Tag Archives: Harry Dean Stanton

The Fourth War (1990, John Frankenheimer)

With all the monologues–there aren’t any conversations, just one character talking while another listens–in The Fourth War, it feels like an adaptation of a play. It’s not. It’s based on a novel, which must be a brief read since War is plodding at ninety minutes. Given Frankenheimer got his start in television–adapting plays–one might think he’d notice treating War like a play would produce a better result.

He does not.

He also doesn’t realize Roy Scheider is a lot more interesting a devolving lunatic than as a misunderstood American hero. Harry Dean Stanton–who gives the film’s best performance as Scheider’s commanding officer–occasionally has voiceovers explaining and qualifying Scheider’s actions. It’s a terrible move, especially since the film later turns Scheider’s adversary–an atrocious Jürgen Prochnow–into a stereotypical evil commie.

Scheider similarly suffers. He’s good when he’s unlikable, but it’s Roy Scheider, half his onscreen persona is being likable. Once Lara Harris enters as the girl he needs to help, War falls even further to pieces. Harris isn’t bad, but it’s like she got the job to fool audiences watching the trailer into believing Isabella Rossellini is in the picture.

Tim Reid shows up–occasionally–as Scheider’s second-in-command. His lack of screen time, and Frankenheimer’s reliance on summary storytelling for really simple scenes, makes one wonder if War ran out of money during filming and the script got hacked down.

But in Frankenheimer’s tired hands, the film wouldn’t have been better longer.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Frankenheimer; screenplay by Stephen Peters and Kenneth Ross, based on the novel by Peters; director of photography, Gerry Fisher; edited by Robert F. Shugrue; music by Bill Conti; production designer, Alan Manzer; produced by Wolf Schmidt; released by New Age Releasing.

Starring Roy Scheider (Col. Jack Knowles), Jürgen Prochnow (Col. Valachev), Tim Reid (Lt. Col. Clark), Lara Harris (Elena), Harry Dean Stanton (Gen. Hackworth), Dale Dye (Sergeant Major) and William MacDonald (MP Corporal).


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Twister (1989, Michael Almereyda)

Twister tries very hard to be avant-garde, but ends up just being a quirky family comedy. Worse, director Almereyda changes up the narrative style about fifty minutes into the film. Although Twister is based on a novel, Almereyda’s style is more appropriate for stage. The first half or more takes place on one set–Harry Dean Stanton and family’s house–with very long scenes. One can imagine, for long while, Twister on stage.

And Almereyda gives his actors a lot of leeway. Sadly, Crispin Glover uses that leeway to do his persona thing; his scenes are often exasperating. More detrimentally, Suzy Amis doesn’t create a character–some of the fault belongs to Almereyda, whether the script or the direction–but it’s mostly Amis’s fault. Watching Amis and Glover opposite the rest of the cast is often painful. The disconnect is visible.

Almereyda opens up the film in the last third and makes it into that quirky family comedy. He drains the life out of the film, which was at least an interesting project before.

Still, Stanton is fantastic, as are Charlayne Woodard, Dylan McDermott and, especially, Lois Chiles.

The narrative’s big problem is having two entries into the family. McDermott returns, one entry, then Chiles moves in, another. It’s like Almereyda wasn’t paying enough attention to notice.

As Amis and McDermott’s daughter, Lindsay Christman is quite good. Jenny Wright is okay, until she starts doing a Glover impression.

Great Tim Robbins cameo too.

Twister‘s aggravating, but still somewhat interesting.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Almereyda; screenplay by Almereyda, based on a novel by Mary Robison; director of photography, Renato Berta; edited by Roberto Silvi; music by Hans Zimmer; production designer, David Wasco; produced by Wieland Schulz-Keil; released by Vestron Pictures.

Starring Dylan McDermott (Chris), Suzy Amis (Maureen), Crispin Glover (Howdy), Lindsay Christman (Violet), Charlayne Woodard (Lola), Harry Dean Stanton (Eugene), Lois Chiles (Virginia), Jenny Wright (Stephanie) and Tim Robbins (Jeff).


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Christine (1983, John Carpenter)

John Carpenter does some amazing work on Christine. He’s got help from his cinematographer, Donald M. Morgan, but the first forty-five or fifty minutes of the film are simply masterful. Carpenter has a wide variety of scenes–high school, ominous, family scenes, conversations–and all of them are magnificent.

