Say “Cheese” 013 – Wacky Taxi (1972)

This past Christmas my son got me a Mill Creek box set called Awesomely Cheesy Movies. 100 movies on 24 disks, it’s actually a combination of two of their earlier released sets, “The Swinging Seventies”, and “The Excellent Eighties”.

For those of you who may not be familiar with these Mill Creek sets, they are generally comprised of  public domain or made-for-television movies that are reproduced without embellishment, enhancement, or extras and are sold in large collections for very low prices. This means that the quality on them can be quite variable, and they often show signs of age and wear. Nonetheless, there are often hidden gems amongst what can be large swaths of dross.

Anyway, I’ve decided to wend my way through this collection, starting with the first movie on the first disk of the 70s collection, then the first movie in the 80s set, then back to the 70s, and so on, and see just what turns up. If nothing else, it should be interesting. Come along, won’t you?

It seems like I keep starting these reviews with “Wooo…” or something like that. And that’s not an excited Ric Flair type “WHOOO!!”, but more of an “Oh, boy, that was really not something” kind of “woo…”. Or maybe it’s “Whew, at least that’s over with.”

I mean, okay, I put in a movie calledWacky Taxi, starring John Astin, most famously known as Gomez from the original Addams family, and all I know going in is that it’s about a guy who quits his dreary factory job in order to pursue his dream of starting his own taxi company.

So you start with a premise like that, and pretty much expect the rest of the review to be “hijinks ensue”. Except – well, apparently somebody forgot to include the hijinks.

Actually the first warning sign came before the movie even started when the blue “This movie is rated ‘G'” banner came up. Now I’ve been around long enough to know that a “G” rated movie from the 10s was allowed a lot more leeway than one today, when the score is basically reserved for animated kiddie-fare pablum. Even now, most family family films that are worth their weight in celluloid (hmmm… considering the rarity of actual celluloid in movie-making nowadays it may be worth more than it used to, but hey, go with me here) are at least PG rated. And for a movie like this – or at least the one I was expecting and hoping to get, at least a few boundaries need to be pushed or something at least needs to happen, and this “comedy” is pretty much the definition of “inert”.

The biggest problem is that the film spends way too much time bogged down in showingg us just how put-upon Astin’s character (who, for some reason we are never made aware of goes by the moniker “Pepper” – it certainly can’t be because he’s hot or fiery) is and how hard his struggles are to get his business going. Now, John Astin is certainly charming, to the point where when I was young I thought Gomez Adams was the definition of suave. After all, just look at his relationship with Morticia. Unfortunately, in this role as a put-upon Latino (seriously), Astin is disheveled and downtrodden to the point where even he can’t redeem the film.

And, of course, in keeping with the “family fun” nature of the movie, there is a pretty much out-of-nowhere happy ending that attempts to redeem all the hardship Pepper has endured, but actually just keeps him from learning any kind of lesson or facing up to what he has put his family through.

I’d love to give you a trailer just to give you a taste of just how not-wacky this movie is, but though the entire movie is available on YouTube, a simple trailer is not.

 

Up Next: The Swinging 70s  Disk 2 Movie 3: Wacky Taxi– Gomez Addams

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Say “Cheese” 012 – The Train Killer (1984)

This past Christmas my son got me a Mill Creek box set called Awesomely Cheesy Movies. 100 movies on 24 disks, it’s actually a combination of two of their earlier released sets, “The Swinging Seventies”, and “The Excellent Eighties”.

For those of you who may not be familiar with these Mill Creek sets, they are generally comprised of  public domain or made-for-television movies that are reproduced without embellishment, enhancement, or extras and are sold in large collections for very low prices. This means that the quality on them can be quite variable, and they often show signs of age and wear. Nonetheless, there are often hidden gems amongst what can be large swaths of dross.

Anyway, I’ve decided to wend my way through this collection, starting with the first movie on the first disk of the 70s collection, then the first movie in the 80s set, then back to the 70s, and so on, and see just what turns up. If nothing else, it should be interesting. Come along, won’t you?

You could be forgiven if, from the title of this film you thought it was about a mysterious killer loose on a train. That’s nt the case, however. Instead, The Train Killer is the story of a Hungarian saboteur blowing up train lines and trying to sabotage the railway in the early 1930s. He was literally trying to be a train killer!

