Monday, 30 May 2011

CERTAIN FURY (1985)

 
 
One of the films that came out during the low-budget craze of the mid-1980s was CERTAIN FURY. Now, I’m not sure whether the film got a theatrical release in my hometown of Montreal (it probably didn't) but I certainly took notice of it when it appeared on shelves in my neighborhood video store. As some of you know from this, I was already in sync with the trash world back then, having experienced more than my share of exploitation cinema. So for me, CERTAIN FURY featuring, as the  poster sheet so proudly proclaims, two "Academy Award Winning Stars" Tatum O’Neal and Irene Cara was a big thing, a definite match made in sleazy heaven. Moreover, being also an ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT  junkie at the time, I was even more ecstatic when the film got panned by Leonard Maltin or some other guy. Or was it by SISKEL & EBERT  from their AT THE MOVIES days? Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that the flick got so many bad reviews I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it (case in point: the lovable awfulness that turned out to be THE LONELY LADY). As expected, I had a ball with CERTAIN FURY. It may not have been as great as the rest of those so bad it’s good cult classics, but it sure as heck had its shares of campiness.
 


Action-packed, CERTAN FURY is a cross between THE DEFIANT ONES and OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE (minus the intentional jokes). It is directed by Stephen Gyllenhall (yup, Jake and Maggie’s dad), who, I believe, must have been at a low point in his career. I mean, how else can you explain all the excess cheese—brainless heroine moves and titular Cara song included—slung onscreen. Though I have to say that his production values are right up my alley, like the long water-filled sewer scene which must have been a pain to shoot but ends up looking fantastic. They remind me of those of the delectable ANGEL starring Donna Wilkes that graced screens the year before. In fact, I’m sure it’s because of that film success (it made over 17 million in domestic revenues; not too shabby for a low-budget flick) that CERTAN FURY even got made. I mean, c’mon, who wouldn’t take advantage of such a cinematic gold mine if one had the chance? Though since there never was a sequel made of CERTAIN FURY, my guess is that the film turned out not to be as lucrative.
 

I recently re-watched the film just to make sure it was still as fun as I remembered it to be, and it was. Yes, camp enthusiasts, all the sleaziness is indeed intact for this tale of two female felons, with absolutely nothing in common, on the run after being caught up in a bloody shootout in a courtroom that involves singing and throat slashing (!). Then-troubled star Tatum O’Neal (read her autobiography) still manages to give a stiff performance as the streetwise tough cookie charged with murder who’s really a sweetheart underneath the hard-edged front. As her nemesis arrested on lesser charges good girl Irene Cara is as way over her head playing the angry motherless young woman caught in an impasse, though you can see some real acting flair emerging every now and again. Only when both girls wind up on the street does the real fun begin as both unite to escape the law; but not before enduring a slew of highly-humiliating situations that have to be seen to be believed (Cara’s nude shower rape scene, anyone?)

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Peter Fonda is in this as well, playing a vile kingpin who, after cutting O’Neal’s face, gets one of the most jaw-dropping "Get this bleeding bitch off my boat!" lines to ever be heard on film. For those not in the know, Fonda was really big during the late ‘60s, mid-‘70s with pictures like EASY RIDER and my personal favorite, RACE WITH THE DEVIL. But something tells me he must have been real good friends with the director to agree to participate in a flick such as this. For why would he disgrace himself like that? Oh yeah, I forgot; the movie features two "Academy Award Winning Stars", who, by the way, completely fail to have any form of a chemistry. So much so that seeing O’Neal going at it again makes you wonder why anybody has not thus far asked for the return of her award winning statuette for PAPER MOON.


I know, it looks like I’m mocking the stars and the film way too much when in truth I simply love everything about CERTAIN FURY. I love the good and the bad parts (mostly the bad because they’re always the most exploitative). It certainly delivers what it’s set out to do, and that is to entertain from beginning to end, whatever the cinematic outcome. One thing’s for sure, though, they don’t make them like that anymore, which is a shame, really. Just like it’s a shame that the film has yet to graduate to DVD. Surely CERTAIN FURY has its share of followers. I can’t be the only one, right?



 

Until next postMartin  



Sunday, 22 May 2011

"GOOD LUCK MISS WYCKOFF": EXPLOITATION IS AS SEXPLOITATION DOES

 
 
One of the great joys in doing this blog is being able to share with the rest of the Cyber world some inner thoughts regarding various hidden gems, like this 1979 controversial film called GOOD LUCK MISS WYCKOFF starring Anne Heywood and based on a William Inge novel. Controversial because the delicate subject matter turns out to be treated rather harshly. The story revolves around a sexually repressed school teacher during the mid-fifties who finally comes to terms with her inner urges after being raped by a black student (John Lafayette). I know, written this way, the film sounds awfully like a smutty R-rated after school special, and it probably could be, come to think of it, but one thing I guarantee you: once you start, you won’t be able to take your eyes away from the film.


