Mystery Collection Disc 37

Cry of the Innocent, 1980, color (made for TV). Michael O’Herlihy (dir.), Rod Taylor, Joanna Pettet, Nigel Davenport, Cyril Cusack, Walter Gotell. 1:33.

Based on a Frederick Forsyth story and with a first-rate cast, this movie is set in Ireland, where a former Green Beret (Taylor), now an insurance executive in Dublin, is on vacation with his wife and two kids in his second house in Kerry. He goes off with his son to fish—but sends his son back to get the carrier for the catch. At which point, just as the son gets back to the house, an airplane falls out of the sky, crashes into the house and explodes.

As the movie progresses, he learn what we already knew—the crash was no accident, as there was a bomb in the plane (but hitting the house was bad timing: it was supposed to explode over water), and industrial espionage appears to be at play. He runs into a young woman, a journalist, who has an uncanny resemblance to his dead wife (and who he falls for in time)—Pettet, quite good in both roles. There’s a lot more plot, including retired spies and agents in an old folks’ home on Corsica and their connected friends, leading up to a fairly remarkable final ten minutes as he takes his revenge while keeping the constabulary happy. (Cyril Cusack as the Irish police inspector is particularly good throughout.)

But right about the middle of those last ten minutes, it began to seem a little familiar. There’s a reason for that: I’d already seen the movie—more than seven years ago, in another megapack. Still, it was worth watching again. Not great, but quite good: I’ll stick with $1.50.

Paper Man, 1971, color. Walter Grauman (dir.), Dean Stockwell, Stefanie Powers, James Stacy, Tina Chen, Elliott Street, James Olson. 1:29.

A college student picks up his mail and finds in it a credit card in someone else’s name, sent by a local bank (this was before Visa and Mastercard, I think). His ethics are not wonderful, so next thing we know he’s gathered three friends—two women, one man—all of whom have learned to fake the signature he adds to the card. Then they corral a shy computer nerd (Dean Stockwell with Big Hair) who always seems to wear a suit, to add records to “Big Ugly,” the campus computer, that will give some credence to the existence of the “paper man.” (For some reason, all four of these students also spend loads of time in this computer room—and in at least one case it’s not at all clear why.) Then they each go out and charge things on the card (ah, the old imprinters in action!), figuring they’ll eventually pay them back, and it’s really OK because students can’t get credit cards…

That’s the setup. A “technician” who’s actually in charge of this computer room (the old, huge, lots-of-blinking-lights computer naturally operates everything in the building including a pretty sophisticated dummy medical patient) learns about this and agrees to keep it secret. And then…people in the group start dying. In various odd ways. And when the computer nerd decides to remove the records from the computer, he finds that it doesn’t work, and also that there’s now more real-world paperwork for the “paper man,” stuff he didn’t add.

You can probably see what’s coming: Identity theft added to identity creation in order to give a hunted man a new identity. And you can probably guess who the hunted man is. Or, if you prefer, maybe the computer’s the killer! (They sure try to make it look like that along the way…) If you guessed that the survivors are Stockwell and the ever-lovely (and talented) Stefanie Powers, that’s not a stretch either.

Classic early-’70s computer: Loads of blinking lights with huge waves of light when it actually does anything, teletype for input, all caps output (DEATH DEATH DEATH…when one of the four is trying to teach it “Breath” in a speech recognition exercise), incredibly powerful and linked up to all the other computers in the world by telephone lines. (Note: IMDB says “made for TV” but in fact this was briefly released in theaters—and what’s here is the 89-minute theatrical version, not the 75-minute TV version.)

Especially for its time, pretty good. On balance, I’ll give it $1.50.

The Cold Room, 1984, color (TV). James Dearden (dir. & screenplay), George Segal, Amanda Pays, Renée Soutendijk, Warren Clarke, Elizabeth Spriggs. 1:35.

In the first half of this film, a young woman’s leaving school to meet her father in Berlin; one of her teachers (a nun) hands her a Berlin guidebook from 1936, while a friend hands her a bag of weed. She meets her father; they drive to East Berlin (this was before The Wall fell); the relationship is clearly strained (the father has a girlfriend in East Berlin, the daughter worries about the border guards finding her pot). It doesn’t help when they check into a hotel that’s not one of the tourist hotels, instead being…I guess quaint is the best word.

She almost immediately starts having vivid dreams of Nazi Germany, seeing a butcher in the shop opposite the hotel…which has apparently been boarded up for some years, hearing things in the wall and eventually managing to tear down the wall behind the cupboard and find a man there. Who’s a dissident and wants her to contact a person on a specific street. Except that the street was renamed after WWII and the person’s long gone.

There’s probably more, but I gave up after the first half. This seems to be more a psychological thriller than a mystery, and I just plain didn’t like it well enough to keep going. George Segal as the father was OK; Amanda Pays (in her first role, the daughter—but also apparently somebody else, presumably in the second half of the movie) was mostly annoying; and I gave up. One IMDB review says “Incredibly bleak and almost unwatchable.” Sounds about right. No rating.

Millions (orig. Miliardi), 1991, color. Carlo Vanzina (dir.), Billy Zane, Lauren Hutton, Carol Alt, Jean Sorel, Alexandra Paul, Roberto Bisacco, Catherine Hickland, John Stockwell. 1:50.

The bad news: This flick was filmed in Panavision but what you get here is pan&scan. Oh, and it’s a little trashy. The good news: It’s stylish EuroTrashy with good production values, loads of casual nudity, almost wholly amoral characters (except the two women who don’t get naked and have sex with whoever’s handy, one of whom is Lauren Hutton), and a plot that—while sometimes a little over the top—is fun.

The opening sets the scene for the ethics at play. A drunk gets kicked out of an Italian tavern. As he’s walking home, he sees a helicopter explode not too far away. He walks over to it…and removes the wallets and watches from the pilot and passenger, along with a briefcase in the passenger compartment. (As he later say: “Why call for help? They were dead anyway.”) As it turns out, the passenger wasn’t quite dead…

He’s an industrial magnate, who has secret plans (guess where they are!) to take his company public and make it one of the ten largest international conglomerates. Now he’s in a coma, with his (ex?)wife (Hutton) by his side and his family gathering to look after the company. Or in the case of Maurizio (Billy Zane, who makes a great villain), a nephew, find some way to take over the company by hook or by crook. Preferably by crook.

Zane beds or attempts to bed his sister-in-law, his cousin, the second-in-command of the company’s American operations (headed by his father, who she’s also sleeping with), hookers sent his way by various people…I lost count. He’s a good enough bluffer to be able to determine that his father’s been cooking the books, which lets him blackmail his father into making him the acting president of the overall company and…well, it gets too complicated.

As far as I could tell, the only two characters who had ethics worth a damn are Hutton’s character (the reason she’s separated from her husband is because she can’t conceive and she thinks he should have an heir with somebody else) and her sister-in-law (I guess: it got a little fuzzy) who doesn’t really have much of a part. Otherwise—well, even after the more-or-less happy ending, there seem to be at least two more double-crosses waiting to happen.

And, although “millions” really should have been billions for one of the ten largest international companies, even in 1985 (really? you could take that large a company public and, when the stock crashes, buy it back for $200 million?), the print’s good and the plot just keeps on moving. Certainly not a classic, but not bad as an Italian sex-and-wealth-and-intrigue comedy with several American actors, and at 10 minutes shy of two hours it didn’t seem long. (The sleeve says 1985 and 105 minutes; in fact, it’s 1991 and 110 minutes.) I’ll give it $1.50.

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