Tag Archives: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

The Bedroom Window (1987, Curtis Hanson)

Given The Bedroom Window was part of my VHS EP collection, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it. I do know I haven’t seen it in at least a decade and I also know this time is the first I’ve ever wondered about the source novel. The Bedroom Window is very busy; maybe director Hanson wants to distract the audience from where the movie’s going–which he really can’t since “guest star” Elizabeth McGovern gets second-billing–but maybe it’s from the novel. Maybe it’s a really long novel and Hanson, who also wrote the screenplay, had trouble adapting the pace.

But the novel’s only 200 pages. So it’s Hanson.

A good thriller, not even a great one, needs some fusion between the storytelling and the filmmaking. Hitchcockian means the way the film tells the tricky narrative. Or at least, it needs to have that definition. Because bewildered straight man in trouble isn’t Hitchcockian. It’s pedestrian. In The Bedroom Window’s case, the bewildered straight man is Steve Guttenberg. If it weren’t for Guttenberg’s rather buff physic, it might be funny having Guttenberg do a thriller. But it’s not a spoof, it’s Guttenberg trying.

He doesn’t do well. But he’s affable, surrounded by a lot of good actors, and Hanson is trying just as hard to pull of Guttenberg’s performance. Even though it’s often tedious, The Bedroom Window tries. Well, except when it comes to the composition. Hanson and cinematographer Gilbert Taylor shoot Bedroom Window in Panavision and it doesn’t need it. About the only thing the film’s got going for it visually is the Baltimore locations. Taylor’s photography is pretty flat–even though there are lots of eighties wet streets at night shots–but well-lighted. The city looks amazing and you want to see more of it. It gives Window some slack, which the film always needs.

Guttenberg’s an office guy–he has no responsibilities–who starts schtupping his boss’s wife, Isabelle Huppert in a ludicrous performance in a ludicrous role. Huppert witnesses Elizabeth McGovern getting assaulted, but Guttenberg plays witness to keep the affair a secret. This concept might have worked as late as the early sixties, but it’s just unbelievable in 1987. Hanson’s constantly trying to get away from police procedure, lawyer stuff, because he knows he’s peddling a malarky handling of it.

Instead, he introduces a subplot about Robert Schenkkan’s district attorney–trying rape cases–a complete pig. Only then, almost immediately following a big plot twist, we’re supposed to like Schenkkan again. Why make him a pig? Misdirection. Hanson is not a master. He’s not even moderately adept.

But he’s also ambitious in how responsible he wants to be; he’s trying not to make the film feel exploitative. Though one has to wonder why Huppert, given she and Guttenberg have zero chemistry, other than her willingness to disrobe. When Elizabeth McGovern finally shows up as something other than an object–which, quite frustratingly, isn’t until her second or third scene in the film–she gets a lot of good stuff to do. Even when the content is questionable, McGovern’s performance and Hanson’s handling of her performance are stellar. As much as Hanson wants to sell Steve Guttenberg as Jimmy Stewart, he wants McGovern to have a good part.

He just doesn’t know how. He’s sincere about Bedroom Window, which carries over. You want it to be better. Like the music from Michael Shrieve and Patrick Gleeson. Ninety percent of it is disposable smooth jazz. That other ten percent of it is slightly less disposable smooth jazz. But you still want to hope for it. Like the score will eventually get better. It doesn’t.

Great supporting cast–Carl Lumbly, Wallace Shawn, Frederick Coffin, Brad Greenquist, Maury Chaykin–Hanson uses them for temporary amusement. Actually, lots of people in The Bedroom Window are just “guest starring,” which also leads to it feeling like a two-night TV movie event cut down to one VHS tape.

Real strong editing from Scott Conrad. It occasionally goes bad because of Hanson’s bad ideas, but real strong otherwise. He’s better at editing the dramatic than the suspense.

