Saturday, November 5, 2011

Clyde’s Movie Palace: The Trouble With Angels (1966)

 

The Trouble With Angels (1966)

starring
Rosalind Russell
Hayley Mills
June Harding
Marge Redmond
Mary Wickes
Jim Hutton
Bernadette Withers
Camilla Sparv
Binnie Barnes
Barbara Hunter

Directed
by
Ida Lupino

Original Music
by
Jerry Goldsmith

There are many movies that one sees as a youngster or as a teenager that don't hold the same appeal they once did when we revisit them as adults. As you get older and wiser, you might go back and watch a movie you haven't seen in years and you find that it just doesn't appeal to you in the same way it once did. You may not even be able to remember what it was that attracted you to the film in the first place.

There are also those films that you can appreciate even more so as the years pass by. Many of us saw such Disney animated fare as Snow White, Pinocchio, and Bambi as a child and enjoyed them simply because it was as if we were walking into a sidewalk picture from Mary Poppins and experiencing these magical worlds first hand instead of just reading about them or having them read to us. As we grow older, we can still appreciate the films for their outstanding artistry, technical achievements, and for the sheer breath taking beauty that they bring to us.

I can remember a few films that I saw as a child or a very young teenager that I had enjoyed for different reasons.  But when I view them now I have to wonder what the big deal was. A lot of the horror films I've seen fall into this category. What once scared the crap out of you is now the fodder for lists of worst films of all times. And no, I'm not talking about Plan 9 From Outer Space.  

And then there are films like The Trouble With Angels, probably long forgotten about by some who viewed it over forty years ago. It's quite probable that many under the age of forty may not even be aware of its existence unless they bumped into it in one of its occasional showings on Turner Classic Movies. But I certainly remember it, and as the years go by I enjoy watching it as much now as I did back when I first saw it at the Columbia Theater in Portsmouth, Ohio.

Let's be real here. There is no doubt that The Trouble With Angels was probably seen by the producers as a quick way to cash in on the Disney market and family film cash cow by Columbia Studio's big wigs back in 1966. And at first glance I'm sure the film seems to be nothing more than that for many. But for those of us who had seen it then and for some who watch it now, the film rises way above the level of the churn them out standard film fare of a bygone era and it does so for many reasons that may not be readily apparent.

Angels is a film in which the screenplay was written by a woman, based on a novel written by a woman, was directed by a woman, and stars almost entirely a cast of women. Yes, there are three males whom do make an obligatory appearance, but they are here for nothing more than to help the plot turn a few quick corners and then they are dispensed with.  

On the surface, the story  seems  basic and run of the mill. Two girls are sent away to a private school run by nuns where they proceed to cause havoc, raise hell, and inflict a few serious headaches on Mother Superior and the rest of the nuns.  But certainly there was something about the film that enticed Ida Lupino to direct her first feature in thirteen years. It would also be the last big screen release that she would direct although she would continue to work from behind the camera on many more television episodes.

From Images Journal:

From 1949 through 1953, Ida Lupino directed six movies for The Filmakers, a tough, emotionally powerful group of films that make up for their meager budgets by providing gritty, uncompromising stories and imaginative, occasionally stunning camera work. Comparisons with directors Robert Aldrich and Samuel Fuller are apt, for Lupino's movies are filled with strong pitches of near melodramatic intensity recorded in stark, unflattering terms. Lupino wasn't interested in typical Hollywood glamour, for her characters were common people--salesmen, waitresses, gas station attendants, and fishermen. And her empathy for the characters was revealed in the finely-honed characterizations that made us care about these people that Hollywood would typically ignore.

I emphasized the last sentence because that is what Ida Lupino brings to The Trouble With Angels. She makes us care about characters that otherwise might quickly be forgotten if they were the usual two dimensional cardboard cutouts one would find in a film such as this cranked out endlessly by the Disney studio in the late sixties and through much of the seventies (although this is a Columbia Pictures film). She gives the characters depth. She gives them reasons for being the way they are instead of just having them go through the motions.  What she gives them is something you won’t usually find in a film of this sort, and that something is motivation for who they are, why they are, and what they may or may not be in the future.  She gives them depth. 

Of course it helps when you have a strong script penned by Blanche Hanalis based on the novel by Jane Trahey. Instead of just littering the film with clich├ęs, she uses one incident after another to not only move the story along but to help us understand that there is a reason why Mary and Rachel become so inseparable.

Mary Clancy (Hayley Mills) is in fact an orphan. Her parents died at some point in her life and she was sent to live with her Uncle George (Kent Smith). He in turn has sent Mary to St. Francis in the hopes that the nuns can keep her out of trouble. The fact that George's own daughter, Marvel-Ann (Barbara Hunter) had long ago been sent to take up residency with the nuns lets us know that when it comes to parenting skills, he is sadly lacking. It isn't until later in the film that our deepest suspicions regarding Uncle George are born out.

It is on the train to the school where Mary meets up with Rachel Devery (June Harding). Rachel is being sent to St. Francis by her parents because after having been enrolled in a progressive school, it turns out that her education is sadly lacking. To say that Rachel isn't college material is an understatement but she does excel in silent piano playing. It is also obvious that by not being Catholic, in the confines of St. Francis, Rachel feels like an outsider.

It is no wonder that she finds instant camaraderie with Mary, who may be Catholic but seems to have little regard for St. Francis and even less for Mother Superior (Rosalind Russell):

Rachel: Boy, she's a fink
Mary: President of the Club
Rachel: The way she acted you'd think we were criminals or something.
Mary: The only difference between this place and the girl's reformatory is tuition.
Rachel: And we got enrolled instead of committed.

And that's just the first day of what is to become a three year sentence for the two of them.

Smoking in the girl’s room and becoming acquainted.

