Monthly Archives: October 1987

Three O’clock High

One hint that this is slightly more subversive than the average bland teenpic: Steven Spielberg, the executive producer, asked to have his name removed from the credits. First-time director Phil Joanou is such a show-off with his fancy camera angles and other gratuitous forms of visual workout that at first you suspect he’s trying to distract us from the formula scenario (by TV writing team Richard Christian Matheson and Thomas Szollosi)a countdown routine about the 90-pound weakling (Casey Siemaszko) who has to fight the Charles Atlas bully (Richard Tyson) as soon as school lets out. But after it gradually becomes clear that the true villains of the piece are more the school authorities than the bully, the movie becomes a bit more interesting: the hero’s eventual rise to macho potency begins to resemble an anarchist’s progress rather than a Clark Kent turnaround. The film’s incessant cutting away to clocks gets needlessly corny, and while Joanou gets pretty broad in jazzing up the mythological aspects of the material (from David and Goliath to the Vigo-esque caricatures of the grown-ups), he does manage to pull off a few nifty sight gags. (JR)… Read more »

Then Nothing Was The Same Anymore

A debut feature by director Gerd Roman Frosch and screenwriter Edeltraud Rabitzer, set in Berlin, depicts the coming of age of a teenage bank employee (newcomer Zacharias Preen) who obsessively identifies himself with a murderer on trial. Shot by Jurgen Jurges (A Woman in Flames, Effi Briest).… Read more »

Prince Of Darkness

Genre specialist John Carpenter returns to the principle of confined space that he used as a disciplinary structure in Assault on Precinct 13 and The Thing in this horror thriller set in an abandoned church. The main difference here is the heavy metaphysical baggage: a team of graduate science students and teachers (including Lisa Blount, Victor Wong, and Jameson Parker) is summoned by a Catholic priest (Donald Pleasence) to study an ancient religious manuscript that proves to contain differential equations (written long before such equations were developed), and a canister containing a green liquid that proves to be seven million years old. Mathematics combines with demonology to produce a variant on Night of the Living Dead, and while the church is playfully called Saint Godard’s, the pivotal use and significance of mirrors spawned by the canister liquid might make Saint Cocteau’s more appropriate. While the dense significations of the script (credited to one Martin Quatermass) may get a bit thick in spots, Carpenter’s handsome ‘Scope images generally make the most of them. Some haunting poetic notions such as video images from the future that appear as recurring dreams to the church’s inhabitantsalso figure effectively in the plot (1987). (JR)… Read more »

Positive I.d.

A middle-class housewife (Stephanie Roscoe) recovering from a brutal rape decides to forge a series of separate identities for herself, borrowing the names and birth dates of various strangers. Produced, written, and directed by Andy Anderson, this low-budget independent production, shot and set around Fort Worth, displays a certain awkwardness in exposition and takes its time in spelling out the specifics of its mystery plot. But there’s something refreshing about the sheer unadorned, un-Hollywood look of the film, and in a style that is somewhat eclectic and at times lightly satirical, Anderson acquits himself respectably, as does the cast of unknowns, also including John Davies and Steve Fromholz. (JR)… Read more »

Maurice

Hot on the heels of A Room With a View, director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant adapted another E.M. Forster novel, posthumously published in 1914 (the quasi-autobiographical subject, a male homosexual in prewar upper-class England, prevented Forster from publishing it while he was alive). At Cambridge, Maurice Hall (James Wilby) develops a discreet, romantic, semiplatonic relationship with the aristocratic Clive Durham (Hugh Grant), a relationship that continues after Maurice is expelled and goes to live at the Durham estate. But after a former classmate is imprisoned for making homosexual advances (an addition to Forster), Clive takes a trip alone to Greece, renounces his relationship with Maurice, and winds up in a conventional marriage. Lonely and frustrated, Maurice seeks help in hypnosis, then begins an affair with Clive’s lusty gamekeeper, Alec Scudder (Rupert Graves). A kind of low-key, homoerotic Splendor in the Grass, this 1987 film weighs in at 140 minutes, and despite many fine actors in smaller partse.g., Billie Whitelaw, Ben Kingsley, and Denholm Elliottthe dissection of Edwardian repression never gets beyond the dutiful, tasteful obviousness of a BBC miniseries. With a script by Ivory and Kit Hesketh-Harvey, and postcard photography by Pierre Lhomme. (JR)… Read more »

Kismet, Kismet

This rather lackluster first feature by Ismet Elci, a disciple of West German independent filmmaker Lothar Lambert, has many of the same low-budget attributes as films by Lambertshort takes, semisynchronous soundbut little of the charm or energy. The plot concerns two young Turks in Berlin, a carpet seller who is trying to produce a film and a hustler who gets involved with drugs and robbery. Many Lambert regulars make appearances, including Lambert himself. (JR)… Read more »

Fatal Beauty

Whoopi’s back, and the LAPD’s got her. One has to wait about 90 minutes before the cartoonish slam-bang action, bloodbath gore, and Whoopi Goldberg’s wisecracks about the size and threatened fate of diverse penises subside long enough for her to act: one nice little scene to show her character’s vulnerability and preach the evils of hard drugs before the movie reverts to the same nonsensical overkill of violence and tough talk. The characters are uniformly cardboardincluding bits by Jennifer Warren and Brad Dourif, and a larger part with Sam Elliott as a crook’s bodyguard who turns into a pussycat in order to win the heart of Goldberg’s Dirty Harry cop. The notion of a black female detective who’s harder than anyone else in the Western Hemisphere seems to hark back to the fantasies of certain black exploitation films of the 70s, but the movie has too little imagination to do much with this conceit other than repeat it endlessly. Tom Holland directed from a script and story credited to three individuals, anyone could have knocked this one out during coffee break. The title, incidentally, refers not to Goldberg but to a brand of lethally cut cocaine, the ostensible pretext for all this mayhem.… Read more »

Baby Boom

It isn’t easy to accept Diane Keaton as a brittle, high-powered executive, and it’s even harder to believe she’d throw away her boyfriend and career for the sake of a 13-month-old baby girl she inherits from a long-lost cousin. This, however, is the kind of Hollywood comedy that wants to have everything both ways, to give us a character who decides not to play the game and who wins all the chips just the same. Producer Nancy Meyers and director Charles Shyer collaborated on the fanciful and unconvincing script; Keaton does her best, which is unfortunately not enough, with the fatal miscasting. With Harold Ramis, Sam Wanamaker, and Sam Shepard, the latter as an amiable New England veterinarian who more or less plays Annie Hall to Keaton’s Alvy Singer. (JR)… Read more »