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Month: August 2006

Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx / Fun Loving (1970)

Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx / Fun Loving (1970)

“Get your fresh dung!”

Synopsis:
A young Dubliner (Gene Wilder) who sells horse manure for a living is distressed when all the horses in the city are replaced by cars; in the meantime, he starts dating a sophisticated American college student (Margot Kidder) who is intrigued by his nonconformity.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Cross-Class Romance
  • Gene Wilder Films
  • Ireland
  • Margot Kidder Films
  • Nonconformists

Response to Peary’s Review:
I tend to be suspicious of movies centered on charismatic nonconformists; it’s too obvious that audience members are supposed to root for the “underdog”. Fortunately, this isn’t a problem with Gene Wilder’s “Quackser Fortune” (so nicknamed because he used to quack like a duck as a child), whose individuality comes across as genuine and utterly lacking in derivative pathos. As Peary notes, this “offbeat and amiable” film features “fine performances by the two leads”, and is helped by the “unexpected touch” of having Quackser “benefit from the relationship [with Kidder] rather than feeling self-pity or animosity toward her.” Quackser remains a true individual until the end, refusing to be put down by anyone of any class.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • An uncharacteristically subdued performance by Gene Wilder
  • Eileen Colgen as the lonely spinster who is disappointed when Quackser no longer stops by for tea and sex
  • Fine cinematography of pre-EU Dublin

Must See?
No, though it’s a delightfully unusual movie and well worth checking out, especially for Gene Wilder fans.

Links:

Lovin’ Molly (1974)

Lovin’ Molly (1974)

“Molly always stood where you left her — as long as she could see you.”

Synopsis:
Two buddies (Anthony Perkins and Beau Bridges) love the same woman (Blythe Danner) their entire lives, but she refuses to marry either one.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Anthony Perkins Films
  • Beau Bridges Films
  • Blythe Danner Films
  • Love Triangle
  • Romance
  • Sidney Lumet Films
  • Strong Females
  • Susan Sarandon Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, there are “some fine, touching moments” in this menage-a-trois romance (based on a novel by Larry McMurtry), but it’s difficult to stay invested, given “that so many feelings go unstated”, thus making “it difficult for us to know how we’re supposed to respond to the characters”. While Molly’s refusal to back down from her free-spirited beliefs is admirable, we never learn why she feels so strongly against marrying either Gid or Johnny. Equally distracting is the split narration over several decades between the three characters, which prevents us from fully empathizing with any one of them. Finally, the make-up used for aging the three actors is atrocious. (According to a biography of Anthony Perkins, the make-up artist was a last-minute replacement who nobody was particularly impressed with.) The primary reason to see Lovin’ Molly is the powerful performance by Blythe Danner (who looks distractingly like her daughter, Gwyneth Paltrow). As Peary notes, this is the film “that proves [Danner] had the beauty and talent to have been a star.”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Blythe Danner’s affecting performance as Molly
  • An unusual portrayal of a female who refuses to settle down with just one man
  • Anthony Perkins and Beau Bridges as Molly’s two lifelong lovers

Must See?
No, unless you’re a Blythe Danner fan.

Links:

Goonies, The (1985)

Goonies, The (1985)

“Goonies never say die!”

Synopsis:
Teenage misfits try to save their neighborhood from redevelopment by searching for hidden pirate treasure.

Genres:

  • Hidden Treasure
  • Misfits
  • Pirates
  • Search
  • Teenagers

Response to Peary’s Review:
I have fond memories of viewing Steven Spielberg’s The Goonies — about “a group of young outcasts” who “try to save their old-Seattle neighborhood from redevelopment” — in the theater as a kid. Rewatching it recently as an adult, I can begin to understand why Peary labels it “extremely disappointing”; he’s right to note, for instance, that “the young boys who take part in the adventure are loud, vulgar, and in need of babysitters”. Yet I’m not sure I agree with his assessment that “there is a mean and rude, rather than good-natured, feel to the entire film”. While the movie is derivative, manipulative, and hopelessly cliched, I can’t help remembering how exciting I thought it was as a kid, and this colors my impressions even today. After all, what kid among us wouldn’t wish to make new friends and go searching for buried treasure behind their house? How could creepy villains, booby-trapped caves, and the possibility of endless gold coins fail to excite? The Goonies has recently become a cult classic, with special midnight showings where fans recite lines verbatim; as one online reviewer described it, “For the uninitiated it is a mystery. For the fans it is a classic.”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Many exciting, well-staged adventure sequences

  • Impressive make-up on John Matuszak as Sloth
  • A rocking Cyndi Lauper song

Must See?
Yes, simply for its cult status as a classic ’80’s adventure flick.