Much of the early part of the film does become a continuous battle of wills between the two partners-in-crime and Mother Superior. Mary has one scathingly brilliant idea after another such as giving fake names when the girls first arrive at the school, sneaking off to the bathroom for a cigarette, taking the other girls on a tour of the nuns living quarter, skipping swimming lessons, having Rachael write a passionate letter to her former headmaster at New Trends School asking him to free her from the clutches of the Reverend Mother, spiking the sugar bowl with bubble bath, and entrapping Mary's cousin, Marvel-Ann, in a plaster mold.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Sister Liguori (Marge Redmond), who runs her math classes as if it were a day at the track.

Rachael: Isn't she too much! .
Mary: She should have been a bookie!

Reverend Mother is the authoritarian figure, Liguori is her exact opposite. She is the one the students can relate to because she is "fun". She is that one single teacher that we wish we could have taught every single class as we made our way through school.  Sister Liguori is also Reverend Mother's closest friend and advisor. 

 

Early on we had already met Sister Clarissa (Mary Wickes ) as the gym teacher, swimming instructor and bus driver. She may seem a little daffy at times, but we know that she loves every aspect of her work. Sister Rose Marie (Dolores Sutton) is the overly shy sister who Mother Superior appoints to head the "Social Action Committee" (Mary: That's for picketing things) for the girls. Hardly the position one would expect someone of such demeanor to be appointed to but I guess there is always a method to the madness of Mother Superior, even when she sends poor Sister on a mission with the girls to buy brassieres.  Or as Sister Rose calls them, “binders.”

Then there is Sister Elizabeth (Portia Nelson) who teaches art. If Sister Liquori is the perfect teacher, Sister Elizabeth is at best, the far from perfect instructor. She is the teacher that none of us could stand because unless you are an exemplary student, she’d just as soon not have to deal with your ineptitude as Rachel discovers rather quickly.  There is  no forgiveness in her heart.

It's not that Sister Elizabeth is an important part of the film, but  it is to the credit of director Lupino and writer Hanalis that they are willing to include the imperfect character in the mix instead of giving in to the temptation to induct each nun into the Holy Order of Sister Perfectionism, a not so rare disease that can often overtake these kinds of films. A nice reminder that nuns are still human  and  subject to the same temptations and foibles as the rest of world. 

During this first year, we are clued in as to what we can expect. From her upstairs window, Mary watches as Reverend Mother strolls through the grounds amidst the falling leaves of autumn. We see in Mary's face and eyes her antagonism toward Mother Superior.  But what we also see is that there is more to her resentment than the fact that Reverend Mother is her superior and her boss. Its as if she resents her very existence. Does she in fact, remind Mary of her own mother (we are never told how old Mary was when her parents died) or does Mary see some of herself in the Reverend Mother? Or is it a little of both?

The scene is wonderfully staged by Lupino, and beautifully photographed by cinematographer Lionel Lindon.  Neither Russell nor Mills  speak a single word, yet the scene says so much. Lindon in fact, was a three time Oscar Nominee and won once for Around the World in 80 Days and does an credible job here in the many outdoor sequences that take place on the grounds such as the one pictured here.

In Mary’s second year at St. Francis, the scene is repeated during the dead of winter and the difference is that we can begin to see that the resentment harbored by Mary is slowly beginning to fall by the wayside.

When Mother Superior returns the gaze, it is as if she is seeing the same thing we are and is not sure how to deal with someone like Mary. But late in the film, we discover that perhaps our suspicions regarding Mary and Reverend Mother as being more alike than either one of them is willing to admit to are well grounded. During a conversation with Sister Liguori Reverend Mother tells her:

"Mary has a will of iron. To bend but not to break. To yield but to not capitulate. To have pride, but also humility. This has always been my struggle sister. Can I be less tolerant of Mary than the Church has been of me?"

It is no coincidence that as the girls enter their second year and begin to mature,  the pranks no longer take precedence.  In fact, whereas most of the things they did during their first year were done simply to antagonize Mother Superior, what happens in the second and third years of enrollment are actually no worse than the things any one of us might have done at any given time during our teen years. It's just that when we did them the results weren't so disastrous, we didn't get caught, and we possibly hadn't already built up a long resume of crimes beforehand.   It’s sort of like three strikes and you’re branded for life.

Eventually Rachel grows tired of always being the odd girl out while Mary becomes more aware of the fact that things are not always as they seem to be. Antagonism begins to turn almost begrudgingly into respect and from respect grows admiration. Though it is left unsaid, there is never any doubt that there has always been something missing from Mary's life. We see it on many occasions and as her rebellion slowly subsides, it is replaced by a search for meaning and purpose in her life.  She needs to matter, to make her mark on the world.

One day when Mary and Rachel are out on the grounds, Mary mocks Sister Ursula (Marjorie Eaton) by imitating her German accent within earshot of Reverend Mother.



After they leave, Rachel senses something is amiss.   We know what it is, and though she won’t admit it, Mary knows as well. 

Mary: I hate her! (Reverend Mother)
Rachel: So, what else is new

But that is one tiny incident of many. Some, taken by themselves may not seem like much. Other events make an indelible impact.  What all of these small episodes do is help the film reach a satisfying conclusion based on who the characters are and not simply pulled an ending out of the hat simply because you have no where else to go.

If the ending had just been dropped in as it were with nothing to lead us to it, then we would have felt cheated. It's a credit to Lupino, Mills, and Lindon that we are able to see things as Mary sees them, not as distant observers as one of the other girls might. Often, without saying a word, Mills manages to convey to us what she is going through. But she is not beyond letting us know what is exactly on her mind at times.

In one of the films more remarkable scenes, during a Christmas visit by the students to a home for the elderly to entertain them, Mary is taken aback by what she sees and hears. As she walks around the room the conversations fade in and out much in the same way as if one were tuning an old radio from one station to the next. An old lady near senility sees a toy bird as a real one, another one complains about the home taking all of her social security. Still another cries while being comforted by Reverend Mother because her children won't be coming to visit her as they promised they would. It is the first time that Mary is confronted by the plight of those less fortunate than her and she does not handle it well. 

 

When The Trouble With Angels was filmed, Mills was trying to distance herself from the Disney type films she had left behind so it is fitting that she chose a film where in fact she could play a teenager who over the span of three years not only matures as an adult, but cuts many of the ties that bound her to her childhood. It is no fault of Mills that many critics refused to get past the juvenile high jinx in the early part of the film and could see it as nothing more than much of the same old same old.

