Cochran, the star of Nu Image’s SHARK ZONE and AIR
MARSHAL, provides some light as a comic-relief lawyer. Executive producer Aaron Norris (Chuck’s brother) is a
hitman. 80-year-old German character actor Curt Lowens is a welcome sight. Lowens specialized in playing Nazis,
and he does so again in THE CUTTER, adding dramatic weight to an otherwise unassuming action picture as Colonel Speerman,
the officer who murdered Isaac’s family in Auschwitz and is the brains behind the current caper.
Chuck Norris was 65 when he shot THE CUTTER, and it’s
to his disadvantage that he worked so hard in an unsuccessful attempt to look younger. Sporting a strangely colored
hairpiece and what appears to be a surgically enhanced face, Norris now has looks to match his typically unnatural acting
performance. It’s odd that he has not improved as an actor over the last three decades--one would think that doing
anything everyday for thirty years would make you better at it--but his martial arts skills have also, understandably, deteriorated
over time. Even with son Eric Norris, THE CUTTER’s stunt coordinator, looking out for the star’s best interests,
it’s obvious that Chuck is being heavily doubled in the fight sequences.
With his looks, action skills and acting ability fading,
what’s next for Chuck Norris? I hate to say it, but if THE CUTTER is an indication of what Norris fans can expect,
perhaps he should stop now. Not that THE CUTTER is awful; Tannen’s hackneyed direction does Barkett’s routine
script no favors, but the movie is no worse than a typical WALKER episode. It certainly espouses WALKER’s core
American values of right over wrong. Old-fashioned, perhaps, but never out of style.
NOTE: The MPAA, in its infinite idiocy, has granted
THE CUTTER an R rating for “violence.” This is a ridiculous decision with absolutely no merit. THE
CUTTER is devoid of sex, nudity and gore and features very mild profanity and action scenes that could air uncut on network
television. It’s a helluva lot less violent than many PG-13 movies, and is a perfect example of the influence
that the major studios hold over the MPAA ratings board.
CUTTER’S WAY (1981)--Directed
by Ivan Passer. Stars Jeff Bridges, John Heard, Lisa Eichhorn, Stephen Elliott. The performances are excellent
in this unusual, slow-moving drama that’s two parts character study and one part murder mystery. After a brief,
unsuccessful theatrical run as CUTTER AND BONE, in which United Artists attempted to market it as a thriller, CUTTER’S
WAY was re-released in arthouses, where it still didn’t do very well, but picked up a reputation as a superior cult
film. Heard (BETWEEN THE LINES) receives the showy role of Alex Cutter, a one-eyed, one-armed, one-legged Vietnam vet
whose vitriol knows no limits. He’s selfish, obnoxious, mean, antagonistic and still married to Maureen (Eichhorn),
an alcoholic resigned to life with Alex in their crummy little house. A frequent houseguest is Alex’s best friend
Richard Bone (Bridges), a breezy beach bum who sells boats at the marina and picks up extra dough by sleeping with middle-aged
wives. As Cutter is fond of reminding him, Bone has spent his life avoiding any sort of commitment, stress and decision-making,
while Alex was off in ‘Nam becoming a cripple. Bone’s lackadaisical attitude toward life is due to change,
however, when he thinks he sees oil magnate J.J. Cord (Elliott) dumping the body of a murdered teenager in a rainy alley.
Gloomy and somewhat stagy, CUTTER takes awhile to warm up to. Mystery fans may be disappointed to learn that it really
isn’t about “whodunit”, and those accustomed to likable characters eager to be befriended will certainly
find CUTTER’s characters underwhelming. Writer Jeffrey Alan Fiskin adapted Newton Thornburg’s novel; an
early Fiskin credit is the biker flick ANGEL UNCHAINED! Filmed in Santa Barbara, California. Also with Ann Dusenberry
and Arthur Rosenberg. Look for Julia Duffy (NEWHART) and Billy Drago in small roles. Music by Jack Nitzsche.
