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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Monday, March 6, 2006
Angels Of The Apocalypse
2001's CRIMSON RIVERS is a very good French crime drama that could easily be 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. I'm surprised there hasn't been an American remake of it, like Hollywood did with INSOMNIA.

Tonight I saw the sequel, CRIMSON RIVERS II: ANGELS OF THE APOCALYPSE. It's also a good movie, not 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.

Christopher 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.

In 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.

Meanwhile, 24 continues to be the best show on television with a two-hour broadcast tonight. Not a false step to be seen with the exception of Elisha Cuthbert's robotic turn as Jack Bauer's bitchy daughter Kim, who accepted her father's Phoenician return with what I think was a glare. It's kind of hard to tell what emotions Cuthbert was trying to express. But, damn, she's cute.

Also rising from the ashes is C. Thomas Howell's acting career. He and star Kiefer Sutherland are presumably friends who have appeared in at least two films together, which can be the only explanation as to how Howell ended up guesting on a hit TV series. To be fair to the guy, he works all the time in DTV features and occasionally on television, even though he's never been much of an actor and has lost whatever good looks he had as a young man. He and Sutherland are the same age, but you wouldn't know it to see them together.

Also guest-starring on 24 for the first time tonight were JoBeth Williams, who was a very good and very attractive leading lady in '80s films like THE BIG CHILL and TEACHERS, and Ray Wise, who was in ROBOCOP with another 24 guest star, Peter Weller. Too bad Kurtwood Smith is busy on THAT '70S SHOW. He would kick ass as a dickhead CTU boss (okay, 24 producers, get to work on that for next season!).

8404 songs on iTunes now:
"Crimson and Clover"--Tommy James & the Shondells
"Celebration"--Kool and the Gang
End Titles of THE TERROR--Ronald Stein
"Love Will Find A Way, Part II"--The Electronic Hole
"It Was A Very Good Year"--William Shatner!
"Won't You Try Saturday Afternoon"--Jefferson Airplane
"Studio di Colore"--Ennio Morricone
"My Name Is Nobody"--Ennio Morricone
"I Can Show You"--Rupert's People
"A Child's Smile"--Clear Light
Theme from COOL MCCOOL
"The Flying Machine"--The Flying Machine
"One More Drink"--Mason
"I've Just Seen You"--Act of Creation

Posted by Marty at 10:44 PM CST
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Sunday, March 5, 2006
I Got 17
Now Playing: 2006 Academy Awards
I think picking 17 Oscars correctly is my new record, although I think I was helped by a bunch of no-brainers among this year's nominations. The only major shock of the night was the Original Song award to HUSTLE AND FLOW, and I don't think CRASH was expected to overcome BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN for Best Picture. I don't know why the Independent Spirit Awards continue to exist, since the same films nearly always make up the Academy Award nominations.

Thanks to everyone who came out to my Oscar party. Chicken was the big winner of the pool, picking 12 winners (I disqualified myself from my own contest) and earning the new 2-disc DOG DAY AFTERNOON DVD. Grady was 2nd (Steven Seagal double feature), Darcy 3rd (Stallone double feature) and Roger Dale 4th (Chuck Norris in LOGAN'S WAR).

Jon Stewart was superb, the best Oscar host in many years, except perhaps for Steve Martin. Pencil Stewart in for next year if he wants it. I think George Clooney would be an excellent host too.

Salma Hayek: hot!

Posted by Marty at 11:33 PM CST
Updated: Monday, March 6, 2006 8:00 AM CST
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Win One For The Zipper
Now Playing: AIRPLANE!
Paramount did something interesting with its latest AIRPLANE! DVD. Not only did the studio port over the audio commentary (with writer/directors Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and David Zucker) from the original disc, but it has also added what it calls the "Long Haul" edition. The DVD contains a lot of new interview segments and a few deleted scenes, but instead of placing them in its own supplemental section, they are "inserted" into the movie using branching technology.