Since sex is the central theme in GOOD LUCK MISS WYCKOFF, expect a lot of talk on the subject, but thanks to Marvin J. Chomsky skillful eye, all is handled in the most gentle manner (well, at least for the film first half). A shared table at a coffee house here, a flirtatious chat with a bus driver there (okay, so he ends up being married, but that’s beside the point). Everything is and looks smooth and dandy. And thanks to the ever-talented Anne Heywood, you easily connect with the protagonist who’s trying so much to overcome her plight. All she wants is to be normal, to be loved and feel desirable by a man—and she should, for she is quite attractive, despite the fact that her character looks 10 years older than her reported 35 years (the actress was really in her mid-40s at the time). Even her gynecologist, played by the always deadpan-looking Robert Vaughn, thinks she should, and he is "THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E." after all. But true to cinematic form, happily ever after is a long road ahead, especially when one encounter a would-be rapist in a lonely class room after school hours like Miss Wyckoff. does.


WThat’s when the film switches gears and becomes what it is now reputed to be: quintessential trash. From then on everything is shown without white-gloves, from pre to post rape. And in her confused state of mind regarding her sexual needs, Miss Wyckoff throws herself right into an affair that’ll ultimately (BIG SPOILERS AHEAD) cost her her job, her friends (among them Dorothy Malone, Carolyn Jones in her last big screen appearance), and least of all, her room at the boarding house; overall a much too raw depiction of a desperate woman who’s in way over her head.


Oh, and let’s not forget to mention the whole interracial matter.  I think the politically incorrect way it was shown (an older white woman enjoying a young black stud) is what really set off reviewers and moviegoers alike back then, even more so than the sexual matter in itself.



We could go on and one about what’s good and what’s not so good in this movie. But what I gathered from watching and re-watching it is that loneliness sometimes makes us do things we never would imagine contemplate. And if it’s the message director Marvin J. Chomsky wanted to convey, then, in my humble opinion, he has done his job. And I dare anyone to watch the last scene without feeling some form of remorse for this lost but so proud soul that is Miss Wyckoff.


Unfortunately, the film has yet to be released on DVD (I urge any company who owns the rights to do so). But if you’re lucky enough, you may find it on late night TV (like I did) or you may wind up with a bootleg DVD edition or, better yet, end up owning a VHS copy under its various titles (THE SIN, THE SHAMING, and SECRET YEARNINGS) that pops up on eBay now and again. Either way, the search is definitely worth your while.



UPDATE: Make sure the film is the unedited 105 minute version, and not the 80 minute print that seems to float around. Also, I forgot to mention that TV's POLICE WOMAN Earl Holliman and HALLOWEEN Donald Pleasance co-star.


NEW UPDATE:  At last, the film is going digital.  Yes, kiddies, GOOD LUCK, MISS WYCKOFF will  finally hit the street on August 13th 2013 by Vinegar Syndrome.  The Blu-ray/DVD combo will feature a slew of  DVD supplements (Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots, Reissue Cut "THE SIN", Thoughts On Author William Inge...) and will even include the soundtrack CD as a bonus.   Now that's what I call a good deal.




Until next post—Martin


 






Monday, 16 May 2011

MIXED BAG: Dinoshark, Bleading Lady, Marie-Françe Pisier

Two of my reviews are up and running at Film Fanaddict. The first one is the deliciously awful DINOSHARK produced by the king of the cheapies, Roger Corman. Some of you may have already experienced the awfulness when the flick aired on the SyFy network last March 13th (on my birthday, no less). Since it was a major success, as most of the creature feature SyFy fares, Anchor Bay decided to get a piece of the pie by distributing it all over the place. It is directed by PIRANHA’s visual effects supervisor Kevin O’Neil and stars none other that Eric Balfour (!). The viewing experience is quite enjoyable but only if you like your cheese very thick and sloppy. Anyway, here’s the link to the full review.


The other cinematic treat (if you can call it that) is BLEADING LADY, also known as STAR VEHICLE.. It stars a bunch of unknowns and is written and directed by Ryan Nicholson, the guy who brought you the well-received GUTTERBALLS a couple of years ago. The plot revolves around this nut job who decides to shoot an amateurish horror film starring his fave but unwilling to participate scream queen. BLEADING LADY sort of reminds you of John Waters CECIL B. DEMENTED but on a lesser scale. The focus is too much spent on the bloody and gory visual effects than on the relationship between the starlet and would-be filmmaker. Still, it is enjoyable enough if you can stomach the FX and the blah, blah, blah of the first 30 minutes. Again, here’s the full review link.




