The Manipulator, 1971, color. Yabo Yablonsky (dir & screenplay), Mickey Rooney, Luana Anders, Keenan Wynn. 1:25 [1:31]
No. No no no. It’s been almost six months since I watched one of these, and more like this could make me give up entirely. The plot, to the extent that I saw it: Mickey Rooney as a crazed old Hollywood person who carries all parts of a movie-making set of conversations as he bumps into thinks in an old prop warehouse…but he’s got an actress tied up as well (kidnapped and being slowly starved), and I guess that their interactions are the heart of the movie. But after 20 minutes, I just couldn’t—and wish I’d given up after ten.
I didn’t see Keenan Wynn during the chunk I watched. Looking at the IMDB reviews, I see one that values it as an experimental film and, well, I guess you can make the worst shit look like roses if you try hard enough. Another praises it for Rooney’s “extraordinarily uninhibited performance,” but several say things like “endurance test for the viewer” and “nearly unwatchable.” I’m with them: not only no redeeming value, but really nasty. No rating.
Death in the Shadows (orig. De prooi), 1985, color. Vivian Peters (dir.), Maayke Bouten, Erik de Vries, Johan Leysen, Marlous Fluitsma. 1:37.
This one’s pretty good—with plenty of mystery, although the metamystery’s easy enough to resolve. (The metamystery: why is a 1985 color film available in a Mill Creek Entertainment set? The answer: it’s from the Netherlands, has no stars known in America, and wouldn’t have done well as a U.S. release.)
In brief: an almost-18-year-old young woman finds that her mother was killed—and that her mother didn’t have any children. The young woman now lives alone (and her boyfriend/lover is leaving for a big vacation as it’s the end of the school year), and—sometimes working with a police detective, sometimes ignoring his advice—wants to know what happened. In the process, she almost gets run down (which is what happened to her mother), her mother’s brother gets murdered, and she avoids death. We find out what happened.
Moody, frequently dark, fairly well done. Maayke Bouten is quite effective as the young woman, Valerie Jaspers. but this is apparently her only actual film credit (she was 21 at the time, so 18 isn’t much of a stretch: she also did one TV movie and appeared as herself on a TV show). Not fast-moving and no flashy special effects, but a pretty good film. $1.50.
Born to Win, 1971, color. Ivan Passer (dir.), George Segal, Paula Prentiss, Karen BlackJay Fletcher, Hector Elizondo, Robert De Niro. 1:28 [1:24]
The disc sleeve identifies Robert De Niro as the star here, but this is very much a George Segal flick, with Karen Black and others—although De Niro’s in it (for some reason feeling to me like Billy Crystal playing Robert De Niro). The movie’s about a junkie (Segal) and…well, it’s about an hour and 24 minutes long.
Beyond that: poor editing, worse scriptwriting, continuity that deserves a “dis” in front of it. I got a hint in the first five minutes that this was going to have what you might call an “experimental” narrative arc, and so it was. Pretty dreary, all in all. Yes, it’s a low-budget indie with a great cast, but… (I will say: most IMDB reviews seem very positive. Good for them.) Charitably, for George Segal or Karen Black fans, maybe $0.75.
A Killing Affair, 1986, color. David Saperstein (dir.), Peter Weller, Kathy Baker, John Glover. 1:40.
A juicy chunk of Southern Gothic—set in West Virginia in 1943, starring Kathy Baker as the wife (or, really, property of a mill foreman who’s ripping off the employees, openly sleeping with other women, and generally a piece of work. A stranger comes to…well, not so much town as the house across the lake from town where Baker lives (with her children on weekends—during the week, they stay in town with her brother, the preacher who clearly believes that women are to Obey their husbands).
Ah, but shortly before the stranger (Peter Weller) shows up, she discovers that her rotten husband is now hanging in the shed, very much dead. She makes some efforts to get help but isn’t quite willing to walk two miles to town (the boat’s gone), so… Anyway, the stranger shows up and Plot happens. Part of it: he admits to killing her husband, but claims her husband killed his wife and children and was about to shoot him. And there are all sorts of family secrets involved in her past. A pack of wild dogs also plays a role throughout the flick, especially in the climax.
Languid most of the time, with an unsurprising ending. Not terrible, not great; Weller’s a pretty convincing mentally unstable (but smooth!) killer, and Baker’s pretty much always good, and certainly is here. (How does a movie this recent and plausibly good wind up in a cheap collection? I have no idea.) I’ll give it $1.25.