Tag Archives: Hal Holbrook

Creepshow (1982, George A. Romero)

Creepshow is an homage to 1950s horror comic books. Director Romero and writer Stephen King go out of their way to make it feel like you’re reading one of those comics. It’s about the anticipation. The terror isn’t promised, it’s inevitable. So watching Creepshow is about waiting for the kicker. For the most part–and certainly from a technical standpoint–the film delivers. Romero has these hyper-realistic effects but this overly stylized photography. Red for dark rumblings, blue for immediate danger. Initially, it just seems like Michael Gornick’s photography is too crisp, but it turns out to be Romero’s enthusiasm for the project. Creepshow is good, wholesome scary fun. Just with patricide, cannibalism, monsters, bugs. Lots and lots of bugs.

There are five stories in Creepshow. The longest runs thirty-five minutes and stars Fritz Weaver, Hal Holbrook and Adrienne Barbeau. It’s also where Creepshow loses its steam so I thought I’d cover it first. Weaver and Holbrook are college professors. Barbeau’s Holbrook’s cheap and unintellectual wife. Weaver is great, Holbrook is not. Barbeau tries but it’s a crap part. The segment cuts between Holbrook’s fantasizing about killing Barbeau and Weaver trying to contend with a monster. Real quick–Creepshow deals with its horror a little differently; Romero makes a monster movie. It’s very stylized, but it’s a monster movie. The scares have to do with the monsters themselves, not their actions. The monster design, from Tom Savini, and the monster actions, also Savini, are both great. Back to the segment. It’s great when it’s Weaver and janitor Don Keefer trying to figure out what’s in a crate. Once they find out, the problems start. It’s the least “comic book” of the segments and the one where Romero has the most trouble. It feels like a riff on a fifties sci-fi movie more than anything else. Holbrook doesn’t help things, of course.

Otherwise, the segments are pretty strong. Even the one where writer Stephen King plays a New England redneck is fine. Not because of King’s performance–he’s terrible–but because of Savini’s effects and Romero’s direction. Great editing on the segment from Pasquale Buba too.

The best segment is probably the one with Ted Danson, Leslie Nielsen and Gaylen Ross. It’s the third one in the film, after Romero, King and Gornick have established the film’s style and its devices. It’s the most comfortable mix of horror film and horror comic book. Danson’s sleeping with Ross, who’s Nielsen’s wife. Nielsen decides to torture Danson. Complications and some extravagant effects work ensue. Romero’s clearly enthusiastic about the effects work in Creepshow. He wants to showcase it and to present it properly, which requires a lot of technical ingenuity. There’s some excellent filmmaking in Creepshow.

The first segment in the film, with Ed Harris, Carrie Nye, Viveca Lindfors, Warner Shook and Elizabeth Regan, has a lot of excellent filmmaking too. Romero mixes a lot of horror standards–particularly the old dark house–to create a really effective opener to the film. Now, the film already has had a prologue with Tom Atkins as a crappy dad throwing up his kid’s Creepshow comic, so the first actual story segment just goes to establish Romero and King know what they’re doing.

Heck, they can even get past King’s acting in the second segment.

The last segment has E.G. Marshall as a recluse, germ-phobe capitalist fighting a cockroach infestation. Marshall is great, the cockroaches are gross and effective, but it lacks the energy to jumpstart Creepshow after the Weaver segment.

There’s a lot of good acting. Weaver, Nielsen, Nye, Viveca Lindfors, Danson, Keefer (whose mild doofus suggests just how good the one with King acting could have been with a better actor).

Solid music from John Harrison. It gets a little much at times, but it’s solid.

Creepshow is a lot of fun. Except when Romero and King forget they’re supposed to be having fun and subject the film to way too much whiney Hal Holbrook and harpy Adrienne Barbeau.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by George A. Romero; written by Stephen King; director of photography, Michael Gornick; edited by Michael Spolan, Romero, Pasquale Buba and Paul Hirsch; music by John Harrison; production designer, Cletus Anderson; produced by Richard P. Rubinstein; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Carrie Nye (Sylvia Grantham), Jon Lormer (Nathan Grantham), Ed Harris (Hank Blaine), Elizabeth Regan (Cass Blaine), Viveca Lindfors (Aunt Bedelia), Warner Shook (Richard Grantham), Stephen King (Jordy Verrill), Ted Danson (Harry Wentworth), Leslie Nielsen (Richard Vickers), Gaylen Ross (Becky Vickers), Hal Holbrook (Henry Northrup), Adrienne Barbeau (Wilma Northrup), Fritz Weaver (Dexter Stanley), Don Keefer (Mike the Janitor), Robert Harper (Charlie Gereson) and E.G. Marshall (Upson Pratt).


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Fletch Lives (1989, Michael Ritchie)

Fletch Lives is a dreadful motion picture. Typing out its title, I remember–once again–the filmmakers weren’t even creative enough to come up with a good title. There’s no pun in it, no reference to the film’s narrative–no one ever thinks the character has died only to come back in a surprise. Maybe it’s a newspaper headline reference, but I doubt it. Leon Capetanos’s script is exceptionally dumb and there’s no emphasis on the newspaper the character (played by Chevy Chase) works for.

What’s even more infuriating about Lives is the failure of repeat players. If Chase were the only returning member of the first film’s cast and crew, it might make sense. But the same producers and same director return. They just are incompetent this time around. Director Ritchie in particular fails at transplanting Chase to Louisiana from Los Angeles. There’s nothing Ritchie could have done about the costumes being used too much to mask a lack of story, but he could have made the setting work better. Some of it is bad back drops, but not much.

