Monthly Archives: October 1988


If chills were stars, this lame horror effortdirected by Stan Winston, and scripted by Mark Patrick Carducci, Gary Gerani, Richard C. Weinman, and Winstonwould rate something close to a zero. A man (Lance Henriksen) whose son is accidentally killed by a teenage motorcyclist seeks revenge, and not even Bojan Bazelli’s OK cinematography can make us care. The rural accents are fake, the special effects pathetically cut-rate, and there’s not even a lead monster with a head like a pumpkin. With Jeff East and Kimberly Ross. (JR) Read more

The Possession Of Joel Delaney

Shirley MacLaine and Perry King star in this offbeat 1972 film about a wealthy divorcee who gets involved in the occult after her brother becomes possessed by an evil spirit. Waris Hussein directed. (JR) Read more

Me And My Gal

Manny Farber singles out this 1932 programmer as Raoul Walsh’s best film, and there’s a fair chance that he’s right. Spencer Tracy plays a New York cop and Joan Bennett is a waitress who serves as his sparring partner; they’ve never been better or funnier, and their working-class urban milieu is served up with glee and much gustoall aided and abetted by Arthur Kober’s wisecracking script. The plot involves the two leads and a paralyzed vet, who blinks his eyes in Morse code, joining forces to foil a bank robbery; the movie is rich in period evocation, including a hilarious reference to Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude. A small picture, but in many ways an ecstatic one. 78 min. (JR) Read more

Madame Sousatzka

Clearly director-writer John Schlesinger and cowriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s bid to do for classical music more or less what The Turning Point did for ballet, this inspirational and tearful movie is at least enlivened by an appealing performance from Navin Chowdhry (who intermittently suggests the young John Derek) as a 15-year-old Indian piano prodigy studying under the eponymous eccentric, fussbudget teacher (Shirley MacLaine, apparently emboldened by her ’85 Oscar and assorted best-sellers to let all the stops out), who does her utmost to mold him. The film benefits more from Chowdhry and the agreeable secondary castShabana Azmi, Twiggy, Peggy Ashcroftthan from MacLaine, who has mainly abandoned the lightness that sparked her earlier work for a tic-ridden arsenal of pile-driver techniques as the cantankerous music teacher. There’s a subplot about greedy real estate development (with some glancing anti-Thatcher swipes), and the classical piecesby Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schubert, and Schumann, among othersare nicely played and recorded (1988). (JR) Read more

The King Of Marvin Gardens

Jacob Brackman scripted and Bob Rafelson directed this odd and affecting though not entirely successful 1972 art film about two brothers (Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern) in Atlantic City. Nicholson is a radio talk-show host and Dern is his scheming and dreaming brother; Ellen Burstyn and Julia Anne Robinson are the two women who accompany them. The film is talky and often abrasive, but it sticks in the mind; Laszlo Kovacs handled the cinematography. 103 min. (JR) Read more

21st International Tournee Of Animation

The most beautiful animation on view here is Frederic Back’s noncomic and pantheistic half-hour The Man Who Planted Trees, made for the National Film Board of Canada, which illustrates a Jean Giono story that is read offscreen by Christopher Plummer. Apart from that, the 13 other shorts from seven countries are mainly standard (if competent) stuff. The most impressive are two featuring nonstop, free-form metamorphoses (George Schwizgebel’s Swiss 78 Tours and Monique Renault and Gerrit van Dijk’s Dutch Pas a Deux), Bill Kroyer’s Avery-inspired Technological Threat from the U.S., and some English TV ads by Richard Williams (Who Framed Roger Rabbit). Least interesting are the cutesy examples of Claymation, although Craig Bartlett’s brief American Arnold Escapes From Church has its moments. (JR) Read more

