Box Office Gold, Disc 7

In all the old movie sets I’ve reviewed, I’ve only failed to complete a few movies—one because it was too gruesome, at least one because my tolerance for a gang of juvenile delinquents had run out, a couple for other reasons. But I’ve also sat through some movies that were really, truly uninteresting even after half an hour.

No more. Nobody should be reading these “reviews” for anything other than casual amusement. So I’m adopting a flick version of the Nancy Pearl Rule (you know: If after 100 pages minus your age a book doesn’t hold your attention, give up), which itself is a codification of Life is Too Short. From now on, if I just don’t give a damn about a movie after half an hour, I’m inclined to give up. Life really is too short. I’ll include a short note as to why I didn’t watch it, but no $rating. The situation arises right away with this larger half of the set.

Choices, 1981, color. Silvio Narizzano (dir.), Paul Carafotes, Victor French, Lelia Goldoni, Val Avery, Demi Moore, William R. Moses. 1:30.

The plot from the sleeve—and I got pretty well into it within the first 30-40 minutes: A high school student is a great football player and a virtuoso violinist (in the school orchestra that’s taught by his grandfather), and of course good-looking and popular. But he’s also deaf: Completely deaf in one ear, half-deaf (well, a lot more than half-deaf without his hearing aid: he can’t hear somebody speaking behind him at all) in the other, as the result of a swimming accident when he was eight.

The new school doctor says he can’t play football because he’s deaf. As his father and the coach are trying to appeal this situation, he starts withdrawing and hanging out with a punk acquaintance just back from Juvie. Oh, he also tries to get it on with a girl he’s known for something like 15 minutes…and this is before he gets knocked off the team.

This rates as “Box Office Gold” because of a very young Demi Moore in a small role, I guess (she was 18 and it’s her film debut, but it’s a tiny part). The problem is that I really didn’t find the kid sympathetic or believable, I found the movie listless and boring, and I didn’t feel like watching the rest of what felt like an Afterschool Special flick. Life is too short. (I thought of “Afterschool Special” before I saw just that description in the first IMDB review). No rating.

Crossbar, 1979, color, made for Canadian TV. John Trent (dir.), Brent Carver, Kim Cattrall, John Ireland, Kate Reid. 1:18.

Another movie about a young sports star with a disability problem—but this one’s quite different. The hero is a Canadian Olympic-class high jumper (the sleeve says “pole vaulter” but he doesn’t use a pole), winner of a bronze medal, who goes back to his farm and winds up missing a leg because of a combine accident. He’s not a virtuoso in some other field, he’s not an amoral asshat, and while he certainly goes through some issues, the film is largely about bravery and relationships (family and otherwise) and it winds up being decent. A young Kim Cattrall (22 at the time) plays his ex-girlfriend/coach and does it well.

The plot, basically: His sometime girlfriend, an Olympic-class runner, comes out to visit—but she’s actually planning to move to her new boyfriend’s place with superior training facilities as she prepares for the next Olympics. He doesn’t know this. He’s more than a little down and sneaks off one day to canoe a river with rapids, with no safety vest, apparently thinking he might just die. He doesn’t—and decides he wants to get back into jumping. Which he does, despite his father’s “freak show” comment, with the help of the ex-girlfriend, now coach, and—eventually—all the other Canadian jumpers.

Far-fetched? (A one-legged man hopping up to the bar and clearing a 7′ crossbar height?) I dunno. Nicely done, with some realistic family portrayals? Yes. Of course it’s schmaltzy and includes some of the typical stuff you’d expect, but it also has some fairly good acting (including John Ireland and Kate Reid as the guy’s parents). Not great, but not terrible, and a very good print: $1.25.

Lovers and Liars (orig. Viaggio con Anita), 1979, color. Mario Monicelli (dir.), Goldie Hawn, Giancarlo Giannini, Claudine Auger, Aurore Clement, Laura Betti, Andrea Ferreol; score (and conducted) by Enrico Morricone. 2:00 [1:35]

I suppose you could call this odd little Italian movie a romantic comedy, if your definition of “romantic” is based on Elvis Presley’s classic “Hounddog”—or, in this case, horndog, the apparently sole motivation of the male protagonist. It’s most definitely European, even if it does feel like a TV movie: Casual full frontal nudity (no, not Goldie), extremely casual sex (yes, Goldie), not terribly sophisticated writing.

