Tag Archives: Hope Lange

Peyton Place (1957, Mark Robson)

Peyton Place takes over a year and a half starting in 1941. Director Robson has a really slick way of getting the date into the ground situation. Robson and cinematographer William C. Mellor go a little wild with Peyton Place–there’s a lot of location shooting and Robson tries hard to make the viewer feel enveloped. The film’s a soap opera, not requiring the viewer to situate themselves inside the story, but Robson invites it. The film’s a technical delight; Robson’s proud of its quality.

But the encompassing isn’t required because Peyton Place is a sensational soap opera. From the opening narration, the film declares itself sensational. The film starts with Diane Varsi’s narration then goes to Lee Philips arriving in town. Eventually, after being high school senior Farsi’s new principal, Philips will also romance her mother, played by Lana Turner. Most, if not all, of the drama has something to do with Varsi and Turner’s home or Varsi’s school or Turner’s business. And if it doesn’t have to do with them, then it’s war-related. Varsi starts Peyton Place its protagonist, with Turner sort of waiting in the wings to have her own big story. There’s all sorts of potential juxtaposition and alter ego and it ought to be great.

Only, by the end of the movie, Varsi and Turner are complete strangers to the viewer and each other. The film jumps ship from Varsi’s story two-thirds of the way in and she still narrates, but she’s not part of the action. And when she does return, she doesn’t get to make up any of that time. The film doesn’t even commit to her having an actual love interest in Russ Tamblyn’s troubled teenage boy. It’s a shame because Varsi and Tamblyn are great together, while she and Turner aren’t. Their scenes just aren’t particularly good.

Actually, Peyton Place doesn’t really have anything to do with Lana Turner. Her romance is entirely Philips pursuing her, usually at just the right moment to set off an argument with Varsi. Turner gets through it, but her only pay-off scene is a courtroom breakdown. It’d be more significant if it wasn’t followed by a superior courtroom breakdown, which is setoff in the narrative by Turner’s. So, lots of problems. Luckily the film’s beautifully produced and well-acted (even if in undercooked roles). Robson and screenwriter John Michael Hayes had to clean up the source novel for the censors, which Robson utilizes to give some of his actors more room. They use it well.

Except Philips. Philips is physically fine for the part, but he’s just a bit tepid. He’s supposed to be a sexy progressive dude who cares about education and sex ed and he’s never convincing. He just mopes around Turner until she gives in.

Varsi’s pretty good. She’s got a lot to do in the first half of the movie, it’s all her show. The scenes with Tamblyn are best because it’s her storyline more than anything else in the film. Tamblyn’s just her sweet male friend. His own backstory only exists when Varsi’s around. The film’s failure with it is another of the frustrations.

Anyway, pretty soon Varsi’s just around to support Hope Lange’s story–which is the center of the film as it turns out–or something with Turner, which always affects the high school and that subplot. Hayes’s script is masterful, no doubt, but it’s a masterful soap opera. He’s going for sensationalism, not the characters. Robson’s going for the characters and the visual grandeur of it. While the two approaches end up complimenting each other, there’s only so far Robson could take it.

Lange’s amazing. Sometimes she’s second fiddle in her own scenes, but Robson always makes sure to give her time to act. Seeing Lange’s experience through her expressions is what gives Peyton Place its heart. Robson helps, sure, but he knows Lange’s got to handle a lot of weight and figures out the best way to distribute it.

Also excellent is Arthur Kennedy, who has a similar relationship with the film as Lange.

Tamblyn’s good. Lloyd Nolan’s great as the town doctor who also serves as a guide through the film. Leon Ames is awesome as the mean local rich guy. Lorne Greene is the nasty prosecuting attorney in the third act. I’m not sure he’s good but he’s definitely loathsome, though the courtroom finale isn’t set up well in the narrative. Hayes does fine once he gets into the trial, but its inciting incident is a complete fumble.

Because Peyton Place isn’t a great movie. It’s got a lot of problems. It might even get long in parts, which isn’t a good thing–if you’re going to run two and a half hours, you can’t feel long. But it is a good movie, with some great filmmaking and some great performances. And Franz Waxman’s music is gorgeous.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Mark Robson; screenplay by John Michael Hayes, based on the novel by Grace Metalious; director of photography, William C. Mellor; edited by David Bretherton; music by Franz Waxman; produced by Jerry Wald; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Lana Turner (Constance MacKenzie), Diane Varsi (Allison MacKenzie), Hope Lange (Selena Cross), Lee Philips (Michael Rossi), Lloyd Nolan (Dr. Swain), Arthur Kennedy (Lucas Cross), Russ Tamblyn (Norman Page), Leon Ames (Mr. Harrington), Terry Moore (Betty Anderson), David Nelson (Ted Carter), Barry Coe (Rodney Harrington), Betty Field (Nellie Cross), Mildred Dunnock (Miss Elsie Thornton), Lorne Greene (Prosecutor), and Scotty Morrow (Joseph Cross).


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A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985, Jack Sholder)

Why is Freddy’s Revenge so bad? It shouldn’t be so bad. No mistake–it’s terrible and it’s terrible mostly because of director Sholder and lead Mark Patton.

While Patton’s awful, it’d be wrong to blame it entirely on him. He doesn’t get any help whatsoever from director Sholder. But then Sholder doesn’t direct any of his actors. It’s painfully obvious with Clu Gulager and Hope Lange, who are both game to try in this waste of their time, but Shoulder never gives them anything. The movie’s so weird because it’s like the actors are doing their own version of the script and Sholder’s doing his version of it.

