Box Office Gold Disc 11

The Day Time Ended, 1979, color. John ‘Bud’ Cardos (dir.), Jim Davis, Chris Mitchun, Dorothy Malone, Marcy Lafferty, Natasha Ryan, Scott C. Kolden, Roberto Contreras. 1:19 [1:20].

The sleeve description is wrong on many counts—but it’s hard to fault it, because trying to come with a right summary of this film, other than “They grow that stuff strong in California,” isn’t easy—unless the moral is “Don’t power your house with solar energy: It draws strange neighbors.” Consider any attempt at plot description here to be useless: There really is no plot. Although at two points there is a truly odd little (about 6″ tall) dancing and beckoning alien—or possibly the same footage used twice.

Jim Davis (Jock Ewing in the first seasons of the original Dallas, until his death), the classic crusty old Westerner, is with his son (or son-in-law?) picking up both of their wives, his daughter (or daughter-in-law) and son (or other son) and granddaughter, and taking them to their spectacular new vaguely pyramid-shaped adobe solar-powered house, with its similar stable.

From there on out, things just get strange. The little girl sees a big tall green semi-pyramidal building that makes music, befriends her and somehow becomes an inch-tall building she can carry around—and that makes things happen for her. There’s a presumably-evil alien (?) hovering machine that never actually harms anybody (IMDB calls it the “Vacuum Cleaner of Doom,” which is a good description); a simultaneous triple supernebula that basically takes over the whole sky, lots of strange alien lights and whirly things and…

I don’t know what to say. At one point, the alien force acts as an instant glazier, fixing a broken wall mirror. At one point, “prehistoric monsters” that were never in any Earth history are doing battle in the yard. At one point, the front 400 acres seems to have become some sort of universal graveyard for flying and other machines. There’s a huge daytime moon taking up one-third of the sky at one point, a sun (or not) taking up even more at another. Especially in the last third of the flick, the family—whatever there is of it at any time—seems to have turned spectators in their own story.

And at a key point, the crusty old father says it must be a space-time warp, the two missing people (they’re not missing for long) must have been swept into the vortex, and they’ll just have to make do. Oh, and before this all begins there’s a starscape with some distorted narration about trying to reach people but not knowing where or when the person was, but now he knows that time is all there at once. Or something. This was Jim Davis’ final picture, but I’m sure he was prouder of his legacy as Jock Ewing: The plots made a lot more sense and the general acting level was higher.

I suppose you could call it sci-fi, but even most bad B flicks have a slightly more coherent “plot” than this thing. It’s bizarrely amusing (but doesn’t make a lick of sense) and the visuals aren’t bad; for that, I’ll give it $0.75.

Hard Knox, 1984, color (TV movie). Peter Werner (dir.), Robert Conrad, Red West, Joan Sweeny, Bill Erwin, Dean Hill, Dianne B. Shaw, Stephen Caffrey. 1:36

The plot’s familiar enough, with a number of variations: New [student, teacher, administrator, recruit, headmaster, whatever] shows up at [school, military school, platoon, whatever] full of misfits and turns it or them around—changing himself or herself in the process.

Whether you like this formula or not depends primarily, I think, on how you like the protagonist. And I like Robert Conrad just fine, in this case as Col. Joe “Hard” Knox, the most decorated fighter pilot in the Marine Air Corps, who’s just been grounded for medical reasons and has a 30-day leave before he accepts (or doesn’t) a promotion and a desk job. He returns home—and to the low-rent military school he graduated from, which has fallen on hard times. You can almost guess the rest. He agrees to be headmaster for two weeks; his trusty sidekick shows up to help out; and, well, the rest is what it is.

I found it surprisingly enjoyable. Nothing terribly deep, not lots of character development, and clearly not a huge-budget movie. I wasn’t surprised to find that it was a TV movie. But, well, I thought Conrad and his crew did a good job of what they did. $1.50.

Arch of Triumph, 1984, color (TV movie). Waris Hussein (dir.), Anthony Hopkins, Lesley-Anne Downs, Donald Pleasence, Frank Finlay. 1:33 [1:35].

I found it impossible to watch this movie to completion. That was partly the print: portions were so dark it was difficult to tell what was happing. It was partly the way it was directed and cut. And it was, I’m afraid, partly my own unwillingness to sit through such a downbeat movie.

A shame, probably, as the cast is first-rate. Since I didn’t finish it, I provide no rating. Maybe more serious cineastes would love it. Or, given that it’s a TV movie and the reviews I read, maybe not.

Jory, 1973, color. Jorge Foris (dir.), John Marley, B.H. Thomas, Robby Benson, Brad Dexter, Anne Lockhart, Linda Purl. 1:37.

Fifteen-year-old Jory and his father get off a stagecoach, are told Santa Rosa’s just over the hill, and drag a trunk and a suitcase to this tiny little town. (Presumably a mythical Santa Rosa or possibly Santa Rosa, New Mexico; even that early on, Santa Rosa, California was a lot bigger than this.) It’s not quite clear why they’ve come out west from St. Louis; the father’s a lawyer, and there’s clearly no law in this version of the old west—as we find out when the father gets stabbed to death in a saloon the first night there, with the only reaction being the bartender suggesting that the killer might want to leave. Jory returns the favor, bashing the killer’s head in with a rock, which nobody sees but might just make him a target for relatives. So he heads out with a horse run (like a cattle run but with horses) on its way to a Texas ranch by way of Hobbes, New Mexico. (Why do the horsemen let him come along? Well, this flashy cowboy [B.J. Thomas] who’s a hot gun handler but who’s never shot anybody takes a fancy to him, and…)

In Hobbes, town of bright lights and loud saloons, the flashy cowboy gets shot in an unfair fight. Jory shoots his killer in a slightly fairer fight. Later, there’s an attempted stampede which Jory prevents, he’s hired on as the bodyguard for the rancher’s roughly 15-year-old daughter (since the neighboring rancher’s a thief and scoundrel)… And that’s just part of the plot, which culminates in, well, Jory leaving the ranch to find his own future. With his pa’s lawbook but no pistols (one rifle, however). I guess it’s a coming-of-age film, but it’s all so compressed and Jory seems to learn so little that it’s hard to say.

How you feel about this film may depend heavily on how you feel about the very young Robby Benson (he was 17 when the film was released, probably 15 or 16 when it was made, and certainly looked 15—it’s his first credited movie role). If you think he’s a fine young dramatic actor with great looks, you’ll probably give this flick $1.50, maybe more. If you find him vapid and irritating, you’ll probably downgrade this to a buck. I’m somewhere in the middle. I was sad that an uncredited Howard Hesseman only got about two minutes (he’s the bartender). It’s a good cast in general, and it’s a fine-quality print, but it’s a slightly empty picture. $1.25.

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