The Bedroom Window is almost significant for McGovern’s performance. She’s great. But the script’s not there and Hanson’s got too many problems. Instead, it’s a curious bit of eighties popular cinema with some fantastic shots of Baltimore.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Curtis Hanson; screenplay by Hanson, based on a novel by Anne Holden; director of photography, Gil Taylor; edited by Scott Conrad; music by Michael Shrieve and Patrick Gleeson; production designer, Ron Foreman; produced by Martha De Laurentiis; released by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

Starring Steve Guttenberg (Terry Lambert), Elizabeth McGovern (Denise Connelly), Isabelle Huppert (Sylvia Wentworth), Paul Shenar (Collin Wentworth), Carl Lumbly (Det. Quirke), Frederick Coffin (Det. Jessup), Brad Greenquist (Carl Henderson), Robert Schenkkan (State Attorney Peters), Maury Chaykin (Pool Player) and Wallace Shawn (Henderson’s Attorney).


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King Kong Lives (1986, John Guillermin)

Is calling a redneck hateful redundant? All other problems (acting, script), the biggest problem with King Kong Lives is how unpleasant the film is to watch. With the exception of the good guys (there are three of them), everyone else is a really bad person… it’s incredibly simplistic in its portrayal of cruelty (I doubt the filmmakers even realized it), which makes it a rough viewing.

Getting past a sequel to King Kong being pointless, one has to wonder how a presumably savvy producer like Dino De Laurenttis, who made lots of populist movie hits, ended up setting the film in rural Georgia. Sure, miniatures look all right, but it’s… it’s a terribly stupid idea.

But, is it more stupid than Kong surviving a fall off the World Trade Center with nothing more than a bad heart? Maybe… maybe not.

The acting, both good guys and bad, is often terrible. John Ashton as the army colonel after Kong (the U.S. Army is portrayed as a gang of ignorant, vicious thugs here) is awful. Peter Michael Goetz is lousy as an evil academic. Linda Hamilton is terrible (though she gets better halfway through the film) as Kong’s doctor.

Pretty much, only Brian Kerwin is any good. The guy’s on a soap now, apparently. He deserves far better. He actually makes the frequently absurd dialogue acceptable.

Guillermin’s direction is more than capable here.

Between his composition and Peter Scott’s excellent score, King Kong Lives occasionally (in fifteen second increments) seems all right.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Guillermin; screenplay by Steven Pressfield and Ronald Shusett, based on their story and a character created by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace; director of photography, Alec Mills; edited by Malcolm Cooke; music by John Scott; production designer, Peter Murton; produced by Martha De Laurentiis; released by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

Starring Brian Kerwin (Hank Mitchell), Linda Hamilton (Amy Franklin), John Ashton (Lt. Col. R.T. Nevitt), Peter Michael Goetz (Dr. Andrew Ingersoll), Frank Maraden (Dr. Benson Hughes) and Jimmie Ray Weeks (Major Peete).


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Near Dark (1987, Kathryn Bigelow)

The last time I tried to watch Near Dark, I failed miserably. This time I suppose I made it through the running time–I think that still image at the end is supposed to be some profound statement–but not all of my brain cells made it with me. They abandoned ship as the film progressed.

The only conceivable reason I can come up with for Near Dark‘s popularity is its mid-1990s rarity. It was a reuniting of memorable Aliens cast members and it wasn’t readily available on video–there was an old HBO Home Video release and I’m not sure it got another release until DVD. There was a laserdisc too, I believe, and it went for a lot on eBay (even pan and scan).

Bigelow doesn’t direct it poorly. She’s definitely mediocre, but her direction is far more competent than her script. Apparently she and Eric Red were going for a modern Western. They fail miserably, sort of because Bigelow–as a director–lets that analog be so quiet. Tim Thomerson searching for his “abducted” son is a Western, but it’s not if the main character is the son (a trying really hard Adrian Pasdar).

Lance Henriksen, Jenny Wright and Thomerson are good. Bill Paxton’s bad, like he’s Hudson doing a hick vampire impression. Jenette Goldstein and Joshua John Miller are both atrocious.

Near Dark‘s one of Tangerine Dream’s better scores and it does have great special effects.

But those don’t save it from being incredibly stupid.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow; written by Bigelow and Eric Red; director of photography, Adam Greenberg; edited by Howard E. Smith; music by Tangerine Dream; production designer, Stephen Altman; produced by Steven-Charles Jaffe; released by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

Starring Adrian Pasdar (Caleb Colton), Jenny Wright (Mae), Lance Henriksen (Jesse Hooker), Bill Paxton (Severen), Jenette Goldstein (Diamondback), Tim Thomerson (Loy Colton), Joshua John Miller (Homer) and Marcie Leeds (Sarah Colton).