But the movie’s also weird because, like I said, it should be better. Whoever decided to put an emphasis on having Robert Englund (in an eighty percent bad, twenty percent good) performance made the film worse. It’s hard to believe it would have been screenwriter David Chaskin because he writes all of the dialogue for the supporting cast when Englund’s around as though he’s not the character who’s supposed to be there. It seemingly unintentionally makes Englund’s Freddy Krueger into a bland monster. I say seemingly because if director Sholder had gotten that approach, in observing it, he would have changed it. Freddy’s Revenge isn’t a comedy. Sholder’s got no sense of humor. Of course, editor Bob Brady has no sense of timing so it wouldn’t matter anyway.

Freddy’s Revenge fails on multiple cylinders, but they all seem unaware of one another. The visual effects and Christopher Young’s score weather the film the best, even if Sholder doesn’t know how to shoot the effects sequences. Brady wouldn’t be able to cut them anyway.

You know, maybe another big problem is bad (and uncredited) production design from Gregg Fonseca. It’s entirely possible Sholder wouldn’t have been able to shoot it properly but there’s just something off about Freddy’s Revenge.

Chaskin’s script isn’t good, but it’s got signs of ambition. Sholder’s actively trying to avoid ambition. For instance–the infamous gay subtext. It should have made the movie. Instead it’s just another one of the film’s failures because Sholder’s not cognizant of what he has to direct. And Patton’s desperately in need of direction, unable to figure out the bad–but ambitious–script.

Anything titled A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge should be bad, but nowhere near this bad.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jack Sholder; screenplay by David Chaskin, based on characters created by Wes Craven; director of photography, Jacques Haitkin; edited by Bob Brady; music by Christopher Young; production designer, Gregg Fonseca; produced by Robert Shaye; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Mark Patton (Jesse Walsh), Kim Myers (Lisa Webber), Robert Rusler (Ron Grady), Sydney Walsh (Kerry), Clu Gulager (Ken Walsh), Hope Lange (Cheryl Walsh), Christie Clark (Angela Walsh), Marshall Bell (Coach Schneider) and Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger).


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Death Wish (1974, Michael Winner)

I’m having a hard time deciding where the start with Death Wish. I wanted to open with a glib comment about how much I appreciated (even though it’s counter to some expository dialogue in the film) more of the criminals being white than black. Very progressive (or cautious) for 1974. But then I thought maybe starting with director Michael Winner–who actually does achieve one well-directed sequence in the entire film (and Death Wish shot on location in New York, so it’s hard to mess up, but Winner makes it look like a Mentos commercial). Or the writing, which is more Hollywoodized than an episode of “Friends.” I never thought about starting with Bronson’s performance, because I wanted to positive comments to come as a surprise. And Vincent Gardenia being terrible isn’t particularly interesting. I even thought about outlining how the story elements could have been juxtaposed to create something good. But then I finished watching the movie and the ending sort of messed it all up. For the majority of the film, Death Wish implies it’s going to be responsible for its content and then ends instead as an action movie. Bronson’s character is obviously suffering from a psychological break and, again, it’s suggested this insanity will be addressed… it isn’t. The lack of responsibility does just undo Bronson’s otherwise excellent work, it also damages the film. The last half hour of Death Wish–the film only really has a good half hour, the middle one–is mostly Gardenia’s bad acting… so it needed to end well and it did not.

Oh, I didn’t mention the score. I guess getting Herbie Hancock was some sort of coup for director Winner (based on wikipedia), but Hancock’s music is the film’s biggest problem (besides the directing and Gardenia, ahead of the writing). Hancock blares everything in the score–there’s practically a ‘mugger theme’–and brings absolutely no nuance to the movie, which is exactly what it needs. Besides the lousy third act, it’s a very quiet, intimate story… something Bronson either gets or just couldn’t mess up.

The real problem is Winner, who can’t figure out how to direct family scenes, fight scenes, men at work scenes–there are a couple good establishing shots, but I’m guessing those were second unit. He’s a terrible, terrible director. Like I said before, Mentos commercials (“it’s the freshmaker.”)

The lousy supporting cast doesn’t help. All the cops are terrible, not just Gardenia. Steven Keats tries real hard as Bronson’s son-in-law, but he just doesn’t pull it off (a combination of his performance and, visibly, not getting enough back from Bronson). Stuart Margolin, as the gun-lover who opens Bronson’s eyes, is good. Otherwise, it’s mediocre acting at best.

The film’s effects (I find it odd I could care less about popular novels of particular eras, but popular films of past eras I usually get around to seeing) are wide-reaching (Taxi Driver being an obvious example–I’m sure, after Death Wish made a fortune, studios got a lot more willing to release this material), though it’s a toss-up between the film’s financial success and Dino De Laurentiis’s particular brand of filmic storytelling. Once I saw his name as presenting it… I actually had some idea what I was in for.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Winner; screenplay by Wendell Mayes, based on the novel by Brian Garfield; director of photography, Arthur J. Ornitz; edited by Bernard Gribble; music by Herbie Hancock; production designer, Robert Gundlach; produced by Hal Landers and Bobby Roberts; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Charles Bronson (Paul Kersey), Hope Lange (Joanna Kersey), Vincent Gardenia (Frank Ochoa), Steven Keats (Jack Toby), William Redfield (Sam Kreutzer), Stuart Margolin (Ames Jainchill), Stephen Elliott (Police Commissioner), Kathleen Tolan (Carol Toby) and Jack Wallace (Hank).


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