Tag Archives: 1973 Movie reviews

Don’t Look in the Basement-1973

Don’t Look in the Basement-1973

Director-S.F. Brownrigg

Starring-Anne MacAdams, Rosie Holotik

Scott’s Review #954

Reviewed November 5, 2019

Grade: B

A film that is so low-budget that it strongly resembles the quality of independent master John Waters films, Don’t Look in the Basement (1973) has very low production values. In fact, it half makes Waters films look like grandiose budget-fests. It contains a campy and cheap quality that adds to the fun of watching. With a video-taped look and marginal acting, the film is perfect for a late-night indulgence, but little more.

Director S.F. Brownrigg, with screenwriter, Tim Pope, brought this project to life. Also named The Forgotten and Death Ward #13, Don’t Look in the Basement is the title that works best and conjures up the most intrigue. The story revolves around a collection of odd hospital inmates running the asylum while a series of mishaps occur.

Stephens Sanitarium is a secluded mental health facility in a remote area run by the quirky Dr. Stephens. The good doctor believes that the secret to curing his crazy group of loons is to allow them to express themselves, acting out their own realities in hopes of solving their problems. Stephens and an elderly nurse are both killed separately, he accidentally hacked to bits by an ax, and she having her head crushed by a female patient who thinks her baby (a doll) is being taken from her.

Dr. Geraldine Masters (Anne MacAdams) is left to run the facility and greets a new nurse, the sexy Charlotte (Rosie Holotik) when she arrives from out of town expecting a job. Charlotte encounters all the inmates before strange events begin to occur like an older patient having her tongue cut out, and a visiting telephone repairman being murdered.

One could speculate that Don’t Look in the Basement influenced independent treats such as Supervixens (1975), High Anxiety (1977) or the plethora of slasher films soon to be on the horizon, but this may be wishful thinking. A few choice scenes seem like quick blueprints for these films to follow, but in an amateurish way.

Despite the film being of the horror genre category, several scenes, mostly of Charlotte and Geraldine talking in an office, seem carved from a daytime soap-opera, which were popular in those days. The long dialogue, almost throwaway scenes, do not further the plot much, and it’s really the occasional macabre death scene that achieves the most reaction.

Don’t Look in the Basement adds a big twist that is really not difficult to figure out once all the pieces are presented to the viewer. The foreboding title ultimately underwhelms as this anticipated big secret barely comes to fruition. As the players are offed one by one the implausible conclusion reaches a climax and the viewer will ruminate that the early stages of the film are superior to the ending. The poor pacing and meandering story made me tune out from time to time.

Still, the film is fun and a good, old-fashioned camp-goofy good time. The characters are completely over-the-top in the best possible way. A female nymphomaniac who, it is relayed, has been left by any man she has ever met and craves love and affection, is convinced that the repairman will marry her (they have only just met!) and has sex with his corpse. A lobotomized black man only eats purple lollipops and has a heart of gold, while the ugly old woman, sans tongue, attempts to convey a secret message.

Don’t Look in the Basement (1973) is a marginal success because it does not take itself too seriously. This is both good and bad because the project takes on a juvenile quality that sometimes seems to be going for laughs more than for frights. The acting is below par, but somehow the characters retain enough interest to warrant a recommendation, but only for those with interest in the genre.

Soylent Green-1973

Soylent Green-1973

Director-Richard Fleischer

Starring-Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young

Scott’s Review #943

Reviewed October 8, 2019

Grade: B

Soylent Green (1973) is a rather obscure offering starring then big-named star Charlton Heston in a dystopian science-fiction film. The story is futuristic and eerily reminiscent of Planet of the Apes (1968), though not nearly as compelling nor as layered, but comparisons exist. The result is admirable for its progressive message, cool colors and sets, but feels dated and of its time and treats female characters more like props than characters, leaving an uneven result. It’s a one and done sort of film.

The year is 2022 and because of the Industrial Revolution, 40 million people live in New York City, suffering year-round from extreme humidity because of the greenhouse effect and shortages of water, food and housing. Only the wealthy are afforded necessities and residents of the rich (mostly female) are referred to as “furniture” and used as slaves. Detective Frank Thorn (Heston) is tasked with investigating the murder of an affluent and prominent man, which leads him to dire details surrounding Soylent Industries and the food they produce.