Basically, while you're watching the movie, at intervals a logo will pop up on the screen, and then you'll be taken away from the film for a few minutes to watch a newly produced interview clip pertaining to the scene you're watching. For instance, while the Hare Krishnas are pestering people in the airport, the film cuts away to a minute or so with actor David Leisure (EMPTY NEST), who played one of the Hare Krishnas and talks about his experience. Or, as the stewardess played by Lorna Patterson (PRIVATE BENJAMIN) demonstrates the duck life vest, the disc cuts away to the present-day Patterson (looking very beautiful 25 years later) telling a story about how the prop worked.

It's all very interesting, and with the exception of Julie Hagerty, Paramount rounded up just about every important living participant, including Abrahams, Zucker and Zucker, Robert Hays, Peter Graves, the two black jive guys, Leslie Nielsen, the special effects supervisor, even the kid to whom Graves asks, "Have you ever seen a grown man naked?"

The Long Haul edition is as advertised--make sure you set aside three hours or so if you want to watch it straight through. Obviously, this isn't recommended if you've never seen the movie before, because rarely do more than a couple of minutes go by before we are whisked away to a new segment. The downside of this is that the Long Haul edition is the only way to see these extras. They aren't located anywhere else on the DVD. So if you want to see one of the deleted scenes, you have to find the spot in the film where the extra is placed and be branched off to it.

That's a drag, but I still think the Long Haul version is an innovative way to present DVD extras. It works with a movie like AIRPLANE!, because of the movie's quick pace and fragmented structure, but I don't know how well the process would work with a more standard feature.

It's still kinda funny to see Peter Graves' perplexed acceptance of the movie's success. It's no secret that Graves was very apprehensive about doing AIRPLANE! He thought the humor was tasteless and didn't understand why the three directors wanted him, an actor known for playing very straight action and dramatic roles, to be in it. All the way through shooting, Graves didn't get the humor, and really winced at all the "ever been to a Turkish bath" stuff. It wasn't until the first screening, which his wife dragged him to, that he realized, from listening to the audience's loud laughter, that the movie genuinely was funny.

On the other hand, Robert Stack, also not known for his wild sense of humor, understood the movie completely. Lloyd Bridges sort of did, but once asked Stack just before shooting a scene, "What's the joke here?" Stack told him, "Lloyd, we're the joke," which is exactly right.

One aspect of AIRPLANE! not often noted (although Abrahams, Zucker and Zucker do in one of the interview segments) is Elmer Bernstein's terrific score that perfectly hits the proper parodic notes. It also opened up, along with ANIMAL HOUSE, a new direction for Bernstein's composing career, as he started scoring lots of comedies, like STRIPES (very good) and GHOSTBUSTERS, whereas I don't think he had ever done a big comedy prior to ANIMAL HOUSE two years before AIRPLANE! (which doesn't contain a typical "comedy" underscore).

The new DVD is officially called the Don't Call Me Shirley Edition, and since AIRPLANE! really should be in everyone's movie library, you might as well pick it up.

Posted by Marty at 12:12 AM CST
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Friday, March 3, 2006
8 Years, 4 Months
Fuck Duke Cunningham.

Now let's throw the book at Scooter and Bob Ney and Tom DeLay.

And then Rove, Cheney and Bush. Well, a man can wish, can't he?

Speaking of Bush, the stupid bastard thinks Pakistan is an Arab country.

“I believe that a prosperous, democratic Pakistan will be a steadfast partner for America, a peaceful neighbor for India and a force for freedom and moderation in the Arab world,” the president added.

Later, White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters Bush meant to say Pakistan would be a force in the Muslim world. Pakistan is not an Arab country.

Yeah, just like he didn't mean to say “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees,” even though he was specifically briefed that the levees were in danger of breaching.

Even Fox News has Bush polling at less than 40%. If I was the president, I'd be doing better than 39%.

Posted by Marty at 11:56 PM CST
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Wednesday, March 1, 2006
Attaboy, Luther!
I remembered this week that I have a personalized autograph signed by the late Don Knotts. It's on the inside cover of his autobiography.

As cool as it is, I have to admit that I never met the man. My good friend Dave Crome acquired it for me several years back. He was covering a Kansas City Royals game for a KC TV station, and was riding up the elevator to the press box, when the lift stopped and two men got on: actors Norman Fell and Don Knotts. That's right--both THREE'S COMPANY landlords! They were in town doing a stage production of THE ODD COUPLE (I believe). Dave chatted with them, got tickets, saw the show, and later got the book and had Don sign it to me. A very cool gift and something I treasure. At least on the same level as the Deacon Jones autograph Chris Dowell got for me!