If you go to this particular web page dedicated to The Trouble With Angels (and I highly recommend that you do) and see how the film was promoted, its no wonder that some (but not all critics. There are many who see it as I do.) still fail to see the "big picture" placed on the canvas by Lupino.

In the wrong hands, the role of Mother Superior could have become nothing more than a stern taskmaster, placed in the film solely for the purpose of being the target of Mary and Rachael's antics. But Rosalind Russell brings more to the role. Beyond being a nun, she loves St. Francis even with it's crappy boiler. More importantly, she loves each and every girl who is entrusted into her care and sees it as her duty, not to convert them to some kind of religious fanaticism in the hopes that they will join the sisterhood, but to prepare them to be able to make their way and cope in the real world. The fact that she is still able to convey this beneath what is supposed to be a rough, hard edged  exterior enables you to appreciate Russell’s performance even more. 

Because she cares about the future of these girls, it explains why she is so dismayed when confronted with Rachel's lack of scholastic achievement after transferring over from New Trends. She views Rachel as being totally unprepared for the world that awaits her, and understands why Rachel has chosen to follow Mary down what may be a destructive path from which there may be no turning back. And there is no disguising Reverend Mother's total disdain for Mary's Uncle George and his "secretaries".


Rachel changes throughout the film just as Mary does although not to the same degree. When there is a sewing contest, she stays up all night trying to finish a cocktail dress so that she won't be the only student without an entry. She no longer cares to be the odd girl out.

June Harding, in her first big screen role, acquits herself well as Rachel especially considering that she was the new kid on the block amongst a bevy of old pros. Since the character of Rachel does have a problem with her lack of basic education, another actress may have been tempted to play Rachel as a clueless dolt. But she is far from being that. She may be physically uncoordinated and at times in her life unmotivated scholastically, but she is far from being a dunce. And though Mary may be the leader and Rachel the follower, there can be no doubt at all that their friendship is one that will last well beyond their years at St. Francis.

There is a story floating about that Russell said she and Mills did not get along on the set. Although this is posted in several places, one can only take it with a grain of salt since the story is never sourced. Without Russell around to to give credence to it and Mills not having confirmed it, it remains just what it is. But even if it were true, it did nothing to affect the work of the actresses and obviously had no affect on the body of work as a whole.  And thanks to Patrick of Santa Monica who left a link on Clydemovies, the story regarding Rosalind Russell comes as a complete surprise to her.

I hate to think what some producer or director in today's society would have done with this material if the film were being made today. I'm sure they would once again dumb it down thinking it might play well to today’s teenage girls, whom they view as being pretty much either hare brained or just plain brainless.

Looking at the dismal box office grosses of some of these dumbed down hopeless and hapless teen and tweener girl films, it's obvious that some producers and directors are as clueless as Mr. Petry from New Trend  is.   But it enables these suits and ties to point and say, “Aha, teenage girls aren’t interested in films about teenage girls”   Give me a break.

In The Trouble With Angels, the producers obviously got what they wanted. They were pleased enough with the results that they commissioned a sequel called Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows.

It is also obvious that given the confines of the story, Lupino managed to get much of what she wanted out of the project as well. Frankly, as much of a pioneer as she was for women in film and television, one would think that even posthumously she should be more revered and honor for her pioneering work in film and television.

The troubling thing is, given todays climate and how difficult it is for women to still break into the directors chair, she would still be facing many of the same obstacles. Yes, there have been successful woman directors, most notably Penny Marshall, Kathryn Bigelow, Nora Ephron & Martha Coolidge, but they are certainly the exception and not the rule. Have you heard that Helen Hunt has directed a new movie? I didn't think so. (Note: When this review was written, Kathryn Bigelow had not yet won her Oscar and there was no Hurt Locker.) 

William Donati, author of Ida Lupino: A Biography which is a highly appreciative account of her life, has written:

"Great directors make great films, and good directors make good films. Those whose work transcends time and changing values earn undying recognition. Within the locus of low-budget, modest films, Lupino features were commendable for the period but fall short of being great films."

That assessment needs to be augmented by the recognition that Ida Lupino broke through various glass ceilings for women as directors and producers. In that process she enriched the sensibility and subject matter available in all feature films. That she was able to do so with a slender body of directed films, and without being or claiming to be an awesome genius, ought to be encouraging to all filmmakers confronting new thematic and employment barriers.

Couldn't have said it better myself and really, how could I not have any choice but to give The Trouble With Angels a Solid A.

There are several ways you can see this film. It plays occasionally in wide screen format on Turner Classic Movies, but sometimes it can be a long time between drinks of water on that channel, depending on when they have the rights and when they don’t.  It is also available to rent from Netflix on disc or to buy for about ten bucks from many places. And just recently the film has appeared on Netflix Streaming (11/1/2011), but you know how that goes.  Streaming today, gone tomorrow.  It is also available as a rental from Amazon or a digital purchase.  The DVD is available to purchase (see link at top of page)  but it is panned and scanned full frame in order to fit someone's idea of what a movie on TV should look like. I won't even go into the fact that nothing shown on the cover of the DVD actually happens in the movie.  But, you don’t have to be particularly intelligent to run a corporation these days do you?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Amazon Prime fires it’s next volley: Free Kindle Books with Amazon Prime to go with the already growing list of video content.

I don’t know much about this sort of thing, but it would appear that Amazon is going to become what Netflix thought they would be until they screwed with their winning formula.  Amazon wants to be your one stop shop for just about everything.  With the Kindle Fire on the horizon ready to make it’s mark, Amazon has now put itself two steps ahead of the Barnes & Noble Nook.  Besides free movies with Amazon Prime, you now can download free books.

