Saturday, November 6, 2021

Mon oncle Antoine (1971)

          Set in rural Quebec during the 1940s, Mon oncle Antoine is mostly the intimate character study of a teenager experiencing formative experiences over a Christmas holiday. Strongly evoking the work of François Truffaut (albeit without the master’s discipline or whimsy), Mon oncle Antoine explores several major themes simultaneously. Most effective is the coming-of-age material. Nearly as potent are scenes investigating the dynamics of a group that functions like a family. Least impactful, alas, are efforts at tethering this small story to a larger narrative about looming social change in French-speaking Canada. That said, one must admire the ambition of the piece, especially because the notion of world-class indigenous Canadian cinema barely existed at the time Mon oncle Antoine was made. (There’s a reason why this movie has for decades been prominent on lists of the best Canadian movies ever made.)

          The picture gets off to an odd start, because cryptic early scenes depict the bleak life of Jos Poulin (Lionel Villeneuve), a French-speaking laborer. Then the movie awkwardly shifts from Jos’s remote milieu to the streets of a tiny town, where middle-aged Antoine (Jean Duceppe) operates a general store that doubles as a community hub. Antoine also serves as the local undertaker. Eventually, the filmmakers settle into the viewpoint of Antoine’s nephew, Benoit (Jacques Gagnon), who works in the store alongside Antoine’s wife, Cécile (Olivette Thibault); another teenager, Carmen (Lyne Champagne); and an adult clerk, Fernand (played by the film’s director, Claude Jutra). Antoine drinks, delegates, and vacillates between ignoring and seducing his wife, who seems a bit too receptive to Fernand’s flirtations. Meanwhile, Benoit endures the disorienting phase of learning how to critically appraise grownups—and how to manage growing awareness of Carmen’s sexuality. The main narrative begins about halfway through the movie, when Antoine gets the call to collect a body from a home in the countryside. Benoit tags along, but the journey becomes a test that everyone involved fails.

          Notwithstanding a few moments of levity, Mon oncle Antoine is largely clinical and downbeat. Through Antoine’s eyes, we see how some lives fall into downward spirals, how other lives get stuck in empty routines, and how still more lives encompass only disappointment and regret. Left to the audience’s imagination, of course, is how Antoine might respond to these lessons. Co-written and directed by Jutra, a major pioneer in Canadian narrative film, Mon oncle Antoine boasts engrossing location work and persuasively naturalistic performances. Events feel authentic, as well, perhaps because the storyline was inspired by the youthful experiences of co-writer Clément Perron. Whether it’s accurate to call their film uniquely Canadian is best left to those born in the Great White North, but beyond dispute is the assertion that Mon oncle Antoine is thoroughly empathetic—perhaps to a fault. One can’t help but wonder how a more surgical edit of the same footage might have come across. 

Mon oncle Antoine: GROOVY

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Smile Jenny, You're Dead (1974)


          Offering a thoughtful spin on the TV-detective genre, Smile, Jenny, You’re Dead is a reboot of sorts, serving as the second pilot attempt for a series starring small-screen veteran David Janssen as sensitive private eye Harry Orwell. (A few months after this telefilm was broadcast, hourlong series Harry O began its two-year run.) What distinguishes Smile Jenny, You’re Dead from other TV mystery fare of the same era is a focus on emotions and psychology, rather than action and plot twists. The effort to render a serious crime drama for grown-up viewers is bolstered by imaginative cinematography and moody scoring. Alas, the acting is not universally outstanding, and the suspense quotient is low, an unavoidable repercussion of avoiding the standard whodunnit route. Nonetheless, the movie is in many ways refreshingly humane.

          Harry (Janssen) is a cop on disability following an on-the-job shooting, so he picks up extra cash working as a private investigator. Living alone on a Southern California beach, he’s forever toiling on a boat that seems years away from seaworthiness, and his most perverse characteristic—by Los Angeles standards, anyway—is that he doesn’t drive. Another quirk? No gun. When a friend’s adult daughter gets harassed by a stalker, Harry takes the job of protecting her. She’s Jenny (Andrea Marcovicci), a model trying to divorce an overbearing man while taking comfort in the arms of a much older lover; Harry also finds himself attracted to her. Things get dangerous once Jenny’s stalker decides the men in Jenny’s life are better off dead.

          Writer Howard Rodman provides nuanced characterizations and slick dialogue, while director Jerry Thorpe periodically uses offbeat camera positions to give the movie an idiosyncratic quality. Accordingly, there are compensations in place of the thrills one might normally expect to encounter in such a piece. Janssen excels in the lead role, channeling his signature grumpiness into something complicated, so he’s at once appealing and harsh. Marcovicci does not leave a lasting impression, but Clu Gulager and Tim McIntire lend twitchy specificity to supporting roles, and Jodie Foster contributes her impressive poise to a small role as a youth separated from her mother. As for Jenny’s twisted tormentor, he’s portrayed by future softcore producer Zalman King, and his onscreen behavior is weirdly fascinating because he manages to simultaneously overact and underact.

Smile, Jenny, You’re Dead: FUNKY

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Girl in the Empty Grave (1977) & Deadly Game (1977)

The notion of playing a resort town’s top lawman must have lodged in Andy Griffith’s imagination after starring in the respectable made-for-TV thriller Winter Kill (1974), because he mined similar material for two attempts at launching a series. First came Adams of Eagle Lake (1975), an hourlong show that lasted only two episodes. Then came The Girl in the Empty Grave and Deadly Game, telefilms that aired in late 1977. Both were written by Lane Slate, who also created Adams of Eagle Lake, and it’s remarkable how consistently the strengths and weaknesses of Slate’s approach simultaneously enrich and flatten these flicks. Slate has fun surrounding Griffith’s protagonist with idiosyncratic townies, some of whom repeat in both movies, such as the earnest deputy played by James Cromwell. Slate’s pithy dialogue is at worst vacuously entertaining and at best genuinely delightful, so the details garnishing these films are tasty—especially because the discursive nature of Slate’s scripting suits Griffith’s avuncular performance style. Alas, the movie’s central mysteries are trifling, and Slate has a turgid way of resolving narratives.

