Flick Clique: May 27 – June 2
Warning! This week’s selection of movies are shockingly bad. I haven’t had much time for anything else, blogging-wise, so I’m afraid that this space is starting to turn into another “bad movie” weblog. Ah well.
The Cat from Outer Space (1977). I thought I was finished with all of the live-action Disney flicks any human being needs to see, but this one popped up on the Netflix queue probably out of pure nostalgia. During its original release, I actually went to see this at Scottsdale’s Camelview, which remains one of my fave movie houses for the groovy giant-sized mushroom shades that it has out front. Were that the film was as memorable as the place I originally saw it in. Cat sports what was by then a well-worn plot about an alien being that lands in California. The alien, who calls himself Jake, looks exactly like a house cat with a glowing collar that allows it to telepathically speak to whomever it wants. It eventually befriends a goofy scientist played by Ken Berry, who helps Jake get the gold necessary for him to pilot his UFO back to his home planet. It’s silly, but the cat is cute and there’s a lot of fun to be had by the human cast (which also includes Sandy Duncan and M*A*S*H co-stars MacLean Stevenson and Harry Morgan). I will likely forget all about this flick next week, which is how ’70s Disney movies generally work, but except for the ultra-ridiculous climax this was an okay film.
Flatliners (1990). A group of young, pretty medical students find a way to visit the “other side,” but greed and terrible side effects curtail their revolutionary idea – I wonder if TV psychic John Edward saw this as a young man, planting the kernel for a brilliant if cheesy career? This was a decent, overacted horror-thriller whose best asset is the atmospheric if fakey production design and outlandish lighting – a showy visual style typical of the films from director Joel Schumacher (Batman & Robin; the underrated Veronica Guerin). Schumacher strikes me as the kind of guy who would automatically OK having a hospital set dressed with red neon around the door frames, and think nothing of it. “Screw the actors, let’s take another look at that fabulous wood molding in Nelson’s apartment” may have actually been spoken during the making of this one. The cast, headed by Kiefer Sutherland (as Nelson) and a young, willowy Julia Roberts, do their best with the silly dialogue. There’s more than a few creepy, effective scenes, but for the most part it comes across like a glossy TV commercial with paranormal undertones. This was another flick that I caught in its original release, at the less architecturally interesting Centerpoint theater in Tempe. Sutherland’s look here actually shares a vague similarity to what I had circa 1990, especially in the odd moments when he’s wearing glasses – believe it or not, I too could rock the tousled-hair-and-tortoiseshell-frames look (that was a long, long time ago).
The Honey Pot (1967). Another terrible, terrible film – joy! I recorded this off our local This TV outlet merely because Susan Hayward was in it and I was curious to see how she did in this (awfully, it turns out). This “comedy” sports a premise that would be hard to pull off even by an attractive, assured cast, the fact that it stars the unlikeable Rex Harrison makes it all the more hard to stomach. Rexy plays a smug rich guy who decides to play a trick on three of his former lovers by pretending to be dying and summoning them to his estate. Hayward’s Southern belle, Capucine’s French princess and Edie Adams’ Las Vegas showgirl all believe they’re in for an inheritance, but then a guest turns up dead and things get more sinister. Could Cliff Robertson as the actor Harrison hires to pose as his assistant be behind it? I really couldn’t bring myself to care. Hard to believe this was scripted by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, since it has none of the subtlety or brilliance of his All About Eve. Since I recently read about Harrison’s douche-baggy behavior on the set of Doctor Doolittle (released the same year), I feel unfairly biased, but his performance is every bit as lazy as the script. The only positive aspect here would be Maggie Smith as Hayward’s nurse, but overall this film just stinks to high heaven.
If A Man Answers (1962). Another ’60s stinkeroo was this fakey, overly affected romantic comedy that involved much the same crew and producer (Ross Hunter) as the beloved Rock Hudson-Doris Day vehicles. This one has perky Sandra Dee as a part French, part American socialite who impulsively marries a slovenly photographer played by Dee’s then-hubby Bobby Darin. Fearing that her husband might stray into the arms of friend Stefanie Powers, she seeks advice from her mom (Micheline Presle). Mom hands her a doggie-training manual and tells her to follow it to the letter – after all, it worked with her husband, Sandra’s daddy (played by John Lund). A cringingly dated premise, and the lead actors lack the chops to pull it off. Dee had a certain sugary appeal in supporting roles; here she’s just flighty, muggy and unbelievable. Darin fares better, but one of the IMDb reviewers accurately summed him up as “what you would get if you took Dean Martin, sucked out most of his charm, talent and attractiveness and then shrunk him by about a foot.” Probably the best reason to watch this today lies in the purely visual: luxe color photography, pretty/odd set design (houseplants on the stairs?), and Dee’s darling Jean Louis-designed wardrobe. She really did look like a life-sized Campus Cutie!
Robotropolis (2011). A Netflix streaming watch, this cheaply produced sci-fi thriller concerns a utopian city served and policed entirely by robots. A TV reporter (cardboard Zoe Naylor) and her crew are granted exclusive access to the community and are able to file live reports interviewing the residents, who seem to be adjusting well with the setup. In one live report, however, the camera catches a robot killing a soccer player. This one incident leads to a robot revolt, with the city’s terrified inhabitants (including our plucky reporter) fleeing for their lives as the bots go on a murderous rampage. Not quite Birdemic terrible, but shoddily made and for the supposedly terrible things that go on, it’s bizarre how much the film lacks any edge or emotional involvement. The CGI effects on the robots are decently done, but the lighting is too flat and they lack gravity. The acting by the no-name cast turns out being almost as emotional as the robots, although there are some fascinatingly bad moments of over-the-top scenery chewing. The lamest part of the film is that first scene with the soccer player’s death, which is done in a way you’d expect from a grade-z student film cast with the director’s friends. The big revelation about the cause of the robots’ malfunctioning was no shining moment in indie filmmaking, either. I did like the architecture in the city (filmed in a gleaming Singapore multi-use complex) with its cool monorail, however.