Another feature of...
The current edition of Weekly Variety has a two-page spread detailing the new television programs scheduled to appear on the five broadcast networks this fall. By January at least half will be gone and completely forgotten, by the end of the season another 30% will be but vague memories. Ten or fifteen percent will make it to the following season. One or two shows might be legitimate hits. Here's some quick thoughts [Times listed are presumably EST]:
(Especially likely to die off quickly):
KING'S KINGDOM HOSPITAL
“The FBI –
THE BROTHERHOOD OF
ABOUT THE ANDERSONS
TWO AND A HALF MEN
RUN OF THE HOUSE
MINUTE WITH STAN HOOPER
TRACY MORGAN SHOW
that time again. Weekly
Variety has released its guide to the cinematic wares being hawked at
this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Most
of this stuff is crap, and many of the titles listed were already
mentioned in my 2003 American Film Market report.
I’ve tried not to reexamine films I looked at there.
fun for the dedicated Jabootuite begins on Page 19, which features a
full-page ad for Roger Corman’s New Concorde.
Posters are featured for the previously mentioned Firefight
(“Crime pays…If you don’t get burned”), composed of a big photo of
OOT Baldwin—none of co-star Nick Mancuso, however—a helicopter, a sexy
blond ranger with impressive cleavage and a machine-gun firing goon on a
motorcycle, all set against a bunch of flames.
promoted is Fire Over Afghanistan (“His struggle to escape will
become their war”), co-starring Fred Dryer.
This features a guy with an AK-47, an exploding helicopter and a
tattered American flag. Finally
there’s artwork for The Killer Within Me, one of those
The word ‘killer’ in the title is made to look liked it’s
etched into his forehead. “Born Evil...And loving it.”
finally created that evil Maxwell Smart clone!!
grabbing attention, though, is the small blurb for the post-production Dinocroc,
a giant prehistoric crocodile movie.
(Truly giant, as opposed to the merely huge thirty-footers seen in
so many recent DTV flicks.) Needless
to say, I’m itching to see this one although it almost has to suck.
pages 24 and 25 is a real keeper, a promotional insert for NuImage/Millennium
films. This is chock full of
hilariously generic monster movie posters, including four which sport
almost the exact same poster. There’s
SnakeMan (“A new breed of predator”), SharkMan (“A new
breed of predator”…wait a minute!), MosquitoMan (“A new
breed…”, what the heck?) and finally MorphMan (“A new breed
I think I got it. Perhaps the
four posters are all for one film, MorphMan. This would involve a character who at various points turns
into a SnakeMan, SharkMan and MosquitoMan.
That’s my guess, anyway. As
the posters lack production credit info, it’s sort of hard to tell.
Still, I’m there, dude.
next poster features Dolph Lundgren—didn’t he supposedly retire?—in Direct
Action (“Can one man make a difference?” – I guess so, if he has
a really big gun!). Then
there’s Nine Lives, which features Wesley Snipe’s face and name
against a background of fire. Also,
there’s what I’m assuming is his hand, holding a big, scoped revolver.
Those Blade movies aren’t really helping Snipes’ career much,
is a generic poster featuring a generic-looking, vaguely reptilian monster
with the generic title Creature.
Then a page touting their package of previously produced disaster
flicks, Volcano (no, not that one), Tornado, Avalanche
(ditto), Earthquake (ditto ditto) and Fire*.
extraordinaire Carl Fink suggests that these flicks will be followed up by
one entitled “Sinkhole.” Perhaps
he’s unaware of 2000’s On Hostile Ground, in which New Orleans
falls prey to…a giant sinkhole. It
starred disaster film vet John “The Sky’s On Fire & Volcano”
(“The Fate of a Queen – The Destiny of a Planet”) looks like one of
those matriarchal planet deals, starring Michael Shanks of Stargate
SG-1. Finally there’s an ad for Diamond Cut Diamond (“Bad
to the bone – Loyal to the Throne”), presumably a Bond knock-off.
35 has a strip of poster art for various animal-themed kids’ movies.
There’s the eight billionth Air Bud movie, Air Bud Aussie
Rules, where he pairs with a ‘roo. (Presumably the one from Kangeroo Jack—that’d be
awesome!). Spymate is
a spy movie with a chimp decked out like one of the Men in Black.
Lancelot Link, call your attorney.
ChestNut features two young girls in a park with a big dog.
BMXP is the four billionth Most Valuable Primate movie, only
here the chimp is instead Most Xtreme and on a dirtbike.
When’s he going to hook up with Air Bud, anyway?
The Furry Bandits features a bunch of felonious raccoons.
55 kicks off the heart of the issue, the Vendors & Products listings.
Lust in Space.
Get it?! “Lust”
in space?! Hahahahahahaha.
“It looks like an ordinary ring, but it can yield complete
control over others while corrupting the soul of the wearer.”
(“…yield complete control over others…”
Huh?) Gee, where’d
they get the idea for this one?
“When a fighter is killed in a kickboxing match, a journalist
pursues the story.” Call me
crazy, but I think I once saw a movie with the exact same storyline!
Also, wouldn’t it be more original if the journalist was
killed in the kickboxing match and the fighter pursued the story?
“A released convict is determined to live it up with money he
stole from a drug cartel until he murders his partner in crime.” What now?
“A Web-master [does that position really get capitalized?]
mistakenly logs onto a Web [ditto] site that kills all who come across
it.” And so Ringu
begat The Ring, which begat Feardot.com, which begat…
“When you become the target in a [sic] Army sniper’s
game.” Uh, that’s not
really a complete sentence. Speaking
of ‘complete sentences,’ that’s what they should give people still
ripping off “The Most Dangerous Game!”
“A law student who works as a stripper [you know the kind] finds
her girlfriends and co-workers turning up dead.”
OK, Target’s starting to sound fresher.
“The doorman in Los Angeles [huh?] succumbs to the power of his
job, earning the wrath of his mentor.”
Believe it or not, it’s a ‘thriller,’ not a comedy.
Starring Lou Diamond Phillips.
“A Halloween party in a run-down house unknowingly releases the
curse of the Soul Snatcher.” Man, these companies aren’t even trying any more,
“Strange little killers are invisible to everyone except a
“Two prison inmates work together to survive in a cruel and
dangerous prison.” I really
don’t think they needed to use the word ‘prison’ twice.
Stars Stacy Keach (Ouch!) and Morgan Fairchild.
“A rabid werewolf preys on visitors searching a country estate
for a legendary buried treasure.” A
‘rabid’ werewolf?! That’s
the worst kind!! Still,
dig the cast: Paul Naschy and
Michelle Bauer. If history
serves as a guide, we’ll see both of them topless.
“In a post-apocalyptic future, a gladiator must battle to the
death the woman he loves and the man to whom he owes his life.” Extra points for the ‘whom,’ anyway.
“A devilish artifact’s unholy power stretches from medieval
England to modern Las Angeles.” Good
gosh, the machine that randomly assigns generic titles to generic genre
movies has misapplied an action/thriller title to a horror movie!
“A fisherman’s discover [sic] of a magic healing moss forces
his family to make difficult decisions.”
Uh, OK. Stars Peter
Mirror Mirror 4:
“A costume party turns into a night of terror as a creature of
the night stalks the party goers.”
Imagine the confusion if this took place in the same place as the Halloween
“After his wife is brutally murdered, an ex-cop wages war against
the Chinese Triads.” ‘Brutally’
murdered?! That’s the
worst kind!! It’s the
most original Jean Claude Van Damme plot ever!!
And look, it’s directed by Ringo Lam!
Who’da thought? Also,
it seems the machine that randomly assigns generic titles to generic genre
movies has misapplied a horror title to an action/thriller movie!
“Escalating crime leads Florida to allow a live
trial-and-punishment television series.”
Wait, I thought that’s what Oliver Beane was!
(In case I’m not getting this across, I don’t think Oliver
Beane is a very good TV show.) The
cast includes the obligatory Jerry Springer and the presumably border-line
suicidal Armand Assante and Roy Scheider.
“A serial killer hijacks the Internet.”
Yes, that explains the title all right.
Starring Armand Assante, fresh from his triumphal turn in Citizen
“A psychiatrist is obsessed with telepathically linking the minds
of his patients.” Stars
Amanda Plummer and Patrick McGoohan.
Hmm, I never thought I’d see McGoohan in a movie about people
with telepathic powers!
“After finding an ancient treasure map, an arms dealer kidnaps a
detective and sets out in search of gold.”
Stars OOT Baldwin and Nicolette “Clan of the Cave Bear”
Sheridan, who I think helps you quit smoking.
Witty title, though.
“A man with telekinetic abilities meets a group of people with
like powers whom an FBI agent is trying to destroy.” Stars Oscar winner Lou “Firewalker” Gossett Jr.,
and Teri Hatcher. Hmm,
suddenly Dean Cain’s appearance in Boa isn’t looking that bad.
“A ground-splitting earthquake [that’s the worst kind!!]
crumbles a dam and sends millions of gallons of water barreling into a
major U.S. city.” Man, when
are major U.S. cities built on fault lines going to stop erecting dams
right above themselves?
rigorously fair Carl Fink notes that Ms. McGowan achieved some measure of
public fame prior to her association with Mr. Manson when she appeared in Doom
“A group holds a séance that awakens an evil force that follows
them back to the real world.” Stars
Corey Feldman (!) and Adam West (!!).
Apparently the ‘evil force’ is the casting director.
“A young attorney is the only witness to a murder that places him
in the middle of a conspiracy.” Well,
that explains the title, then.
“Grisly murders plunge a small town into a nightmare of
supernatural revenge.” I
hate when that happens. Stars
Joe Estevez. You knew he was
going to pop up at some point. By
the way, wasn’t ‘The Remnant’ the title of the proposed sequel to The
Creeping Terror? Rimshot! I got a million of ‘em.
Bells of Innocence:
“Three men crash in a remote Mexican village and become embroiled
in a classic fight between good and evil.”
Finally, the film that reunites Mike and Chuck Norris.
On the Edge:
“College kids on a ski trip are shocked by a mountain-climbing
accident.” Oh, I don’t
know. That’s when they’re
most likely to happen.
“A writer invites six guests to his home and gives each of them
one night to confess the lies on which their lives are built.”
Stars Lance Henriksen, on a mini-roll with Sasquatch and Final
“The true story of Richard Speck, who in 1966 terrorized a
boarding school for nurses.” Not
to be judgmental, but anyone who’d rent this is a sick bastard.