The plot: Guido, our “hero,” gets a call while he’s at home with his attractive wife and rebellious teen: His father’s doing badly and he needs to go to the family home up north. So he packs…and goes over to where his girlfriend from the last summer lives, so he can pick her up and take her with him. She’s moved on (as is demonstrated when she resists his charming attempt to have sex with her while she’s still asleep), but her temporary roommate—Here’s Goldie!—would be happy to have him drive her north. (She works at the U. of Chicago, met an Italian there, fell for him…and bought a 14-day excursion air fare so she could visit him. He, of course, is no longer interested. So she’s trying to see Italy on no money.)

After various misadventures including a multicar crash and his attempt to have sex with her while she’s asleep—in the car—which she responds to as sort of “I’m not interested, but if that’s what you want…” they wind up on a tourist island, but it’s off-season. Then we get various other bits of nonsense as he’s trying to keep her available (“interested” doesn’t seem to be an issue: she has no apparent qualms about whatever partner’s handy) while he deals with his family. The trouble is, he doesn’t appear to have any personality other than being a horndog—he’s mostly tiresome.

It all climaxes in a long set of scenes where we learn that his father—now dead—had had a mistress for 18 years; his brothers knew; so, for that matter, did the mother (but didn’t say); and, well…the movie ends. I kept hoping for it all to mean something. That was clearly a forlorn hope. Maybe the missing 25 minutes explains why this “screwball comedy” just seemed sort of blah. Goldie Hawn is very Goldie Hawnish. The Enrico Morricone score? Meh. A very soft print. Charitably, $1.

Twisted Nerve, 1968, color. Roy Boulting (dir.), Hayley Mills, Hywel Bennett, Billie Whitelaw, Phyllis Calvert, Frank Finlay, GBarry Foster, Salmaan Peerzada. 1:58 [1:52]

In the opening scene, a young man is playing ball with a person with Down syndrome. This turns out to be at an institution, the young man is the other’s brother, the doctor says not to disturb their mother by bringing her around. Did I mention that the filmmakers found it necessary to have a voice-over before the movie emphasizing that people with “mongolism” (and their siblings) aren’t necessarily psychotic or criminals…and, yes, used the term “mongolism” repeatedly in a 1968 film.

Next: The young man’s in a toy store. He goes up to the counter looking at a duck. While an attractive young woman is discussing the price of something with the clerk (and smiles at him at one point) and then buying something, he pockets the duck. Two store detectives follow both of them out of the store, interrogate them on the assumption that the young woman is his confederate in shoplifting, and eventually free them when she pays for the toy after convincing them that she has no idea who the young man is. The young man, calling himself Georgie (his name’s Martin) and frequently referring to himself in the third person, says he loves ducks…

With a start like that…OK, I probably should have given up on it early, but Hayley Mills (the young woman—home from college from the summer and working in a public library while studying for her exams) and some of the other characters in her mother’s boarding house kept me watching. The young man is, as we gradually learn, some sort of schizophrenic and definitely a murdering psychopath. But he’s so cute… Along the way, we get exposed to a fair amount of casual racism among all British classes, including the other doctors who refer to an Indian doctor (one of the boarders) with various “amusing” epithets. This doctor, who winds up saving the day, is perhaps the only likable character other than Mills’ character, but that’s two better than some movies.

It’s not a particularly good picture, and the suggested genetic link between Down syndrome and sociopathic behavior (explored at some length in a hospital lecture) is truly offensive—but it’s an excellent print and both Hayley Mills and Billie Whitelaw (as her mother, who’s been having it on with one boarder and develops a fatal attraction for the strange young man) offer good performances. I wouldn’t watch it again, but I’ll give it $1.25.

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