Tuesday, August 29, 2017

#2,415. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

Directed By: W.D. Richter

Starring: Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin

Tagline: "Expect the unexpected. He does."

Trivia: Jamie Lee Curtis played Buckaroo's mother in a flashback, but this scene was cut

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is an incredibly imaginative sci-fi / action / comedy, and it will likely take more than one viewing for all of its nuances to sink in.

Fortunately, the movie is also wildly entertaining, so seeing it again isn’t going to be a chore.

Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller), a world-class physicist / neurosurgeon who’s also a rock star and a part-time government agent, has just accomplished something nobody’s ever done before: with the help of his trusty oscillation overthruster, Buckaroo was able to pass safely through solid rock, and in the process has proven his theory that an alternate universe, complete with alien species, exists within the matter of solid objects. But Buckaroo’s “experiment” has done more than further his reputation as the most ingenious man alive; it’s drawn the attention of the Red Lectoids, a hostile alien race that intends to use the overthruster to return to their planet (due to their violent behavior and repeated attempts to extinguish fellow species the Black Lectoids, the Red Lectoids were banished to earth back in 1938, and have been hiding out in New Jersey ever since).

Even more surprising is the revelation that Dr. Emelio Lizardo (John Lithgow), a former colleague of Buckaroo’s mentor Professor Hikita (Robert Ito), has for years been under the control of the tyrannical leader of the Red Lectoids, John Whorfin. After escaping from a mental institution, Lizardo / Whorfin reconnects with his lieutenants John Bigboote (Christopher Lloyd) and John O’Connor (Vincent Schiavelli) and concocts a plan to steal the overthruster right out from under Buckaroo’s nose.

Buckaroo and his loyal compatriots Rawhide (Clancy Brown), Perfect Tommy (Lewis Smith), Reno (Pepe Serna) and Dr. Sidney Zweibel (Jeff Goldblum) join forces with John Parker (Carl Lumbly), a Black Lectoid, to keep the overthruster from falling into Lizardo’s hands. Should they fail, the Black Lectoid leader John Emdall (Rosalind Cash) will try to eliminate the Red Lectoids by ordering a nearby spaceship, hovering just above earth’s atmosphere, to destroy the entire planet!

Fortunately, Buckaroo Banzai is on the job, and not even his love affair with new girlfriend Penny Priddy (Ellen Barkin) will distract him from the mission at hand.

In an interview conducted around the time of the film’s release, star Peter Weller described his character, Buckaroo Banzai, as “A bit of Leonardo Da Vinci, Jacques Cousteau, Albert Einstein, and (rocker) Adam Ant, and an adventurer in love with the unknown”. That sums him up perfectly; in the first act alone, we see Buckaroo perform a tricky brain operation, put his oscillation overthruster to the test (successfully), and join his band, The Honk Kong Cavaliers, on-stage, singing to a packed house. And even though Weller’s understated performance makes him seem like an everyman, Buckaroo Banzai proves time and again he’s the cleverest dude alive (especially when matching wits with the insane Dr. Lizardo).

The supporting cast is also quite good. Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Sidney Zweibel, who’s given the nickname “New Jersey” when he joins Buckaroo’s team, is the newcomer to the group, and because of this his character is in the same boat as the rest of us (what he experiences over the course of the movie amazes him to no end). Best of all, though, is John Lithgow, who plays Dr. Lizardo / Whorfin as if he was a cross between Adolph Hitler and Daffy Duck, a clearly dangerous being so over-the-top that we can’t help but laugh at his antics.

In addition to its cast, the movie’s make-up and special effects remain as impressive today as they were in 1984; and there are moments that will have you laughing out loud (the exchanges between Dr. Lizardo and Christopher Lloyd’s John Bigboote that occur late in the film may be the comedy highlight of the entire movie). I also enjoyed the various pop culture references, especially how the filmmakers tied the Red Lectoid’s arrival on earth in with Orson Welles’ infamous 1938 War of the Worlds radio program.

Yet what I found really bold and exciting about The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai was the manner in which writer Earl Mac Rauch and director W.D. Richter structured its story, building an entire mythology around their lead character and his exploits, then tossing us head-first into the mix, providing backstory only as the movie progressed and challenging us to accept this bizarre world on its own terms. Some may find this method a bit jarring; in its review of the film, Variety said it “violates every rule of storytelling”, while Richard Corliss of Time (who enjoyed the movie) called it “a state-of-the-art spaceship flying at the speed of light without narrative coordinates”. Admittedly, there were moments when I, too, was scratching my head, trying to make sense of it all.

The film’s unusual approach to its story is probably best exemplified in the relationship that develops between Buckaroo and Penny Priddy. After meeting her at the concert featuring his band The Hong Kong Cavaliers, Buckaroo goes out of his way to help Penny (who is so depressed that, at one point, she tries to take her own life). As we soon discover, Penny bears a striking resemblance to Buckaroo’s former love Peggy, which at least partially explains his attraction to her. Well, there’s a very good reason why Penny looks so much like Peggy, but this revelation comes later on, after Penny has already been accepted into the fold. So, for a while, it seemed as if this romantic subplot was unnecessarily crowbarred into the narrative, and didn’t really gel with the rest of the movie. But like other aspects of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, we come to understand this love affair and the integral part it plays in the story.

And over time the other “confusing” scenarios that make up The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai across the 8th Dimension will also fall into place. So, even if you’re befuddled in the early going, hang in there; your patience will be well-rewarded in the end.

Monday, August 28, 2017

#2,414. Office Space (1999)

Directed By: Mike Judge

Starring: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, David Herman

Tag line: "Work Sucks"

Trivia: After poor box office returns, this movie gained cult status on video

Even if you’ve never worked in a cubicle, or attended a morning meeting that seemed to drag on forever, odds are you’ll still enjoy Office Space, the smartly-written 1999 workplace comedy directed by Mike Judge (the creative mind behind the Beavis and Butthead cartoon series). 

But if you’re like me, and spent years toiling away in an office environment like the one in this film, there are moments in Office Space that will have you rolling on the floor!

Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) doesn't much like his job. A computer programmer for Initech, Peter has 8 different bosses he reports to on a daily basis, all hounding him whenever he makes a mistake, and the company’s head honcho, Bill Lumburgh (Gary Cole), has asked Peter to work yet another Saturday. To make matter worse, Initech just hired two consultants, Bob Sydell (John C. McGinley) and Bob Porter (Paul Willson), to spearhead a company-wide downsizing, meaning a round of layoffs are on the way.

To deal with his stress, Peter’s girlfriend Anne (Alexandra Wentworth) convinces him to visit Dr. Swnason (Michael McShane), an occupational hypnotherapist. But when a tragedy brings their session to an abrupt end, a mostly-hypnotized Peter finds he has a whole new outlook on life, and doesn’t care about his job anymore. None too happy with Peter’s new attitude, Anne dumps him the very next day, which clears the way for Peter to hook up with Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), the pretty yet confused waitress he has had his eye on for some time.

And while Mr. Lumburgh definitely has issues with the “New Peter”, who only shows up to work when he feels like it, the consultants are convinced Peter’s carefree approach makes him the ideal candidate for an executive position! 

But Peter has his own plans for “advancement”, and with the help of fellow programmers Michael Bolton (David Herman) and Samir Nagheenanajar (Ajay Naidu), both of whom were recently laid off, Peter unleashes a computer virus on Initech that, if all goes well, will make him and his two cohorts very, very rich men!

One of the many strengths of Office Space is its collection of bizarre characters. Ron Livingston is well-cast as the lead, whose transformation from a manic-depressive employee to a free spirit who no longer gives a damn is one of the film’s most appealing aspects; and even though her character isn’t given much to do, Jennifer Aniston also gets a few laughs when she’s on the job (her manager at the restaurant, played by director Mike Judge, is constantly criticizing her lack of uniform accessories).

In addition, Gary Cole is at his smarmy best as the top executive nobody likes (the scene where employees gather around and half-heartedly sing “Happy Birthday” to Cole’s Bill Lumburgh reminded me of damn near every office birthday party I ever attended), and Diedrich Bader has a small but memorable role as Peter’s boisterous next-door neighbor Lawrence. The real show-stopper, though, is Stephen Root’s Milton Waddans, a meek, slightly deranged Initech employee who mumbles to himself and threatens to burn the office down if anyone steals his stapler. Based on a character created by Judge for a series of animated shorts (which were simply titled Milton), Milton is, indeed, cartoonish and over-the-top, but Root somehow makes him endearing as well. 

Yet as great as its characters are, Office Space is, first and foremost, an hilarious parody of a typical office setting, and as someone who has endured both the good and the bad of what corporate America had to offer, I couldn't stop laughing! Memories came rushing back, like the headache of morning traffic (which puts you in a foul mood before you even sit down at your desk); trying to clear a paper jam from a copier that isn’t jammed at all; and crunching numbers for a series of endless reports that seldom change from one week to the week. 

Obviously, these aren’t what I would categorize as “happy” memories (one job was so particularly soul-crushing that when they told me they were laying me off, I locked myself in the bathroom and did a 3-minute happy dance), but seeing other people endure these same frustrations sure had me grinning from ear-to-ear!

And if you, too, ever worked in an office like this one, Office Space will have you smiling as well.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

#2,413. The New Barbarians (1983)

Directed By: Enzo G. Castellari

Starring: Giancarlo Prete, Fred Williamson, George Eastman

Tag line: "Dealers in death... exterminators of the 21st century..."

Trivia: Riffed by the guys from MST3K, Bill Corbett, Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy

The New Barbarians, aka Warriors of the Wasteland, is director Enzo Castellari’s take on George Miller’s The Road Warrior, but in the end there are too many lulls in the action for it to be an effective knock-off of that 1981 classic.

Years have passed since the world was devastated by nuclear war. Patches of survivors make their way across the wasteland, doing what they can to avoid a roaming gang of killers known as The Templars. One (George Eastman), the leader of the Templars, has sworn to finish the job that God (and the bombs) started by stamping out humanity wherever he finds it. Scorpion (Giancarlo Prete) was himself once a member of the Templars, but is now their worst enemy. With the help of his souped-up car, Scorpion stays as far away from his former pals as he can, and every so often he even tries to stop the group from committing further atrocities.

In fact, Scorpion just recently rescued Alma (Anna Kanakis), a pretty young lady who had been captured by the Templars, and along with his his friend Nadir (Fred Williamson) he promises to keep both her and her peaceful band of religious survivors safe from One and the others. But seeing as The Templars have access to some very fast vehicles (not to mention a huge arsenal), staying a step ahead of them isn’t going to be easy.

Appearance is everything when it comes to post-apocalyptic movies such as The New Barbarians; did the filmmakers manage to convince us that the world as we know it has come to an end? Castellari set the entire film in a wasteland of sorts, shooting in empty fields and old factories, and when you consider the limited funds he had at his disposal I’d say the director did, indeed, create a believable setting (though some of the street chases, when Scorpion is running from pursuing Templars, look as if they were shot on an airport runway).

Unfortunately, this is as good as The New Barbarians gets. Even for a low-budget movie, the costumes are cheesy (the Templars look like a pared-down version of the Storm troopers in Star Wars) as are the vehicles (Scorpion’s car is fairly ordinary save a large glass dome on the roof and some tubes jutting out of the hood). The action is also lacking; the movie opens well enough, with the Templars doing battle with a small collection of survivors, but for a post-apocalyptic action flick, The New Barbarians doesn’t generate nearly as much excitement as it should.

Throw in a very bizarre rape scene and a particularly hammy performance by Fred Williamson and you have what is easily one of the more forgettable ‘80s post-apocalyptic films. Castellari’s similarly-themed 1990: The Bronx Warriors was no classic, but I’d definitely recommend it over this movie.

Monday, August 21, 2017

#2,412. The War Lord (1965)

Directed By: Franklin J. Schaffner

Starring: Charlton Heston, Richard Boone, Rosemary Forsyth

Tag line: "Until this moment, the shield was his only bed...the sword his only bride!"

Trivia: Charlton Heston admitted in his 1978 journal "An Actor's Life" that he was not impressed by Richard Boone's performance

With its rousing score, period costumes, and sweeping battle scenes, 1965’s The War Lord has the look and feel of a Hollywood epic. But beneath all its magnificence lurks a love story for the ages, and thanks to director Franklin J. Schaffner, the characters, and not the spectacle, are what drive the movie forward.

