Friday, June 23, 2017

Necromancy (1972)


Cinerama Releasing
Directed by Bert I. Gordon
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

Young wife Pamela Franklin is convinced by her husband to move to a new town for a job promotion. Little does she realize it is a community of witches under the spell of their leader, Orson Welles, who hopes to use her to raise his son from the dead. Apparently Pamela has special powers, as seen in a few flashbacks. Once she realizes what is happening she tries to leave, but is prevented from doing so by other town members and her own husband who has also fallen under the influence of Welles. She begins to believe all of their talk about witchcraft and participates in a graveside ceremony with Welles, ending up buried alive in a coffin. Or is she?  Entertaining occult gem from none other than Mr. BIG is derivative of Rosemary's Baby, but Franklin gives it her all and Welles adds the expected gravitas to the proceedings.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Devil and Leroy Bassett (1973)


American National Enterprises
Directed by Robert E. Pearson
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

Three country hick brothers in New Mexico devise a plan to break an Indian friend out of jail. They go on the lam after killing a few police officers. The pursuit takes them deep into the New Mexico mountains, ultimately leading to the brothers confronting the police in a shootout. The Indian escapes into the woods on foot but is pursued by the police on horseback. Low budget production has jarring violence but is also played for laughs. The interaction between the three brothers is particularly entertaining. John F. Goff as Leroy is unhinged as the psychotic evangelical Christian and leader of the group. His goofy brother Wilbur is played by prolific character actor George Buck Flower. Perfect film for that six pack night with your drinking buddies.

Hit! (1973)


Paramount Pictures
Directed by Sidney J. Furie
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Olive Films)

Billy Dee Williams is a rogue federal agent who takes matters into his own hands when his teenage daughter dies of a heroin overdose. He beats up the small time dealer, but then assembles a team to travel to France and assassinate the kingpins of the drug organization. He uses government information to blackmail some of the team into participating, or appeals to their own past experience with drugs to get revenge. Once in France, they track down and kill the leaders in various grisly ways. The "team assembly" portion of the film goes on far too long. Richard Pryor goes into his comedy schtick at inappropriate moments and seems forced. Williams is miscast and too quiet as a rogue agent. Only Gwen Welles as a heroin addicted high priced hooker manages to be convincing.

The Quiller Memorandum (1966)


Twentieth Century-Fox Film
Directed by Michael Anderson
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Fox)

George Segal is sent by British intelligence to investigate the murder of two previous agents in Berlin. He is soon on the track of a neo Nazi cell lead by Max von Sydow. He is drugged, kidnapped and questioned, but ultimately let go. He gets help from pretty school teacher Senta Berger, who may or may not be a neo Nazi herself. Mostly talk, with little action, from screenwriter Harold Pinter, who is too clever for his own good. Segal is badly miscast.

The Red Pony (1973)


NBC
Directed by Robert Totten
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Universal Vault Series)

Henry Fonda and wife Maureen O'Hara live on a remote cattle ranch. She struggles to understand his heavy-handed methods with their son. When he is injured repairing the barn roof, Fonda makes up for it by buying him a young pony on a trip to town. The boy and horse develop a deep bond, but the horse gets sick and dies. Heartbroken, the boy blames his father and the two drift further apart. Later, their other horse is having problems giving birth, but Fonda steps in and saves both mother and foal, proving to his son that he really does care. Fonda's reuniting with Steinbeck material has mixed results. His character is not very likeable and Fonda struggles to convince with a prolonged drunken bar fight. Animal lovers will not find much to like here either, the death of the pony is particularly painful to watch. Even old pros Jack Elam and Ben Johnson can't liven it up.

