Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is about human cloning, and if that doesn’t clue you as to the title, then catch this:

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

So it was on the 6th day God made man, and that’s what this movie is about. It’s about The 6th Day. It came out nearly 17 years ago (2000), but I never got around to seeing it. It’s now on Hulu, and I continue to wonder what I ever did for old movies before I latched onto Internet streaming services. This was released by Columbia Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia.

You have to recall that, four years prior, the Scots stunned the world by producing Dolly, the first cloned sheep. And there was (still is) a big uproar. This is the future (actually 2015), and all manner of animals are being cloned, but, due to the disastrous result of an earlier trial, human cloning is strictly prohibited by law. And that’s the situation when star ($300 million a year) quarterback Johnny Phoenix gets his neck broken in a crucial play. Not to worry. His handlers have matters well in hand. In the ambulance ride to the hospital his heart is stopped, and he is subsequently replaced by a human clone, who retains all of Johnny’s memories and playing  skills, but without the broken neck messiness. All this is carried out secretly under the auspices of a corporation called Replacement Technologies (RT).

Arnold Schwarzenegger is Adam Gibson, who runs a helicopter charter service along with his partner Hank Morgan (Michael Rapaport). They take wealthy clients high into the mountains, leaving them to ski themselves back to civilization.

But Adam and Hank are required to take a drug test, which requires a blood sample and what seems to amount to a brain scan. Only, when the tests are submitted, the samples are switched accidentally. Then Hank takes out another party by himself, and on top of the mountain an unknown assassin opens fire, killing Hank and others.

Suddenly the TV screen (I’m watching this upstairs on the big screen) goes jerky and the scene jumps to Adam, waiting for Hank to meet him. Adam has figured that Hank is in on a surprise birthday party planned for him, and the meeting between  the two was intended to keep Adam in check while the surprise was being set up.

But Hank is a no-show (dead), and Adam drives to his house, intending to act surprised. Surprised he is, as he peeks in the window and sees a clone of himself getting fresh with his sexy wife Natalie (Wendy Crewson). Just then some assassins working for RT arrive to undo the mistake when the wrong person was cloned. We subsequently learn that the killing on the mountain top was carried out by a anti-cloning activists, but I only watched this through one time, and I never  figured out why there was a scheme to clone Adam and Hank. But it doesn’t matter. The story surges forward.

The assassins pursue Adam, while his clone hangs around at Adam’s house and makes time with Natalie. Adam kills two of the assassins during the chase, but it’s to no avail. Reliable RT Corporation quickly replaces them, and the chase continues. At a certain point Adam confronts the anti-cloning activist (Colin Cunningham) who killed Hank.

Yes, the expected happens. Adam (aka Arnold Schwarzenegger) prevails and tracks down the evil doers at RT Corporation. Here the two  RT assassins are about to meet their doom, as the two Adam’s team up to unravel and destroy RT operations.

Everything made right, the two Adams figure to go their separate ways. Adam the clone prepares to open a cloned charter business in Argentina.

And that’s all hunky-dory.

On-par performances, top notch directing and cinematography. Some lame concepts.

Mentioned previously, my favorite Schwarzenegger is Kindergarten Cop. That has the appeal of the tough guy impregnater being run over by a bunch of pre-schoolers.

Robert Duvall is Doctor Griffin, the inventor of this technology, who unzips the entire operation when he sees what is being done to  maintain it.  And I am not going to mention all the ins and outs of the convoluted clone and replace schemes, because it was too thick for me to follow. There is a lot of silliness to castigate, however.

At one point, a cloning advocate gushes forth on the benefits. All the cloned fish that are feeding a hungry world. People, the standard way of making fish is to fertilize fish eggs, and this process produces more fish than people can eat. Malthusian economics is being abetted by people, who eat the seed stock and disrupt an environment that in the past produced 10 times as much bounty as is presently available from the sea. The idea that more farm live stock can be produced by cloning than by natural process defies basic economics. The only real reason you might want to produce cloned animals would be to provide exact matches for laboratory research.

Cloning reproduces the clones individuals fingerprints. No, it does not. Fingerprint patterns are formed by a random process that is not dictated by the genome.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

No good reason I never saw this one before. It came out in 1956, during the time I would have seen it at the Palace theater in Granbury, Texas. Anyhow, it’s The Boss, now playing on Amazon Prime Video, a wondrous source of ancient works. The titles list Seltzer Films, Inc. and Window Productions, Inc. as the production companies. Details are from Wikipedia.

