Friday, April 17, 2009
How do you keep track of what you’ve watched? You’d think that a person like myself that is so obviously in love with film would have figured out a good system by now, but I must admit to still using mostly my memory to catalogue the films I have seen. About the most advanced arrangement I have come up with is a notepad with a listing of discs I have burned with check marks next to the titles I have watched.
Lately, I have noticed that my memory (like everything else) isn’t anywhere near as together as it used to be, and I find more and more mostly minor titles kind of interchanging around in my head. I have decided to combat it a bit I would begin a new occasional series here focusing on short lists of older films I have recently revisited or watched for the first time. I hope these don’t prove boring as they are admittedly for my own benefit, and that a title in this post or a future one of these might even inspire a comment or two.
So onto some films (some of which might warrant their own posts here eventually) that I’ve recently watched starting with the best…
The Initiation of Sarah (1978): Out of sight TV movie from director Robert Day with a tremendous cast including Kay Lenz, Morgan Brittany, Tony Bill, Shelly Winters, Morgan Fairchild and, the best of the bunch, Tisa Farrow. A nice score by Johnny Harris and a terrifically tense atmosphere add greatly to the Carrie inspired tale and Farrow, seen here a year before appearing in Fulci’s Zombie, is really lovely and extremely memorable.
Sweet Hostage (1975): Another entertaining TV movie bolstered by a terrific cast, this time the powerhouse teaming of Linda Blair and Martin Sheen. This Lee Philip’s production isn’t perfect but it’s a more than a notch above your average TV production, and both Blair (just two years after The Exorcist) and Sheen are outstanding.
Curtains (1983): An odd and at times quite haunting slasher film from Canada starring Samantha Eggar, John Vernon and Linda Thorson. Uneven, but it has some seriously mesmerizing moments and a widescreen DVD is way overdue.
Freebie and the Bean (1974): I have some friends that swear by this strange 1974 Richard Rush buddy cop picture starring Alan Arkin and James Caan, but it’s going to take me a viewing or two more to really get captured by it. I did enjoy the frantic energy of the film and the photography by Laszlo Kovacs is terrific. I suspect I will appreciate the film much more when I revisit it down the road.
The Deliberate Stranger (1986): This two-part TV movie left a big impact on me when I saw it as a teenager when it first aired. I must admit that I was disappointed with the first half watching it again recently, but the second half was quite effective and chilling. Mark Harmon’s performance as Ted Bundy is disturbing stuff, especially when the cracks start to show on his all American façade.
Trip with the Teacher (1975): Earl Barton’s low budget revenge thriller has gotten a lot of attention in the past year or so as it is a clear precursor to Tarantino’s Death Proof (if memory serves me correctly this was mentioned in Video Watchdog’s Grindhouse Round-Table discussion), but it is ultimately a pretty disjointed affair. The cast, featuring a menacing young Zalman King, is solid for the most part but it never completely held together for me. Still, I admired how different it felt from most of its counterparts and it was never less than compulsively watchable.
Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway (1976): The fact that it works best as a snapshot of mid-seventies Los Angeles in all its seedy glory shouldn’t take away from how good Eve Plumb is in the role of the title character. It has a bit of that old Afternoon Special feel but, again, Plumb is really very good as is co-star Leigh McCloskey, who would appear as the title character in the film’s follow up a year later.
Fire With Fire (1986): Well, it wasn’t very good in the mid-eighties and it still isn’t but damn it, it’s Virginia Madsen in her prime and that fact alone warrants this title some attention. Duncan Gibbin’s film is overblown and never comes together but Madsen, much like the title, just burns…
Death Ship (1980): Alvin Rakoff’s chiller from 1980 is credited to a Jack Hill story, and you can believe it would have been a better film had the great Hill been behind the camera. It’s effective in spots and you can’t fault a film with George Kennedy in full melt-down mode but it’s often a bit flat.
My Tutor (1983): George Bower’s early eighties exploitation comedy is as delightfully politically incorrect as you would hope it would be, but it finally just isn’t very funny. Look for Crispin Glover in one of his earliest roles, and one of the goofiest final shots I have ever seen.
The Godsend (1980): Atmospheric but very flawed Omen rip-off is at its most memorable in the few scenes Symptoms star Angela Pleasence appears in, but otherwise it never comes close to the transcendent creepiness of the film it’s aping. Morman Warwick’s photography is quite entrancing though and I would love to see a better quality copy of it.
Malibu High (1979): I typically love these kind of unapologetic exploitation offerings but I found this unappealing film from Irvin Berwick nearly unwatchable. An irritating cast and poor direction bring the film down at every turn, and this is truly one of the longest 90 minute films I have ever seen.