Allan Carr: A Spectacle to Behold

DATELINE: Carr-buncle


Can’t Stop the Hype!

It’s been 20 years since the grand poobah of film, TV, and stage producers has left the spotlight. And, boy, was Allan Carr a hog for the media.

The Fabulous Allan Carr is a misnomer. He was not the stuff of fables, nor legends and myths. He was an obese gay man with a knack for self-indulging and making fun for friends and audiences.

One supposes that such a life is enough to satisfy most people. Yet, Carr seemed a cuddly little buddha, but was more like a cactus version of Jekyll and Hyde. When the good times rolled, he was your pal.

He started out as a talent coordinator for Hugh Hefner’s late night TV show in the late 1950s, where he made the acquaintance of old and new Hollywood.

Carr produced Grease, Grease II, La Cage aux Folles, as well as stinkeroos like Can’t Stop the Music. He could do good stuff with all the bravura of Carmen Miranda and Chiquita.

He was a nightmare when failure knocked on his door, and his all-boy parties in Beverly Hills gave way to funeral processions when the AIDS crisis started taking all the twinks. A generation was decimated, and the Village People went into eclipse.

Carr was mostly voyeur, and he escaped infection from HIV. He lived life on his terms, caftans and moo-moo blouses to hide a multitude of rolls.

Born out of Middle America, he became a cocaine-motivated doyen of Hollywood and Broadway. He should have been nicer to the people going up the ladder because they remembered him when he started down the ladder.

His last years were sad, beleaguered with kidney problems and bone cancer. Every party became a line on his face, and in the end he was about as reclusive as an extrovert might never consider.



Dog, Horse, & Hawke in Valley of Violence

DATELINE: Nouveau Spaghetti

jumpy & Hawke  Dog, Horse, & Hawke

A throwback to the old fashioned spaghetti westerns of a generation ago, starring Clint and Lee Van Cleef, In a Valley of Violence echoes the style and demeanor in its characters.

This one is strictly American, filmed in New Mexico, with Ethan Hawke, growing older and wearier enough to play the laconic antihero. His fierce enemy is rather compromising and solicitous, a federal marshal played by John Travolta.

The real impetus for the film is the dog Jumpy, playing Abbie, to whom the protagonist is hopelessly devoted. Shades of John Wick last year. We know what happened when the bad guys killed his dog.

Taking a detour to seek vengeance, Ethan Hawke returns to Denton, a well-kept town of no visible means of support. It is under the control of its marshal, a town boss and self-anointed leader. Worse is his sadistic son, in a marvelous performance by James Ransome as Gilly.

Westerns are a tough chestnut to crack nowadays, and we always look forward to a good one emerging. This film by Ti West features animals and their totem power to good and bad guys, which is admirable.

Of course, once the protagonist begins to payback those who done him wrong, there is no recourse. Like Shane strapping on his guns, Ethan Hawke is wearily forced to finish the story.

The revenge is not particularly grisly by modern standards, nor particularly inventive, but the production is solid and Westerns fan will be satisfied with man’s inhumanity to dog.

Blow by Blow Blow Out

DATELINE: Pre-Terrorist Terror

blow out

Brian DePalma’s classic movie of 1981 looks like it’s been ripped from the headlines of 2016.

Blow Out features political assassinations, serial killers, and movie references, including many to the master Hitchcock.

However, today’s audiences maybe puzzled at how De Palma was able to use the movie’s climactic scene. In it, John Travolta as the protagonist drives his car down the middle of the street during Philadelphia’s Liberty Day parade. He knocks over policeman, parade marchers, a marching band, and pedestrians. In today’s terrorist-conscious world, he would’ve been cuffed and shot by the police, but not necessarily in that order.
The film cleverly uses the notion of an undervalued movie sound effects man of sexploitation movies. Out one night making sound recordings, he happens upon a combination JFK assassination of a presidential hopeful and a Chappaquiddick car crash.

The characters in this little screenplay seem incredibly obtuse. However, Nancy Allen as the call girl with a heart of gold is something to behold.

Not a great actress, she managed to appear and her husband De Palma’s movies as well as some of the greatest box office hits of the 70s and 80s, including the Terminator movies (or was that her blonde body double Linda Hamilton?) and the RoboCop movies.

Yet, Miss Allen never received the respect or accolades due her. And John Travolta during those years was thought of as of Saturday night fevered comic actor.

The movie also features John Lithgow as the combination serial killer/slash/political assassin. He is suitably creepy.

If you can overlook the incredibly stupid motivation of the characters, you have an extremely clever Hitchcock like thriller. Just keep telling yourself, “it’s only a movie.”

Another Turkey Dead on Arrival

DATELINE: Hunting Down Bad Guy Movies


Two Troupers in a Turkey

It arrived straight to video, streaming, and online viewing. It did not pass “Go,” and it did not collect any awards.

Killing Season is not about life on a turkey farm the week before Thanksgiving, but features to actors who seem a bit long in the tooth for their roles as action vengeance seekers. Robert DeNiro and John Travolta are well-worth watching even under duress in a birdbrain movie about the cold dish of revenge.

John Travolta plays someone from Eastern Europe, replete with accent that has no specific location, that comes to the cold Appalachian country of the United States to kill a former soldier now living in hiding (that’s DeNiro). He’d probably die of old age soon anyhow without aspirin.

Travolta is a Bosnian who has survived execution and spends 18 years tracking down DeNiro, even able to enter the United States with his weapons cache. It may have something to do with the fact that Travolta in his beard looks more like Abe Lincoln than Raymond Massey ever did.

We liked the idea of anti-social, retired ex-military man living in rustic luxury out in the middle of nowhere in pleasant conditions until a nutcase forces him into survivalist mode.

Talk about déjà vu all over again. You probably have seen this plot rehashed with different cultures, ages, wars, and cleverness. We can think of a half-dozen films with the same storyline: hunter and hunted running all over Adventureland.

We also must admit we haven’t seen too many movies with a theme related to the Bosnian genocides of the 1990s—and we presume most movie viewers have no idea where Serbia is on the map, let alone that NATO used American soldiers in cleaning up the atrocities.

In the age of political correctness, however, you cannot count on the idea that the American is a good guy, even when he used to be Don Vito Corleone hunted down by Vinnie Barbarino.

Don’t forget to read MOVIE MASHUP or MOVIES TO SEE –OR NOT TO SEE for a full rundown on all the recent films worth seeing (and classics worth re-seeing). Both books are available on for Christmas stockings everywhere.