Box Office Gold, Disc 8

Eliza’s Horoscope, 1975, color. Gordon Sheppard (dir.), Elizabeth Moorman, Tommy Lee Jones, Rose Quang. 2:00.

An 18-year-old country girl north of Montreal shows up in a not-so-great part of the city, somehow at an odd apartment building, meeting an ancient Asian astrologer and… OK, the sleeve says she’s “looking for a new life,” moves into this boarding house where Tommy (Tommy Lee Jones) also lives and has a “checked past,” and that the astrologer tells her (the sleeve says an Astrologer who tell here: the person must have actually watched this just before writing it) she’ll meet the love of her life and she starts a hunt for the man.

What I saw: random characters and worse than random filmmaking, with lots of visual hiccups—you see the first second of a shot, then the same first second followed by more—and occasional random inserts of scenes for no apparent reason. Maybe it’s supposed to be trippy, but it felt like stone incompetent direction and editing. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe there is no point.

Even with a young Tommy Lee Jones, I could barely last for half an hour before giving up on it. After reading the odd set of IMDB reviews, I conclude either that the movie’s simply too deep and artistic for my cloddish soul—or that it’s a badly-made piece of pseudo-mystical crap. I note that the director was also the producer, writer and editor—and never directed, produced, wrote or edited another feature film. The star apparently never acted in another movie either (but did stunts in one) Tommy Lee Jones (“Tom Lee Jones” at the time) does not save the picture; not by a long shot. Decent print, I guess. Even in “headier” days I would have walked out on this; it’s possible that if you’re sufficiently stoned, it would be wonderful. Or not. No rating.

It Seemed like a Good Idea at the Time, 1975, color. John Trent (dir.), Anthony Newley, Stefanie Powers, Isaac Hayes, Lloyd Bochner, Yvonne De Carlo, Henry Ramer, Lawrence Dane, John Candy. 1:30.

There’s a lot right with this farce—a great cast, good photography, a good print, and some genuinely amusing moments. Stefanie Powers is a beautiful woman with somewhat questionable morals: She divorced her first husband (a starving playwright, played by Anthony Newley) to marry a wealthy construction magnate—but she sleeps with her ex once a week, and when she gets involved with a politician’s campaign she’s clearly ready to sleep with him as well. She also wants to save her feisty mom’s house from being torn down, by her husband’s company, by getting it declared a landmark, and gets the politician involved in that (but he’s double-crossing her). That’s just the start of a fast, frequently funny flick that never stops moving.

So what’s the problem? It tries a little too hard, from the opening cartoon credits to the use of cuckoo-clock sound effects each time the armed mom is about to do something nefarious. (It’s also a panned-and-scanned version of a widescreen flick, but that’s par for the course.) Still, it is a remarkable cast (with Isaac Hayes as a drunken sculptor, a young (and slim) John Candy as a hapless junior-grade cop and more) and while I don’t grant “hysterical” it is amusing in a frenetic way. (It is not a “John Candy film” by any means: his role is relatively minor.) $1.25.

Mooch Goes to Hollywood, 1971, color, made for TV. Richard Erdman (dir.), Vincent Price, James Darren, Jill St. John, Jim Backus and, mostly in cameos, Marty Allen, Richard Burton (voice), Phyllis Diller, Jay C. Flippen, Zsa Zsa Gabor (voice), Sam Jaffe, Rose Marie, Dick Martin, Darren McGavin, Edward G. Robinson, Cesar Romero, Mickey Rooney. 0:51.

Sometimes a picture is so astonishing that it raises fundamental questions. Such as, in this case, how did this thing ever get made—and, better yet, why? The plot, if you want to call it that, is that a mutt jumps off a freight car (hobo’s bag & stick in mouth) and wanders around Hollywood, instantly charming a number of movie actors—specifically, the first four listed above—and twice getting taken to the same sinister vet’s (I say “sinister” only because I’ve never seen a real vet who’s so bad with animals).

Oh, and Zsa Zsa Gabor narrates the whole thing.

A remarkable cast, although some of them are barely in the picture at all (I think Mickey Rooney’s on screen for ten seconds or less, with no lines, and Phyllis Diller’s part isn’t much bigger). I know I remarked on it: “Don’t all these big names have anything better to do?” Followed by “Did Jim Backus—who co-wrote and co-produced this—really have that many favors owed him?” One repeated sequence (repeated with each of the four main players) is dumb the first time and a little creepy by the fourth. (Apparently the dog playing Mooch was the original Benji, for what that’s worth.) Decent print, good color, wholly pointless, and even as a bizarre little flick it’s not worth more than $0.75.

The Yin and the Yang of Mr. Go, 1970, color. Burgess Meredith (dir. & writer), James Mason, Jack MacGowran, Irene Tsu, Jeff Bridges, Peter Lind Hayes, Clarissa Kaye-Mason, Burgess Meredith, Broderick Crawford. 1:29.

I’m not quite sure how to describe this movie, set in Hong Kong while it was still British-controlled. We have James Mason as a half-Mexican, half-Chinese evil power broker (who turns good halfway through the movie); Burgess Meredith as a grumpy old Chinese acupuncturist/herbal medicine purveyor (Meredith also wrote and directed the movie); Jeff Bridges as a deserting soldier who’s also a James Joyce scholar/writer (I guess) and, on the side, blackmailer; Irene Tsu as his Chinese wife/girlfriend/companion; and narration by Buddha (who apparently can, once every 50 years, cause a transmutation in one person when the world needs changing). Oh, and a crass CIA agent who’s also a Joyce scholar and who has trouble dying (he’s as ineffectual at that as at everything else). Some really annoying pop-style songs. As one review says, fight scenes “right out of Batman”—that is, the series in which Meredith was the Joker, certainly not the movies. Jeff Bridges’ first feature film (he was 21), although he’d done TV before that.

That’s just the beginning. There’s lots of plot. Tsu has wardrobe problems throughout, as do a number of lesser-known Chinese actresses. It’s a truly odd flick. The print’s soft but watchable; the flick’s weird but watchable, even if I did sort of go “Huh?” when it was all over. As a not very good curiosity, I’ll give it $1.00.

 

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