The film seems like someone’s visionary idea turned Hollywood. Loosely based on a 1966 novel entitled “Make Room! Make Room!” by Harry Harrison, Heston is cast as the lead while his career was slowly declining, but he is still the star and quite hunky for an older gentleman. He plays the role in similar fashion to his character of George Taylor in Planet of the Apes, especially during the final climactic reveal, which will make viewers question what is really contained in what they are eating for dinner.

Heston carries the film well and mixes wonderfully with character actor Edward G. Robinson, who plays Sol Roth in his final role. The old character decides to “return to the home of the God” and seeks assisted suicide at a government clinic. The final scene between the actors is poignant and heartfelt as they say goodbye to each other. Eagle-eyed viewers will spot a young Dick Van Patten in a tiny role during this scene.

Any romantic chemistry is lacking in Soylent Green as a potential love match between Frank and Shirl (Leigh Taylor-Young) strikes out. Mismatched and having little thunder together, the couple does not appeal well. Making matters worse is that Shirl is merely “furniture” limiting the character’s potential. She is reduced to assisting with Frank’s investigation.

The main detraction is that the film does not feel very futuristic or authentic. The characters look like actors from the 1970’s dressed up to look like they are from the future always with a tint of Hollywood thrown in. The story loses its way halfway through and teeters about between pure science-fiction and a standard detective story, seen nightly at that time on network television.

Still, the film does contain a robust amount of potential, but is not reached. The progressive slant and social commentary are admirable, and the bright green nutritious synthetic canned food is almost a character.  The final scene will shock the viewer with horror and I wish more scenes this jaw-dropping existed within the entire experience and not simply at the end.

A film that attempts to do something different or provide a provocative message is worthy of a certain amount of praise. Soylent Green (1973) carves a bit of thought provocation but seems more relevant for the 1970’s than containing much interest decades later. Heston is dazzling as the main character and the trimmings are impressive but Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) or The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) resonate more as similar genre films.

The Long Goodbye-1973

The Long Goodbye-1973

Director-Robert Altman

Starring-Elliott Gould

Scott’s Review #830

Reviewed November 14, 2018

Grade: A

Nearly a full-fledged character study of one man’s moral fiber, The Long Goodbye (1973) is an edgy piece of direction by famous mastermind Robert Altman. The setting of the Los Angeles underbelly is fabulous and effective as is dim lighting and excellent camera work prevalent throughout. The film is not cheery and rather bleak which suits me just fine given the smart locale. Perhaps a more obscure Altman offering, but the film sizzles with zest and authenticity.

The film is based on a story written by Raymond Chandler in 1953. Altman, however, opts to change the setting from 1950 to present times- 1970’s Los Angeles and present a film noir experience involving deceit and shenanigans where all is not as it seems. I think this is a wise move and I could not help but draw many comparisons (mainly the overall story) to Chinatown (1974), released the year after The Long Goodbye, but a film much better remembered.

Elliott Gould is wonderful as Phillip Marlowe, a struggling private investigator and insomniac. He is asked by a friend, Terry Lennox, for a ride to the Mexico border one night and agrees to do the favor. This leads to a mystery involving police, gangsters, and Eileen and Roger Wade, after Phillip is questioned regarding his connection to Terry, who is accused of murdering his wife Sylvia. The seedy side and complexities to several characters are revealed as the story unfolds and the plot gradually thickens.

My favorite aspects of The Long Goodbye are not necessarily the primary storytelling, though the writing is filled with tension. As the film opens an extended sequence featuring a “conversation” between Phillip and his cat is both odd and humorous. The finicky feline refuses to eat anything other than one brand of cat food. As Phillip tries reasoning with the cat through talking and meows, he is forced to venture out in the middle of the night to an all-night grocery store. Altman, known to allow his actor’s free-reign for improvised dialogue, appears to allow Gould to experiment during this scene.

Phillip’s neighbors, a bundle of gorgeous twenty-something females, seems to do nothing except exercise on their balcony, get high and request he buy them brownie mix for a “special occasion”. As they stretch topless, usually in the background and almost out of camera range, they are a prime example of an interesting nuance of the film. The girls are mysterious but have nothing to do with the actual plot adding even more intrigue to the film.

In one of the most frightening scenes in cinematic history and one that could be straight from The Godfather (1972), crazed gangster, Marty Augustine (Mark Rydell), slices the beautiful face of his girlfriend to prove a point to Marlowe. In a famous line he utters, “That’s someone I love. You, I don’t even like.” The violent act is quick, unexpected and fraught with insanity.

