Ha ha!

You certainly never know what movie he'll review next!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Burl reviews A New Life! (1988)

I say, ha ha! It’s Burl, and I’m here to review a picture about a real New York div*rce! Ha ha, no, I’m not talking about Husbands & Wives, though I sort of wish I was! (Hey, ha ha, the style seemed pretty novel at the time, and Woody was all over the news!) Anyway, this is a picture by sometime Woody cohort, Alan Alda, and I watched it recently precisely because it appeared by every indication to be the least interesting movie ever made!
Turns out I wasn’t far wrong! But I kept watching right to the end, because this was an after-the-fact example of a genre that fascinates me: the late 70s-early 80s adult comedy-drama! It’s My Turn and The Last Married Couple in America are both paragons of the form, and Alda’s first feature as a writer-director, The Four Seasons is practically the epitome! So I stuck with A New Life, because it seemed like an extension of the same movie a decade on!
It begins as Alda is resentfully agreeing to a divorce from his wife, Ann-Margret, whom we know from Grumpy Old Men of course! Alda’s a shouty, type-A sort of fellow (he’s a Wall Street trader and wears a lab coat to work for some reason), and is resolutely old-fashioned in his understanding of the world! He seems to have almost pathologically ignored his wife through their marriage! His best buddy, meanwhile, on and off the trading room floor, is Barney Miller himself, Hal Linden, playing a chauvinistic silver fox!
So Alda and Linden hit the scene! Alda colours his beard and hair and purchases an all-new lifestyle suit! Ha ha, he looks as ridiculous as you can imagine! Thankfully a tr*nssexual robs him of these garments at the first opportunity! After a while he meets a lady doctor (Veronica “Cannonball” Hamel) whose mere t*uch makes his heart race, and from then on he’s in hot pursuit! Meanwhile Ann-Margaret meets a dashing but weird young sculptor (whose movie art was bland but not egregiously bad for once) played by John “Windy City” Shea!
Of course there are troubles! Shea turns out to be exactly as weird as he first appears, and Alda turns cartoonishly squeamish when Hamel becomes pr*gnant and he has to do gross things like be in the room while she’s having an ultrasound! Ha ha, I suppose the joke is that he’s such a nance after so many years of playing a doctor and doing meatball surgery (ha ha, yum yum!), but the squeamishness is so extreme and pathetic as to be unbelievable!
It’s all very bland and TV-like, thanks to the TV cast and the colourless directorial stylings of Alda! I recall his earlier movies (The Four Seasons and Sweet Liberty) as at least seeming like movies, but it’s been a while and I could be wrong! The picture at least comes to a relatively sweet and true-to-life close, with Ann-Margaret zooming around on her scooter, free, free, free! and Alda pushing a baby carriage around the park! Largely, however, it was as smooth and unexciting as I’d assumed it would be all these years, and I can’t recommend it with very much enthusiasm, or at all, really! Ha ha! I give A New Life one use of the F word as granted by a PG-13 rating!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Burl reviews The Beach Girls (1982)

Hul-lo, hul-lo, it’s Burl at the beach! Ha ha, yep, it’s me, here with a review of another Crown International beach picture from back in the day, but not nearly as far back in the day as it seems to be from! Ha ha, I’ll explain! The picture is called The Beach Girls, and it was apparently made in 1982, but in almost every way it seems to have jetted in straight from 1976!
There’s just something about it! Maybe it’s the presence of James Daughton from that earlier Crown International classic Malibu Beach, or maybe it’s that the movie was probably shot on short ends left over from the mid-70s, or maybe it’s Ginger and Duckie, the pair of hormonal Id creatures which power this Tempest-like endeavor! Ha ha, the more I think about it, the more this appears to be a beach party adaptation of The Tempest!
Debra Blee, who would later appear as a shrill harpy in The Malibu Bikini Shop, is the Miranda figure, who is granted the use of her Uncle Carl “Prospero” Purdue’s beach house for the summer! Along for the trip are her pals Ginger and Duckie, who work together as the shapeshifter Ariel in my Shakespearian reading of the picture; and their laid-back, guitar-strummin’ pickup Scott, who makes a pretty fair Fernando! Chaos agents Ginger and Duckie quickly whip up a party by inviting everyone from the pizza boy to the diaper lady to get down and b*ogie! Skulking about like Caliban is the mustachioed gardener, played by Bert Rosario from Stick, who peeks through windows and fences at all the sunb*thing and sk*nny-dipping ladies, and who eventually finds himself mud wrestling with a Chinese chauffeur! Ha ha!