Yes, I know you could before.  Do I look stupid?  Shut up and don’t answer that.  I’m not talking about 100  or more year old classics like Poe, Dickens, Shakespeare, or Bronte.  We’re talking books you would have to pay for or go to the library in order to read them.  Now, you don’t even have to make the trip to the library.  Add to that all the other crap Amazon sells, and the need to head out to the shopping center becomes less and less desirable.  As for myself, I have no Kindle and do not have one on order.  I am thinking about it if I can find the time to get some serious reading done.

But I’m off track.  There is a method to the madness.  Amazon is obviously wanting to make the Kindle and the Kindle fire more and more desirable.  And remember, the Kindle Fire will play Amazon movies, so if Reed Hastings thinks Amazon is going to go away anytime soon, I wouldn’t think that’s even a remote possibility at this point.  If their strategy wasn’t clear then, it sure is now.

And if the Kindle Fire sales set the world aflame with it’s low price point, then it may put a hurting on some other more expensive touch pad items out there.  You can click screen capture below to check out their initial offerings. 

Kindle Books Amazon Prime

Monday, October 31, 2011

Clyde’s Movie Palace: Halloween II (1981)

 

 

Halloween II (1981)

Directed by
Rick Rosenthal

Written
by
Debra Hill & John Carpenter

Starring
Jamie Lee Curtis
as
Laurie Strode

Donald Pleasance
as
Sam Loomis

Charles Cypers as Leigh Brackett
Lance Guest as Jimmy
Jeffrey Kramer as Graham
Pamela Susan Shoop as Karen
Dick Warlock as The Shape
Gloria Gifford as Nurse “Ratched”  Alves
Tawny Moyer as Jill
Ana Alicia as Janet
Floyd Rainey as Dr. Mixter
Cliff Emmich as Mr. Garrett
Ty Mitchell as Young Gary
Leigh French as Gary’s Mother
Nancy Loomis Kyes as Dead Girl Annie Brackett
Anne Bruner as Alice
Lucille Benson as Mrs. Elrod, the fish wife
Produced by
Moustapha Akkad
Original Score
by
John Carpenter
Alan Howarth

 

If you want to blame someone for yesterday’s long and tiresome ranting (Tiresome for me that is.  I had to write it.  All you had to do is read it) in regards to sequels, prequels, reboots, spin-offs, and anything related, blame Michael Myers. It is when I took keypad in hand to write this review that I ended up going off on one of my many endless tangents. By the time I finished writing, I had enough material for three blog articles. I settled for two, the one you read yesterday and the one that should have been up four days ago which is this review of Halloween II.   This review actually begins where that article ended. Just like the movie began where the first one left off. Cool, huh?  I love life’s little coincidences.

Look how long the guy in the Halloween movies has been carrying on. Michael Myers took the first swipe at his sister back in 1978, and is still out there flailing away although he had an extreme makeover courtesy of Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Rob Zombie recently.

The thing about Michael Myer’s is that after episode one, the masked stayed on. You could pick up almost any bum off of the street to play the part. The only skills one needs are the ability to slice and dice like you’re Ron Popeil, walk in a straight line, and have all the daintiness of a Zamboni at Madison Square Gardens.  Hell, I could play the part.

But having made a cool $50 million in outing number one, the franchise was sold to Universal Studios who brought the gang back to have another go at it. Although Carpenter and Hill were once again the scribes, Carpenter bowed out of the director’s chair (been there, done that, just show me the money and I’ll write you some crap) and handed over the directing chores to Rick Rosenthal who was pretty much a rookie and undoubtedly came cheaper than dirt. His previous gig was directing one episode of a show called Secrets of Midland Heights that absolutely no person I know remembers except one lonely reviewer on the IMDB who called it a Dallas Rip off. That reviewer is now in line for this gig.

Further, Producer Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad, who obviously knew no one at Sony (see yesterday’s article), actually increased the budget over eightfold, even after hiring cheap still wet behind the ears director guy Rosenthal. And they generously brought Jamie Lee Curtis back giving her a $92,000 raise in the process. Just for good measure, we also get another dose of Donald Pleasence and I suppose he got a raise too but I’ve already looked up more crap for this article than I have for any other in a year so you’re on your own, bub.

It seems everybody was willing to up the ante, hoping that lightning in a bottle would strike twice. So did it, or did it just blow up in their faces like some cheap novelty cigar?

It all depends on how you look at it. They made $25 million on their $2.5 million investment; about half of what the original movie took in, but better than other films of the genre at the time. So looking at it that way, they did well.

As for cinematic quality, now that’s something else altogether.

Halloween II begins where Halloween ends. But they couldn’t use that tag line in the advertising because it had already been claimed by the original Willard and Ben. “Where Willard ends, Ben begins!” was how it went.

And while I’m on the subject, why the hell hasn’t the original Willard been released on DVD or for instant viewing? Its sequel should be as well. Now there are a couple of movies I’d like to revisit. They’re probably sitting in a vault somewhere disintegrating into fairy dust. There’s nothing more fun than sinking your incisors and molars into a couple of really fun and cheesy movies from the seventies. But I digress. We are supposed to be reviewing this reel of Swiss Cheesiness not that one.  Tear ‘em up!

Where Willard ended, Ben began. If you’ve ever heard Michael Jackson’s song “BEN”, this would be the movie that song was from.

People seem to make a big deal out of this being a direct sequel, picking up on the same night in the same town with the same bad-ass killer running amok but I’m not sure that Carpenter’s original idea of having it take place in a high rise wasn’t such a bad one, at least in retrospect.

It's not like Carpenter had painted himself into a corner with the ending the way poor Robert Zemeckis did with Back to the Future, then had to paint an escape hole quicker than you can say Bugs Bunny to get out of the mess he made for himself. I mean Zemeckis even admits that if he had known there was going to be Marty and Doc II, he would have ended Marty and Doc I differently.

So Instead of a high rise we get the poor man’s substitute of Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, where Laurie Strode is carted away to languish because of her severe/not so severe injuries, depending on what juncture of the movie we’re in.

But before any of that can happen there is a replay of the scene that finished off the first film, where Loomis fires seven bullets at Myers before Myers goes tumbling over the balcony like a floppy bag of Halloween Candy Corn, and then disappears from sight.