Last but not least, one of the great ladies of the super-glossy flicks has passed away.  Marie-France "Papa, I do love you" Pisier from the unforgettable THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT  (available on DVD) has been found dead in her swimming pool in the early hours of morning last month. The discovery was made by her husband with whom she has had a son and a daughter. She also leaves behind a brother and a sister. It is yet undetermined what really happened that faithful morning, other than the fact the she has been suffering from cancer. But let me assure you that I will keep you posted as soon as I find anything worth mentioning.

Miss Pisier has also been involved in other American-made productions throughout her long career, such as the mega hit TV adaptation of Judith Krantz’s SCRUPLES (now on DVD) and the lesser known (and still unavailable on DVD) CHANEL SOLITAIRE. Her last appearance has been in last year French IL RESTE DU JAMBON?  I had the opportunity of seeing this lightweight comedy while visiting Paris. In it she plays the mom of the lead actress. She’s only in a couple of scenes but is still—was—as beautiful and as talented as ever in her twilight years. So here’s to you, Miss Pisier for giving us a heritage of wonderful trashy films. Merci du fond du cœur.
 
UPDATE:  According to French Wikipedia, her inert body was found trapped underneath a massive lawn chair at the bottom of the pool. The people behind the investigation are still on the fence as to what led to her death. The final autopsy and toxicologist reports do tend to support the fact that it may have been suicide. The police investigation, however, prefers to rule it death by a heart attack, since little water was found in her lungs. Whatever the cause, it’s terribly sad.


Until next postMartin

Monday, 9 May 2011

"LACE" MINISERIES: PRIVILEGED LIES


   

"Which one of you bitches is my mother?" Those infamous words uttered by a vengeful Phoebe Cates to three unsuspected career women in the two-parter LACE are silk to connoisseurs of ultra-glam miniseries ears. Indeed, the ABC television event, which aired in the winter of 1984, has become a classic in the genre due mostly to its slick production values and its effective storytelling. Hailed as one of the guiltiest of pleasures, its success has not only paved the way for other soapy-like treats but has even spawned a sequel a year or so later—a rare thing in TV world. So it is with great honor that I present to you, LACE.



I remember vividly when it was first televised. It was on a Friday. I was still living at my parents house, flipping channels in my room when I came across this tasty tale of three high school chums who have a thing for cute guys, silly promises and the high cost of living. Before I continue, let me say right away that the first part of the five hour frothy drama was shown two days early here in Canada. A thing the CTV network (then called CFCF 12 for a local Montreal TV station) used to do a lot; and not only for miniseries or movies, but for daytime soaps (like an earlier in the day airing of ANOTHER WORLD) and TV shows (MAGNUM P.I., THE WALTONS, LAVERNE & SHIRLEY…) as well. Anyway, to get back to LACE, ABC did broadcast the same episode the next Sunday night February 26th. So imagine my luck when I realized that I could see it all over again and even tape it on my betacam if I wanted to. I had spent the entire Saturday playing the first episode in my mind and I couldn’t wait to discover who the heck was Lili’s mother, though I had a pretty good hunch already (but more on that later).


Then came the highly anticipated on-air conclusion Monday night the 27th ; this time simultaneously on both sides of the border. Suffice to say, I was riveted to the screen as the big climactic scene—enhanced by the powerful music score of Nick Bicât—finally came to reveal the true identity of Lili’s mom. Recalling this, I can still see myself watching it like nothing else mattered, this cute little teen who, tries as he might, could never really fit in with the norm. What I didn’t know then but would soon learn as the end credits appeared was how much in sync I already was with the great trash world. Indeed, it didn’t take long for me after that to start experiencing other miniseries like LACE. Though rarely did they give me the same high.


I have seen a lot of trashy miniseries since then. In fact, I still get all excited whenever one shows up on TV. But nothing compares to the buzz given in discovering LACE. It’s as grand as Lili’s unflappable ego. I wish I could say the same thing about the novel on which it is based but alas it does not come close to the high camp thrill of its TV adaptation (thanks to screenwriter Elliot Baker), even if author Shirley Conran does shake the plot a lot with added characters including a fourth friend named Kate. I read the book after the TV fact, so perhaps my dissatisfaction comes from that.