“An innocent lab experiment turns into a mass slaughter.”
Wow, there’s a plot twist.
Demon Under Glass:
“The government captures a serial killer who turns out to be a
vampire.” Actually, you
could make a nifty movie on that premise.
This probably won’t be it.
“A sexy and deadly femme fatale seduces a young doctor into an
insurance scam that could cost them their lives.”
Of all femme fatales, beware most the ones who are sexy and deadly.
“While driving cross-country, a young professional woman
accidentally kills an innocent girl who is related to a psychopathic
killer who vows revenge.” That’s
a lot of who’s. It’s Pumpkinhead
meets Joy Ride! By the
way, what qualifies one as being a ‘professional’ woman?
“Mother Fitch and her sorority girls have an insatiable taste for
men’s flesh.” That can be
a good situation or a bad one. Julie
Strain and Brinke Stevens headline. (And probably headlights, if you know what I mean.)
“A modern-day gang movie set against a martial arts background in
a Britain of the near future.” Uh…shouldn’t
there be a vampire serial killer in there?
[Wow, there’s a tasteless name for a production company]
“A racist real estate developer is exposed.”
Not much of a plot run-down, but if it stars Scott Valentine and
Todd Bridges, it has to be good!
“Trapped inside the haunted house, students are murdered one by
one.” Hmm, I don’t know,
that plot sounds vaguely familiar…
“When an action star and his family fall prey to the paparazzi,
he’s ready to fight back.” Oddly,
this apparently isn’t a comedy. Starring
Cole “Son of Wings” Hauser and Dennis Farina (!). Boy, I’m betting Farina was really hoping for that Meets
the Parents knock-off sitcom to make it.
In what might be the worst idea in film history, they try to remake
and compress the greatest mini-series in television history.
By the way, the mini-series itself just came out on DVD.
Stick with that.
of the Dead:
“Ravers are stalked by killer zombies.”
Killer zombies?! Etc.
in the Dark:
“A detective of the paranormal comes face-to-face with
inescapable horrors.” Isn’t
that pretty much the job description of a detective of the paranormal?
“A veteran cop is targeted by his colleagues after he exposes
police corruption.” This is
the Dolph Lundgren flick mentioned above.
“The serum a doctor and his wife invent [could she possibly be a
doctor too?] to cure mad cow disease has a maggot-like bug growing in
it.” Well, that explains
“Brothers use the venom of dangerous snakes [since those,
generally, are the ones that have venom] to develop a miracle drug.” Guess all the movies I mentioned above are different ones
“A reporter and a scientific investigator track down a
simian-like serial killer.” Didn’t
Forest Whitaker already make this?
Devil and Daniel Webster: This is the one starring
and directed by OOT Baldwin, Anthony Hopkins and Jennifer Love Hewitt.
I’d heard this had fallen through, but I guess it’s true:
Evil never dies.
“A college freshman is killed during a fraternity prank and is
resurrected as a demonic scarecrow.”
Well, Tony Todd’s in the cast, and he’s always worth a look.
“A local dog catcher and an attractive scientist [why, that’s
the best kind!] team up to stop the legendary El Chupacubra monster from
Plot: A DVD collecting
the first episodes of five classic TV cop series (actually, one features
You really have to admire the concept.
Rather than full season sets of shows, how about a single DVD that
functions as a sampler pack of some of the more famous ‘70s cop shows.
The execution, however, is debatable.
The disc features the first episode of each series.
Normally, this would mean episodes very heavy on exposition and
However, the ‘70s was the era of the made-for-TV
movie. Such films ran
regularly on all three networks and often functioned as pilots for
prospective series. Of the
fiver programs represented here, four had such pilot movies.
(Police Woman’s was as an episode of NBC’s cop anthology
series Police Story.) Of
the show’s seen here, only S.W.A.T. has the sort of first episode where
the characters had to be introduced en masse in forty-five minutes.
Even that show, however, had an earlier introduction.
One problem with using first episodes in a package
like this is that such shows often don’t entirely mesh with the programs
they eventually become. They
usually exhibit rough edges that, in retrospect, loom large.
Some things are small. Familiar
credit sequences might not appear, as the ones eventually seen are often
composed of clips from episodes that haven’t been filmed yet.
Other differences are more important.
Characters might not be quite nailed down yet, either by the
writers or the actors. Fans
of almost any long-running show, from Star Trek: The Next Generation
to L.A. Law to Friends to The Simpsons, who look back
at early episodes will know what I mean. Sometimes characters who are initially featured fail to work
and are dropped. In extreme
cases, the character may remain the same but be played in the subsequent
series by a different actor.
Here, though, most of the episodes are pretty
representative of the series that followed.
That again may be because each had a previous introduction before
beginning their regular runs.
the following descriptions, the Factors go from 1 to 5, with 5 being the
It’s the music and set-up we’re all familiar with.
Personally, I find Charlie’s narration about the “three little
girls” a bit twee. But
then, I was never a fan of the show anyway.
Still, at least the original Angels got to use guns.
“Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to
the police academy. And they
were each assigned…very hazardous duties.
[This is a gag, as we see them writing tickets, doing office work
and acting as a crossing guard.) But
I took them away from all that, and now they work for me.
My name is Charlie.”
Featured here, naturally, is the original line-up of angels, back
before you couldn’t tell them apart.
Kate Jackson (a veteran of the earlier, rather more substantial The
Rookies—see below) is Sabrina, the Smart One.
And yes, she famously did have the smallest breasts of the three
leads. Jaclyn Smith is Kelly,
The Athletic One. Farrah
Fawcett-Majors, of course, is Jill, the Bubbly and Extremely Feathered
Blonde. And let’s not forget as David Doyle as Bosley and the oft
heard but never seen John Forsythe as the voice of Charlie.
Jumping right into the ‘70s gestalt, the first show opens on a
stock car derby in progress. This
proves, unsurprisingly, to feature women drivers.
We meet racer Susie. She
banters with Jerry, her mechanic, while chewing gum.
This means she has moxie and is a Good Character.
We also meet Kale, an oily wolf, and his partner ‘Bloody’ Mary,
another driver who’s insanely jealous due to Kale’s wandering eye.
They are obviously the bad guys.
The two women are in the next race.
Cutting to some stock footage, Mary intentionally bumps Susie’s
car. Susie’s car crashes
and she’s incinerated in the subsequent fire.
Cut to our first look at the offices of Charles
Townsend Private Investigations. Per
usual, the Angels are draped over various pieces of furniture as Charlie
fills them in via an intercom speaker.
Jerry has hired them to learn the cause of the wreck, which I found
a bit strange. I mean, Mary
rammed into Susie’s car in front of dozens and dozens of witnesses, so
the ‘cause’ seems rather obvious.
Sabrina just happens to have had racing experience at
some time in the past, so she naturally goes undercover as a driver.
Part of her disguise is a rather thick and horribly phony Texas
accent. Meanwhile, we learn
that Kale and Mary are working for Mr. Wells, the Eeee-vil owner of
the increasingly destitute racing track. Wells is nervous about having a new driver around, and orders
another flunky, Eddie, to watch her.
In a bit of trademark Social Satire, Sabrina’s
backup soon arrives. It’s
Bosley, here in the ‘comic’ role of phony-baloney Bible thumper
Brother John. Jill, dressed
in a skimpy top and Daisy Duke shorts, pretends to be his daughter.
No sooner does she make the scene than she bends over for a
cleavage shot. Meanwhile,
Kelly interviews Suzie’s parents. She
learns that Suzie had once been involved in vaguely implied Bad Stuff, but
had broken away from it.
Eventually (surprise), the Angels’ discover a big
illicit plot and find themselves *gasp* in danger of their lives.
& Sundry Observations (Note: Clichés
might be generic in nature, or specific to the show):
· Over the telecom, Charlie is heard groaning. The Angels slyly inquire as to the cause of his distress. He complains of a sore back. Then we cut to him (face away from the camera, natch) and see a beautiful woman in a bikini giving him one of those back-walking massages. Ha. Ha.
One of the
Angels has an unusual skill that allows her to go undercover at the scene
of the crime. Wow, just like
every other show! To be fair,
though, the deceased Suzie wasn’t either a relative or former chum of
any of our leads.
mechanic for a female stock car racer, is able to hire Charlie’s
presumably expensive team of operatives.
Kelly even flies across the county to interview Suzie’s parents.
Yet we never learn where he got the money for all this.
Sabrina find evidence that Suzie’s car had been tampered with, but
don’t bother going to the police with it.
Then they find a witness who saw Kale doing the tampering, but
still don’t go to the police.
playing all dumb and innocent, joins a poker game that Kale’s in.
She ends up sharking the other players and winning all the money.
sneaks into Wells’ room looking for evidence.
He returns while she’s there.
She hides in the closet, which he reaches into to put his jacket
away. Somehow, of course, he
fails to see her. She gets
away safely, but leaves a number of bone-headed clues to her presence
behind so that she’ll be imperiled at the correct plot juncture.
shot to death by his associates, who try to murder Jill at the same time.
Following this, the Angels still don’t go to the police.
Nor do the cops seem to notice the murder on their own.
Or wait…maybe they do, but we just never see the police. That’s
what later dialog seems to indicate.
Sabrina having been assured that she wouldn’t actually have to drive in
a race, she…wait for it…ends up having to drive in a race!
Spelling Production? Yes.
Clothing Factor: 1
Relevancy & Grittiness Factor: 0
film adaptation due in 2003? Yes.
Wolf Kale, looking over Jill in her guise as Brother John’s
what denomination are you, Little Lady.”
Just a regular episode.
“The Killing Ground”
One of the great themes of the ‘70s is supported by a pretty cool
action montage. The S.W.A.T.
team transport truck was right up there with the A-Team’s van.
An elite police team employs Special Weapons and Tactics.
“When people are in trouble, they call the police.
When the police are in trouble, they call S.W.A.T.”
Steve “Captain America”
Forrest is team leader Lt. Hondo Harrelson, Robert Urich is Off. James
Before S.W.A.T. became a series, it was given a backdoor
pilot via a two-hour episode of The Rookies.