Monday, June 19, 2017

They Have Changed Their Face (1971)


Garigliano Film (Italy)
Directed by Corrado Farina
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Video Dimensions)

An employee at an Italian auto manufacturer is invited to meet the owner of the company at his reclusive country estate. He picks up a topless hitchhiker along the way, but leaves her at the front gate. He is greeted by the owner's "secretary", a pale, svelte, androgynous woman who almost immediately sets out to seduce him. The crumbling mansion is filled with modern accessories, including some amusing recordings of commercials that play in the showers. The owner is an older but powerful industrialists who controls multiple corporations. The visitor becomes alarmed when he discovers a nursery filled with babies and a notebook outlining their eventual role in his corporations, in which he finds his own picture. He tries to escape, but is blocked by guards who swarm around the grounds in little white cars. His desperation leads to murder, or maybe not, as the dead man appears to return to life. The Dracula myth is used as a foundation for a philosophical critique of capitalism. It successfully incorporates moody horror elements via the setting: crumbling mansion, perpetual fog, the pale secretary; but also works in biting satire of capitalism, including a mock commercial for LSD! A bit dated at times, but very unique, and quite entertaining.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

King & Country (1964)


Warner-Pathé (UK)
Directed by Joseph Loosey
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, VCI Entertainment)

Private Tom Courtenay is accused of desertion when he "walks away" from the front lines in WWI. Dirk Bogarde is assigned to defend him in his hastily assembled trial. Initially skeptical, Bogarde comes to believe that Courtenay was suffering from shell shock and other mitigating circumstances. He tries to convince the brass at the trial, but they have no interest in his explanations or excuses. Courtenay is convicted and sentenced to death by higher commanders to serve as an example. Claustrophobic film takes place entirely in the trenches under a perpetual rainfall, moodily captured in black and white by cinematographer Denys Coop. Real photographs from WWI are occasionally seen, and one of a body lying in the mud is particularly effective as a dissolve shot. Still, it lacks narrative excitement, is excessively talky and the explanation for his supposed desertion is murky, perhaps deliberately so.

Ocean's Eleven (1960)


Warner Bros.
Directed by Lewis Milestone
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Warner Bros.)

Frank Sinatra assembles a dozen or so of his old war buddies and convinces them to help rob the casinos in Las Vegas. They use their military experience to blow up electrical towers, then do some rewiring so that when the power goes out the doors to the cashier's office open. They use fluorescent spray paint to mark the way in the dark. It almost works, until a mobster figures it out and blackmails them for a piece of the loot. Their plan to get the cash out of town backfires at the last minute. Ludicrous plot almost redeemed by the presence of just about every Rat Packer, but one film can't handle all of those egos. Opening title sequence by Saul Bass is probably the best part.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Puppet on a Chain (1971)


Cinerama Releasing
Directed by Geoffrey Reeve and Don Sharp
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Scorpion Releasing)

A special agent from the US is sent to track down the source of heroin in Amsterdam. He hooks up with undercover agent Barbara Parkins and the local police. They find a warehouse filled with hollow Bibles and dolls. The dealer is disguised as a priest, who kills anyone in his way, but also has inside help with the police, whose identity is revealed at the end. The only thing that makes this stand out from any other late 60s or early 70s European drug lord film is a boat chase sequence through the canals of Amsterdam that lasts for about 10 minutes, and even that is marred by obvious crowds standing around watching the production. Parkins is good as usual, but Swedish singer/actor Sven-Bertil Taube as the American special agent lacks charisma as the lead.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Swimmer (1968)



Columbia Pictures
Directed by Frank Perry
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Grindhouse Releasing)

Middle aged and athletic Burt Lancaster emerges from the woods of suburban Connecticut to the poolside of a couple of wealthy friends. He notices a string of pools stretching across the valley to his home, and decides to "swim home", from pool to pool. He meets old friends, lovers and acquaintances along the way, each stop revealing another aspect of his past. Gradually, a picture of a broken man is revealed, his rosy outlook incongruent with the reactions of those he meets. The truth is finally revealed at his final stop. John Cheever's short story makes a shaky transition to the big screen. Taken literally, it's a rather boring story of one afternoon spent pool hopping between wealthy, bored, self-absorbed suburbanites. One has to look closely, perhaps a little too closely, to see through to the symbolism behind it all. Might take multiple viewings to fully appreciate.