Tag Archives: George C. Scott

Firestarter (1984, Mark L. Lester)

If I tried really hard, would I be able to think of something nice to say about Firestarter? I was going to complement some of Tangerine Dream’s score–not all of it, but some of it–but it turns out it’s not so much a score as a selection of otherwise unreleased Tangerine Dream tracks director Lester picked out. It makes sense a lot of the music doesn’t work knowing that situation, because no way Lester is going to make any significantly good choices for the film.

The film simply has nothing going for it. There are no good performances; watching Firestarter, which is exceptionally boring in addition to being stupid, I wondered more what possessed certain actors to sign on. What the heck is Art Carney doing in this film, much less married to Louise Fletcher? There’s a sixteen year age difference and it looks like about ten more. Carney looks ancient, Fletcher looks great. How did they meet? Why does he complain to strangers she wasn’t able to bear him daughters? Why is so much of Firestarter about old men–Art Carney, George C. Scott, Martin Sheen–fixating on Drew Barrymore? She’s not even energetic enough to be obnoxious. Sure, Lester directs her terribly, but she’s still bored. She can be shooting fireballs out of her face and be bored in Firestarter.

As Barrymore’s father, Brian Keith tries but doesn’t succeed at anything. Stanley Mann’s script is too lousy, the story beats are just terrible, the dialogue’s weak, the characters are weak. But it fits for the film, which doesn’t have anything going for it technically either. Giuseppe Ruzzolini’s cinematography is weak. Lester shoots the film Panavision for eventual pan-and-scan cropping. There’s constant empty space and Ruzzolini’s not lighting anything interesting in it. Firestarter is not creepy, it’s not scary, it’s dumb.

And the real problem is George C. Scott. He’s George C. Scott and he’s humiliating himself. Scott probably gives Firestarter’s worst performance. It’s this weird, terrible macho role and someone should’ve told him no. Or maybe he got himself an awesome swimming pool with the paycheck, but it’s terrible acting. He’s not even hamming it up–Sheen at least bites at some of the scenery–Scott just plays it badly and without enthusiasm.

Firestarter’s dumb and it’s bad. And it’s long. The special effects aren’t even good.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Mark L. Lester; screenplay by Stanley Mann, based on the novel by Stephen King; director of photography, Giuseppe Ruzzolini; edited by David Rawlins and Ronald Sanders; music by Tangerine Dream; production designer, Giorgio Postiglione; produced by Frank Capra Jr.; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring David Keith (Andy), Drew Barrymore (Charlie), George C. Scott (Rainbird), Martin Sheen (Hollister), Moses Gunn (Doctor Pynchot), Art Carney (Irv Manders), Louise Fletcher (Norma Manders) and Freddie Jones (Doctor Wanless).


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The Exorcist III (1990, William Peter Blatty)

The Exorcist III is a weird movie. It’s a somewhat surreal detective story–one seeped in Exorcist continuity, only without the original cast (mostly) returning. That disconnect from the original, along with its incredibly uneven tone (the opening titles cut between a big action sequence with helicopters and some scary church imagery), actually helps the film.

The film has some infamous post-production tampering; as stands, the film spends its first third as an almost boring character study of George C. Scott’s angry old policeman and his best friend, priest Ed Flanders. Both Scott and Flanders find some really good moments in this opening section of the film. Not actually having been in the original film, their scenes discussing its infamous events play peculiarly. Even though there are spooky, evil goings-on, Flanders and Scott are in this separate world from it. Director Blatty carefully compartmentalizes. To usually good result.

Then the second section of the film is a confined murder mystery at a hospital. Until Scott discovers Brad Dourif locked in a cell–along with someone familiar to fans of the first film–and Exorcist III enters its really strange third act. Gerry Fisher’s photography is a little flat throughout the film–though he does well with the first act location shooting–but the flatness never looks cheap. Even when a sequence is entirely misguided, like when Scott all of a sudden becomes Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead.

The film’s editing, from Peter Lee-Thompson and Todd C. Ramsay, is awesome. It’s never a scary or even gross movie; it might never even be creepy. But Lee-Thompson and Ramsay cut it in such a way to keep the viewer on edge. By the end, when it toggles between a bad action movie and Scott and Dourif doing dueling monologues, there’s absolutely no reason for the narrative to keep one on edge. The big twist–part of that troubled post–is so narratively incomprehensible, it just lends to the movie’s oddness.

