Bone: A Bad Day in Beverly Hills,
and six more movies

The Neverending
Film Festival

A Different Image (1982)

This is a very earnest drama with a very obvious point, that women should be seen as more than merely boobs and butts but actually as people. It's a message that might have been needed 40 years ago, and it's still needed, but to me the movie seems awfully naïve.

The central character is a beautiful young woman who thinks she has a grand platonic friendship with a man. They do everything together, she even helps him move, and he's perpetually making goo-goo eyes at her, but it never flashes across her mind that he might want something more than friendship?

I'd believe it if she was ten or twelve, but she's twenty-something. She's a grown-up woman. By that age, she knows she's attractive, and she'd certainly recognize what everyone watching the movie knows, that her platonic best buddy wants to be anything but a platonic best buddy.

Verdict: NO. A clumsy message movie.

♦ ♦ ♦

Bone: A Bad Day in Beverly Hills (1972)

Yaphet Kotto gets a rat out of a rich couple's pool. Andrew Duggan and Joyce Van Patten are the couple — he's a used car salesman, famous for his TV ads, and she's his devoted and delicate wife.

Kotto would like a tip for solving their rat problem — $5,000 would be enough. Duggan goes to the bank to withdraw the funds, while Kotto holds Van Patten hostage, and says he'll rape her if Duggan isn't back by 3:00.

That's the basic plotline, and it sounds distasteful indeed, but it's the starting point for some startling, maybe surreal diversions into the politics of race and rape and sex and psychology in America.

Maybe that makes it sound oh-so serious, but it's actually playful and more fun than any movie built around rape has a right to be.

Written, directed, produced by Larry Cohen, a name I'd heard but had no particular knowledge of. The movie looks cheap, like something from Roger Corman, but it's far smarter than a Corman pic, and there are clever flourishes all along the way.

"As long as you're going to kill me, why not be open and frank with me?"

Bone wins the triple crown: Yaphet Kotto is my favorite rapist ever in a movie, Andrew Duggan is my all-time favorite car salesman, and Joyce Van Patten is my very favorite put-upon movie housewife. As for Cohen, well, now I gotta have a Larry Cohen Film Festival. Take me away, IMDB.

Verdict: BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Meet the Parents (1991)

A young man goes to his fiancée's house to meet her family, and everything that can go wrong goes wrong. But no, this does not star Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro. That movie was a big-budget remake of this movie, and like millions of people, I saw the remake but remember almost nothing about it.

This original telling of the tale is occasionally funny but in most ways it seems amateur. It's awkward all the way, which is good, but it's kinda clumsy about its awkwardness, with good ideas but random execution.

Produced by Emo Philips, who also wrote the title song and plays the video store worker.

"Let me get this straight: You've never met her parents, they've never met you, and you're going to spend the whole weekend (with them). Turn around. Turn around, or you'll regret it for the rest of your life."

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦  

The Naked Zoo (1969)

Indy movies like Easy Rider and Point Blank and The Trip had made big money, so Hollywood apparently lost its mind, thinking 'hip' movies were the way to make millions.

In this mess, everyone's hip, and hip = annoying. Sex is always threatened though never seen, there's no story, and a great deal of marijuana is smoked on screen, even by Rita Hayworth. This is a major misfire on all fronts, and interesting only as an oddity.

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦

Short Eyes (1977)

All I know about prisons is that they're full of criminals dumb enough to be caught. It's probably realistic, then, that in this movie's prison, you're sentenced to be in a crowd of stupid people saying and doing stupid things.

Which sounds like I'm dissing Short Eyes, but really I'm just dissing prison. The movie is quite good, especially if you've wondered what prison might really be like. Except in prison, you don't get music by Curtis Mayfield.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Sins of Rachel Cade (1961)

Angie Dickinson plays the title character, a devoutly religious missionary, dedicated to saving the souls of the African natives. Most of her dialogue sounds not merely Christian but painfully naïve, and there's never any doubt that her perspective will win the film.

The concept seems dicey at best — a movie about white people in occupied Congo? Peter Finch is the district commissioner, the white man locals bring their disputes to. Roger Moore is an American doctor, from Boston, and makes minimal attempt to overcome his British accent, maximal attempt to dick Dickinson. Scatman Crothers plays Rachel's native chauffeur. The marvelous Woody Strode is stuck playing "Muwango, the medicine man."

