Saturday, 31 May 2014

JOANNE WOODWARD IS 'THE STRIPPER'


 

It’s always a chore for me to watch anything involving screen legend Joanne Woodward. Not that she isn’t a  good actress. She has shown her true colors in some of the most sought-after films ever (THE THREE FACES OF EVE, RACHEL RACHEL, SYBIL...). No, the reason I seem to steer clear of anything regarding her is that she is the spitting image of a girl I once knew. One who had made my life a living hell. To make a long story short, her helping me find my way as a gay man is the only good thing that ever came out of that so-called friendship. Fast forward to last night while I’m cleaning out some of my old VHS tapes and wouldn’t you know, one holds a label named THE STRIPPER. Thinking it couldn’t be, I pop the sucker in, and there you have it, the 1963 film starring Woodward, which automatically brings me back to that crazy chick of mine. But now that I’m older and wiser, I shake myself up and focus on the discovery. I had forgotten that I had recorded the film that many years ago and now I am salivating, and with good reasons. This film is a lovable mess. LONELY LADY lovable. Or so I think. Because when I sit my ass down to (re) watch the thing, I realize to my surprise how much better it actually is. And here’s why.
 
 
Woodward can act her way out of a paper bag. She’s sort of like the Meryl Streep of her time. In THE STRIPPER she plays a sweet but none too bright wannabe actress passed her prime. She wears her bleach blond hair à la early 60’s Marilyn Monroe to remind us that she still got it but we all know that she doesn’t, and deep down she knows it too. When her hoodlum of a boyfriend leaves town with all the cash from her gig as a magician assistant, she is forced to stay with her former childhood neighbors, a widowed nurse (silver screen star Claire Trevor) and her troubled adult son Richard Beymer, from INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN WIFE and PAPER DOLLS fame. But of course, her bohemian ways disturb. Especially for Beymer who just can’t stop drooling over her. In fact, he secretly yearns to bed her but is too scared to even try. So in the meantime he settles for younger Carol Lynley who’s totally gorgeous but won’t put out.
 
 

When circumstances force Woodward to subsequently become a stripper, Beymer tries to put a stop to it.  But Woodward refuses. She has finally opened her eyes to the ways of the world—now that he has given her up after finally making it with her—and wants nothing to do with him. This scene is the pivotal point of the story and is the film’s best moment. Woodward sparkles as she delivers her venom to a boy who represents all of her bad choices in life. When she succeeds in finally getting rid of him, as of her hoodlum of a boyfriend who’s back in the picture, she goes one step further in her epiphany. Just like Jerilee Randall does in THE LONELY LADY or Nomi Malone in SHOWGIRLS, she chooses to leave it all behind and start anew. So off she goes to another town in hoping to find happiness and herself this time around. But though we wish her the very best, deep down we have a hunch she’ll never make it. She is damaged goods, and we all know how girls like her turn out in Hollywood films.
 
 
THE STRIPPER is based on a play by William Inge (GOOD LUCK, MISS WYCKOFF) and is directed by Franklin J. Schaffner who afterwards helmed such hits as the original PLANET OF THE APES and PAPILLON. Even if it has its share of wackiness (like the magic show sequence which looks like a psychedelic bad trip on acid), it is an overall great movie experience. I wonder if Ms Woodward feels the same. I doubt it—since the film was bombarded with negative reviews at the time. But I for one love it and urge anyone to check it out—if you ever find a copy, that is. And please, don’t write to me about your disappointments over this film if you ever do find one, for I’ll set my psycho ex-friend on you. I hear she’s on the lookout for another in-the-closet gay boy/gal.


 

 
 
Until next post—Martin



 

 



Tuesday, 20 May 2014

MADELEINE STOWE’S 'REVENGE'


 

Karma’s a bitch but so is Madeleine Stowe’s character in TVs REVENGE. Before I go on, let me emphasize that this thread will not focus on the hit series on ABC (back for a fourth season next fall—yaaay!) but on the campy wannabe of the same name from Colombia Pictures. Yep, 25 years earlier, Miss Stowe starred opposite Kevin Costner, playing a rich man’s younger wife who throws herself into an affair with Costner and ultimately pays the price. The year was 1989, and Stowe, a hot commodity after 1987 STAKEOUT, was hoping to make it big again with this one. She did not. When the film opened in 1990, not only did the critics pan the hell of it but it did poorly at the box office. Of course this got my ears pricked, and with good reasons. In addition of looking like a lovable mess, it also had the potential of being overly grand—just like its reported 20 million budget. One glance at the end product confirmed my hunch, and the rest, as they say, is history.
 

The fun begins when Costner, a retired Naval aviator sojourning in Mexico, discovers that he has a thing for Stowe even though she is the wife of his old friend turned kingpin Anthony Quinn. While he tries his best to keep it in his pants he eventually succumbs one night at a party. But how can you blame him? I mean look at her. Even I would bang her, and you all know for which team I bat. Anyway, to make a long story short they finally do it in a closet. Even if their coupling is sensual enough, it’s Quinn’s particular dancing that really steals the show. Indeed, the director keeps cutting to his bumping and grinding and the off taking of his shirt on the dance floor while the duo go at it like rabbits. Though it’s really Costner’s torso we want to see (and we do, along with the rest of him) we much prefer this nut stripping.

