Daily Archives: November 1, 1988

A Cry In The Dark

A strong, disturbing picture (1988) in which Meryl Streep’s beauty and talent and director Fred Schepisi’s intelligence are both shown to best advantage, without easy points or grandstanding. Streep stars as Lindy Chamberlain in the true-life story of a bereaved mother of a nine-week-old daughter in Australia who was tried for her child’s murder, despite the absence of a body, weapon, motive, or clear evidence. Sam Neill costars as Chamberlain’s husband Michael; the script was written by Schepisi and Robert Caswell, based on the book Evil Angels by John Bryson. 121 min. (JR) Read more


One of the most striking Soviet films thawed out by glasnost, this 1967 feature by Aleksandr Askoldov was apparently controversial because it expresses overt sympathy for the Jews who were persecuted during the Russian civil war and because the lead character is a pregnant woman who challenged traditional stereotypes. As a first feature, the film is in many respects remarkable, if not an unqualified success. The black-and-white ‘Scope images are often clearly influenced by the silent Soviet masters, and the use of subjective camera is especially striking, but the film is only intermittently effective as a narrative. Still, anyone with an interest in the subject or in Soviet cinema shouldn’t miss it. In Rusian with subtitles. 108 min. (JR) Read more

Cat Women Of The Moon

One of the likely prototypes of the 1987 pastiche Amazon Women on the Moon, this low-budget effort from 1953 was originally shot in 3-D and also released under the title Rocket to the Moon. Written by Roy Hamilton and directed by Arthur Hilton; with Sonny Tufts, Victor Jory, and Marie Windsor. Elmer Bernstein, of all people, supplied the music. 64 min. (JR) Read more


A tedious English feature based on the real-life big train robbery of 1963 that made off with over two and half million pounds, directed by David Green from a script by Colin Shindler. Rather than work this material into a thriller, the filmmakers choose to focus on the domestic problems of one of the robbers (rock star Phil Collins) and his wife (Julie Walters), including their protracted, unhappy stay in Acapulco. The cinematography has the ugly, overlit look of British TV commercials, and the corny pop score is even more alienating; a few approximate stabs are made at social commentary, but to little avail. With Larry Lamb, Martin Jarvis, Sheila Hancock, and Anthony Quayle. (JR) Read more

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

As the ultimate middle-class comedy director, Paul Mazursky had a grand time in the late 60s and early 70s toying with the titillations offered by the counterculture without ever really succumbing to them, and this movie, about mate swapping, was one of his most successful (at the box office) ambivalently pitched forays in that direction. The results are pretty obnoxious and only intermittently funny, but certainly characteristic. Mazursky and Larry Tucker scripted, and the foursome are played by Natalie Wood, Robert Culp, Elliott Gould, and Dyan Cannon. (JR) Read more

Bagdad Cafe

One certainly can’t accuse German filmmaker Percy Adlon (Celeste, Sugarbaby) of opting for the tried and true in his first American effort (1988). A hefty Bavarian tourist (Sugarbaby’s Marianne Sagebrecht) splits from her husband and finds herself stranded at a truck-stop motel near the Mojave Desert, run by a black woman (CCH Pounder) who has just broken up with her own husband. Gradually, the hausfrau brings some light and magic into the lives of all those around her, and even gets a nightclub magic act going. With the help of cinematographer Bernd Heinl and some occasional oddball editing, Adlon gives his film a rather distinctive look. Unfortunately, the film’s curious conceits remain implausible even on a fantasy level, and most of the satirical possibilities are either sidestepped or fumbled; despite some superficial resemblances to Werner Herzog’s Stroszek, there is almost none of that film’s cantankerous charm. The film is actually closer to Pollyanna, and Pounder’s stagy performance seems especially out of sync with everyone else’s. With Jack Palance, Monica Calhoun, George Aquilar, Darron Flagg, G. Smokey Campbell, Alan S. Craig, Ronald Lee Jarvis, and Christine Kaufmannvery much of an all-weirdo cast by design, but it doesn’t really get the movie moving. Read more

Another Woman

Woody Allen’s 18th feature (1988) gives us more Scandinavian gloom and culture vulturism about guilty, well-to-do non-Jews in Manhattan, shot by Bergman cinematographer Sven Nykvist in suitably drab weather and loosely patterned after Wild Strawberries. The intellectual protagonist, well played by Gena Rowlands (she’s a philosophy professor, natch), is suffering a midlife crisis, focusing on her love life and her decision not to have children; she’s also trying to write a book, and her imagination and memories are stimulated when she overhears the psychiatric sessions of a pregnant woman (Mia Farrow) in the flat below. Allen has assembled a sterling cast that also includes Philip Bosco, Betty Buckley, Blythe Danner, Sandy Dennis, Gene Hackman, Ian Holm, John Houseman (in one of his last performances), Martha Plimpton, David Ogden Stiers, and Harris Yulin, but at best they can only make the self-flagellation marginally more bearablethey can’t really transcend the aura of glitzy, suicidal chic that makes this an insult to intellectuals and a piece of posturing phoniness designed to awe spectators who like their psychodramas third-hand and upscale. To Allen’s credit, however, at least one of the laughs in this film is intentional. (JR) Read more