It’s the 11th century, and Chrysagon de la Cruex (Charlton Heston), a Norman knight, has been ordered by his lord and master the Duke to defend a Celtic village, which is in danger of being attacked by Frisian raiders. Joined by his brother Draco (Guy Stockwell) and most trusted comrade Bors (Richard Boone), Chrysagon takes up residence in a small tower overlooking the countryside, prepared to do the Duke’s bidding but none too happy that the locals, ignoring the efforts of a Christian priest (Maurice Evans), still practice their “heathen” religion.

While out riding one day, Chrysagon spots a beautiful peasant girl working by the side of the river, and falls instantly in love with her. Her name is Bronwyn (Rosemary Forsyth), and she is about to be married to Marc (James Farentino), the son of the village elder. Though he wants to maintain a cordial relationship with the villagers, Chrysagon is nonetheless persuaded by his brother Draco to evoke his “right of first night” with Bronwyn (an ancient custom that allows the local authority to bed a virgin bride on her wedding night).

Once the ceremony is completed, Bronwyn is brought to Chrysagon, and during their time together she confesses that she is in love with him as well. So, when the sun rises the next morning, Chrysagon breaks tradition by refusing to allow Bronwyn to return to her new husband, an act that forces the villagers to seek an alliance with a Frisian Prince (Henry Wilcoxon), whose young son (Johnny Jensen) is being held prisoner by Draco.

Is Chrysagon ready to go to war for love, or will his duty to lord and country influence his actions?

Having already portrayed larger than life characters in movies such as Ben-Hur and El Cid, Charlton Heston was the perfect choice for the role of the heroic yet lovesick Chrysagon, while Guy Stockwell is every bit Heston’s equal as Draco, Chrysagon’s occasionally treacherous brother. In addition, the musical score (by Jerome Moross) and the costumes (designed by Vittorio Nino Novarese) are first-rate; and kudos to director Schaffner, who somehow managed to make Southern California look exactly like France in the Middle Ages (I was shocked when I discovered The War Lord wasn’t filmed on-location in Europe).

Yet all this, as well as the electrifying battles (the Frisian siege of the tower fills a fair portion of the movie’s third act, and is a thrill a minute), plays second fiddle to the characters and their relationships, not only the central love story (which is very effective), but also the sibling rivalry that develops between Chrysagon and Draco (leading to some tense moments between the two). As he would do later on with Patton and Papillon, Franklin Schaffner created an elaborate, fascinating world for The War Lord, then made his characters the most interesting aspect of the film.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

#2,411. The Room (2003)

Directed By: Tommy Wiseau

Starring: O'Tommy Wiseau, Greg Sestero, Juliette Danielle

Tag line: "Can you ever really trust anyone?"

Trivia: The film's editor tried to convince Tommy Wiseau to cut the shot of his naked ass from the movie, on the grounds that the sight of it scared his wife

A few days ago, I took issue with those who believe that Menahem Golan’s 1980 musical The Apple was the worst movie ever made. Having just seen The Room, a drama / romance written and directed by Tommy Wiseau, I’m even more confident that my defense of The Apple was justified.

In a world where The Room exists, how can anyone believe there’s a movie worse than this 2003 train wreck?

Johnny (Wiseau) is a great guy. He has a good job with the bank; is paying for Denny (Philip Haldiman), a local neighbor boy with no family of his own, to go to college; and he treats his fiance Lisa (Juliette Danielle) as if she was an angel, buying her flowers and gifts for no reason other than to show that he loves her. 

But Lisa no longer has feelings for Johnny, and is considering breaking off their engagement. Lisa’s mother Claudette (Carolyn Minnott), tells her that she’s lucky to have a guy like Johnny, and should marry him anyway. Lisa, however, thinks differently, and to escape the boredom that has become her life she seduces Johnny’s best friend Mark (Greg Sestero). 

At first, Mark wants nothing to do with Lisa, but soon the two are lovers, and know full well that if Johnny ever learns the truth about them, it will break his heart.

Set in San Francisco (I figured that out around the 100th time the movie cut away to a random shot of the Golden Gate Bridge), The Room is awful on so many levels. For one, its characters do the most bizarre things; early on, when Lisa is modeling a sexy new dress that Johnny bought her, Denny walks in and tells Lisa she looks great. Johnny and Lisa then excuse themselves and head upstairs to make love, and for some reason, Denny thinks it’s a good idea to follow! Johnny tells Denny, ever so politely, they want to be alone, to which Denny replies that he “likes to watch them”.


Well, Denny does eventually leave, and it’s a good thing, too, because if he stuck around to watch Johnny and Lisa do the nasty, it would have likely put him to sleep; there are no fewer than four sex scenes scattered throughout The Room, each as boring as the last. And despite his claims that he is a classically trained actor, Tommy Wiseau is dreadful in the lead role (with his thick Polish accent, I admit I had some difficulty understanding him at times). The rest of the cast isn’t much better, but Wiseau’s wooden portrayal of the saintly Johnny will literally leave you speechless.

When it comes to the film’s dialogue, “speechless” would have been a definite improvement. 

Lisa is forever telling her mother, as well as her friend Michelle (Robyn Paris), that she doesn’t love Johnny, and is cheating on him with Mark. But when they question her further, an annoyed Lisa says she “doesn’t want to talk about it” (even though she’s the one who brings the subject up. Every… single… time!). 

Not to be outdone, Johnny and Mark take a seat in a small café, and while enjoying some hot chocolate they discuss a new account at Johnny’s bank, which will bring in a lot of money. Then, out of the blue, Johnny asks Mark, “How is your sex life?

There are whole sequences that are equally bewildering, like when Denny is threatened by drug dealer Chris-R (Dan Janjigian), who puts a gun to the poor boy’s head, demanding payment. Johnny and Mark intercede, dragging Chris-R off to jail while Lisa and her mother console Denny and ask him what drugs he’s using. It’s a very dramatic scene, but this plot line goes no further than that (neither Chris-R nor Denny’s drug habit are ever mentioned again). 

In addition, characters that appear early in the movie are eventually replaced with different actors (at the outset, Michelle is dating Mike, played by Mike Holmes, but when they throw Johnny a surprise party, presumably a day or two later, she’s with another guy). 