CUTTING CLASS (1989)—Directed by Rospo Pallenberg. Stars Donovan Leitch,
Jill Schoelen, Brad Pitt, Roddy McDowall, Martin Mull. Despite a genre-friendly cast that includes Mull (SERIAL), McDowall
(PLANET OF THE APES), and Schoelen (POPCORN), the real draw here is 25-year-old Brad Pitt, getting third billing behind Schoelen
and rock-star-son Leitch two years before his breakout role in THELMA AND LOUISE. As arrogant basketball star Dwight, Pitt
is one of many suspects in the serial killings taking place around the local high school. He’s also one-third of the
film’s central love triangle involving his girlfriend, nice cheerleader Paula (Schoelen, adorable as always), and his
former friend Brian (Leitch), just released from a mental hospital after he was accused of killing his father.
Pallenberg, a former colleague of John Boorman (EXCALIBUR) directing his one and only film, and
writer Steve Slavkin, who went on to pen a lot of kiddie television, have a tough time finding a consistent tone. CUTTING
CLASS isn’t a spoof or a parody, but it’s littered with a lot of silly comedy that meshes horribly with the scary
stuff. For instance, Mull, playing Schoelen’s father, the local district attorney, is shot with an arrow early in the
film and spends the rest of the running time comically stumbling around the swamp looking for help.
McDowall is very amusing as the school’s pervy principal, seen at one point sneaking around
backstage trying on flowery theatrical costumes, but, again, it’s a performance that belongs in a different film. Slasher
films were well out of vogue by the time CUTTING CLASS was released, and Republic bypassed a theatrical release for VHS. It’s
a rather bloodless film with a couple of ingenious kills and one excellent sense of suspense in Schoelen’s bathroom.
Also with Brenda Lynn Klemme, Mark Barnet, Robert Glaudini (red herring), Nancy Fish, Norman Alden, Eric Boles, and Dirk Blocker
(hilarious on a trampoline).
CY WARRIOR: SPECIAL COMBAT UNIT (1989)—Directed by Giannetto de Rossi. Stars
Frank Zagarino, Henry Silva, Sherrie Rose, Brandon Hammond. It’s a darn shame that the awesome Henry Silva didn’t
hang around Rome long enough to dub his performance in this TERMINATOR ripoff, because his performance as a hilariously foulmouthed
crazy would have ranked among his most watchable if he had. At the other end of the spectrum is Frank Zagarino, whose role
as a stiff, mechanical robot is almost within his narrow range. Some clumsy dolts playing poker accidentally release a “Cy
W”—an experimental cyborg being developed by the military as a secret weapon. The Army sends the violent psycho
Hammer (Silva) and his men to bring it back. How Hammer got into the military is beyond me, because he has no patience for
following orders or protecting civilians. With every other word out of his mouth a profanity (“Piece-of-shit sardine
can!”), the perpetually pissed-off Hammer demands his men blast the crap out of Cy W, even if civilians are in the line
of fire. Cy W, who can heal his injuries and is able to detect weapons through clothes (these special effects are laughable),
befriends a pretty widow (Rose) and her annoying son (Hammond), which has never happened in any movie before, nope, not ever.
Derivative story, dull action, dreadful film. But not so dreadful that Silva couldn’t have saved it.
CYBER ZONE (1995)--Directed by
Fred Olen Ray. Stars Marc Singer, Rochelle Swanson, Matthias Hues. Many major characters are named after old-time
movie directors in this cheap BLADE RUNNER ripoff. Singer is Jack Ford, a “droid gunner” hired by a corporation
to retrieve four sexy “pleasure droids” worth big bucks. Against his will, Ford is teamed up with a nerdy
(i.e. secretly sexy) technical expert (Swanson) who follows him into mutant strip joints (Brinke Stevens is a dancer there),
cathouses, mobsters’ lairs, and even into a sparkling underwater city (played by the L.A. Department of Water and Power)
owned by a Jesus freak. Touches of humor, good pacing and some nude knockouts keep it all watchable. Also with
Ross Hagen, Robert Quarry, Robin Clarke, Lorissa McComas, Hoke Howell and Kin Shriner. Also released as DROID GUNNER.
by Richard Pepin. Stars Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Richard Norton, Jim Maniaci, John Aprea, Stacie Foster. A little
bit of TERMINATOR 2, a smidge of JUDGE DREDD, and a whole lot of ROBOCOP are mixed into this violent PM Entertainment extravaganza.