After five seasons and five Emmy Awards, Knotts left THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW in 1965 for a feature-film contract with Universal. He did a movie a year for the remainder of the 1960's, as well as several guest appearances as Barney Fife on the Griffith show and MAYBERRY R.F.D. He ended up getting back into television with the shortlived DON KNOTTS SHOW in 1970 and many more guest shots and Disney movies.

But THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN is, I think, Knotts' best film. Set in rural Rachel, Kansas, Don plays Luther Heggs, a meek, excitable typesetter at the local newspaper with dreams of being a reporter. He isn't taken seriously by his editor (Dick Sargent, later the Fake Darrin) or his reporter rival (Skip Homeier). That is, until he accepts a dare to spend the night in the creepy Simmons mansion, an abandoned old house rumored to be haunted since Old Man Simmons murdered his wife there 20 years previously and then committed suicide. That night, Luther encounters hidden staircases, a pipe organ that plays by itself, and a bloody portrait of the late Mrs. Simmons. His article in the newspaper wins him great notoriety; he even gets to speak at the Chamber of Commerce picnic and court Alma Parker (Joan Staley), apparently Rachel's only female under the age of 60.

THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN is Knotts at his wound-up best, a corucopia of fidgets and shakes, pushing his physical comedy skills to the brink. He was a unique comic talent, and just watching him in this movie, even when he isn't saying anything, is a delight. Knotts played it safe in his first film out of the box, bringing along ANDY GRIFFITH veterans Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum to craft the very funny screenplay and Alan Rafkin, another GRIFFITH vet, to direct. However, the movie's secret weapon is the amazing jazz score by Vic Mizzy, whose jaunty main theme is later rearranged as the spooky organ tune Luther hears in the mansion. It's hard to get the tune out of your head once you've heard it.

Actually, for some of us, the 26-year-old Joan Staley may be a secret weapon. Blessed with the sweet look of a Girl Scout and the curves of a showgirl, the stacked Staley was a PLAYBOY Playmate at age 18, but exhibited a downhome sexiness that made you almost believe that you had a chance with her. Or that Don Knotts could have one.

As its nutty title indicates, THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN is one of the most quotable comedies of its era. From as far back as my initial viewings of it (usually as part of Don Knotts Week on the Channel 3 EARLY SHOW), I remember lines like, "Bang! Right on the head!", "Mister Boob. That's me. B-Double-O-B. Boob," "When you work with words, your words are your work," and especially, "Attaboy, Luther!" Almost everybody of a certain age, when you say, "Attaboy, Luther!", they know what you're talking about.

Attaboy, Don. Thanks for the memories.

Posted by Marty at 11:33 PM CST
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Monday, February 27, 2006
You Can't Catch Me On The Grade
Goddammit. Would someone please stop killing all of our badass 80-year-old actors? Whoever took the quickenings of Don Knotts, Darren McGavin and Dennis Weaver is a helluva lot stronger...and cooler...tonight, that's for sure.

Dennis Weaver died of cancer this weekend at the age of 81. Weaver was one of my first "favorite actors". When I was a kid, he was starring in two of my favorite TV series: MCCLOUD and GENTLE BEN, which was then in morning syndication and a show I watched every morning before walking to school.

MCCLOUD is likely the show Weaver is best known for. Premiering on NBC in 1970. it was loosely based on the Clint Eastwood film COOGAN'S BLUFF and starred Weaver as Sam McCloud, a laconic detective from Taos, New Mexico and frustrates his high-strung boss (the late J.D. Cannon) with his unusual approach to fighting big-city crime. Originally part of the FOUR-IN-ONE umbrella series and then folded into the enormously successful NBC SUNDAY MYSTERY MOVIE (in which several different series, including COLUMBO, rotated in the same time slot), MCCLOUD lasted for seven seasons and was good fun, mixing action, mystery and light humor. The first season is out on DVD, so check it out if you're interested.

