Category Archives: cliff robertson
Charly ~ Back in high school we had to read the short story version of “Flowers for Algernon,” we could read the novel by Daniel Keyes too, if we wanted, for extra credit. It was the tale of a mentally retarded man who is ‘cured’ by the miracle of science.
In 1968 it was made into the film Charly, which won Cliff Robertson an Oscar in the title role. I’ve never seen it in its entirety until now. What a pleasant and emotional surprise. Robertson’s transformation from simple to complex, shall we say, is amazing, but then again, he’s always been a terrific actor.
Claire Bloom is straight and adequate, somewhat of a cipher. She is neither good nor bad as Charly’s teacher/girlfriend. The late Ravi Shankar produces an intriguing and decidedly non-Eastern score.
The director Ralph Nelson, who also did Father Goose, Lilies of the Field, and Soldier Blue, is one of the reasons Charly stands out as a film. His odd and original use of split screen, and picture in picture techniques mark the movie as different.
Toward the end, when the story and ending becomes clear, it takes on a Rod Serling vibe, as if it were an extended episode of “The Twilight Zone” or “Night Gallery.” It’s sad and troubling, but good is a story if it does evoke an emotional reaction, right? Great flick, recommended.
There’s never been a really good movie about the Jersey Devil, and there are damned few good books. “The Pines” by Robert Dunbar is really the only fiction one that springs to mind. “The Jersey Devil” by James F. McCloy and Ray Miller is probably the best among the non-fiction books on the legend. And as far as movies go, there have been a few, all awful, the worst of the bunch about a decade ago was called 13th Child and struck a new low in cinema.
This one, The Barrens features “True Blood” star Stephen Moyer playing a man who takes his family camping and finds himself convinced he’s being stalked by the Jersey Devil. Even the trailer, just a few seconds over two minutes long, is already full of inaccuracies about the legend. I’m a South Jersey boy, I should know.
The worst mistake of all is in the title itself. The Barrens referred to are the Pine Barrens, so called because of the short stunted trees in the region, not at all like the ones we see in the trailer depicting the Ontario, Canada location. As yet, the film has no release date.
“IS CLIFF ROBERTSON RELATED TO ADAM SANDLER?”
A Film Review of 13th Child: The Legend of the Jersey Devil: Volume One
Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker
Oh boy. Oh. Boy. Where do I start? Let’s go from the title. 13th Child: The Legend of the Jersey Devil: Volume One is just so short and concise it just rolls off the tongue perfectly. Sarcasm mode off. But only for the moment.
“13th Child” actually relates to the real legend of the Jersey Devil, of which there is precious little in this movie. According to the legend, Mrs. Leeds (or Shourds, depending on which version you believe) gave birth to a thirteenth child. So sick of childbirth was she that she cursed the baby to be a devil. Lo and behold it was and promptly flew up the chimney and out into the south Jersey wilderness known as the Pine Barrens. There it has roamed for well over two hundred years. No mention of that makes it into the film.
The thirteenth child here is a non-sensical reference to an ancient Native American (Leni Lenape, to be exact, at least they got the name of the tribe that roamed the area right) curse about a thirteenth child being a shape-shifter. Like I said, nonsense.
Why ruin a perfectly good centuries-old horror story with crap like that? The other thing about the title that bothers me is “Volume One.” It mocks us with its arrogant intent for sequels. The last movie that tried that was Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins and I think we all know how many sequels that one had.
Other than professionals (and I use the word loosely) like Robert Guillaume and Cliff Robertson (who unbelievably had a hand in writing and producing this mess) the acting is horrible. It’s the worst. I can act better than these idiots and anyone who’s seen me act (check out “Standard Issue” or “Elbow Talk” at http://www.whitevioletpictures.com) knows what a terrible insult that is.
Not only does the acting suck the directing is slipshod and the story is a sloppily written flasbacked mess. At some points it hurt to watch. I really want to slap Cliff Robertson.
There are good parts. At times it seems like an early Roger Corman work with Ed Wood sensibilities. With some Band-Aids here and there it could (maaaaybe) have been good. It does have an old school 1970s horror flick vibe going for it.
The music is superior, better than most of the crap we get in horror movies lately. It’s very suspenseful and builds wonderfully. It even punches up scary scenes that might normally have been dull without it thanks to what passes for actors in this mess.
The best part for me, and it’s only a novelty for myself and other folks who actually live in south Jersey, is that it’s filmed here. A majority is filmed at Batsto, an old historical village that is now a park. The town made cannonballs for the American Revolution, it doubles for a creepy old man’s property. Very cool, for some of us at least. Also for the locals, look for a brief cameo of Mr. Movie, Steve Friedman, but not his voice.
The special effects aren’t bad, the Jersey Devil seems to owe quite a bit to Alien and is genuinely scary until we get a close-up in the light – bad move. Lit up, it just looks cheap.
More bad than good. Let’s hope we never see “Volume Two.”