However, the only character introduced there was team leader
‘Hondo’ Harrelson. The
rest of the regular cast we meet here, with all the normal exposition and
so on. Thus this is the only
show of the five featured on this DVD that feels like a real ‘first’
episode of a series.
young patrol cop Jim Street and his veteran partner Rob Duran respond to a
domestic disturbance call. Upon
reaching the scene, however, they find themselves ambushed by a trio of
snipers. Another patrol car comes by and helps drive their assailants
off, but Duran is severely wounded. Quickly
on the scene—too quickly, it seems, although as explained later it makes
sense—is a S.W.A.T. team led by Lt. Hondo Harrelson.
dies at the hospital. Street
cries big glycerin tears, obviously an attempt to make the characters more
‘realistic’ and sensitive than earlier TV cops in the Joe Friday mold.
He then asks Harrelson to let him try out for the new S.W.A.T. team
Harrelson informs Mrs. Duran, pregnant with their third child, of her
husband’s fate. (She looks
about twenty years younger than her husband was, for whatever reason.)
Since Hondo isn’t in Duran’s chain of command, his assuming
this task seems unlikely. Besides,
wouldn’t Street want to be the one to tell her?
In any case, the scene is a sadly hilarious example of ‘70s
earnestness, exemplified by Forrest’s forehead-wrinkling acting. And the dialog is shameless:
“The baby’s birthday is tomorrow.
We…were going to buy the party decorations tonight!
ambush was the latest in a string of cop killings.
We the viewers now meet the killers, who are seeking revenge for a
felonious relative shot down by police.
Meanwhile, Street, fellow patrol cop T. J. McCabe (‘T.J.’ being
popular initials for TV cops, I guess) and undercover narc Dominic Luca
attempt to make the S.W.A.T. team. Luca’s
the class clown guy whose mouth usually gets him in trouble.
When we first see him he’s in full undercover Serpico-mode,
including the inevitable battered army jacket and beard.
are other guys trying out, but Street, McCabe and Luca are clearly the
ones who will make the cut. (First
of all, we saw all of them in the opening credits.)
We’re told what a hard-ass Harrelson is, and how rigorous the
training, although all we see is some standard calisthenics and field
of the show’s appeal was the team’s, well, stuff.
Particularly the “war wagon.”
This was the big blue truck that transported the team and their
equipment. To facilitate speed, the team members grab their weapons on
the way out and leap into the truck.
Then they don their jumpsuits and body armor en route and arrive
ready to instantly deploy. Extra
weapons and gear are on board for off-duty personnel, who are directed to
head directly to the scene when a call goes out.
The truck also functions as a mobile command and communication
McCabe and Luca make the team (told you—the opening credits never lie),
and go out for beer and dinner with Hondo and Deacon to celebrate.
This allows for more character stuff, for what that’s worth.
Street, for instance, gives a big monolog while talking with Hondo.
It’s pretty clear already that these two will be the show’s
gets a phone call: There’s
been another ambush. Two more
cops are dead, for a total of five slain officers.
The killers want six, and plan one final ambush at some abandoned
school grounds. However, the
dispatcher recognizes the voice of the one killer’s wife, who’s been
forced to make the calls that lure the cops into position. Hondo and the
others grab their weapons and hit the war wagon for the first time.
team arrives outside the grounds and fans out to scout the area.
Moving stealthily, they are able to identify where the ambushers
are stationed. The signal is
given and they move into position. In
the end, one of the killers is dead, another wounded and the last
& Sundry Observations:
expounds to young partner on how much he loves his wife and kids?
Hmm, where is this going?
As a dead
uniform cop (wife, couple of kids) is grieved over, the show’s theme is
played in a slow, elegiac arrangement.
informs Mrs. Duran of her husband’s death, the show’s theme is played
in a slow, elegiac arrangement.
Second in Command is Sgt. David Kay.
At one point Kay studied to be become a preacher, and thus is
nicknamed Deacon. Did I
mention Kay is the show’s black character?
do the three psycho-killers keep sniffling and rubbing their noses, I
team’s sniper, curly-haired blond McCabe, shoots with great accuracy
because as a kid his impoverished father took him hunting and they
couldn’t afford to waste bullets. He
stood out as a character not just for his golden locks, but because he was
the only member to employ a sniper rifle rather than the team’s standard
M16. That’s the kind of
show it was.
think maybe that was a stunt man.
Spelling Production? Yes.
In fact, it was spun off of Spellman’s The Rookies.
Count: 2 killed onscreen,
several other deaths are referenced
Clothing Factor: 1
Relevancy & Grittiness Factor: 2
(for portraying a new world of senselessly violent crime)
film adaptation due in 2003? Yes.
season one DVD set is due out the summer to tie in to the movie.
The villains are played by three character actors extremely
familiar to TV and movie audiences in the ‘70s.
The group’s leader is played by Geoffrey Lewis, who here gives
exactly the sort of wide-eyed, manic performance he was known for.
Lewis appeared in over a hundred movies, including many of Clint
Eastwood’s pictures from the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Lucking was also a familiar heavy to TV and movie audiences of the time.
He guest starred on nearly a hundred different TV shows, and also
starred in several other short-lived series.
Some will remember him as Col. Lynch, the early nemesis of the
A-Team. Jabootu fans,
meanwhile, will recall his appearance in Captain
Vint appeared in many cheesy ‘70s and ‘80s drive-in movies (Bug,
Macon County Line,
etc.) and many, many TV shows. Vint’s
wife, meanwhile, is played by a young Annette O’Toole.
Finally, lest I’m mistaken, Kenneth “The
Thing From Another World”
Tobey has an unbilled cameo as a desk sergeant.
Cold-blooded assassination! Why?!”
Lighter Side of S.W.A.T.:
loved S.W.A.T., but the critical response was savage.
With its trademark—some would say fetishist—fascination with
paramilitary tactics and weapons, the show was considered retrograde in
the extreme by progressive viewers. Which
isn’t surprising. S.W.A.T.
was at least partly an attempt to jump on the take-no-prisoners, violent
cop bandwagon exemplified by Clint Eastwood’s Dirty
Harry, a film the
prominent critic Pauline Kael famously labeled fascistic.
During the second season the network tried to tone down the violent
content. This, naturally,
radically diminished the program’s popularity and it went off the air at
the stiff-acted S.W.A.T. is probably also the campiest of the shows
presented here. The writing,
direction and acting are about as generic for a ‘70s TV show as you’ll
find. Steve Forrest in
particular exhibits an often humorous Leslie Nielsen/Robert Stack-esque
hamminess. Urich, meanwhile,
begins his long parade of TV series.
Here he exhibits the sort of lush, dark-haired prettiness
reminiscent of the young Timothy Dalton.
Woman: “The End Game”
The show opens with clips from the upcoming episode, almost like a
movie trailer. These are
followed by the show’s opening credit sequence, which is composed of the
normal montage of action shots and freeze frames.
However, the lined image of Dickinson with her gun is almost as
iconic as the drawings used to represent Ironside when he was shot.
The theme music is great, a solid A.
“Pepper” Anderson is a female cop who specializes in dangerous
Angie Dickinson as Pepper, Earl Holliman as her partner Bill, Ed
Bernard as Styles the Black Cop and Charles Dierkop as Royster the Other
We open with a man trolling for hookers by flashing a twenty-dollar
bill—you can tell this takes place before the Carter days of
stagflation— as he drives down around Hookertown.
Meanwhile, Pepper is on undercover duty dressed like a whore, as
she often was. She’s
driving around with Styles, who’s dressed as her pimp (natch) and
driving a gigantic gold Lincoln Continental (double natch).
Bill and Royster are cruising in another car.
They’re looking for a pimp who put one of his girls in the
stakeout is interrupted by an armed robbery radio call.
They arrive to find a cop down—his wounds are surprisingly
bloody—and a shootout with the perpetrator ensues.
The gunman is cut down while Pepper comforts the dying cop.
Then it’s back to the office to hit the Medicinal Jack Daniels
Bottle. It’s a big Emmy
Clip Moment for Dickerson as the grieving Pepper.
main plot involves a gang of rather vicious adult criminals (the group is
multiracial and mixed gender, so that’s quite progressive of them) who
rob banks. After one such robbery, the group’s women kidnap the wife
and young kids of a bank official to force him to steal $100,000.
He gets the money and they take him along as a hostage.
these villains be stopped before they kill again?
& Sundry Observations:
As a dead
uniform cop (wife, couple of kids) is grieved over, the show’s theme is
played in a slow, elegiac arrangement.
uses her nurturing, intuitive nature to draw out a beaten kidnapping
victim, who doesn’t want to admit she’d been raped by one of the
that the crooks hail from Las Vegas, Bill and Pepper fly out there.
They and two local detectives locate an apartment the gang has
rented and attempt to arrest them.
so, however, with practically no back up!
Remember, this is a gang of bank robbers, kidnappers, rapists and
murderers. I think I’d have
arranged to have a couple of black & white units on the scene, if not
a S.W.A.T. team.
one of those deals where the robbers can’t yet be arrested or killed
because there’s still a third of the show left.
So as it turns out, only one of them is on the scene.
It turns out the guy stayed behind because his dog was ailing.
think the local detectives would let the out-of-town cops be the first to
rush the scene. Then Bill is
the one who shoots the robber. Can
you imagine the paperwork?
teams are stationed undercover at various local banks.
I don’t want to flabbergast anyone, but the robbers hit the bank
Pepper and her associates are assigned to.
What are the odds, eh?
Spelling Production? Oddly
Count: 6 dead, 2 wounded and
a lot of blood.
Clothing Factor: 3-4, the
latter mostly for Pepper’s powder blue, silver studded pantsuit.
Relevancy & Grittiness Factor: 4
film adaptation due in 2003? Oddly
and Styles display their grasp of street lingo:
getting the drop on one of the robbers:
episode, as is often the case with first ones, tries to hit too many
marks. Still, Police Woman
was a generally solid and gritty series.
Which doesn’t, however, mean it lacks some overdone and thus
campy moments. The group of
robbers is drawn with some sophistication. Also, the squad actually finds the robbers through police
work, even if some of the clues are a tad obvious.
The acting is fairly mannered, as is typical for the period.
Valley, Neon Sky”
Split screen freeze-frames, slo-mo, flashing red overlays to
simulate a police car lights, the whole smear.
The theme, again, is quite a good piece of ‘70s funk. No surprise there, as it was written by veteran composer
We follow the private and personal lives of four cops—three
whites and the just-starting-to-be-obligatory black guy—fresh out of the
Future Twin Peaks star Michael Ontkean as Officer Willie
Gillis, future Charlie’s Angel Kate Jackson as the wife of one of the
other young cops.