Also, who taught Johnny, Mark and Denny how to play football? All they do is toss the ball back and forth, often underhanded, and standing only a few feet away from one another!

But here’s the thing: I loved The Room

Loved it! 

It’s been years since I laughed this hard. The Room isn’t just “So Bad It’s Good”; it’s the granddaddy of hilariously awful movies, and has joined the ranks of Plan 9 from Outer Space and No Retreat, No Surrender as one of the all-time Best “Worst” films ever made.

And I can’t wait to watch it again!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

#2,410. Roar (1981)

Directed By: Noel Marshall

Starring: Tippi Hedren, Noel Marshall, Melanie Griffith

Tag line: "The most dangerous movie ever made"

Trivia:  Cinematographer Jan de Bont was mauled and scalped by a lion on the set

Every now and then I come across a movie unlike any I’ve seen before, a motion picture so insane that I just sit there, staring in disbelief at the screen, trying to make sense of it all.

The 1981 action / thriller Roar is one such film.

Written and directed by Noel Marshall and starring Marshall’s then-wife Tippi Hedren, Roar tells the story of a man named Hank (played by Marshall himself) who has devoted his life to studying and protecting lions, tigers, panthers, leopards, cheetahs and jaguars. 

He is so dedicated to preserving these ferocious, majestic beasts that he’s left his family behind (in Chicago) and moved to Africa, where he shares a house with over 100 large cats (oh, and there are a couple of elephants hanging around as well).

With the help of his friend Mativo (Kyalo Mativo), Hank spends the day getting the place ready for his family’s upcoming visit; wife Madeleine (Hedren), sons Jerry and John (played by Marshall’s real-life sons), and daughter Melanie (Hedren’s daughter Melanie Griffith, who was a teenager when this film was made) are flying in from the U.S. to spend a few weeks in Africa. 

Once all the preparations have been made, Hank hops into Mativo’s boat and the two set sail for the airport. What Hank doesn’t know, however, is that his family’s plane arrived earlier that day, and they are already on a bus headed to his abode!

What happens when four unsuspecting people find themselves trapped in a house with 100 savage cats? Let’s just say I saw it, and I still don’t believe it!

Ten years in the making, Roar is as crazy a movie as I’ve ever experienced. Shot at their estate in California (which doubled for Africa), Marshall and Hedren collected 35 large cats - most of which were untrained - for the making of this film. Which means its stars, not to mention the entire behind-the-scenes crew, were taking a great risk making this movie, and, not surprisingly, a good number were injured during its production (by some tallies, as many as 70). All of the actors (Marshall, Hedren, and kids) were wounded, a few severely (Melanie Griffith was bitten on the face, an attack that required 50 stitches, extensive plastic surgery, and almost cost her an eye), and director of photography Jan de Bont had his scalp ripped off by a lion (it took 200+ stitches to reattach it).

Most of these attacks didn’t make it into the film. But some did, including star/director Noel Marshall’s hand injury (he was hurt trying to break up a fight between several lions). Another close call occurs during the scene in which a delegation arrives (in motorboats) to discuss with Hank the dangers his “friends” pose to the area. Quite unexpectedly, a tiger jumps into the water, climbs into one of the delegation’s boats, and sinks it, causing its panic-stricken inhabitants to swim for land (where they’re met, and mauled, by several lions and tigers).

Despite the obvious peril, there were moments in Roar that made me laugh, most involving Kyalo Mativo, who clearly was not comfortable acting alongside such dangerous co-stars (some of his reactions were obviously scripted, but he also broke character a few times because he was truly afraid). 

Also funny are the scenes where Hedren and her brood are trying to get away from the humongous cats swarming around them (all three kids are trapped at one point when the cabinets or refrigerators they were hiding in got knocked over by the lions).

If all of this sounds too incredible to be true, I should warn you that the above only scratches the surface; there’s a lot more lunacy packed into this movie’s 100 minutes than I could possibly list here. So if you enjoy far-out films that are unique in every way, Roar should be the very next one you watch.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

#2,409. Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip (1982) - The Films of Richard Pryor

Directed By: Joe Layton

Starring: Richard Pryor

Trivia: Celebrities and celebrated admirers who attended the concerts used to film this movie included Jim Brown, Robin Williams, Lily Tomlin, Sugar Ray Leonard, Jackson Browne, Stevie Wonder, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson

Richard Pryor made some damn funny movies in the ‘70s and ‘80s, most of which I eventually caught on cable TV, including Car Wash, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings, Which Way Is Up?, Bustin Loose, and Some Kind of Hero. He even appeared in the first R-rated movie I ever saw in a theater: Stir Crazy, one of three he made with co-star Gene Wilder (the others being 1976’s Silver Streak and ‘89s See No Evil, Hear No Evil). I always knew Pryor got his start as a stand-up comedian, but for some reason I never bothered to watch his concert films. In fact, tonight’s viewing of Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip marks the first one I’ve ever seen.

So now I know I was missing out on something pretty special.

Directed by Joe Layton (with legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler handling the camerawork), Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip was shot at the Hollywood Palladium, and features footage from two consecutive 1981 shows. After kicking things off with a little sex talk and jokes about marriage (he had recently wed wife #4, Jennifer Lee Pryor), Pryor delves into such hot-button topics as racism and crime (including the 6 weeks he spent filming Stir Crazy at the Arizona State Penitentiary). In addition, there’s a great bit about his early days working in a mafia-owned club; anecdotes from his recent trip to Africa; a re-emergence of his character Mudbone (done at the audience’s behest), and, finally, some frank, very funny talk about his drug addiction and the 1980 fire that burned a large portion of his body (the result of a freebasing accident).

I toyed with the idea of throwing a few of his jokes into this write-up, but as I learned while watching Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip, nobody can deliver them like Pryor could. He was a funny, funny man, and his death in 2005 hit me kinda hard. At the time, I thought we lost a fine comedic actor. But clearly, he was also one of the best stand-up comedians ever to grace the stage.

Monday, August 14, 2017

#2,408. The Apple (1980)

Directed By: Menahem Golan

Starring: Catherine Mary Stewart, George Gilmour, Grace Kennedy

Tagline: "It's 1994! The future is music and music is their future!"

