Posted in: by Robert C. Cumbow, Contributors, Film Reviews, Horror

Review: Carrie

[Originally published in Movietone News 53, January 1977]

For the past 16 years I’ve been unable to step into a shower without thinking of Psycho. For the next 16, Carrie will have the same effect on me. The film’s opening credits sequence is the most audacious voyeuristic fantasy Brian De Palma has yet given us. In Sisters, an apparently blind woman mistook the men’s dressing room for the women’s, walked in and started to undress as we watched. In Carrie, in a sort of National Lampoon–ish low camp, De Palma takes his camera into a high school girls’ lockerroom just after gym class. But even more quickly than it does in Sisters, the adolescent leering turns to painfully mature shock and horror. In the locker room scene and throughout the film that follows, De Palma has captured the uniquely abominable cruelty of which adolescents are capable (a side of high school that’s been conveniently overlooked in recent TV and movie high school nostalgia); and, though it may be a bit overstated here, it’s a chillingly universal basis on which to build a monumental film of emotional and spiritual horror.

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Posted in: by Richard T. Jameson, Contributors, Film Reviews

Review: First Love

[Originally published in Movietone News 57, February 1978]

Joan Darling’s feature-film debut as a director is mostly disappointing, a college-age love story frequently indistinguishable from other misty, slowmo entries in the genre. Boy (William Katt, Carrie‘s prom date), who is hip on Dante and tired of careless sexual flings, becomes smitten with girl (Susan Dey), who has a dead father and an avuncular lover hanging over her. Girl can’t really make the break with either ghost, so the boy, seeing an indefinitely protracted future of being fucked-over again and again, terminates the relationship. That’s mostly it, except for side glances at the boy’s super-M.C.P. neighbor in the next dorm room (John Heard) and the two chicks he’s chasing in various directions round the mulberry bush (Beverly d’Angelo, June Barrett). But if the script (for which Darling is not credited) has little that’s new, and more than a few egregious gestures toward bittersweet poetry, Darling’s direction occasionally vouchsafes some pleasant surprises, among them a nice exploratory raunchiness in the sex scenes and a gratifyingly generous treatment of the girl’s older lover (a very graceful performance by Robert Loggia). It is also somewhat surprising–and perhaps perplexing–that in a film directed by one woman and written by another, the boy should be treated as the true-blue point-of-view character while the girl finally demonstrates herself to be, in his reluctant phrase, a cunt.


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Posted in: Film Reviews, Westerns

Review: Butch and Sundance: The Early Days

[Originally published in Movietone News 62-63, December 1979]

There are undeniable similarities between Butch and Sundance: The Early Days and Richard Lester’s reworking of popular mythology, Robin and Marian. The earlier film, written by William (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) Goldman’s brother James, contained several seemingly deliberate takeoffs on Butch and Sundance in the dialogue, misadventures, characterization and relationship of Robin and Little John. In Butch and Sundance: The Early Days we encounter the same kind of buddy-comedy once again, with the two young men (Tom Berenger, William Katt) consistently rejecting heterosexual love in favor of their own interdependence. The departure from Butch Cassidy’s two little sons is much harder for Butch than the farewell to his wife (Jill Eikenberry); and there is a scene in which Butch and Sundance—not Butch and Mary—are treated as the boys’ parents. Butch and Sundance: The Early Days also shares with Robin and Marian an emphasis (generally uncharacteristic of Lester) on landscape to delineate character. Lester and Laszló Kovacs create the film’s best moments out of such memorable phenomena as the sand-palace mesas among which Butch first proposes partnership to the Kid (then walks from one edge of a mesa to the other, and asks, silhouetted in longshot, “How do I get outta here?”); the snowdrifts among which the Butch-Sundance relationship becomes cemented in a tradeoff of heroic sacrifices, and behind which they gradually disappear in a visual denial of the heroic stature they sought to achieve by bringing diphtheria serum into an infected area; or the floodwaters that make a creek out of the main street of Butch’s hometown, where Sundance faces the trauma of killing his first human being.

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