We are guaranteed up front this is going to be about crime and corruption in politics, and the plot leads us through the entire process, from beginning to  end. The beginning is 1919, when thousands of soldiers are coming home from the war. In a not very big town there is a parade for returning home boys. Leader of the pack is Captain Matthew Brady (John Payne), seen here manhandling sweet Elsie Reynolds (Doe Avedon), the girl he left behind. Looking on is his school chum, Sergeant Bob Herrick (William Bishop), always a bit envious, and with his own eye out for Elsie. Matt has a huge chip on his shoulder, and that’s going to  drive the entire plot.

Matt’s brother, Tim (Roy Roberts) is a local political kingpin, a big shot, a wheeler-dealer, overseer of local graft. Tim wants Matt to come in with him. Matt is having none of it. Chicago is the big time. He resents having his brother call  the shots. The chip rides high. Immediately after this congenial snapshot Matt and Bob are going at it with fists and elbows.

As a result of the melee in the bar and a raucous evening of drinking, Matt is over an hour late for a date with Elsie. He had planned to propose marriage. The chip on his shoulder rules the encounter, as Elsie says no, and  Matt shoves her. A sure way to terminate a relationship.

Continuing into the evening, Matt encounters a woman, Lorry Reed (Gloria McGhee), in an all-night eatery. He mistakes her for a hooker, and when she explains she is not that kind of girl he will not be denied. He drags her off into the night and forces her to marry him. All this on Matt’s first day back from the war.

The next morning finds Matt married to Lorry for life, when Tim comes barging up to their room. For some reason they are shown sleeping is separate beds. Again Matt rebuffs Tim’s insistence he join him in his local political schemes. Tim leaves and promptly drops dead before he can get out of the building.

Matt takes over where Tim left off. Money comes flowing in. He perceives Lorry is not good enough for him, not pretty enough. Low class. It is a cold marriage at Matt’s insistence. Bob goes away to college and becomes an attorney. He marries Elsie and signs on to Matt’s evil empire. The two school chums are shown enjoying a first and last convivial get-together with their wives in Matt’s palatial home.

Ten Years pass, and the stock market crash of 1929 puts Matt and Bob into financial straits. Matt seeks financial  assistance from a local  mobster named Johnny, and some ruthless criminals become part of their political empire.

It all comes crashing down. One of the mob gets turned by the feds, and the mobsters ambush the agents taking him to a federal lockup. One of the mobsters whips out a tommy gun, turning the local train station into a killing zone. The shit hits the fan.

The mobsters abduct Bob to coerce Matt, but Matt fights back. When the police arrive at the cement plant where the mobsters are meeting, Matt and Johnny have it  out in the upper reaches of the building, and Johnny falls into the gloppitta-gloppitta machine. I just had to put this screen shot in, because it is so required in the standard movie plot.

Bob testifies against his buddy Matt, who gets convicted, and Lorry puts up money for Matt’s bail. But she is leaving him. He’s going to prison anyway, so what’s the use hanging around?

Matt is seen walking himself into  prison. Obviously crime does not pay.

My impression is writer Ben L. Perry decided to redo Citizen Kane, and that was even before I noticed this came out 15 years after. It could have been titled something like The Rise and Fall of Matthew Brady, but this was apparently the day for cryptic titles.

I saw a bunch of John Payne movies, and I always wondered at a he-man movie star who would be John Wayne except for one letter. But, no, that appears to be Payne’s real name. This was toward the end of Payne’s long career, his  last appearance of note being in an episode of Colombo in 1975.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This was hot when it came out in 1993. Pat Reeder, writing for The North Texas Skeptic, first referenced it in March of that year:

That said, I’m now going to break my own rule and discuss the February 25 edition of Hard Copy…but only because it offered the first ripple of a new, oncoming wave of garbage from Hollywood. On March 12, Paramount Pictures will release a film…nah, make that “a movie”…called Fire In The Sky, based on the “true story” (as the ads trumpet) of…brace yourself…Travis Walton’s UFO abduction!

Hard Copy recounted the timeworn yarn, using lots of special effects-laded footage from the movie to make the story seem all the more “irrefutable.” As usual, Travis appeared on camera to mumble that the whole story was really so painful to relive that he hates to tell it. Well, he must have an amazingly high threshold of pain, because he has told it, for a price, to the National Enquirer, a book publisher, and a number of tabloid TV shows (as I recall, this was the third time I’ve seen him recount it on TV in the past year). And now he’s sold his whopper to Hollywood. To borrow a phrase from Robert Benchley, he has inflicted this story on the public in every conceivable way except dropping it from airplanes. Instead of Fire In The Sky, perhaps the movie should’ve been called Money In The Bank.