After delivering his now famous eulogy for Myers and having discovered he’s just a bit premature with it, Dr. Loomis heads down to inspect the lawn where Michael had fallen.

But one of the neighbor’s, bless him, does finally comes out to see what the ruckus is about, this after all the racket and hell raising that had permeated the block just three years previously….er I mean moments ago.  It also enables Pleasance to start this film with another one of those snappy lines dreamed up by Cameron and Hill to be powerfully delivered by  as if he’s auditioning for The Great Bard live and in person. Just the right note to start the film off on the right foot:

Neighbor: (walking outside in his robe) What’s going on out here?
Loomis: Call the Police! Tell the sheriff I shot him!
Neighbor: Who?
Loomis: Tell him he’s still on the loose.
Neighbor: Is this some kind of joke? I’ve been trick-or-treated to death tonight.
Loomis: You don’t know what death is!

Hell yes, baby!  Color me happy!  Roll those credits and let’s get this show on the road.. Not quite as snappy as “Is that the boogeyman?”, but it’ll do in a pinch.

And I have to admit that the pumpkin opening up into a skull is a nice creepy touch for your main title sequence. Fasten your seat belts for a wild ride though, because it’s all down hill from here for Ichabod and Mr. Toad.

Loomis flags down Sheriff Brackett, yelling hysterically, “I shot him six times! I shot him six times! I shot him six times!”

Actually, Loomis  shot seven times. I know because I counted them personally and I didn’t want some Halloween fan boy coming back and telling me that I was a stupid jerk loser who can’t count past five. This of course means that Loomis either missed the first shot, or in all that excitement he kind of lost track.

It also means he does not get slapped with the Dead-eyed Dick Cheney label, and it doesn’t matter to me one twit if he is a die hard Repugni-con. Michael Myers obviously had to be pleased about the lack of buck shot though, as he went flying whimsically (there’s that word again) over the balcony like some over-ripe Peter Pan.

Just a few doors down a woman is making some Spam Sandwiches for her husband who is in the other room watching the same lame ass horror marathon that Lindsay and Tommy were preoccupied with three years ago hours earlier. And the show had the same effect on him that it had on those two brats, putting him into a coma  from which there is no amount of banshee screaming or gun shooting in the world that is going to wake his tired ass up.

When there’s a news flash regarding a certain trio of teens who got themselves murdered, his old fish wife stops spreading the Grey Poupon just long enough to see what’s shaking and baking up the street, thus enabling Michael to come in, grab a knife, and sneak back out before having to challenge the old fishwife who would undoubtedly be his biggest obstacle yet, thus putting a quick end to the Halloween franchise.

Discovering that the red crap on the sandwich isn’t Heinz but the O positive generic , fish wife lets out a scream like no body's business and then we know why the old fart in the Lazy Boy is feigning sleep. As for Michael, there are younger, less wrinkly, skinnier, girls hanging around Haddonfield ripe for some cut and slash fetishes.

While Laurie’s busy being carted up the road to the hospital by ambulance drivers Jimmy (Lance Guest ) and Budd (Leo Rossi), a mother arrives at the ER with her pirate kid, who has chomped down on a big shard of glass, thus keeping alive an overwrought urban legend, scaring the crap out of parents everywhere for the next ten decades, and ending trick-or-treat night for millions of kids around the globe. And this scene was very important to our story because...well, maybe Carpenter, Hill, and Rosenthal hated kids ringing the crap out of their doorbells every October 31st and wanted to stop that shit in it’s tracks.

At the hospital the only doctor in this insane asylum available to treat Laurie is Dr. Mixter (Ford Rainey), who is trying to sober up from a night of heavy duty drunkenness at the local Country Club, officially making this not only the crappiest night in Laurie’s life ever, but  probably the worst evening for any character in any horror movie since Adrienne King got taken out with an ice pick just minutes into Friday the 13th Part 2 five months before Michael began his second holy reign of terror, thus denying the unfortunate Ms. King a return engagement in Friday The 13th-H20 forever.

But where’s Michael? Having been temporarily and briefly rendered impotent by the scream of the banshee fish wife, and not having drawn blood in three years  in about an hour or so, he meets up with young Alice (Anne Bruner) who has three things to do in this movie.

1. Walk across the yard and yell at the neighbor to make sure fish wife and her whupped husband are okay.
2. Talk on the phone with her friend and
3. Get her throat slash.

She only does one of them believably.  But listen to her conversation on the phone if you’re not distracted by you know who hiding in the you know where by the you know what. It confirms my fish wife story you were swearing I just made up on the spur of the moment. But, she’s out of time and with no sequel possibility for young Alice, Roy and Dale move in to sing Happy Trails to her as she moves out to pick up that SAG check.

Dr. Loomis, who has been circling the neighborhood with Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) trying to track down Myers, mistakes some other masked man for the Lone Ranger, who in turn gets himself taken out by another police car while trying to get away from Dr. Loomis and Kimosabe .
 


To make matters worse Deputy, Graham (Jeffrey Kramer), comes driving up as if he’s an ancestor of Tony Stewart, to let Brackett know that they’ve found three more bodies across the street from the Doyle house.


We already know what Brackett doesn’t. We’ve known it for three years for over an hour, but the Sheriff finally finds out from Graham. One of the victims is his daughter, Little Orphan Annie (Nancy Kyes Loomis ).

So which strikes your funny bone the most? Is it sitting there watching fake Michael burn like like a sparkler on the 4th of July or is it the fact that Brackett is only just now being told his daughter is chopped liver, even though the news had already been blasted all over the TV which has now gone to a live feed for the rest of the evening (depending on what Horror Fest on which TV on what building on what channel at what time that you’re viewing), thus ending their Halloween Movie Horror/Science Fiction marathon once and for all. Time to sneak the Milky Way, Snickers, and Candy Corn up to the bedroom, kiddies. Santa Claus is on his way. Stay away from the Popcorn Balls. Just ask young Gary about those.