Based on the true story of Szilveszter Matuska, The Train Killer plays out less as a mystery/thriller (though there is that aspect of it) than as a psychological portrait of a man who feels compelled to carry out what he considers to be a mission from God, and yet is still willing to let himself be used by political force who want to take advantage of his disaster-creating proclivities.

Michael Sarazin portrays Matsuuka as a driven man, sure of his purpose even as other try to (pardon me) derail him, and as the police and military forces close in around him. He also does a good job of showing the madness of the saboteur which seems to grow with each passing day.

As always with this kind of “based on a true story”movie, there is quite a lot of divergence from the actual facts of the case, but when taken as a simple low-key thriller as opposed to any kind of narrative documentary, it is generally effective, and far from the worst film we’ve encountered so far in this box.

Here’s your trailer:

 

Up Next: The Swinging 70s  Disk 2 Movie 3: Wacky Taxi– Gomez Addams

Say “Cheese” 011 – Against A Crooked Sky (1975)

This past Christmas my son got me a Mill Creek box set called Awesomely Cheesy Movies. 100 movies on 24 disks, it’s actually a combination of two of their earlier released sets, “The Swinging Seventies”, and “The Excellent Eighties”.

For those of you who may not be familiar with these Mill Creek sets, they are generally comprised of  public domain or made-for-television movies that are reproduced without embellishment, enhancement, or extras and are sold in large collections for very low prices. This means that the quality on them can be quite variable, and they often show signs of age and wear. Nonetheless, there are often hidden gems amongst what can be large swaths of dross.

Anyway, I’ve decided to wend my way through this collection, starting with the first movie on the first disk of the 70s collection, then the first movie in the 80s set, then back to the 70s, and so on, and see just what turns up. If nothing else, it should be interesting. Come along, won’t you?

And so, with 1975’s Against A Crooked Sky, we’re back to the westerns that seem to be a favorite genre in this particular set.

We also return, for better or worse, to what seems to be a familiar theme within the genre, that of the white girl kidnapped by native Americans to become one of their own and the quest to recover her.

Of course the most famous example of this trope iss the John Wayne classic The Searchers, which, while an interesting movie and as always with Wayne’s movies, entertaining simply for because of his presence and persona, is also almost unspeakably wrong-headed with Wayne’s conviction that even death is preferable for his niece than life among the Comanches.

This time, instead of Wayne, we get as our “hero” we get Richard Boone as a drunken prospector who is caught up in he search for the missing girl.We also get a touch of True Grit as the girl’s brother is the instigator of the action as he draws Boone into the search for his sister after everyone else has given up.

Against A Crooked Sky was rated “G” upon its release, another reminder that once uopn a time the rating was not simply reserved for dumbed down kiddie fare, but actually indicated a film was appropriate for the entire family. Of course, this was also a time when movies were made for the whole family looking for a good night out. It also shows that a film can have action and adventure and still be considered appropriate for the entire family. Or at least that used to be true.

Once again, I’ve got no trailer for this one, but here’s a short clip from the opening:

Up Next: The Excellent 80s  Disk 2 Movie 1: The Agency– I always knew advertising was a tool of the devil.

Say “Cheese” 010 – Agency (1980)

This past Christmas my son got me a Mill Creek box set called Awesomely Cheesy Movies. 100 movies on 24 disks, it’s actually a combination of two of their earlier released sets, “The Swinging Seventies”, and “The Excellent Eighties”.

For those of you who may not be familiar with these Mill Creek sets, they are generally comprised of  public domain or made-for-television movies that are reproduced without embellishment, enhancement, or extras and are sold in large collections for very low prices. This means that the quality on them can be quite variable, and they often show signs of age and wear. Nonetheless, there are often hidden gems amongst what can be large swaths of dross.

Anyway, I’ve decided to wend my way through this collection, starting with the first movie on the first disk of the 70s collection, then the first movie in the 80s set, then back to the 70s, and so on, and see just what turns up. If nothing else, it should be interesting. Come along, won’t you?

Let’s just go ahead and admit what we’ve all known for a long time: Advertising is evil.

There’s never been any real doubt about that, and I suppose it’s never been more obvious than today. In a world where we’re talking about fake news which is really just advertising and propaganda masquerading as news, in a world where one of the biggest supposed scandals right now is social media advertising being used as manipulation by the Russians, in a world where almost everything we see is in some way designed to make us buy something or think something or engage with something, in a world where advertising permeates every facet of life, it’s hard to deny that much of it can be described as evil.