Trivia: The picture was nominated for Worst Picture at the Hastings Bad Cinema Society's 3rd Stinkers Bad Movie Awards in 1980

For years I’ve been hearing how The Apple, a 1980 disco musical / fantasy directed by Menahem Golan, is one of the worst movies ever made. After finally seeing it for myself, though, I can honestly say I was expecting worse. Yes, The Apple is a bad film, but it also has an energy that is impossible to ignore.

Set in the distant future of 1994, The Apple tells the story of two young lovers, Alphie (George Gilmour) and Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart), who dream of making it big in the music business. Unfortunately, Alphie can only write love songs, and what the public wants is the wild dance music being churned out by BIM studios. BIM, which stands for Boogalow International Music, is the brainchild of Mr. Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal), a powerful record producer whose most popular act, Dandi (Allan Love) and Pandi (Grace Kennedy), recently won the Worldvision Music Contest.

Still, there’s something about Alphie and Bibi that impresses Mr. Boogalow, and he offers both of them long-term contracts. Alphie, who dislikes what Boogalow and his entire organization stand for, refuses to sign. Alas, he is unable to convince Bibi to follow his lead, and a few short months after signing with BIM, she has become an even bigger star than Dandi and Pandi.

As for Alphie, he’s stuck writing sappy ballads that nobody wants to hear, and is so poor that he can’t afford to pay his landlady (Miriam Margoyles) the back rent he owes her. Yet, through it all, Alphie still has feelings for Bibi, and he tries to get Boogalow to release her from her contract. What Boogalow doesn’t know, though, is that Bibi’s love for Alphie is equally strong. But is she willing to risk everything just to be with him, or is her career now the most important thing in Bibi’s life?

With its very ‘80s vision of the “futuristic” ‘90s (complete with oddly-shaped station wagons and shiny, metallic clothing), The Apple features a rags-to-riches love story that, at best, is under-developed (one minute, Bibi is on top of the world, performing in front of thousands of adoring fans and having the time of her life. The next, she’s pining for Alphie and threatening to quit the BIM organization altogether. Why the sudden change of heart? Who knows? It’s never really explored). Even more bizarre is the film’s religious subtext; in numerous scenes, Mr. Boogalow is depicted as the Devil, and the title number “The Apple” (which is set in Hell) is a musical take on the story of Adam and Eve (with Bibi being tempted by Boogalow to “bite the apple”). As for the performances, both Gilmour and Stewart are convincing as the naïve Alphie and Bibi, while Vladek Sheybal’s Boogalow is a villain with charisma to spare.

Yet what really sets The Apple apart is its elaborate musical sequences, which are energetic (“Showbizness”), frightening (as we see during “The Apple”, the inhabitants of Hell are kinda freaky), confusing (the playful “How to be a Master” popped up at the wrong time, undercutting one of the movie’s more dramatic scenes), and downright obscene (“Coming”, performed by Grace Kennedy, is chock full of sexual innuendo and imagery). With the exception of “Universal Melody” (which Alphie and Bibi perform together on-stage), the musical numbers in The Apple are so amazingly over-the-top that they’re sure to make you smile from ear to ear.

Despite Menahem Golan’s somewhat tarnished reputation (his status as the Schlockmeister General of the ‘80s was reinforced in the excellent documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films), he was far from a talentless hack. Along with inspiring the Ninja (Enter the Ninja) and breakdancing (Breakin’) crazes of the 1980s, he directed The Delta Force, a highly charged action film that’s also one of Chuck Norris’s finest pictures. More than anything, though, Menahem Golan, like Ed Wood before him, clearly adored the cinema, and even if he wasn’t the most skilled filmmaker, his love for movies had an infectious quality that often made its way into his work.

So, ridicule The Apple if you must (I did so myself while watching it), but don’t listen to those who tell you it’s the worst pictures ever.

It is definitely bad. But “worst ever”? Not by a long shot!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

#2,407. 24 x 36: A Movie About Movie Posters (2016)

Directed By: Kevin Burke

Starring: Paul Ainsworth, Dave Alexander, Andrea Alvin

Line from the film: "The first connection you would have with a movie is seeing the poster"

Trivia: Among those interviewed in the movie is director Joe Dante

You’ve seen them hanging in the lobbies of your favorite movie palaces, and if you’re a film buff, odds are you own a few yourself. Movie posters have become much more than simple advertisements; nowadays, many are considered works of art. And as we see in director Kevin Burke’s 2016 documentary 24 x 36: A Movie about Movie Posters, they’re also a multi-million dollar industry.

Beginning with the history of the modern movie poster (including its roots in lithography), 24 x 36 then takes us from the early days of the Universal horror films (some, such as Dracula and Bride of Frankenstein, boasted dozens of different poster variations) through to the ‘80s, when those artists who conceived the cinema’s most iconic posters did so anonymously. In fact, it wasn’t until watching this documentary that I realized the same guy (John Alvin) designed the posters for both Blazing Saddles and E.T. 

The inventive style of the ‘80s gave way to a more basic approach in the ‘90s and early 2000’s, when a studio’s marketing division determined the look and feel of a movie’s poster. But with the so-called “mondo” movement in full swing, an array of independent artists, all film buffs themselves, are designing posters more stylish than anything coming out of Hollywood (Some are so impressive that collectors are willing to pay hundreds, if not thousands of dollars just to own one).

In essence, 24 x 36 is two documentaries in one. The first half is dedicated to the past, focusing on such artists as Bob Peak (Apocalypse Now, Star Trek The Motion Picture) and Richard Amsel (The Sting, Flash Gordon, Raiders of the Lost Ark), most of whom didn’t get the credit they deserved (Roger Kastel, who designed the poster for 1975’s Jaws, sent his original sketches to Universal, and never saw them again). This opening section of 24 x 36 was incredibly informative, and I enjoyed learning more about some of my favorite posters.

Equally as engrossing is the film’s second half, which explores the modern phenomenon of indie posters, from “alternative” renderings of the classics (I was especially fond of Gary Pullin’s design for Street Trash) to straight-up collectibles, created by film fans for film fans. This indie movement has become so popular that even Hollywood has taken notice; in what is one of the documentary's best scenes, we sit in on a “focus group” in which participants are asked to choose between two posters: a generic studio rendering (showing mostly the actors’ faces), and a more artistic take on the same movie (the “artsy” one definitely had a few ardent supporters).

