Mystery Classics Disc 44

What? You thought I’d given up old movies? Not entirely—but the Open Access Landscape project has been interesting enough to use up most of the Wednesday afternoons I’d otherwise spend on movies.

Power, Passion and Murder, 1983, color (TV—see below). Michelle Pfeiffer, Darren McGavin, Stella Stevens and a whole bunch of other people. 1:28.

The good parts: interesting cast members, and I believe they get the look and feel of ’30s Hollywood down pretty well…although that was even before my time.

The bad parts: Where to begin? The plot—or, rather, the two plots that seem to come and go with no real interaction—seems contrived and more vignette than anything else. One plot boils down to: studio head has a bad evening. The other boils down to: single actress seduces married man, leading rapidly to disaster. In neither case is there enough development (character or otherwise) for me to feel anything about it. The picture varies from soft and damaged to mediocre. The sound is far worse—with volume levels and distortion varying so widely that I probably missed a significant chunk of the dialogue.

Cast or no cast, this is a mess. Trying to find it in IMDB makes things even messier: it is, apparently, two separate episodes of PBS’ Great Performances mashed together into a single, well, mash. Or is it two episodes of something else? If I try to reconstruct it, there’s “Tales from the Hollywood Hills: Natica Jackson” from 1987 (or was it 1983?), with Pfeiffer and a bunch of other people—but I don’t remember seeing most of the people in the cast listing actually in the segments starring Pfeiffer. There’s also “A Table at Ciro’s” with McGavin, Stevens and others—I guess from 1983. Apparently the mess is supposed to be 16 minutes longer. It would still be a mess. Charitably, $0.50.

Midnight Cop (orig. Killing Blue), 1988, color. Peter Patzak (dir.), Armin Mueller-Stahl, Morgan Fairchild, Frank Stallone, Julia Kent, Michael York. 1:36.

This nourish cop flick set in Berlin is a little strange at times (the police station seems to be going through some extreme renovations that involve lots of broken toilets), but it’s also surprisingly effective and tags an ending onto the main plot that’s a nice, satisfying twist.

Basically, a police inspector is having trouble sleeping, lost his wife and daughter, and is pretty much messed up because he accidentally shot a young girl while trying to arrest a major criminal (who got away); he frequently takes gifts to the place where the now-crippled girl is recovering but (until late in the film) isn’t prepared to meet her. Meanwhile, he has a new assistant—and is dealing with a DA (who’s a friend) as well. The colleague’s daughter’s friend is murdered in an odd manner; they both become involved; a drug dealer seems to be the obvious suspect; a prostitute also becomes involved with the inspector and in the plot; and all is not quite what it seems.

I liked it. Morgan Fairchild makes a great prostitute; Michael York is very effective in a complicated role; Armin Mueller-Stahl, the inspector, is first-rate; the whole cast is good. Pretty good print, no real problems. I’ll give it $1.50.

The Stoolie, 1972, color. John G. Avidsen & George Silano (dirs.), Jackie Mason, Dan Frazer, Marcia Jean Kurtz. 1:30 [1:28]

This feels like a Jackie Mason vanity project (he’s the star and the executive producer) to show his chops as a dramatic actor. If so, I’d rate it a D: he certainly maintains a cheap-grifter persona throughout, but that’s about it. He plays, well, a bozo, a low-rent criminal (who’s such a loser that his “partners” in crime screw him out of his share as a matter of course) who’s also a stoolie for one police detective in Weehawken. He ups his game enough to convince the detective to give him $7,500 in police money to set up a string (or something)—and takes off for Miami with the money.

There, after demonstrating to various & sundry what a bozo he is, he meets up with a young woman who’s as down on life as he seems to be, and shazam, they’re in love and engaged…but the detective nearing retirement, who faces being thrown off the force for throwing away $7,500, has tracked him down. The rest of the movie is attempts by the cop and the grifter, with the girl along for the ride, to raise the $7,500 (he’d already spent all but a few hundred)—which the cop finally manages to do, turning thoroughly bad in the process. He drives off with his money (upped to $10,000) and two bags of heroin taped to the car, one of which is leaking. The couple are left in Miami, where their future…well, it’s a low-rent movie. A dispiriting movie at that. Charitably, $0.75.

Cross Mission (orig. Fuoco incrociato), 1988, color. Alfonso Brescia (dir.), Richard Randall, Brigitte Porsche (as “Porsh”), Peter Hintz, Maurice Poli. 1:31.

The plot: a military dictator has run a Latin American country for two decades. He oversees an operation to burn down one cocaine/marijuana plantation at the UN’s behest—so that he can run three other, larger plantations with better camouflage without interference. Oh, and there are rebels, which his spokesman denies. Also, the dictator has certain magical powers that involve a little person.

There’s an American woman, a photographer/journalist, and an American man, apparently a buddy of the dictator. Of course they wind up in bed. Of course the man turns rebel. Most of the movie is shooting and explosions. About the only surprise (spoiler alert): the woman winds up dead.

Truly trashy. If you’re a big fan of gunfire and explosions in the Spaghetti Western mode (the flick’s Italian), maybe $0.50.

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