In the lead, Chase has lost his charm. His character’s mean and cheap and somewhat unintelligent. The supporting cast is awful–Hal Holbrook embarrasses himself, love interests Patricia Kalember and Julianne Phillips are atrocious, returning players Richard Libertini and George Wyner stink. The only good supporting performances are Cleavon Little and R. Lee Ermey.

Lives often feels like a bad “Saturday Night Live” sketch of Fletch.

Terrible music too.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Ritchie; screenplay by Leon Capetanos, based on characters created by Gregory McDonald; director of photography, John McPherson; edited by Richard A. Harris; music by Harold Faltermeyer; produced by Alan Greisman and Peter Douglas; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Chevy Chase (Fletch), Hal Holbrook (Hamilton Johnson), Julianne Phillips (Becky Culpepper), R. Lee Ermey (Jimmy Lee Farnsworth), Richard Libertini (Frank Walker), Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb (Ben Dover), Cleavon Little (Calculus Entropy), George Wyner (Marvin Gillet), Patricia Kalember (Amanda Ray Ross), Geoffrey Lewis (KKK Leader), Richard Belzer (Phil) and Phil Hartman (Bly Manager).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | FLETCH (1985) / FLETCH LIVES (1989).

They Only Kill Their Masters (1972, James Goldstone)

I don’t know if I can think of a more mild mystery than They Only Kill Their Masters. It’s a solid vehicle for James Garner, giving him a lot of leading man stuff to do and a fair amount of internal conflict. But it’s so slight, so genial, it doesn’t leave much of an impression.

Some of the film’s problems stem from the running time. Just under a 100 minutes, there’s not enough time to develop Garner on his own and have him investigate a murder (especially since he’s also got to be the one to discover it is a murder) and romance Katharine Ross. The romance kind of makes Masters special–Garner’s character fills out because he and Ross get together–and it’s maybe the only time I’ve seen Ross play a regular person. She does it very well.

But the romance eventually has to go to a back burner, to make time for the mystery, which is resolved terribly. There are two major revelations within eight minutes of each other and neither are particularly interesting.

Worse, the amazing supporting cast is mostly done by the end, so it’s all rapid fire resolution.

When the film’s not Garner investigating or Garner and Ross, it’s usually Garner and a supporting cast member in a nice scene. Maybe the best is Edmond O’Brien, who’s not just hilarious, but shows what Garner’s used to dealing with on a daily basis, providing some context.

It’s a decent, sometimes really good, movie. It’s just underwhelming overall.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by James Goldstone; written by Lane Slate; director of photography, Michel Hugo; edited by Edward A. Biery; music by Perry Botkin Jr.; produced by William Belasco; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring James Garner (Abel), Katharine Ross (Kate), Hal Holbrook (Watkins), Harry Guardino (Capt. Streeter), June Allyson (Mrs. Watkins), Christopher Connelly (John), Tom Ewell (Walter), Peter Lawford (Campbell), Edmond O’Brien (George), Arthur O’Connell (Ernie), Ann Rutherford (Gloria) and Art Metrano (Malcolm).


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Killshot (2008, John Madden)

It’s hard to say whether Killshot falls apart because of the filmmakers or because of the source material. Killshot changes its mind about what to deliver every three minutes. The script can’t decide on a main character–is it Mickey Rourke’s hit man or is it Diane Lane’s woman in distress or is it Thomas Jane’s estranged husband to the woman in distress.

Rourke’s great, playing a half Native American hit man. It’s implied there’s something more to the character than that description. But there isn’t.

Thomas Jane’s similarly great in a simple role. Killshot‘s filmmakers seem to intend for their scenes to be weighty; they aren’t. It’s not trite, but it is rote.

Diane Lane isn’t bad. She’s competent enough.

Gordon-Levitt, technically, delivers a good performance. But his character’s poorly written. He and Rourke’s relationship is inexplicable. Whenever the film tries to rationalize it, Killshot becomes silly. Maybe some of the worst scenes were cut (apparently, they cut out an entire character–Killshot runs ninety-five minutes).

Rosario Dawson plays Gordon-Levitt’s Elvis-obssessed girlfriend and she’s lousy. Hal Holbook and Tom McCamus show up for a scene each. They’re both good.

Lois Smith has a couple scenes in one of those small, useless Lois Smith roles.

Killshot looks like a Canadian production, providing Madden with a wonderful opportunity to comment on Hollywood North productions. He doesn’t.

Killshot isn’t entirely without qualities–Rourke and Jane. It’s at its best when it’s using either of them as the protagonist.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Madden; screenplay by Hossein Amini, based on the novel by Elmore Leonard; director of photography, Caleb Deschanel; edited by Mick Audsley and Lisa Gunning; music by Klaus Badelt; production designer, Andrew Jackness; produced by Lawrence Bender and Richard N. Gladstein; released by the Weinstein Company.

Starring Diane Lane (Carmen Colson), Mickey Rourke (Armand ‘The Blackbird’ Degas), Thomas Jane (Wayne Colson), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Richie Nix), Rosario Dawson (Donna), Aldred Montoya (Lionel), Lois Smith (Lenore), Hal Holbrook (Papa) and Tom McCamus (Paul Scallen).


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