TRUST ME, alphabetically : N—-needles the needless noxious nonsense of the next….
THE NAKED RUNNER—–the fits-all adage “you’re only as good as your last hit” dogged Frank Sinatra when he followed the smash Von Ryan’s Express with successive thuds Marriage On The Rocks and Assault On A Queen. Impressed with Sidney J. Furie’s flashy direction of The Ipcress File, and always seeking to be hip, Frank tackled the flush espionage genre with this 1967 introduction to narcolepsy. Brad Dexter was an okay second-stringer tough guy type, tarred as the only one of The Magnificent Seven not to break big. Fortuitously, he’d saved Frank from drowning in Hawaii while co-starring in Frank’s None But The Brave. Sinatra rewarded him with a role in Von Ryan and access to his circle of confidantes (careful what you wish for). As a first-time producer here, Dexter had to deal with Sinatra’s legendary whims and hissy fits, bad enough that a sobbing Furie threatened to quit (like Frank gave a damn). One thing taking up the star’s attention span (it wasn’t the lead-weighted screenplay–about an unwilling hit- man) was his spanking new–and already troubled–marriage to Mia Farrow, 30 years his junior. Shooting in London and Copenhagen stalled when Frank demanded to finish the European-set tale in Palm Springs. Fed-up, Dexter and Furie did an end run using a stand-in and turned in the finished product to Warners without consulting The Boss. Dexter was fired, partially for being cheeky enough to actually stand up to his pal, but also because Sinatra was on a slow boil over Dexter’s telling him he thought the Midlife Mia Match was a Mistake. Friendship: Oversville.
This background gossip is ten times more interesting than the 101 minute deep-freeze of the plot and performing. Critics (those that could keep their eyes open) jeered and the film flopped at #68 for the year. Francis Albert’s next two—Tony Rome and The Detective—clicked, but this wet mothball ranks as the worst of his career. Dexter kept plugging away acting but did score in producing Lady Sings The Blues. With Peter Vaughan, Derren Nesbitt, Nadia Gray and Edward Fox. If you’ve never been bored, jog a lap with this exhausted runner.
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CLASS REUNION—–after the riotous Animal House, hopes were up for this 1982 slapstick satire, written by John Hughes. The expectations ran smack into the dismal reality when the laughs evaporated after the first half-dozen and the 84 minutes turned into a siege (a siege would be funnier). It made $10,100,000 but few of those who paid that out left the theater happy. Hughes was fired from the film (directed by Michael Miller) and lamented that his “screenplay had been completely butchered and my name will nevertheless be on the credits forever.” He endured and went on to great success. With Gerrit Graham, Michael Lerner, Misty Rowe, Stephen Furst and Chuck Berry.
THE NEPTUNE FACTOR—–from the depths of 1973 came this deep sea dud about an underwater lab sent tumbling into a trench by an earthquake. A rescue team encounters giant eels and other outsized wonders. The piddling expenditure of $2,500,000 and a sopping return of $2,750,000 was an indication the whole thing belonged in a ditch. Directed by Daniel Petrie, who could be on-target (A Raisin In The Sun, Lifeguard) or way off (The Betsy, Cocoon:The Return).
He didn’t factor on the script or the atrocious special effects which consist of ordinary fish magnified while the actors look agog. Science is tamed by having the submersibles built to withstand tremendous pressure yet the humans are still allowed to swim around outside like it’s not a worry. Game cast is hopelessly sunk in the murk: Ben Gazzara, Yvette Mimieux, Ernest Borgnine and Walter Pidgeon. Lalo Schifrin’s score makes portentous noise.
THE NEXT MAN—–Sean Connery portrayed a Moroccan Berber warrior sparking an international incident in 1975s The Wind And The Lion. A year later he played a Saudi Arabian diplomat in this ‘international thriller’. The difference between the first adventure— a witty and exciting classic—and this one is that John Milius, writer and director of ‘Wind’, knew how to tell a story. Hack director Richard C. Sarafian, who co-wrote this with three other guys, fails in every respect. ‘Khalil Abdul-Muhsen’ (Connery) wants to include Israel in OPEC and bring about that elusive Middle East Peace. Nefarious opponents send beautiful hit-woman ‘Nicole Scott’ (Cornelia Sharpe) to romance him and—when the time is right…
…when the time is right you’ll wake up and realize you took a surprise nap during the 108 minutes of globe-trotting mindlessness and waste of a classy star in eight location lands (England, France, Germany, Austria, The Bahamas, Ireland, Morocco and the USfA).
It’s not as bad as Sean’s worst, 1974s The Terrorists, but it’s still one dead doornail. With Albert Paulsen, Adolfo Celi, Charles Cioffi and Jaime Sanchez. It came in 171st for the year, just ahead of the actual Mid East Peace Process.