Some good supporting performances–Grand L. Bush, Nancy Fish, Lee Richardson–help. Don Gordon and George DiCenzo play Scott’s dimwit police sidekicks and go for stereotypical laughs. Odd. But definitely engaging.

Sadly, Nicol Williamson and Scott Wilson, both in somewhat important supporting roles, aren’t particularly good. Scott never makes the film believable, but he’s still trying, though one can’t help but wonder what kind of swimming pool he had installed with his paycheck. Flanders, however, manages to keep it all on the level. And Dourif’s good.

Problems aside, Blatty and company present a film where Patrick Ewing and Fabio can cameo as angels and it can be done entirely straight-faced. It’s almost like Exorcist III is a parody of the idea of a third Exorcist movie but done earnestly, possibly because Blatty didn’t get it. But it’s why the film’s watchable, even though it’s a complete mess.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by William Peter Blatty; screenplay by Blatty, based on his novel; director of photography, Gerry Fisher; edited by Peter Lee-Thompson and Todd C. Ramsay; music by Barry De Vorzon; production designer, Leslie Dilley; produced by Carter DeHaven; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring George C. Scott (Kinderman), Ed Flanders (Father Dyer), Grand L. Bush (Sergeant Atkins), Brad Dourif (The Gemini Killer), Harry Carey Jr. (Father Kanavan), Nicol Williamson (Father Morning), Scott Wilson (Dr. Temple), Nancy Fish (Nurse Allerton), George DiCenzo (Stedman), Don Gordon (Ryan), Zohra Lampert (Mary Kinderman), Lee Richardson (University President) and Jason Miller (Patient X).


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The New Centurions (1972, Richard Fleischer)

I was going to start this post saying complementary things about Richard Fleischer, something about how his mediocrity doesn’t get in the way of the film (and the film’s melodramatic mediocrity). Then he goes too far at the end, plunging the damn thing ever further into the muck. And The New Centurions is unbearably melodramatic. Stirling Silliphant loves every convention he can find–whether it’s the early scene with the cops telling each other it isn’t like the movies or the later one where the cops talk about being new Centurions. For such an influential (more on that part in a bit), the film’s got maybe one or two good moments. Overall, it’s a failed attempt at an honest portrayal of police officers (albeit, really, really good and honest cops). Basically, it’s an episode of “Hill Street Blues,” with James Sikking and his pipe no less, with more attention paid to the home lives of the cops. The ending invalidates the whole thing–and I just checked wikipedia, the first time I’ve compared novel to film since Tess–and the ending is a filmic creation. The book’s ending seems like it might make sense.

For the majority of the film, until that absurd ending, actually, The New Centurions isn’t terrible or even bad. Silliphant’s dialogue is horrendous and the actors stumble over lines, but the plot of the film is fine. Standard and melodramatic, but fine. Some of the episodes–obviously from novel writer Joseph Wambaugh’s time on the LAPD–are really amusing.

Of the actors (not the ludicrous ones, like Erik Estrada, who’s terrible), George C. Scott probably gives the worst performance, with Jane Alexander following closely. In Alexander’s case, she’s got nothing to do. In Scott’s, he’s got something to do but it’s often crap (his character’s story arc is terrible, regardless of its realism, simply because the film doesn’t really pay any attention to him). The supporting cast is generally good–Scott Wilson’s fine, so’s Rosalind Cash; Isabel Sanford shows up in fantastic cameo. William Atherton puts in a few minutes and he’s good.

But the real surprise of New Centurions is Stacy Keach. He’s amazing. He’s got the worst dialogue in the film too, but it’s still a privilege to watch his performance. It’s one of those unbelievably good performances, indescribably good; textured, nuanced, every positive adjective in that vein one can imagine.

I can’t not mention the score. I was trying and I couldn’t. I wanted to go upbeat on Keach (I’m hoping the white space does that work). It’s a Quincy Jones score and it’s terrible, but the interesting part is he lifts some of the theme to Shaft.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Fleischer; screenplay by Stirling Silliphant, based on the novel by Joseph Wambaugh; director of photography, Ralph Woolsey; edited by Robert C. Jones; music by Quincy Jones; produced by Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring George C. Scott (Andy Kilvinsky), Stacy Keach (Roy), Jane Alexander (Dorothy), Scott Wilson (Gus), Rosalind Cash (Lorrie), Erik Estrada (Sergio), Clifton Jones (Whitey), Richard E. Kalk (Milton), James Sikking (Anders), Isabel Sanford (Wilma), William Atherton (Johnson), Ed Lauter (Galloway) and Dolph Sweet (Sergeant Runyon).


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