In both pieces, Griffith plays Abel Marsh, the unflappable sheriff of Jasper Lake, a stand-in for the real Southern California city of Big Bear Lake,  where these movies were filmed. (Quick sidenote to make things even more complicated—Slate first introduced a version of Sheriff Abel Marsh, as portrayed by James Garner, in the 1972 theatrical feature They Only Kill Their Masters.) The Girl in the Empty Grave, as the title suggests, kicks off when Abel spots a young woman driving through town and recognizes her as the victim of a fatal car crash that occurred some time back. Deadly Game begins with a U.S. Army truck crashing outside Jasper Lake and thereby exposing the whole town to the dangerous chemical agent the truck was transporting. In both movies, determined and intuitive Abel won’t rest until he finds out what’s really happening—and then, inevitably, whodunnit. Even though both stories drag and meander, there’s almost always something of passing interest happening, whether it’s Griffith solving some logical puzzle or an offbeat supporting character lending comic relief.

While they’re largely interchangeable as far as quality goes, Deadly Game is incrementally more satisfying to watch than The Girl in the Empty Grave because one gets the sense that Slate, Griffith, and their collaborators were starting to figure out what worked and what didn’t for this would-be franchise. Deadly Game also benefits from the presence of the regal Dan O’Herlihy in the main guest-starring role, whereas The Girl in the Empty Grave features a host of rank-and-file character players. Naturally, both movies thrive on the novelty of Griffith channeling Andy Taylor while investigating cold-blooded felonies instead of no-harm-done misdemeanors. And perhaps that’s why these resort-town projects never captured the public’s imagination. Both telefilms are sufficiently gentle to seem like cousins to The Andy Griffith Show, but they integrate mature-audience elements that don’t square with The Andy Griffith Show’s vision of unthreatening Anytown U.S.A.

The Girl in the Empty Grave: FUNKY

Deadly Game: FUNKY

Monday, August 16, 2021

The Road to Salina (1970)

          This sultry European melodrama/thriller exists somewhere between classic film noir and the psychosexual explorations of Nicolas Roeg and David Lynch. Like classic film noir, The Road to Salina concerns an everyman who drifts into trouble because of an irresistible woman. And like many deliberately perverse movies perpetrated by Roeg and Lynch, The Road to Salina plays wicked games with chronology and morality. Also adding to the film’s allure is an offbeat cast and a potent musical score. In fact, the score has undoubtedly led many curious viewers to this picture, because Quentin Tarantino repurposed some music from The Road to Salina for Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004). Yet unlike grungier offerings to which QT often leads his acolytes, The Road to Salina has a somewhat elegant quality even though the subject matter is sordid.

          Per the noir playbook, the movie opens in media res, with a young man fleeing a remote location while a middle-aged woman screams for him to stay. The young man makes his way to a police station, reveals to the authorities (but not the audience) that something awful has happened, then reluctantly agrees to head back where it all went down. The remainder of the movie comprises the young man’s return trip, intercut with flashbacks while he explains past events to a cop. Via the flashbacks, we learn that Jonas (Robert Walker Jr.), an American drifting through Mexico, happened upon a gas station operated by Mara (Rita Hayworth). Mara mistook Jonas for her long-missing son. Upon determining that his hostess seemed harmlessly delusional, Jonas decided to indulge her fantasy for a few days. Then a neighbor named Warren (Ed Begley) showed up and he, too, mistook Jonas for Mara’s missing son. Things got really weird when Mara’s sexy daughter, Billie (Mimsy Farmer), became the third person to believe Jonas was someone else. This juncture shifts the movie into Roeg/Lynch territory, because Jonas learns that Billie was unusually intimate with her brother. It should come as no surprise to hint that Jonas’ strange erotic idyll eventually takes some dark turns.

          Given the twisted interpersonal dynamics of The Road to Salina, it’s a wonder the movie never becomes confusing. Director/co-writer George Lautner keeps the plotting as simple as possible, allowing viewers to marinate in bizarre moments—and to gradually unravel the film’s many mysteries. This streamlined narrative approach gives Lautner room for extended carnal vignettes, which Farmer and Walker perform without inhibition. Both actors essay familiar types well; Farmer’s dangerous impetuousness strikes believable sparks against Walker’s dopey recklessness. Meanwhile, the impact of watching faded screen icon Hayworth in a poignant role compensates for the shortcomings of her passable performance—the sense of a woman failing to reconcile comforting fantasies with intolerable reality is palpable. The Road to Salina is not for every taste, to be sure. The pacing can be leisurely, the plot requires suspension of disbelief, and the ending doesn’t quite achieve the impact it should. Nonetheless, there’s a lot to admire here in terms of boldness, heat, and style, so it’s heartening that the film eventually found a second life after briefly passing through American theaters back in the day.

The Road to Salina: GROOVY

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

5.5 Million Views!

What it is, people of the Interwebs! Touching base with a quick update on the blog’s continued growth, because the number of lifetime views received by Every ’70s Movie recently topped 5.5 million. Each of these milestones represents a far broader reach than I imagined when I started this project more than a decade (!) ago, so I remain immeasurably grateful to all of the readers who have supported this adventure, whether that’s someone who has been here since the beginning or someone who only recently discovered the blog. As for the ongoing life of this project, occasional posts continue whenever I’m able to point my retinas at something relevant that I hadn’t seen before. Concurrently, I post every day to the blog’s Instagram feed, so follow @every70smovie and share the feed with anyone who might dig the content. The Instagram feed features one movie per day in alphabetical order, accompanied by a link to the appropriate review. That’s what I’ve got for today, so until next time, keep on keepin’ on!

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Slow Dancing in the Big City (1978)