Hard Copy’s presentation of Walton’s story was completely one-sided, making no effort whatsoever to recount any of the many gaping holes in it, nor to examine Walton’s many and varied motivations for making it all up. The only effort toward balance was one sentence: “Many people have tried to poke holes in Travis Walton’s story, pointing out, for example, that less than a month after the incident, he sold his story to the national media.” But even that was slanted in his favor. Why not tell the whole truth: that he sold it to the National ENQUIRER?

If you want to read a real investigation of Walton, complete with tons of damning evidence against him, check out Phil Klass’ excellent book, UFOs: The Public Deceived. You certainly won’t get any tough investigations from Hard Copy, and judging from the clips of the upcoming movie, the best that can be expected from it is that the special effects and makeup will be almost as hilarious as the ones in the Communion movie.

I did not watch the movie at that time, but I did look into the background story, and I  penned a letter to the Dallas Times Herald, saying something to the effect that if this movie is supposed to be based on a true story, then we wonder what true story it is based on. I had a VHS at one time, and I recall attempting to watch it. I fell asleep and did not finish it.

But now it’s available on Amazon Prime Video, and I am again in desperate need of a BMotW. You can thank me later for my sacrifice. This was distributed by Paramount Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia. Here’s the story.

Opening scenes show a pickup truck careening wildly down a logging road in  the White Mountains area of Arizona. It’s after sundown, and the truck is dodging trees in the dark, finally bursting forth on a highway and running a box truck off the road. In town the five learn at the local eatery and bar that the kitchen is closed and also that everybody wants to know about the sixth member of their party, which person did not return from the trip. Police Lieutenant Frank Watters (James Garner) is called in  from out of town to investigate.

The survivors tell their story. It starts with Travis Walton (D. B. Sweeney), who is a wild and carefree soul. He is sweet on the sister of Mike Rogers (Robert Patrick), which sister lives with the Rogers family, itself in dire financial and marital  straits.

Mike has a contract to clear undergrowth in a nearby forest, and he is late on completion and in default. On that last and fateful day he pushes his crew to clear an assigned slope. Then they all head back after sundown. Seeing a strange light in the sky they drive to investigate. Travis gets out, against the admonitions of the other five. He wanders toward and beneath the strange object in the sky. Then comes the iconic scene from the movie (and the movie poster). The five flee, and when Mike returns to look for Travis, he is nowhere to be found. The five arrive back in town minus Travis. That’s when the trouble starts.

Big search, days on end, hundreds stomping the woods. No Travis. People in the town are fearful and angry. They take out their frustrations on the five.

Polygraph examinations are ordered. The results are considered inconclusive. Surprise surprise!

Then, after being missing for five days, Travis phones in. He is retrieved from a service station miles away in the dead of night, where he has used a pay phone (remember them?) to  call Mike, collect. He is hospitalized, scrutinized, collectivized, stigmatized. Then there is a big party to celebrate his home coming. He ends up shivering in a corner beneath a table. His tale comes out in a dream-flashback.

Inside an alien craft he recalls experiences right out of 2001, a Space Odyssey.

Alien creatures do unspeakable things to him. Things of which he later speaks.

And that concludes the movie. Years later Mike is divorced and living  in a cabin in the woods. Travis is married to Mike’s cute sister and has babies coming like clockwork. The two  revisit the site of the signature event.

And this movie has no plot.

  • The five return to town.
  • They report what happened to Travis.
  • There’s disbelief.
  • Lieutenant Watters is called in.
  • There’s a big manhunt.
  • The five take polygraph examinations—results inconclusive.
  • Townspeople are suspicious, even contemptuous.
  • There is trouble at the Rogers home.
  • Travis phones home.
  • Travis is returned to the world of the living.
  • Travis recalls his experience in a dream.
  • Mike and Travis wind down the story.

Regarding the true story, the facts comprise very little:

  • Rogers was defaulting on his clearing contract.
  • The contract contained a clause for exemption due to unusual circumstances.
  • Some, myself included, believe the alien abduction story was concocted to supply the unusual circumstance.

As with all movies based on somebody’s story, this movie was greatly jiggered for audience appeal. Travis published his account in a 1976 book:

Chapter One Snowflake, Arizona

November 1975

A group of loggers were hard at work cutting down trees with the aid of their rotary saws, but one such man had been sleeping under one of the trees and didn’t know it was about to be cut down.

“Hey where’s Travis?” Mike Rogers called out and with that the other loggers turned to look around for any signs of him.

“Well he was here earlier on.”  Ken Peterson responded and seemed stunned that he’d somehow disappeared from view, but this worried them.