Yes, LACE was my real intro into trash land. To those who have yet to see it, LACE supercharged plot and glamorous locations will definitely leave you wanting more, provided that you’re into that form of entertainment, of course. And be aware that this miniseries comes also with its bag of silliness, most noticeably in regards to Phoebe Cates’ weird accent which comes and goes as it pleases. But if you can stomach this and all the high-gloss stuffing, I’m sure you’ll be as thrilled as I was in discovering this gem. Oh, and about Lili’s mom. Her identity was no surprise to me because the actress who portrayed her was the most recognizable face of the three leading ladies at the time. I figured her character would do anything, even birth an illegitimate child, to keep the spotlight onto herself.




 
Until next post—Martin

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, 2 May 2011

PIA ZADORA AND "THE LONELY LADY"

  


I can’t go on doing this blog without giving a well-deserved shout-out to the legendary Miss Pia Zadora for keeping onscreen smut alive and well. For decades, she’s been known for acting in the worst—but highly enjoyable—movies ever made; movies such as BUTTERFLY, FAKE-OUT, VOYAGE OF THE ROCK ALIENS, and my personal favorite THE LONELY LADY. I just can’t get enough of this 1983 Peter Sasdy film. Watching it is to me one of the great joys in life, and I’m not kidding. Nothing in it bores me. I am literally glued to the screen every time I pop the DVD disc (from a VHS source, since the film as yet to be released onto DVD) into my player.



Why, you may ask? Why put myself through this grade-Z Hollywood fiasco over and over again? For the simple fact that THE LONELY LADY is an enjoyable mess. Everything in it is so wrong that it’s right, from the syrupy soundtrack to the over the top acting, to the guffaw-induced storyline, not to mention the very stilted dialogue exchange. Not a moment is spared in non-delivering the high camp goods. But my love for this gem even goes further than that. Beyond the evident mishaps (and they are many) exists a real tour de force of a film. Perhaps not from Zadora herself, bless her little heart, though she tries her best—maybe too much—to bring life into her role. But from the way the film is handled. THE LONELY LADY is almost an homage to the early exploitation films of the '30s and '40s (Barbara Stanwyck’s BABY FACE comes to mind), as well as sexploitation flicks of the mid '70s (NASHVILLE GIRL starring Monica Gayle is one). Director Peter Sasdy makes sure that everything bathes in sleaze, as it should be, since the film is based on a novel by Harold Robbins, the master of sleaze himself. And it’s probably the reason why the film got panned the way it did when first released; its adaptation to the screen is too much like a '70s vintage Robbins: lots of tawdry, degrading sex and little else; a premise not too popular for the high-gloss seeking audience of the '80s.
 

Filmed in Italy, London and Hollywood, Universal Pictures (in association with Harold Robbins productions) did break the bank in producing what I’m sure they thought would be another slick soap opera movie à la THE CARPETBAGGERS, THE BETSY, heck even à la THE ADVENTURERS for that matter—all big budgeted films based on Robbins novels. But something must have happened along the way for THE LONELY LADY to nosedive the way it did. Because indeed, compared to those films, THE LONELY LADY is far from looking and acting its best; though, like I said, the exploitation/sexploitation factor to it does bring it to another level. Moreover, scenes of such unintentional laughter—like the Pia’s climactic fit, for example—does place it as must-see campy moments. And to tell you the truth, had it not been as cheesy-looking and as affectionately bad, perhaps this blog would have never focused on it in the first place. So suffice to say, THE LONELY LADY is exactly as it should be.




 
We now must talk about Miss Zadora’s role in the film. In it, she plays a would-be screenwriter who wants to make it in Hollywood no matter what; a part that strangely resembles Pia’s then real life. Both women were married to rich guys, both had husbands who helped them get ahead in the business, both watched their careers hit a wall after some form of success. Pia went on to make the low-budget but not that well-received VOYAGE OF THE ROCK ALIENS, then had a little upswing with her singing career to finally disappear in whatever-happened-to-her heaven. Although she’s sort of making a comeback nowadays belting out her old tunes all around Vegas. As for Peter Sasdy, the director, after the fiasco that LONELY LADY was, he concentrated his next move on syndicated TV in the '80s and '90s, before disappearing completely from the face of the earth. On a side note, if you guys are still interested in experiencing his vision in films, take a look at his I DON'T WANT TO BE BORN (1975), starring none other than Joan Collins herself. This one has to be seen to be believed as well.


 


Now that I got this movie and its adorable star off my chest, I can finally rest in peace and say that I plan on writing more about those types of films. Trust me, they need all the spotlight they can get.
 
 
 

 
Until next post—Martin