          If not for its posh production values and the pedigree of its director, the cutesy romance Slow Dancing in the Big City would come across like a mildly diverting but altogether forgettable TV movie. The narrative is slight in the extreme, blending an unpersuasive love story with melodramatic subplots, and if the filmmakers imagined they were rendering some sort of intoxicating modern-day fairy tale, they fell short of that goal. Nonetheless, Paul Sorvino’s affable leading performance goes a long way toward making the picture watchable, because he’s wonderfully cast as a rough-hewn but kindhearted New York City columnist sorta-kinda modeled after the inimitable Jimmy Breslin. In fact, it’s easy to imagine that playing the same character in a more consequential story, such as a political drama or better still a whimsical comedy, could have provided a star-making moment for Sorvino. Instead, Slow Dancing in the Big City flopped in theaters just a month after a better film costarring Sorvino, Bloodbrothers, suffered a similar fate. Thereafter, it was back to the character-actor grind.
          Lou Friedlander (Sorvino) enjoys a pleasant life as a minor New York celebrity thanks to his column featuring stories of everyday city people, but he’s bored in his casual relationship with a dowdy waitress. When he meets a dancer named Sarah (Anne Ditchburn), Lou becomes infatuated. Meanwhile, Lou writes stories about Marty (Hector Mercado), a preteen Latino who may be a musical prodigy but lives in a rough ghetto. Lou dumps the waitress so he can woo the years-younger Sarah, who subsequently experiences a serious medical crisis. And so it goes from there. Filmed in slick but uninspired fashion by John G. Avildsen, notching his first movie since winning an Oscar for Rocky (1976), Slow Dancing in the Big City has intermittent credibility. Since Ditchburn was a professional dancer, she’s impressive whenever she’s moving, less so whenever she’s acting. Yet Sorvino fits comfortably into his role, infusing an uncomplicated character with sweetness and warmth while avoiding mawkishness. The main problem, of course, is that it’s impossible to believe Sarah returns Lou’s affections, so the romantic stuff—which is the heart of the movie—rings false. Lesser problems include dreary pacing and a failure to flesh out supporting characters.

Slow Dancing in the Big City: FUNKY

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Sunnyside (1979)

          The bankable surname of of this obscure melodrama’s leading actor explains why he got above-the-title billing in his first movie, and the fact that you’ve probably never seen Joey Travolta in anything else explains why Sunnyside did not provide a career springboard. Yes, Sunnyside features a performance by John Travolta’s older brother—and, yes, he’s nearly as amateurish as you might imagine. The fact that his work is not outright embarrassing provides one reason why Sunnyside can’t be dismissed completely. This is the sort of bad movie that’s always just a few steps away from respectability. Some major elements are abysmal, particularly the storytelling, while others are just fine, such as the extensive location shooting in New York City. Additionally, several supporting performances are solid, with actors including Talisa Balsam and Chris Mulkey notching minor credits in the early days of their long careers. So even though it’s tempting to turn “the movie starring John Travolta’s brother” into a punchline, Sunnyside doesn’t invite scorn so much as it invites indifference. Having said that, was it really a great idea to feature Joey Travolta dancing in the first scene, thereby revealing yet another thing his famous sibling does better than Joey?
      Easygoing meathead Nick (Travolta) leads a street gang called the Nightcrawlers. After one too many humiliating run-ins with the carnies who operate an amusement park in Nick’s impoverished neighborhood, Nick allies with Reaper (Andrew Rubin), leader of a vicious gang called the Warlocks, to scare the carnies into better behavior. The plan backfires because the carnies beat the crap out of the Nightcrawlers—and because the Warlocks kill one of the carnies. Appalled by the Warlocks’ escalation, Nick musters his troops for a turf war. The movie also incorporates two love stories plus a subplot about Nick’s older brother, Denny (John Lansing), whom Nick hopes will steer clear of gang activities. Guess how that goes. Buried somewhere in this sloppy narrative is a trite but effective parable about the different ways people respond to the indignities of poverty, and it’s possible to see flashes of higher thematic aspirations amid the schlocky fight scenes and turgid romantic interludes. Two vignettes capture the extremes of Sunnyside. In one, Nick whines to his girlfriend (“I need you very much, but I gotta do what I gotta do”) before they make out to the accompaniment of bland disco balladry. Ugh. In the other vignette, the Warlocks commit shocking violence against the weakest of the Nightcrawlers to make a memorable statement. These extremes illustrate how Sunnyside toggles between two identities—a doomed star vehicle and a nasty inner-city potboiler.

Sunnyside: FUNKY

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Treasure Island (1972)

          As is true of most films with which Orson Welles was associated, this European adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 adventure novel boasts a behind-the-scenes saga that’s more interesting than the film itself. As for the movie, it’s a mostly adequate treatment of Stevenson’s tale, albeit one hampered by bland direction, forgettable supporting performances, sluggish pacing, and wretched dubbing. Yet even with these massive shortcomings, Treasure Island is not unpleasant to watch. The story is full of exotic locations, larger-than-life characters, plentiful violence, and tantalizing mysteries. In 18th-century England, young Jim Hawkins (Kim Burfield) helps his mother run a pub. One day, a crude old sailor named Billy Bones (Lionel Stander) shows up with grand talk of nautical adventures and grave warnings about a nefarious man with one leg. Before dying, Billy gives Jim a treasure map, so Jim signs on with local officials for a sea voyage to seek the treasure. Among the crew hired for the trek is a rascal named Long John Silver (Welles), who just happens to have only one leg. Inevitably, Silver leads a mutiny because he wants to steal the treasure for himself. And so it goes from there. Stevenson’s narrative holds up as well here as it does in myriad other screen adaptations, so there’s no disputing the innate allure of the material.
         Nonetheless, while watching this version of Treasure Island, one constantly feels the impact of behind-the-scenes shenanigans. Welles tried for years to mount the film as writer, director, and star, but by the time the financing came together, Welles had botched so many projects that he was unemployable as a filmmaker. Despite this disappointment, he remained involved as the project’s top-billed actor, and his long-shelved screenplay was used as the basis for the heavily rewritten final script—note the pseudonym “O.W. Jeeves” in the credits. The project’s money people assembled passable production values but skimped on casting, so the movie’s energy drains whenever Welles is offscreen. Worse, the energy often drains even when Welles is onscreen, because while dubbing his lines during post-production, Welles provided line readings so garbled and quiet that his dialogue is frequently incomprehensible. Sadly, Treasure Island provides yet another reminder that few people surpassed the former boy wonder in the fine art of self-destructive behavior. As a result, one can’t help but imagine what a full-blooded Welles interpretation of Silver might have been like—just as one can’t help but imagine how much more vibrant the picture would have been with Welles in the director’s chair.

