Hollywood Legends 50 Movie Pack, Disc 4

Starting here, I’m doing something I should have started long ago: When feasible, writing the first part of the review immediately after finishing the flick—and before checking date, run length, director, etc. on IMDB. I’ve been doing “immediate reviews” in some cases for a while, although not for every movie—but I think there are cases where I really need to offer my views before “informing” them through IMDB. The first movie here is a case in point.

Diamond Thieves (aka The Squeeze), 1978, color. Antonio Margheriti (dir.), Lee Van Cleef, Karen Black, Edward Albert, Lionel Stander, Robert Alda. 1:39 [1:26].

Good cast, well filmed, fast moving—and for some reason I’m pretty sure it’s a TV movie. Or, if it isn’t, it has the hallmarks of an “action” TV movie. How so? Strong cast but no real “openers” (stars who can assure a strong opening week). Catchy music that seems entirely derivative. Some odd plot holes at points. And, maybe most of all: I didn’t feel anything about any of the characters, so I wasn’t saddened or shocked when they were killed. Oh, and the fact that it’s on a disc like this even though it can’t possibly be more than 30 years old, given the cast. The title gives you much of the plot. Thieves stealing from what I take to be other thieves. Things go badly. An imported safecracker survives (wounded) and interacts with various other actors. Lots of double-crosses. Several shootings. Lionel Stander—sidekick Max in Hart to Hart—doesn’t overact in his role as a pawnbroker/fence. Karen Black chews the scenery, as does Van Cleef. And it ends.

So, now I’ll go check IMDB. Hold on… Well, look at that: Not a TV movie. Instead, a cheap Italian/West German production with many different titles in different countries—and the version here is missing several minutes, which may explain some of the plot holes. One IMDB reviewer calls it “European Trash Cinema” and that may be a good description. Well, it could have been a TV movie, even though it got an R rating (presumably for shootings with no gore). I’ll give it $1.25.

Treasure of the Jamaica Reef (aka Evil in the Deep), 1976, color. Virginia L. Stone (dir.), Stephen Boyd, David Ladd, Chuck Woolery, Rosey Grier, Darby Hinton, Cheryl Stoppelmoor, Art Metrano. 1:36 [1:32]

This one’s a little odd, in several ways. The title and some other opening titles are slightly out of focus (maybe a digitization problem). Much of the movie’s filmed underwater—at the site of a real sunken ship off Grenada—and generally very good, although a little murky at times. Lots of voice-overs from Stephen Boyd. It’s about a group of friends who get salvage rights for a sunken 200-year-old Spanish Galleon off Jamaica and set about finding it. They seem undercapitalized, very informal in their methods and way overtrusting. For some reason, they’re not at all concerned when two people on another boat show up more than once—naturally, as it turns out, intending to kill them off and take the treasure.

The only significant female in the cast spends most of her time in a bikini, but does a credible acting job. At the time she was Cheryl Stoppelmoor; she changed that second name to Ladd (by marrying David Ladd, who she met during the filming) and went on to greater fame. For that matter, the cast could suggest a TV movie (Chuck Woolery?), but it’s not. The sleeve description seems bizarre in one respect: “There’s a proverbial fly in the ointment: a big grey fly, known as a killer shark. Made before Jaws, its producers were accused of trying to rip off the Spielberg film.” Well, there’s a mention of sharks, but the cast is never imperiled by killer sharks, at least on in the version I saw: The peril is the people on the other boat.

Apparently this is the G-rated version: The uncut version includes shark violence (and apparently a lot more other violence). Just another indication that nobody at Mill Creek actually watches these movies. I must admit, I suspect I prefer this without the shark; I give it $1.25.

The Klansman, 1974, color. Terence Young (dir.), Lee Marvin, Richard Burton, Cameron Mitchell, O.J. Simpson, Lola Falana, David Huddleston, Luciana Paluzzi, Linda Evans, Ed Call, David Ladd. 1:52 [1:41]

Excellent cast. Mostly decent acting, although nobody was likely to get any award nominations. A “narrow” movie—set over a few days and entirely in one small backwoods Alabama town. Good color, good print, good sound. The missing footage mostly isn’t obvious –most likely omitting a rape scene (and some other violence you really couldn’t show on TV) and otherwise cleaning it up for TV. A jarring movie, not surprisingly, since it deals with coldblooded Klan racism and violence in a period that’s uncomfortably contemporary—a few years after the Voting Rights Act, while some Southern towns still managed to keep blacks from voting. Without giving away much of anything, it’s a dismal ending: Lots of people wind up dead, with no real resolution in sight.

Checking IMDB (after writing the above), I’d have to say it’s not a terrible film. As trimmed here, it’s mediocre, most flawed because it’s somewhere between a violent melodrama and a message picture. As cinema, it’s a mess. As a flick, it’s so-so. $1.25.

Lola (aka Twinky), 1969, color. Richard Donner (dir.), Charles Bronson, Orson Bean, Honor Blackman, Michael Craig, Paul Ford, Jack Hawkins, Trevor Howard, Robert Morley, Susan George. 1:36 [1:18].

An odd one, and if you think the title bears some resemblance to Lolita, you may not be entirely wrong. (Note that there are several other movies named Lola–but I doubt any of them were originally called Twinky!) Charles Bronson (back in his pre-action days) plays a mid-30s American writer (of novels hot enough to get banned in some places) in London, who gets involved with a 16-year-old schoolgirl (in a very short-skirted uniform quite plausible for the time). She convinces her to marry him: In Scotland, at the time, she’s apparently legal without parental consent. Her parents are shocked—but her grandfather (Trevor Howard), somewhat of a dirty old man, seems delighted. They go to America. Things don’t go terribly well. Orson Bean has a good role as Bronson’s lawyer, who thinks the marriage is absurd.

The biggest problem, really, other than titles that seem to focus primarily on the exposed thigh and bent leg of a bicycling schoolgirl, is a total lack of resolution. There’s no ending to speak of. Not that this would have been a great picture anyway—it’s remarkably superficial given the story line. (That could be the missing 18 minutes; they’re not obvious as it stands.) Looking at IMDB after writing the above: Susan George was Lola/Twinky, and 18 at the time. Good print, good sound, surprisingly good cast, generally good acting. Just not much depth or closure. $1.25.

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