Tully, Justin. Travis Walton Abduction: 1975 (Kindle Locations 13-21). Imagination1976. Kindle Edition.

The account Travis gave was not very interesting:

Travis woke up inside the UFO and found that he was now without clothing and his surroundings were completely different to how they were the last time he remembered them as being. Panicking he got to his feet and seemed stunned at the place he seemed to be inside, but as he rushed around the corridors inside the craft a strange looking being appeared in front of him. Travis knew enough to hide from view and ducked down as the being went floating past him. Travis then got back to his feet and rushed into another room inside the craft, but after having reached the area he found that he was being watched.

Tully, Justin. Travis Walton Abduction: 1975 (Kindle Locations 208-212). Imagination1976. Kindle Edition.

In addition to Pat Reeder’s initial comment, this movie has come up three additional times in the newsletter of the North Texas skeptics. Follow the links for additional reading:

Other than that, the acting is about on par, the directing  is superb, cinematography is excellent, and the special effects regarding Travis’s experience, by Industrial Light & Magic, are over the top. None of that saves this vapid story.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I saw this before,  but I forgot most of the plot. It’s Blow Out, starring John Travolta as Jack Terry, a sound technician for low-budget films. The director is Brian De Palma, usually a slam dunk for the first tier. Not in this case. Some maturity in the supporting roles and also in the writing is required. This came out in 1981 from Filmways Pictures. Again, as most recently, it was Hulu to the rescue when I was looking for an odd movie. Details are from Wikipedia.

I don’t recall these opening scenes. Maybe I was watching on Sunday Night at the Movies. Anyhow, this opens to be another slasher film, as we see somebody peeking into windows where college girls are running around most nearly naked. The stalker first kills what may have been a policeman, peeking at the goodies. We don’t see the stalker, and apparently neither does anybody else, as the stalker’s view moves into the dormitory and down halls among ample eye candy. Coming to  a shower, where a girl is oblivious to the intrusion, the film recreates the Bates Motel scene. The girl screams. It’s a piss poor scream. It’s not what the director is looking for. We are not watching real life but the screening of a scene from a low-budget slasher film.

Jack is supposed to provide a blood curdling scream to go with the scene, but multiple trials using professional screamers comes to naught.

Jack knocks off and goes out at night to record sound tracks for his library. Hearing a commotion on a local street, he points his shotgun microphone toward a speeding car. There is a loud bang, and the car veers out of control and plunges into a creek.

There are two people in the car, and Jack dives in, rescuing a woman. He cannot rescue the man. The man turns out to be Governor McRyan (this is Philadelphia), a presidential hopeful. Jack has trouble getting his story across to to the police, then a political handler comes along proposing that Jack cover up the whole business about the girl.

The girl is Sally (Nancy Allen), who turns out to be an escort hired by McRyan’s political opponents to cause an embarrassing situation. The embarrassment has gotten out of hand, as the person managing the setup figured it wise to shoot out a tire on the governor’s car. The plunge into  the creek was fortuitous (unforeseen), but Jack has a quality recording that reveals the gunshot causing the blow out.

Jack convinces Sally to hang around and help resolve the situation.

The situation turns out to be deadly serious. The mastermind behind all this subterfuge is a man named Burke (John Lithgow), and his elaborate scheme to eliminate Sally is to create a string of serial killings and to include Sally as one of the victims. Burke taps phones, destroys copies of Jack’s tapes, and works his way up to getting the last of Jack’s copies, eliminating Sally in the process. Here Burke stalks a prostitute in train  station, where she has been giving a blow job to a sailor. While she brushes the taste out of her mouth, Burke leans across the bathroom partition and loops a wire around her throat.

Burke signs his killings by first strangling, then stabbing his victims with an icepick. All the killings need to look like Sally’s murder.

Burke pretends to be the reporter who has arranged to meet Jack and review his remaining recording. Jack plants a wireless microphone on Sally as a precaution before sending her into the station to meet the supposed reporter. Burke lures Sally away from the station, and Jack frantically attempts to track down  the pair, but he is seconds too late. Burke strangles Sally, but before he can  stab her with the icepick Jack arrives and pounces, killing Burke with the icepick.

The scene cuts sharply. Apparently Jack has left the scene of the double killing, leaving police to conclude Sally ended the string of killings by stabbing Burke.

But Jack has the recording he has made from Sally’s wireless microphone. It is just the scream they need for the shower scene.