Treasure Island: FUNKY

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Assault on the Wayne (1971)

          Mostly of interest for Leonard Nimoy fans curious to see how the beloved actor handles one of his rare leading-man roles, Assault on the Wayne is a brisk made-for-TV thriller that crams a respectable amount of plot into its fleeting runtime of 74 minutes. Nimoy plays uptight Cdr. Phil Kettenring, the skipper of a nuclear submarine carrying material related to an experimental program testing the ability of subs to launch counter-strikes against ICBMs. Naturally, bad guys conspire to steal the valuable material, so the fun is seeing how the villains try to engineer a high-seas heist.  In classic potboiler fashion, every featured member of the vessel’s passenger list has a corrupt agenda and/or a melodramatic backstory. For example, one of Ketternring’s trusted sidekicks is an aging sailor (Keenan Wynn) whose struggles with booze have kept him from rising in rank. Kettenring also tussles with a subordinate officer (Dewey Martin) who once overstepped his role by trying to referee Kettenring’s marital troubles. Is it even necessary to mention that most of the folks aboard the sub worry about the skipper’s wellness because he’s on the mend from a bad medical episode? You see, he’s got troubles, man, so the last thing he needs is attempted larceny while his boat is underwater.

          To some degree, describing Assault on the Wayne in such flip terms is fair because the picture was made in the days when networks cranked out disposable telefilms for the benefit of undemanding audiences—such was the nature of the marketplace during the heyday of three-network domination. Yet Assault on the Wayne, while hardly imaginative or lush or stylish, boasts a measure of professionalism. The script, by small-screen vet Jackson Gillis, delivers perfunctory elements of characterization and plot with slick efficiency, so what Assault on the Wayne lacks in depth, it makes up for in propulsion. Additionally, the combination of decent production values and a proficient cast yields a palatable experience. (Beyond Nimoy and Wynn, the picture also features Joseph Cotten, William Windom, Malachi Throne, and a pre-moustache Sam Elliott.) As for the main attraction, Nimoy’s just fine here—expressing everything from anguish to desperation to rage, he proves once more that he was a nimble performer capable of doing many things credibly.

Assault on the Wayne: FUNKY

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Deliver Us from Evil (1975)

          The last of three well-intentioned but hopelessly amateurish melodramas that writer/producer/director Horace Jackson made about the African-American experience, Deliver Us from Evil (later reissued as Joey) crams a hell of a lot of story into 96 minutes. Very broadly, the picture concerns the fateful intersection of a tormented man, a disabled child, a socially conscious grade-school recreation director, and a gang of drug-dealing thugs. There’s also a subplot about a young woman who appears in stage shows that dramatize troubles bedeviling her community, plus another subplot about a white cop struggling to understand systemic racism. Even a filmmaker of sublime storytelling ability would have difficulty balancing this many disparate elements. Jackson, despite his obvious desire to edify audiences, is not a filmmaker of sublime storytelling ability. Quite the opposite. Deliver Us from Evil sloppily connects badly constructed scenes, so not only is it difficult to track the narrative, it’s hard to take any single moment seriously because the writing, directing, and acting are substandard.

          After Chris (Renny Roker) is released from a mental institution, he encounters awful racists everywhere, so he’s understandably edgy. One day while driving, he spots a woman named Mindy (Marie O’Henry), who is stranded with car trouble, so he offers her a ride. Yet because Chris drives like a maniac, Mindy demands to leave his car. Upon doing so, she slaps Chris, so he chases her to a house where she visits wheelchair-bound Little Joe (Danny Martin), one of the students at the school where she works. Subsequently, Chris befriends Little Joe and starts dating a friend of Mindy’s. Meanwhile, a local street gang begins selling drugs at Mindy’s school, so she stands up to them, causing gang members beat Mindy and Little Joe. You get the idea. In trying to address a laundry list of social issues, Jackson creates an experience that’s confusing, grim, and preachy. (In one scene, Little Joe demonstrates his newfound ability to recite the Lord’s Prayer.)

          By the time Deliver Us from Evil climaxes with a nonsensical act of violence and a direct-to-camera speech about the futility of black-on-black violence, Jackson has fully succumbed to his worst inclinations, sacrificing narrative cohesion for ungainly rhetoric. It’s a pity, because while Jackson had many worthwhile things to say, he never found effective ways of saying them.

Deliver Us from Evil: FUNKY

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Madron (1970)

          Definitive production information on this one is hard to come by, but it appears Madron is an American/Israeli coproduction noteworthy as the first movie to use Israel as a stand-in for the Wild West. And if that doesn’t seem like a particularly significant historical distinction, it’s fitting because nothing about Madron is particularly distinctive. The movie eventually resolves into a palatable opposites-attract love story set against a frontier-vengeance backdrop, but very little of what happens onscreen feels authentic or new, and the filmmaking is perfunctory at best. Viewers who are already susceptible to Richard Boone’s offbeat charm or to Leslie Caron’s delicate beauty will naturally find Madron more enjoyable than viewers immune to the stars’ personas, but even some fans of these actors may find the picture slow going because most scenes feature these mismatched performers struggling to conjure the illusion of romantic attraction.
          As for the picture’s story, there isn’t much. Somewhere in the frontier, Sister Mary (Caron) survives a raid by Apaches and wanders aimlessly until crossing paths with drifter Madron (Boone), who has unfinished business with the very band of Apaches who attacked Sister Mary’s wagon train. Madron says he’ll escort Sister Mary to safety. Every so often, there’s a gunfight or some other violent scene, but mostly Madron and Sister Mary follow the trite routine of a refined female character endeavoring to sand the edges off a thuggish male character. Naturally, love blooms once Madron reveals his sensitive side. About halfway through its running time, Madron shifts from bland TV-style banter to rougher stuff, including a gruesome torture scene. Raising the intensity makes Madron more exciting, but the sleazier elements clash with the comparatively gentle early scenes. The performances are very much on brand, Boone opting for brutal and funny, Caron for mannered and spunky. They both hit the right notes, but they don’t always seem like they’re playing the same tune.