CYBERTRACKER is set in the not-too-distant future when the criminal justice system is run by computers, and criminals are
tried, convicted, and executed on the spot by gun-toting robots called “cybertrackers,” all of which are played
by big, bald Maniaci. Secret Service agent Eric Phillips (Wilson) finds himself up the proverbial creek and on the run when
he sees his boss, Senator Dilly (PICASSO TRIGGER’s Aprea), commit murder. With Dilly’s security chief Ross (Aussie
martial arts star Norton) on his tail, Eric joins a group of underground rebels, led by news anchor Connie (Foster), who are
dedicated to extinguishing cybertrackers and putting the dispensation of justice back into the hands of the people.
As a PM movie produced by Pepin and Joseph Merhi, CYBERTRACKER
offers plenty of chases, gun battles, and explosions. It’s remarkable how Pepin and Merhi were able to create such elaborate
action sequences on small budgets, though in CYBERTRACKER’s case, it’s easy to see that director Pepin and stunt
coordinator Cole McKay appropriated money from the sets and lighting budgets. Wilson, never the most charismatic of performers,
is typically likable as Phillips, and he and Norton (FORCE: FIVE) give their fans a real treat by staging a pretty cool fight
at the end. Jacobsen Hart, who penned over a dozen PM movies, attempts characterization by giving Wilson a dead wife for him
to moon over. The movie was successful enough to bring Wilson, Foster, Maniaci, and Pepin back a year later for CYBERTRACKER
2. Veteran TV actors Abby Dalton (THE JOEY BISHOP SHOW) and Joseph Ruskin play heavies.
CYBERTRACKER 2 (1995)—Directed
by Richard Pepin. Stars Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Stacie Foster, Jim Maniaci, Anthony DeLongis. PM Entertainment’s
CYBERTRACKER sequel may hold the record for bullets fired in a low-budget movie. Producer Pepin and Joseph Merhi’s firepower
budget must have been extravagant, and they didn’t leave much for script polishes or recognizable supporting actors.
CYBERTRACKER 2 stars “World Kickboxing Champion” Wilson as Secret Service agent Eric Phillips, who opens the film
in a firefight with counterfeiters in which his fellow cops are getting their clocks cleaned. Enter nigh-invulnerable CyberTracker
#9 (Maniaci), which manages to both save Eric’s life and wipe out an entire horde of bad guys almost singlehandedly.
Yes, CT2 steals as much as it can from the ROBOCOP and
TERMINATOR movies, right down to a police station massacre and a car chase in the Los Angeles River. Fiendish arms dealer
Paris Morgan (DeLongis) has used stolen cybertechnology to whip together his own tracker—an exact duplicate of Eric’s
wife Connie (Foster), a former freedom fighter turned television reporter. When the ConnieTracker is seen assassinating the
governor on live TV, the Phillipses find themselves on the run from the cops and an evil Don “The Dragon” Wilson
There’s no mistaking this PM potboiler for another studio’s output, wallowing in as much gunfire,
exploding cars, and slow-motion glass-breaking as possible, though much of the action is stock footage from CYBERTRACKER and
other PM movies. Of course, PM’s trademark stunt of flipping burning cars over the top of other burning cars is played
out here too. Considering Wilson was a world champion kickboxer, Pepin doesn’t let him do much kickboxing, preferring
instead to shove a couple of guns in his hands and let him fire away, but I doubt action fans will care too much. Those who
like a touch of wit, characterization, or style in their shoot-’em-ups may want to go elsewhere, but if you merely want
something to provide loud bangs through your speakers, CYBERTRACKER 2 should do it. Also with Tony Burton (ROCKY), John Kassir,
Stephen Rowe, Athena Massey, and GENERAL HOSPITAL regular Steve Burton.