The earliest show here, The Rookies is also the most
strenuously ‘relevant.’ In
an age when the word ‘young’ connoted with-it-ness and an
anti-establishmentarian spirit, the program’s very title promised a new
kind of cop, one more committed to ‘social justice.’
Of course, they were still police officers, and this no doubt was
meant to provide the dramatic tension that would be the heart of the show.
The dichotomy was presumably meant to be strongest for Off. Terry
Webster, a black cop from (of course) the Mean Streets of the City.
He was inevitably partnered with well meaning but naïve white guy
Willie Gillis. That way we
could learn the way of things as Gillis did.
(Gillis is almost comically innocent here; apparently they later
toned this down a bit.)
leads are preparing to patrol their duty areas for the first time.
Webster chides Gillis for falling behind. Gillis, making annotations on a street map, replies that
he’s making sure he has the area down properly.
Webster responds that he’ll drive, since he grew up in this very
introduction to the show’s general milieu occurs when we see a group of
TV Rowdy Youths and Toughs tossing Bobby, a young black man, into a big
fountain. (Do many poor urban
areas have big-ass fountains?) Webster
and Gillis leave their cruiser and head over to check things out.
Of course, Gillis is given grief because he’s a “pig.” Even Bobby spits on him.
He instead accepts the hand of Truck, the gang leader who was
behind his hazing.
we sit in on a precinct meeting on the area’s various street gangs.
This is led by senior cop Lt. Ryker (in the show’s pilot, Ryker
was played by Darrin McGavin). The
scene gives Gillis an opportunity to display his White Middle-Class Naiveté.
Ryker then tries to get Webster to become a sort of liaison with
the district’s People, but the latter wants no part of it.
However, he’s backed into a corner when Gillis eagerly volunteers
for the job. (Did I mention
he’s naïve?) Gillis heads
to the local community gym and tries to talk to Truck’s crew.
They surround him in a menacing fashion.
cut the TV show-large apartment of Off. Mike Danko and his wife Jill.
She’s ministering to the cuts Gillis received from his ass
whipping. Danko’s another
of our main cast, the show’s Tough, Cynical White Cop.
He naturally thinks Gillis is in over his head.
Gillis, however, shrugs off the beating, noting his intention to
return to the gym for another shot at reaching out.
Jill takes Gillis into another room to dress his wounds, leaving
Danko to yell at Webster for not covering his partner’s back.
This leads to a big Socially Relevant argument.
with Webster’s help, relations with Truck and his gang seem to be
getting better. However,
during a confab another gang leader shows up to invite Truck’s dudes to
a rumble. Nobody seems to
think it weird (except for me, I guess), that these arrangements would be
made in front of two cops. Webster, realizing that if they interfere it’ll queer their
attempts to earn the gang’s trust, tells Truck they’ll stay out of it.
who shares an apartment with Webster (pretty convenient for the
scriptwriters, eh?) is horrified by this.
Once they arrive at their place the matter leads to a big argument.
Jill ends this by coming over and inviting them over to dinner.
See, Webster and Gillis’ apartment is in the same building as the
Danko’s. Pretty convenient
for the scriptwriters, eh?
and Gillis finally reach a compromise by appearing on the scene of the
rumble in their civies. In a
less than utterly convincing scene, Webster shaming the gangs into
fighting the manly way, i.e., sans weapons.
(Actually, since ‘rumbles’ have seemingly been replaced by
drive-by shootings, fighting face to face with chains and knives seem
pretty daring.) This is
easily the most ludicrous bit up to now.
The melee ensues. Then
a shot rings suddenly out and Truck falls.
He collapses, begging for help.
Wow, even tough dudes don’t like being shot to death.
to the hospital, where Jill’s a nurse.
(You have to give the show’s developers’ point, because her
occupation allows for a lot of interaction—and potential
conflict—between her and the other characters.)
Ryker appears and chews out Gillis and Webster for failing to
report the upcoming gang fight. However,
word comes down that Truck will recover.
the show’s climax, Gillis and Webster get Truck’s gang together and
expose the shooter. His
identity won’t exactly amaze anyone but the most casual viewer.
During this scene I also got a pretty good laugh.
The gang members are all clearly well into their twenties.
And I mean, well into them.
I thought this was by design, that it was a street gang more than a
youth gang. But during yet
another speech, Webster notes “Most of you will drop out of school.”
Obviously these guys aren’t supposed to be attending college, so
he must mean high school. Which
means that these guys are supposed to be about ten years younger than they
& Sundry Observations:
black cop and naïve white cop? They’re
the original odd couple!!
employment of the term ‘pig.’
leader of the street gang, used to be best buddies with Webster.
It’s a small world!
street gang is, of course, safely multi-racial. Just like in real life!
it’s trying to be all true to the street and all, but having Webster and
Gillis earn the respect of Truck and his subordinates by whipping their
asses (in more ways than one) in a pick-up basketball game seems a little
on the nose. And the
subsequent montage of flying jump shots and flying bodies accompanied by
the Harlem Globetrotters version of “Sweet Georgia Brown” is either
drop dead hilarious or just staggeringly lame and obvious.
Frankly, I couldn’t decide.
Hats off to the actors and any stuntguys, though, for taking so
many falls on a hardwood floor. Ouch. Anyway, the end result is a friendly rap session over some
beers and pizza. Uh huh.
how much time the set dressers spent strewing garbage over the back lot
streets they filmed this show on.
the cops leave their revolvers in unsecured lockers?
There’s a good idea.
Spelling Production? Yes.
Count: 0, which I found kind
Clothing Factor: 2
Relevancy Factor: 5
film adaptation due in 2003? No.
Stars: Truck was played by
William, aka Bill, Elliott. He
had a pretty good B-movie career. First,
he played on of the Black Panther-esque dudes in the early Jabootu subject
Change of Habit. He also
appeared in Night of the Lepus
and had a major role in the Pam Grier classic Coffy.
quizzes Webster on their new duty area:
“You know that part of town?”
“Here comes the Fuzz!”
Ryker holds forth on the city’s gang problems:
“But it’s the rumbles! That’s
what tears the gears out of the machinery!”
Off. Gillis tries to bond with the Natives at the local community center:
“What you say we have a game, and afterwards we can maybe rap a
sincere if often woefully naïve and too-earnest program.
Attempts to be up to the minute have resulted in it becoming pretty
dated. The large amount of
righteous speechifying also eventually becomes comical.
Still, all in all it’s a pretty good effort, well intentioned and
intelligent. The lack of a
modern sense of political correctness allows for some genuinely
interesting material. Kate
Jackson stole the show away from her male co-stars.
She quickly exhibited whatever quality it is that makes someone a
TV star, and of course went on to several other successful series in the
years that followed. For what
it’s worth, this was easily the best single episode of the five featured
& Hutch: “Savage
The visuals are generic, as is the forgettable theme music.
This being the first episode, the opening’s editing is different
from the regular version used later.
Paul Michael Glaser (who looks almost exactly like singer Tom
Jones) as Det. Starsky, David Soul as Det. Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson,
Bernie Hamilton as Captain Doby (Fred “The Hammer” Williamson is
playing him in the upcoming film adaptation!) and the great Antonio Fargas
as, sadly, Huggy Bear.
A few years before this was made, there was a movie directed by Shaft helmer Gordon Parks called Super
It starred Ron Leibman, and featured the supposedly true story of a
couple of savvy, with-it cops who fought crime with zany, streetwise élan.
Shift the locale from New York to sunny L.A. and water down the
material and you have our show here.
Oh, and they zoom around in Starsky’s sporty Ford Gran Torino,
which is red with a big white stripe.
Actually, it kind of looks like a dreamsicle.
open with the guys cruising in the Torino.
Hutch is reading the Sunday funnies and commenting on them.
It’s zany, if not particularly streetwise.
Then we cut to two hoods in a restaurant booth.
They talk and then depart, as the one assigned to leave the tip
only tosses down a quarter. (Tarrantino so ripped this off in Reservoir
Dogs and Pulp Fiction.)
They see Henny and Sarah, a rather exaggerated Nice Old Couple—Hennie
wears a bow tie, that sort of thing—parking outside. The hoods decide to boost the couple’s generic-looking
vehicle to use in a robbery.
however, follow the oldsters and hear the following:
“I shouldn’t have let you come.”
turns out the couple were going to bomb a courthouse as a political
statement. (After calling in
a threat to get the building evacuated.)
And they’re really old and stodgy looking!!
exchange is a classic example of completely ham-fisted exposition.
Oh, wait, now I get it! The
crooks are going to steal the seemingly nice old couple’s car, not
knowing it could massively explode at any moment!
episode is largely meant to be comical, which didn’t improve my mood
any. (Although this might be
partly attributed to the fact that I’ve been watching and reviewing
detective shows all day.) For instance, much purportedly humorous complaining is issued
by Starsky because they’re working on a Sunday.
Then Starsky has to run after Milton, a middle-aged white drug
dealer in a bad suit. Our
Hero’s overtly zany gait during this looks like something Jerry Lewis
as Milton is caught, S&H get a radio call on the robbers, who have
just hit a liquor store. Of
course, the felons immediately whiz by on a nearby street, going way over
the speed limit so as to call attention to themselves.
(So much for stealing an unobtrusive car for a getaway vehicle!)
The buddy cops push Milton into the car for the inevitable
high-speed pursuit, during which Milton issues cowardly exclamations
before passing out. Komedy! In any case, it’s too early in the show to catch the
robbers, so they end up getting away.
another typical bit, the detectives head over to the liquor store to
investigate. Hutch interviews
a cheerfully talkative witness (Komedy!) and calls Starsky to hear the
guy’s spiel. After
listening to the guy’s ramblings, Starsky learns that the guy got the
car’s license number. Confused
at why his partner called him over to hear all this, he finds it’s
because Hutch needs a pencil to write down the license number!
Only—get ready for it—Starsky doesn’t have a pencil either!!
Luckily, Cheerfully Helpful Witness does and the agonizing routine
is laid to rest.
to an old age home, to which Our Heroes have traced the license plate.
Realizing the jig is up, Henny and Sarah confess about the
dynamite. This is not only
unstable, they explain, but set to explode in a couple of hours.
The (non-fatal) bombing was meant to protest their lousy living
conditions at the home.
the dynamite raising the ante, a major manhunt is put into effect.
Captain Doby won’t put out a public warning, though, for fear of
causing a panic. (Wouldn’t
he bump a situation like this a bit further up the ladder?)
Unbeknownst to the authorities, however, the robbers have already
switched the car’s license plates and had it repainted green.
