Movies My Dad Should Not Have Taken Me To See… But Glad He Did.

March 12, 2008

My dad would have been 81 years old today. He died back in 1980. And although I was thirteen when he passed, I still have some fond memories, especially when we went to the flicks. Thinking back, I saw some crazy shit before I was ten years old. Shit I probably shouldn’t have seen. But that was the seventies and people were crazy.

Some of these memories have blurred over the years, and I can’t recall exactly if my dad took me to see “Logan’s Run”, or “The Light at the Edge of the World” or if I just watched them on TV by myself, thinking they were the kind of flick we would have seen together. But there are a few I’m certain about.

GORDON’S WAR (1973) 2
Dir. Ossie Davis
Starring: Paul Winfield – Carl Lee

GodonsWar002

A buddy of mine made a documentary about the Blaxploitation era. During his research he let me watch several of the films he found. One of them was “Gordon’s War”. What I didn’t realize, until one scene in particular that jogged my memory, is that I had seen the movie before, when I was seven years old. My dad took me to it, and it’s the earliest film I remember seeing with him. There’s a scene where these dudes bust into a room on another dude and his woman, both butt naked. The naked dude dives for his gun on the night table. I remember thinking: Hey, that dude is naked! Of course he doesn’t make it, and the two thugs plug him full of lead. My first exposure to sex and violence on the big screen. Thanks Dad!

WHITE LIGHTNING (1973) 2
Dir. Joseph Sargent
Starring: Burt Reynolds – Ned Beatty – Bo Hopkins

WhiteLightning001

Another one that fucked me up. Right off the bat the violence was unsettling. In particular the opening scene, when Sheriff Connors (Beatty) rows into a swamp, towing a canoe behind him. In the canoe are two young men, gagged and tied to heavy cinder blocks. Suddenly, the Sheriff stops, points a shotgun at the canoe’s hull and blows a hole in it. The young men sink, struggling with all their might to break free before they drown. It’s no use. The Sheriff casually rows away, barely looking back at his handy work. Just another day to this guy. His mistake was that one of the young men he kills is the brother of Gator McKlusky (Reynolds) who when he finds out what happens, gets his hickploitation on. “White Lightning” isn’t a great movie, but it’s entertaining. Tarantino used some of the music in his film “Kill Bill”.

DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY (1974) 1 and a half
Dir. John Hough
Starring: Peter Fonda – Susan George

dirtymarycrazylarry

I remember the ending when Mary and Larry have gotten away from the bad guys, they’re rolling down the highway at a good eighty miles an hour, then… BOOM. They collide with a train and explode. Roll credits. I remember my dad looking down at me with an expression that said: What the fuck was that?

RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER (1975) 2 and a half
Dir. Blake Edwards
Starring: Peter Sellars – Christopher Plummer – Herbert Lom

rotppanther

What I dug about this movie was the opening scene where the jewel thief uses all these cool gadgets to bust into the museum and rip off the Pink Panther Emerald. I remember thinking: This is bad ass. Then when Peter Sellers comes on the scene, I laughed my ass off, especially the fights between him and his servant Kato. This was a new super hero I had discovered I could add to the list: Batman, The Six Million Dollar Man, Bruce Lee and now Insp. Jacques Clouseau. From then on, every time a new Pink Panther movie came out was like a holiday.

BAMBI (1942) three
Re-release (1975)
Dir. David Hand

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Most people talk about the scene when Bambi’s mother gets shot. But the scene I remember is the forest fire, when Bambi and his father are trying to run through the flames and escape the inferno. We saw this one at the Broadway theater. It had high-rise seats. It seemed like you had to climb a mountain and then you were sitting on the edge of a cliff while watching the movie. I could never get comfortable. But later I would discover the Broadway was the best place to sneak into several movies, because it had about four theaters, and was so fucking dark, nobody could see you move in and out. Nor did they give a shit. It was downtown, but it was ghetto as hell. Good times.