CYBORG COP (1993)--Directed by
Sam Firstenberg. Stars David Bradley, Todd Jensen, Alonna Shaw, John Rhys-Davies. Months after being drummed out
of the agency for shooting a suspect in a hostage situation, former DEA agent Jack Ryan (Bradley) jets off to a Caribbean
island in search of his brother Philip (Jensen), a fellow agent who was the only survivor of a raid upon the empire of scientific
genius Kessel (Rhys-Davies), who uses drug profits to fund his experiments. And his latest is a real doozy: capturing
human beings, wiping their memories and transforming them into robot assassins to be sold to the highest bidder. And
guess whose brother is Kessel's latest guinea pig? Clearly influenced by ROBOCOP and THE TERMINATOR, CYBORG COP is forgettable
rental fare, using its SF premise as a springboard to launch a bevy of gunfire, broken glass, martial arts fights and explosions.
In the hands of the capable Firstenberg, who directed several similar features for Cannon during the 1980's, Rhys-Davies delivers
a wonderfully hammy performance, which more than makes up for Bradley's typically rocky acting. Music by Paul Fishman.
Bradley and Firstenberg reunited for CYBORG COP II, but neither was involved with CYBORG COP III.
CYBORG COP II (1994)--Directed
by Sam Firstenberg. Stars David Bradley, Morgan Hunter. What are the odds on it happening again? DEA agent
Jack Ryan (Bradley) once again runs afoul of cyborgs. This time, his archenemy, a serial killer named Starkraven (Hunter),
has been snatched by the U.S. government and used as a guinea pig in an experiment to turn humans into unstoppable cyborg
soldiers. Starkraven, now redubbed Spartacus, and his cyborg cronies escape from custody and go on a massive spree of
destruction, forcing Ryan to break rules and bust heads in an effort to stem the carnage. Firstenberg presents a steady,
solid array of good-quality explosions and stunts, which puts this direct-to-video sequel on about the same level as the first
movie. Also with Jill Pierce, Victor Melleney, Dale Cutts and Ken Gampu. Set in Iowa (!), but filmed in South
Africa, which leads to some unconvincing location work.
CYBORG SOLDIER (2008)—Directed
by John Stead. Stars Rich Franklin, Tiffani Thiessen, Bruce Greenwood. UFC middleweight Franklin imitates Arnold
Schwarzenegger, but without the quips, in this retread of THE TERMINATOR. It’s more competent than you might expect
under the guidance of veteran stunt coordinator Stead, who doesn’t coast on fancy editing or camera techniques.
The storytelling is nearly as old-fashioned as the story, which presents yet another military experiment gone wrong and the
innocent young woman caught in the middle. I.S.A.A.C. (Franklin) is a convicted murderer re-engineered and programmed
by Dr. Simon Hart (Greenwood) to be the ultimate killing machine, able to take multiple bullet and stab wounds without being
killed. It escapes from Hart’s Vermont facility and ends up on the run with reluctant small-town deputy Lindsey
Reardon (Thiessen), who empathizes with the cold but not cruel superman. Terrific Ontario scenery and good pacing help
disguise that you’ve seen all this before. Franklin is no actor, judging from this, but at least he has the excuse
that he’s playing an emotionless automaton, which is more than, say, the WWE’s John Cena can claim in THE MARINE.
There’s less fighting than you would think for an action movie starring an Ultimate fighter. Also with Wendy Anderson,
Kevin Rushton and Aaron Abrams.