It’s just too bad Bill Phillips’s script falls apart once John Stockwell ceases to be the main character and top-billed Keith Gordon takes over. It also doesn’t help Gordon’s terrible. Some of the film’s logic holes are because the script’s focus switches from Stockwell to Gordon (and finally back to Stockwell), but it wouldn’t matter if it didn’t. Gordon wouldn’t be any better if Phillips’s had plotted the script better.

Gordon starts out as an ostracized nerd and he’s awful at it, but at least he’s got Stockwell to hold up the scenes. But then, once Gordon gets his evil car, he becomes super-cool. Except Carpenter and Phillips don’t show this period, it’s just implied because Alexandra Paul wants to go out with Gordon. When the film catches up with him again, he’s super creepy. By the end, he’s a vampire.

The last hour or so is a mess, with some excellent special effects, Carpenter’s direction and Stockwell’s acting keeping it watchable.

Paul’s okay, nothing more, but there are some great supporting performances. Robert Prosky, Harry Dean Stanton and, especially, Roberts Blossom are all fantastic.

Christine can’t overcome its major problems; Carpenter makes it worthwhile all by himself.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by John Carpenter; screenplay by Bill Phillips, based on the novel by Stephen King; director of photography, Donald M. Morgan; edited by Marion Rothman; music by Carpenter and Alan Howarth; production designer, Daniel A. Lomino; produced by Richard Kobritz; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Keith Gordon (Arnie Cunningham), John Stockwell (Dennis Guilder), Alexandra Paul (Leigh Cabot), Robert Prosky (Will Darnell), Harry Dean Stanton (Detective Rudolph Junkins), Christine Belford (Regina Cunningham), Roberts Blossom (George LeBay), William Ostrander (Buddy Repperton), David Spielberg (Mr. Casey), Malcolm Danare (Moochie Wells), Steven Tash (Rich Cholony), Stuart Charno (Don Vandenberg), Kelly Preston (Roseanne), Marc Poppel (Chuck), Robert Darnell (Michael Cunningham) and Douglas Warhit (Bemis).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | JOHN CARPENTER, PART 2: THE STUDIO QUARTET.

Man Trouble (1992, Bob Rafelson)

Man Trouble is a strange film, right from the start. It opens with then thirty-year-old Lauren Tom in old age makeup (well, her hair tinted grey). That casting choice–following the animated opening titles–establishes it as an oddity. It’s not a bad film, just a strangely detached one. The protagonist is Ellen Barkin, but since she’s opposite Jack Nicholson, he’s the de facto protagonist.

Nicholson does a good job playing a sleazy, but lovable ne’er-do-well–he’s so lovable, even the people he owes money can’t stay angry at him–and there are occasional moments of Nicholson brilliance. Unfortunately, they’re during the human parts, which he doesn’t get many.

Barkin’s excellent. The film makes a mistake at one point comparing her to trampy sister Beverly D’Angelo. It’s clear Barkin’s character–intelligent, socially awkward and shyly sexy–would never bother making such an obvious comparison. Especially given D’Angelo’s sister is introduced as an unsympathetic cancer on her life.

Some of the supporting cast–Veronica Cartwright, Saul Rubinek–is good. Others–D’Angelo, Michael McKean, David Clennon–are on autopilot. I don’t think Harry Dean Stanton was even awake, they just taped his eyes open.

But the cast isn’t the problem, it’s the script. Eastman’s script is technically good, but it clearly should have been a novel. It’s a reality-based absurdist conspiracy situation comedy. The movie can’t get enough information across to really tell the story.

Still, it’s charming to some degree and much better than I expected.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Bob Rafelson; written by Carole Eastman; director of photography, Stephen H. Burum; edited by William Steinkamp; music by Georges Delerue; production designer, Mel Bourne; produced by Eastman and Bruce Gilbert; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Jack Nicholson (Harry Bliss), Ellen Barkin (Joan Spruance), Harry Dean Stanton (Redmond Layls), Beverly D’Angelo (Andy Ellerman), Michael McKean (Eddy Revere), Saul Rubinek (Laurence Moncrief), Viveka Davis (June Huff), Veronica Cartwright (Helen Dextra), David Clennon (Lewie Duart), John Kapelos (Detective Melvenos), Paul Mazursky (Lee MacGreevy), Gary Graham (Butch Gable) and Lauren Tom (Adele Bliss).


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