The Good Mother

One more nail in the coffin of the 60s. While I haven’t read the best-selling novel by Sue Miller that this movieadapted by Michael Bortman, directed by Leonard Nimoy (Three Men and a Baby), and starring Diane Keatonis based on, I assume that it is concerned in part with the bitter fate of bohemian lifestyles in a reactionary period like the present. Specifically, the heroine (played by Keaton here), a divorcee and devoted mother of a young daughter, has a nasty custody battle after her ex-husband learns about her going around nude with her Irish sculptor lover (Liam Neeson) in front of the daughter and teaching her about sex. The film, while obviously well intentioned, sabotages its project in classic Hollywood style by giving Keaton the sort of wardrobe and apartment that makes nonsense of her newly acquired Harvard Square bohemian lifestyle, and the morose defeatism of the plot by which Keaton and Neeson lose their case through compromise is reflected in the pussyfooting style of the movie itself, in more ways than one. With a start that’s like a combined remake of Baby Boom and An Unmarried Woman, the movie doesn’t adequately prepare one for the puritanical tragedy that follows, and Keaton’s skittish performance often detracts from the overall project by making her postliberated self seem every bit as repressed as her uptight ex-husband (James Naughton). Read more

Coverup: Behind The Iran Contra Affair

If this country’s electorate cared more about truth and honesty, this 1988 film, which was released just before the election, would have gotten more media attention than the Bush-Dukakis debates. Unfortunately, stylish cover-up is the name of the game, and this straightforward account of how our country and Constitution were sold down the river was virtually ignored. Of course this is nothing new: enough of the Watergate story was already apparent before Nixon was reelected to have affected that election if the public had wanted to hear about it. Considerably more of the Iran-contra affair is apparent (including our government’s involvement in the hard-drugs trade) in this first-rate, compulsively watchable documentary. Directed by Barbara Trent, scripted by Eve Goldberg, and narrated by Elizabeth Montgomery, with music by Ruben Blades, Richard Elliott, Pink Floyd, and Lou Reed. 76 min. (JR) Read more

Clara’s Heart

Whoopi Goldberg stars as a Jamaican housekeeper who looks after a 12-year-old boy (Neil Patrick Harris) whose parents (Kathleen Quinlan and Michael Ontkean) are about to be divorced. Robert Mulligan directed Mark Medoff’s screenplay, based on Joseph Olshan’s novel; Spalding Gray, Beverly Todd, and Hattie Winston are among the costars. My memories of this 1988 feature are dim, but Fred Camper makes a strong case for it and for Mulligan’s mise en scene in general. 108 min. (JR) Read more

The Blob

The original 1958 version of the campy teen SF comedy, directed by Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. and featuring Steve McQueen in his first starring role. A mass of cherry Jell-O from outer space threatens to destroy a small town; Burt Bacharach composed the title song. 86 min. (JR) Read more

Bat 21

Well-acted but otherwise conventional war hokum about a rescue mission during the Vietnam war, based on William C. Anderson’s novel of the same title (which is based in turn on a true incident), and scripted by Anderson and George Gordon. Gene Hackman plays a veteran pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Iceal E. Hambleton, who travels by ground while spotter pilot Captain Dennis Clark (Danny Glover) communicates overhead by radio; the friendship between the two men, who meet face-to-face only at the end, is a major part of the story. War film buffs may find this watchable; I was reminded of Hackman’s comment in Night Moves that watching a Rohmer film was like watching paint dryalthough in this case, it’s more like watching blood coagulate. Peter Markle directed. (JR) Read more

The Accused

Something of a first, this is a serious movie about rape, and as such might be said to represent penance of a sort for the crude milking of antifeminist sentiments in the previous film of producers Sherry Lansing and Stanley R. Jaffe, Fatal Attraction. Sarah Tobias (Jodie Foster) is gang-raped in a bar, and deputy district attorney Katheryn Murphy (Kelly McGillis) agrees to take her case. A courtroom drama with certain faint echoes of Anatomy of a Murder and the more recent Nuts (the latter of which had the same screenwriter, Tom Topor), this attention holder explores such issues as the public’s received ideas about rape and the question of ultimate responsibility without ever stacking the deck or being unduly preachy; and director Jonathan Kaplan, who previously gave an edge to Over the Edge, guides things along capably. Not a brilliant film, but an intelligent and thoughtful one that builds to an effective climax, with an exceptional performance by Foster. (JR) Read more