There’s some nonsense about mariju*na smuggling, and garbage bags full of p*t that wash up on the beach and end up befogging and enchanting the partygoers’ minds, but it doesn’t add much that a few generously-filled j*ints wouldn’t have just as well! Adam “Frogs” Roarke, as Uncle Carl Purdue, arrives in the middle of the party and magicks up a metaphorical storm by suggesting that he doesn’t want a party going on at his house after all! Meanwhile an astronomer neighbor trains his telescope on the beach house rumbustification while his perpetually irate wife hounds him unmercifully! The wife is played by the very familiar Mary Jo Catlett, who faced beach trouble of a different kind on Blood Beach! Ha ha!
It’s got a lot of antics and quite a number of nak*d ladies, but it still seems kind of sluggish and slightly pep-free! It’s also even sillier than it should be, with the sad trombone making frequent appearancres! But there’s enjoyment to be had nevertheless, and the consequence-free world it proposes is pretty attractive, ha ha! I can’t say it’s great, I can’t say it’s good, but fairly it lives up to its title, and that’s a petty strong compliment right there! Ha ha, I give The Beach Girls one and a half pocket salamis!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Burl reviews Commando! (1985)

Ha ha, it’s Burl, and I’m back… with a review of an Arnold Schwarzenegger picture! No, not Total Recall again! It’s called Commando, and I’m sure you’ve all seen it, and I’d certainly seen it before too, being that it was one of the more popular films enjoyed by my school chums and I in the olden VHS days!
Commando is probably Arnold’s most stripped-down and basic action movie! It comes in at a lean 90 minutes and has almost enough story to half-fill that time! It seems Arnold is John Matrix, another of his curiously-named cod-American characters! Ha ha, why couldn’t he have played “Heinrich Obermayer” or something, just once? Though there is a moment here in which, after grumping about Boy George’s andr*gyny, he actually admits to being foreign, bellowing “When I was a boy in East Germany, ha ha, the Communists considered rock ‘n’ roll subversive – who knows, maybe dey right!”
Anyway, John Matrix has a little daughter, Jenny Matrix, ha ha, and she gets kidnapped by the henchmen of none other than Dan “Buckaroo Banzai” Hedaya, playing a dictator who apparently wants to stage a coup of Catalina! He’s got a merry band of henchmen helping him out, like David Patrick Kelly from Dreamscape, rocking a three tie-clip look; Bill ”Action Jackson” Duke (for my money the movie’s ringer), and of course Vernon Welles, “welles-known,” ha ha, from Weird Science and Innerspace! John Matrix has only a short time to catch up with his daughter, and thankfully Rae Dawn Chong, whom we’re familiar with from Fear City, is along to help him out!
Punchfights and shootslplosions ensue, all to the sounds of a James Horner score filled with steel drums borrowed from 48 Hours; and John Matrix pauses only to deliver a quip or drop David Patrick Kelly and his three tie clips off a cliff! It’s not to be believed how Rae Dawn Chong becomes his greatest helper after being virtually kidnapped by him, but perhaps the sight of this musclebound fellow swinging across the Sherman Oaks Galleria on a giant sausage-balloon simply captured her heart, ha ha! (Though it ought to be noted that, curiously, there’s no hint of r*mance between these two characters at any point in the picture!)
It all comes to a head at Hedaya’s island stronghold, where John Matrix blows people up and shoots them and throws saw blades at them and chops them with machetes, then finally impales Vernon Welles on a big pipe right through his chain mail and into an even bigger steam pipe! If they’d had the courage of their convictions, though, they’d have shown a moment where the transfixed Welles tilts forward and some sizzling, bloody giblets slide out; but Commando is nevertheless really the template for the Violent 80s Hollywood Action Movie, alongside Cobra and a few other dubious gems!
