Thursday, June 28, 2012


Here's a mini-review from 2008 of a Curtis Harrington thriller, with a title that always brings to mind the great Shelby Lynne song from BRIDGET JONES' DIARY (see video below the review).THE KILLING KIND (1973, directed by Curtis Harrington) opens as 17-year old Terry Lambert (John Savage of HAIR) is forced to take part in a gang-rape on the beach - two years later he's released from prison and returns to the Hollywood boarding house for old ladies, run by his overly affectionate mother Thelma (Ann Sothern of THE MANITOU). The biddies think that Terry's been volunteering for the Peace Corps.Terry spends much of his time in his tighty-whities or in a floral-print Speedo, but you know Terry's not right when he kisses his mom on the lips and then strangles one of her cats while spying on new tenant Lori (Cindy Williams of LAVERNE & SHIRLEY). At the same time, Terry is being stalked by a mousy, nosy neighbor named Louise (Luana Anders of  THE MANIPULATOR) who lives with her crippled father. We soon learn that Looney Louise wants to act out her fucked-up rape fantasies with him. Terry then starts prank phone calling his rape victim Tina (Sue Bernard of FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL KILL) - eventually driving her off the road to her death. Next he pays a visit to the woman lawyer who put him behind bars (Ruth Roman) and drowns her in her own booze. There's also particularly grisly scene involving a rat, a poolside freak-out involving his guitar and a two scenes involving Cindy Williams and drowning.What starts out fun and interesting becomes a bit boring about half-way thru. It doesn't feel like there's enough plot to sustain interest. The cast is a mixed bag. Savage is so likable, you almost forgive him for being a psycho - after all he was practically violated himself in the opening rape scene and then made to be the fall guy, as if it had been his idea. Ann Sothern is deliciously over-the-top as hot momma Thelma, and looks like she's having the time of her life. Ruth Roman is a hoot in her brief scene. Cindy Williams, on the other hand, seems uncomfortable and miscast as an aspiring model. Luana Anders is enjoyable, but her character and plotline is extraneous.

I'll give THE KILLING KIND a 7 outta 10. The dvd has a cool interview with the director, who passed away in 2007. Fans of this should check out Harrington's HOW AWFUL ABOUT ALLAN and the previously reviewed POOR PRETTY EDDIE.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


From 2010: TWO ON A GUILLOTINE is a film that I've waited years to see. Thanks to The Warner Archive Collection, it's now possible to own this rare and unusual film from 1965. Directed by actor William Conrad (CANNON, JAKE & THE FATMAN) from a quasi-Grand Guignol script by Henry Slesar (THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE EDGE OF NIGHT).
The film opens with a wonderfully demented scene involving magician John Duquesne (played by the late, over-the-top closeted gay actor Cesar Romero) performing a ghastly trick involving his wife Melinda and a very sharp object.
After the prologue, we find out that poor Melinda has gone missing. We also learn that the new library has been dedicated and "casual labor" rules have been clarified by an official. Thank heavens!

Flash forward a bunch of years and Duquesne has suddenly died. His estranged daughter Cassie (played by Debbie Reynolds lookalike and future John McCain supporter Connie Stevens) shows up at this funeral, and later attends the read of his will-at the Hollywood Bowl.
Cassie must spend seven nights in her father's mansion in order to inherit his estate. A reporter named Val Henderson (played by future Disney star, Jesus freak and gay marriage opponent Dean Jones) takes an interest in her, but we are not sure if his aim is true because he doesn't let on that he's with the press.
Things get off to a spooky start when Cassie flips a light switch and something surprising happens. Here's a spoiler-free hint: the lights don't turn on.
Turns out dad was quite the prankster and the mansion is full of mildly spooky gags that would make any rational person giggle.
But Cassie can't take a joke, and any time she encounters one of her father's scare tactics, she calls on Val to save her. So Val begins to spend the nights with her in the house-in his own room.
When a belligerent new housekeeper shows up and insinuates that the two are a couple, they get all defensive.
After Hazel quits, Val takes Cassie out for a few thrills and we get to see a really cool mid-60s amusement park. They ride a roller coaster, explore a house of mirrors and ride the coolest hanging orb thing.
See - I told you it was cool.
Then Val takes her to a nightclub, where three cool chicks dance in a giant cage. Is that Mink Stole in the middle?
What follows next is the most amazing and sexy scene in which Val just stares at Cassie.
And Cassie stares back at Val. I think David Lynch must have seen this as a young man and decided to become a filmmaker.
Then they kiss. And kiss. And kiss.
A two-sided pillow that they won at the amusement park, flips over to the "GO" side.
Oh did I mention, that there's a white rabbit living in the house that apparently nobody feeds or cleans up after?
Daddy's old housekeeper Dolly pays a visit. She's been drinking and she lets it all out - revealing the truth about Mr. Duquesne, his poor wife and other terrible secrets! When it's revealed that Val is a reporter, Cassie boots him out.
Oops - you weren't supposed to see that!
Poor Cassie, looks like she's not gonna last all seven nights...
especially when her nightmares become more and more ghoulish.
Oh, hi dad!
 Hey - wait a minute, I'm not supposed to be in here!!!
So Cassie wakes up and takes a stroll around the mansion, entering a locked room where dad kept his infamous guillotine. Nicole Kidman in this movie? No, it's just Cassie getting startled by something else.
Silly rabbit.
Meanwhile, Val gets the rest of the story from Dolly. I'm not telling, but is that a hint of incest in the air?
Oh no - how did Cassie end up in this predicament?
Um, that looks kinda sharp. I sure hope somebody doesn't back into the lever....
I'm not giving it away. But, happily the rabbit does not die.
I love this movie. 10 outa 10. Sure, it's been called "a dull, silly, tedious clinker" and "an old-fashioned, haunted-house spooker" - but give me this over a CGI-induced 3D movie based on a video game any day of the week. But that's just me, and I'm glad. Be sure to read the Dell comic book adaptation.
On a side, note how about we adopt "The Right to Love" as a pro-gay marriage anthem? Take that, Dean Jones.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Just the Way You Are

On New Year's Eve 2010 before I settled in to watch recent comedies THE HANGOVER and BRüNO, I decided to watch a little something called JUST THE WAY YOU ARE (1984, directed by Edouard Molinaro), which tells the age-old story of a woman who has to travel across the globe just to find herself. Kinda.