VIGILANTE FORCE (1976) 1
Dir. George Armitage
Starring: Kris Kristofferson – Jan Michael Vincent – Victoria Principle

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The scene that messed me up is when Kris Kristofferson tells Victoria Principle to run… then shoots her in the back where she falls dead in a ditch. That was some cold-blooded shit. I do seem to remember Kristofferson exploding in a ball of fire at the end. Oh yeah, and he and his henchmen are wearing some kind of Sgt. Pepper uniforms or something. Anyway. It sucked.

KING KONG (1976) 1 and a half
Dir. John Guillermin
Starring: Jeff Bridges – Jessica Lang – Charles Grodin

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I always get a kick out of this one whenever it’s on TV. It’s a real turd, but it’s so cheesy and the special effects are so crappy, it’s one of those: it’s so bad it’s good flicks. I remember the scene when Kong is on the World Trade Center getting shot up, and he jumps from one tower over to the other to escape. It was a worms eye shot of Kong flying through the air between the towers, and I was thinking: “There’s no way he could do that!” Never mind the fact that the whole thing was ridiculous. Man, but was I looking forward to seeing this movie, mostly because of the bad ass poster of Kong standing on the Twin Towers, crushing a rocket in one hand and holding a hot chick in the other.

King Kong 1976 poster 1

I was severely disappointed when the size of Kong in the poster did not match up with the size of Kong in the film. What a fucking rip off.

OUTLAW BLUES (1977) 1 and a half
Dir. Richard T. Heffron
Starring: Peter Fonda – Susan Saint James

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This might have been part of a double feature with “Dirty Mary Crazy Larry”. I don’t remember shit about this movie other than having to listen to Peter Fonda sing. I remember it was a pain in the ass.

CONVOY (1978) 1 and a half
Dir. Sam Peckinpah
Starring: Kris Kristofferson – Ali MacGraw – Ernest Borgnine

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I remember Ali MacGraw surprising Kris Kristofferson in the cab of his truck wearing nothing but a bow. I remember thinking: Damn, she’s naked! I remember Ernest Borgnine’s ugly mug. I remember Kristofferson’s truck rolling off a bridge. Is there anything else worth remembering in this movie? I doubt it.

PROPHESY (1979) It Sucks
Dir. John Frankenheimer
Starring: Robert Foxworth – Talia Shire – Armand Assante

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This was probably the last movie I saw with my dad, which is a god damn shame because it’s a piece of shit. “All The Presidents Men” was showing at the same theater that “Prophesy” was playing at. My dad wanted to see “Men”, but he deferred to me. After taking a look at the posters in the lobby, I chose “Prophecy”. I remember my dad giving me a look like: “Boy, are you crazy?” But I didn’t care. I mean… look at the posters. One is stupid and the other is bad ass.

prophecyMen001

“Prophecy” was one of the first movies I saw as an adolescent that I realized while I was watching it, that it was a piece of shit. I was getting older. And my dad was right, we should have seen “All The Presidents Men”. I wouldn’t have been able to figure out what the hell the movie was about, but then again, I couldn’t figure out “Prophecy” either. The only parts of the movie I remember are a giant fish in a lake, and some dude gets his head bit off by a deformed bear. The shit was S-T-U-P-I-D.

SCARMAOUCHE (1952) Classic
Dir. George Sidney
Starring: Stewart Granger – Janet Leigh – Mel Ferrer

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This played at some revival theater in the late seventies. I remember my dad showing me the ad for this in the paper and asking me if I wanted to go. I knew I didn’t the minute I laid eyes on it. It looked stupid. The guy was wearing tights and looked like a ballet dance. I didn’t want to go see a damn ballet. Besides, there was all kinds of cool shit we could see, like “Superman” or “Star Wars” or just about any damn thing but “Scratch-a-my-Whatever” it’s supposed to be. I couldn’t even pronounce it. “Sure, Evan. Let’s go”. So we went, me cursing under my breath the whole way.