Cut back to General Hospital, where Medic Jimmy sneaks stealthily down the hall to flirt with a beaten up half-crippled Laurie before she comes to her senses and realizes he’s nothing but a wet nosed kid. He is chased away by Haddonfield’s version of Nurse Ratched, Mrs. Alves (Gloria Gifford), who informs him, Laurie, and us, that her leg is not really broken. It’s just cracked up a bit, sort of like the movie we’re watching. At which point you might be wishing this particular Halloween Horror Fest was preempted. No such luck.

Over in Haddonfield, Brackett finally arrives to claim his daughter, uncovers her dead body long enough to give Nancy Loomis Kyes a quick easy paycheck from the screen actor’s guild for screen time. She doesn’t move, she doesn’t speak, she just lies there cold and dead like. It’s Nancy Loomis Kyes best scene in two movies. Academy award stuff for sure.

Brackett pushes her eyes shut, covers Annie back up with the sheet so she won’t catch her death of cold, and since she now has this part dead to rights, he ships her off to the  to do a bit part in Day of the Dead . He says he has to go tell his wife before somebody else does, like maybe the news media that has totally screwed up their a All Night Horror Mania to blast the news of dead teenagers all over hell and creation. Having done their job, Corpse Annie and Daddy Brackett are both out of this coming attraction for Fright Fest 2011 permanently. Adios to them both. Tell momma hi for us..

Let’s head back to downtown and meet Haddonfield Memorial Hospital Ace Nurse Karen  (Pamela Susan Shoop), whose only concern in life is the health, well, being, and care of those patients whose care has been entrusted to her on the late night shift at HMH.

She is so concerned in fact, that she is late leaving a party with her friend Darcy (Anne Marie-Martin),  from her friend Stevie’s house, whom she now hates because he bobs for apples at his party and has only five minutes to get to work before Nurse Ratched Alves threatens a lobotomy and to not let her watch the world series.

Darcy asks for a promised ride home, Karen says she has no time, Darcy says you promised, and now Karen is pissed at her as well as Steve for his crummy Halloween Party. As they drive off, Method Actor Lance Warlock comes bebopping down the street carrying a boom box and bumps into Michael. John Carpenters new and improved electrified Halloween score blasts a few notes, Warlock moves on to collect his SAG check, and Mr. Myers and the six slugs inside him ease on down the street, past a sign giving him directions to the hospital to get his six (7?) slugs removed. Karen had said she was five minutes away from work before having to detour to hated friend Darcy’s house, which means given Michael’s gait, he might make it to the ER by dawn. But only if he hurries.

Sure enough, no sooner does Mr. Myers turn the corner than Karen arrives at the hospital in her crappy red beat up convertible. But as Eddie Murphy will tell you, it’s not quite as nifty as his old crappy blue Chevy Nova though. She gets out of the car, grabs her uniform, and heads inside when......GASP!....Michael Myer’s reflection appears in the car’s side view mirror! Let’s see, Karen had said it was five minutes to her friend’s house, then five minutes to the hospital. Yet, Michael, who was on foot arrives at approximately the same time. You know what that means? The crappy red convertible really is crappier than the crappy Chevy Nova!

Inside the hospital, Budd, Jimmie, and a nurse’s aide, Janet (Ana Alicia) are watching the news reports about the dead teens in the hospital cafeteria/kitchenette/nurse’s quarter. Budd is so choked up he has to inhale a roach while dreaming of pizza with sausage, pepperoni, and onions. But no mushrooms.

Guarding the back door is overweight, mustached, balding, fat, lazy, and stupid security guard Garrett. He’s busy reading a magazine when Michael walks past the closed circuit camera just as we knew he would be. Why is it that the incompetent security guard is always overweight, balding, and has a mustache? Talk about your stereotypes? What would happen if they just cast a young, handsome, skinny guy as the incompetent guard. Nurse Karen knocks on the glass, he sees who it is, and let’s Karen in.

Karen pops in to say hello to Budd, and we find out it’s not only pizza that’s gentle on his mind, or her mind, or their mind. I guess Karen has the utmost concern for ambulance drivers as well as her patients.

As she leaves, Budd sings,

“Amazing Grace, come sit on my face.
Don’t make me cry, I need your pie”

This reveals three key plot points:

1. Budd is a useless turd of a sleazeball,
2. He has trouble remembering Karen’s name and
3. Karen has some real shitty taste in men

Jimmy lectures Budd, Budd lectures Jimmy, Nurse Ratched Alves lectures Karen for being late but let’s her keep her brain stem intact. Michael moves stealthily around a hospital that has very few employees, and very few patients over the age of 24 hours old, thus giving him pretty much the run of the place.

Jimmy goes back to Laurie’s room, but she’s no hornier than before. He tells her it was Michael Myer’s who killed her friends and tried to do her in.

Jimmy: They should have handled him more carefully.
Laurie: Who?
Jimmy: Michael Myers
Laurie: Michael Myers?
Queue Carpenter’s score
Jimmy:
Yeah, the guy that was after you.
Laurie: Up in the Myer’s house? The little kid who killed his sister?
Jimmy: Yeah.
Laurie: But he’s in the hospital somewhere.
Jimmy: He escaped last night.
Laurie: How do you know?
Jimmy: It’s all over the radio. Television too. It’s on right now.
Laurie: Why me? I mean, why me?



And.....in struts Nurse Ratched Alves to run Jimmy out (again) to put an end to this dramatic and soul stirring conversation that now has us on the edge of our seat.

Okay, so Laurie’s “Why me?” isn’t quite as intense as Nancy Kerrigan’s “WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY??? Whyyyyyyyyyyyy me!” but it’ll do for this occasion. And besides, it’s idiotic. He killed his sister, some other unknown guy, and three other teenagers before he even got around to her. What makes Laurie so special?  Oh...oh...yeah. I forgot. Yeah....I know...that’s later.

Totally deadpan and serious, Nurse Alves says out of the clear blue sky: “Men, you can’t live with them, you can’t live without them.”

Now we know what her problem is, and that she needs to go find sleazy Budd. Or maybe it is sleazy Karen that will fill her tank.