Weaver starred in, I believe, eight different TV series, including the early years of GUNSMOKE as lame deputy Chester, KENTUCKY JONES as a kindly veterinarian and the currently running WILDFIRE on ABC Family. I was a big fan of GENTLE BEN, in which Weaver played an Everglades park ranger with a son named Mark (Clint Howard) who had a pet bear named Ben. It has recently be remade with Dean Cain in the Weaver role, but I'd like to see the original '60s series in reruns.

Weaver also appeared in several movies, his most notable obviously being DUEL, which was Steven Spielberg's first film (made for television) and a thriller masterpiece that benefits from Spielberg's expert direction, Richard Matheson's taut teleplay, Billy Goldenberg's jangly score, and Weaver's marvelously tense performance. It takes a lot of effort for a TV leading man to portray a wimp, but Weaver was smart enough to check his ego at the door and turn in a strong performance in a monumental film. He sort of recycled the role in the later TERROR ON THE BEACH, in which Weaver and his family are stalked on their camping trip by teenage hooligans (THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY's Susan Dey plays his nubile daughter). If you'd like to remember Dennis Weaver this week, you might do so with DUEL (also on DVD), which also remains one of the best films of Spielberg's canon.

Posted by Marty at 10:51 PM CST
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Sunday, February 26, 2006
More R.I.P.
We're having lovely weather in Champaign, but the skies are still darker after the deaths this weekend of two wonderful actors: Don Knotts and Darren McGavin.

Here's an image I cribbed from the Internet of Knotts winning one of the five Emmy Awards he earned for playing one of television's seminal sitcom sidekicks: deputy Barney Fife on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW (also in the photograph are fellow Emmy winners Carl Reiner of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW and Peter Falk of THE DICK POWELL SHOW).

You can read more about Knotts here if you like. We all know about Barney Fife and Mr. Furley, the sleazy, twitchy landlord he played on THREE'S COMPANY, but let's not forget his pre-Fife appearances as one of Steve Allen's comic repertory on THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW or from the many movies he starred in for Universal in the late 1960's (after leaving the Griffith show) and for Disney in the 1970's. I have great memories of going to the theater as a kid (usually the Lyric in Monticello or the Widescreen Drive-In in Urbana) to see Knotts in THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG, HOT LEAD & COLD FEET, NO DEPOSIT, NO RETURN, THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG RIDES AGAIN and, my favorite, GUS about the donkey that kicks field goals. Knotts also starred with his APPLE DUMPLING partner Tim Conway in two other films that I also saw theatrically, THE PRIZE FIGHTER and THE PRIVATE EYES.

I can't imagine growing up without Don Knotts on television or at the movies, and I'm glad we have DVDs to remind us of how funny he was. Attaboy, Luther!

Darren McGavin was also a television favorite, whether you remember him from playing Mike Hammer in the 1950's, a down-and-out private eye in THE OUTSIDER (which may have been an influence on THE ROCKFORD FILES) in the 1960's, many made-for-TV movies and guest appearances in the '70s and '80s, or for his memorable guest shots on THE X-FILES (as former FBI agent Arthur Dales) and MILLENNIUM (as Lance Henriksen's father in the terrific episode "The Curse of Frank Black") in the '90s. Chances are, you associate McGavin with his greatest role: the charming and doggedly determined monster-hunting journalist Carl Kolchak in the highly rated TV-movies THE NIGHT STALKER and THE NIGHT STRANGLER, as well as the TV series KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER, which ran 20 episodes on ABC during the 1974-75 season.

It's not an exaggeration to say that everyone has been affected by a McGavin performance, particularly that of the taste-challenged, gruff, but loving father in A CHRISTMAS STORY, which will be viewed by families during the holiday season for the next century. He bounced between TV, films and the stage since the 1940's, appearing in hundreds of productions as a leading man or character actor. He starred in seven TV series, including RIVERBOAT, where he shared a contentious relationship with young co-star Burt Reynolds, and several miniseries, including a six-hour adaptation of Ray Bradbury's THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES that I was drawn to as a lad. Not long ago, I watched him being outsmarted by a seductive Barbara Bain and the rest of the Impossible Missions Force in "The Seal", a memorable MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE episode in which the IMF uses a trained cat to help steal the McGuffin.