Categories

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Fade to Black (1980)

Fade to Black (1980)

“Your one-eyed monster is gonna soften your eyes, much less rot your brain!”

Synopsis:
A psychotic young film fanatic (Dennis Christopher) commits murders inspired by classic movies.

Genres:

  • Horror
  • Movie Buffs
  • Psychopaths
  • Serial Killers

Response to Peary’s Review:
One can’t help wondering why Peary includes this title in his book, given that he immediately labels it a “violent, embarrassing stupidity”; presumably its cinephilic storyline (about “a psychotic young movie buff… who dresses up like screen villains and commits murders”) was enough to earn it automatic entry. Interestingly, I wasn’t nearly as offended by it as Peary; as a teenage film fanatic, I often looked to movies for guidance, and can easily imagine an unhinged movie lover (such as Dennis Christopher’s Eric Binford) taking this to psychotic extremes.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Dennis Christopher’s impassioned performance (though Peary argues he’s “miscast”)

Must See?
No, but it’s a reasonably entertaining little thriller, and most film buffs will be intrigued by the premise alone.

Links:

Bunny Lake is Missing (1965)

Bunny Lake is Missing (1965)

“Curiouser and curiouser.”

Synopsis:
In London, a young American (Keir Dullea) tries to help his unwed sister (Carol Lynley) find her missing daughter, Bunny.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Carol Lynley Films
  • Keir Dullea Films
  • Laurence Olivier Films
  • Mental Illness
  • “No One Believes Me!”
  • Otto Preminger Films
  • Search
  • Single Mothers

Response to Peary’s Review:
This atmospheric, well-acted thriller — a “cult variation on So Long at the Fair” — plays upon two of our deepest fears: losing a child, and not being believed in a life-or-death situation. As Peary notes, director Otto Preminger “makes a strong point about the difficulty aliens (Americans in England, unwed mothers) have getting help”, and bravely deals in his script with issues such as “illegitimacy, homosexuality, and incest”; meanwhile, his “camera work has a feverish intensity” which keeps one consistently engaged. Though many critics seem to dislike the film’s gut-wrenching denouement (which “diverges from Evelyn Piper’s [source] novel”), I’ll admit I was so caught up in the story that I was easily able to overlook any gaps in logic or consistency.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Creative opening titles by Saul Bass
  • A suspenseful mystery with lots of “red herrings”
  • Effective use of strange locales (such as the “doll hospital”)
  • Laurence Olivier’s understated performance as a police detective on the case

Must See?
Yes. Though it’s not as famous as other Preminger classics, this cult thriller is well worth watching.

Categories

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Cannibal Girls (1973)

Cannibal Girls (1973)

“They love every man they meet — first to death, then for dinner!”

Synopsis:
A young couple (Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin) find themselves stranded in a small town, where they are confronted with the living legend of three local “cannibal girls”.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Black Comedy
  • Cannibalism
  • Horror

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this low-budget black-comedy horror flick “starts out well, but becomes dull and confusing”. Beautiful female cannibals who lure men, siren-like, to their bloody deaths has the potential for interesting feminist overtones — but this potential is destroyed by the inexplicable appearance of a male ringleader (Robert Ulrich), whose purpose in the movie I still can’t figure out. Other than a few moments of improvised humor between Levy and Martin, most of the scenes in Cannibal Girls are painfully derivative, and hold little intrinsic interest. But perhaps most disappointing of all is Levy’s lackluster performance — he seems to be hiding beneath his glasses and enormous afro, while his bubbly co-star, Andrea Martin, fares much better.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Andrea Martin’s ditzy portrayal as Gloria

Must See?
No. While it holds a special place in Canadian film history (see the Canuxploitation review, link below), it will probably only be of interest for true 1970s horror fans.

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