Finally, the film’s conclusion contains a good old-fashioned twist worthy of any good film noir. In the end, the big reveal makes sense and begs to raise the question “why did we trust this character?” In addition to the viewer being satisfied, Marlowe also gets a deserved finale and proves that he cannot be messed with nor taken for a fool.

The Long Goodbye is undoubtedly the best film of Gould’s career. With a charismatic, wise-cracking persona, the chain-smoking cynic is deemed by most as a loser. He is an unhappy man and down on humanity, but still wants to do what is right. He lives a depressed life with few friends and the company of only his cat. While he is marginally entertained by his neighbors, he goes about his days only barely getting by emotionally. Gould is brilliant at relaying all these qualities within his performance.

The addition of the title theme song in numerous renditions is a major win for the film and something noticed more and more with each repeated viewing. The ill-fated gangster’s girlfriend hums along to the song playing on the radio at one point, and a jazz pianist plays a rendition in a smoky bar. This is an ingenious approach by Altman and gives the film a greater sense of mystery and style.

There is no question among cinema lovers that Robert Altman is one of the best directors of all time. In his lengthy catalog filled with rich and experimental films, The Long Goodbye (1973) is not the best remembered nor the most recognizable. I implore film fans, especially fans of plodding mystery and intrigue to check this great steak dinner of a film out.

Don’t Look Now-1973

Don’t Look Now-1973

Director-Nicolas Roeg

Starring-Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland

Scott’s Review #693

Reviewed October 22, 2017

Grade: A

Don’t Look Now is an exceptional 1973 supernatural horror film that is as thought provoking as it is intelligently written and directed. Combined with riveting acting by famous Hollywood stars of the day, the film is simply an anomaly and must be seen to be appreciated. It is also the type of film that can be watched again and again for better clarity and exhibits the age old “it gets better with age” comparison. The film is rich with story, atmosphere, and cerebral elements, as well as being highly influential to horror films which followed.

Affluent married couple, John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie), live happily together in their English country home, raising their two children, Johnny and Christine. After a tragic drowning incident, resulting in the death of Christine, the devastated couple relocates to Venice, after John accepts a position restoring an ancient church. Soon, Laura meets a pair of elderly sisters, one of whom is blind and claims to be clairvoyant, warning her of imminent danger and that Christine is attempting to contact her from beyond.

Don’t Look Now is hardly your standard horror film, which is a main part of its appeal- psychological in nature, the film holds only one gruesome death- not including the death of Christina, which is a terrible accident- not malicious. Rather, director Nicolas Roeg quietly builds the suspense to a startling final sequence by using a chilling musical score to elicit a reaction from the audience. We know not what will happen, only that something sinister is bound to.

Due to the successful chemistry between Sutherland and Christie, in 1973, both cream of the crop in terms of film success and marketability, the actors deserve much credit for making Don’t Look Now both believable and empathetic. As John and Laura, each gives their character a likable nature and immeasurable chemistry, which makes the audience care for them. Despite the supernatural elements in the film, at its core the story is quite humanistic. John and Laura have tragically lost a child and we see them deal with the painful grief associated with this loss. The famous sex scene between the pair is shocking given the time period, but also tastefully done, as Roeg uses a fragmented filming style that mixes the nudity with the couple dressing for dinner.

Visually, Don’t Look Now is a pure treat. The viewer is catapulted to the cultural and wonderful world of watery Venice, where scene after scene feature gondola rides, exterior treats of the city, and filming locations such as the famous Hotel Gabrielli Sandworth and the San Nicolo dei Mendicoli church, wisely chosen as shooting locations giving the film an effective realism.

The characters of the elderly sisters, Heather and Wendy, are wonderfully cast. Hilary Mason and Clelia Matania are fantastic and believable as the mysterious duo. Seemingly kindly and eager to help, I was never really sure what the characters true motives were. Was Laura paying them for their assistance? The film never reveals this information, but Heather especially, contains a sinister look that shrouds her motivations in uncertainty. Fabulous actress Mason shines in her important role.

As John begins to “see things”, the use of the color red becomes very important. Christine died wearing a red coat and John sees a child wearing a red coat walking around the city, but cannot make out her face. When he then sees Laura and the sisters at a funeral, we begin to question his sanity. But are the sisters up to something and attempting to trick him or is his mind playing tricks on him? The terrific conclusion will only lead the viewer to more questions.