Madron: FUNKY

Saturday, December 5, 2020

The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971)

          Generated by the short-lived company Tigon British Film Productions, The Blood on Satan’s Claw is something of a companion piece to an earlier Tigon production, 1968’s Witchfinder General. One could also draw a line connecting both of these pictures to 1973’s The Wicker Man. All three movies juxtapose supernatural topics with realistic rural settings, thus providing early examples of the “folk horror” style presently in vogue thanks to such pictures as Midsommar (2019) and The Witch (2015). When these movies click, as is the case with The Blood on Satan’s Claw, ideas that might seem cartoonish in other contexts land with visceral impact because they’re grounded with believable characterizations and environments. Excepting some sketchy makeup FX, it’s hard to dismiss The Blood on Satan’s Claw as mere escapism, and that’s a hallmark of the whole “folk horror” genre.
          Set in 18th-century England, the picture begins with a simple farmer discovering a deformed corpse and summoning a snobbish judge (Patrick Wymark) to examine what the farmer describes as the remains of a “fiend.” Yet by the time the judge is brought to the spot where the corpse was found, the remains have disappeared. So begins a strange series of events bedeviling a small, superstitious village. Among other disturbing occurences, the judge watches his future daughter-in-law succumb to a sort of possession—she even manifests a claw-tipped atrocity in place of one of her hands. As instances of hallucinations, self-mutilation, and uncharacteristic behavior grow in number, the judge begins to accept the grim possibility that evil has taken control of his neighbors, prompting a call for help from outside authorities. Eventually, provocative teenager Angel Blake (Linda Hayden) becomes the nexus of the village’s problems when her transgressions escalate from the sinful (trying to seduce a priest) to the homicidal. By far the most unnerving aspect of film is a trope of Angel leading local children in “games” that involve brutalizing victims for amusement—or perhaps for the pleasure of a master from another realm.
          One could easily argue that director Piers Haggard and screenwriter Robert Wynne-Simmons misstepped during the climax, which shifts from creepily ambiguous to drably literal, and the makeup FX in this sequence are regrettable. Still, most of what unspools prior to the climax boasts admirable tension and texture. The Blood on Satan’s Claw is filled with great faces, literate dialogue, and vivid locations, all of which create a useful foundation for the whole cinematic experience. And while The Blood on Satan’s Claw is not on par with Witchfinder General—among other shortcomings, one longs for a compelling central character—Satan’s Claw provides a serious-minded alternative to the often silly qualities of mainstream British horror from the same period, notably films from Amicus and Hammer. After all, baked into the gore and suspense of The Blood on Satan’s Claw is a parable about the ease with which bad ideas take root in susceptible minds.

The Blood on Satan’s Claw: GROOVY

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Astrologer (1975)

If your taste in ’70s schlock renders you susceptible to low-budget oddities infused with paranormal nonsense, then two things are true: 1) You share one of my shameful weaknesses, and 2) No amount of discouragement will prevent you from seeking out and devouring James Glickenhaus’ debut feature, The Astrologer. (This film is not to be confused with another picture, directed by Craig Denney, which bears the same name and was released the same year.) However, if you desire cohesion and logic and pace in your cinematic offerings, then The Astrologer is not for you. Either way, you’ve been warned. The Astrologer tracks two storylines, though the connection between them is murky. In the main storyline, Alexei (Bob Byrd) works for a secret organization called Interzod, which tracks the “zodiacal potential” of people born across the globe. Gibberish dialogue sorta-kinda explains the utility of this endeavor. Alexei is married to pretty young blonde Kate (Monica Tidwell), though he refuses to be intimate with her. Why? Well, because Alexei believes Kate is the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary, of course! I mean, like, duh. Meanwhile, in the other storyline, Kajerste (Mark Buntzman) has been identified, based upon his “zodiacal potential,” as a figure of considerable menace. True to form, Kajerste—who has a tendency to stand shirtless by open flames while glowering darkly at the camera—occasionally compels people to kill themselves, hence this movie’s alternate title, Suicide Cult. Given all of these colorful elements (plus a moody score by future Terminator composer Brad Fiedel), Glickenhaus’ movie should be a pulpy rush. Alas, the combination of an anemic budget, dull staging, and flat acting makes most of the picture’s 89 minutes progress glacially. Once in a while, Glickenhaus locks into something lively (a weird montage here, a nude scene there), and it’s hard to dislike any movie that features the line, “Could you play me the transmission on the Crab Nebula?” Yet even given my affinity for this particular style of trash, I’m hard-pressed to describe The Astrologer as anything but a dud with a few fleeting moments of interest.

The Astrologer: LAME

Monday, October 26, 2020

Instagram Feed & 5 Million Views!

Hey there, groovy people! Checking in with a couple of fun updates. First, this blog has achieved yet another milestone that I could never have imagined when I started writing this thing a decade (!) ago: Every ’70s Movie has now received over 5 million page views. Thank you! Iespecially grateful to those of you have discovered (or rediscovered) the blog since regular daily posting ended. As always, enjoy the archived reviews, watch out for occasional new reviews as I gain access to previously unseen movies, and spread the word to like-minded cinemaniacs. Speaking of spreading the word, I'm also happy to report that Every ’70s Movie recently found its way to Instagram. The Instagram feed, which is updated every day, features links to nearly every review on this blog, in alphabetical order, accompanied by posters or stills. Please follow @every70smovie and share the feed with anyone who might enjoy the material. Anyway, thats it for now. Thanks for your continued readership, and keep on keepin on!

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Death Line (1972)

          Rarely will genre-picture viewers encounter a harder tonal shift than the transition occurring around the 23-minute mark of UK horror show Death Line, released in the U.S. as Raw Meat. The opening stretch of the movie proceeds like a standard-issue thriller. After a well-dressed gentleman is killed by an unseen assailant in a London subway station, a young couple discovers his body and learns from his ID that he’s an important official. The couple solicits help from a nearby cop, but upon returning to the scene of the crime, the victim has vanished—thus making the couple suspects in the disappearance of a VIP. Thereafter, quirky Inspector Calhoun (Donald Pleasence) probes the lives of the couple, American Alex Campbell (David Ladd) and Brit Patricia Wilson (Sharon Gurney). Then writer-director Gary Sherman abruptly cuts to secret catacombs adjoining the subway station, wherein a grotesque creature (Hugh Armstrong) tries feeding pieces of 

the gentleman’s body to another creature, who dies. Enter the world of “The Man,” last survivor of an inbred cannibal tribe evolved from survivors of a construction cave-in that occurred 80 years previous.

          From the moment Sherman introduces “The Man,” Death Line transforms into a depressing meditation on the nature of humanity. Lengthy and wordless scenes reveal aspects of The Man’s dismal existence. We see that he lovingly preserves the corpses of his dead companions, and that generations of mutations have rendered him animalistic, hence his taste for human flesh. Sherman approaches these scenes with a sort of tenderness, even though Death Line gets quite gory during moments of violence, as when The Man impales a victim. Meanwhile, Sherman tracks a melodrama aboveground, because Alex becomes cranky about getting roped into a police investigation, which has the effect of driving away Patricia, who finds Alex’s behavior to be callous. Scenes with Pleasence joking and sniffling as the persistent inspector lend much-needed humor, though the overall vibe is grim.