More than an eye-opening documentary, 24 x 36 has also inspired me to start collecting again (I’ve purchased some 200 posters over the years, but none since 2007). And if you love movies, it will undoubtedly have the same effect on you.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

#2,406. The Human Tornado (1976)

Directed By: Cliff Roquemore

Starring: Rudy Ray Moore, Lady Reed, Jimmy Lynch

Tag line: "Watch Out Mister...Here Comes the Twister!"

Trivia: This movie is also known as Dolemite II

A sequel to 1975’s Dolemite, The Human Tornado is not only a better-made film than its predecessor (the boom mic doesn’t even make a cameo appearance this time around), but it’s also funnier, giving star (and popular funnyman) Rudy Ray Moore a chance to finally flex his comedic muscles.

After donating his Alabama mansion to a charity for underprivileged children, Dolemite (Moore) hops into bed with a woman who happens to be the wife of redneck sheriff Beatty (J.B. Baron). When the sheriff catches them in the act, he tells his deputy to kill both Dolemite and the girl. Luckily, Dolemite manages to escape.

Following a confrontation with the sheriff’s men (which ends with a bang… literally), Dolemite decides it’s high time he left town. Joined by his good friends Dough (Ed Montgomery), Jimmy (James R. Page), and Bo (Ernie Hudson, in one of his earlier roles) Dolemite hijacks a car and heads to Los Angeles, where his associate Queen Bee (Lady Reed) runs the hottest nightclub in town.

As Dolemite and his pals will soon discover, though, things aren’t going well in L.A.; a mob boss named Cavaletti (Herb Graham), who owns a rival nightclub, has kidnapped two of Queen Bee’s best dancers, T.C. (Peaches Jones) and Java (played by female impersonator / transsexual Lady Java), promising that, if Queen Bee doesn’t shut her club down, he’ll kill them both. Dolemite makes it his mission to locate the girls before it’s too late, but what he doesn’t know is that sheriff Beatty followed him to Los Angeles, and has enlisted the help of the LAPD’s best man, Detective Blakely (Jerry Jones, who also co-wrote the screenplay), to track Dolemite down.

Whereas Dolemite sometimes made us chuckle for all the wrong reasons, The Human Tornado gets its laughs more honestly, and features plenty of WTF moments that are sure to crack you up. In an effort to find out where T.C. and Java are being held, Dolemite seduces Cavaletti’s nymphomaniac wife (Barbara Gerl), who, after fantasizing that she’s being ravished by a series of well-built black men, has such rigorous sex with Dolemite that it shakes her entire house off its foundation! Even more bizarre is Cavaletti’s “house of pain”, where an elderly witch sadistically tortures his two captives. And if that’s not weird enough for you, Cavaletti hires the reigning nunchaku champion to entertain his guests during a fancy dinner party! Funniest of all, though, are the sequences in which Dolemite uses karate to take on Cavaletti’s men (these scenes are sped up, giving them a cartoon-like feel, and at one point Dolemite even leaps about 20 feet into the air).

In addition to all the nonsense, The Human Tornado features Rudy Ray Moore doing what he did best; telling jokes (the film opens with Dolemite performing a stand-up routine in front of a live audience) and rattling off profanity-laced rhymes (“He think he's bad and ain't got no class! I'm goin' to rock this shotgun up his muthafuckin' ass!”). A stud with the women and a bad-ass fighting machine, Moore’s Dolemite was a force to be reckoned with in the original movie, and as he proves again in The Human Tornado, the character (and the actor portraying him) is still in a class by himself.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

#2,405. The Violent Years (1956)

Directed By: William Morgan

Starring: Jean Moorhead, Barbara Weeks, Art Millan

Line from the film: "Teenage killers...fearing no law...taking their thrills without shame!"

Trivia: Dialogue from the film is sampled by the industrial band Ministry in the song "So What?"

A 1956 morality lesson about the dangers of juvenile delinquency, The Violent Years is a dreadful motion picture; absolutely terrible from start to finish.

Who was responsible for this cinematic dung heap, you ask?

Edward D. Wood, Jr… that’s who!

No, he didn’t direct The Violent Years (William Morgan handled those duties). But Wood wrote the script, and his penchant for obvious characters and over-the-top, preachy dialogue is as prevalent (and as hilarious) here as it is in Bride of the Monster or Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Teenager Paula Parkins (Jean Moorhead) comes from a good home. Her father Carl (Art Millan) is the editor-in-chief of the local newspaper and her mother Jane (Barbara Weeks) belongs to the women’s auxiliary, and does lots of charity work. What her parents don’t realize, though, is that Paula is the leader of a girl gang, one that’s responsible for a string of recent robberies. But stealing is only the tip of the iceberg; Paula and her cohorts: Georgia (Theresa Hancock); Geraldine (Joanne Cangi); and Phyllis (Gloria Farr), do it all, from vandalizing their high school to harassing couples parked on lover’s lane.

Even the gang’s “sponsor”, Shelia (Lee Constant), tells Paula that, if she wants to stay out of jail, she better lay low for a while. Ignoring this advice, Paula and the others continue their reign of terror, not realizing that the police are, indeed, closing in on them…

As with many low-budget films, the acting in The Violent Years is pretty weak, and even at just over an hour the movie drags in spots (though I admit I was surprised by the scene where Paula and her gang rape a guy at gunpoint).

Yet what will really have you howling is the film's often ridiculous dialogue. We know from his previous movies that Ed Wood never met a run-on sentence he didn’t like, and The Violent Years has more than its share of them (Paula tells her mother that she has something “important” to discuss with her, and asks for a moment of her time. But dear old mom is far too busy, blowing Paula off by asking “What can be so important in your young life as to warrant my attention so drastically?”). Yet nothing is as hilarious as the movie’s final moments, when a holier-than-thou judge (played by I. Stanford Jolley) pontificates about the cause of juvenile delinquency, and how it can be avoided (I rolled my eyes at least a half-dozen times during his extended speech).

The Violent Years isn’t just bad; it’s Ed Wood bad, and like many of the infamous filmmaker’s other movies (Glen or Glenda, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Bride of the Monster), that actually makes it... kinda good.