Don’t Look Now is a unique, classic horror film, with incredible thematic elements, an eerie psychological story, fine acting, and location sequences that will astound. Mixing the occult with an unpredictable climax, the film is influenced by Alfred Hitchcock, and succeeds in achieving a blood curdling affair sure to be discussed upon the chilling conclusion. The film is non-linear in storytelling, which only makes it more challenging to watch and appreciate.

Live and Let Die-1973

Live and Let Die-1973

Director-Guy Hamilton

Starring-Roger Moore, Jane Seymour

Scott’s Review #646

Reviewed May 25, 2017

Grade: A-

When Live and Let Die was released in 1973, it began a new chapter in the James Bond film franchise with the introduction of a new Bond. Sean Connery, refusing to do any more Bond pictures, Roger Moore was crowned the new film hero and successfully made the role his own during his tenure. My personal favorite Bond from top to bottom- I enjoyed the wry humor Moore added- he makes Live and Let Die more than it otherwise might have been with a less charismatic actor. The story and the subsequent elements of the film have issues, but this installment holds a soft spot for me as it was one of my first exposures to the mountainous franchise that is Bond, and I adore the time period of the mid 1970’s.

Bond (Moore) is summoned to duty by his leader, M, after three MI6 agents are simultaneously killed in the Caribbean, New Orleans, and at the United Nations in New York City. Bond is then tasked with figuring out who killed these agents and how the deaths are connected. The adventure takes Bond from Harlem to an unnamed island in the Caribbean, and back to the bayous of southern Louisiana as he tangles with heroin drug lord, Dr. Kananda. Bond’s main love interest in the film is the virginal tarot card reader, Solitaire, played by Jane Seymour.

Live and Let Die is a breakthrough in some ways, though the film admittedly contains both positives and negatives worthy of discussion. Since the film was made in 1973, following a successful run of “Blaxploitation” films like 1971’s Shaft and 1972’s Super Fly, the film is clearly influenced by those in style (for better or worse). This means that all of the villains are black, from the main villain, Kananga, to various henchman and even background criminals growing the massive amounts of heroin shipped to the United States for distribution. Having such representation among a minority group is fantastic and feels cutting edge, but stereotypes such as derogatory racial epithets, a pimp mobile, and the addition of weird voodoo, exist.

Another major flaw to the film, and despite my  overall warmth for Live and Let Die, is the goofiness that the film turns into towards the end of the film. At a certain point, the film feels like a different film from what it starts off as, which becomes quite jarring.-the introduction of Sheriff J.W. Pepper during a Louisiana chase scene turns the film into more of a cheesy Dukes of Hazzard episode , with bumbling law enforcement officials, rather than a quality film, and the southern stereotypes run rampant. Why does a throwaway scene of a speedboat racing through an outdoor wedding feature all high society white folks with nary a black character existing other than as servants? Some diversity in this scene would have been nice considering the film goes out of its way to feature black characters.

Still, many positives  do exist-Live and Let Die has the honor of containing the first ever black Bond girl- the CIA double-agent, Rosie Carver, who sadly meets a grisly ending far too soon. Gloria Hendry’s  chemistry with Roger Moore is readily apparent, though the film chooses to make the character inept rather than a true equal. The smoldering sex scenes between the duo are wonderful and groundbreaking to watch so the film gets major props for pushing the envelope in this way.

Memorable is the terrific title theme song, “Live and Let Die”, by Paul McCartney and Wings. The success of this hit song, especially decades later, does wonders to elevate the film and keep it relevant in pop culture.

Also great to see are the location sequences and good action car chase scenes along the West Side Highway in New York City and into Harlem. A treat for this retro fan is the inclusion of early 1970’s Chevrolet Impalas and Chevy Novas throughout the entire feature film- was Chevy a financial backer? In fact, classic cars are a major inclusion in Live and Let Die, which as a current day viewer is a cool treat and quite retro.

In the way of the primary villain and primary Bond girl, the film misses. Jane Seymour is a dud as Solitaire, a character that really should have been played by a black actress. Seymour and Moore have zero chemistry and her character is weak and simpering, lacking any sort of backbone. Similarly, Yaphet Kotto as Dr. Kananga seems miscast and lacks any real qualities that make him neither devious nor dangerous and his inevitable swan song underwhelms.

Live and Let Die is certainly not the greatest in the Bond collection and suffers from some problematic, now dated aspects, racial issues, and a silly overtone, but, perhaps more so as a terrific childhood memory,  I hold a particular fondness toward this film despite many negatives.

