Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Don’t it seem like Flix just keep gettin’ harder to find…

CharredHer’s On Demand Free Movie service is a pretty nifty thing to have sometimes when—sure, it’s rare, but stay with me—you’re really not up to another showing of (insert TCM film that’s on way too much here). Last week, I found a way to occupy some free time with two offerings from Flix:

Midnight Express (1978) – Yes, it’s the film that made Turkish prisons so popular—a movie that I manage to catch on cable every five years, watch once, and I’m good for another five. Based on the true story (with a lot of dramatic liberties taken, courtesy of Oscar-winning screenwriter Oliver Stone) of young Billy Hayes (Brad Davis), a naïf who foolishly thinks he’s going to get away with smuggling a small cache of hashish out of Turkey…but the authorities have other ideas. The key to enjoying Express is looking upon the movie as just another prison film (its accuracy as a docu-drama is somewhat suspect) with some standout performances in Davis, John Hurt, Randy Quaid, Irene Miracle, Bo Hopkins, Paolo Bonacelli, Paul L. Smith and Norbert Weisser. But the individual who walks off with the picture is character great Mike Kellin; Kellin plays Hayes’ father and there’s a scene in which he’s talking with his son (in custody) about the “lousy food” in Turkey and suddenly he just breaks down emotionally, knowing he’s powerless to help his son. (A tremendous talent, and a man taken from us far too soon.)

Full Moon High (1981) – Written, directed and produced by Larry Cohen (creator of cult TV hits like Branded and The Invaders) to cash in on the American Werewolf in London phenomenon, this is a little-seen comedy that actually has a few laughs in it (you will want to set your expectations to “low,” however). Adam Arkin plays a high school football star whose nutty John Bircher-father (Ed McMahon) takes him to Romania on a “vacation”…and Arkin returns with a bad case of jet lag and lycanthropy. He’s doomed to remain immortal until he figures out a way to break the curse. Cohen’s film has a bit of a scattershot-Airplane! approach (it spoofs movies like Carrie and Psycho…and of course, The Wolf Man) and while he occasionally lands a few, more often than not the jokes go flat. (My favorite gag involves McMahon feeding the family dog...which prompts him to launch into an Alpo commercial.) The strength of the film is a cast that’s pretty much willing to throw caution to the wind and go along for the ride: future and past TV faces like Roz Kelly, Bill Kirchenbauer, Kenneth Mars, Louis Nye, Demond Wilson, Jm J. Bullock, Bob Saget and Pat Morita, to name a few. The highlight of the film is an appearance by Adam’s old man Alan, who’s hysterically funny as an abrasive psychiatrist; I’ve always had a soft spot for both Arkins because their deadpan style never fails to make me giggle.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's nice to hear someone who recognizes Mike Kellin's talent so well. My father was a television writer in the fifties' "Golden Age" and was a friend of Kellin's. I remember him visiting our apartment when I was quite small. He had just played Huckleberry Finn's cruel father on television and I timidly asked if he could do something from the show. The walls of our apartment reverberated as he shouted "You come back here, Huck Finn!"
A nice man, and you're right, a very underrated actor.