Coincidentally, Knotts and McGavin worked together in two films for Walt Disney: HOT LEAD & COLD FEET and NO DEPOSIT, NO RETURN.

Posted by Marty at 2:42 PM CST
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Thursday, February 23, 2006
Odds 'N' Ends
For some reason today, I was thinking about THE MONEY MAZE, which is one of those TV shows that nobody would believe ever existed if it weren't for that handful of us who actually saw it. When I was a kid, game shows were huge on daytime TV, and whenever I was home sick from school (in the days before home video, home computers, etc.), I'd spend the day watching them. MONEY MAZE I got to see more often, because it came on late in the afternoon, and it was sometimes still on after I walked home from school.

MONEY MAZE is notable for three things: its unusual concept, its gigantic set, and its host. MONEY MAZE is the only game show hosted by Nick Clooney, then a Cincinnati news anchor whose son George reportedly often worked behind the scenes. Clooney became more famous later on as a personality for American Movie Classics, but he'll always be host of THE MONEY MAZE to me.

The setup was basically like this, best as I remember it. A married couple were the contestants. The set was a large maze, and within the maze were five buttons. The wife stood on a platform above the maze, and yelled at the husband, ordering him which direction to go. Four of the five buttons lit up a "zero" and the fifth was a "one". Within the time limit (60 seconds?), the husband had to run through the maze, following directions hollered by his wife, and find and press as many of the buttons as he could. The best you could do was to light up 1-0-0-0-0, which would win you $10,000. If you got only three, say 1-0-0, you won $100. Of course, you could get all four zeros, which would win you $0, so you had to get that 1 no matter what.

I believe you had to compete in a Q-and-A game with another couple to win the chance to enter the maze. Game shows aren't exactly known for having a lot of action, so it was fun as a kid to see people running around this ridiculous maze, especially when the husbands would fuck up and get reamed by their old ladies.

The ratings were apparently not that great, but few game shows were successful airing in the late afternoon. It was also an expensive show, because it was taped in New York City and other shows needed to use the studio. The time and expense of taking the massive maze set down and putting it back up to tape later shows was too prohibitive for a show that was not tearing up the ratings, so ABC cancelled the show after about seven months. I'm surprised no one has ever tried to revive it, because it's a great idea. LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN announcer Alan Kalter was the MONEY MAZE announcer; maybe he could even host a new version.

I also read online today that CBS News correspondent Christopher Glenn was retiring at the age of 67. As you can see at that link, Glenn covered many important stories in his 35 years at CBS, but I think the most important thing he ever did were the IN THE NEWS segments that used to air on Saturday mornings. Watching Saturday-morning cartoons was a big part of my life when I was a kid, but what sticks with me longer than most of those shows is IN THE NEWS, which were 60-second news segments that explained current events in a clear, precise manner than children could comprehend. They weren't dumbed down for kids, but Glenn's comforting voice and straightforward storytelling ability ensured that my brother and I didn't change the channel while "the news" was on.

I was thrilled to see Glenn speak once at an Illinois News Broadcasters Association convention. He, of course, led an interesting life and had much to say and to teach about news gathering, but I wanted to know about IN THE NEWS. I was happy to hear from him that IN THE NEWS was something he was very proud of and one of his favorite jobs at CBS. I wonder if he'll ever know how important it was to some of us.

I'm considering what would, for me, be a major lifestyle change, and that's an earlier bedtime. I've always been something of a night owl. Even in high school, I rarely got to bed before midnight on a school night. During most of my adult life, my working hours in radio took place after dark, so it was not unusual for me to go to bed anytime between 4:00-8:00am and get up after noon. When I began working 8-5 at Horizon Hobby five years ago, my sleep schedule shifted dramatically (my work hours at my previous job were 2:00-7:00pm), but I still hardly ever get to bed before midnight. I'm going to be 39 in April, and I notice that I'm often drowsy at work. Maybe it's just that the temperature is always too high or maybe it's the lethargy of sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day. Or maybe I should get more than seven (maximum) hours of sleep at night.