Therefore it doesn’t match the description the searchers have
to Huggy Bear’s, a bar owned by S&H’s streetwise, jive-talkin’
informant. Huggy is
‘comically’ yakking with a buxom new barmaid.
After the boys explain the situation, Huggy agrees to “make some
calls” and try to get info on the robbers.
netted a paltry sum at the liquor store, the robbers are hitting up a
small bank branch, or something. (On
a Sunday?) In an awkwardly
blocked bit, a manager somehow doesn’t hear all the commotions until he
opens his office door. He
reacts by retreating to his desk to grab a gun, but is shot.
Our Heroes are having lunch at a hot dog place. Hutch is ‘comically’
grossed out at all the stuff Starsky puts on his frankfurter.
It’s funny. Then
they get a radio call from Doby, passing on info from Huggy Bear.
Following the lead, they head over to a local high school where
some Brothers are playing (what else?) basketball on the school court.
The Brothers give them lip, until Starsky challenges them to a
scratch two-on-two basketball game. Police
work apparently involves a lot more basketball playing than I had assumed
before watching this DVD.
course, the Brothers assume they’ll win, because, you know, they’re
black. Well, OK, actually I
would have thought the same thing. So
the game begins, to the strains of—I swear!—the Harlem
Globetrotters’ version of “Sweet Georgia Brown.”
Ah, that Aaron Spelling magic.
Waste not, want not, eh, Aaron?
This time the hijinx were so comical I wanted to claw my eyes out.
Of course, given the situation all this is moronic.
Glad you can take the time to engage in a comical basketball game
while a car loaded with 50 sticks of dynamite is ready to go off at any
moment. Anyhoo, they win the
game and get the information, which is amazingly precise.
head to the bar they’re told about, looking for the secret bookie joint
where the robbers supposedly place a lot of bets.
After beating up two huge guards in a very unconvincing fashion,
they storm the back room. This
holds a huge betting parlor right out of The
avoid arrest, the manager gives S&H the name of one of the felon’s
ex-wives. It’s amazing the
way Our Heroes are always able to track down these perfectly relevant bits
of information, isn’t it? However,
after S&H leave, the manager covers his ass by leaving word for the
robbers that some cops are headed the ex-wife’s way.
ex is an exotic dancer (or as exotic as you’d get on ‘70s network
television). S&H head over to the bar where she go-go dances in a
slinky costume. Given said
bar, which is the ‘70s TV version of ‘gritty,’ this scene is the
first one that’s actually funny.
Less amusing is the comic monolog issuing from the woman.
She immediately gives up everything, complaining ‘comically’
about the lack of action she got (and still gets) from her ex-husband.
the alerted robbers are outside, slicing up Starsky’s tires.
When the guys come outside, they ambush them. Luckily, S&H are able to escape their gunfire by jumping
behind some presumably empty yet bulletproof cardboard boxes.
With Starsky’s car disabled, however, the felons manage to
head over to the garage run by the ex’s cousin, which is handily the
same place the robbers got their stolen automobile worked on.
Finding evidence that a car has been recently repainted
there—gee, that proves it, because how often would a commercial garage
be repainting cars?—they get the cousin to spill the beans.
at the station, they convince Doby to broadcast the car description.
However, the vehicle has already been left in a parking garage.
Eventually the parking attendant hears the radio description and
calls the cops. But it’s
only minutes till the bomb is set to explode!
Will Our Heroes arrive in time?!
to get the trunk open, Starksy manically drives the car outside to a
secluded location. There it
explodes without doing much harm. Meanwhile,
Hutch confronts the robbers, shooting one and chasing after the other. Another gunfight ensues, until Hutch saves the returning
Starsky’s life by wounding the robber.
we get the traditional epilog/wrap-up.
Because they are a Nice Old Couple, Henny and Sarah just receive
probation (!) for their attempts to blow a courthouse sky high.
After all, it’s the ‘70s, and people were doing this sort of
thing all the time. Meanwhile,
the publicity has gotten a local councilman to look into their housing
conditions. It’s true, the squeaky wheel that sets a bomb does get the
& Sundry Observations:
at his maverick detectives, who never play by the rules.
Then Starsky steals the Captain’s hamburger.
just knew that parking attendant’s booth was going to get it.
white people eating Soul Food?! It’s
Spelling Production? Yes.
Count: Well, the first robber
is shot, but we don’t know if he dies or not.
Clothing Factor: 5, just for
Relevancy & Grittiness Factor: -2
for Huggy Bear
film adaptation due in 2003? Yes.
The go-go dancing ex is played by a pre-Three’s Company
Suzanne Somers!! Sarah is
played by Hope Summers, who had a forty-plus year acting career and
appeared in pretty much every TV show from the ‘50s through the
mid-‘70s. She was also the voice of talking syrup bottle Mrs.
tour de force comedy monolog from our own jivin’ Huggy Bear, as he clues
in his hot new barmaid:
“Now, Sugar, I believe in Women’s Lib.
Which means you’re entitled to steal as much as any male
bartender. But keep this in
mind: There’s thievery, and
allowable thievery. And I
allows just a little thievery. And
don’t forget, don’t throw the money you’re ripping off in the bar
sink, because it gums up the plumbing.”
Nostalgic fun for us oldies, TV Land-esque anthropology for the
Plot: A cloned
sabretooth tiger…c’mon, you know where this is going, right?
made me feel tired and depressed, the way you sometimes get upon sitting
through yet another uninspired entry.
Despite being a Lion’s Gate flick, which in never a good sign, I
had a few hopes for this one. First,
it sported a bit of a cast. David
Keith’s the film’s hero, and he’s a better actor than most of these
things sport. John Rhys-Davies
is also on hand, and while I’ve always found him a bit of a one-note
Johnny, hey, at least he’s (sort of) a name.
Moreover, the film boasts a veteran director, James
Hickox. James isn’t quite
as good a helmer as his brother Anthony (Waxworks).
He certainly isn’t a patch on his father Douglas, who made Theatre
of Blood. Nor was his
previous film, Blood Surf,
any great shakes. Yet it
wasn’t awful either. I had
hopes he’d be better here. Sadly,
[*Reading this back later, I realize I was a little
harsh on Hickox. The
direction isn’t very imaginative, but it’s professional and
unobtrusive, which these days one can’t take for granted.
All it all, it was probably the best he could have done given the
budgetary and time constraints he no doubt labored under.
And I can only imagine how he winced upon seeing the finished film
once the none-too-special effects had been inserted.]
In any case, I started the film with a good attitude.
When we open with a janitor dying because he enters the yet unseen
sabretooth’s cage without making sure the safety door shut correctly, I
went with it. (Although the containment room’s exteriors doors wavered
distressingly under the beast’s assault.)
Before too long, though, my reservoirs of good will were exhausted.
I know the score when it comes to these DTV
cheapies—believe me, do I know the score—so it’s not like I was
expecting all that much. As
noted, the cast sports a few names. I
appreciated that and gave the film some credit for it.
And the special effects alone wouldn’t have sunk the film for me.
Although I should note the movie features about the worst CGI work
I’ve seen outside of Beneath Loch
that’s saying something. They
were so bad, in fact, that I couldn’t believe how much screen time they
received. Definitely not a
good idea. Hell, the CGI
tiger shots don’t even match the prop head inserts we occasionally get.
Still, what sunk the movie for me was, as usual, the
script. At the start, I was
trying to give them points. The
dialog isn’t bad, and there were some attempts at characterization. However, the cast quickly became an all-too typical selection
of Stock Characters and the clichés began mounting up fast.
After a while they hit so many of them that I became pissed they
didn’t just go ahead and make the film a parody.
That probably wouldn’t have worked either, but at least it would
have provided an excuse for all the tired plot chestnuts served up here.
Most of the film revolves around two groups of
characters. The first
includes Catherine, the Mad Scientist behind the cloned sabretooth.
She lusts after scientific immortality and has some of the most
obvious MS lines this side of the guy from Bats. The guy funding her is
Bricklin, the Greedy Capitalist (Rhys-Davies).
He’s a coward who only cares about money and perhaps becoming
Then there’s Kara, Catherine’s drippy assistant.
She might was well wear a pork chop around her neck.
Finally, when they lose the tiger, they call in
Thatcher (David). He’s a
manly-man tracker who once was Catherine’s lover (oh, brother) but who
left her because of her lack of ethics.
He rounds out the first group.
The second collective consists of two forest rangers
and three teenage (?) recruits in the same woods where the escaped tiger
lurks. The group leader is
Casey, a buxom chick we immediately ken will live out the picture.
(By the way, did the movie really need a Catherine, Casey and
Kara?) Her associate is
Trent, who’s kind of a jerk and Casey’s ex-lover.
This multiplies the ‘oh, brother’ factor as we now have
two sets of estranged lovers.
Casey and Trent are training the kids to be “Junior
Guides.” Leon is the black
would-be macho man. (Don’t
be fooled, though, he’s actually a fairly likable character.)
His primary goal during the trip is to get into Casey’s pants.
Next is Lola, another hot number.
She hooks up with Trent. Then
there’s Jason. He’s a
nerd who is really inept in the woods.
Gee, that’s a new one. Oh,
and he has asthma.
The group dynamic is weird.
Casey and Trent are supposed to be training the kids so that they
themselves can assist guiding “underprivileged kids” out into the
woods. Since Casey and Trent
are, maybe, in their mid-‘20s, I’m assuming the three trainees are
supposed to be pre-college age. (It’s
hard to get a fix, though, because actors in their early twenties usually
play younger in these things.) That’s
how they struck me, anyway, as being in their late teens.
For instance, Jason mentions that his mom signed him up for the
gig. Plus, again, the
“junior guides” thing at least suggests a younger age.
If my assumptions are correct, Casey and Trent are
grossly unlikable characters. At
the campfire one night, for example, Trent produces a bottle of Tequila
and passes it around. All the
kids take hits off of it, and Casey joins in without saying a word. Call me a fuddy-duddy, but taking teenage novices into remote
forestland and getting them drunk doesn’t seem that great an idea.
Aside from the guides’ moral negligence—or more
accurately, their intentional corruption of minors—can you imagine the
lawsuits were one of these kids to get hurt after drinking hard liquor
provided by their instructors? What
if one of the boys got inebriated and tried to molest Lola?
What if she acceded and ended up pregnant? After all, as noted, Trent and Lola eventually run off into
the woods to have sex.
