TRUST ME, alphabetically: P —-phooey!
PAJAMA PARTY—-fourth in the litter. This one involves not just pajamas, the beach and Eric Von Zipper’s bikers, but a Martian. Directed by Don Weis, it capers 82 harmless minutes, with terrible jokes, and lotsa booty shakin’ (cue Susan Hart).
On deck: Annette Funicello, Tommy Kirk, Elsa Lanchester (a good sport), Harvey Lembeck, Jesse White, Jody McCrea, Susan Hart (we mention her again simply because she was so damn hot), Donna Loren, Bobbi Shaw, Candy Johnson (crazypants), Don Rickles, Frankie Avalon (self-demoted, hiding his face but collecting a check), Buster Keaton (ya gotta eat) and Dorothy Lamour (because). Furiously gyrating in the crowd are Teri Gari and Toni Basil. One of the dancers is Gus Trikonis and the choreography, as such, was by David Winters. If you know your West Side Story, you place Trikonis & Winters as a Shark and a Jet, respectively (and respectfully, this daft job notwithstanding).
Screenwriter Louis M. Heywerd approached his material with a mission: “These youngsters have the numbers, the buying power and the discrimination to make or break any film product.” Louis (we assume tagged ‘Haywired’ or Heyweird’ in school, as long as we’re on the level of this 1964 nonsense) was blabbing about a 15-25 demographic, age-wise, but maybe the numbers indicate I.Q. The acumen saw Heyward promoted upwards into executive strata. Rule #1: Know Your Public.
PARANOIA—– made some headlines and a few bucks in 1969 because of a Playboy-hyped nude shower scene with Carroll Baker (like my hormone control was so weak as a teenager that I’d ever stoop to seeking that out). It’s one of a number of Italian cheapies that marked her fall from grace as an A-list actress after producer Joseph E. Levine and the press blacklisted her in Hollywood. She’d sued Levine, following the disaster of Harlow. Levinian Ego & Paramount Power responded and a beautiful and talented actress who had headlined major productions like How The West Was Won, The Carpetbaggers and Cheyenne Autumn was reduced to titles like Her Harem, The Sweet Body Of Deborah and this wanker, titled Orgasmo in Italy (another reason to move there). She plays a rich widow, victimized by a couple of swindlers. Sputtering for 90 minutes, featuring Lou Castel and Colette Descombes, it was directed by Umberto Lenzi, who had honed his skills on such immortals as Messalina Vs. The Son Of Hercules and Operation Exterminate. He would later grace the screen with Spasmo, Eyeball and The Cynic, the Rat and The Fist.
PARATROOPER, known as The Red Beret in England, is a minor effort from 1953, noteworthy only for trivia. It was the first movie produced by Albert R. Broccoli, who would grow rich and famous a decade later showcasing James Bond. His team—director Terence Young, scriptwriter Richard Maibaum, camera operator (later cinematographer) Ted Moore and stuntman (later stunt coordinator) Bob Simmons—all tagged along on the 007 bandwagon.
The story of a British paratroop unit, it stars Alan Ladd (as a Canadian to pre-soothe ruffled bowlers) in his first follow-up to his classic Shane. Though this 88-minute snore made money (supposedly $8,000,000 worldwide on a budget of $700,000) and set the producers off nicely, it was a critical comedown for Ladd, who’d bounced back with the hit western, and this indifferent flick unfortunately set an effective second-rate tone that dogged most of the insecure stars subsequent output. Some of the 19 films he’d headline for the next decade did well enough (I like Santiago! ) but none approached the quality or garnered the respect of Shane. Ironically, his biggest hit, The Carpetbaggers, was released after his death in 1964.
Maybe laying Ladd’s progressive fade onto this unexciting wanker is too much: the try-to-stay-awake story has enough drag to start with. With Leo Genn, Harry Andrews (debut), Susan Stephen, Donald Houston, Anthony Bushell, Stanley Baker, Anton Diffring, Walter Gotell.
PARTNERS—-cops again, this time one is straight, one is gay and the jokes spin down the taste drain in a 1982 fizz directed by James Burrows. $6,000,000 was spent, $6,100,000 came back, which in movie math makes it a F. Critics roasted it, and it wastes the talents of John Hurt (the gay half). The straight man is Ryan O’Neal, others in the cast include Kenneth McMillan, Robyn Douglass, Jay Robinson, Michael McGuire, Rick Jason and James Remar, who also figured in the hit buddy flick that year, one that left this in its wake: 48 Hours. O’Neal did better next time, with Irreconcilable Differences, and Hurt chalked it up under Whatever, observing: “They didn’t like it that I was wearing a lilac colored, track suit in it. They say homosexuals do not necessarily do that. And the person who saying this is sitting there in a pink track suit, It’s a crazy world we live in.” Since it was written by Francis Veber, who’d provided both La Cage aux Folles and The Birdcage, outrage over stereotypes seems a smidge overheated. As it was, 1982 broke ice with gay or lesbian characters in Personal Best, Victor Victoria and Making Love. The major complaint with this movie is, or should be– it’s just not funny.
