50-Movie All Stars Collection, Disc 5

It’s that time again: Another set of four movies from the good folks at TreeLine (now Mill Pond).

By the way, I noticed two things this time around:

  • Windows Media Player is now showing a name for the disc and the box picture, instead of the old “unknown disc.” That may go hand-in-hand with the animated logo with stereo music that replaced the older still logo in other boxes. (Some of the movies may have stereo soundtracks; it’s hard to be sure.)
  • When I reviewed the first 50-movie Megapack, I said they consisted of a dozen two-sided double-layer discs. That’s not quite right. I checked the raw data on this disc, and there’s about 4GB on each side: They’re single-layer sides. I guess that since the source material is VHS-quality, they can apply more compression and fit about three hours on each side without a second layer. Makes no difference as to the bargain.

Anyway, this is one where things started out really weak (although a bunch of IMDB reviewers, most of whom seem to believe in Killer Weed, would disagree) and got much stronger.

The Death of Richie, 1977, color, Paul Wendkos (dir.), Ben Gazzara, Eileen Brennan, Robbie Benson, Charles Fleisher. 1:37. [Jacket time 2:00]

I made the mistake of looking at IMDB user comments after looking up info on this movie. They mostly talk about the Oscar-caliber performances of Robbie Benson and Ben Gazzara and the apparent true story behind the movie. Unfortunately, maybe because I didn’t read the book, what I saw was a scenery-chewing performance by Benson and a reasonable interpretation of a block of wood by Gazzara. At the end of the movie, my thought was, “If the DEA didn’t pay for this, I’m surprised”—since it’s got the exact same message as Assassins of Youth: “Smoke pot and you will die.” I thought it was a pathetic example of TV movie as drug propaganda—but what do I know? Good print and sound. $0.50 purely as a propaganda piece.

Shell Game, 1975, color, Glenn Jordan (dir.), John Davidson, Joan Van Ark, Tom Atkins. 1:30 [1:12]

Just plain fun, in the way that sting movies usually are. John Davidson is a convicted-and-paroled con man working for his good-guy lawyer brother. He conducts a nicely plotted sting to get the head of a charitable organization who’s been stealing the contributions—and gets back the money as well (which, of course, goes back anonymously to the charity). Well-acted, very good print and sound; probably some holes in the logic, but entertaining enough to make a decent second feature. I doubt IMDB’s “90 minute” timing; the jacket time and actual time are both 72 minutes, and I suspect the TV movie showed in a 90-minute time slot. $1.50.

Hustling, 1975, color, Joseph Sargent (dir.), Lee Remick, Jill Clayburgh, Monte Markham, Alex Rocco, Howard Hesseman. 1:38.

Based on Gail Sheehy’s book, with Lee Remick as a Sheehy-like investigative reporter and Jill Clayburgh as the prostitute she tries to interview. Strong plot, with considerable attention to the people who really make money from call girls (e.g., the hot-sheet hotel owners). Great cast. (Howard Hesseman has a bit part, but still…) Unfortunately, the print’s dark and muddy. $1.75.

The Gun and the Pulpit, 1974, color, Daniel Petrie (dir.), Marjoe Gortner, Slim Pickens, Pamela Sue Martin, Estelle Parsons, David Huddleston. 1:14.

OK now: The best movie on the disc. Add 16 minutes and I believe you’d have a theatrical release—a well-done Western with Marjoe Gartner as a fast shooter disguised as a preacher (the jacket blurb gets it dead wrong), taking on a bully who’s terrorizing a frontier town. Gortner used to be an evangelist, and it shows; he makes a great gunman-as-preacher-with-gun. The rest of the cast is good as well. Excellent print and sound; thoroughly enjoyable. $2.

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