Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Born Losers

I missed this on first run because I was 8 years old in 1967 and knew nothing of and cared nothing for drive-in biker flicks. This one proved to be more than just a biker flick, however, when its egotistical "auteur" Tom Laughlin revived his character in a series of uniquely seventies follow-ups starting with BILLY JACK.

Elizabeth James, who made little impact on films, is actually the star here as a young woman whose life gets caught up with a vicious motorcycle gang. The actress also co-wrote the script. She later wrote novels.

The evil gang leader is played by Jeremy Slate who is so good in the role that when I first saw the film on its re-release in 1974, I actually thought he was a real criminal drafted to appear in the film. In reality, he was a very good actor with a surprising range and a great flare for comedy.

For no apparent reason, legendary actress Jane Russell has a small role in the film as a rape victim's mother.

Laughlin's Billy Jack was a complex character who appeared overall in 4 and a half films, all the rest of which were long, preachy, self-indulgent, anti-authority, pro-Native American, ant-violence films that had a lead character who schizophrenically used violence to solve everything. The BORN LOSERS Billy Jack wasn't yet fully formed but the later Billy Jack became and remains iconic to anyone who enjoyed seventies movies. 

With the unprecedented four wall success of BILLY JACK a few years later, American International reissued BORN LOSERS and that's when I saw it. It struck me as too violent for my tastes even as a teen. If I recall correctly, even Laughlin complained that he hadn't wanted it brought back out at the time but the studio clearly was highlighting the Billy Jack character who wasn't even mentioned on the original poster. And it made a mint.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Impossible Years

Cristina Ferrare--later known as John DeLorean's wife--is surprisingly charismatic in this silly little  overlong sex farce that tries hard for some reason to remain demure. David Niven is fine in the lead and Michael McGreevey has a fun boyfriend role. Chad Everett--usually so deadpan--shows a fine sense of humor and every scene she's in is stolen by young Darleen Carr. It was also Ozzie Nelson's final film.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Even Angels Eat Beans

Bud Spencer made 20 fun flicks with Terence Hill. They were so popular in some countries that each of them was able to carry a successful solo career for decades as well. There were even attempts at casting similar Asterix/Obelix combinations to make Hill/Spencer rip-off films. EVEN ANGELS EAT BEANS is very much a Hill/Spencer flick, only without Hill. In his place is handsome, funny Giuliano Gemma, himself also an actor known for his lighthearted spaghetti western roles...just like Terence Hill. He plays a crafty young con man who teams up with a former wrestler to work both with and against a gangster in 1920s America. There are touches of THE STING crossed with THE GODFATHER and--for some bizarre reason--some martial arts stuff. But in the end, it still plays like a Hill/Spencer flick and it wouldn't surprise me at all if Hill had been meant to co-star here or perhaps even started it and dropped out!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Orson Welles-My Top 5

Even today, on what would have been Orson Welles' 100th birthday, I remain fascinated by everything he ever did as an actor and/or a filmmaker. I find myself entranced whenever the subject of his many uncompleted projects comes up. Here are five of his most mainstream appearances, though, and all favorites of mine. (F FOR FAKE, a low-budget experimental film he made with later porn director Gary Graver more than a decade prior to his passing, is also a favorite.)