What may not be so obvious is that advertising agencies are actually run by the devil. Or at least they may be. And the devil is even more insidious when he can appear to be Robert Mitchum.

Fortunately, The Six Million Dollar Man is here to save us.

I wrote above about how obvious the manipulation efforts of advertising can be. Back in the 80s, however, that manipulation was a bit less obvious. Why? Because that was the time of subliminal advertising.

For those who may not be aware of the concept, the idea of subliminal adertising was that there would be images hidden in advertising that the conscious mind wouldn’t notice, but the subconscious would. One fabled example, which is actually referenced in the 1980 movie Agency (which is the film we’re talking about today) is the image of a naked woman hidden in the ice cubes of a picture of an alcoholic drink in order to make the viewer see the liquor as more sexy.

Another favorite practice would be inserting one or two frames into a film or TV show with a message that again, the conscious mind might not pick up on, but would subtly influence the viewer’s subconscious.

Okay, so with that concept in the public mind at the time, I’m sure that it wasn’t much of a stretch for someone at one of the movie studios to say “Let’s take that idea of subliminal advertising and see what we can do with it to make a thriller.” And so, the movie Agency was born.

I mentioned above the supposed Russian meddling in the recent U.S. presidential election. Perhaps this film could be seen as somehow prescient, since it involves an advertising agency run by Robert Mitchum attempting to influence the outcome of a presidential election through the use of subliminal advertising.

On the side of the good guys, though, is advertising executive Lee Majors, who finds himself being pushed out of a major campaign and begins to suspect that something is up. It’s not long before he finds himself confronting Mitchum and finding that there may be even more behind the conspiracy than he first thought.

I couldn’t really find a good trailer for the movie, but here’s a series of clips to give you a feel for what’s going on.

Up Next: The Swinging 70s  Disk 2 Movie 2: Against A Crooked Sky – Let’s hope Richard Boone is more forgiving than John Wayne.

Say “Cheese” 009 – Crypt Of The Living Dead (1973)

This past Christmas my son got me a Mill Creek box set called Awesomely Cheesy Movies. 100 movies on 24 disks, it’s actually a combination of two of their earlier released sets, “The Swinging Seventies”, and “The Excellent Eighties”.

For those of you who may not be familiar with these Mill Creek sets, they are generally comprised of  public domain or made-for-television movies that are reproduced without embellishment, enhancement, or extras and are sold in large collections for very low prices. This means that the quality on them can be quite variable, and they often show signs of age and wear. Nonetheless, there are often hidden gems amongst what can be large swaths of dross.

Anyway, I’ve decided to wend my way through this collection, starting with the first movie on the first disk of the 70s collection, then the first movie in the 80s set, then back to the 70s, and so on, and see just what turns up. If nothing else, it should be interesting. Come along, won’t you?

Okay, let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way – no, this is not some long forgotten entry in George Romero’s “Living Dead” zombie film series. Instead, as a matter of fact, the “living dead” in this movie are vampires, not zombies.

Originally titled La tumba de la isla maldita, and alternatively known as Hannah, Queen of the Vampires, Crypt of the Living Dead was a 1973 Spanish-American co-production

The story is relatively simple. A professor is killed while unearthing a tomb on a small island. When his son comes to investigate, he finds the locals under the thrall of a hundreds of years old female vampire.

The movie is pretty standard as far as this era of Euro-horror goes. Pretty atmospheric, with decent effects, and a few surprising twists.

One interesting thing about this particular presentation of this movie is that though it was originally released in color, the version here is in black and white. I’m not sure why that is, but in some ways it does add a bit to the feeling of dread that pervades the film.

No trailer this time, but here’s a short clip taken from the color version of the movie.

Up Next: The Excellent 80s  Disk 2 Movie 1: The Agency– I always knew advertising was a tool of the devil.

Say “Cheese” 008 – A Minor Miracle (1983)

This past Christmas my son got me a Mill Creek box set called Awesomely Cheesy Movies. 100 movies on 24 disks, it’s actually a combination of two of their earlier released sets, “The Swinging Seventies”, and “The Excellent Eighties”.