NIGHTMARE IN THE SUN—–nightmare is the word for this 1965 howler, co-conceived, co-produced and directed by veteran heavy Marc Lawrence. It was also co-directed, sans credit, by its leading man, John Derek. If you’re familiar with Derek’s other turns at the helm you might want to watch for its nonstop weird badness, though it still can’t touch the visionary depths of his official directorial bow, Once Before I Die. That masterpiece featured Derek’s wife, Ursula Andress, also present here as the sex-bomb launch pad for a hitchhikers trip into hell out in the scorching Mohave Desert. Writing, directing, acting, music; you name it: in the 80 minutes of this fever dream Lawrence, Derek & crew wreak havoc on them all.
Chewing the termites out of the scenery are Aldo Ray, Arthur O’Connell, Allyn Joslyn, Keenan Wynn, George Tobias and John Marley. Sammy Davis Jr. is on hand for one scene and few lines, clearly as a favor for someone. Real hilarity ensues with the two gay bikers camped up by Richard Jaeckel and Robert Duvall—not the finest hour for either, but a hoot to witness. Idiotic actions and lines fall by the score, but it’s hard to beat O’Connell asking the gas station attendant if he’s seen his slutty wife, being told “Last night. Gave her twelve gallons of juice and a lube job.” You wish, buddy. It does have a classic moment when the enraged hubby shoots his wife’s teddy bear, four times, with a shotgun: there’s only so much cuteness a fella can take….
NIGHTWING—–this dopey 1979 fright flick took flight as part of a horror sub-genre of the era, loaded up with trendy faux Native American mumbo-jumbo around spirits, animals, ecology and retribution for screwing everything up. Wanking entries included Wolfen, The Manitou, Prophecy and Poltergeist II. This time it’s bats, those wondrous creatures that are always getting a bum steer. No wonder they seek revenge. Arthur Hiller took this as a directing assignment for some reason (too many cocktails?), but he was defeated by its silliness and the fur-fluttering special effects don’t pass muster.
Filmed in New Mexico, with Nick Mancuso (reservation cop), David Warner (visiting British scientist who hates bats and their “foul syrup of digested blood“, grousing that they “drink blood and piss it out as ammonia“—lighten, up, Bat Masterer), Kathryn Harrold (helpful smitten Anglo neighbor), Stephen Macht (bad medicine tribal turncoat), Ben Piazza (oil company swine), Charles Hallahan and the at-home-with-craziness Strother Martin. 105 minutes. Writers Martin Cruz Smith and Steve Shagan use made up tribes–the ‘Pahana’ and the ‘Maskai’: so much for honoring Great Spirit. The vampire bats that swarm here are also carrying bubonic plague germs in their sharp little flying rodent teeth.
NINE—–more like a Two. I have nothing against musicals, but I kind of like it when they have..uh..songs…that are actually halfway decent. Remember what it was like to hum? Despite its sterling cast, I found this a colossal, charmless, lurching bore. Based off the life and loves of Federico Fellini, its loud, indulgent 113 minutes consumed $80,000,000, but the worldwide answer of just $54,000,000 pronounced it DOA. Directed by Rob Marshall, who still owes us from Chicago (yet a work of art next to this). How do you make a boring-to-tears sandwich with the following actors: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench and Sophia Loren? Still, it conned Oscar nominations for Supporting Actress (Cruz), Art Direction, Costume Design and Song (“Take It All”). Penelope C has a sizzle-hot number that she puts her all into: she’d tame a tiger but the song itself is one of those frickin’ belters without any melody (turn off the sound and just watch her slink). Every other number sounds just like the next. I’m at a loss with this one. With Kate Hudson and Fergie.
9 1/2 WEEKS—–find a red-blooded heterosexual guy who would not want to ravish Kim Basinger six ways from sundown. Now find one who wants to watch it done by Mickey Rourke. Super-hyped sexy thang from 1986 was directed by Adrian Lyne, and its gabbled-over kinkiness and frenzied boinking failed to draw many panters in the States, where it unsatisfied with a take of $6,700,000 against a cost of $17,000,000. The rest of the globe ate it up, go figure, taking the gross skyward to $100,000,000.
It’s 117 minutes of sexual obsession as Rourke plays mind-body psych warfare on Kim. Leaves a bad taste, and is photographed, edited and scored like a long fashion commercial. Scored an unintended bit of fame trivia when 1000 people attended a sneak preview and 960 walked out on it. Of the 40 who stayed to fill out response cards, 35 wrote that they hated it. On the other end of the spectrum, in one theater in Sao Paulo, Brazil it ran for 76 weeks. Then it churned up more notoriety with Basinger interviews where she detailed how brutally manipulative Lyne was directing her. Power trip for ‘Art’. How novel. Hot sex has never been so boring.
NOTHING BUT TROUBLE—–Dan Aykroyd directed, co-wrote and stars in this gross 1991 comedy fiasco with Chevy Chase, Demi Moore and John Candy. That sentence alone ought to be enough for most people. $40,000,000 was thrown away on this stinkbomb, which groans like a sick mule from start to finish, 94 minutes worth. Critics savaged it, and it took in a death-dealing $8,480,000, ending Dan’s directing days for good. Ugly to look at, a total waste. With Taylor Negron, Brian Doyle-Murray and Raymond J. Barry.