Category Archives: peter fonda

An Unmarried Woman

An Unmarried Woman ~ Continuing my coincidental journey lately into the swinging seventies, today I’m looking at Paul Mazursky’s An Unmarried Woman starring Jill Clayburgh. As far as the late 1970s went with movies, it seemed that Clayburgh was the female Peter Fonda. She was in everything, or at least it seemed that way. This was the movie that really bolted her to superstardom with multiple award nominations. Let’s see how it holds up in the 21st century.

Inexplicably I tend to mix this movie up with the more exciting Looking for Mr. Goodbar starring Diane Keaton, another 1970s icon. The difference is that Goodbar had a plot, and was entertaining.

An Unmarried Woman, the story of a newly single woman adapting to her new lifestyle, and it’s boring. Where it is amusing (and I doubt it’s supposed to be), it appears to be a parody of itself. Where it may have been daring and innovative for 1978, it’s been done better by “Sex and the City,” which has been very recently outdated and trumped by HBO’s “Girls.”

When it’s boring, it’s painfully so. When it appears to parody itself, most of the time it’s not funny. While it may have been first in many if its conventions, without that knowledge it comes off as bad melodrama. In that same sense it’s also fairly predictable.

Frequently I wanted to just sit Jill Clayburgh down and force feed her a sandwich she’s so scary skinny in this. I can barely stand it when she’s undressed. I don’t feel turned on, I feel worried and want to comfort and ask her if she’s all right. So thin, she looks sickly.

The worst part of the movie experience is the relentlessly, horridly, overly dramatic and boring music of, believe it or not, Bill Conti. There were segments where I muted the sound and just read the closed captioning.

Now it’s not all bad. In its time, very important words, this was a groundbreaking film. Women were rarely empowered in film before An Unmarried Woman, and Jill Clayburgh’s performance inspired a new generation of actresses. Worth seeing, if only for the historical prominence, or to compare from your first viewing in the seventies. Now I’m going to hunt down Looking for Mr. Goodbar.

Futureworld

Futureworld ~ I was just talking about Peter Fonda and this flick on this blog recently so when I saw Futureworld was on Encore Action, so I DVRed it. It’s been at least a serious three decades or so since I’ve last seen it. It’s nowhere near as good as I remembered it, and despite being a feature film, looks barely above television quality, bad for even a Samuel Z. Arkoff production. it does still have its merits though.

Futureworld is the 1976 sequel to the popular 1973 scifi thriller Westworld, and was followed a few years later by the very short-lived CBS TV series “Beyond Westworld,” which was even worse, as demonstrated by it only lasting five episodes.

In Westworld, written and directed by Michael Crichton, the Delos Corporation has created three ‘amusement parks’ – WestWorld, MedievalWorld, and RomanWorld – populated by lifelike androids where guests can indulge in any fantasy they can imagine in each park genre, including having sex with and/or killing the androids. A malfunction affecting all the robots makes them suddenly attack and kill all the guests, highlighted by the Gunslinger, as played by Yul Brynner, and terror ensues. So ends WestWorld.

In Futureworld, Delos seems to have recovered from this PR nightmare and gone back into business. Fonda and Blythe Danner are newspaper and television reporters invited to see what the new Delos is all about and make sure it’s safe. They elect to visit FutureWorld, one of the new parks that have been added. There is some great dialogue between the two regarding newspapers being dead, nice call from 1976.

Most frightening about the film is how much the parks resemble Disney in design and visuals, but I suppose that’s on purpose. On the down side the acting is abysmal and the sexism is humiliating. That the technicians must be gay or robots if they don’t succumb to Danner’s charms is one of the more pitiful bits. There’s also a painful conspiracy subplot about Delos replacing world leaders with robot doubles.

Yul Brynner as The Gunslinger does appear in footage from the first movie and in Danner’s bizarre dream sequence. Too bad he couldn’t be in more. As a true scifi movie villain, perhaps he could have dragged this flick up a few notches from its bad telemovie level.

Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry

Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry ~ There was a time when I was a kid that I thought Peter Fonda was the coolest guy on Earth. He was in stuff like Race With the Devil and Futureworld and of course Easy Rider, so he could do no wrong. He was also in this charmer.

Until I saw Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry again recently I could remember very little about it. I remembered it starred Fonda, and Susan George, in the bizarre title roles, it was a car chase flick, and it was frequently one of channel 6’s late night Friday movies – you know, the ones I wasn’t supposed to be staying up watching – both because of the content, and because it was past my bedtime. Little else was retained by my memory.

Upon watching it again for the first time in almost maybe forty years, I am struck by how really bad it is. It may have been okay or mediocre for the time (1974), but let’s just say the years have not been kind. Rather than an interesting time capsule like other seventies films I’ve watched recently, this is a creaky relic.

Loosely based on the novel “The Chase” (later known as “Pursuit”) by Richard Unekis, one can easily see the influence of earlier films of the genre like Vanishing Point, Two-Lane Blacktop, The French Connection, and even Bonnie and Clyde. The problem is that you can also see this film’s own influence on the destruction and mocking of the genre later in the decade by stuff like Smokey and the Bandit, Eat My Dust, and The Blues Brothers. This is the beginning of the car chase movie becoming a joke, amusing or not.

This movie is so seventies, down to the theme song by Marjorie McCoy being used throughout as if choreographed by Quentin Tarantino, to the crazy fashions and ugly cars, to the endless shots of the scenic southwest. And the late Vic Morrow wonderfully eats up the screen as the obsessed pursuing cop. It’s worth a look for the curious, but it’s no masterpiece, but Peter Fonda is still cool.

Dennis Hopper 1936-2010

Actor, filmmaker and Hollywood legend Dennis Hopper has passed away. He was 74.

I used to have this thing for sixties movies when I was a kid. Don’t ask me why, but I was into hippies and drugs and bikers waaay back then. As you can imagine, when local WPVI channel 6 showed Easy Rider on its Million Dollar Movie Friday nights at 11:30 PM – it was an event for me. I stayed up and marveled at the psychedelic exploits of Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson and this shaggy headed rebel named Dennis Hopper. This was the first time I had run into the man. He was a one-liner, comic relief almost, in Rider, but little did I know then that the man co-wrote and directed the flick. And the flick was one of the new wave of youth-oriented films that changed the way Hollywood made movies.

Hopper once again slid into my tunnel vision with his frightening performance in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Nightmarish, charismatic and dangerous – he had a lasting effect. I became a fan, and slowly became aware of his long and storied career.

Dennis Hopper, reputedly one of the bad boys of Hollywood was also one of its new wave of geniuses to come out the late 1960s. His career before Easy Rider was primarily in television and almost stretched back to its beginnings. After lots of TV westerns and some dramas, he jumped to the big screen in 1968 and began a long string of brilliance, whether it was a small part, or larger role in front or behind the camera – Hopper was one of the greats. He seemed to vanish in the 1970s but reemerged quickly in the early 1980s, thanks to roles like Frank Booth in Blue Velvet.

After that it didn’t matter what you saw Hopper in, whether it was as the bad guy in Speed or the television series “24,” or in just silly stuff like Space Truckers or Super Mario Brothers – you knew you were going to get a hell of a performance. We have lost a true Hollywood legend in Dennis Hopper, and he will be missed.

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