The minute the movie started, I was blown away. The Technicolor exploded through out the theater. Janet Leigh was beautiful. Stewart Granger was funny. And the actor playing his brother was familiar. Hey! That’s Oscar Goldman! Mel Ferrer was a bad ass villain. And the sword fighting was brilliant. This flick had everything you want from a story. I forgot I was in a theater. I forgot I was watching a movie. I forgot time.

If they have movies in the afterlife, I’m sure my dad is watching one right now and thinking to himself… what the fuck is this shit?


Top Ten Henchmen

March 5, 2008

Empire Magazine has layed out its top ten movie henchmen.

1. Wez – The Road Warrior (1981)
2. Odd Jobb – Goldfinger (1964)
3. Tony and Joey – Midnight Run (1988)
4. Luca Brasi – The Godfather (1972)
5. Uli – Die Hard (1988)
6. Manny – Scarface (1983)
7. Powell – National Treasure (2004)
8. Mr. Joshua – Lethal Weapon (1987)
9. Maximillian – The Black Hole (1979)
10. The Flying Monkeys – The Wizard Of Oz (1939)

Wez and Odd Jobb are agreed. But the rest? “Maximillian” from “The Black Hole”? “Powell” from “National Treasure”? Who the hell are those idiots? The flying monkeys is inspired, but the rest make no sense.

Here’s Grumpy Guy’s top ten movie henchmen.

10. Romero (Frank Doubleday)
Boss: The Duke of New York
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1982)

Romero

Romero is kind of a pussy, less of a henchman and more of a court jester. But weird and unsettling. If he doesn’t do the ass kicking himself, he’s at least organizing the shit. I didn’t like the guy the minute he turns up on screen.

9. Bolo (Bolo Yeung)
Boss: Han
ENTER THE DRAGON (1973)

Bolo-Yen

This is a dude who can’t wait to break some necks and some spinal chords with his bare hands. What’s laughable is that John Saxon gets the better of him in the movie. Yeah. Right.

8. Jaws (Richard Kiel)
Boss: Karl Stromberg
THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1976)

Jaws001

A bit cartoonish, but an entertaining henchman. I could never stop looking at that knot in the middle of his forehead. It freaked me out more than the teeth.

7. Molly (Joe Don Baker)
Boss: The Mob
CHARLEY VARRICK

Molly

Okay, I might be drawing a line here between henchman and hitman, but they basically perform the same functions at times. Molly is one determined, sadistic, fuck wad. He definitely takes after Odd Job, using a sinister smile to unnerve his opponents before stomping a mud hole in someone’s ass.

6. Gort (Lock Martin)
Boss: Klaatu
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1950)

Gort

Who says the henchman has to be a bad guy? What I dig about Gort is that he can kill an entire planet if he has too.

5. Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.)
Boss: Kasper Gutman (The Fat Man)
THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)

MalteseFalcon

Probably the most emotionally insecure henchman in all of cinema. I think Bogie kicks his ass twice and makes him cry at least once. What I like about Wilmer is his loyalty, very important in henchmen, and his false sense of bad assness. He’s a crybaby.

4. Al Neri (Richard Bright)
Boss: Michael Corleone
THE GODFATHER (1972)

Al_Neri001

Empire chose Luca Brasi at number four on their list from The Godfather. But Luca is never shown actually killing anybody. The bad ass henchman in the family is Al Neri, who off’s Don Barzini at the end of I and wacks Fredo in II. Wacking the boss’s brother… now that’s cold blooded.

3. Pierre Nicoli (Marcel Bozzuffi)
Boss: Alain Charnier
THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971)

pierreNicoli

This is one wormy son of a bitch. But he’s a bad ass. Killing mofo’s and stealing their groceries.

2. Wez (Vernon Wells)
Boss: Lord Humungus
THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981)

WEz

I remember seeing this in the summer of ’81 at theater called the Avalon. The Avalon seats about ten people. I was in the front row. This movie was larger than life, and Wez was the kind of crazy villain you knew even if you killed him, he would not die. He’s that kind of a bad ass.