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Maximum Overdrive (1986, Stephen King)

Maximum Overdrive confuses me a little. I thought–given the movie opens with the writer and director being insulted by a cash machine–Stephen King wasn’t going for anything… well, artistic is a stretch, so maybe genuine. Almost immediately following is a scene where a bunch of watermelons crash into car windshields to humorous effect. It certainly seems like King is well aware Overdrive has the potential to amuse and divert and nothing else….

I mean, he couldn’t have thought the acting was good, right? Emilio Estevez gives what could–I’m not a Estevez aficionado, I’m just guessing–be the worst performance of his career, if not the Estevez clan as a whole (though I think that pronouncement is something of a stretch). He affects a terrible Southern accent and appears to have the same backstory as his character in his own auteur debut, Wisdom, which begs the additional question–is King mocking his leading man?

The movie plays like some guy off the street got a million dollars to make a movie (except King got ten million from Dino De Laurentiis, in one of cinema history’s sounder financial investments). King’s got some neat ideas in the picture–though I think cool might be the better term… cool ideas–and some of them are competently pulled off. I really wish the unrated, ultra-violent version were available, just for the visuals. Maximum Overdrive is not scary, not once, not in the slightest. It’s a goofy sci-fi movie with aliens–it’s like Transformers without the transforming. But King clearly does enjoy himself during some of the movie.

Except it isn’t during the terrible scenes with Estevez or romantic interest Laura Harrington. Harrington is an unmitigated disaster–Overdrive rightly ended her career, at least for theatrical releases. Some of it–the lousy dialogue, could be construed as King’s fault… but she plays it all so straight, it’s like she doesn’t realize she’s delivering bad dialogue. Estevez doesn’t seem to be in on the joke either.

At least Pat Hingle relishes in his role, even if it’s to limited success. Yeardley Smith’s terrible too. Actually, the only good performance is probably John Short.

Anyway, King’s intent here gets confused at the end. Fifteen year-old Holter Graham (he’s real bad too, I forgot about him) is running around with an assault rifle, to the point it’s funny–not only does King run a kid over with a steamroller earlier, he gives another one an assault rifle to play with–only to have what seems to be an attempt at an honest scene. Graham’s father dies early on and after avenging him, Graham doesn’t want to touch the rifle again. It’s earnestly handled, which is a big mistake. If King had mocked the scene… at least it would have been fun.

King’s direction is singularly unimpressive. I don’t think he has one “good” shot in the entire movie and only a handful are bad enough to elicit laughter. His handling of the South is funny; he ridicules it in a way you wouldn’t expect a major motion picture to do… I guess he wasn’t worried about box office returns. The much-hyped (I guess it was back then, wasn’t it?) music from AC/DC is occasionally effective, even if they are just ripping off John Carpenter’s style.

In the interest of transparency, I need to mention it took me forever to get through the movie. If I’d gone to see it in a theater, I probably would have walked. There are long stretches when nothing dumb and funny happens and it’s just Estevez and Harrington–not even any gore. The gore’s actually not very gory and I can’t imagine why King had to cut any of it (thirteen seconds were infamously cut to make the R rating).

Wait… there was one decent sequence. Graham’s biking through a residential neighborhood where everyone’s been killed by some appliance or another (I won’t get started on how the possessed trucks and appliances don’t make any sense). It’s uncanny and effective.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Stephen King; written by King, based on his story; director of photography, Armando Nannuzzi; edited by Evan A. Lottman; music by AC/DC; production designer, Giorgio Postiglione; produced by Martha De Laurentiis; released by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

Starring Emilio Estevez (Bill Robinson), Pat Hingle (Hendershot), Laura Harrington (Brett), Yeardley Smith (Connie), John Short (Curtis), Ellen McElduff (Wanda June), J.C. Quinn (Duncan), Christopher Murney (Camp Loman), Holter Graham (Deke) and Frankie Faison (Handy).


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