The Whole Shootin' Match,
and six more movies

Cat People (1942)

The Neverending
Film Festival

Dame and Dude meet at the zoo, and she invites him to tea. She shows him her freaky statue of King John of Serbia stabbing a cat, but explains that the cat getting stabbed isn't really a cat; it's supposed to symbolize her village's evil past.

"People bowed down to Satan and said their masses to him," she says. "They had become witches and were evil." King John, she says, heroically killed a bunch of these Satan-worshippers, but their spirits became cats that haunt her village back in Serbia.

Swelling music signals that this is a marvelous story, and Dude is enchanted and wants to see Dame again, but I don't understand why. Sure, she's pretty (it's a movie; women are required to be pretty) but all through tea time she's said nothing interesting, just a lot of absurd babble about King John of Serbia killing Satan-worshippers who then became cats. If I was having tea with that lady, I wouldn't ask for a refill, or a second date.

Dude, though, asks Dame to marry him, without even a kiss, without a serious conversation between them about anything but the cats that haunt her village back in Serbia. After they're married, Dude gets tired of hearing about Serbian cats, sends Dame to a shrink, but she'd rather return to the zoo, over and over and over again, to stare at a panther in a cage.

I've heard about this film for decades, and been told it's eerie, spooky, a classic. Some movies have a great reputation. Some movies deserve a great reputation. Sometimes they're not the same movies. If this is a great movie, it whizzed right past me.

Cat People is beautifully photographed and looks good, but almost nothing happens, certainly nothing eerie or spooky, nothing interesting, and nothing either feline or human. It's just a boring movie about a boring woman who believes in boring bunk.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Cop Land (1997)

Sylvester Stallone plays a local sheriff in a small New Jersey town where lots of NYPD cops live.

Police, of course, have a culture of their own and it's not neighborly. The movie's concept is that Stallone, looking older and more haggard than the world had seen him before, looks up to these big city cops who live on his beat, but most of them are crooks, so he's going to have to clean up a whole dang town full of dirty cops.

Stallone's character is kinda catatonic for most of it, but there's an impressive cast behind him — Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert Patrick — and they keep it simmering until Stallone wakes up.

The movie has echoes of High Noon — one cop standing alone against evil — but its dirty cops aren't dirty enough, and its tag line that "no-one is above the law" is worth a guffaw.

Still, it's more realistic than I'd expected. It shows lots of bad cops, and shows even the movie's hero, Stallone, going along with a lie that makes him look better, covering up evidence to protect a buddy, etc. If a good cop is one who follows the law and applies the same rules to everyone, fairly, there are no good cops in America.

This was written and directed by James Mangold, who has a long list of movies on IMDB, none of which I've seen — Ford vs Ferrari, Logan, Walk the Line, The Wolverine — or wanted to. This one, though, is pretty good.

"This film is a work of fiction. It is currently illegal for New York City Police officers to live outside the state of New York."

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Matilda (1978)

Matilda is a male kangaroo that boxes, and is clearly played by a man hopping around in a bad kangaroo costume. The movie, though, is not a psychological study of a man who believes he's a kangaroo. It's a comedy about a boxing marsupial. You're supposed to take it seriously and find it funny, but I can't and didn't.

Elliot Gould plays the promoter who's going to make millions off Matilda. Roy Clark plays the boxing commissioner who grants the kangaroo a boxing license. Robert Mitchum plays the newsman who wants to get a gangster into the ring with the kangaroo, though I never understood why. The movie's theme song, a duet by Pat and Debby Boone, must be heard to be believed.

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Neon City (1991)

This is a minor league sci-fi about a small crowd of characters riding an armored transport across a post-apocalyptic wasteland, making their way to the fabled Neon City — land of fresh food, hot showers, and clean sheets. Along the way they'll have to deal with zander clouds and brights and skin attacks, marauding hoards, and radiation-ravaged survivors desperate to be suicided.

It starts dull but gets better, and by the end it's not bad at all.

This was directed by Monte Markham, an unexpected choice. He's a TV actor of limited renown, who's guest starred on every TV show ever made, and had a quickly-canceled sit-com of his own in the 1960s. As a performer, he has a certain folksiness, and he gives himself a supporting role in Neon City. Good show, Mr Markham.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The One and Only (1978)

Happy Days was wildly popular in the 1970s, and Henry Winkler as Fonzie was all over America's lunch pails. Hollywood thought he could be a movie star, and this was one of Winkler's movies. It was written by directed by Carl Reiner, and I thought it was pretty damned funny when I was twenty. It's not as funny as I'd remembered, though.