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

#2,404. Stroszek (1977)

Directed By: Werner Herzog

Starring: Bruno S., Eva Mattes, Clemens Scheitz

Line from this film: "We are unable to find the switch to turn the lift off, can't stop the dancing chickens"

Trivia: Reportedly, this is the last movie musician Ian Curtis of the English band Joy Division watched before committing suicide

It’s become a tradition that every time I watch a Werner Herzog film on DVD, I immediately do so again with the director’s commentary track switched on. As it turns out, Herzog had quite a bit to say about his 1977 film Stroszek

Stroszek may very well be the legendary directors' strangest picture, yet, for me, its peculiar nature is what makes the movie so damn endearing.

After being released from a Berlin prison (where he served time for drunkenness and disorderly conduct), Bruno Stroszek (Bruno S.) returns to his small apartment, which his elderly neighbor, Scheitz (Clemens Scheitz), looked after for him while he was away. 

Soon after his release, Bruno runs into his old flame Eva (Eva Mattes), a prostitute who is beaten on a daily basis by her two pimps (Wilhelm von Homburg and Burkhard Driest). Eva agrees to move in with Bruno, at which point the pimps begin harassing him as well. 

To escape the abuse, Bruno and Eva decide to tag along with Scheitz, who is moving to Wisconsin, U.S.A., to live with his nephew, an auto mechanic named Clayton (Clayton Szalpinski).

Once in Wisconsin, Bruno and Eva purchase a trailer home and move in together. Bruno goes to work at Clayton’s garage, while Eva takes a job as a waitress at a truck-stop diner. For a while, it looks as if the two have found happiness in America, but it isn’t long before boredom sets in. 

Will the couple work through their problems, or was their love doomed from the start?

In his commentary track for Stroszek, Herzog gives us a little background on his star, Bruno S. The abused son of a prostitute, Bruno spent years drifting in and out of prisons and mental institutions, and for a time worked as a street musician (in one of Stroszek’s earliest scenes, we even get a chance to watch him perform). In fact, Herzog admits that much of what we see in the first part of Stroszek is a retelling of Bruno’s life story (right down to the apartment used for the film, which was the actual one Bruno lived in at the time).

In addition to Bruno, Stroszek features a number of performers who had never been in front of a camera before. Clayton Szalpinski was a real-life mechanic from Wisconsin who Herzog met a year or so earlier. Herzog even wrote parts in Stroszek for two guys featured in his documentary short How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck; former auctioneer champion Ralph Wade appears briefly, doing what he does best; and announcer Scott McCain plays an oh-so-polite banker who visits Bruno and Eva when they fall behind on the payments for their trailer.

Herzog also relates a few humorous anecdotes about the making of Stroszek, like how he was arrested twice in one day in New York City (for strapping himself to the hood of a car while shooting a driving sequence), and provides a little background on some of the film’s more unusual scenes (including the out-of-the-blue bank robbery; Scheitz’s attempt to research animal magnetism with an amp meter; and the dancing chicken that pops up in the final scene).

All of the weirdness above may make Stroszek sound like a comedy. 

And it is... sorta. 

But more than anything, it’s the sad tale of two people searching for happiness and finding only misery and despair. There is hope when Bruno and Eva leave Berlin behind and move to America, but as Herzog is quick to point out, loneliness is universal, and can snatch both joy and love out from under you when you least expect it.

Stroszek is, indeed, a bizarre movie, but the feelings and emotions it generates are as genuine as they come.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

#2,403. Bloody Sunday (2002)

Directed By: Paul Greengrass

Starring: James Nesbitt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Nicholas Farrell

Line from the film: "You call that minimum force?"

Trivia: To make this movie as authentic as possible, no lights were used in the movie and the camera work was entirely hand-held

On January 30, 1972, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) staged a peaceful march in the city of Derry, to protest the British military's recent internment of Irish men. ignoring the decree that outlawed such gatherings, MP Ivan Cooper, who organized the march, joined senior members of the NICRA and hundreds of locals as they made their way through the streets of Derry, unaware that a highly-trained team of UK paratroopers had moved into position, waiting for the order to start the arrests.

But something went terribly wrong, and by the time the smoke cleared, 27 Irish men and women had been shot by British soldiers, 13 fatally. An inquiry eventually absolved the military of any wrongdoing (they insisted they were fired upon first by members of the IRA), but for the citizens of Derry, life would never be the same again.

It was a tragedy that became known as "Bloody Sunday", and Paul Greengrass’s extraordinary 2002 movie of the same name recreates these horrible events in such a convincing manner that we feel like we’re smack dab in the middle of it all.

Bloody Sunday is all-encompassing; hours before the march was scheduled to begin, Ivan Cooper (played brilliantly by James Nesbitt ) is frantically trying to arrange things; and tells the IRA, in no uncertain terms, to stay away (it was, after all, a peaceful demonstration). 

At the same time, Brigadier Patrick McLellan (Nicholas Farrell) of the British military is meeting with Chief Superintendent Lagan (Gerald McSorley) of the Derry police force to discuss how best to handle the march. Before they can come up with a plan, however, Major General Robert Ford (Tim Pigott-Smith), McLellan’s superior, announces that he’s taking control, and will personally lead the paratroopers into the city, where they will do whatever is necessary to bring the protestors to “justice”.

For a while, the march is quiet, but soon a few angry young men, including Gerry Donaghy (Declan Duddy), break away and begin tossing rocks and bottles at British soldiers. 

Shots ring out, and Cooper - like hundreds of others - is forced to take cover as the paratroopers gun down anyone they feel is a threat. The shooting continues for some time, and despite the one-sided outcome, General Ford will tell the press that his men acted heroically under very difficult circumstances. 

Stunned by what’s happened, Cooper and other members of the NICRA tour the hospitals, comforting families and trying to make sense of the slaughter they just witnessed.

Using hand-held cameras and filming (in part, anyway) in the very streets where the tragedy occurred, director Greengrass brings a documentary-like feel to Bloody Sunday. Even the early sequences leading up to the march - like when Cooper and the others are discussing whether or not they should change the parade route - have an unmistakable energy to them; and the shooting itself is presented as if it was footage lifted from a war zone. 

During the later scenes, when the day’s events begin to sink in, we cry along with the citizens of Derry, some of whom have lost loved ones in the fracas (the sequence in which Cooper and his team break the news to the families of the deceased is positively gut-wrenching).

