Starting here, Iâ€™m doing something I should have started long ago: When feasible, writing the first part of the review immediately after finishing the flickâ€”and before checking date, run length, director, etc. on IMDB. Iâ€™ve been doing â€œimmediate reviewsâ€ in some cases for a while, although not for every movieâ€”but I think there are cases where I really need to offer my views before â€œinformingâ€ 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 movingâ€”and for some reason Iâ€™m pretty sure itâ€™s a TV movie. Or, if it isnâ€™t, it has the hallmarks of an â€œactionâ€ TV movie. How so? Strong cast but no real â€œopenersâ€ (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 didnâ€™t feel anything about any of the characters, so I wasnâ€™t saddened or shocked when they were killed. Oh, and the fact that itâ€™s on a disc like this even though it canâ€™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 Standerâ€”sidekick Max in Hart to Hartâ€”doesnâ€™t overact in his role as a pawnbroker/fence. Karen Black chews the scenery, as does Van Cleef. And it ends.
So, now Iâ€™ll go check IMDB. Hold onâ€¦ Well, look at that: Not a TV movie. Instead, a cheap Italian/West German production with many different titles in different countriesâ€”and the version here is missing several minutes, which may explain some of the plot holes. One IMDB reviewer calls it â€œEuropean Trash Cinemaâ€ 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). Iâ€™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 oneâ€™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 movieâ€™s filmed underwaterâ€”at the site of a real sunken ship off Grenadaâ€”and generally very good, although a little murky at times. Lots of voice-overs from Stephen Boyd. Itâ€™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, theyâ€™re not at all concerned when two people on another boat show up more than onceâ€”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 itâ€™s not. The sleeve description seems bizarre in one respect: â€œThereâ€™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.â€ Well, thereâ€™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 â€œnarrowâ€ movieâ€”set over a few days and entirely in one small backwoods Alabama town. Good color, good print, good sound. The missing footage mostly isnâ€™t obvious â€“most likely omitting a rape scene (and some other violence you really couldnâ€™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 thatâ€™s uncomfortably contemporaryâ€”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, itâ€™s a dismal ending: Lots of people wind up dead, with no real resolution in sight.
Checking IMDB (after writing the above), Iâ€™d have to say itâ€™s not a terrible film. As trimmed here, itâ€™s mediocre, most flawed because itâ€™s somewhere between a violent melodrama and a message picture. As cinema, itâ€™s a mess. As a flick, itâ€™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, sheâ€™s apparently legal without parental consent. Her parents are shockedâ€”but her grandfather (Trevor Howard), somewhat of a dirty old man, seems delighted. They go to America. Things donâ€™t go terribly well. Orson Bean has a good role as Bronsonâ€™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. Thereâ€™s no ending to speak of. Not that this would have been a great picture anywayâ€”itâ€™s remarkably superficial given the story line. (That could be the missing 18 minutes; theyâ€™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.