Sleeper-1973

Sleeper-1973

Director-Woody Allen

Starring-Woody Allen, Diane Keaton

Scott’s Review #631

Reviewed April 5, 2017

Grade: B

One of the earliest of Woody Allen’s enormous list of film’s that he both directed and starred in, 1973’s Sleeper is a comedic, science-fiction film, and a blueprint for future Allen masterpieces, such as Manhattan and Annie Hall. While this film has it’s moments of intelligence and clever dialogue, it too often teeters into straight up slapstick and silliness to be held in the same esteem as the aforementioned richer films. Rather it is a juvenile effort as compared to masterpieces to follow, but admittedly with some laughs and creative moments. Sleeper is the first of several to pair Allen with longtime co-star, Diane Keaton.

Allen portrays Miles Monroe, a nerdy jazz musician and owner of the “Happy Carrot” health-food store in Greenwich Village, New York City sometime in the then present time of the 1970’s. In the hospital for a routine surgery, he is cryogenically frozen for two-hundred years, waking up in an otherworldly police state and frazzled beyond belief. The scientist’s who revive him are part of a rebellion and beg Miles to assist them as they are taken into police custody, pleading with him to search for a secret plan known only as the “Aries Project”. Miles then poses as a robotic butler and goes to work for Luna (Keaton), a spoiled, bitchy, socialite. The duo ultimately bond together and spend the rest of the film outrunning and outsmarting their pursuers.

Sleeper succeeds as a novel story, one filled with unique and interesting gadgets from a futuristic world, with clever, witty, crisp dialogue and odes to the past world, now deemed irrelevant. Amusing are scenes when scientists explain that natural foods and products, at one time thought to be healthy and natural, are actually not so much. This makes the world that Miles is used to seem silly and superfluous in their minds.

I also enjoyed the physical humor that the film contains, as when Miles (as his robotic persona) serves dinner to a sophisticated group of Luna’s friends, accidentally destroying their expensive outerwear in a garbage incinerator as well as botching dinner. As all of the attendees are high on hallucinogenic drugs (including Miles), they fail to realize that he is a human being- they dance with glee and stumble around in a haze, largely unaware of their surroundings. This is one of the best scenes in the film.

The plot itself is fairly predictable though and almost forced. Certainly, as Miles and Luna are the couple we root for in the film, the introduction of handsome rebel leader, Erno Windt (John Beck) doesn’t stand a chance and is somewhat of a foil for Miles and Luna. Much of the time, the pair are on the run and sparring with each other. The actors involved have wonderful chemistry with each other, but the central story is not the strongest suit- rather, the weird and unique gadgets and intricacies of the film, are.

Albeit, an introduction for anyone intrigued by the comic genius that is Woody Allen, other polished Allen gems are a better start than this early offering, but that is not to say Sleeper is not a good, entertaining film, with imagination, merely that it lacks all of the elements to rank it among other Woody Allen greats.

Magnum Force-1973

Magnum Force-1973

Director-Ted Post

Starring-Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook

Top 100 Films-#87

Scott’s Review #336

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Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

The follow-up to the original action thriller to end all action thrillers, Dirty Harry, 1973’s Magnum Force is as good as the original in my opinion, but rather flies under the radar as compared to the acclaimed Harry. Both films are similar in style and grit, but Magnum Force holds sentimental memories for me, as I remember watching the film countless times on rainy Saturday afternoons as a kid. The similarities abound between both films as the screenwriter and score are by the same writer and composer, respectively. Admittedly, Magnum Force is more conventional than its predecessor.

Certainly playing not just the same role of Harry Callahan, the grizzled, hard-nosed Inspector from Dirty Harry, but Clint Eastwood also plays him in quite the same manner. Not one to blow anyone away with his dazzling acting talent, Eastwood is smart to keep to the status quo. The character is tough, no nonsense, but has a take no prisoners vulnerability we love and admire.

In this chapter, a syndicate of vigilante cops are taking matters into their own hands by assassinating known criminals who have been let off the hook either by connections or some other form of loophole. The pattern is for uniformed patrol officers to pull over a criminal for a mundane reason only to shoot and kill them on the side of the road at point blank range. They deserve it, but are the cops justified in their actions? The appeal and mystery of the film is that the police officers wear dark helmets that hide their identities from the audience adding a level of intrigue.

In this way, the film offers up a moral question- do the criminals get what they deserve and do the policemen have the right to justify their actions? Especially relevant is the final thirty minutes of the film, as Harry and the central “villain”, Lieutenant Briggs (Holbrook)  have a standoff and discuss the topic. Of course, Magnum Force is a shoot ’em up action flick, so this debate is skirted over largely in favor of car chases and fight scenes. But the point is able to be thought about.