The picture is slick and quick, which should be no surprise as it was directed by Mark Lester: not the child actor from Oliver!, but the fellow who brought us such varied gems as Truck Stop Women, Roller Boogie and Armed and Dangerous! It gets rolling right off the bat, and most of the scenes have things going on in them! Schwarzenegger is as robotic here as in The Terminator, but you still root for the big lug – that rascal John Matrix, ha ha! I enjoyed the picture, even though the TV I watched it on made it look as though it had been shot on consumer-grade video! I’m going to give Commando – and nostalgia figures into this rating, ha ha – two and a half tie clips!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Burl reviews The Sentinel! (1977)

Boogeda-boogeda, it’s Burl! Ha ha, I’m here to review one of those 1970s devil thrillers, and this is no The Exorcist or The Omen or The Legacy or even The Car – it’s the notorious shockshow known as The Sentinel!
Ha ha, the very first thing to mention about this picture is the extraordinary cast! By garr, you’ve got to see it to believe it! It seems everybody wanted to stop by the set of The Sentinel and just make an appearance for the sake of it, and maybe to get a free lunch! The second thing to know is that it was directed by Michael “Death Wish II” Winner, for whom it seems unsuited!
The picture involves supermodel of the world Alison (played by Christina Raines, years before she would go out for smokes in Nightmares), who is not quite ready to settle down with mustachioed pre-vampire Chris “Fright Night” Sarandon, and so spends the first third of the movie apartment hunting! We see several spectacular New York apartments, and learn the outrageous rents they’re asking – sometimes six hundred dollars a month or more for a spacious midtown Manhattan flat! Ha ha, scared yet? Meanwhile Alison starts pitching fits at work, which doesn’t amuse photographer Jeff “Into the Night” Goldblum or commercial director Jerry “F/X” Orbach!
Eventually she finds a place in Brooklyn, but on the river and with a great view of Manhattan! It’s huge and only four hundred a month, but the catch is that it’s the gateway to h*ll! Ha ha, more immediately, the problem is weird neighbours, like a pussycat-stroking Burgess “The Manitou” Meredith, or elderly blind priest John "Sunset Cove" Carradine or leotard l*sbians Sylvia “The Funhouse” Miles and Beverly “Slow Burn” D’Angelo, who only f*ndle one another and behave as I suppose the people who made this movie expect lesb*ans to behave!
José “Dune” Ferrer is, of course, The Monsignor, and Arthur Kennedy plays his priest-in-chief! They know what’s going on, as does sinister real estate agent Ava Gardner, but when Raines is struck by a vision of her cake-eating reprobate of a father who is dead, ha ha, but who appears prowling around her apartment in grey-skinned dishab*lle, and whom she tries to send back to the grave at the point of a sharp kitchen knife! Soon detectives Eli “Circle of Iron” Wallach and Christopher “The Dead Zone” Walken are on the case, and ha ha, somebody should have given these two their own buddy cop show!
Sarandon, who has his own secrets, is trying to figure out what’s going on, and he enlists the help of such figures as Martin “Spaghetti Western” Balsam and William “Christmas Vacation” Hickey! Of course it all climaxes with what this poorly-directed and ugly-looking movie is most famous for: the parade of real-life freaks who purport to be denizens of h*ll! Ha ha, I suppose they might have needed the job, but it surely has a different feel than Freaks, where the unusual people have personalities and agency! Here they’re merely meant to be scary and shocking, like the lesbia*s!
At the end, after Tom “Last Rites” Berenger shows up and we see that Alison has taken Carradine’s place, you might think to yourself “What did I just watch?” It’s a crude and loony movie, and the script is terrible, but it has a few compelling ideas, one scary scene, and some great makeup from the late, lamented wizard Dick “Spasms” Smith! It also occasionally manages an eerie atmosphere, despite doing almost everything wrong in attempting to generate same! Ha ha! Still, I’ll give The Sentinel one and a half mogey leotards! It’s no good, but oh, that cast! Ha ha!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Burl reviews Summer Rental! (1985)

Hi, Burl here with another movie review – a fluffy summer holdover called Summer Rental! This was one of the first starring vehicles for John Candy: he’d spent years as a second banana – albeit a big one – supporting comedy stars like Tom Hanks (in Splash and Volunteers), Richard Pryor (in Brewster’s Millions), Bill Murray (in Stripes) and Elliot Gould (in The Silent Partner)! But thanks to this picture, we could look forward to such Candy-centric pictures as Armed and Dangerous and Uncle Buck!
