1972

You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown (1972, Bill Melendez)

A lot goes on in You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown, with the actual class president election stuff coming in at the end of the first act. Instead, Elected starts with Sally (Hilary Momberger-Powers) having school troubles. There’s a long conversation about all the possible school problems with Charlie Brown (Chad Webber), only for it to be Sally can’t get into her locker. Then there’s a lengthy breakfast sequence where Snoopy gets the kids ready for school.

The locker problem returns–with Charlie Brown trying to help Sally–only for it to be the locker height. She can’t reach. Though none of the kids could reach, even though all the doors are the right height. It’s a weird gag. The immediate subsequent scene visually invalidates it.

But then it turns out Sally just wants to get Charlie Brown to be her show and tell item, which gives him a panic attack. At the end of the panic attack, he sees a sign about class president elections. So here’s the class president story line? No.

Because there’s still a fun little Snoopy in school sequence with the “Joe Cool” song in the background. And a lot of physical violence.

Lucy (Robin Kohn) does some voter interest research and discovers Charlie Brown doesn’t have a chance at winning. But Linus (Stephen Shea) does.

So Charlie Brown isn’t elected in You’re Not Elected because he’s not even running.

The Linus campaign stuff is fantastic. Kohn and Shea are both really good, even if Lucy’s best sequence–getting more and more frustrated during an “ask the candidate” call-in–doesn’t have much dialogue. Shea’s got the big campaign speech, which is hilarious as Linus gets more and more authoritarian as the school body cheers.

Unfortunately, Linus has some peculiar tendencies and they eventually complicate the campaign. Rather amusingly.

Elected takes a little while to get going–the diversion with Sally is okay (Momberger-Powers is fine), but dramatically inert–once Lucy starts running campaigns though, the cartoon gets a nice, steady pace. Good direction from Melendez, some lovely visuals (particularly the backgrounds), and a fine score from Vince Guaraldi. Guaraldi also does the “Joe Cool” song.

Between the title and the clunky (if competent) first act, Elected is a bit of a surprise, both in narrative and quality.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Robert T. Gillis, Chuck McCann, and Rudy Zamora Jr.; music by Vince Guaraldi; produced by Melendez and Lee Mendelson; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Chad Webber (Charlie Brown), Robin Kohn (Lucy van Pelt), Stephen Shea (Linus van Pelt), Hilary Momberger-Powers (Sally Brown), and Todd Barbee (Russell).


The Night Stalker (1972, John Llewellyn Moxey)

The Night Stalker moves with ruthless efficiency. It’s a TV movie, so it’s got a mandated short runtime–seventy-four minutes; Richard Matheson’s teleplay has a brisk pace, something director Moxey embraces. There’s rarely a dull moment in The Night Stalker. It’s always about waiting for the next bad thing to happen.

The film opens with lead Darren McGavin alone, “narrating” from micro-cassette recorder playback while either transcribing or copyediting. He’s alone, a resigned look on his face, as he lays out the ground situation. McGavin’s a reporter in Las Vegas who used to be a big city newspaperman. His editor, Simon Oakland, can’t stand him and resents the paper’s (unseen) owner liking him. McGavin’s just been called back from vacation, though it’s almost impossible to imagine what he’s like when he’s not reporting. Matheson and Moxey are able to keep Night Stalker lean by not going too much into McGavin’s back story right off. It comes out later, in pieces, but the exposition is for McGavin’s story.

Someone is killing women, draining them of their blood through wounds on the neck. Every couple days, a new victim, all evidence pointing to someone who thinks he’s a vampire. The cops don’t want to hear it. Night Stalker’s pacing is a little weird because, even though the cops have all the same evidence as McGavin, their interpretation of it is left out. Like I said, it’s lean.

It also lets Night Stalker keep most of the cops are bad guys. Claude Akins’s strong-arming sheriff and Kent Smith’s slimey D.A. spend more time hounding McGavin than trying to solve their cases, going so far as to ignore coroner’s reports and common sense. Ralph Meeker’s the local FBI agent who likes McGavin and keeps him involved (though, actually, it’s McGavin who brings the story to Meeker initially).

McGavin’s got a lady friend, Carol Lynley, who works at a casino (just like all the victims). Night Stalker takes a while to establish the extent of their relationship; she gets introduced in the first act as one of McGavin’s sources. He’s got a handful, including Elisha Cook Jr. in a nice little cameo, but Lynley and Meeker are big ones. Eventually, Lynley gets to be the one who reveals some of McGavin’s back story. He’s been run out of every major city (and major city newspaper) because he’s just too intrepid for his own good. It provides some context, even if the film doesn’t exactly need it.