And everybody in Haddonfield including Laurie knows Michael Myers is out there somewhere hacking up horny teens. Everybody that is, except Laurie’s parents, because then they would have to rush to the hospital with the news media and the movie would be over and I could go to bed.

Speaking of news media, wouldn’t one measly crummy reporter have enough sense to go to the hospital and camp out with a camera where the only survivor is just hanging around playing with her wig?

I know the corporate owned news media isn’t shit these days, but this was thirty years ago! Well, it’s not like the Haddonfield News is the Washington Post and it’s not exactly Woodward and Bernstein territory is it? And I don’t see anybody handing out Pulitzer Prizes anywhere.

 

The phones are out! Surprise, surprise! If you had 34:20 seconds in the pool for when the hospital phones would quit working, you win the jackpot! Pick up your winnings at Universal Studios Hollywood, and tell them Babbs sent you.

Nurse Ratched Alves caringly and lovingly tells Laurie “no worries.” Hmmm....this explains why she was all hot to run Jimmy out of the room, send Janet out of the room to get Incompetent Security man Guard Garrett to check the phones and her comments and general attitude about men. Good for you Nurse. A faint smile crosses her lips as Nurse Ratched Alves floats away. 



Incompetent Security Guard Garrett goes outside to find out what the problem with the phones are, leaving poor Janet alone at the end of the dark hall. Place your bets now as to who gets it. Odds are even at first, but Garrett’s odds of getting nailed rise drastically when he spots blood by the dumpster. Go Garrett Go!

A quick trip to the morgue to see the burnt body that does not belong to Michael Myers, meaning that we are many steps ahead of Loomis and the Sheriff’s department for the second movie in a row. Pick up your Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys merit badges free by sending in fifty box tops from Rice Krispies. Dental records and x-rays will positively identify the body.

I yell at the screen, “It’s not him you dumbasses!” As if they are half listening to me, Deputy Graham sends his top flight police force over to Occupy Wall Street to see if Michael is hanging out with the gang.

We know one gang he isn’t hanging with. That’s the townspeople deciding that after 15 years, now is as good a time as any to raze the Myer Home. Better late than never.

I don’t see Laurie’s parents in the angry mob. Graham and Loomis get out to have a cigarette. Boy, those were the good old days. Almost wish I was still at the drive-in where I saw this turkey in the first place, puffing away on my Salem 100. It would help pass the time.

They do a lot of talking, reminiscing and some philosophizing. The whole bit takes about five minutes but at the end, the good doctor and the deputy earn their Hardy Boys Merit Badge as well when they discover that the crispy critter in the morgue is Ben Traymor, not Michael Myers. Immediately afterwards they get some news that leads them to discover The Clue in the Old Schoolhouse .

So while they jetport between sets, we head back to Haddonfield Medical Center Seattle Grace Blair General Hospital to catch up with Karen just as a patient buzzes her into a room. Be careful, Karen, please! She goes into the room.....and is immediately accosted by......not by pervert Michael but pervert boyfriend Budd!

Although time and a bed are on their side, they decide to meet fifteen minutes later in the “therapy room” which is what they call stainless steel hot tub rooms in those days. So while they head down there to get busy, we stop off to check in on Laurie’s weird dream, so Carpenter and Hill can start cluing us in as to why Myer’s is so relentless when it comes to Laurie. My theory: it’s because she’s just the one that got away, and once finished, he’ll move on. The dream is practically indecipherable, probably purposely, so that we can have the “big top secret reveal” later in the movie.

Down in Therapy Land, Karen and Budd begin getting their groove on. We finally get what we paid for which is some nice cinematography of Pamela Susan Shoop’s boobs for some, and of Budd’s ass for everybody else. Because of this nasty little liaison, we know that the days of these two leads are numbered. They are right in the middle of a passionate embrace when………………………………..out from beside the tub  pops Bill Murray, grinning his ass off and he says,

“This is one nutty hospital!!!!!”

You know what really happens next, even if you’ve never seen Halloween II. The whole scene is just another set up for another gory death trap brought to you courtesy of Carpenter, Hill, Rosenthal, and Akkad..

If you read my review of the original Halloween, I poked a little good nature fun at a few aspects, but it was just minutiae and I gave the film an overall score of an A. I also said this:

It was easy for me to have a little fun at the expense of Halloween, but there is no denying it’s impact on horror films and the craftsmanship that went into it. And sure, some of the things in the initial twenty minutes don’t stand up to scrutiny but who cares. It’s a horror film, it’s not suppose to...

And I stand by that. A few minor things here and there that seem a little off kilter can certainly be expected in most films. But there’s a difference between doing that and making your whole movie so insanely and outlandishly ridiculous that it pulls you completely out of the moment, thus ruining forever any chance at all to build suspense.

My point is clear. I only made it halfway through the film and I could have easily gone on and on and on with the same synopsis, because really there’s nothing else you can do. Instead of suspense, you can now see the wheels turning as the writers, producers, and the director elaborately set up scene after scene trying to top all the imitators who proliferated after the success of the original Halloween.

The first time I saw the film, I knew why Karen and Budd were in the hot tub. It was just a matter of how the whole thing would be implemented. Carpenter, Hill, and Rosenthal, make a mess of any possibility of that moment succeeding since they do everything but have Loomis blast it over a bull horn. Better to have left them in the empty patient room and hide Michael under the bed.

Just because Michael Myers is supposed to be an indestructible boogeyman, (although we’re still not even sure of that, maybe Dr. Loomis missed. Who know?), the site of him bobbing Karen’s head up in down with the scalding water having absolutely no affect on his own arm, would have ruined it for me even if it weren’t anticipated. It does so because you can’t help but think of the stupidity of it, and why isn’t he scalding himself?. And I suppose we’re supposed to see the irony in the fact that Karen really hated bobbing for apples at a Halloween Party early in the film. Yeah. I see. Okay. Let’s move on. Maybe Steven the party giver is Michael’s brother and that’s the big reveal. Nah, that would have been even better.