(Despite all this, Trent ends up one of the film’s
few surviving characters, apparently so Casey can end the movie with a
‘boyfriend.’ He’s not
somebody I’d have picked to keep around.*)
[*Minister Fink suggests that the obnoxious Trent
thus qualifies as a Designated Hero.
Instead, I’d argue that his survival is an extension of Casey’s
Heroine’s Death Battle Exemption. However,
Mr. Fink also notes that the film presents an exaggerated example of the
One Radio Rule, in that here we have two groups who carry but one radio
between them. He’s
So what could the film have done to make me happier?
How about this: Once
the groups got together and found themselves besieged, how about they act
intelligently and eventually manage to kill the beast without most of the
characters dying? I know this means they can’t follow the Slasher Movie
model—which, of course, is what actually happens—but maybe you don’t
have to knock off a poorly etched character every five minutes to keep
Hell, you could still kill off most everyone if you
wanted to. Look at Aliens. Everyone in that flick
was intelligent, armed and well trained.
They generally acted as intelligently as they could, given the
circumstances, and still they mostly ended up overwhelmed and doomed.
Yet their deaths weren’t a given.
Some of the characters made fatal, albeit believable, mistakes and
ended up dead. Others just
found themselves in no-win situations.
Yet you didn’t assume most of them would necessarily end up
kicking the bucket. Here, on
the other hand, you do. That’s
the sort of movie it is.
Well, let’s back up and get more systematic:
carelessly enters Danger Room. Exit
(By the way, I think the “Genetics Lab” sign outside the lab is
just stenciled onto the wall with black marker!)
that janitor’s mop looked entirely new and unused.
at the bubbling test tubes and conical flasks filled with mysterious
colored fluids. It’s a lab,
One of the
film’s more irksome qualities is that its dire events wouldn’t occur
had the lab spent a little more money.
For instance, why does the safety door meant to secure the tiger
jam before it closes? (Well,
OK, so the janitor will be killed. I
meant more, you know, in the context of the story.)
Later, this lab animal, supposedly worth untold billions, is
transported in an unbelievable inept fashion.
Which, naturally, leads to its escape.
tiger has a Distorted POV Effect. How
it’s worth, the actors in the film are fairly decent across the board,
especially given the script they’re laboring under. Kudos to the casting staff.
declares his intention to nail Casey.
Unless, he notes, Trent has a prior interest. “Been there, done that,” Trent replies, given Leon his
blessing. This is one of our
such a nerd. And he’s
always sucking on an inhaler! Ha!
group hasn’t gone very far before they almost lose Jason and Lola.
Now, I’m no expert woodsman, to be sure.
However, the group has two guides and three trainees.
Since Casey is the leader this time around—Trent led the last
group—how about having her lead the way, followed by the three kids, and
with Trent bringing up the rear? I
realize I’m probably just making a fool of myself with this naïve
suggestion, and that there’s some blatant reason why this wouldn’t
The prior statement might be a tad sarcastic.]
Otherwise it’s just so obvious you can’t imagine why they
wouldn’t be doing so.
turning back to collect the stragglers, they still don’t change their
marching pattern. Morons.
keeps questioning Casey’s decisions.
(Again, though, I can sort of see why, except that his aren’t any
better.) This sharpens
Casey’s bitterness over their former relationship.
One of the bits of characterization I did appreciate was that an
annoyed Lola yells at them whenever they start getting into it.
I’d be disgusted with their behavior too.
Especially if my very safety depended on them.
restart on their way, they’re even more strung out than they were
for the tiger to escape into the mountains, Catherine has arranged to have
it transported into to a cabin where money man Bricklin can see it for the
first time. (Though we learn
all this later.) Why
doesn’t he just come to the lab? Er,
because then the tiger wouldn’t escape.
truck driver they hired to transport the beast doesn’t have a partner.
Since Catherine wants it to arrive on a schedule, he drives late
into the night. Exhausted, he
crashes the truck, with predictable results.
It was about here I started having my first small doubts about the
movie. I mean, what, an extra
driver would have maybe cost a couple of hundred extra bucks, right?
this happens the driver stops and gets gas from some weird mountain hicks.
This has nothing to do with anything and is apparently just there
to add some pointless color.
addition to its inept mode of delivery, the container the tiger was in was
pretty poorly designed. Odd,
when you think about it.
driver is kacked, we cut to the cabin where we meet Catherine and Bricklin.
This is when any hopes I had for things began springing leaks.
Where to start? OK,
Catherine cloned up a living sabretooth tiger.
And then she created an “accelerated cellular growth hormone”
to make it reach maturity super-fast.
The end point to all this is to be able to clone human organs.
drools at the billions, even trillions, this would earn him.
He also mentions being elected President because of it.
(Uh, OK.) Catherine,
meanwhile, fantasizes about winning the Nobel Prize.
For which of her myriad achievements, she doesn’t say.
chewy wads of exposition are delivered, by the way, in the space of two or
three minutes. And again,
it’s all presented completely straight.
who I guess wants to get into Catherine’s pants (although this idea
doesn’t really go anywhere), is annoyed to learned that they’ve been
joined by Kara. She’s along
because she’s a zoologist who’s researched “the environments of
prehistoric animals.” Wouldn’t
that in fact make her a paleontologist?
[Minister Fink notes the two designations are not contradictory.
He’s right, but I’d still give precedence to the second title
given her field of study.]
thesis, she further explains, “was on the habitat of the mastodon and
the effects of intestinal parasites.”
Which, uhm, ties right in with sabretooth tigers.
Cut to an
Extraneous Couple Having Sex. Afterward,
Sex Woman hears what she thinks is her cat and goes outside to have a
look. (Who leaves their house
in the dead of night to look for a cat?)
I don’t want to completely blow the movie for you, but she gets
jumped by the tiger.
This is a
very quick shot. Yet it still
looked quite dodgy, so I watched it in slo-mo.
Let me tell you, the effects here are appallingly bad.
If I’m not mistaken, they computer rotoscoped a guy in a tiger
suit pretending to spring out at her.
I mean, seriously, the tiger is shown having a human posture in
this shot. It’s like
watching Snagglepuss gone homicidal.
the girl gets attacked it’s right after she’s been saying, “Here,
kitty, kitty.” How
her partner gets killed next. Big
cops around the wreck of truck, an investigating Catherine and Bricklin
keep driving. Here’s where
the film takes a quick exit into Sucksville.
For Catherine will prove the lamest sort of Mad Scientist.
The kind who doesn’t care how many people die in the course of
her reaching her goals. At
every turn from here on out she’ll be doing something Evil.
meanwhile, is led around by the nose because of his greed.
How do these schmucks end up so rich in these movies, anyway?
have an army of men up here in an hour,” he notes.
Gee, too bad you didn’t spring for another driver, then.
Or a better cage. Or
just go to the lab to see the tiger.
That certainly would have saved everyone a lot of grief.
notes that such a search party would draw too much attention.
Bricklin suggests that the only other option is to call in her
ex-boyfriend, Thatcher. She’s
against the idea, of course, but finally agrees.
However, she demands that he not be told what he’s hunting.
The idea is to tell him that a regulation lion (!), which was being
used as a lab animal (!!), has escaped.
Uh, sure. Yeah,
he’ll never notice the eight-inch long incisors.
And why describe it as a lion rather than a tiger, since that’s
what it looks like.
of course, Catherine is adamant that the beast be caught alive.
Because it’s necessary to the plot.
cabin up in the mountains is, we learn, Bricklin’s personal residence.
(??) Or so I assume,
since he tells Thatcher over the phone to meet him at “my house.”
The lack of staff there is sort of strange, given that Bricklin is
this supposedly vastly wealthy individual.
Also, it seems a little bit of a pain to get to.
Thatcher is a manly man, he smells something rotten about the whole deal.
He also balks at bringing Catherine, Bricklin and Kara along on the
hunt. Still, that’s what
the plot requires so he eventually gives in.
· Because Bricklin is a Rich Capitalist, all he cares about is money. Thus we get dialog like the following:
is not always about money.”
Bricklin, looking perplexed: “Don’t be preposterous. Of course it is.”
they head out with an oddly inept collection of equipment.
Catherine, for instance, carries the only tranquilizer rifle.
You’d think a couple of those among the four of them would be a
better idea. Despite hunting
a dangerous animal, meanwhile, only Thatcher brings actual weapons, a
rifle and a heavy revolver. Of
course, Catherine bristles at those, since her top priority is capturing
the beast alive. (Hint:
Bring more than one tranq gun, then.)
they do bring a sort of tranq stick—it’s a handle you attach a tranq
needle to so you can poke the tiger with it.
Yeah, that seems a lot easier than bringing another dart
rifle with. (On the other
hand, the device references Jaws. Yeah,
that’s a good idea.)
naturally they only bring one phone.
And the other group, with the two professional guides taking three
novices out into the mountains, don’t carry a phone or radio at all.
a really dumb bit with Leon acting like a moron on an outcrop.
What he doesn’t know, but we do, is that a bad cartoon tiger is
waiting at the bottom. He
slips and almost falls, but eventually the others are able to haul him up.
This is supposed to be suspenseful, since we’re meant to wonder
if the tiger will be able to leap up and grab him.
(I think. The editing
makes it hard to tell how far below them the cat is.)
My problem isn’t that nobody sees the tiger, which perhaps I
could buy given the angle of the incline, but rather that they don’t
hear its roars. That had me
rolling my eyes something fierce.
hunters find the house where the Sex Couple got whacked.
Seeing the smashed up door and the scant bloody remains of the guy,
Thatcher tells Catherine to call the police.
She responds by taking their single phone into the woods and
tossing it away. Ah, her
first Evil Act. (And another Jaws quote.)
doing this she stumbles across the badly mauled Sex Woman, who begs for
help. Why is this woman still
alive? So that Catherine can
commit Evil Act #2 by leaving her to die.
Which the woman kindly does almost immediately, her assigned Shock
Moment having been accomplished.
return, Catherine tells Thatcher that they must have lost the phone on the
trek in. He doesn’t think
of going back into the house to see if there’s a working phone there.
this point there’s three dead people.
(Not counting the janitor.) This
is one of those typical bad movie situations where the idea of covering it
all up seems utterly ridiculous to everyone but the characters themselves.
it’s necessary to the plot, the others again manage to keep Thatcher
from heading back to get the cops. He
gives them 24 hours before he’ll do so.
Later this time limit will pass, and not by a little. But Thatcher never turns back.
character stuff, blah blah blah. The
campers share the tequila bottle and play Truth or Dare.