For those of you who may not be familiar with these Mill Creek sets, they are generally comprised of  public domain or made-for-television movies that are reproduced without embellishment, enhancement, or extras and are sold in large collections for very low prices. This means that the quality on them can be quite variable, and they often show signs of age and wear. Nonetheless, there are often hidden gems amongst what can be large swaths of dross.

Anyway, I’ve decided to wend my way through this collection, starting with the first movie on the first disk of the 70s collection, then the first movie in the 80s set, then back to the 70s, and so on, and see just what turns up. If nothing else, it should be interesting. Come along, won’t you?

On, man, we’re back into the realm of seventh-generation VHS transfers with this almost unwatchable Mill Creek entry.

There was a time when Pele was one of the hottest sports stars in the world, and that popularity has to be the only reason for the existence of A Minor Miracle.

Young Catholic priest Father Reilly wants to go to New England to teach at a parochial school. He is assigned, however, to help at a San Diego orphanage where an older priest has been running things for years.

Father Cardenas (played by elder film statesman John Huston) has been at the orpanage for so long that it has become as much his home as it is one for the boys in his charge, and though he knows he is likely soon to die and suspects that the younger man has been sent there solely to help out until he is gone at which point the church will foster out the boys and sell the property, he is determined to do all that he can to keep the facility going and to provide for the boys.

There are also unscrupulous real estate developers who have their eye on the land and who have a city councilman in their back pocket. Also, the building itself is in bad need of repairs and the church has refused to allocate any money for the purpose.

Thus, Father Cardenas comes up with a desperate last-minute scheme. You see, he used to be a missionary in Brazil, and was instrumental in Pele’s early education. Thus, he feels he has a special connection to the soccer player, and writes a letter asking him to come to San Diego and put on a soccer clinic at an exhibition match between the boys of the orphanage and the team from an elite private high school.

Unfortunately, the letter gets lost in the mail and Pele is a no-show, putting the school in even further danger as the city, which agreed to promote the clinic and Pele’s appearance is considering fraud charges against the orphanage.

Oh, and it turns out Father Cardenas is dying of cancer.

While not a bad movie, A Minor Miracle is one of those heart-string tuggers that unfortunately all-too often passes for family fare. It diligently ticks all of the necessary boxes, including a training montage featuring Pele and the kids from the orphanage.

Sorry, no enbeddable trailer for this one, but if you’ve any interest at all in watching the movie, here’s the full thing on YouTube, in a quality that’s actually better than the version found on the Mill Creek disk:

Up Next: The Swinging 70s  Disk 2 Movie 1: Crypt of the Living Dead – Let’s crown a new vampire queen!

Say “Cheese” 007 – The Klansman (1974)

This past Christmas my son got me a Mill Creek box set called Awesomely Cheesy Movies. 100 movies on 24 disks, it’s actually a combination of two of their earlier released sets, “The Swinging Seventies”, and “The Excellent Eighties”.

For those of you who may not be familiar with these Mill Creek sets, they are generally comprised of  public domain or made-for-television movies that are reproduced without embellishment, enhancement, or extras and are sold in large collections for very low prices. This means that the quality on them can be quite variable, and they often show signs of age and wear. Nonetheless, there are often hidden gems amongst what can be large swaths of dross.

Anyway, I’ve decided to wend my way through this collection, starting with the first movie on the first disk of the 70s collection, then the first movie in the 80s set, then back to the 70s, and so on, and see just what turns up. If nothing else, it should be interesting. Come along, won’t you?

The good news is: Lee Marvin is always a bad-ass.The bad news is: He’s stuck trying to be a bad-ass in The Klansman.

The complete and utter wrong-headedness of this movie is obvious from the very beginning, but I wasn’t completely convinced of how terrible it was going to be until about thirty minutes in, when Bobby Poteet, whose wife Nancy (Linda Evans) has been raped on a country back road – presumably by a black man – comes to Lee Marvin’s sheriff Track Bascomb to tell him he’s leaving town. But not with his wife. It seems Poteet can’t take the stares of his fellow citizens whom he knows must be wanting to ask him what it’s like to be with his wife who has – no, not who has been raped – who has “been with a black man”. What bothers him most, though, Poteet goes on to say, is that she just doesn’t seem to care. “She’s got no shame.” When asked where he will go, Poteets responds that he doesn’t know. All he knows is that he will be going by Greyhound. “Just like the n*ggers,” he says, laughing at how low his life has gotten. He then goes on to lament “Dammit! Why did this thing have to happen to me?” He then leaves, but before he does, he hands the sheriff an envelope, asking his to give it to his wife. Inside is his life insurance policy and $34. “I divided it up. Half for her, and half for Greyhound.”