Yeah, that’s about it for this movie. De Palma was able to inject a load of drama and suspense, but lackluster performances from down-ticket, along with a wad of lame dialog, sink this production. Wikipedia reports the producers lost a few million dollars here.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Has to be Glenn Ford‘s worst movie. It’s The Disappearance of Flight 412 from 1974, made for TV release. Ford is Colonel Pete Moore, in charge of an Air Force detachment dispatched on  a radar test flight. The crew are going to be in for a rough ride. This appeared on NBC, now available for view on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

Here we see Colonel Moore prepping  his men for the mission. He stays behind.

Things shortly go bizarre. The radar operator spots three UFOs in triangle formation, and the Marines scramble two F-4 fighters. Only, the movie shows what is definitely not an F-4. Looks more like an A-4. Subsequent shots of the fighters show F-4s.

Anyhow, the radar test crew observe the F-4s entering a cloud layer and never coming out. They disappear from  radar.

Viewers are treated to an array of interesting equipment to convince them some really high-tech stuff is going on.

After the radar crew reports the incident, something strange happens. Another communication overrides their operational instructions and orders them to land at an abandoned airfield.

There they are taken into custody and interrogated relentlessly. More than interrogated, they are strongly coaxed. They did not observe what they thought they saw. We now know this is the classic U.S. government cover-up of a UFO incident, one that involved the disappearance of two F-4 fighters and the four crew members.

Colonel Moore intervenes and seeks out the abandoned base. He demands the return of his men.

For his intransigence Moore is denied subsequent promotion and retires from  the service. Crew members who go along with the coaxing are promoted. Others get dead end assignments.

It’s a lesson to all of us that the United States government is covering up UFO incidents, and the truth is still out there.

Yeah, pretty bad. This is a sure candidate for BMotW.

Glenn Ford appeared in a number of prime roles, tops of which may have been The Sheepman, which I do not have a copy to review. I have reviewed Experiment in Terror, with Lee Remick and Ross Martin, both putting in first class performances, especially Martin. Also see the review of Trial.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I have Hulu to thank for this one. My grandson sent me a link to a video featuring I Love the Nightlife by Alicia Bridges and Susan Hutcheson from 1977, a big disco hit in those days. The song is one of the numbers used in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert that came out in 1994, and the video contains clips from the movie. The Hulu release is from MGM. I’m getting details from Wikipedia.

Opening scenes show drag queen Anthony “Tick” Belrose (Hugo Weaving) going on stage to perform at a Sydney cabaret. The performance receives a cool reception, and Tick is backstage and depressed. He figures to move on.

Along with his co-performers, the trans-gender Bernadette Bassinger (Terence Stamp) and Adam Whitely (Guy Pearce), he sets out to do a gig in Alice Springs. Adam procures a tour bus, which they name Priscilla, hence the title. “Queen” is English slang for drag queen. You can tell the three are off to a bad start, and the bus is shown going down the freeway on  the left hand side.

The movie has not much of a plot. This is just the adventures of three drag queens in Australia’s hostile outback. Hostile in multiple ways. It’s a celebration of the bizarre as all popular conceptions of cross dressing, transsexuality, and homosexuality are magnified for effect. Here Adam rides atop the bus as it rolls along the desert highway, a spectacular, flowing costume billowing in the wind.

Much adventure follows, including an encounter with “Bob,” who has an absolutely wacko Indonesian wife, who puts on a performance that shades anything the three can match. The three accomplish a goal of hiking to the rim of King’s Canyon in full costume.

I took up this review as a project for my grandson, and I was prepared for 100 minutes of drab LGBT advocacy. Lacking a coherent plot, the movie manages to entertain by exploiting absurd situations. The bus breaks down in the middle of the dessert and Bernadette troops off into the wilderness to locate some assistance. Bob’s wife, already mentioned. Hooking up with a group of Aborigines, one of whom joins in an  impromptu performance. The absolutely wild costumes, which garnered awards, including an Oscar.

The 1970s disco numbers, lip-synced, help keep the mood light while bringing back memories for some of us. Notable are “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, and finally Mamma Mia, performed by ABBA. Adam rides atop Priscilla to the tune of ‘E strano… Ah! Fors e lui‘ from La Traviata by Giuseppe Verde and sung by Joan Carden.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This is another from The Shadow collection. It’s International Crime, from 1938 and starring Rod La Rocque as Lamont Cranston/The Shadow. This was before I was born, and I’m not sorry I missed it. Significant aspects of the story are way lame. This appears to be a Grand National Picture, although the titles do not mention Grand National. You have to get the production company off the movie poster on Amazon or Wikipedia, where I am getting other technical  details. Screen shots are from Amazon Prime Video.