Because The Night Stalker has McGavin and it doesn’t need much else. Matheson doesn’t give McGavin a lot of speeches–he’s got a lot of dialogue, because he’s always doing his job–but he’s not a crusading journalist. He’s just trying to get the story (and a big enough one to get out of Las Vegas), but his ego’s always in check. The most impressive scenes, at least in terms of Moxey’s direction, are the action ones where McGavin is a bystander. He’s always active–dutifully taking pictures–while madness ensues around him.

There are two big action scenes in Night Stalker. Moxey leverages the film’s mundane realism against the fantastical action to outstanding result. When it’s a smaller action sequence, Moxey’s fine but it’s just a TV movie; the big action sequences, however, they’re beautifully choreographed madness. With McGavin taking it all in, not taking cover, but standing a step or two back from it all.

McGavin’s performance is phenomenal. Even when it is one of those duller moments–eventually McGavin takes to driving the Strip, waiting for the police scanner, waiting for the something in the story to break–and McGavin gives those filler moments weight. No small feat given Bob Cobert’s too jazzy for its own good music.

Technically, The Night Stalker can’t keep up with McGavin’s performance or Matheson’s writing. Michel Hugo’s photography is fine for the newspaper procedural and rather competent for the night exteriors, but he can’t make the finale work. Not the day-for-night, which he really should be able to accomplish, but then not the horror-suspense aspects either. The last deficiencies seem more like director Moxey’s problem–even when Night Stalker’s perfectly well-directed, it’s perfectly well-directed for a TV movie. Moxey’s ambitions are in check.

Akins and Smith are great foils. Oakland less so just because he’s not as much a part of it. He’s underwritten to make room. Meeker’s real good. Lynley’s solid, then gets better as the film progresses and she gets exposition responsibilities. The best performances in Night Stalker are the ones with a detached sadness. Matheson bakes the depressing reality of Las Vegas–so the location exteriors matter–into the film. Long hours, late nights, low pay, conditional happiness. It’s one hell of a downer.

McGavin is right at home in it, whether he wants to be there or not, whether anyone else wants him there or not. He wears a straw pork pie hat, a pinstrip suit, and an exhausted expression, but he’s full of energy. The Night Stalker succeeds thanks to the script and the competent filmmaking, but it excels because it’s McGavin in the lead. He’s so good. It’s like Matheson wrote the thing for McGavin’s cadence and his resigned exasperation.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey; teleplay by Richard Matheson, based on a story by Jeffrey Grant Rice; director of photography, Michel Hugo; edited by Desmond Marquette; music by Bob Cobert; produced by Dan Curtis; aired by the American Broadcasting Company.

Starring Darren McGavin (Carl Kolchak), Carol Lynley (Gail Foster), Simon Oakland (Vincenzo), Ralph Meeker (Bernie Jenks), Claude Akins (Sheriff Butcher), Charles McGraw (Chief Masterson), Kent Smith (D.A. Paine), Elisha Cook Jr. (Mickey Crawford), Stanley Adams (Fred Hurley), Larry Linville (Dr. Makurji), Jordan Rhodes (Dr. O’Brien), and Barry Atwater (Janos Skorzeny).


Slaughterhouse-Five (1972, George Roy Hill)

When Slaughterhouse-Five is just about World War II, director Hill can handle it. He doesn’t understand the humor, but he can handle it. The script doesn’t understand its own humor, as screenwriter Stephen Geller tries to force his own sense of humor on the source material, but Hill just makes it worse. Especially when he’s got an actor like Ron Leibman going wild with his role.

Leibman gets the joke. Hill doesn’t. Hill has an incredibly big problem with Slaughterhouse-Five, he can’t figure out how to be serious about it. He can be showy about it, but he can’t be serious about it. Not serious enough because he can’t embrace the fantastical nature of the source material. Hill can’t buy in; the script doesn’t help on this one either, but Hill can’t buy in. Like the book says, so it goes.