Meanwhile, Catherine unsuccessfully tries to get back with
stole a joke from Aliens!
(It was funnier there.)
Lola go off into the woods to make a little hay. I’m telling you, this whole training session is a
argues that it’s time to tell Thatcher what they’re after.
(I still think he’ll figure things out once he sees the cat.)
Catherine, of course, Eeee-villy objects.
Kara notes that the beast’s stalking skills are far beyond that
of any modern animal. “It
could be right behind me and I wouldn’t even know it,” she asserts.
Of course, that’s when the tiger jumps out and attacks her. How ironic. Exit
Kara, stage left.
should stay by the fire,” Bricklin judges upon hearing of this.
“They hate fire.” What, all sabretooth tigers, or just the cloned ones who’ve
been prematurely aged with accelerated cellular growth hormones?
Trent and Lola. First, they
establish that the one girl Trent ever loved was Casey.
You know, so as to ‘explain’ why he’s left alive at the end
of the picture. Since this is
(I’m assuming) a PG or PG-13 movie, things don’t progress much past
Lola stripping down to her bra.
runs off playfully. (Jaws quote.) After a while she
nearly stumbles onto the cat and flees in terror. Why it doesn’t kill her is left to our imaginations.
I guess it’s because she’s not slated to be killed until later.
Oops, sorry. [Minister
Fink suggests that Lola is spared because the animal had just fed.
However, at several other points the beast attacks people in quick
camp Lola tells the others what she saw.
Nobody believes her, which actually isn’t all that unreasonable.
Astoundingly, Lola doesn’t really bother trying to get the others
to turn back. Instead, she
climbs into her tent and cries.
know who transcribed the dialog for the English subtitles, but when
Catherine callously notes, “Kara’s dead,” the subtitle reads “the
car’s dead.” Since they
never had a car deaf viewers must have been mightily confused at this.
morning, Thatcher forgets his promise to turn back and get the
authorities. I suppose if we
really care we can assume that Kara’s death has set him on finding the
cat and killing it.
Lola finally tells Casey about the cat.
Trent still assumes it was ‘just’ a mountain lion.
Again, to this point that’s a reasonable supposition.
However, they then notice a giant paw print in the middle of camp.
(Why did the tiger walk through the camp without attacking anyone?
Why ask why?)
this giant print, and believe me, it’s huge, Casey decides to return to
the base camp. Well, duh.
Trent argues against this, though.
Why? Because the
script is really, really stupid.
Trent begin to argue, which sets Lola off again. Now she declares that she doesn’t want to go back.
Remember, she not only saw the giant print but actually saw the
frickin’ tiger. Lola’s
turnaround completely ruins whatever small shreds of believability the
film had left.
Lola no longer objects, Casey decides they should continue on.
Frankly, Casey’s not much of a leader.
When you get down to it, her inability to do her job causes all of
her charges to die horrible deaths. Of
course, this will never be mentioned by the film itself.
a cave, and he and Casey immediately enter it. Good thing it wasn’t a bear den.
By the way, Casey, you’re doing a smashing job of teaching these
kids proper woodcraft.
the fact that Trent’s acted like a total jerk to her, Lola goes off with
him again. (“Thanks for
believing me,” she tells him, despite the fact that he totally blew
her of earlierf.) She
eventually tries to kiss him, but his heart isn’t in it.
Because, you know, Casey. Gee,
now I really hope that Trent lives out the movie.
it turns out that the cave Leon and Casey entered is a mountain lion den.
Her professionalism becomes more manifest all the time.
(The cat is obviously tame, by the way.)
Luckily, Leon had made a torch for himself and they manage to scare
the cat away.
finding the campers’ tracks, decides to find and warn them.
Catherine, of course, wants him to continuing pursuing the cat.
Since Thatcher has announced he intends to kill it, it would
actually make more sense if she took advantage of his suggestion to get
him out of the way.
is nervous about, you know, losing the hunter guy. “Don’t tell me you’re afraid,” Catherine sneers.
Yeah, boy, why would Bricklin be afraid under the current
circumstances? He’s just a
big yellow-belly, I guess.
off in the woods to take a crap. Way,
way off. (Shades of Jurassic
Park: The Lost World.)
Needless to say, exit Jason.
(properly) waited until daylight to search for the missing Jason, the
others fan out and begin looking for him.
Leon and Casey go one way, Trent and Lola another.
As the former pair stumbles around, Casey notes “God, everything
[i.e., in the woods] looks the same.”
And she’s the team leader. No
wonder most of them end up dead.
pops up (Shock Moment!) and tells Casey and Leon that he’s found
Jason’s body. He explains
about the escaped African lion, which as far as he knows is still the
situation. When he learns
that they were in a mountain lion den, he suggests that the ‘lion’ is
probably tracking them now. This
seemed pretty superfluous to me. After
all, the sabretooth’s already hunting and killing everyone.
And couldn’t it “track you from a mile away” under normal
is pissed to learn that Bricklin’s been putting out the bear traps they
brought, as instructed by Thatcher. (They
sure managed to haul a hell of a lot of them in those backpacks.)
She complains that the traps are inhumane.
Maybe this is supposed to be funny, or ironic, or whatever.
It mostly seemed really stupid.
were the tiger hobbled by getting caught in a trap, at least it would be
captured alive. In case
we’re wondering exactly this, they have Catherine say, “I want to
capture it, not kill it.” How
would a trap kill it? Stupid
learning of the deaths Catherine earlier concealed from him, begins to
panic. He exclaims that the
animal must be killed. She
can just whip up another one. A
little late to bring up so obvious an idea, you’d think.
no time!” Catherine retorts. “You
think I’m the only one doing this research?”
She’s right. Even
now, some Japanese scientist is undoubtedly force-feeding a cloned baby
Mammoth some accelerated cellular growth formula, mere months away from
going from that to cloning human organs.
So, as you can see, any such delay would allow someone else to be
the first to market cloned replacement parts.
Lola’s Designated Time to Die. So
the tiger shows up, clamps her head in its mouth and hauls her off.
I’d feel more sorry for her, except that her decision to keep
going after seeing the cat was so stupid that I couldn’t take her
character seriously anymore.
way, Lola was killed while wearing a T-Shirt that had a “Bad Kitty”
logo on it. Man, sometimes I
just hate post-modernism, or whatever the hell this sort of thing is.
And remember, Sex Woman’s mauling occurred after she was saying,
“Here, kitty, kitty.” Really,
could anyone have thought this stuff was clever?
back to camp, telling Casey, Leon and Thatcher that he saw a sabretooth
tiger. In what might have
been, but isn’t, an interesting reversal of his own ignoring of Lola’s
similar story earlier, his statement is shrugged off as hysterical.
sends the campers off to an abandoned mine to hide, and heads off to track
mine, Trent finally expresses sorrow for ignoring Lola’s story.
However, because this is a poorly scripted movie, he does this
merely so Leon and Casey can absolve him of responsibility.
Well, guess what? No way. Ignoring
a city girl’s story about seeing a giant cat in the woods late at night
is one thing. But once they
found the giant print in the middle of their camp there’s just no
getting around the fact that they should have turned back.
since they were already several days into the woods at that point, they
could have had them turn back and still had the cat stalk them.
Or they could have tried to head back but been cut off by the
tiger. In other words, the
script made the characters look unbearably stupid when it didn’t even
have to. This stuff just
drives me up the wall.
manages to get the cat in this scope.
He pauses when he sees the creature’s elongated fangs, though,
realizing that Trent’s story was true.
Catherine shows up and scares the tiger off before he can reorient
his shot. For what it’s
worth, this was a buyable situation, and you could believe that even an
experienced hunter would be jarred from taking his shot under these
the Big Confrontation scene, with Thatcher questioning Catherine’s
actions. Here’s some of her
innovative Mad Scientist Dialog: “Progress
has a price. You could never
see that.” Somebody, get
that scripter an Oscar!
this, the tiger cartoonishly jumps out and lands on Thatcher.
Wow, good thing for the Hero’s Death Battle Exemption™.
Bricklin, being a coward, grabs the rifle and runs off, drawing the
tiger’s attention. (From
the guy it’s currently straddling.
Yeah, right.) As he
flees, he puts his foot into one of the bear traps and gets et by the
tiger. Wow, didn’t see that
happening. Meanwhile, in the
confusion Catherine has stolen Thatcher’s revolver and stowed it in her
Catherine and Thatcher return to the scene.
Bricklin is just a shredded torso, but handily the nearby rifle is
untouched. However, the tranq
gun, which was nowhere near the tiger, has been smashed to bits.
who really gets around, shows up at the mine to menace Leon, Trent and
Casey. This is Leon’s big
scene, where he decides to confront the cat with his two bowie knives.
This might have actually worked, even if it’s more than a little
reminiscent of Hudson’s Last Stand in Aliens.
the CGI inserts ruin it. Trent
attempts to argue Leon into the mine.
Leon, in response, turns his back on the tiger a good three times
before chasing the others off. However,
during all this Snagglepuss is literally about a foot and a half away
from Leon. Which makes
every bit where Leon turns his back right on it just astoundingly stupid.
given the level of the animation on display here, there just no way they
can pull such a complicated scene off.
Coordinating the tiger’s actions with Leon’s is just beyond the
effects team. Moreover, the
mix of primitive animatronics and CGI just doesn’t mesh at all.
end, the claws prove mightier than the blades. Exit Leon.
Man, I am
so bored. There’s some
stuff in the cave, and Trent declares his love for Casey; and Snagglepuss
enters to menace them; and Thatcher and Catherine show up, and they ask
Casey, who got out of the cave via a small hole, about “the others,”
although they’ve already seen Leon dead and that is all “the
others;” and Trent is still stuck in the cave a little beyond the
cat’s reach; and Thatcher gives Catherine the rifle and tries to get the
beast with the tranq stick, which is, of course, a steal from Jaws (this part really made my head hurt—he’s got the
thing trapped in the cave, all he’d have to do is go in the entrance and
shoot it); and they get Trent out, but the cat quickly shrugs off the
tranquilizer; and Thatcher stays behind to kill the cat but learns
Catherine removed the bullets from his gun (don’t you carry extras, you
moron?); and Trent and Casey go back to help him, and then Catherine shows
up with the revolver to keep anyone from harming Snagglepuss; and the
already clawed-up Trent disarms her but is moreover shot in the shoulder;
and Catherine tries to command the cat—because all Mad Scientists for
some reason believe they have such power over their creations—but the
tiger instead *gasp* deals her a horrible death, during which she
screams for the help she denied so many others, yada, yada; then Thatcher,
who at some point steps into yet another bear trap (how many of these
friggin’ things did they strew about the entire friggin’ forest?)
props up a big pointed stick he made and Snagglepuss leaps on it and is
impaled and the friggin’ movie’s finally friggin’ over.