Candy plays Jack Chester, an air traffic controller showing signs of burnout! He’s ordered to take a vacation, so he loads up the family and it’s next stop: Florida! There they take up residence in a seaside shack, and Candy meets two older men who will become important to what scanty shreds of a plot Summer Rental has to offer! The two men are Richard Crenna, whom we know from such films as Death Ship and The Evil, playing a local big-shot and sailor-man who’s managed to win the regatta every year for nearly a decade; and the other is a pirate restauranteur played by Rip “Extreme Prejudice” Torn, who becomes Candy’s ally and sailing mentor!
Karen Austin, whom we may know from Fish Hawk and Far From Home, plays Candy’s wife here, and does so in the same amiably boilerplate way as Stephanie Faracy would in The Great Outdoors a few years later! Kerri Green, who captured hearts in Lucas and The Goonies, plays his eldest daughter, and there are a couple of other kids as well!
The movie clocks in at a lean 87 minutes, but is very obviously missing entire subplots that someone (the studio, or maybe director Carl “All of Me” Reiner) decided should be given the chop! Ha ha, John “Demon Knight” Larroquette shows up as a solicitous vacationer who helps the family (minus Candy) get into a screening of Top Secret, and is perfectly positioned to serve as a romantic rival to Candy, but then poof! He’s gone! There was other stuff like that too!
Altogether it wrecks the image of the finely-crafted 80s Paramount entertainment machines I described in reviewing Footloose, because the movie is kind of muddled, ha ha! (It reminded me of another 1985 Paramount picture, Blue City, in that way!) There’s not a whole lot of forward momentum, or vim, or pep, or, frankly, laffs! Sure, Candy is funny and appealing, because he always was! Crenna and Torn are good too, but the script, I think, is the culprit here! Ha ha, no jokes! Reiner’s direction is a little bland too! It’s a pretty forgettable little fushtwanger and has all the plot of an actual vacation, so I’ll just give Summer Rental one and a half elderly Chinese pirates!

Burl reviews Footloose! (1984)

Ha ha, it’s Burl here, cutting loose! Yes, today I’m reviewing a picture called Footloose, which is a movie I’d never seen before just the other day! It’s strange how many of these iconic 80s pictures I’ve never seen, considering how many 80s movies I have seen! Ha ha! But no, never seen Top Gun, never seen Dirty Dancing, never seen Risky Business or Bull Durham or Three Men and a Baby, never seen Six Pack or Stroker Ace or Yes, Giorgio!
But now I can hold my head up high and say to the world that I’ve seen Footloose! Ha ha, finally I am cut loose from that ash-grey pit where dwell those slumped and lumpen creatures who’ve yet to taste its charms, and like the characters in the movie, I now can dance like a man who carries a small portable trampoline with me everywhere I go!
Still, when I watched the picture I felt like I’d seen it before, because the story is so basic and so clearly told here in that 80s Paramount Pictures high-concept style!We all know the situation: big-city boy Ren comes for some reason to live in a little Utah town where they banned dancing after a local tragedy five years earlier! The local kids are so bored they spend their time doing death-defying stunts, and Ren must figure out a way to get their feet tapping again! (Little do we suspect that they’re all actually professional dancers, as the climactic hoedown reveals!)
So like Mickey Rooney and others before them, it is thereby resolved to put on the big event in a local barn! Of course The Reverend gives them a lot of static, but less than I was expecting! Ha ha, he turns out to be a decent guy, as shown in a weird, out-of-nowhere book burning scene, and at the end where he give his tacit consent to the dance!
Naturally Kevin Bacon, a familiar face from Friday the 13th, essays the role of the bristle-hair from the city, who drives a foreign car and knots his tie loosely like Sammy Davis used to! The Reverend’s daughter, who he f*lls for, is played by Lori Singer from Summer Heat; an actress I’ll always in connection with a story where she wouldn’t wear old-age prosthetics in Warlock, when she was supposed to have been struck with a curse of fast-aging, so they had to draw an old lady face over hers with grease pencils!