Do I really have to go into everything that is wrong with this scene? No, I didn’t really think so. But just in case you think this is an isolated incident, perhaps try to give it something of a spin by saying maybe it’s just one man blaming his wife in a misguided attempt to process the grief he is feeling over what has happened, we cut to the net scene, which takes place in the town’s church, where the preacher is railing against the downfall of family values and blaming it on “them with the mark of the black beast” who are intermingling with their children and the goo upstanding citizens. Enter Nancy Poteet, who is met not with comfort and concern for her well-being by these upright citizens, but with shock and outrage that she would dare to show up and sully them with her tainted presence. “How can you push yourself on these good Christian folks?” she is asked. An the preacher tell her from the pulpit that if she has any decency lin her she will leave. The, when she expresses her outrage at being blamed for what was done to her, she is forcibly dragged from the church,

Oh, did I happen to n\mention that all of this is taking place in Wallace County, a fact we are informed of in the opening shot which focuses on a “drive safely” sign?

Yeah, to say that The Klansman is not exactly a subtle discussion of the state of race relations in the south in the seventies is more than a mild understatement.

The movie also takes an odd turn when it comes to the mayor/head klansman (“Hell, I’m the damn Exalted Cyclops.”) explaining his motivations. In a discussion with the sheriff (who apparently everyone in the town turns to to lend an unsympathetic ear). Interestingly, he isn’t driven by some pathological hatred of blacks as a race – he doesn’t see them as inferior or anything like that. Well, he probably does, actually, he definitely does, but that main motivation behind his actions is money.

Because of the black/white conflict, as he calls it, the blacks are leaving the south and moving north. “They’re moving to Chicago, they’re joining the army so they can get a fifteen hundred dollar bonus.Then they go to Germany for two years and become ski instructors! And what happens to me? I gotta replace ’em with whites. But no self-respecting white will do grunt labor for what I pay the n*gger.”

That’s right, his business is suffering because all the black folks are leaving this wonderful town to become ski instructors in Germany.

Yeah, I’m like you. I got absolutely no response to this.

Oh, and just for the record, according to the mayor, he’s not the heavy in all this “If you wanna know who the heavy is,” he says, “I’ll tell ya. It’s the system. And we’re all of us caught up in it.”

All of this, and we still haven’t even gotten to our other two leads in the film. Richard Burton co-stars as Breck Stancill, a virtual hermit living on a mountain on the outskirts of town, and the only white person in town who seems to be on the side of the blacks and willing to stand up to the rest of the town.

Burton’s involvement in the film is especially interesting, considering that he was so drunk through most of the shooting that director Terence Young had to shoot most of his scenes sitting down because he was too drunk to stand up. Not that Lee Marvin was exactly sober during filming either. However, no matter how drunk either of them might have been, reports are that they both showed up to the set on time and were ready with their lines. And honestly, drunk Lee Marvin and Richard Burton are still better actors than so many other when they’re stone cold sober.

O.J. Simpson also takes a turn (his first acting role) as Garth, a black man who decides he has had enough of the town and the klan, and takes matters into his own hand. He gets a shotgun and begins to take out the klansmen one by one, eventually leading to a full-blown shootout.

Oh, and then there’s the ending. Oh, my, the ending. I’m completely tempted to just go ahead and spoil this film by outlining it, but no, if there;s anyone out there who might be intrigued enough to check out this train wreck, I don’t want to take all of the “thrills” away from you. Suffice to say I feel sure that there’s supposed to be some kind of symbolism or message being given, but if so, it completely escapes me.

Actually considering the talent both in front of and behind the camera, there’s only one reason for this movie to be as bad as it is, and what it all really comes down to is the script. Well, that and the basic ideas behind it. I can’t imagine what the people behind it were thinking, but the end result that they have produced is so completely offensive that even if they were trying to perhaps make a good point, it gets completely lost in the abhorrent scenario.

Here’s your trailer:

Up Next: The Excellent 80s  Disk 1 Movie 1: Intimate Agony – General Hospital’s Anthony Geary discovers herpes!