1. Odd Job (Harold Sakata)
Boss: Auric Goldfinger
GOLDFINGER (1964)

oddjob001

Odd Job was scary, not because of his guillotine hat, but because of his smile. I think he was the first villain to smile at a mofo while he was kicking ass.

Honorable mention:

Weenie (Gregory Walcott)
Boss: Mary Ann
PRIME CUT (1972)
Weenie, a large boned, hick, idiot, helps his brother, Mary Ann, make hot dogs out of anything — including people that annoy them.

Claude Mulvihill (Roy Jensen)
Boss: Noah Cross
CHINATOWN (1974)
Mulvihill is mostly there as fodder for Jack Nicholson to ridicule, but he gets a few good licks in at times. Jensen also played a pretty good henchmen named Puddler in “Harper”.

Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci)
Boss: Paul Cicero
GOODFELLAS (1990)
Too much of a central character to be a true cinematic henchman, but still technically qualifies.

Michael (Hal Baker)
Boss: Lou Craddock
A BOY AND HIS DOG (1975)
Michael is actually several different androids played by one actor, but he’s creepy as hell.

Mr. French (Ray Winstone)
Boss: Frank Costello
THE DEPARTED (2006)
A fine henchman that may bump out “Jaws” or “Bolo” someday from the top ten.

Darth Vader (James Earl Jones and David Prowse)
Boss: The Emperor
STAR WARS (1977)
Technically Darth is a henchman, but Like Tommy DeVito, too central a character, so he misses the top ten.


Film Review: The Collector

March 3, 2008

THE COLLECTOR (1965) three
Dir. William Wyler
Starring: Terence Stamp, Samantha Eggar

002bthecollector

Director William Wyler, in his long and productive career, helmed some famous movies, including “Wuthering Heights” (1939), “Mrs. Miniver” (1942), “Roman Holiday” (1953) and “Ben Hur” (1959). One of the last films he directed was “The Collector”, the story about the origins of a serial killer, a film that influenced many modern horror stories, including “Silence of the Lambs” and “Misery”.

Based on a novel by John Fowles, “The Collector” is about Freddie Clegg (a sharp looking Terence Stamp). Freddie is a lonely butterfly collector, who wins a fortune betting on sports and buys himself a secluded home in the English country. Desperate for companionship, Freddie kidnaps a young woman, Miranda Grey (Samantha Eggar), a girl Freddie grew up fantasizing about, with her not knowing he existed.

Freddie makes a home for Miranda in his secured cellar, a dungeon really, decorated with the comforts of home. His intentions, he claims, are not to harm her, but for her to fall in love with him. Miranda tries every trick in the book trying to escape, but only succeeds in festering Freddie’s psychotic personality.

001thecollector

The film has a theater-type atmosphere, as it mostly takes place in the cellar. It looks similar to Hannibal Lecter’s prison cell in “Silence of the Lambs”, walled with large stones and covered with artwork, in this case Miranda’s drawings.

Terence Stamp is great as Freddie, his handsome features and meek frame garnish instant sympathy, and make his transformation from kidnapper to potential serial killer truly unsettling. Freddie, like Annie Wilkes in “Misery”, likes to use the term “La De Da”, when referring to people who think they’re better than he is. Despite his soft spoken manner, and well groomed exterior, Freddie is a time bomb, desperate for someone to defuse him before he explodes.

Collector002

The only other film I can think of before “The Collector” that has had more impact on the “serial killer” genre would be “Psycho”, a much more famous and celebrated film. The genre since ’65, has become more graphic and more brutal, but the nature of the characters have not changed. Norman Bates, Travis Bickle, Jamie Gumm, Annie Wilkes and Freddie Clegg are all psychotics attempting to feel and find something they don’t have the human capacity to understand. The ability to love and be loved.