         It’s not hard to see why the picture has gained a small cult following over the years. While there are myriad misunderstood-monster movies, Death Line employs its subterranean metaphor to good effect while exploring the always-interesting idea that civilized man is never all that far removed from his origins as a savage animal. If one indulges Sherman’s outlandish premise, the suggestion that The Man is merely following his nature comes across with a smidge of emotional heft. And if certain elements of Death Line are bland (such as Ladd’s performance), there’s usually something interesting to compensate. Not only does Christopher Lee show up for an entertaining cameo, but Sherman’s camera captures a whole lot of ’70s kitsch, from Gurney’s shag haircut to loving glances at London’s seedy red-light district. Does it matter that Sherman can’t quite land his ending, which tries to be simultaneously horrific and poignant? Not really. Even with its flaws, Death Line is memorably bleak.

Death Line: FUNKY

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Limbo (1972)

          Early cinematic explorations of the Vietnam War largely focused on military action, draft dodgers, or the emotional lives of returning veterans. Limbo investigates the Vietnam era from a different angle by dramatizing the lives of three women whose husbands are MIA. Mary Kay (Kathleen Nolan) channels her anguish into antiwar activism. Sharon (Katherine Justice) hides behind a shield of unquestioning patriotism. And Sandy (Kate Jackson) finds herself caught between her obligations to an absent husband and the happiness offered by a new lover. In terms of narrative structure, Limbo is schematic to a fault, neatly assigning one set of emotions to each storyline, though there’s a bit of overlap since Mary Kay also takes a lover. Yet this heavy-handedness doesn’t completely obscure the sincerity of the endeavor—so even though Limbo feels like an earnest TV movie, it’s still a poignant take on a worthy subject.
          Notwithstanding a quick framing sequence, the picture begins on an Air Force base in Florida, when Sandy gets the news that her husband is MIA. After meeting Mary Kay and Sharon in a support group, Sandy moves in with the other women. Soap-style plotting ensues as Sandy gets courted by amiable gas-station attendant Alan (Russell Wiggins) and as Mary Kay succumbs to advances from a homely everyman named Phil (Stuart Margolin). The contrast between these storylines is the picture’s strongest element. Coloring the Sandy/Alan scenes is the fact that Sandy’s marriage was rocky before her husband departed for overseas service, so she doesn’t perceive her actions as a romantic betrayal. Conversely, because Mary Kay and Phil are older, their dalliance plays like a pragmatic means to an end—two adults dulling each other’s pain. All the while, Sharon becomes more and more judgmental of her friends, even as she resists acknowledging that the institutions to which she’s pledged herself—not just the Air Force but also the U.S. government—may not deserve her devotion. Running through the whole piece, of course, is profound ambiguity toward America’s involvement in Vietnam.
          Cowriter Joan Micklin Silver, later to become a significant director, based her original script on interviews with wives of MIA soldiers. She was rewritten by the experienced James Bridges, a storyteller whose humanism was often undercut by his perfunctory approach to plotting. The blend of their styles is not ideal; many scenes are so gentle and understated as to feel lifeless, while others awkwardly strive for impact by expressing sociopolitical angst through underwhelming speeches. Also working against the movie’s goals are bland staging by director Mark Robson, an impossibly square musical score, and several pedestrian performances. Nolan has a few believably impassioned moments, Justice connects when her character’s façade cracks, and Margolin’s squirrely energy brightens his scenes. Alas, leading lady Jackson captures the surfaces of her character’s plight but only hints at the depths—note the many shots of Jackson looking into the distance with wide eyes and a gaping mouth, as if she’s as lost in her performance as her character is lost in a sad life.

Limbo: FUNKY

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Explosion (1970)

          The building blocks of a passable draft-dodger melodrama can be found somewhere inside Explosion, an American/Canadian production released stateside in 1970, but flaws ranging from an inept script to a terrible leading performance doom the picture. In the Pacific Northwest during the Vietnam War, college-aged Alan (Gordon Thompson) broods over the recent death of his brother, who had designs on avoiding military service by sneaking into Canada. Even though Alan is protected from the draft by a student deferment, he’s as intent on fleeing to the Great White North as his late brother was. Why? Explosion never provides satisfying answers to such questions. For instance, why does Alan visit his brother’s grieving girlfriend, Doris (Michèle Chiocine), then beat her during an attempted rape? The best answer the movie can conjure is that Alan’s on, like, a heavy emotional trip, man. Eventually, Alan befriends a longhair named Richie (Don Stroud) and they travel to British Columbia, finding work at a lumber operation. Later, when the guys cross paths with a pair of cops while joyriding in a stolen car, Alan shoots the cops dead. Why doesn’t Richie run away? Add that one to the heap of unanswered questions.

          Following the cop sequence, the picture cross-cuts between scenes of the guys on the run and scenes of Alan’s shrink, Dr. Neal (Richard Conte), trying to find and rescue his patient. One imagines that cowriter/director Julies Bricken envisioned a parable about young people feeling disconnected from their country, but any hope of nuance died when Bricken characterized Alan as a one-note psychopath. Exacerbating the problem is a laughably stilted performance by Thompson, who later became a mainstay on soaps (notably Dynasty and Sunset Beach). Stroud, always a live-wire actor, does what he can playing a nonsensical role, but he’s not reason enough to watch the picture. Despite a few suspenseful moments, Explosion’s storyline is so erratic that one lighthearted interlude features a pillow fight. Seriously! On the opposite extreme, veteran composer Sol Kaplan’s score is painfully overwrought. And that’s Explosion—too much of everything the movie doesn’t need, too little of everything it does.