THE PASSAGE has some crud-status as an egregious piece of junk, the sort of item that attracts followers just because it’s so bad. Savagely reviewed, it lasted for one whole week in theaters in the US in 1979, and little better abroad. Directed in an apparent daze by J. Lee Thompson (as far from the glories of The Guns Of Navarone as he could stray without a spaceship), it’s about a Basque shepherd tasked with escorting a family across the Pyrenees from German-occupied France into neutral Spain.
In pursuit is a wild-eyed psychopathic Nazi loon, laying waste to everyone in his path. He’s played by Malcolm McDowell, upping his rampages from A Clockwork Orange; raping Kay Lenz, chopping off Michel Lonsdale’s fingers, burning Christopher Lee alive, and at the end, in a sick false-finale, shooting Anthony Quinn, James Mason and Patricia Neal point-blank in the face. Plot holes deep enough to drain the Mediterranean, the other cast members barely register life signs.
Soaked in sadism, the film is stupid and revolting. Malcolm does have a scene where he’s wearing a jockstrap with a swastika on it, if that’s your idea of fun. A career low for everyone. 99 minutes.
PERFECT—–may have inspired the eventual hangover of Cocktail: if you can waste $20,000,000 on a movie about narcissists doing aerobics why not make one about egotists mixing drinks? Flaming tequila might help you get through the 115 minutes of this leotard, directed & co-written (half-written is more like it) by James Bridges. To scoop that “Fitness clubs are the singles bars of the 80s” , ‘journalistic ethics’ send ” Rolling Stone reporter”—it’s a movie that exhausts ironic quotation marks— John Travolta ‘undercover’ at a trendy gym, where he falls for
the incredible body of the bedrock sincerity of instructor Jamie Lee Curtis. Motives are examined. Those who watch movies for a living took issue with this one for using up two precious hours of their lives, and crowds stayed home and pigged out instead: it only pulled in $13,000,000. The backhands prompted Travolta, 31, to stay off-screen for four years, contemplating why this was his fourth whale in a row (okay Blow Out, horrid Staying Alive, dorky Two Of A Kind). Sparkless romance will not make you question a whole lot, though Jamie’s hip-wracking might coax sweat.
With Jann Wenner, Marilu Henner, Laraine Newman, Anne De Salvo. It was not alone in the conga line of crap for 1985, which gave us the second Rambo, third Death Wish, fourth Rocky, and fifth Friday the 13th. Not depressing enough? Ponder American Ninja, Invasion USA and A View To A Kill—even James Bond let us down, such was the amnesia grip of Reagan’s fourth year, making the gullible proud of being stupid, selfish and savage.
THE PLUNDERERS—-Jeff Chandler’s grave demeanor and frequently overwrought intensity could serve well with the right director or material, but he did press the cheekbones a flex too far in a fair number of dogs and this cheap-looking 1960 bow-wow is at the tail end of the pack. A quartet of hoodlum cowhands show up in town and push people around. Will the moody, self-pitying, one-armed vet stand up to the punks?
Directed by Joseph Pevney, dragging over 94 wholly unpleasant minutes. The slime are played by John Saxon, Ray Stricklyn, Roger Torrey (‘Mule’) and Dee Pollock. Timid townfolk: Dolores Hart, Marsha Hunt, Jay C. Flippen, James Westerfield, Vaughan Taylor. The ad blurb clues you in: “From The Middle Of Nowhere They Came…bitter as the trail they rode…hard enough for their tender years…starved enough for the touch of a woman…now they find a frightened town where all is theirs for the taking!”
POLICE ACADEMY 2: THEIR FIRST ASSIGNMENT—-the initial silly but moderately amusing outing got the first of six sorry sequels in this 1985 bow-wow. I’ve managed to steer clear of the other five, but I did blow a perfectly good 87 minutes on this way back when. It made $61,000,000 from other bored dolts, amassing the 11th highest gross of the year. Oh, yeah, Reagan was President, so that may account for a widespread decline in judgement. 87 minutes directed by Jerry Paris has work for Steve Guttenberg, Bubba Smith, Michael Winslow, Colleen Camp, Howard Hesseman, Art Metrano, Bobcat Goldtwait, Julie Brown and Tim Kazurinsky. Harmless for kids.
PURPLE HEARTS—-bogus surgeon + nurse ÷ war = bull escapade from 1984 wastes Ken Wahl and doesn’t make a decent showcase for Cheryl Ladd. Setting their predictable arc against Vietnam doesn’t do any better than older movies with older stars set in older wars did by mixing medicine and the military with melodrama. No medals for this one.*
Not believable, zip for chemistry, failing on a suspense angle. Directed by Sidney J. Furie, lasting for 116 dreary minutes, it also features Stephen Lee, Annie McEnroe, R. Lee Ermey, Lane Smith and James Whitmore Jr. Reviews slammed, and patrons plunked down but $2,075,000. Wahl went on to a TV hit as Wiseguy.
* Doc & Nurses at the front: Homecoming, from 1948,has Clark Gable & Lana Turner pass the stethoscope in WW2, followed by Battle Circus, 1953, where Humphrey Bogart & June Allyson trade ointment in Korea. They were all preceded and assisted by the ambulance driver- meets-nurse-over-bedpans emoting in the assorted versions of A Farewell To Arms, courtesy of WW1.