Daily Archives: April 1, 1989


It’s our old friend the sexually warped serial killer (D.W. Moffett), this time stalking a slightly rebellious 14-year-old (Staci Keanan of My Two Dads) who lives with her single mother (Cheryl Ladd) and who, without realizing it, has been flirting with him on the phone. Before this movie gets around to its predictable violent conclusion, it does a surprisingly good job of exploring the fantasy world of a young teenager and her variable relationship with her mother, thanks in part to Keanan’s excellent performance. Writer-director Gary Sherman (Vice Squad, Poltergeist III), collaborating on the script with Karen Clark, is reasonably if conventionally skilled in setting up thriller foreplay, and if he loses his assurance at climactic moments, the audience is probably too revved up by then to notice. With Tanya Fenmore. (JR) Read more

Lawrence Of Arabia

David Lean’s 1962 spectacle about T.E. Lawrence’s military career between 1916 and ’18, written by Robert Bolt and produced by Sam Spiegel, remains one of the most intelligent, handsome, and influential of all war epics. Combining the scenic splendor of De Mille with virtues of the English theater, Lean endeared himself to English professors and action buffs alike. The film won seven Oscars, including best picture and direction, yet the ideological crassness of De Mille and most war movies isn’t so much transcended as given a high gloss: the film’s subject is basically the White Man’s Burdendespite ironic notationswith Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, and Omar Sharif called upon to represent the Arab soul, and Jose Ferrer embodying the savage Turks. The all-male cast helps make this one of the most homoerotic of all screen epics, though the characters’ sexual experiences are at best only hinted at. 221 min. (JR) Read more


Bill Donovan’s documentary feature, eight years in the making, about Michael Hernstadt, a gun-toting millionaire who ran for political office twice as a libertarian candidate, advocated cutting taxes and televising executions, and was shot to death by the chief of police of Aspen, Colorado, after an argument at an all-night drug party. The subject is fascinating, but the treatment is disappointingly cursory for the most part. Friends and relatives offer bite-sized psychoanalytical theories about Hernstadt’s isolated childhood, and the subject offers several spiels of his own. But on the whole we seem to get too much theorizing about the man and not enough straight information. (JR) Read more

Field Of Dreams

Well-made treacle (1989), adapted by writer-director Phil Alden Robinson from W.P. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe. A fledgling farmer (Kevin Costner) hears a voice in an Iowa cornfield and has a vision that convinces him that if he builds a baseball diamond in his field, Shoeless Joe Jackson, of the notorious 1919 White Sox, will turn up to play there. Other messages and signs follow, leading the hero to meet a former novelist in hiding (James Earl Jones) and a deceased ballplayer who ended his life as a doctor (Burt Lancaster). The strange mixture of nostalgia, poetry, pop mysticism, and innocence suggests both Ray Bradbury and Steven Spielberg, at their best as well as their worst; the conception is sentimental, but the storytelling remains assured and effective. With Amy Madigan as the hero’s sympathetic wife, Gaby Hoffmann as their daughter, and Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe. PG, 106 min. (JR) Read more

84 Charlie Mopic

The title refers to a cameraman (Byron Thames) who accompanies a six-man reconnaissance unit in the central highlands of Vietnam in 1969 (Mopic is a contraction of motion picture). A tour de force, this first feature by Patrick Duncan shows us only what the cameraman recordsan intensely physical rendering of the unit’s experiences on a mission, with the sound often carrying as much impact as the images. By dedramatizing the material and at the same time contriving to hold an audience’s interest, Duncan takes a courageous dive straight into the contradictions of what makes an honest yet compelling film about combat in Vietnam; what we see and hear certainly registers as real, although the verisimilitude seems at times to get in the way of storytelling (we don’t always make out everything that the characters are saying). Effectively shot in super-16-millimeter (by Alan Caso) and persuasively acted (by Jonathan Emerson, Nicholas Cascone, Jason Tomlins, Christopher Burgard, Glenn Morshower, and Richard Brooks), this uncompromising bug’s-eye view may not be for everyone, and it’s far from an unqualified success, but it certainly commands respect and attention. (JR) Read more