Oh, I don't expect to be hitting the hay at 10:30pm every night, not with so much to write, so many books to read, so many friends to hang out with, so many crappy movies to watch. But maybe an occasional early bedtime wouldn't hurt. I don't even remember the last "school night" that I got eight hours of sleep.

On iTunes shuffle:
"Crack in the Cosmic Egg"--Totty
"Mud in Your Eye"--Les Fleur de Lys
"A Question of Temperature"--The Balloon Farm
"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey"--Paul & Linda McCartney
"Good Connection"--Five By Five
"Norwegian Wood"--The Beatles
"Little Sister"--Elvis Presley
"Dracula Restored"--Hans J. Salter from HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN
LOST IN SPACE Season One theme--John Williams
"Peacefully Asleep"--Life 'N' Soul
"Blacula Strikes!"--Gene Page from BLACULA
"Idea"--The Bee Gees
"Prodigal Son"--The Rolling Stones

Posted by Marty at 10:56 PM CST
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Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Hunting 20 Men And 1 Woman
What is it with these TV guys that, when they get the chance to break free from network censorship, they go hog wild with the sleaze and gore? Dennis Donnelly, best known for static Jack Webb productions like EMERGENCY, made the ultra-sleazy THE TOOLBOX MURDERS. John Peyser (THE RAT PATROL) directed THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS; Guerdon Trueblood, the nihilistic THE CANDY SNATCHERS. Don Medford began directing episodic television in the 1950's. One of the very few features he was able to direct was THE HUNTING PARTY, a violent, unlikable western obviously influenced by THE WILD BUNCH.

THE HUNTING PARTY was also produced and written by men with television backgrounds who went out of their way to copy not only Peckinpah, but also the popular Italian westerns of the period, even to the point of shooting on location in the Spanish desert and hiring Riz Ortolani to compose the score. They also made sure to bring plenty of blood bags to squib.

Oliver Reed plays Frank, an illiterate outlaw who kidnaps prim schoolteacher Melissa (Candice Bergen) so she can teach him to read. Her husband is Brandt Ruger (Gene Hackman), an impotent, sadistic cattle baron out with his rich buddies on an annual hunting party. Like Dick Cheney, who hunts little birds from a car, Ruger and his pals do their hunting from Brandt's private train, complete with a brothel car (and a Chinese hooker whom Brandt tortures). When Ruger learns that his wife, whom he treats no differently than the cattle he raises for slaughter, has been snatched, he and his party track Frank and his gang into the desert, armed with state-of-the-art rifles that can hit their target from 800 yards. This is no hunt. It's a massacre. Meanwhile, as Frank attempts to stay 801 yards ahead of his trackers, Melissa comes down with a serious case of Stockholm syndrome, falling in love with her kidnapper (and rapist), even choosing to escape with him when given a chance to return to her husband.

Medford opens the film with a crosscut between Frank and his gang slaughtering a cow and Brandt attempting unsuccessful rough sex with his wife. I'm sure there's some sort of message there, but THE HUNTING PARTY is only as memorable as it is for its gore content, squibs blasting fake blood in all directions, sometimes in slow motion. Hackman, billed third behind Reed and Bergen, was soon to become a major star when THE FRENCH CONNECTION opened a few months later. The supporting cast is littered with familiar faces like Mitchell Ryan (DHARMA & GREG), L.Q. Jones, G.D. Spradlin and William Watson, but the film's best performance is by Simon Oakland, who goes along with his friend Hackman's obsessive manhunt, but comes to regret it later.

It was nice of MGM to release THE HUNTING PARTY on a nice letterboxed DVD, but there are other titles in their library more deserving of treatment. Like THE GREEN SLIME.

On iTunes:
"Knock Three Times"--Tony Orlando & Dawn
"Man with a Harmonica"--Ennio Morricone from ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST
Theme from THE EDDIE CAPRA MYSTERIES--John Addison
"Red Nova"--Stu Phillips from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
"International Flight"--David Snell
"What Are You Going to Do?"--The Moving Sidewalks
"Crimson and Clover"--Tommy James & the Shondells

Posted by Marty at 10:58 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2006 11:01 PM CST
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Monday, February 20, 2006
He's Clean, He's Mean, He's The Go-Between
Now Playing: ST. IVES
Sorry the Crane Shot has been silent lately. I was out of town over the weekend attending LD's wedding. Cheeseburger and Shark Hunter were kind enough to offer accomodations, and a good time was had by all.