Dramatically, I dunno — everyone's game, and I've seen worse, but there's simply no overcoming the setting, the politics, the religion, and the unspoken white supremacy behind this movie's existence. 

It's bad in myriad ways, but here's something trivial that bugged me: Dickinson's title character is supposed to be a nurse. When her boss has a heart attack early in the film, she's immediately on the scene, but she doesn't do anything medical. She just announces that he's dead, and tells her black staff to build a coffin. In case of emergency, you definitely don't want Angie Dickinson as your nurse.

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Truman Show (1997)

Peter Weir made some great movies — Gallipoli, Picnic at Hanging Rock — but this is not one of them. Almost, though.

Truman Burbank's entire life, from the moment he was born, has been a TV show, with actors playing his friends and loved ones. He doesn't know it, but he was the first child to be legally adopted by a corporation, and he's beginning to piece together the clues, and suspect the artificiality of it all.

Several of the movie's set-piece scenes are brilliant, and watching it again 25 years after first seeing The Truman Show, the marvelous last scene was exactly as I'd remembered it. I'm not sure we're supposed to believe the story, and for me it's all symbolism and allegory, but it's a grand idea for a film. There's just one life-size problem.

Jim Carrey stars, which makes it a Jim Carrey movie. I'm a fan, and wish he was still a big star, but mugging for the camera was always a big part of his shtick. He can't not do it, so he does it here, and it punctures the illusion when he's mugging for a camera he's not supposed to know is there.

Verdict: YES.

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Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. No talking once the lights dim. Real butter, not that fake crap, on the popcorn. Piracy is not a victimless crime. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.  


  1. I hope we're allowed to disagree. You've tipped me toward some very good movies and we usually agree but you are objectively wrong about The Truman Show. It's Weir's best, Carrey's best, a BIG YES of course.

    1. Disagreement is never allowed. My word is law.

      Not really. Often I'm full of shit.

  2. I couldn't make it through the Truman Show and I sincerely wanted to like it. But that mugging for the camera thing just kills all interest for me. I can't stand comedians who don't trust their material and need to overact and over-react and constantly wave their arms screaming "Laugh at me, I'm funny."

    Short Eyes I remember as being a powerful and grim film. Saw it many years ago and my memory is always bad. I watched Repo Man for the first time in my life just the other night and I've already forgotten most of it and I liked it. I suppose if I took notes, it would help, but I fear not by much. I did have a memory test a long time ago that explained that I have terrible immediate recall but an absurdly strong longterm memory. I don't know how to bridge the gap and get things to automatically go into my longterm memory. I wish I could. But I also have a fatty liver and I don't drink. So the memory of a hardcore pothead and the liver of an alcoholic with none of the fun associated with either. That's life! -- LArden

    1. I love taking notes. Definitely it helps me remember not to forget stuff.

      How do you know your liver is fatty? Does it feel plump? I have only a rough idea where my liver is, couldn't find it without GPS.

      Truman Show -- Yeah, every time he steps out of the front door and wave and says his silly catch phrase, it's totally Jim Carrey. Might be funny in any other movie, but it's wrong for this one.

      Repo Man -- I loved Repo Man the first time I saw it, liked it the second time, and it bored me the third time. With about ten years between each viewing, I guess you could plot a graph of my declining attention span. If I saw it a fourth time, I'm sure I'd hate it...

    2. Some sort of blood tests or body scans revealed my 'fatty liver.' It's one of those, they went in looking for one thing and found another.

    3. The fun of being a drunk is exaggerated by books and other media. I have a little photographic evidence of my 30s and some of my 40s. It seems like somebody else’s good time.


    4. Sorry, man, seriously. If/when we meet I will *not* offer you a beer.

      Some bum offered me one on the subway today. Rainier in a can, unopened and mysteriously cold. How does a bum carry a cold beer with him when it's 85° out?

      I said no thanks cuz I hate beer and who knows where that can has been?

    5. I’m not sensitive about being an ex-Drunk. No prob.


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