CYBORG 2 (1993)--Directed by Michael
Schroeder. Stars Elias Koteas, Angelina Jolie, Jack Palance, Allen Garfield, Billy Drago. You don't see many direct-to-video
sequels with two Academy Award winners in the cast, but here they are. To be fair, Angelina was only 18 years old at
the time and making (for all intents and purposes) her film debut (she won a Best Supporting Actress trophy for 1999's GIRL,
INTERRUPTED), but Palance was only two years past his CITY SLICKERS win. Didn't the award and publicity earn him a better
stack of scripts to choose from?
CYBORG 2 has next to nothing to do with CYBORG, a Cannon
release starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, and even lies about the original plot in order to better serve its own story (clips
of Van Damme and costar Dayle Haddon are used). In 2087, the world is run by two huge rival corporations that manufacture
cyborgs, one in Japan named Kobayashi and one in the U.S. The American company, Pinwheel, run by sleazy Dunn (Garfield),
has developed a powerful explosive known as "Glass Shadow", which they plan to implant into sexy cyborgs and then blow them
up during sexual climax with Kobayashi executives, leaving Pinwheel no competition in the world market.
Pinwheel's secret weapon is the luscious Cash (Jolie),
who escapes from her creators' underground laboratory along with her human karate instructor (!) Colt (Koteas, the guy you
hire when Christopher Meloni is unavailable). Together, they make a mad dash for freedom from a hired bounty hunter
named Bench (Drago), whose face fell apart in a losing struggle with battery acid five years earlier. Popping up at
odd intervals to aid the fugitive lovers is Mercy (Palance), who is somehow able to see and be seen through any television
set or computer monitor and always knows where his charges are.
I'm surprised I was able to describe that much of CYBORG
2's plot, since it makes little sense most of the time and is bogged down with groggy exposition and droning dialogue by Schroeder
and his co-writers Mark Geldman and Ron Yanover (THE JUNGLE BOOK). Adding to the confusion is a dreadfully slow pace,
cheap sets and unconvincing special effects and makeup (partially done by the KNB Group).
As for the acting, Schroeder seems to have spent all
his time in the director's chair, because the performers seem on their own. Palance, who probably worked a day, reads
most of his lines off a TelePrompTer, since only an eye or his mouth appear on camera 95% of the time. While Drago's
Method mumbling can sometimes be entertaining, here he seems to be reaching for a characterization that isn't really there,
and I found him more irritating than anything else. Koteas is an intense lead, but miscast as a martial arts lead.
And as for Jolie (who performs her first of many on-screen
nude scenes), there's no indication of the stardom that lies ahead of her. She's stunningly beautiful but unconvincing,
even as an emotionless sex toy. She possesses the grace, but also the awkward detachment, of the fashion model that
she was. Karen Sheperd, Sven-Ole Thorsen, Tracey Walter, Robert Dryer (SAVAGE STREETS), Elizabeth Sung and DEATHSTALKER
Richard Hill also appear. Believe it or not, Schroeder returned with CYBORG 3 and a completely new cast. Garfield
dedicated his performance to the late actor Ray Sharkey (THE IDOLMAKER). "Filmed entirely on location in Los Angeles
CYBORG 2087 (1966)—Directed
by Franklin Adreon. Stars Michael Rennie, Warren Stevens, Karen Steele, Eduard Franz, Wendell Corey. United Pictures’
stodgy science fiction programmer was probably made back-to-back with DIMENSION 5, with which it shares director Adreon (PANTHER
GIRL OF THE KONGO), writer Arthur C. Pierce (WOMEN OF THE PREHISTORIC PLANET), producer Earle Lyon (PANIC IN THE CITY), cinematographer
Alan Stensvold (IT’S A BIKINI WORLD), composer Paul Dunlap (I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF), art director Paul Sylos (WILD
IN THE STREETS), and other crew members. Both DIMENSION 5 and CYBORG 2087 are turgid affairs, due to Adreon’s lock-down-the-camera
directing style, Pierce’s ludicrous scripting, and Lyon’s puny budget. This one is probably a tad better, thanks
to its familiar cast, unintentional laughs, and bemused similarities to THE TERMINATOR (which credited Harlan Ellison’s
OUTER LIMITS episode “Soldier” as its inspiration).