Here La Rocque reprises his Shadow role from The Shadow Strikes. and Behind the Mask. It’s difficult to take any of the Shadow plots seriously, this one especially.

Here the Shadow is a radio crime commentator. He has a nightly broadcast, during which he recounts numerous incidences of crime while giving out sound advice to citizens in general. Here he speaks while his able assistant works the controls.

In barges cute Phoebe Lane (Astrid Allwyn) with a story about an impending crime. She’s a royal pain, but Cranston  can’t get rid of her, because her uncle owns the newspaper/radio station. She says a complete stranger (had an honest face) told her a specific movie theater will be robbed at 9 p.m.

Cranston alerts the police and rushes over there. Commissioner Weston (Thomas E. Jackson) is not pleased with Cranston’s butting in.

Sure enough. the advice about a robbery was a ruse to siphon police away from the scene of an actual crime. A safe has been blown up as its owner opened it, killing  the wealthy taxpayer. Cranston is there ahead of the police and gets stuck in the slammer as a material witness.

Bonded out, Cranston quizzes Phoebe, who now recalls the person with the holdup tale spoke with an accent. Cranston tries several accents until Phoebe recognizes his phony Austrian accent. They need to look for an Austrian.

But where to look? Why, where Austrians dine. Any Austrian criminal villain is bound to be dining out right now at a fancy Austrian restaurant, so the two put on  their glad rags and make the tour. Until Phoebe spots the man. He is international financier Flotow (Wilhelm von Brincken),  and when Cranston saunters over to Flotow’s table and pretends to be a fellow Austrian, Phoebe chimes in and gives away the scam. Flotow recognizes her from her picture in the newspaper atop her home body column.

More ensues, but the critical mass is that Flotow and associate put the squeeze on Roger Morton (John St. Polis), brother of the murdered man. They force him to write a suicide note and then hand him a gun.

But just then Cranston and the police enter and put an end to the crime spree. We see Cranston and Phoebe doing a follow-up broadcast.

Hokey to the highest degree, of course. Particularly that part about shopping around at Austrian restaurants looking for the stranger who gave Phoebe the bogus crime story.

La Roque began appearing in films about age 15, and had a long and successful career. But this was one of his final roles. Three years later he was Ted Sheldon in Meet John Doe, which starred Gary Cooper. He died in 1969.

Time was about up for Grand National Pictures. That company lasted from 1936 to  1939. We have seen them before.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This one has been a long time getting to these pages—30 years to be exact. From 1987 it’s Over The Top, starring Sylvester Stallone as he-man truck driver Lincoln Hawk. It’s a Golan-Globus production, so you sort of know what to expect. The two cousins are noted for a tableaux of off-kilter productions, including:

That’s just up through the 1980s, and there are many I didn’t list. This one was directed by Menahem Golan. Screen shots are from Amazon Prime Video, which is a trove of hard-to-find productions. I promise more of these in the future. Details are from Wikipedia. The story in a few sentences.

Michael Cutler-Hawk (David Mendenhall) is graduating from a prestigious military academy.

Meanwhile, his father is coming to pick him up and take him to see his mother, who is dying.

The mother is sweet Christina Cutler-Hawk (Susan Blakely). Her husband long ago deserted her and their son, due to interference from her filthy rich and domineering father, Jason Cutler (Robert Loggia).

The kid did not even know his father existed, and is not impressed by having to ride home in a second-hand big rig tractor. But dad introduces Mike to an entirely different life—eating at a truck stop serving truck driver fare and crowded with dudes wanting to challenge Dad to an arm wrestle at $1000 a pop. Dad beats one tough guy and declines the invite from another, even more massive, hulk.

Mike gets his chance when he encounters flak from a tough kid. He loses his first round, but his dad reminds him that soul counts for much in competition and in life. He slams to tough guy in the second round.

The mother dies before the kid gets home, and the kid rejects his dad, noting that in ten years he never got a birthday card. Grandfather Cutler takes custody of the kid, against all legal standards, and big Hawk responds by ramming his rig through the Cutler estate security gate, across the fountain-festooned front yard and through the front door of the house.

Of course, big Hawk gets thrown into the slammer for this, and he seeks to redeem himself by selling his rig and investing the proceeds in a Las Vegas bet on himself in the world championship competition. The remainder of the movie shows the kid escaping the Cutler estate, stealing granddad’s pickup truck, taking a flight to Las Vegas, and cheering his dad to victory.

Yeah, you and I are on the same page here. Stallone was one piece of beef in those days, but seeing him put down guys with biceps thicker than his waistline really is a bit over the top.