It was a tragedy that will live forever in the minds of those who were there that terrible January day, and Bloody Sunday is a devastating, thought-provoking account of these events, as well as a motion picture that you won’t soon forget.

Monday, August 7, 2017

#2,402. Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

Directed By: Jack Clayton

Starring: Jason Robards, Jonathan Pryce, Diane Ladd

Tag line: "After he fulfills your deepest, lifelong dream...he'll tell you the price you have to pay"

Trivia: Edward James Olmos was offered the role of Mr. Dark, but turned it down

in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Disney made several valiant attempts to break free of its “kids-only” persona by producing movies that would also appeal to adults (such as The Black Hole, Dragonslayer, and Tron, just to name a few). Based on a story by Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes continued that trend, and combined elements of horror and fantasy to weave the fascinating tale of a small town in the early 20th century and the traveling carnival that visited it one October.

Green Town, Illinois, is a quiet place, the kind of community in which nothing interesting ever happens. That is, until the night that Mr. Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival pulls into town. Best friends Will Hathaway (Vidal Peterson) and Jim Nightshade (Shawn Carson) hear the train coming, and sneak out of their bedrooms to see what wonders Mr. Dark (Jonathan Pryce) and his associates have brought to their sleepy little town. What they discover instead is that the carnival and its enigmatic owner are not what they appear to be.

The next day, while everyone else is playing games and visiting Dark’s many sideshow attractions, Will and Jim are busy trying to convince Will’s father, local librarian Charles Hathaway (Jason Robards), that the good citizens of Green Town are in the greatest of danger. But with his ability to understand people’s desires, as well as their deepest fears, Mr. Dark has a distinct advantage over Mr. Hathaway and the boys, and defeating him will be no easy task.

Something Wicked This Way Comes starts innocently enough, with a depiction of small town America that looks as if it was lifted from a Norman Rockwell painting. There’s a barber shop run by Mr. Crosetti (Richard Davalos), a man hoping to one day find the woman of his dreams; and a saloon in which bartender Ed (James Stacy), a former high school football star whose arm and leg were amputated years ago, recounts his past glories. Not even the sudden appearance of derelict lightning rod salesman Tom Fury (Royal Dano) is enough to disrupt the daily routine.

But the moment that train arrives and Mr. Dark sets up shop, a feeling of dread sweeps over the entire community. From then on, we the audience are poised at the edge of our seats, watching as youngsters Will and Jim (portrayed by two talented child actors) uncover the many secrets lurking beneath the canopies of Mr. Dark’s Carnival (including a merry-go-round with very unique powers). Jonathan Pryce is deliciously evil as the sinister Mr. Dark, and Jason Robards is both understated and effective as the aging Mr. Hathaway, who is troubled by a disturbing incident from his past. Also worth noting is Pam Grier, who is damn creepy as the mysterious fortune teller.

Much like The Lady in White and The Monster Squad, Something Wicked This Way Comes is a horror / thriller you can watch with the kids (some scenes will surely frighten the tykes, but there’s no gore or over-the-top violence). Well-realized and expertly paced, Something Wicked This Way Comes has me wishing that Disney turned out a few more films like this back in the day.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

#2,401. Employees' Entrance (1933)

Directed By: Roy Del Ruth

Starring: Warren William, Loretta Young, Wallace Ford

Line from the film: "There's no room for sympathy or softness - my code is smash or be smashed!"

Trivia: Last film for silent picture star Robert Gran, who died in an auto accident before the film was finished and released

Wow! And I thought Warren William played a prick in The Match King. The hard-nosed executive he portrays in 1933’s Employees’ Entrance makes his character in The Match King look like a saint!

Kurt Anderson (William), the general manager of New York’s Franklin Monroe Department store, knows how to turn a profit; since he’s taken control, the store has gone from $20 million in annual sales all the way up to $100 million. But he didn’t get there by being a nice guy. In fact, Mr. Anderson’s motto is “smash or be smashed”, and if an employee isn’t pulling his or her weight, they’re on the street before they know what hit them.

When the depression takes a bite out of their sales, Anderson becomes more ruthless than ever, and begins grooming young Martin West (Wallace Ford), an employee he feels is every bit as tough as he is, to be his assistant. One of the things Anderson likes most about Martin is that he’s a single man. Anderson believes that women have their place; he himself has had a few dalliances with a pretty employee named Madeline (Loretta Young). But when it comes to marriage, the tyrannical executive feels it’s a distraction, and if Martin wants to follow in his footsteps he can’t allow anyone, especially a woman, to take his mind off of his work.

Martin agrees, and tells his new boss that he has no intention of getting hitched anytime soon. But secretly, Martin is engaged to the woman of his dreams, who just so happens to be Madeline! Martin goes to great lengths to hide his engagement, and eventual marriage, to Madeline, a decision he regrets when Anderson makes a play for his new bride one evening at an employee dinner party.

Warren William is unbelievably brutal as Kurt Anderson; upon learning that a large shipment of coats will be 3 days late, Anderson tells the manufacturer, Garfinkle (Frank Reicher), that he’s canceling the order, a move that is sure to put the poor guy out of business (to add insult to injury, Anderson then threatens to sue Garfinkle to recoup what the store spent on advertising the coats).

Anderson is even tougher on his own employees. When Higgins (Charles Sellon) fails to come up with a new idea to improve sales, Anderson fires him in the middle of a manager’s meeting. Higgens, who had been with Franklin Monroe for 30 years, shows up several times to try and get his job back, but Anderson refuses to see him, and isn’t the least bit remorseful when Higgens eventually commits suicide by leaping from one of the store’s 9th-floor windows. ”When a man outlives his usefulness”, Anderson says to Martin mere seconds after hearing the news, “he ought to jump out a window.” Yes, Kurt Anderson is a cold-hearted bastard, and Warren William plays him to perfection.

Employees’ Entrance does have its lighter moments, most of which are provided by Wallace Ford and Loretta Young, who are extremely likable as the lovers forced to hide their feelings for one another. But it’s when Warren William is on-screen, shouting orders or laying down the law, that the movie comes alive. Thanks to the actor’s fierce portrayal, Kurt Anderson now ranks right up there with Alec Baldwin’s Blake (from Glengarry Glen Ross) as the cinematic executive I would least like to call “boss”.