The Dressmaker

Despite expert performances by Billie Whitelaw and Joan Plowright (among others) in this adaptation of Beryl Bainbridge’s novel (known in the U.S. as The Secret Glass), the spirit and feeling of high-tone British TV is never very far away. Set in Liverpool in 1944, the plot concerns the problems that arise in a family of three women when the youngest (Jane Horrocks) becomes involved with an American soldier (Tim Ransom). Competently written by John McGrath and directed by Jim O’Brien, with an acceptable period flavor, this rather morbid tale about respectability and sexual repression never really catches fire, although fans of Whitelaw and Plowright will certainly get their money’s worth. With Peter Postlethwaite, Rosemary Martin, and Pippa Hinchley. (JR) Read more

Disorganized Crime

Jim Kouf, the writer of Stakeout, scripted and directed this shaky heist film, which is a comic variant on The Asphalt Jungle and its numerous successors. Four crooks (Lou Diamond Phillips, Ruben Blades, Fred Gwynn, and William Russ) are summoned to Montana by a criminal mastermind (Corbin Bernsen) to pull off a bank robbery, but their leader gets arrested by two New Jersey cops, obliging his four recruits to fend for themselves. There’s a great deal of bungling on everybody’s partcops, crooks, criminal mastermind (after he breaks away), and also, alas, the filmmakers, who never manage to give this the right amount of snap and periodically fall back on stale scatological jokes and silly plot contrivances. Apart from a nice use of Montana locations, this is strictly routine. (JR) Read more


One of Satyajit Ray’s greatest early films (1962), full of sensuality and ironic undertones, Devi is sufficiently critical of Hindu superstition that it was banned from foreign distribution until Nehru interceded. The plot concerns a wealthy and devout landowner in the 19th century who believes his daughter-in-law (Sharmila Tagore) is the reincarnation of the goddess Kali and convinces her that he’s right. With Soumitra Chatterji and Chhabi Biswas. In Bengali with subtitles. 93 min. (JR) Read more

Dead Calm

A thriller filmed in ‘Scope near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, directed by Phillip Noyce (Newsfront) and coproduced by George Miller. The plot concerns the dark events that unfold after a couple on a sailing yacht (Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill) encounter an enigmatic and crazed lone survivor from another ship. The screenplay by coproducer Terry Hayes is based on Charles Williams’s novel of the same title, a book that also served as the basis for an unfinished Orson Welles film known as The Deep, shot in the late 60s. The main problem with this adaptation is that it takes a suspense story that is already stripped down to essentials and jettisons practically everything that gives it psychological interest. What results is a semiserviceable if formulaic thriller that steadily becomes more contrived and ludicrous, ending with a resurrection out of Fatal Attraction that is silliness incarnate. A depressing sign of decline from a director who once showed some promise. (JR) Read more


Unpleasant and highly derivative, this postapocalyptic bone cruncher (1989), directed by former Kurosawa assistant Albert Pyun and written (after a fashion) by Kitty Chambers, tries very hard to work up a Road Warrior atmosphere in American settings, but the foreign accents tend to run so thick that even with the North Carolina locations (a sign reading Lumberton seems left over from Blue Velvet), the precise location of this Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus special appears to be nowhere. With Deborah Richter, Vincent Klyn, and Dayle Haddon. R, 86 min. (JR) Read more


This second featureafter The Escape Artistof Black Stallion cinematographer Caleb Deschanel stars Aidan Quinn as an early-19th-century American slave trader who becomes shipwrecked and finds himself alone on a desert island with only a dog for company. The first part of the story is a sort of reductive version of Robinson Crusoe, made somewhat contrived by the arch conceit (and coincidence) of the hero being named Crusoe; then a group of natives turn up in a boat, Crusoe saves one of them (Ade Sapara) from a sacrificial death, and most of the remainder of the plot becomes a humanistic allegory a la The Defiant Ones about interracial understanding. The settings are beautiful, but this is pretty simpleminded stuff, and the fact that dialogue is kept to a minimum doesn’t hold back the banality very much. (JR) Read more

The Collector


Perhaps the most interesting element of John Fowles’s novel is its alternation between two narrators — the shy and eccentric butterfly collector who kidnaps a young woman to add to his collection, and the woman herself. By jettisoning this structure, this 1965 film has precious little to hold one’s interest, apart from Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar as the leads; Stanley Mann and John Kohn’s script adaptation is relatively flat-footed, and William Wyler’s direction is as academic as ever. 119 min. (JR) Read more