I can’t let the revolver wound rest.
I’m no expert, but I think the gun here is a Ruger .44 Super
Blackhawk. Which makes sense,
because it’s the sort of heavy sidearm an experienced hunter would bring
along when after big game. The
thing is, though, that taking a slug from this in the shoulder would kill
you. First of all, it would
most likely blow your arm off. Even
if it didn’t, the exit wound would be gigantic and you’d quickly die
of blood loss. Not that that
would matter much either, because you’d be in shock anyway from the
tremendous kinetic energy the impact just slammed through your system.
Seriously, guys hunt moose and bear with these guns.
Summary: So much dumber than it had to be, but just as dumb as I should have expected.
Correspondent Gavin R.R. Smith muses as follows:
" A thought occurred to me while reading your review of Sabretooth; just how hard could it be to somewhat convincingly render a Sabretooth tiger?
Observe Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. That sabretooth tiger was hardly convincing, but at least it looked cool, vaguely alive, and Harryhausen didn't embarrass himself with it. Now, even if they could not afford something on the quality of Harryhausen, surely it's not that difficult to render something somewhat believable.
It's a very simple concept--simply rig up an animatronic torso and even if it doesn't move realistically, it is solid and interacts with the actors. If they still needed full-body shots of the cat, stop-motion could be used--surely they could afford FX artist Brett Piper. The man even said he would do special effects for ME if I found someone to produce my project.
Hell, even going the old "stuff glued on lizard=dinosaur" routine would work better. Take a real tiger, or mountain lion (one of which you mentioned they actually had ON HAND!), or even a housecat--give it exaggerated fangs and get it to react to something. Then just edit it into the movie. Hell, even forced perspective. I'd have to see the movie to actually know just how badly they wasted their money, but I feel sure the things I just suggested couldn't cost more than what they used..."
To which I replied:
"Obviously, I agree. However, I'm pretty sure Lion's Gate knows what they're doing, at least from a commercial standpoint. Until and unless people start avoiding their wares due to past experience, that is. However, unlike yours truly, most people won't see enough of their movies to make the connection. Those that do, like me, are hardcore fans that are going to rent the films no matter how bad we suspect they'll be.
Actually, I'd be fascinated to get the budgetary data on these pictures. Does Lion's Gate ever produce these films directly? Or do they merely pick them up and distribute them? What do they pay for them? What's the budget breakdown -- i.e., how much is allocated for the script, the actors, the f/x, etc.
The thing is, these DTV companies (Lion's Gate; UFO, etc.) are probably in the same general situation as, say, AIP in the '50s. In other words, if a film is produced for a certain budget, it's guaranteed to sell so many units and generate so many dollars in profit. Much of Lion's Gate and UFO's output is monster movies -- usually outsized animal stuff -- and action films. These are undoubtedly assembled according to a very rigidly structured plan. Part of this would include a certain amount of money (say, $250,000 out of a total million dollar budget, to pull figures completely out of my ass) for CGI special effects.
The reason not to abandon CGI for more traditional practical effects (i.e., physical props and prosthetics) is that, whether the companies have an in-house effects department or rely on an outside firm, the cost of the effects presumably falls as the amount of work increases. In other words, for the first films you have to procure the hardware, software and employees to do the job. After that, much of the necessary outlay has been expended. This is probably why, even if the effects are bad, the tiger in this movie is given a fair amount of screentime, at least compared to previous Lion's Gate fare.
Now, I'm an old-fashioned fan. You sound like one too. For people like us, bad practical effects are still better than bad CGI effects. As you note, one advantage is that they can physically interact with the actors. CGI, especially the less than perfect stuff, still fails to fool the eye and integrate with the scene's physical elements. An earlier analog to this was the way the prop ants in Them! worked as opposed to, say, the rear projected grasshoppers of Beginning of the End.
As well, if I can communicate this correctly, I (and those like me, I suspect, like you and Dr. Freex over at the Bad Movie Report) find that even bad practical effects can have a certain charm and personality to them that CGI just doesn't have. People fell in love with Kong (although obviously he represents the acme of practical effects work). I don't think anyone's ever fallen in love with a CGI monster.
However, I also think (big surprise) that we are in the minority. Sadly, I think that these companies know their customer base. I think the kids out there--at the risk of sounding like an old, judgmental fart--would rather see bad CGI effects than even moderately successful practical effects, because CGI is 'modern' and 'new.' It's the way things are done now. Who wants to see crappy old practical effects? What is this, the stone age?
This brings us to the animatronic sabretooth head seen in extremely brief inserts. Even then the thing is usually obscured by something. This might be because it's really lame. After all, since most of the effects money is going to the (purportedly) crowd-pleasing CGI, money spent making a better prosthetic for inserts is wasted moolah, and companies like Lion's Gate don't have money to waste if the film's going to fit the budgetary criteria that guarantees them a profit. Also, as noted, I'm pretty sure the prosthetic head doesn't match the CGI effects. I doubt there was much coordination between the two departments. (Which, after all, might actually be just two guys, one who makes props and one doing the CGI work.)"
An album of interviews with odds and ends starring Vincent Price.
Vincent Price: The
Sinister Image is
a DVD dedicated to one of the all-time great horror movie stars.
It’s no secret that I grew up watching horror and sci-fi
films—as a kid they were just ‘monster movies’—and names like
Lugosi, Karloff, Price, Carradine, Cushing and Lee still hold a lot of
power for me. Sadly, all have
now passed away save for Mr. Lee. To
the delight of us old-timers, he’s currently experiencing a career
resurgence in productions ranging from Sleepy
Hollow to Star Wars: Attack of the
Clones to The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
horror stars have a seemingly ironic reputation for being in real life the
nicest and kindest people one could ever meet.
Karloff, Cushing and Price all reportedly fell into this category.
Fans such as myself will be extremely grateful for this DVD, which
allows us to spend some time with the latter.
Mr. Price’s films establish him as one of the cinema’s most
memorable stars. The material
heres prove him to have been as well an extraordinarily charming man.
DVD’s main feature is an hour long, comprehensive interview with the man
himself. Conducted in 1987,
Mr. Price’s interlocutor is David Del Valle.
Mr. Del Valle proves both a close friend of Price and an able film
historian. Mr. Price was at
the time in his mid-eighties, and had recently appeared in one of his
final roles in The Whales of August. This
capped a film career that spanned half a century.
brief discussion of Whales of August
opens things. Then we step
back in time and begin a chronological examination of his genre films.
The interview starts with his appearance in The
Invisible Man Returns
(his very first appearance in a genre picture) and proceeds to scrutinize
his career film by film. This
technique works extraordinarily well, thanks both to Mr. Price’s
prodigious memory and Mr. Del Valle’s vast knowledge of cinema history.
from the movies themselves, Mr. Price holds forth at length on the wide
range of filmmakers he worked with. His
comments are always kind-hearted—like Will Rodgers, Mr. Price seems
never to have met a man he didn’t like—yet cogent.
He even admits to liking the notoriously autocratic Otto Preminger,
not a sentiment widely shared in the film community.
if he has a good word for everyone, his briefly limned takes remains
perceptive and not overly effusive. For
example, he rates schlockmeister William Castle as having been a good, but
not a great, director. This
about sums things up, being neither niggardly in praise nor overly
the way fans will listen enrapt to Mr. Price’s stories and insights on
working with such fabled names as Jack Fulton (the special effects genius
at Universal Studios), Basil Rathbone, Cedric Hardwick, Lon Chaney, Jr.,
Boris Karloff, Laird Creger, Peter Lorre, Cecil B. DeMille, Charles
Laughton, Charles Bronson, William Castle, Roger Corman, Richard Matheson,
Diana Rigg… Mr. Price seems
to have remembered everyone he ever worked with and had a fond word for
all of them.
anecdotes on the films he made are also entertaining. He describes wearing a black velvet bodysuit and hood when
shooting The Invisible Man
enduring hours of make-up application for his roles in The
House of Wax and The Abominable
(Thirty years after the fact, Price makes sure to credit make-up
director George Bow for his memorable visage in House
great moment occurs when he discusses an early villainous role in Dragonwick, during which he and Mr. Del Valle start laughing about how
the film kicked off his long string of “Dead Wife” movies.
“If they weren’t dead in the first reel,” Mr. Del Valle
begins, with Mr. Price finishing, “I got rid of them by the second!”
To those familiar with the actor’s filmography, this is vastly
amusing stuff. Another
humorous subject involves the fact that the 3-D House
of Wax was directed by a one-eyed director, who hence could only
see in 2-D.
in all, this is the best interview of its type I’ve seen.
The only other I’ve seen that comes close is with Roddy McDowell,
another charming horror star with an extraordinary memory.
This can be found on the two-disc DVD documentary package Beyond
the Planet of the Apes.
assembled the disc, presumably Mr. Del Valle (although cult movie
historian David Kalat also apparently took a hand), did a simply smashing
job. First, the main
interview is chapter stopped at each of the major films and personalities
the two discuss. Want to jump
directly to Mr. Price’s thoughts on director Jacques Tourneur?
Go to Chapter 15. This
is really a useful way to navigate through the show, although I can’t
imagine listening to any one chapter without settling in to hear the rest.
there’s quite a lot more material than just the above.
For instance, there’s an additional audio-only interview that
lasts a healthy 42 minutes. Next is “Freedom to Get Lost,” an episode of Half Hour
to Kill, a TV anthology suspense show from 1958.
The program is both hosted by and stars Price. A truly enjoyable oddity is the “Wild Weird World of Dr.
Goldfoot,” an episode of Shindig (!) built around songs intended
for (but not used) in Price’s theatrical feature Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs. Another audio
treat is the classic radio drama “Three Skeleton Key,” an episode of Escape!
In this memorable story, Price is a man trapped in a remote
lighthouse by a marauding swarm of flesh-eating rats.
Finally, there’s a photo gallery featuring over 200 (!) images.
Del Valle also wrote the three-page essay that can be found in the
interior of the DVD case. It’s
a warm tribute to a great actor and, by all accounts, a great man.
viewing for fans of classic horror movies.
-by Ken Begg