The only crappy movie I was able to see while away was VAMPIRES: THE TURNING, which is, surprisingly, a sequel to 1998's JOHN CARPENTER'S VAMPIRES, a meanspirited and occasionally entertaining vampire western with a spirited, foulmouthed performance by James Woods as a badass vampire hunter. Carpenter wasn't involved with the direct-to-video sequel, VAMPIRES: LOS MUERTOS, which starred Jon Bon Jovi, of all people. I didn't see that one, but it had to have been better than 2005's VAMPIRES: THE TURNING, a confusing, dull and illogical DTV sequel with a colorless cast.

Last night I watched VOLUNTEERS, which I had never seen for some reason. Now I know why: it isn't very good. It should have been. Tom Hanks and John Candy reunite the year after SPLASH was a big hit, CHEERS writers Ken Levine and David Isaacs did the screenplay, and Nicholas Meyer, hot off TIME AFTER TIME and STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, directed it. Of course, Meyer isn't exactly known for rollicking comedy, and VOLUNTEERS is pretty flat. Tim Thomerson is really good as a psycho CIA agent, and Hanks has some nice chemistry with Gedde Watanabe (GUNG HO), but oddly gets nothing going with Candy. Hanks met his wife-to-be Rita Wilson on this film, so at least it worked out for somebody. There are a handful of clever sight gags, and a couple of lines made me laugh, but Hanks' character is an unlikeable jag, and there isn't much funny here.

Also, thanks to Netflix, I caught up with a Charles Bronson movie I hadn't seen. ST. IVES was the first of nine movies Bronson made with director J. Lee Thompson. In it, he plays a professional "go-between" (I don't know how you get that gig) named Raymond St. Ives who is hired by wealthy crook John Houseman to ransom some ledgers stolen from Houseman's safe. Of course, no job is as easy as it seems, and when Bronson shows up at the ransom site with $100,000 and finds no ledgers, but a dead guy in a dryer, he realizes this gig isn't going to be the cakewalk he was hoping for. He does eventually sleep with Jacqueline Bisset, which you would imagine would make the whole ordeal worthwhile. What's really cool about ST. IVES, in addition to the punchy Lalo Schifrin score, is the supporting cast. If you watched more than five movies made during the 1970's, you've seen most of the performers before. Harry Guardino (THE ENFORCER), Dana Elcar (BARETTA) and Harris Yulin (NIGHT MOVES) play cops. Maximilian Schell gets "guest star" billing as a shrink. Michael Lerner (BARTON FINK) is a lawyer. Elisha Cook (THE MALTESE FALCON) is a hotel clerk. Daniel J. Travanti (HILL STREET BLUES), Burr DeBenning (THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN), Val Bisoglio (QUINCY, M.E.), Dick O'Neill (CAGNEY & LACEY), George Memmoli (PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE), stuntman Dar Robinson and Olan Soule (the voice of Batman on SUPERFRIENDS) are in it too. You'll also see Robert Englund and Jeff Goldblum (also in Bronson's DEATH WISH) in small roles.

Warners' DVD looks really nice and even includes a couple of extras: the original theatrical trailer (widescreen and in good shape) and a short promotional featurette made during production called BRONSON ST. IVES that basically details how awesome and popular Charles Bronson is. Good stuff.

On iTunes:
"Train on a One Track Mind"--American Breed
"Do You Feel It Too?"--Monkees
BULLITT Main Title--Lalo Schifrin
"Walking Out on Love"--The Beat
"How About Now"--King Richard & the Knights
BARNEY MILLER--Jack Elliott & Allyn Ferguson
"Change Is Now"--The Byrds
"Video Killed the Radio Star"--The Buggles
"Motorcycle Circus"--Luis Bacalov from KILL BILL
"Teach Your Children"--Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
"When You Find Out"--The Nerves
"Space Oddity"--David Bowie

Posted by Marty at 11:49 PM CST
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