Explosion: LAME

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Outside In (1972)

          The draft-dodger drama Outside In starts off strong—first comes a tense border crossing during which Ollie Wilson (Darrell Larson) sneaks back into the U.S. from Canada, and then comes a funeral, during which Ollie barely evades capture by FBI agents while attending his father’s burial. Alas, the picture shifts into slow gear after the opening salvo, and the sedate quality of the storytelling undercuts the intensity of the subject matter. Still, Outside In is an earnest endeavor, and the fact that it was released three different times during the early ‘70s, each time with a different title, indicates that the picture’s backers recognized something exploitable (beyond costar Heather Menzies’ nude scenes, which are prominently teased on the original poster). For the curious, the picture’s other titles are the blunt Draft Dodger and the incrementally more imaginative Red, White and Busted.
          After his escape from FBI agents at the cemetary, Ollie visits old friend Bink (John Bill), who in turn connects Ollie with Chris (Menzies), the owner of a small beach house at which Ollie is given permission to crash while he’s in LA. Over the course of several leisurely days (or weeks—hard to tell), Ollie contemplates his next move. Weighing heavily on his mind are visits with another old friend, Bernard (Dennis Olivieri), who also dodged the draft but got caught and served time behind bars. Now angry, paranoid, and whacked out on pills, Bernard wastes his time working behind the counter at a porno store. Although Ollie finds his fugitive life depressing, Bernard’s example makes facing legal consequences seem horrific. Predictably, Ollie falls in love with Chris, who’s so mellow that she wanders around the house naked and reacts gracefully once she learns the truth about Ollie’s situation.
          Outside In ambles from one adequate scene to the next, losing what little momentum it has during flat romantic passages, and it feels as if some of the most potentially interesting scenes were never even contemplated by the filmmakers, much less attempted. Where’s the big confrontation between Ollie and his mother? And why did the filmmakers bother establishing friction between Ollie and his callous uncle, seeing as how that subplot never goes anywhere? Oh, well. The best material is the stuff with Bernard, because those scenes hit the main theme effectively—and because Oliveri’s performance is as fiery as Larsons is muted. FYI, many sources list character actor G.D. Spradlin as co-director of this picture, but his name appears nowhere on the credits. It’s possible that confusion arose because the same year this picture was released, Spradlin directed something called The Only Way Home, which shares a writer with Outside In.

Outside In: FUNKY

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Title List Updated

Greetings from the world of Every ’70s Movie with a brief housekeeping update. The lengthy title list that runs down the right side of this blog’s layout was recently updated, fixing a nettlesome issue that began a few years back when the listing functionality started behaving unpredictably. Hundreds of titles have been added to the list, so for those of you who enjoy checking the list to see what’s missing—or scanning the list for titles you’d like to investigate—the list should now include every movie that’s been reviewed on the blog. If you happen to encounter any broken links or discover a title thats been reviewed on the site but is somehow missing from the title list, please let me know and Ill try to address the issue ASAP. (Some general streamlining of the blog layout was also completed as part of the same updating process, though only the most obsessive of readers is likely to notice the changes.) Anyway, that’s it for the update, so now it’s back to our regularly scheduled programming—as has been the case since regular daily posting ended, watch for occasional new posts as previously unavailable titles cross my path and as time becomes available for me to write about them. Meantime, keep on keepin’ on!

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

American Tickler (1977)

In the years before and after Saturday Night Live’s debut, a number of low-budget movies either anticipated or mimicked the show’s format of comedy sketches satirizing mainstream media as well as society at large. Among the least of these endeavors is American Tickler, one of several raunchy comedies that Chuck Vincent directed while moonlighting from his day job as a pornographer. As always, the fact that Vincent demonstrates nominal skill makes watching American Tickler frustrating, because one senses that he could have occasionally rendered passable entertainment if he didn’t pander so shamelessly to the lowest common denominator. In any event, American Tickler combines a trivial recurring story with a whole bunch of throwaway gags. The recurring story involves several groups of people chasing after a treasure chest, and this element of the movie is exactly is forgettable as it sounds. Some of the sketches are truly vulgar, such as the one about New York being terrorized by a giant monster called “King Dong,” which is thankfully never shown. Equally dopey sketches include “The Happy Cooker,” about the erotic culinary adventures of one “Xaviera Collander,” and a PSA for “The National Pervert Foundation.” As did other comedy pieces of the same vintage, American Tickler also tries to make light of senseless murder, hence the bit in which a pre-SNL Joe Piscopo provides color commentary for a contest involving crazed snipers. Probably the best American Tickler has to offer is the game-show parody in which contestants wager the lives of their loved ones against mystery prizes, because at least that bit says something, however trite, about greed. There’s nothing special here, but as junk sketch comedy goes, the most watchable bits in American Tickler are roughly equivalent to the worst stuff SNL ever aired, so set your expectations appropriately.

American Tickler: LAME

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Other Side of the Wind (2018)

          Easily one of the most famous unfinished movies in world-cinema history, Orson Welles’ elusive The Other Side of the Wind—filming for which spanned 1970 to 1976—finally entered public view, more or less, when producer Frank Marshall supervised assembly and post-production of Welles’ decades-old footage, leading to a 2018 debut at the Venice International Film Festival. (Marshall was also part of the original Wind crew.) While not exactly a proper completion of the project, since Welles died in 1985 without finishing so much as a rough cut, the Marshall-supervised approximation of Wind is now available for examination by any cinematic explorer with a Netflix password.
          Though it seems rather crass to discuss this unique artifact in such mundane terms, the question of whether Wind is worth watching depends entirely on who is asking. Those eager to discover some lost addition to Welles’ mainstream canon should pass without a moment’s hesistation. Those willing to burrow into the madness of a guess at the final form of an experimental film made in an improvisational manner by an artist prone to abandoning projects for reasons that confounded his collaborators should have a better idea of what to expect.
          First, the plot, such as it is. John Huston plays J.J. Hannaford, an aging director in the tough-guy mode eager to make a hip new picture full of intense sexual content and youthful angst. One evening, Hannaford assembles his social circle, plus lots of groupies and sycophants, for a work-in-progress screening. Welles shoots the Hannaford scenes with myriad angles, as if everyone at the party has a camera, and he occasionally cuts to more polished footage comprising Hannaford’s picture, the plot of which falls somewhere between cryptic and nonexistent. Sloshing through this soup of intriguing, lofty, and/or pretentious concepts are performances by Peter Bogdanovich, whose character has a twisted apprentice/mentor relationship with Hannfaord (shades of Bogdanovich’s real-life bond with Welles); Susan Strasberg, as a Pauline Kael-esque critic; Norman Foster, as a has-been actor reduced to serving as Hannfaord’s errand boy; and Oja Kodar, Welles’ real-life mistress, as the actress who stars in Hannford’s movie.
          As should be apparent by now, this is a whole lot to process, especially since Welles largely eschews conventional plotting mechanisms, forcing viewers to piece the “plot” together. It’s relatively easy to follow the broad strokes, but tracking subplots and the interrelationships of supporting characters is quite challenging. The Other Side of the Wind is so overstuffed that it’s hard for the viewer to separate what the film is trying to be from what the film actually is—the piece demands but only occasionally rewards close scrutiny.
          Every so often, a random character will drop a great line, as when someone explains to Hannaford that several acolytes fled: “Five of our best biographers just went over to Preminger!” Just as intermittently, the film locks into a spellbinding stretch—best of all, perhaps, is a long erotic sequence from the film within a film, permeated with so many psychedelic visual effects that it’s both a full-on freakout and a study in meticulous technique. The relationship between the Huston and Bogdanovich characters is poignant and weird, rendered effectively by both actor/directors. (One almost wishes Welles nixed his overbearing visual gimmickry during the characters’ sad falling-out scene.)
          Situated dead center in this whole bizarre enterprise is Kodar, who never delivers a line of dialogue and frequently performs without the encumberance of garments. Not only is there something unseemly about Welles crafting arty nude shots of his decades-younger girlfriend, but Kodar is not an especially compelling presence. Her centrality thus provides an apt metaphor representing the way in which Welles misdirected his attentions. His innate talents are evident throughout The Other Side of the Wind, but artistic discipline is wholly absent. In one scene, studio boss Max (Geoffrey Land) views some of Hannaford’s footage, then asks Billy—the errand boy played by Foster—what happens next. Billy’s sheepish reply? “I’m not really sure, Max.” And so it goes throughout this only fleetingly exhilarating glimpse into Welles’ voluptuous creativity.
          FYI, Netflix commissioned a feature-length documentary, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, about the making of Welles’ movie. Although it leaves many key mysteries unsolved, the imaginatively assembled doc is essential viewing after experiencing The Other Side of the Wind.