As a result, the World War II sequences–set to beautiful Glenn Gould music, featuring this desolate Miroslav Ondrícek photography, with Dede Allen’s sublime cuts–oh, and star Michael Sacks walking around like a complete doofus. Apparently, someone important was real set on Sacks as the lead in the film, because there’s no other explanation why they didn’t get someone better. Sacks doesn’t have a part in the script. He’s an enigma. Hill avoids giving him speaking shots in close-up, so he’s mostly just observing. Again, enigma. But since Hill can’t seem to shoot the script, he’s fuddling with the actors too. Sacks gets nothing from Hill. Not a thing. It’s incredible. As soon as the opening titles are done, Hill’s giving the movie away to the supporting cast.

For a while that approach almost works. Handing the movie off to a better actor than Sacks, who spends half the film in World War II and half the film in old age make-up and in the present day. Only some of the present day stuff is flashback too, with its own younger old age make-up.

It’s bad make-up. Ondrícek doesn’t shoot it, or the special effects, well. So it looks like a joke, which certainly doesn’t seem to be what anyone’s going for, but no one’s in much agreement. And Sacks should be pulled in all directions by this indecision; only he’s so bland, he’s unaffected. It’s kind of incredible, the lead actor’s performance unaffected by disaster.

Only in such a good production–save the special effects, Slaughterhouse-Five is a fine production. It’s just not a good movie. Not as a strict adaptation or a loose one. Hill and company end going for something safe, some ironic camp. When the film gets to its abrupt finish, where–theoretically–one might want Sacks to have gone through some kind of change, if not internally than at least in relation to the others or the audience, but no… Hill never lets the film head in that direction. Questions are down that path. Slaughterhouse-Five doesn’t want to raise any of those.

Slaughterhouse-Five is a contemporary adaptation of controversial breakout bestseller, it’s inherently mercenary. Hill doesn’t want to try to mimic the book’s controversies, so he tries to distract from his avoidance of them. Don’t look at the stunning lack of ambition, let’s all laugh at Sharon Gans being reduced to a joke about her weight. Time and again, even though she starts the film stronger than Sacks; the film cuts to their wedding night and Gans immediately overpowers Sacks. And Hill doesn’t seem to care and Sacks doesn’t notice because his performance would have to change, which it doesn’t.

Ever.

So, Gans never gets her due. When Valerie Perrine comes in, Hill and Geller set her up to be some great presence, but she’s not either. Because she’s not set in the World War II stuff. Everything present in Slaughterhouse-Five flops, with the exception of some of Gans’s performance… and nothing else. Nothing else works in the present.

Eugene Roche is great as Sacks’s mentor in World War II. Leibman’s great. The script’s not good but the actors still get through and the plot’s good. It’s just building towards the Dresden bombing. Hill can handle that kind of narrative progression.

It’s all the rest of it he can’t handle.

Sacks doesn’t add anything–he’s not maliciously being bad, he’s just moping. Malice would require something no one is willing to give Sacks–personality.

Some gorgeous filmmaking though. In the World War II parts, usually when not involving lots of dialogue because the dialogue gives Hill problems. Again, not the actors, just Hill. So not the talky parts. Unless it’s Roche.

Slaughterhouse-Five is too professionally competent to be unbearable. It’s just abjectly without ambition.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by George Roy Hill; screenplay by Stephen Geller, based on the novel by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.; director of photography, Miroslav Ondrícek; edited by Dede Allen; music by Glenn Gould; production designer, Henry Bumstead; produced by Paul Monash; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Michael Sacks (Billy Pilgrim), Ron Leibman (Paul Lazzaro), Eugene Roche (Edgar Derby), Sharon Gans (Valencia Merble Pilgrim), Valerie Perrine (Montana Wildhack), Holly Near (Barbara Pilgrim), Perry King (Robert Pilgrim), and Kevin Conway (Roland Weary).


Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972, Fukuda Jun)

Godzilla vs. Gigan is a little like a filmed ballet or play. It’s a performance of its Kaiju ballet. The Kaiju ballet has a stage–a surprisingly large soundstage with a miniature Tokyo or Mount Fuji landscape for serve as the ring in which the men in suits wrestle. The men in suits are not the stars of the Kaiju ballet, they’re more like the stars’ operators. A good Kaiju ballet has the right set, right suits, right men in suits, right direction, right photography. Those people, and many more, get together and the men in suits pretend they are giants. Then the right editor and the right composer have to come along and get it into the finished project. Appreciating a Kaiju ballet is appreciating how everything has to flow together.

And for Gigan, Toho cuts corners and reuses footage, which really hurts the flow and offends Hasegawa Kiyoshi’s fine cinematography. Lazy day for night filtering on the old footage doesn’t match Hasegawa’s nighttime lighting of the miniature set. It’s unfortunate, but editor Tamura Yoshio does a decent enough job incorporating the content of the scenes into the visual narrative and Gigan gets past it.