John “The Big Fix” Lithgow plays the Reverend, and it’s funny to think that he did it the same year he played Lord John Whorfin! Actually there’s some Whorfin to the Reverend’s fire-and-brimstone sermons, ha ha! And his wife is none other than Dianne Weist, whose turn it wasn’t quite yet back when she did It’s My Turn; and Chris ”The Wild Life” Penn is very good as Willard, the amiable cowboy who befriend Ren in a genuinely charming scene!
You can tell that I think the cast is the most interesting aspect of the film! The rest isn’t bad—a little dumb, and though the songs are well-loved, I could conceive of a different, better soundtrack! But enough Monday morning quarterbacking! Footloose is classic 80s machine-tooled entertainment, and though I’m not in any hurry to see the remake, I can’t help but wonder how they updated it, or whether it needed updating at all! Ha ha, I give Footloose two handfuls of glitter!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Burl reviews Paperback Hero! (1973)

Ha ha, eh, it’s Burl, here to review a very Canadian motion picture! It’s called Paperback Hero, and while it might not quite be the most Canadian movie ever made (there are quite a few other contenders, including Rip-Off, ha ha), it’s got to be pretty darn close, eh!
The story, which prefigures the similar Last Night at the Alamo by a decade, tells of cowboy-hatted thirtysomething Rick “Marshall” Dylan, played by Keir “Black Christmas” Dullea! The Marshall is a world-class ruckuser, and sure as shootin’ the king pin of Delisle, Saskatchewan! He’s got a gunfighter complex, so he’s also the town’s greatest eccentric, and also, if you ask me, its biggest j*rk! He treats ladies very poorly, is careless with firearms, is a monstrous egotist, and worst of all, perpetually wears a goony smirk! He’s completely unlikable, but you want to see what happens to him!
The movie really gets its hooks into you, even as you loathe this character and his ruckuses! Ha ha, it’s hard to figure out the ladies who love him, or even who can stand to be around him for more than a few seconds! Sure, he’s a go*d-looking guy I guess, but he’s dumber than a bag of doorknobs, and he’s violent too!
The town sort of tolerates him more than anything, though he’s got some admirers! His right-hand man and co-ruckuser is Pov, a bug ol’ lug with a wife and child, but barely more mature than his cowboy chum! Pov finally wises up towards the end, sort of! The admiration of the ladies is even more puzzling, because they seem reasonably intelligent! But the Marshall’s obtuse charms see to it that these ladies are seen without cl*thes a number of times!
As Rick begins to realize he’s a plain old los*r, his ruckusing becomes more violent and destructive than ever! He develops a loathing of someone called Davis, and attempts to paint his car orange! His greatest nemesis next to the hated Davis is the local cop, played by George R. “Bells” Robertson! Threats of jail seem not to bother our Marshall, though! One of his ladyfr*ends informs him that he’s got “a brain full of dingleballs” and that really everyone is laughing at him! An enraged Rick burns a few donuts in his T-bird, then sets the stage for a climactic ruckus – a ruckus he may not swagger away from!
Ha ha, what a terrific little picture! It looks beautiful, thanks to sterling work from cameraman Don “Meatballs” Wilder, and is mighty well crafted by director Peter Pearson! Dullea is okay in the lead role, though sometimes he sounds like he’s from Texas (because the character fancies himself a Texan I guess!) and other times from Newfoundland! All the acting is about perfect for the movie, actually!
It reminded me a great deal of Explosion, only much, much better! But beware: it often gets billed as a hockey movie, except there’s not much actual hockey! There’s a pretty epic brawl though, and some er*tic moments involving a Habs jersey! There’s lots of wheat stalks waving in and out of frame and shots of fields seen through barbed wire! “There’s too much goddamn sky, and not enough beer,” laments one character about Delisle, and maybe the movie is ultimately about what living that way can do to you! Ha ha, I’m going to give Paperback Hero three and a half boards about yea big!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Burl reviews Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold! (1986)

Ha ha, hello adventure seekers – Burl here to review one of the very, very many Raiders of the Lost Ark rip-offs of the 80s! Cannon Films alone made several, and ha ha, this sure is one of them!
I’ve never waxed enthusiastic about Cannon movies here, because there’s plenty of that around the internet! I like them as much as anyone and more than most, I’d say, but the G&G boys did seem to be in possession of some kind of Cannonization machine through which they put all their movies for extra seasoning before release, just to give it that Cannon Films flavour!