The movie is well directed and photographed. The story is strictly manufactured. Stallone had his own take. From the Amazon screen notes:

Years later, Sylvester Stallone explained why he agreed to appear in this movie, saying, “Menahem Golan kept offering me more and more  money, until I finally thought, “What the hell – no one will see it!”

The joke’s on you, Sly.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is currently available for view on Amazon Prime Video, in case you missed when it came out 11 years ago. And there is an interesting back story.

My first software job, and video tapes were coming in vogue. I told my boss at the time that there would come a time, I thought soon, when studios would forgo movie theaters and aim straight for the VHS market. He scoffed, but I prevailed. I’m seeing more and more stuff, not straight to VHS but straight to DVD. This is one of them. It’s Second in Command, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme in another of his kick-ass action roles. Details are from Wikipedia.

It all takes place in Moldavia, you can see that in the opening credits. The problem is, there is no country named Moldavia. There is a region in Eastern Europe called Moldavia, but it’s partitioned among a number of political entities, one of them being Moldova.

Never mind that. The fictional  country of Moldavia is an a world of hurt, and Navy SEAL Commander Samuel Keenan is coming to straighten things out. He arrives at the capital to step in as second in command at the United States embassy, and we see him arriving at the airport in a special jet and in full uniform. But he is not in uniform for long. He first has to make a stop at the Hotel Continental, and here’s the reason. She’s news correspondent Michelle Whitman (Julie Cox), and she’s sex on a stick.

But while Commander Keenan and his sweetie are getting reacquainted, a miscreant communist terrorist attacks the hotel, gunning down news reporters, including a number of Michelle’s friends. Keenan puts on pants and a shirt and steps out to kick some ass and put a lid on the ruckus.

The ruckus is masterminded by communist leader Anton Tavrov (Velibor Topic). He sets the stage for an uprising by sending an agitator into a disgruntled street mob and then  ordering a sniper to kill her, making it appear she was killed by government troops. You know that before the end of the movie Keenan is going to  have to kick Tavrov’s ass.

Back at the presidential palace, newly elected Moldavian President Yuri Amirev (Serban Celea) is trying to figure out what to do about this communist uprising. Evacuation is not an option. He phones the American embassy. It’s going to be Commander  Keenan to the rescue.

Much gunfire and many dead bodies later, and Keenan arrives back at the embassy with President Amirev. Now they need to figure out what to do. An RPG attack kills the ambassador, and Keenan has to deal with intelligence chief Frank Gaines (William Tapley), who thinks he has a better idea and wants to be in charge. Gaines wants to  evacuate, Keenan wants to hold the fort and wait for reinforcements. A contingent of Marines is detached from an American base several hundred miles away.

Also, President Amirev has hopes that General Borgov, who is off in the hinterlands chasing after some terrorists, will arrive to save the day. Suspense is heightened by occasional views of a tactical display, showing where the Marine contingent (arriving by helicopter) and Borgov’s force are located with respect to the embassy and how long it will take for them to arrive. It’s going to  be close.

To resolve the impasse at the American embassy, Tavrov takes some hostages, including a Moldavian general and two news correspondents, Michelle and her cameraman. A sniper stands ready to dispatch them if Tavrov’s demands are not met. He shows he’s serious by having the general killed.

Gaines asserts his authority and takes over, countermanding Keenan’s decision to hold firm. But Gaines’ master escape plan is anticipated by Tavrov, and many escapees are killed. With fewer troops on the line and dwindling ammunition, the Americans go full defensive, making the communists pay for every inch. More are to die.

General Borgov arrives with his armored column, but he has thrown in his lot with the rebels, and he kills Gaines, who had counted on his personal friendship. Also killed in the final battle is Michelle’s photographer.

Then the Marines arrive, and their attack helicopters turn the street in front of the embassy into a killing zone. Inside the embassy Keenan faces off with Tavrov and defeats him in hand-to-hand combat when Michelle scoots a knife his way. The battle over, the two lovers walk out into the sunlight of a new day. It is romantic as all get out.

Lots of action, intrigue, gunfire, and dead bodies with a storybook ending. Pure entertainment aimed straight at the gonads. Fairly standard plot of a combat veteran prevailing over bureaucratic rigidity and winning the day. That’s what these movies are all about.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

A quick testimonial for Amazon Prime Video. This source is a prime trove of those movies you never heard of, and, which if have heard of, you would never want on your personal shelf. This is Sky Racket from 1937, which I feel sure predates anybody reading this. It’s from Victory Pictures Corporation, which went the way of many such studios of that era:

Victory Pictures Corporation was a film production and distribution company that operated from 1935-39. It was owned by Sam Katzman and specialised in making low-budget movies, predominantly Westerns. It made two serials and 30 films, including some of the Western series’ of Bob Steele and Tim McCoy. It also made eight films based on the works of Peter B. Kyne.