The rest of the film, involving intergalactic cockroaches (literally), an out of work cartoonist and his karate black belt lady friend (unclear if it’s romantic), two urban environmentalist revolutionaries (or something), is fine. It’s silly, but the cast is game and Honda Yoshifumi’s production design is a lot of fun.

The film even has an inexplicable, heavy-handed warning against being beholden to technology. Because the bad guys made a giant artificial Godzilla in their theme park. It’s very strange. And a lot of fun.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Fukuda Jun; screenplay by Sekizawa Shin’ichi, based on a story by Kimura Takeshi; director of photography, Hasegawa Kiyoshi; edited by Tamura Yoshio; music by Ifukube Akira; production designer, Honda Yoshifumi; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Ishikawa Hiroshi (Kotaka Gengo), Hishimi Yuriko (Tomoe Tomoko), Takashima Minoru (Takasugi Shosaku), Umeda Tomoko (Shima Machiko), Fujita Zan (Sudo Fumio), Murai Kunio (Shima Takashi) and Nishizawa Toshiaki (Kubota).


The King of Marvin Gardens (1972, Bob Rafelson)

The King of Marvin Gardens is an extremely quiet film. Jack Nicholson’s protagonist is a radio monologist, which suggests the viewer should listen to the content of his dialogue, but the secret of Marvin Gardens is that content’s unimportance. After a brief introduction to Nicholson’s job and life, the film immediately moves him into an unknown circumstance. He goes to Atlantic City to meet up with his older brother, played by Bruce Dern.

Dern and Nicholson’s characters are completely dissimilar–Nicholson’s a monk, Dern travels with two ladies (Ellen Burstyn and Julia Anne Robinson), Nicholson’s an introvert, Dern’s an obnoxious talker–and director Rafelson, Nicholson and Dern are very careful to show their relationship. Rafelson and photographer László Kovács shoot a lot of Marvin Gardens in long shot (or at least medium long shot). It seemingly exaggerates the viewer’s distance from the characters, but it’s actually just how far away from one another everyone is situated, viewers and characters alike. Marvin Gardens presents this intriguing situation–Dern’s shady, but big money, business dealings, his relationship with the two women, the oddness of Atlantic City in off-season–and positions the viewer to ascribe certain reactions to Nicholson. After all, Nicholson is the audience’s entry into this weird setting, isn’t he?

Not really is the answer. And, as the film moves on, Nicholson, Rafelson and screenwriter Jacob Brackman have these occasional callbacks to remind the audience maybe they should have been paying more attention. Dern’s got a showy role, Burstyn has the film’s showiest, even Robinson is more shocking than Nicholson–but it’s all about Nicholson. It’s all about what his performance does and how Rafelson uses it in the film.

There aren’t really any set pieces–the most excitement comes at the beginning, with Nicholson arriving in Atlantic City; Rafelson’s vision of Atlantic City is empty, hollow, cold. There’s no music in Marvin Gardens, no score, I don’t even think any soundtrack music, just the wind. The cold wind battering these palatial, empty hotels.

Nicholson’s performance is the film’s initial hook–Rafelson opens on Nicholson performing a monologue in extreme close-up, no cuts, just this insight into the character. Only, Nicholson’s not the most reliable monologist (something the film goes out of its way to warn the audience not to expect). But in such weirdness, such grey quirkiness, such utter sadness, he’s a reference point.

It’s a breathtakingly constructed film. It’s not a character study. Rafelson and Brackman aren’t exactly deceptive about the film–there are the warnings, there are their attempts to remind the audience of important reveals–but they don’t want to fully engage how devastating it can get. Even when there’s danger, it always appears controllable, manageable.

One of the most awkward–and wonderful–things in the film is how little chemistry Nicholson and Robinson have with one another. Their scenes, even though the characters aren’t hostile, have this dreadful discomfort about them. Rafelson’s got a lot of trust in Nicholson, Nicholson’s got a lot of trust in Rafelson. It works out.

The King of Marvin Gardens is an exceptional film.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Bob Rafelson; screenplay by Jacob Brackman, based on a story by Rafelson and Brackman; director of photography, László Kovács; edited by John F. Link; production designer, Toby Carr Rafelson; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Jack Nicholson (David Staebler), Bruce Dern (Jason Staebler), Ellen Burstyn (Sally), Julia Anne Robinson (Jessica), Scatman Crothers (Lewis) and Charles LaVine (Grandfather).