And this one, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, has it in spades, ha ha! This was the second Quatermain picture they did, and like everyone else, I’m not convinced they chose the right actor in Richard “Bells” Chamberlain! He’s not a bad actor or anything, and he’s perfectly macho enough; it’s just that he doesn’t seem like someone who would prefer to live in rural Africa to, say, Los Angeles!
The picture begins with a whole bunch of business about a suit, which Quatermain doesn’t wish to don, but which his l*dyfriend, played by Sharon “Total Recall” Stone, insists upon! Then a fellow stumbles in from the jungle and ignites a mystery, which leads the pair on an odyssey into the darkest heart of the continent in search of a lost city, where Quatermain’s brother may dwell!
Their party includes James Earl Jones from The Hunt for Red October as a nuance-free axe warrior, and Robert “Damnation Alley” Donner as an irritating swami! There are also some native bearers, but in the grand Eurocentric tradition of these things, they are given no names, no characterizations, no dialogue save “Aiiii” when they perish, and no hint of eulogy afterward! The trek takes them through some Raiders-like booby-trap perils and corpses who were the victims of same; through the territory of an aggressive canoe-based tribe; into battle with crazy cave snakes; down whirlpools and through a superheated subterranean river, and almost into a pillar of flame!
All of this sounds exciting, and though it’s actually not, it does provide some low-level cheeseball pulp enjoyment! Even this comes to a halt, however, when they reach the lost city of gold! It’s populated by toga-wearing wimps (it’s a lost white tribe, you see), ruled by Henry “Alligator” Silva in a fright wig, and features Elvira in a supporting role as an evil mute lady! By the time Quatermain somehow drums up some St. Elmo’s Fire or something, and manages to melt some gold onto Henry Silva, the very mild pulp pleasure has returned, but it’s way too little, much too late!
It’s a really terrible picture, never exciting, and only sporadically offering the 80s flavor that would be virtually the only reason someone might watch it nowadays! I haven’t seen the other Cannon PG adventure films – the other Quatermain picture, King Solomon’s Mines, or Firewalker, or others of that ilk – and though I still may do someday, I’m not going to be in any great hurry about it! For now I’m simply going to give Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold one single exploding bench!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Burl reviews Premature Burial! (1962)

Ha ha, the bell tolls twelve, and it’s Burl! I’m here to review one of the Roger Corman Poe movies, and if you know immediately what I’m talking about, then you’re in the right place! (And if you think to yourself that Corman prefigured this series with the walled-up black cat in A Bucket of Blood, you’re doubly in the right place – sit don and have a brandy, ha ha!) However, if you need a little reminder that, between 1960 and 1965, Roger Corman made a series of relatively lavish movies based on Edgar Allen Poe stories (with a little Lovecraft tossed in the mix, ha ha), then don’t worry, friend, you’re still in the right place!
The one I’m talking about today, Premature Burial (no “The” in the credits, ha ha!) is probably not anyone’s favourite of the Poe pictures (unless they’re a big fan of Ray Milland), but neither is it likely to be at the bottom of the list either, unless they hate Ray Milland! It’s unique in that it stars not Vincent Price in the leading role, but rather, you guessed it, Frank Stallone! I mean Ray Milland, ha ha!
Milland plays Guy, an artist with a morbid fear of being buried alive! Ha ha, this terror stems from his conviction that his father, a cataleptic, was interred alive these many years ago! Guy’s uptight sister disputes this, as does his would-be fiancée Emily, as does Emily’s father Dr. Gault (who’s played by Alfred from Batman, ha ha!), and as does family friend Miles Archer! The only person in the perpetually fog-shrouded house who doesn’t appear to have an opinion is the butler!
But there’s something afoot! Guy and Emily end up getting married after all, but Guy’s personality shifts violently, and he becomes worried and snappish! He retreats into a self-built crypt and paints dark and terrible paintings! And he outfits his crypt with all manner of escape mechanisms, which he shows off proudly in a terrific scene halfway through the picture! Emily and the rest finally convince him that he mustn’t dwell so on this unlikely eventuality, and they persuade him to blow up the safety crypt!