The studio plant caught fire in 1937, causing $50,000 worth of damage.

And that about says it all.

The story and screen play are by Basil Dickey, responsible for 147 screen plays. We are all hoping this was not one of his better works. Details from Wikipedia consist of the cast of characters, and the plot gets summarized in two sentences. Here is more. Sketchy, but still more.

High-spirited heiress Marion Bronson (Joan Barclay) is getting married to Count Barksi (Duncan Renaldo). Only she isn’t. It’s one of those marriages. Money is being traded for social standing, and sweet Marion is the pawn being exchanged.  While the groom and wedding guests wait down stairs, Marion decides this not her future, and she shucks off her wedding dress and presses her handmaid, Jenny (Hattie McDaniel), into helping her make a getaway out the upstairs window using the old knotted bed sheet device. If you are watching this right now on Amazon, then you are wondering how the hefty McDaniel is going to  shinny down that rope of bed sheets. Hollywood magic, and possibly a stunt actor, make it possible.

Marion’s rich uncle has the keys to the getaway car, so Marion, over Jenny’s protests, boosts a gardener’s truck, which soon runs out of gas. Marion leaves the hapless Jenny to fend for herself and waits for her uncle and the count to show up in pursuit. Once they arrive, Marion emerges from concealment and hops onto  the back bumper as the car steers toward the local airport to head off the runaway bride.

At the airport Marion hops aboard a mail plane sitting idle on the apron and conceals herself in the front seat.

Oops! Worst airplane to stow away on. The mail plane is part of an operation by the feds to track down gangsters who have been sabotaging mail planes and stealing the loot after they cause the planes to crash. This flight is under the command of Eric Lane – Agent 17, played by “Herman Brix” (actually Bruce Bennett). Well into the flight and well into the scheme to track down the gangsters, Eric discovers the spunky Marion in the front seat. He thinks she’s part of the plot and pulls a gun on her. Then the plane suddenly loses power, caused by a remote device operated by the gang leader.

Anticipating having to bale out, Eric has brought along a parachute—only one parachute. He leaves the wounded plane with Marion clinging closer to him than unmarried couples are supposed to cling. They end up in a tree.

But the crooks have been following all this, and [much drama omitted] they capture the two and take them to a room in the back of a Los Angeles club. Here we are treated to two separate bouts of plot churn, as first one of the gang members recapitulates his medicine show spiel of days past, all for the entertainment of the club audience and for the movie viewer. On another occasion a club entertainer chews up more celluloid with a song and dance number.

Early in their predicament, Eric and Marion develop an unspoken understanding, and the two play a charade that puts Eric as a kidnapper, snagging the heiress for a $50,000 ransom. The crooks don’t know whether to take this for real, and there is much back and forth as they try to decide whether to play along or to just knock the two off and cut their losses. There were no mail bags in the plane. That’s ring leader Benjamin Arnold (Monte Blue) giving Marion the third degree while Eric sits tied up in a chair.

Much more drama is omitted, and final scenes find Marion locked in a closet in the ring leader’s headquarters and Eric coming to the rescue. Marion continues to show her spunk as Eric and ring leader Benjamin Arnold fight it out. Eric wins the fight, and all the crooks get arrested.

There has to be a Hollywood ending. The heiress and the G-man fly off together on a honeymoon.

It’s an interesting story, and I firmly believe that had I been given the script I could have turned this into a reasonable crime thriller. Neither Wikipedia nor IMDb provide any information about production costs and gross receipts, but I’m guessing both were low, even by standards of the 1930s. IMDb does mention this is, “Virtually an exact remake of Tim McCoy’s 1936 western, Ghost Patrol.”

This was not Bennett’s only dip in the pool. His film credits are impressive, with 91 being displayed on Wikipedia, some of which you may have seen:

He lived to be 100.

Barclay found steady work in Hollywood until 1945, when her career faded completely. You have seen this one:

She was in at least one other Falcon movie that I have seen but not reviewed.

This film is interesting in that it gave Hattie McDaniel top billing, along with Bennett and Barclay. Not typical for Hollywood in those days, but keep in mind she plays a handmaid and appears in only three scenes. She went on to earn an Academy Award in Gone with the Wind . Sky Racket was 18 years before Sidney Poitier broke the barrier and played a starring role in a major production.