C.C. and Company, 1970, color. Seymour Robbie (dir.), Joe Namath, Ann-Margret, William Smith, Greg Mullavey. 1:34.
We start with this oddly handsome dude strolling through a grocery store, cutting open various items to make himself a ham & cheese sandwich, eat it, have some milk, have some cupcakes, wipe his mouth and, after destroying probably $10-$15 worth of goods, buy a $0.10 candy and walk out. So: He’s a sociopath, probably the villain, right?
Nope. That’s the hero, played by Joe Namath—and, see, he’s only an everyday casual criminal (thief, possible rapist, whatever), where the motorcycle gang he hangs out with is headed up by some hard-core criminals. Just for starters: The four young women who are part of the gang are also the gang’s primary means of support through prostitution.
We get a sense of our hero’s predispositions when he and two of the really bad cases in the gang, after harassing some non-criminal motorcyclists, run upon a stranded limousine (hood open) with a very shortskirted Ann-Margret in the back seat. He starts looking at the engine, with her alongside. The other two get into the limo, start drinking the booze and watching cartoons on the TV, then grab her to join them. When she starts to resist, they’re ready to beat up on her, and only at that point does the hero make a move, saying (paraphrased) that it’s fine to rape her but don’t actually hit her.
You know how this is going to work out: Of course these two wind up together.
Sad. The print’s in great condition (better than VHS, I’d say). As an actor, Joe Namath was a great quarterback. Roger “Mr. Ann-Margret” Smith wrote the screenplay,. Ann-Margret’s always fun, there’s some good motocross racing (and a fair amount of casual nudity: this one earned its R rating. But it’s mostly trash. Being generous, $1.00.
The Concrete Cowboys, 1979, color (TV). Burt Kennedy (dir.), Jerry Reed, Tom Selleck, Morgan Fairchild, Claude Akins, Roy Acuff, Barbara Mandrell, Ray Stevens, Lucille Benson, Gene Evans. 1:40? [1:31]
This one’s a hoot—intended that way, and for me (at least) it works. Two Montana cowboys decide to head out for Hollywood on a bus—but wind up in Nashville via freight train. One thing leads quickly to another and they’re posing as private eyes trying to track down a supposedly dead young woman with a decidedly mixed recent past. There’s lots more plot and, while I won’t provide any spoilers, I will say that they wind up on another freight train, this time at least headed west.
If you like Jerry Reed circa 1979 as a good ol’ boy, you’ll love this. If you like a young (well, 34-year-old) Tom Selleck as a cowboy who wants to read everything he can get his hands on—well, you’ll love it too. If you hate country music, you probably won’t care for it: There’s a live Ray Stevens performance, some Jerry Reed songs on the soundtrack, and bit parts by some of country’s greatest stars at the time. And there’s Morgan Fairchild, as always playing a gorgeous woman of negotiable morals. Each chapter (i.e. sections between commercial interludes) begins with a painted title page, very nicely done.
Decent print. I found the whole thing a thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes of fluff—just as it was intended. It aired as a TV movie and returned as a series that lasted all of seven episodes in 1981—with Jerry Reed but without Selleck or Fairchild. $1.50.
Mean Johnny Barrows, 1976, color. Fred Williamson (dir.), Fred Williamson, Roddy McDowall, Stuart Whitman, Tony Caruso, Elliott Gould, Jenny Sherman. 1:30 [1:25]
I came close to giving up on this sad little movie about halfway through. That would have been a good decision. We meet Johnny Barrows (Fred Williamson) as he’s being set up—in Vietnam, I guess—by a couple of crackers who slip a live mine into his training mine field; he cold-cocks one of them. Next we see, he’s on a bus: dishonorably discharged. Next, he gets mugged and taken downtown as a drunk…silver star and all. (Elliott Gould has a two-minute part as a “retired professor of philosophy” who’s a talented bum and wants to show Johnny the soup-kitchen ropes.)
Through various plot twists we get to him offing a bunch of gangsters on behalf of another gangster—but it’s OK because the new gangsters were selling dope to “his people.” And apparently falling for a woman who, if he had a lick of sense, he would know is trying to set him up.
Williamson’s apparent strength is not talking, which frequently makes no sense. He mostly stands around being moody. The cinematography—with odd random shots here and there—is on par with the acting. We get martial arts sequences which would make more sense if we didn’t know the parties were armed. Lots of deaths. No heroes. No even plausibly likable characters. The ending is remarkably stupid, but I won’t spoil it. The theme seems to be “peace is hell.” It’s also one of those cases where a director-star manages to louse both roles up pretty badly. A lousy print makes this, even charitably and for Williamson fans, worth at most $0.75.
Mesmerized, (aka My Letter to George), 1986, color. Michael Laughlin (dir.), Jodie Foster, John Lithgow, Michael Murphy, Dan Shor, Harry Andrews, Philip Holder. 1:34 [1:30
An odd one, this, set in New Zealand and supposedly based on a true story. It begins with Jodie Foster as defendant in a courtroom, then proceeds in flashback—to an infant being dropped off at a foundling home, then not quite 18 years later to Foster at the home being asked to see a visitor. Who, it turns out, is the tall and very strange John Lithgow, who’s there to take her hand as an arranged bride…and then return her to the home until she’s of legal age a few months later.
Then…well, he runs a chains of shops, lives in a fairly remote area, is somewhat of a brute and has a much more brutish brother and a kinder younger brother. After enduring his charms, she manages to sneak off, pawn a carriage for enough money to purchase passage to America—but the brute and father catch her (and the younger brother), and in the ensuing brawl, she brains the younger brother with a candlestick or something (presumably aiming for her husband). The husband and father pronounce the brother dead, whisk her away…and a bit later assure her it’s all been covered up. Then there’s a letter, which they hide from her but which she eventually finds.
Anyway, this tale also involves mesmerizing (hypnosis), a preacher and friend of the couple, the idiot husband breathing in mercury vapors while helping to poison rats and nearly dying as a result…and his eventual death. From chloroform poisoning.
It’s all a bit much, even if there is sort of a happy ending and even if it is based on a true story. But Foster and Lithgow are both fairly effective and the print’s decent, so I’ll give it a middling $1.25.
So what do we have in the second “half” of this set (a bit more than half, as I included discs 7 through 13 in the second half)? Nothing worth $2 or more, and three I was unwilling to finish watching. One very good $1.75: Cold War Killers. Six good at $1.50, eight so-so $1.25, five mediocre $1.00. That adds up to $25.75. In an odd sort of symmetry, the first half (22 movies) totaled $25.25 for movies I gave $1 or more. That adds up to $51, then, if you’re reasonably generous—and the set sells for around $45 at this point. Certainly not one of the better bargains among these fifty-movie packs, and with lots of weakness—but an interesting lot. And hey, it’s all in color.