Portrait of a Showgirl, 1982, color (made for TV). Steven Hilliard Stern (dir.), Lesley Ann Warren, Rita Moreno, Dianne Kay, Tony Curtis, Barry Primus, Hamilton Camp, Kip Gilman. 1:34 [1:36].
A first-rate cast, a good print (VHS quality), an OK story. It’s slice-of-life time for three dancers in Las Vegas: A newly arrived hard-edged former Fosse dancer, just in from New York in her Mercedes; a naïve young thing in from St. Louis; and an Italian stalwart who lives in town with her husband, a hotel concierge who dreams of making it big. The stalwart wonders if she has one more good show left in her—but at whatever age, it’s hard to think of Rita Moreno (Italian, right? and married to Tony Curtis) as being less than superb as a dancer. Lesley Ann Warren does hard-edged superbly, and a combination of bad at making romantic choices and good at telling the truth even better. The rest of the cast includes some notably good talent as well.
The foreground story? Not much, really, Caesar’s Palace (where it was filmed) has decided to go back to a showgirl revue, and the troupe is getting ready. It all revolves around that. Nothing terribly deep, and the St. Louis newbie is a little too naïve to believe—but it all works fairly well. It’s made for TV, but it’s a good job. All in all, it gets $1.50.
Casablanca Express, 1989, color. Sergio Martino (dir.), Jason Connery, Francesco Quinn, Jinny Steffan, Jean Sorel, Donald Pleasence, Glenn Ford. 1:25.
Set in French Africa (Algeria) and Morocco in 1942, based on the plan of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin to meet in Casablanca and plan their war efforts. Churchill’s now in Algiers, and the idea is to get him to Casablanca alive—despite the clear presence of collaborators (Vichy French and Arabs who regard the Third Reich as liberators).
After the setup, it’s mostly set on a train, the Casablanca Express, and it’s a bloody ride as the Germans try to kidnap Churchill. What else can I say about the plot? There’s a modest twist at the end, and we all know that Churchill wasn’t captured by Hitler. In any case, it’s a fairly good cast, the acting is OK, and all in all it’s not a bad ride (although, reading the poisonous IMDB reviews, it’s apparently wildly inauthentic). Filmed where it’s set, by an Italian company. (It’s a “sons” picture—Connery and Francesco are the sons of Sean and Anthony.) $1.25.
Cold War Killers, 1986, color (made for TV). William Barnes (dir.), Terence Stamp, Robin Sachs, Carmen Du Sautoy. 1:26.
The title’s a little misleading. Yes, the plot does involve several deaths—but only one during the film itself, and that one’s off-screen. This movie is a moderately complex espionage flick involving the KGB, the Mossad and at least two different (I think) branches of British intelligence, all somehow trying to solve a 30-year-old mystery when a crashed plane emerges as a large pond is being drained.
What you need to know (and what may explain why this rather good movie is in this set—well, that and its TV provenance): No explosions. No high-speed car chases. No gun battles. Indeed, the most violent action is a window being broken (twice during the film—and we’re expected to believe that a high-level British operative breaks into a store by, wait for it, taking a tire iron to the window instead of using lock picks).
And it’s really quite good. I’m not sure why I liked it, but Terence Stamp is clearly part of the reason. I found this compelling and entertaining. Not a great movie, but pretty good, and exceptional as a TV movie: $1.75.
Delta Force Commando, 1988, color. Perluigi Ciricai (dir.), Brett Baxter Clark, Fred Williamson, Mark Gregory, Bo Svenson. 1:36.
The only way I can plausibly review this flick is as a modern Spaghetti Western, only with grenade launchers, helicopters and an atomic weapon that’s readily carried by one person instead of horses, saloons and acrobatic shooting—although it still has a prostitute (sort of) if less nudity than usual. It’s Italian, it’s got pretty decent production values, it stars a wronged handsome fellow and his unwilling sidekick who seem immune to bullets and leave an enormous body count. I mean enormous. I didn’t even try to count. (The guns all seem to have limitless firepower—even though people are changing clips once in a while. Verisimilitude is not, shall we say, this film’s strong point.)
The “plot”: Some Latin American revolutionaries swipe this backpack bomb from “U.S.Base” in Puerto Rico (I think that was the name), thanks to a lecherous Sergeant who takes a really sleazy hooker to his upscale barracks and…well, never mind. Just know that on the way out, the trigger-happy bomb thieves manage to shoot the pregnant wife of Our Hero.
Somehow, the 50-person Marine Delta Force can’t leave the carrier where they’re staked out waiting to find this bomb—and there’s even a BBC reporter (who reads words very slowly and wouldn’t last a day on the actual BBC), invited there by a State Department idiot who seems to be in control, and… well, never mind. The hero hijacks a helicopter and we’re off and running, er, gunning.
I won’t spoil the plot twist, but it makes no sense in any case. Let’s just say this is mano-a-mano with a few dozen other dead manos (and women) thrown in for good measure. (The plot summary on the sleeve and at IMDB is just wrong.) Viewed strictly as over-the-top Italian action flick making, it’s maybe worth $1.00.