Things go wrong from there, and indeed there is a burial alive, and many of the characters come to various sorts of sticky ends! There’s a pair of gravediggers played by John Dierkes (the Tall Soldier from John Huston’s The Red Badge of Courage) and the great Dick “Apache Woman” Miller! Dierkes gets a pretty stiff neck-twist and Miller a fatal poking! We also have death by electricity and gunfire, and all of this takes place among freighter-sized drifts of studio smoke!
The picture looks great, with extremely atmospheric widescreen photography and marvelous sets! Milland is pretty good, but sort of one-note; and the rest of the cast is solid but unremarkable – except of course Miller, with his top hat and dirty mole teeth! It’s a pretty talky picture too, but does offer up some scares and shudders and the solid Corman craftsmanship that was on view during this period! I enjoyed the picture, even if it was a bit stuffy, and I’ll give it two and a half pullcord escape hatches!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Burl reviews Herbie Goes Bananas! (1980)

Beep beep, ha ha, it’s Burl here with a review of another Herbie picture! I sort of already knew Herbie Rides Again would be, or rather remain, my favourite Herbie movie after some recent re-viewings of the series! Watching Herbie Goes Bananas helped confirm this, though I don’t want to give you the idea that I disliked it!
I mean sure, it’s got problems! But what movie doesn’t? I will come right out and tell you what I perceive as the single most crippling deficit this picture possesses: not enough Herbie! But if you like slow disco dancing in costume, this is most certainly the picture for you!
Now, I can’t remember how they left it at the end of Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, but this one begins in Mexico, in Puerto Vallarta, reeba reeba! Two American do*fuses get off the bus and are immediately robbed by a grinning orphan! Their mission is to pick up Herbie, who has been willed to one of them by his uncle or something; and we must suppose that his uncle is Dean Jones! Meanwhile there are smugglers, who are played by the fantastic trio of John “Point Blank” Vernon, Richard “The Dark” Jaeckel and Alex “Gotcha!” Rocco! All of these people get mixed up together and there’s a lot of running around, but nothing much actually happens!
And this is the other major problem with the picture: like almost all the Herbie pictures, it’s overlong! (Herbie Rides Again is of course the marvelous exception!) There’s too much padding, like the disco dancing, or the two guys talking! (One of those two guys is played by the always welcome Charles Martin Smith of Starman!)
Then the action switches to a cruise ship captained by Harvey Korman, ha ha, and among whose passengers are Cloris Leachman and her owlish niece! Of course the orphan is a stowaway, and Herbie creates havoc in the hold! Korman’s Captain Blythe is a psychotic martinet who makes Queeg look like a calm voice of nautical reason! Eventually Herbie’s misbehaviour rouses Korman to an act of high-seas justice: Herbie is shoved over the side in a ceremony with all the pomp and protocol of an Admiral’s funeral!
But from Herbie’s encounter with The Baby himself in the guise of a hippie surfer, we know the little bug is able to swim! Still, it’s a filthy and exhausted Herbie who gets pulled out of a Panama Canal tributary by a burro, some bad hombres and the orphan, miraculously in just the right place! There are some little chases, some menacing from the bad guys and an overextended bullfight scene, and eventually Leachman, Korman and the young folk all end up together in an old bus, on the trail of the orphan and his revitalized auto-pal! Herbie never participates in a race but he does battles a small plane! Herbie rips the tail off and then sucks Alex Rocco out the back like a Junior Mint! Ha ha!
Herbie has a lot less personality in this movie, despite the fact that they have him near-talking with his horn and pressing buttons with his antenna! And though they realized they could never match Keenan Wynn, the bad guy from Herbie Rides Again, so had to break his character in half to share between Korman and Vernon, the movie is still undeniably possessed of really fantastic cast! It has a cheery travelogue feel at times, and the kid, who might easily have been intolerable, is instead tolerable! And in what I suppose is meant to be a complimentary comment, I’ll just say that it doesn’t go as crazily overboard with the faux-Mexican goofiness as they might have!
It could use a little more pep and a lot more Herbie, and the plot is baggy and the principals are mostly absent in the climax, but there’s nevertheless enjoyment to be had; and Herbie does indeed go bananas, if briefly! Plus it's got some old ringers in it, like Fritz "The Errand Boy" Feld as a chief steward and Vito "Von Ryan's Express" Scotti as a dogsbody! I’m going to give Herbie Goes Bananas one and a half wipers third class!