The best sequence of the film is, in fact, the finale, as Callahan is lured to an abandoned garage and chased by three remaining cops. The big reveal is that Briggs is running the show and as he drives around in his early 1970’s Ford LTD, soon to become battered and weathered, it is a great scene, especially for those who enjoy car chases.

Magnum Force is a no frills “guy” film, but one done very well and with an interesting, semi-controversial premise. The film is 1970’s action genre at its very best. Surprisingly, and to the films credit, one can have a discussion about the film after watching it instead of it being a generic, forgettable flick.

The Exorcist-1973

The Exorcist-1973

Director-William Friedkin

Starring-Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair

Top 100 Films-#39    Top 20 Horror Films-#13

Scott’s Review #326

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Reviewed January 5, 2016

Grade: A

Making a lasting mark on cinematic history and impossible not to be familiar with through some form of pop culture, The Exorcist is a classic supernatural horror film that transcends the genre to become a Hollywood success story. Along with Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, these three films have similarly haunting “religious” subject matters and deal with dark and sinister topics such as “god versus the devil” and “good versus evil”. The Exorcist is a masterpiece on every level and is adapted from the 1971 hit novel of the same name.

The story centers on “demonic possession” and was quite simply a shocking subject when The Exorcist was released in 1973, scaring the wits out of those brave enough to see it (especially Christians) everywhere. Some abhorred the subject matter and refused to have any part of the film-their loss.

Ellen Burstyn stars as Chris MacNeil, an actress of note who moves to Georgetown to film a movie. In tow is her twelve year old daughter Regan (Linda Blair). As shooting on the film wraps, Regan begins acting very strangely- making noises, becoming belligerent, and peeing on the floor during a dinner party. Worried, Chris enlists the assistance of priests (Max von Sydow and Jason Miller). Things progress from bad to worse as Regan spirals out of control and Chris and the priests determine that an exorcism is the only resolution to the problem.

The Exorcist-mainly director William Freidkin sets up the film in a clever way by using various technical elements to build the tension. For starters, the eerie musical score is highly successful at scaring the audience and the score is similar to that of Rosemary’s Baby. The film is also lit very well, so it appears dark with dim lighting- the cinematography and the windy rustling of leaves in the exterior sets is great. The cover art of the film should give an indication of the unique style used- black and white, a man with a hat and suitcase peers up at the second floor of a house where a glowing light is illuminating- the image is intriguing and haunting.

Enough cannot be said for Linda Blair’s performance as Regan, especially in the final act. Certainly, during the “pea soup” and the “jesus crucifix” scenes a different voice was used, but the facial expressions and the emotions that Blair uses are admirable. As Regan is bed-ridden, angry, scared, and emotional, there is no limit to Blair’s range. Throughout a large part of the film she is a sweet, young girl- innocent, so much so that her transformation is both shocking and disturbing to witness.

The final act of the film- the “exorcism” is riveting and a groundbreaking aspect of film history. The terrifying scene all taking place in one child’s tiny bedroom elicits fright and is nail-biting beyond belief. The Exorcist is a very influential film that inspired filmmakers for decades to come and still resonates with audiences to this day.

The Wicker Man-1973

The Wicker Man-1973

Director-Robin Hardy

Starring-Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee

Scott’s Review #245

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Reviewed May 31, 2015

Grade: B+

The Wicker Man is a cult horror film from 1973 that is considered one of the finest by horror critics. While the film does not enamor me quite as much as some other favorites in the horror genre (Halloween, Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, Dressed to Kill, and Suspiria) immediately spring to mind while thinking of 1970’s style horror gems, I cannot help but admire The Wicker Man’s creativity and religious overtones. In fact, despite not awarding the film a solid “A” rating, I look forward to viewing this film again and, perhaps over time, as some films do, it will see an adjustment in scoring.

Set on an island in the Scottish Hebrides, named Summerisle, a devout Christian (Edward Woodward) named Sergeant Howie travels to the island in search of a missing young girl named Rowan Morrison, thought to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The inhabitants are vague, aloof, or hostile towards the policeman. He immediately is disturbed to notice the group worships Celtic gods and notices other strange acts of worship and sexual behavior (a naked dance), which he resists and disapproves of. He is tempted by gorgeous seductress, Willow, played by Britt Ekland- most notably known as a Bond girl in The Man with the Golden Gun, and butts heads with the island leader, Lord Summerisle, played by horror legend Christopher Lee. As he attempts to locate the missing girl, he uncovers some very dark goings-on around the island as the annual Mayday harvest celebration is about to occur. He deduces that Rowan is slated to be the sacrifice at the celebration and he races to find her before it is too late. But is there more to the island than meets the eye?