 
Of course, Quinn finds out of his wife’s cheating ways and catches her naked (how else?) in Costner’s cabin. After having his goons beat the shit out of Costner whom they leave for dead, he hauls Stowe’s ass to a local bordello—but not without leaving something to remember him by: a gash on her beautiful face (that bastard!). Drugged up on heroine she is forced to become the slut of all sluts while Costner, after being  saved and brought back to health by a Mexican Samaritan, goes after Quinn and his goons to save his damsel in distress. But like any doomed love affair made by Hollywood their reunion is short-lived. Stowe is on her last legs dying from what we understand is AIDS, though it’s never really clear. But one thing is certain, sick or in health or facially disfigured, Stowe remains as stunning as ever (she must have taken the same course as LOVE STORY fatal illness-stricken Ali McGraw). The last shot shows Costner holding his dead lover while balling (convincingly) his eyes out. Only in Hollywood, darlings. Only in Hollywood.
 

REVENGE is directed by the late Tony Scott (TOP GUN) and is executively produced by Costner himself. One thing regarding that last part: I’m sure it must have been less than a trip having the star of the film have all that power. Particularly with this sort of vanity project gone wrong. Still, I must say check this mess out, because beyond all the goofiness and many faux pas exists a beautifully shot film, not to mention an impressive score by Jack Nietzsche. They almost make you want to wish the film to be better. But I wouldn’t change a thing. Not when it involves Stowe and her roller coaster ride of a career. I mean, where  would TV’s Revenge be without, well, REVENGE? Think about that while I busy myself rewinding the scene where you can have a quick look at Costner’s peen.


 



 

Until next post—Martin


 




 



 






Tuesday, 6 May 2014

'JACQUELINE SUSANN’S ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH'—THE FILM


 


Poor January in 1975 ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH (the late Deborah Raffin from LACE II); having to bare a name like that on account of being born on New Year's day. Imagine what it’s like for her during the Holidays ("Happy New Year." "Er, thank you?"). I mean really. Plus, the girl’s got daddy issues. BIG ones. But can you really blame her when the daddy in question is none other than Kirk Douglas? Talk about a Freudian flick. It’s enough to blush from head to toe just thinking about it. But not I. I’m an old pro at this game. Not about having daddy issues (although after a few drinks, watch out), but seeing the world without rose colored-glasses—especially in films. Forget about all those Hollywood goodie-two-shoes invading our screens. Give me a Nomi Malone or a Jerrilee Randall anytime. OK, I admit, this January broad isn’t really in that same category, but she does try her hardest to be.

 
 

The craziness starts when twenty-something January joins her father in the Big Apple. Two things we learn in  this scene: January is a little green, having spent all of her youth in a Switzerland hospital recovering from a freak motorcycle accident; and her newly married dad is a down-on-his-luck Hollywood producer living off his wife’s wealth (Silver Screen legend Alexis Smith). After he introduces his daughter to her new stepmom, who turns out to be a closeted lesbian (right on!), a disappointed January sets out to conquer the world. In comes her old high-school pal turned magazine editor Linda (PAPER DOLLS Brenda Vaccaro) who offers her a job. She’s the poster child for re-constructive surgery ("I had a nose job, my tits were lifted, my ass was flattened an my knees were straightened."), plus she’s got a mouth like a sailor. The two join January’s folks at a local restaurant where they also bump into Tom (TV’s THE FUGITIVE David Janssen), a famous alcoholic author à la Norman Mailer. Who? Google him. Linda wants to do him, but he only has eyes for January. Since he’s old enough to be her father, January is interested. But the relationship soon suffers after her dad interferes. Plus Tom seems unable to give himself entirely since he much prefers booze and destructive behavior. In a heartfelt scene tagged by a beautiful Henry Mancini score, we see little January walking into the sunset, lost forever in the Big Apple. The end.

 

Well, at least that’s what happens in the film version. In the novel, January—high as a kite after taking some LSD at a party—disappears after encountering a UFO (cue in the STAR WARS theme). But as you might guess, Hollywood Honchos weren’t in favor of filming such an outrageous conclusion. ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH is supposed to be high melodrama, not an encounter of the third kind. Speaking of melodrama, I forgot to mention that in the mix of all the fluff comes the news of a fatal airplane crash involving January’s dad and his rich wife. So you can imagine how devastated she truly is when she goes MIA.

 

When not focusing solely on January, the film features a cast of colorful characters. And truth be told, they all add a little bit more camp to an otherwise basic storyline (girl meets much older boy, older boy is smitten but only for a while…). Paramount Pictures spares no expenses focusing on slick designer duds and exotic  locations. It being the last of Susann’s adapted work on the big screen, I can honestly say that ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH is more subdued than any other efforts based on the author. But I still say go for it just to see Kirk Douglas take a shower in front of his maid. Now, wouldn’t it be swell if someone in La La Land decided to put Susann’s posthumous novel DOLORES to the test? It’s all inspired by Jackie Kennedy’s relationship with billionaire Aristotle Onassis. It would make a WONDERFUL film. Oh wait, it’s already been done as THE GREEK TYCOON with Jacqueline Bisset and Anthony Quinn and it’s as addictive as any Susann flick. Remind me to review it one day.




 

 

Until next post—Martin