Tag Archives: Michael Moriarty

The Last Detail (1973, Hal Ashby)

Even though Jack Nicholson gets top billing and the most bombastic role in The Last Detail, Otis Young has the harder job. He’s got to temper Nicholson, both for the sake of the audience and of the narrative. The film introduces the two men simultaneously–Robert Towne’s script almost immediately establishes an unspoken bond between the two, even though it takes them well through the first act to get to know each other.

The Last Detail is an atypical buddy picture for many reasons, with the two buddies getting thrown together being one of the more immediate ones. But more, the film is practically a parenting outing. Nicholson’s the crazy, fun dad, Young’s the responsible mother (who you don’t want to cross) and Randy Quaid’s the kid. Of course, Nicholson and Young are escorting Quaid to the stockade.

Along the way, Nicholson and Young do not go on an odyssey of self discovery. Their efforts in humanizing Quaid don’t lead to big momentous changes in their lives. Towne is reserved, saving the expository character development scenes for when Quaid’s doing something else (sometimes just napping); it makes those scenes, with Nicholson calm as opposed to manic and Young not fretting as much, rather special.

Director Ashby and editor Robert C. Jones create a tranquil, quiet quality for the film, using fades to guide the viewer’s attention. Great photography from Michael Chapman and a rather good score from Johnny Mandel.

All the acting’s great. Detail is muted, precise and often devastating.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Hal Ashby; screenplay by Robert Towne, based on the novel by Darryl Ponicsan; director of photography, Michael Chapman; edited by Robert C. Jones; music by Johnny Mandel; production designer, Michael D. Haller; produced by Gerald Ayres; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Jack Nicholson (Buddusky), Otis Young (Mulhall), Randy Quaid (Meadows), Clifton James (M.A.A.), Carol Kane (Young Prostitute) and Michael Moriarty (Marine O.D.).


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The Stuff (1985, Larry Cohen)

According to IMDb, Larry Cohen cut about a half hour out of The Stuff. It’s entirely possible with that added footage, the movie might have made sense. As it’s cut now, it’s a somewhat diverting–at least until the third act–cross between The Blob and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Unfortunately, Cohen’s direction is weak throughout, so when he loses track of the story in the third act… there’s nothing to keep the film going.

As a satire, it’s only moderately successful. Cohen has a lot more success when he’s dealing in absurdity, like Paul Sorvino’s extremist militia leader who ends up saving the world. The way Cohen presents the character–clearly a nut job, but also one who genuinely cares about people and is completely ethical–is maybe the best thing about the film. It’s a small thing, but it just makes for some great scenes.

Sorvino’s not the lead though. Michael Moriarty is the lead. I’m not sure Moriarty could ever give a bad performance and he doesn’t here, he just doesn’t have a character arc. It seems like Cohen cut out the romance between Moriarty and Andrea Marcovicci, which is unfortunate. It would have given them both something to do when they weren’t doing the horror scenes.

I was a little surprised by Cohen’s bad direction, since it’s pervasive. The budget contributes to some of the problems, but certainly not all of them.

Garrett Morris is wasted, as is Danny Aiello.

Anthony Guefen’s goofy music doesn’t help.

Still, never boring.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Larry Cohen; director of photography, Paul Glickman; edited by Armond Lebowitz; music by Anthony Guefen; produced by Paul Kurta; released by New World Pictures.

Starring Michael Moriarty (David ‘Mo’ Rutherford), Andrea Marcovicci (Nicole), Garrett Morris (‘Chocolate Chip’ Charlie W. Hobbs), Paul Sorvino (Colonel Malcolm Grommett Spears), Scott Bloom (Jason), Danny Aiello (Vickers) and Patrick O’Neal (Fletcher).


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Q (1982, Larry Cohen)

Q is sort of ripe for a remake. Not because this version has shoddy special effects–while the film’s still effective with them, they look like something out of the 1925 Lost World–but because there are three great roles in the film and nearly a fourth.

Michael Moriarty’s top-billed and definitely gives the film’s most sensational performance as a weaselly small-time crook who has a terrifying adventure and figures out how to profit from it–what sets Q apart is the relatively lengthy time spent on the politics of hunting a flying monster in New York City. It’s tragic the guy’s never been appreciated for his acting brilliance.