Rebels from 121 years in the future send Garth A7 (THE
DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL star Michael Rennie), a cyborg, back to 1966 to prevent Dr. Marx (Eduard Franz of THE FOUR SKULLS
OF JONATHAN DRAKE) from announcing his new scientific breakthrough to the world. Garth’s orders are to either kidnap
Marx and bring him back to his time machine stashed in a western ghost town or kill him. Pierce’s screenplay reveals
that future governments will use Marx’s invention to enslave the human race. On Garth’s tail to stop him from
stopping Marx are two killer robots called tracers carrying sweet ray guns. Using Marx’s future device, Garth mind-rapes
the scientist’s beautiful assistant, Sharon (Karen Steele), and forces her to help him carry out his mission.
FORBIDDEN PLANET’s Warren Stevens helps out as
biologist Carl Zellar, who claims not to be a medical doctor or a surgeon, yet he has surgical instruments in his home lab
and performs surgery on Garth to remove his homing device. The tracers, played by old-time stuntmen Troy Melton and Dale Van
Sickel, look hilarious jogging around town while holding their left wrists in front of them like they’re perpetually
checking their watches. Even funnier are Zellar’s daughter Laura (Hanna-Barbera voice actress Sherry Alberoni) and her
partying pals, who dance wildly to bad rock music (one of them is macho ROLLERBALL co-star John Beck, sans mustache in his
Adreon directs with expediacy over style. At least he
gets outside on the backlot occasionally for some fresh air, unlike DIMENSION 5, which remained mostly housebound. Adam Roarke
(DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY), Byron Morrow, Richard Travis, and MATCH GAME hottie Jo Ann Pflug are among the past and future familiar
faces dotting Adreon’s supporting cast, and Wendell Corey, who stayed plastered throughout THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES, grabs
third billing as the local sheriff trying to make heads or tails out of the evening’s weird events.
CYCLE GIRLS--See THE YOUNG CYCLE GIRLS.
THE CYCLE SAVAGES (1969)--Directed
by Bill Brame. Stars Bruce Dern, Melody Patterson, Chris Robinson. Fans of fuzz guitars and unparalleled screen psycho Dern
should enjoy this brutal biker flick produced by Hollywood DJ Casey Kasem and future California Lieutenant Governor Mike Curb.
Dern is Keeg, leader of a biker gang that also kidnaps young girls for his brother's white slavery operation. Keeg is offended
when local artist Romko (Chris "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV" Robinson) sketches some drawings of the gang engaged
in various debaucherous acts, so he slices Romko's tummy, forces pretty prostitute Lea (Patterson) to keep him engaged while
the gang destroys the artist's apartment, and eventually presses his hands in a steel vise. Dern's performance is way out
of hand--charismatic, depraved and probably improvised. He's great fun to watch, especially compared to the inexpressive Robinson
and 20-year-old Patterson, who probably shocked her F TROOP fans by baring some skin for the camera. Kasem pops up for one
scene as Dern's brother, and the cast also includes Gary Littlejohn, sexy Maray Ayres and an unbilled Scott Brady as a vice
cop. I've heard Steve Brodie is in the film, but I must have missed him. AIP veteran Jerry Styner composed the fuzzy score.
From the director of FREE GRASS.
CYCLE VIXENS--See THE YOUNG CYCLE
(1987)--Directed by Fred Olen Ray. Stars Heather Thomas, Jeffrey Combs, Martin Landau, Robert Quarry, Martine Beswicke.
If nothing else, Ray sure knew how to put together a cast for these junky ‘80s action movies. Hey, it’s Bowery
Boy Huntz Hall as the wacky motorcycle salesman! Troy Donahue! Russ Tamblyn! Even if you aren’t involved in the story,
you should have a good time watching this collection of fallen stars and TV faces in action. The reason Ray was able to afford
all these people is because they only worked for a day or two. Donahue probably shot his part in two hours.
