Wednesday, January 19, 2022

L.A. 2017 (1971)

          While the 1971 telefilm Duel was the first standalone feature-length project that Steven Spielberg made as a professional, he directed two other pieces with commensurate running times the same year, namely the first weekly episode of the long-running detective series Columbo and this installment of a series called The Name of the Game. Given how central science fiction subsequently became in Spielberg’s work, L.A. 2017 is of particular interest. Additionally, L.A. 2017 plays like standalone piece because its only narrative connection to The Name of the Game is protagonist Glenn Howard (Gene Barry), who time-travels away from the series’ modern-day milieu for the duration of this adventure.

          While driving through smoggy canyons in Los Angeles, socially conscious magazine publisher Glenn succumbs to noxious fumes and crashes his car. Emergency personnel wearing gas masks and protective suits extract Glenn from his vehicle and drive him to a sprawling underground campus. Through interactions with psychiatrist/policeman Cameron (Severn Darden) and high-powered politician Bigelow (Barry Sullivan), Glenn learns that he’s in the Los Angeles of the future, and that civilization has been driven underground by environmental degradation. Per the talky script by Philip Wylie, what ensues has more exposition than excitement. In this grim future, America functions as a corporation with totalitarian control over citizens. People exchange math equations instead of jokes, much of the population is sterile, and everyone is under constant surveillance. Given Glenn’s unique status as a man out of time, Bigelow asks him to become a propogandist for the government, but he rebels—with the assistance of Sandrelle (Sharon Farrell), an attractive woman assigned to be Glenn’s consort.

          Watching L.A. 2017, it’s possible to discern why the piece, in tandem with Spielberg’s other 1971 work, helped raise his profile—the director does a lot with a little. Frenetic movement and tight angles make scenes in underground tunnels feel appropriately claustrophobic, and Spielberg guides actors portraying villains to underplay, which adds to the general air of menace. Moreover, the piece’s biggest shortcomings (flat scripting, meager budget) originated above the young director’s pay grade. While nowhere near as revelatory as Duel, this piece demonstrates that even in his earliest efforts, Spielberg had a formidable skillset. No wonder he graduated to theatrical features after a relatively short run as a Universal Television worker bee.

L.A. 2017: FUNKY

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Linda Lovelace for President (1975)

Any hopes that Linda Lovelace for President might realize the satirical possibilities of its title disappear the instant the movie starts, because everything about this low-budget embarrassment is crude and inane. The first shot features Lovelace, the notorious actress from Deep Throat (1972), wearing just a helmet and a pistol belt in front of an American flag, evoking Patton (1970)—but instead of a pithy speech, the movie offers superimposed text: “This picture is intended to offend everybody.” If only. At a festival presented by offbeat special-interest groups (KKK, AAA, AA, “Suicide for Fun Committee,” etc.), leaders jokingly select Lovelace as their predidential candidate. Once Lovelace (who plays herself) gets told about the idea, she requests permission from her Uncle Sam (Robert Symonds), a patriotically dressed sleazebag obsessed with his niece’s breasts. After receiving Sam’s endorsement, Lovelace participates in a barnstorming tour that comprises most of the slapdash movie’s running time. Predictably, she pauses at regular intervals for sex. In one of many cringe-inducing sequences, Lovelace and her people visit a hillbilly compound. When Lovelace wanders into the nearby woods to bathe in a waterfall, she’s spotted by redneck tree dweller “Tarbo” and his pet chimp. Then, while Lovelace screws Tarbo, the chimp makes lascivious remarks by way of dubbed lines from a comedian. In the same sequence, Lovelace’s flamboyantly gay advisor Bruce (Danny Goldman) makes out with two yokels in an outhouse until the outhouse gets tipped over, causing three gay characters to get swathed in excrement. Ugh. (By my count, the movie has exactly one good joke—after Bruce raises campaign money by turning tricks at a frat house, he says, “I turned a rich fraternity into a poor sorority.”) Eventually, people threatened by Lovelace’s popularity recruit “The Assassinator,” a hit man played by comedian Chuck McCann, whose idiotic mugging is excruciating to watch. This movies script is a hyperactive barrage of unfunny gags, the direction is mindless, Lovelace can’t act, and the comedy professionals surrounding her demean themselves by participating. (Also appearing are Micky Dolenz, of the Monkees, and Scatman Crothers.) FYI, this movie was released in X- and R-rated versions, but both are softcore.

Linda Lovelace for President: LAME

Monday, January 3, 2022

Another Blog? Yes, Another Blog!

Taking advantage of the unexpected downtime we’ve all had in the last couple of years, I recently completed a musical adventure by revisiting the catalog of my favorite band, the Eagles. As the blog you’re reading right now demonstrates, my investigation of random subjects that that I find engaging often enters the realm of OCD excess, so listening to the Eagles prompted me to write about them—hence my new blog, Every Eagles Songwhich I’m publishing this year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the band’s first album. (Visit the blog here.) If you’re also a fan, head over to the new blog to read my musical musings, then feel free to share your reactions via the comments. (If you dig what you find over there, spread the word!) The new blog won’t have anywhere near the scope of this one; all the currently planned posts will publish within two months. Nonetheless, this project should be a fun ride for like-minded souls. And with that, it’s back to our regularly scheduled Every ’70s Movie programming. As always, keep on keepin’ on!