Winkler plays "the one and only Andy Schmidt," a young man full of confidence — and overflowing. He wants to be the center of attention whenever he's awake, so he's always doing something outrageous. On his first date with a girl he wants to impress, he sings "Getting to Know You" in a crowded restaurant, and it's funny. Performing Shakespeare in a school play, he wants to improvise better dialogue, and that's kinda funny. Andy's outrageousness never stops, and becomes grating, and eventually he becomes a pro wrestler, and oh my.

Kim Darby plays his too-long-suffering girlfriend and eventual wife, who asks, "Are you acting all the time? How about when you're kissing me, is that acting? Is this conversation part of the act? Who are you, really?" She's the only person willing to tolerate him, though it's never clear why, and she's the only one who can occasionally shut him the hell up.

This character, Andy Schmidt, reminds me of obnoxious, self-worshiping people I've known in real life — people I'm glad to no longer know. Watching the movie, I was able to laugh for a while, but an hour and a half is too much Schmidt.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Seven Hours to Judgment (1988)

A judge lets a crime victim visit him in his chambers, off the record, during the case. He gives advice to the prosecution from the bench. The movie isn't about this judge's obvious incompetence, though. It's about the judge and his wife being kidnapped by the aforementioned victim, after finding the obviously guilty perps innocent.

The victim-now-kidnapper sends the judge on a scavenger hunt into the city's worst neighborhoods, so we can see the damages wrought on society by such bleeding heart liberal judges. The neighborhoods are Hollywood-seedy — quaintly colorful, not particularly dicey, with litter and a broken bottle here and there. Looks like the neighborhoods where I shop, and where my favorite diner is.

Beau Bridges stars and directs, and he's simply not up to either challenge. There may have been a time when brothers Beau and Jeff Bridges had equal star power in Hollywood, but if so, this is the movie where Jeff became a bigger star, and he's not even in it.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Whole Shootin' Match (1978)

Frank has a wife and kid but he's barely able to pay the rent, and his Mrs is suddenly extra patient because she's found Jesus.

Lloyd has no wife, but he has a scheme to make a million dollars, and if that scheme doesn't work, he has another.

Frank and Lloyd are best buddies and small-town odd-jobs men, proprietors of Frank & Lloyd's Light Hauling, but they're not that good at the odd jobs.

"I'll get someone else to take care of this, and when you learn your business, call me back. You seem like nice folks."

And they do seem like nice folks. Everyone in the movie has a Southern accent and listens to country music, and it plays like Green Acres but much funnier. It's not really a comedy, though; it's more like good-natured reality. You'll like these people, even if (like me) you don't much like people in general.

Scenes go on and on, with droll but delightful conversations that don't really advance the plot, but the plot takes care of itself — quite nicely, too.

You're probably never heard of this movie, and that's a raging injustice. It's better than anything now playing at the cinema, on Netflix, or Amazon Prime, or anything else on this page. The Whole Shootin' Match is presented in beautiful black-and-white, made and set in the late 1970s, but it's timeless. Also excellent.

Verdict: BIG 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. James Mangold - I'd almost swear that you and I saw his "Girl, Interrupted" together, but it might have been with Shawna. He's also directing 2023's "Untitled fifth Indiana Jones film." Frankly, they should fucking keep that as the title. "It is the first installment not directed by Steven Spielberg nor with a story written by George Lucas." I'm sure it'll be perfectly rotten.

    1. I *may* have seen Girl, Interrupted, but I don't remember it at all. Two hot chicks is all I remember, which is why I may have seen it. Was it any good?

      Somewhere I read that in one of these endless sucky Indian Jones bastardizations, someone survived a nuclear blast by crouching inside an ice chest or something. I'm the king of snap judgments, and that's all I need to know to know it's a no.

  2. Cat People is overrated, yes.

    Where do you find time to see seven movies every two days? Or are some of these reviews of movies you saw years ago?

    1. Long and boring answer:

      No, I'm not seeing seven movies every two days, but also not just writing reviews based on distant memories of movies once seen.

      I watch a movie, write a review, and it goes into the hopper. Right now there are 19 reviews in the hopper. On days when I have nothing interesting to write or publish, I grab seven movie reviews at random from the hopper. Stuff sits in there for a few days, weeks, maybe even months, but not years.

    2. Not boring, and not very long, thanks.

      Congratulations on the job.

    3. Well, check in with me in a few weeks. We'll see if I'm hating it yet...


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