As implausible as this thriller is, the biggest stretch
is that sexy blonde Thomas (THE FALLGUY), first seen hitting the Nautilus machine in a bust-bursting Spandex outfit, would
be dating dorky scientist Combs (RE-ANIMATOR). When he’s murdered while boogieing with Heather at a punk club,
she’s enlisted with keeping his super-duper weaponized experimental motorcycle—the Cyclone—out of evil hands.
Here, the U.S. government, represented by CIA operatives Quarry (COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE) and Beswicke (DR. JEKYLL & SISTER
HYDE), are on equal footing with villainous traitor Landau (slumming a year before his Oscar nomination for TUCKER).
Ray attempts a few chases and stunts, but lacks the money
and style to successfully pull them off, despite the icy presence of ace stuntman Dar Robinson as an assassin. CYCLONE is
also too slackly paced to stand among Ray’s better B-pics. Also with Ashley Ferrare, Tim Conway Jr., Michael Reagan,
Bruce Fairbairn, and Dawn Wildsmith. Michelle Bauer briefly gets naked in a shower (yay), but unfortunately, Heather does
not (boo). Music by David A. Jackson. T.L. Lankford did an uncredited polish on Paul Garson’s screenplay.
THE CYCLOPS (1957)—Directed by Bert I. Gordon. Stars James Craig, Gloria
Talbott, Lon Chaney Jr., Tom Drake. Gordon covered almost every inch of Los Angeles’ vaunted Bronson Canyon and County
Arboretum to represent Mexico in his second science fiction movie. As writer, director, producer, and special effects creator,
Gordon deserves every inch of blame, though it must be said that he has made movies a lot worse than THE CYCLOPS. Like his
first film, KING DINOSAUR, this one is about four travelers stranded in a distant land where they find giant animals.
Susan Winter (Talbott, later to star in the good I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE) hires pilot
Lee (Drake) to fly her into a Mexican valley where her fiance’s plane crashed three years earlier. Along for the search
are Russ (Craig), who has fallen in love with Susan, and Marty (Chaney), who discovers uranium in the valley and favors leaving
the rest of the party behind so he can return to civilization and file a claim. After freaking out at the sight of giant birds
and lizards, the foursome stumbles into a cave and are trapped there by a thirty-foot bald man with mutated features and one
eye! It takes Susan forever to figure out what you’ve already guessed about the cyclops’ identity.
Jack H. Young’s gooey Cyclops makeup is pretty frightening, but Gordon’s effects are
terrible. The cyclops’ wrestling match with a (real) snake couldn’t look phonier, and a shot where a giant hand
lifts Talbott out of frame may be the worst effect of all time. Also with Dean Parkin (star of Gordon’s WAR OF THE COLOSSAL
BEAST), Vincent Padula, Marlene Kloss, Manuel Lopez, and “special voice effects” by Paul Frees! Score by Albert
Glasser. Played on an Allied Artists double bill with another Gloria Talbott-starrer, DAUGHTER OF DR. JEKYLL.
THE CYNIC, THE RAT AND THE FIST
(1977)--Directed by Umberto Lenzi. Stars Maurizio Merli, Tomas Milian, John Saxon. This is a brisk Italian crime
drama bolstered by a tough performance by the blond Merli as Tanzi, a two-fisted ex-cop marked for assassination by an escaped
convict known as the Chinaman (Milian). The Chinaman is also looking to muscle in on turf owned by American mobster
Frank DiMaggio (Saxon), leading to a series of chases, tough talk and beatdowns. What's great about Merli is that he's
constantly beating the crap out of people in his movies--good guys, bad guys, even women if he thinks they have it coming
and sometimes even if they don't. Steady direction by Lenzi and colorful acting by the leads bolster this violent thriller,
which is full of double-crosses and sleaze. Original title: IL CINICO, L'INFAME, IL VIOLENTO.