The Wicker Man is not mainstream fare and that is what I admire most about it, as well as its British flare. It strives to challenge the norm in horror and question who is right and who is wrong and who the audience should champion. Certainly religion and the occult have been portrayed in horror films for eons, but rarely given a normal face. Typically, the villains are scary, horrid, or even cartoonish, clearly defined as bad. Despite all of the townspeople being in on the sacrifice, they are seemingly quite ordinary appearing. They raise their kids, farm, run stores, and teach the kids in a classroom setting. On the surface they appear wholesome and that is part of what makes The Wicker Man so scary. Rosemary’s Baby did the same thing. Typically, any sort of satanic overtones or human/animal sacrifices, frighten audiences, especially if the culprits could be their neighbors, friends, or even loved ones. The realness is unnerving.

Differing, controversial, religious beliefs are a prevalent theme throughout The Wicker Man as are elements of good vs. evil. The film is not predictable. It delves into questions of morals and beliefs- for example, Howie is a virgin- saving himself for marriage and trying to be a good, decent person. He is the moral center of the film and, in his belief everyone on the island is either perverted, crazy, or a sinner. By this logic Howie looks down on others who are dissimilar to him and comes across as preachy. I do not get the impression that the film wants the audience to love Howie- nor hate him. The balance between the old gods (Christianity) and new gods (Celtic paganism) makes the film interesting.

The shocking conclusion involving an enormous, life-sized burning wicker man is terrifying beyond belief and by far the best part of the film, as the hero must come to terms with his fate. The final thirty minutes is quite spectacular from the final twist through the ending. My lacking of an exceptional grade for The Wicker Man stems from it being a tad too slow moving. Perhaps with a few additional jumps or frights along the way would have been beneficial, but, on the other hand, it is not a scary film, nor does it try to be. It is, however, quite intelligent and, I suspect will increase my enjoyment with each subsequent viewing. A fine addition to the relics of classic horror, The Wicker Man is creative, mysterious, and left of center film.

Theatre of Blood-1973

Theatre of Blood-1973

Director-Douglas Hickox

Starring-Vincent Price, Diana Rigg

Scott’s Review #230

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Reviewed March 23, 2015

Grade: B

Theatre of Blood stars Vincent Price, a long-time fixture in the classic/campy horror scene, as a demented Shakespearean theatre actor who enacts revenge on the critics who fail to recognize him with a coveted award that he cherishes. Price, as always frighteningly good, delivers a campy, but not ridiculous, turn as the crazed actor. Price’s appearance alone- tall, wiry, with sinister facial expressions, poises him perfectly to believability in any dastardly role he portrayed in his heyday and the performance he gives as Edward Lionheart is no exception.

Not solely a campy, melodramatic horror film, Theatre of Blood rises above that categorization with humorous tributes to Shakespeare and a very unique chronicle of the Shakespearean works, used to systematically off the critics one by one in reference to the Shakespearean story- quite frankly in a comical and witty way. Price eerily dresses in many different elaborate costumes to commit the murders- a wine tasting expert, a television host, among other interesting characters and oftentimes taunts his victims before permanently dispensing of them.

The film is quite British in tone and humor and done in a tongue in cheek manner so that the murders are not to be taken at all too seriously. The critics themselves- seven or eight of them- are deliciously fun. One is a loud boisterous fat man who always has his beloved poodles at his side. What happens to him and the dogs is better left unsaid. Another is an uptight, sophisticated woman (played by Price’s real life wife Coral Browne). Several of the critics are created as comic villains so their demises are not all too devastating for the audience as they are rather unlikeable characters to begin with. In fact, I found myself rooting for Lionheart and looking forward to the next murder!

One criticism involves Diana Rigg, who plays Price’s daughter Edwina, accomplice to his dirty deeds. Well known for her starring role in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and for the 1960’s Avengers series, Rigg has little of substance to do in Theatre of Blood. Perhaps by 1973 her film career was on the downturn and she was not winning the coveted roles any longer. I would have loved to see her sink her teeth into a meatier role. Clearly a side-kick, Edwina could have done much more.