Susan Berlanger (played by the spunky Kristy McNichol of WHITE DOG) is a professional flautist. Despite her slightly butch appearance, this gal is 100% straight and seemingly always on the prowl.

In fact Susan has to practically beat guys off a stick. You see Susan's engaged to wealthy and handsome Frank (pre-WINGS Tim Daly) and being stalked by a horny answering service operator named Jack (Lance Guest). Her best friend Lisa (Kaki Hunter) is a serious dancer and another horny dude named Sam (Robert Carradine) is after them both. After she Lisa compare notes on their disastrous relationships, we see that Susan is wearing a leg brace! What? She plays the flute so can she be disabled???

Turns out that Susan has been handicapped since a childhood bout with viral encephalitis, but she's so well-adjusted that she even jokes about wearing "Polio by Ralph Lauren" (insert sitcom "wha-wha"). After Jack and her have a almost blind lunch date, his subplot is quickly discarded and Susan hooks up with Sam (that's still Robert Carradine, if you're having trouble keeping track)–who isn't turned off by her bum leg. In fact I think he's turned on by her limp! Things seem to be going along swimmingly but suddenly Richie Rich, I mean Frank, walks in on them! Frank doesn't seem to be alarmed, and still wants to marry her because it's okay if she wants to sleep with other guys, because he does too! Yup, Frank's gay and their pending marriage would have been one of convenience so he could inherit his family's vast fortunes. Susan encourages him to be honest and maybe they'll accept him "just the way you are". Awwww...

So, after the broken engagement, Susan wants to see if total strangers would treat her differently if they didn't know she was handicapped, so she dumps Sam and accepts the offer to travel to Europe on a concert tour. So, while in France, she convinces a French doctor to put a cast on her bad leg, and then she heads off to the French Alps and a ski resort! When her room at the inn is double-booked, she quickly and eagerly makes friends with a slutty French woman named Nicole (Catherine Salviat) who instantly becomes her roommate! Nicole is having an affair with a married man, who never shows. Awww...

Soon Susan befriends skier Steve (Patrick Cassidy) and tries to jump his bones, but discovers he has to abstain from sex because it might interfere with his performance on the slopes. Enter Peter Nichols (MAKING LOVE's Michael Ontkean), a handsome and incredibly patient photographer there on assignment and his one-dimensional girlfriend Bobbie (Alexandra Paul). Before you know it, Susan and Peter fall in love, and so Peter dumps tantrum-prone Bobbie for Susan.

But can Susan tell him the truth about her damn leg? You'll just have to watch it to find out! This film is kinda odd. On one hand it's a cheesy 80s romantic comedy, on the other hand it's a "message movie" about how superficial people are.

McNichol makes snarky Susan likable in spite of man-eating ways. In fact if a lesser actress were cast in the lead role of a man-hungry, flippant and smooth operator such as Susan, the viewer might actually loathe her. But lovable Kristy just makes you wanna be on her side. The rest of the cast shows up and does their work, and some of the scenery is quite lovely.

The Billy Joel-less synthesized 80s soundtrack seems a bit too serious and heavy-handed in contrast to the airy romantics goings on, but it's always fun to hear Frida's awesome I Know There's Something Go On. Overall I'd give this Warner Archives gem a 7 outta 10 just because it's premise is so ridiculous, and yet it somehow works. As for Kristy, we'll always love her just the way she is!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


back in 2009, I watched a crime thriller called PORTRAIT IN BLACK (1960, directed by Michael Gordon).Produced in the patented glossy Ross Hunter mold, this stylish soft focus sudser starred Lana Turner (dressed to the nines in stunning Jean Louis outfits) as Sheila Cabot, as a beautiful San Francisco socialite who cares for her cruel, but ailing husband (played by Lloyd Nolan), a millionaire mogul. Sheila longs to free of her husband, but not his enormous, um fortune.Enter Dr. David Rivera (played by Dr. Anthony Quinn, medicine man), who is hired to be Mr. Cabot's personal physician. The good doctor and the beleaguered wife find solace in each other's arms, becoming involved in a torrid affair.Suddenly Mr. Cabot dies from poisoning (!) and there is an ensuing murder investigation that seems to damper any hope of happiness the couple may have. Then Sheila receives an anonymous letter detailing that someone knows about the crime and implicates her and Dr. Rivera!
Sheila is convinced that her late husband's financial advisor is blackmailing her, and she and the dirty doc set out to find him, but soon he turns up dead as well. Guilt and suspicion get the best of the lovers and one decides to confesses! But which one?The film also stars Sandra Dee, John Saxon and Richard Basehart and veteran actress Anna May Wong (in her last film role). Overall, not a great film nor a over-the-top campfest, but an enjoyable melodrama. I've give it a 6 out of 10.