The real lead is David Carradine (as a cop), because even with the screen time given to Moriarty, the film’s still a police procedural. Carradine’s performance is really impressive–though he’s undone, once or twice, by Cohen’s terrible insert close-ups, which I’ll get to in a second. Then there’s Richard Roundtree, as another cop, who gets a full character in a supporting role. Roundtree’s great too and it’s too bad Cohen didn’t just make a straight prequel with him and Carradine investigating some case.

Unfortunately, as solid as Cohen’s writing is for his male characters, it’s inversely weak for the one female character. Candy Clark’s Moriarty’s girlfriend and she’s awful. It’s not her so much as bad editing and bad inserts and terrible writing. It’s real disappointing.

But, Q‘s a good movie. Better than it should be, really.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Written, produced and directed by Larry Cohen; directors of photography, Robert Levi and Fred Murphy; edited by Armond Lebowitz; music by Robert O. Ragland; released by United Film Distribution Company.

Starring Michael Moriarty (Jimmy Quinn), Candy Clark (Joan), David Carradine (Shepard), Richard Roundtree (Powell), James Dixon (Lt. Murray), Malachy McCourt (Commissioner), Fred J. Scollay (Capt. Fletcher), John Capodice (Doyle) and Tony Page (Webb).


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Pale Rider (1985, Clint Eastwood)

Pale Rider is an interesting Eastwood–while it is a milestone in Eastwood coming together as a filmmaker–it’s also one of the few films where he really offered up so much for another actor to do. The film’s some kind of homage to Shane–as well as a colder, more mountainous version of High Plains Drifter–but Michael Moriarty has a lot more to do in Pale Rider than Van Heflin had to do in Shane even. With a handful of mediocre ones, Pale Rider has some of the best performances in any Eastwood film to this point. Besides Moriarty, who really has to carry the film, since Eastwood’s absent as a character, there’s Chris Penn, who’s fantastic as the bad guy. Doug McGrath is good, so is Richard Kiel (though he doesn’t have much to do). Richard Dysart shows up as the big bad and he’s hamming it up but it’s in a funny way. The script’s absolute shit (more on it in a second), but Dysart has a great time with it. Carrie Snodgress doesn’t do well with the script, which saddles her with an unsympathetic and petty character. Worst (though still passable) is Sydney Penny, who plays the teenage girl in love with Eastwood. She can’t deliver the bad lines properly and there’s no way she’s Snodgress’s daughter, so she sticks out.

The script–from the half-wits who wrote The Car of all things–probably doesn’t have a single good moment. Watching the film, appreciating the stuff between Eastwood and Moriarty, I figured Eastwood came up with that relationship on set. While Pale Rider is a definite influence on Unforgiven–much of it makes Unforgiven, Eastwood’s next Western, seem like a response to Pale Rider. Rider is the same old formula Western (full of references to earlier Eastwood Westerns), only with it, Eastwood really gets the filmmaking end of it together. He’s got Lennie Niehaus on music and there’s some good stuff, but it’s mostly not. Joel Cox edits the film and does a wonderful job. Bruce Surtees shot it in his standard flat palate, but the technical end really comes through. Some of the work in Pale Rider is from a different Clint Eastwood. Not better, not worse, but different. He was going to either go, stylistically, one way or the other and in Pale Rider, you can see both of them side-by-side.

Unfortunately, the script’s so bad, it’s impossible to recommend as anything but an example of a competent, interesting production. By the time the end shoot-out comes around, it’s all so telegraphed (and short) and entirely familiar, there’s really nothing to it. There’s no excitement and it becomes obvious what a chore Pale Rider was for Eastwood to make–and how lazy he was in regards to many, many aspects of it, particularly the undeveloped town. Eastwood was making a ton of movies during this period and Pale Rider suffers from a stretched attention-span.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Clint Eastwood; written by Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack; director of photography, Bruce Surtees; edited by Joel Cox; music by Lennie Niehaus; production designer, Edward C. Carfagno; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Clint Eastwood (Preacher), Michael Moriarty (Hull Barret), Carrie Snodgress (Sarah Wheeler), Christopher Penn (Josh LaHood), Richard Dysart (Coy LaHood), Sydney Penny (Megan Wheeler), Richard Kiel (Club), Doug McGrath (Spider Conway), John Russell (Stockburn), Charles Hallahan (McGill), Marvin J. McIntyre (Jagou), Fran Ryan (Ma Blankenship), Richard Hamilton (Jed Blankenship), Graham Paul (Ev Gossage), Chuck LaFont (Eddie Conway) and Jeffrey Weissman (Teddy Conway).


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