The film belongs to Price and the unique storytelling of Shakespearean works made only possible by this great actor. Not overly serious and played for some laughs, Theatre of Blood is successful in its telling of an interesting British horror story. Theatre of Blood is a nice late night treat for fans of the British horror genre especially.

Sisters-1973

Sisters-1973

Director-Brian De Palma

Starring-Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt

Scott’s Review #178

60002455

Reviewed September 29, 2014

Grade: B+

Directed by stylistic film genius Brian De Palma, Sisters is an early entry in the famed director’s repertoire and a direct homage to the classic films of Alfred Hitchcock.

The film stars Margot Kidder as a French-Canadian model named Danielle Breton, who shares a Staten Island, NY apartment with her demented twin sister Dominique. For many years Danielle and Dominique were conjoined twins and only recently surgically separated. After a romantic date with a new acquaintance, Danielle begins to feel ill and Dominique murders the new boyfriend after he surprises, who he thinks is Danielle, with a birthday cake. But is it really Dominique or is it Danielle? Meanwhile, a neighbor, Grace Collier played by Jennifer Salt, witnesses the murder from across the alley, and in a highly dramatic scene, involving the victim attempting to scrawl “help” on the window, Grace gets the police involved. The authorities are skeptical and unsympathetic to Grace’s claims since she works as a newspaper reporter and is constantly challenging the police department in her articles. Finally, when the police do search Danielle’s apartment, no dead body is found. This sets off the plot for the remainder of the film as Grace looks for the missing body on her own (in Nancy Drew style) with the help of a detective she hires, Joseph Larch, comically played by Charles Durning.

One point to mention about Sisters is that the film is a blueprint for De Palma films to come, but that does not mean it is not engaging on its own merits- it is-but pales in comparison to other De Palma gems which followed, such as Carrie and Dressed to Kill. It feels raw and slightly underdeveloped compared to those aforementioned films. Danielle’s ex-husband and doctor, Eli, while creepy and sinister, is not fully explored, and his relation to events taking place is a bit vague throughout much of the film. Techniques such as the split screen showing simultaneous action oftentimes relating to each other are introduced in this film and are a marvel to watch as so much of the plot is revealed in these sequences- activity in Grace’s apartment contrasts with and interchanges perfectly with action in Danielle’s apartment- highly effective and suspenseful. DePalma uses many Hitchcock influences, but in no way steals them- the idea of a set of conjoined twins with mental illness was taken from a real life story of Soviet twins. Viewers familiar with Psycho will smile during the murder scene as influences are apparent- Rear Window is certainly referenced as countless scenes of the camera looking into Danielle’s or Grace’s apartment or the camera looking out onto a street scene or someone with binoculars spying out of their own apartment and into someone else’s apartment across the street- very visually oriented. And the Hitchcock similarities continue with the musical score- it is composed by Bernard Hermann, a frequent collaborator of Hitchcock films- think Vertigo light.

After all of the psychological build-up throughout the first hour of the film, the final 30 minutes or so, taking place within the confines of a mental asylum, is confusing and unrealistic, as various flashbacks and dream sequences are used, even using one character taking the place of another in a dream- edgy and unique, but tough to follow and organize properly.  And Grace being assumed to be a newly admitted mental patient seemed far-fetched. What exactly transpired between Danielle and Dominique present and/or in the past? Even though events are explained, I found myself scratching my head a bit at the conclusion of the film. For fans of Brian De Palma films Sisters is a perfect movie experience to show the influence to come and not a bad film on its own either.

Godspell-1973

Godspell-1973

Director-David Greene

Starring-Victor Garber, Katie Hanley

Scott’s Review #23

549055

Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: C+

Despite the fact that Godspell is a popular and legendary Broadway musical production, the film left me with very mixed reactions.

The positives for me are the songs- they are memorable, they stay in your head for days to come. My absolute favorite is “Day by Day”. I also enjoy the cast travels throughout NYC as I personally love when films are set here.

For the first 30 minutes of the film I did not like it at all. There is no plot, but simply a group of college aged people leaving their crummy jobs and celebrating Jesus as they aimlessly flitter about the city, with nobody else in sight, singing songs of savior and celebration.

Then I started to realize this is not a “message” movie or an attempt to convert people towards religion. In fact, many devout Christians despise the film. The film left me with questions. Is it tongue and cheek or meant to be taken seriously? By the end of the film, I simply took it for a fun musical with great songs. It offers nothing more, nothing less.