Things get worse. The reason Laurie’s Leg is only conveniently cracked and not broken, is so that if absolutely necessary, her character can make a run for it. The rest of the time she’s dragging the damn thing along like it’s an anchor off of the Black Pearl. Why not just make it a small strain or sprain, or even a bruise? Why incapacitate your second most interesting character to the point where all she can do is barely drag her sorry virgin ass down the hall? Hell, at least in the original she had a fighting chance with a knife and a coat hanger. Here, all she can do is try to get away. It’s boring.

I’ve worked in a big hospital. I’ve worked in a small town hospital like this one. And okay, you need some empty halls for suspense, and you need to have Meyer’s dart in between the rooms, but no hospital on the planet that I know of is operated with two people, sometimes three, none of them who know where any of the others are at any given time, and all the patients incapacitated except for the newborns. Suspend belief? I can do that with the best of them. But even I have limits. And many of the deaths happen off camera, thus taking the lazy way out again as to how and why Myers had such free reign to kill so many in such time consuming elaborate manner. At least Annie, Lynda, and her boyfriend had a chance to emote in a few death scenes. I’m almost sorry I picked on Nurse Ratched Alves, who ends up more or less as a Michael prop. Even she deserved better. Just remember this, if somebody hasn’t been on screen in about fifteen minutes, they’re toast.

So what to do? Carpenter should have given more thought to the high rise idea. Better to push Budd and Karen out of an upper floor window than this crap. Come to think of it, maybe they should just take the negative now and drop it off the Sears Tower.

For the most part, I liked The Last Starfighter (with a few reservations), but why is Lance Guest’s character Jimmy in this movie? Every scene he is in is really idiotic beginning with his juvenile stupid flirtation with Laurie who has just been through half of the worse night of the longest Halloween night on record. It’s not like he’s a knight in shining armor. He’s pretty much a useless klutz, and has two more ridiculous moments later on, one that made me laugh out loud and the other just annoyed me even more than I am now.

And if Michael is so dead set on doing Laurie in, why always leave her until last? Well, I know why. And most of you do too. It’s for the big revealing moment of Michael’s unending quest. But don't stop to think about it because I have real problems with there even needing to be a motive when it comes to a deranged boogieman not to mention the whole idea is full of holes. It’s as if Carpenter and Hill stopped in to see The Empire Strikes Back, sees what they need and writes it into the script. Sorry, guys, but it doesn’t come close to measuring up to one of the most startling movie moments ever: , “Luke, I am your father.” Really scraping the barrel when you start ripping off Star Wars for your cheap horror movie.

Everybody, from Carpenter to Curtis to Pleasance to Rosenthal phoned this one in for the paycheck. But there are those who say, nah baby nah, the movie is actually better than we thought or were willing to give it credit for because the first was so well done.

From Wikipedia:

However, especially more in recent years, critics have taken a more positive stance towards the film, stating that it was far better than the slew of inferior sequels and rip-offs that followed in subsequent years. Janet Maslin of the New York Times compared the film to other horror sequels and recently released slasher films of the early 1980s rather than to the original. "By the standards of most recent horror films, this—like its predecessor—is a class act." She notes that there "is some variety to the crimes, as there is to the characters, and an audience is more likely to do more screaming at suspenseful moments than at scary ones." Maslin applauded the performance of the cast and Rosenthal and concluded, "That may not be much to ask of a horror film, but it's more than many of them offer." David Pirie's review in Time Out magazine gave Rosenthal's film positive marks, stating, "Rosenthal is no Carpenter, but he makes a fair job of emulating the latter's visual style in this sequel." He wrote that the Myers character had evolved since the first film to become "an agent of Absolute Evil." Film historian Jim Harper suggests, "Time has been a little fairer to the film" than original critics. In retrospect, "many critics have come to recognize that it's considerably better than the slew of imitation slashers that swamped the genre in the eighties”

I’m not sure if that last statement is all that true. Ms. Maslin’s original review wasn’t a retrospective. She liked it the first time she saw it.  So that’s hardly a reputation restorer.  Besides, she liked Batman and Robin so what does she know?

But I’ve seen this time and time again with other panned movies, and this kind of rehabilitation seldom will wash with me. Each time I see Alien3, it’s still a shit movie, although David Fincher fans want to convince us otherwise having stealthily raised it’s IMDB score over time to a respectable number that was once in toilet land.

Each time I see Terminator 3, it just reminds me it made the whole ideas behind one and two pointless. Okay, I might give you the fact that Jaws 2 is not totally awful by itself, but that’s an exception. And I kind of liked it the first time I saw it. Just don’t try getting me to like those other two turds floating out at Amity Island known as numbers III & IV.   And let’s not forget that young Mr. Guest was a part of that one as well as this film.  Not a good track record. 


When I watch Halloween II, I’m hopeful that I’ll finally get it.   I did this a few nights ago.   I tried. I really tried. But as I sort of watched it again for the second time this week while writing this way too lengthy review that it doesn’t deserve, you can read the results for yourself. And it didn’t start out that way. There is just no suspense, no visual style, the performances are as dead as Annie, even before they meet their own doom.

I guess part of the problem may have been Carpenter re-filming some scenes for effect, something that pissed director Rosenthal off mightily. And that may be true, and I don’t know exactly what Carpenter could have inserted into the film to hurt it or help it. You can’t hash over ancient history.

Maybe he saw a rough cut, then saw his paycheck flying away down Hollywood and Vine. But having Carpenter to blame  does not mask the fact that even before that, your movie probably sucked pretty bad.

On another brief note, when they released the anniversary blu-ray of this film, somebody who isn’t being held accountable saw fit to remove Moustapha Akkad’s name off the opening credits, and now there’s a big stink about that. So here’s what it looks like for those who miss it.  And like this movie or hate it, this man deserved better than what Universal gave him.

On the other hand, for all we know Mr. Akkad may have thought better of this one added to his legacy, swooped in from places unknown, and absconded back to the spirit world with his title card. Stranger things have happened. If I were dead, and it were me, and it was this movie, I’d certainly give it some thought. Rest in peace, Mr. Akkad. Just as I will after the following public service announcement.