The Other Side of the Wind: FUNKY

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Dark August (1976)

          Clumsily rendered and woefully deficient in terms of actual thrills, rural horror picture Dark August nonetheless has primitive magnetism. Even as the juxtaposition of amateurish and professional performances generates weird tension, the interplay between restrained dramaturgy and sketchy technical execution lends Dark August a handmade quality. Every so often, a scene vibrates with persuasive naturalism, as when an encounter in the center of a small town gets captured by a meandering camera during a long take. Yet just as frequently, something misses the mark so badly as to approach camp, as when a witch recites line after laughable line of an interminable incantation. Even when it’s dull and/or silly, however, Dark August retains a consistently ominous vibe, because in lieu of big shocks, the picture submerges viewers into the troubled emotional state of the leading character. For that reason alone, Dark August withstands scrutiny better than most low-budget regional frightfests—whatever its shortcomings, the movie has thoughtful aspirations.
          J.J. Barry, a doughy character actor who slogged out a minor Hollywood career from 1969 to 1990, stars as Sal Devito, a big-city transplant trying to make a new life as an artist in tiny Stowe, Vermont. He has a loving girlfriend and some friends, but Sal is haunted because soon after his arrival in Stowe, he accidentally struck and killed a little girl with his car. Beset by nightmares, seizures, and visions, Sal becomes convinced that the little girl’s grandfather is bedeviling him, so Sal seeks help from a local mystic, Adrianna (Kim Hunter). Her quasi-Wiccan endeavors to aid Sal inadvertently make the situation worse. There are long stretches of inactivity in Dark August, and Barry is not an arresting presence, so the picture requires more patience than it should. Yet the use of real locations, the avoidance of obvious shock tactics, and the focus on Sal’s unraveling combines to create something like sincerity. Barry cowrote the script with his wife, Carolyne Barry (who costars under the pseudonym Carole Shelyne), and with Martin Goldman (who directs), so one gets the impression of filmmakers with limited talent putting forth their best efforts to make something worthwhile. They don’t get there, but they deserve praise for trying. An anxious score by William S. Fischer helps make the picture palatable, as does the professionalism of veteran performer Hunter, who has the thankless chore of reciting that lengthy incantation.

Dark August: FUNKY

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Pyramid (1976)

          Regional productions comprise a fascinating subsection of ’70s cinema, because these may well be the most truly independent narrative features of the era. After all, making a movie untethered to traditional distribution channels gives filmmakers license to express themselves as freely as their budgets, schedules, and talents will allow. It is in this context that one can most generously consider The Pyramid, a peculiar exploration of hippie-era spirituality created by writer/director Gary Kent. (His other credits, scattered across American cinema from the 1950s to the present, include such highlights as portraying “Rapist #1” in Al Adamson’s 1972 schlockfest Angels’ Wild Women.)
          Competently if not dazzingly photographed, The Pyramid concerns a Dallas-based TV reporter who embarks on an existential odyssey. After witnessing one tragedy too many and getting fired for mouthing off to his boss (and wasting company resources on personal projects not suitable for broadcast), the reporter turns inward, exploring group therapy, the healing qualities of making it with a sexy vegetarian babe, and the magical powers of objects shaped like pyramids. Kent’s meandering movie also manages to address Kirlian photography, telepathic messages transmitted from space, and a Hollywood starlet who wants you to understand that she just filmed a nude scene, thank you very much, not a sex scene.
          Clearly, Kent had a lot on his mind—some of it quite interesting, some of it less so—but just as clearly, he lacked the discipline required to distill his thoughts into a propulsive story. As a result, protagonist Chris Lowe (C.W. Brown) wanders aimlessly from one episode to the next, raging at the machine whenever he encounters proof that the system is rigged against freethinkers or underdogs or whomever else he decides to champion. Meanwhile, Chris’ buddy LaMoine Peabody (Ira Hawkins), an ambitious on-air personality, rises through the ranks at a local TV station even though, in his private life, he abuses his girlfriend and harbors self-destructive impulses. What do all of these things have to do with each other? If Kent had a good answer to that question, he didn’t embed it into The Pyramid.
          Every so often, Kent hits a nice groove, whether it’s with a gentle scene of characters getting in touch with their feelings or a satirical scene about the film industry. (In one lively bit, Chris tries to sell an earnest documentary to an exhibitor who only wants pictures with “broads and music.”) Yet the lack of any discernible narrative plan makes it hard to hook into Chris’ story or, for that matter, any other aspect of The Pyramid excepting a few vivid sequences. Still, The Pyramid seems sincere, even when it traffics in such clichés as the bearded mystic who intones profundities (e.g., “You must die before you live”). So, while The Pyramid is nowhere near the transcendent experience that Kent presumably envisioned, it has some truthful moments, and it presents a few ideas worth pondering.

The Pyramid: FUNKY