The Getaway (1972, Sam Peckinpah)

From the lengthy opening credits to the big action finale, it's always clear sound is important in The Getaway. Editor Robert L. Wolfe does some wonderful transitions with sound foreshadowing the cut and the next scene, but there's something more to it. That something more is the isolation theme running through the film–Steve McQueen starts in prison, surrounded by these loud, garish, yet hollow sounds. The action finale, at a nearly deserted hotel, also has loud, hollow sounds. They amplify Peckinpah's composition–particularly for the finish–and reinforce the film's dreamlike quality.

The Getaway is a few things at once. It's a heist picture, it's a revenge picture, it's a seventies relationship drama. That relationship aspect to it, with recently released from prison McQueen and wife Ali McGraw having some big problems, is the film's quietest plot line… if only because there's so much noise around it. But Peckinpah, McQueen, McGraw and screenwriter Walter Hill always keep it present. McGraw's timid, nervous performance works wonders–she's apparently inscrutable, but not really.

She and McQueen have fantastic chemistry, which they need to give their story more gravitas than Al Lettieri's subplot. Lettieri is a opportunist thief who kidnaps Sally Struthers and Jack Dodson in his pursuit of McQueen. Lettieri runs away with a bunch of the film. He's spellbinding; no other word for it. Struthers is rather good as well.

Technically, the film's a marvel. The Lucien Ballard photography is phenomenal, day or night, action or drama.

The Getaway is a fantastic motion picture.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Sam Peckinpah; screenplay by Walter Hill, based on the novel by Jim Thompson; director of photography, Lucien Ballard; edited by Robert L. Wolfe; music by Quincy Jones; produced by David Foster and Mitchell Brower; released by National General Pictures.

Starring Steve McQueen (Doc McCoy), Ali MacGraw (Carol McCoy), Ben Johnson (Jack Beynon), Al Lettieri (Rudy Butler), Slim Pickens (Cowboy), Richard Bright (The Thief), Jack Dodson (Harold Clinton), Dub Taylor (Laughlin), Bo Hopkins (Frank Jackson), Roy Jenson (Cully), John Bryson (The Accountant) and Sally Struthers (Fran Clinton).


Beware! The Blob (1972, Larry Hagman)

Could Beware! The Blob be less competent? Possibly not.

Screenwriters Jack Woods and Anthony Harris approach Beware! like a spoof. It’s a comedic early seventies handling, complete with hippy jokes, racism, some cracks at small businessmen, pot, Eastern Europeans… Woods and Harris cover just about everything they can except maybe feminism. Some of these jokes are funny. Not many, but some of them. For the most part, they flop. Why? Because Larry Hagman cannot direct a movie.

Beware! is clearly low budget, but Hagman’s completely incapable of working around those issues. There wasn’t, apparently, money for establishing shots. Not just of the Blob, but of the locations in general. Daytime long shots are rare in the picture; one imagines the crew running up and filming and running off before the cops show up. Except, of course, that approach would have led to some enthusiasm, something Beware! desperately lacks.

Shelley Berman and Godfrey Cambridge are the two biggest guests. Berman does a little better than Cambridge, though Hagman’s lack of comedy timing hurts his scene too. Cambridge is supposed to be this goofy, drunk black guy who hangs out with the hippies we later meet. It’s terrible, terrible stuff and his opening “cameo” takes like fifteen minutes.

Of the main actors, Gwynne Gilford is easily the worst. Both Richard Webb and Richard Stahl have okay moments. A few anyway. Lead Robert Walker Jr. is occasionally good. Cindy Williams is in it for a second, probably giving the best performance.

It’s wretched.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Larry Hagman; screenplay by Jack Woods and Anthony Harris, based on a story by Richard Clair and Jack H. Harris; director of photography, Al Hamm; edited by Tony de Zarraga; music by Mort Garson; produced by Jack H. Harris; released by Jack H. Harris Enterprises.

Starring Robert Walker Jr. (Bobby Hartford), Gwynne Gilford (Lisa Clark), Richard Stahl (Edward Fazio), Richard Webb (Sheriff Jones), Shelley Berman (Hair Stylist), Godfrey Cambridge (Chester Hargis), Marlene Clark (Mariane Hargis), J.J. Johnston (Deputy Kelly Davis), Rockne Tarkington (Deputy Williams), Gerrit Graham (Joe), Carol Lynley (Leslie), Randy Stonehill (Randy), Cindy Williams (Randy’s Girl), Dick Van Patten (Scoutmaster Adleman) and Tiger Joe Marsh (The Naked Turk).


Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972, Theodore Gershuny)

Silent Night, Bloody Night is notable for three things. First, but sadly not foremost, is Adam Giffard’s daytime photography. Not much of the film takes place during the day, but when it does, Giffard makes it look fantastic. Even though he’s shooting questionable settings… which contributes to the second notable item.

Director Gershuny is not asking his audience for the willful suspension of disbelief. He’s asking the viewer to be pretend dumb things are not dumb. For example, those nicely shot daytime scenes? Patrick O’Neal is walking around, telling his dimwit Swedish squeeze (Astrid Heeren), about the beautiful town. It’s a dump. They’re parked next to a wrecking yard. It’s a dump.

But Gershuny also asks the viewer to ignore the stupidity of the script. The whole film–which is basically Eight Little Indians (I did count characters, but had guessed eight before I counted)–centers around this horrifying incident in the past. Except the incident is really outrageous and nonsensical as to how it plays into future events.

Finally, the film was dubbed–apparently entirely–in post-production. Tom Kennedy’s editing is bad enough, but he and Gershuny did a terrible job cutting in the audio. Especially when it sounds like O’Neal is in an echo chamber.

As for the acting, Mary Woronov is easily best. She’s not very good, but she’s all right. Fran Stevens and Walter Klavun–oh, and Heeren–they’re all awful. James Patterson isn’t bad in one of the sillier roles.

It’s a bad Night.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Theodore Gershuny; screenplay by Gershuny, Jeffrey Konvitz and Ira Teller, based on a story by Konvitz and Teller; director of photography, Adam Giffard; edited by Tom Kennedy; music by Gershon Kingsley; produced by Ami Artzi and Konvitz; released by Cannon Releasing Corp.

Starring Patrick O’Neal (John Carter), James Patterson (Jeffrey Butler), Mary Woronov (Diane Adams), Astrid Heeren (Ingrid), Fran Stevens (Tess Howard), Walter Klavun (Sheriff Bill Mason), John Carradine (Charlie Towman) and Walter Abel (Mayor Adams).

Our Lady of the Sphere (1972, Larry Jordan)

Our Lady of the Sphere has two definite narratives. Jordan’s cut-up animation seemingly defies narrative, as eggs are landing on the moon, which then grows flowers, but I found two definite ones.

The first has to do with a falling child. Jordan opens Sphere with the child falling, later showing the fall begin (and end). The first half of Sphere, moving through time and space, seems narrative free until the child reappears. Once he or she does, Sphere‘s structure becomes much more recognizable.

There’s a circus and airship sequence, which is particularly beautiful, if relatively free of connection to the rest of the short.

Jordan ends it with the titular Lady and an inference she’s trying to find her sister (or a female friend), who has been lost.

Of course, everyone might read something different in Sphere. Jordan’s outstanding animation is its own thing; interpretations are just for fun.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Larry Jordan.


Half a Death (1972, Leslie H. Martinson)

Half a Death gets off to a troubled start thanks to Tod Andrews. He’s only in the episode (of “Ghost Story”) for the first scene, but he’s just awful. Watching Eleanor Parker act opposite him is painful. While Henry Slesar’s script is no great shakes in the dialogue department, Parker still turns in a good performance. Andrews just flops.

Then Pamela Franklin–the protagonist–shows up and Death gets quite a bit better. Franklin and Parker are both excellent and they often make Death worthwhile. Slesar has a decent plot, if a bit contrived at times.

But the ending is so contrived, even with good supporting performances from Signe Hasso and, to a lesser extent, Stephen Brooks, it’s hard to get involved. Slesar jumps forward too much in the timeline, making his long scenes the only effective ones.

The ending is summary.

Still, Franklin and Parker give outstanding, complex performances.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Leslie H. Martinson; teleplay by Harry Slesar; “Ghost Story” created by William Castle; director of photography, Emmett Bergholz; edited by John Sheets; music by Billy Goldenberg and Robert Prince; produced by Joel Rogosin; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Pamela Franklin (Christina Burgess), Stephen Brooks (Ethan), Andrew Duggan (Jeremy), Tod Andrews (Andrew Burgess), Signe Hasso (Mrs. Eliscu), Taylor Lacher (Charlie Eliscu) and Eleanor Parker (Paula Burgess).


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