Anthony Zerbe

The Parallax View (1974, Alan J. Pakula)

Not quite halfway through The Parallax View, the film loses its footing. Director Pakula keeps the audience a good three car lengths from not just the action of the film–with long shots in Panavision–but also understanding the action of the film. Parallax even goes so far to introduce protagonist Warren Beatty with a proverbial wink.

But Beatty isn’t a traditional protagonist. Screenwriters Dean Giler and Lorenzo Semple Jr. don’t just keep viewers from passing judgement on Beatty, the writers keep viewers from even thinking they might want to think about the character at all. Beatty moves through the film just fine, but he’s being endearingly indignant or running most of the time. It’s not a hard job.

It’s especially not a hard job since a lot of the effectiveness comes through due to the technical aspects of Parallax. Gordon Willis’s photography is amazing, even if Pakula does mostly utilize the right side of the frame for action; the left tends to be for setting information and the shots are beautiful, just beautiful with too much free space.

John W. Wheeler’s editing is also of note. Every cut in Parallax, which is always trying to surprise the viewer–whether with big conspiracy stuff or, in the first half, Beatty’s roguish behavior–and it works thanks to Wheeler.

Well, Wheeler and composer Michael Small. Parallax’s a cynical take on a patriotic hero story; Small’s music plays to it sincerely.

Parallax may have its problems, but it’s also gorgeous filmmaking.



Produced and directed by Alan J. Pakula; screenplay by David Giler and Lorenzo Semple Jr., based on the novel by Loren Singer; director of photography, Gordon Willis; edited by John W. Wheeler; music by Michael Small; production designer, George Jenkins; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Warren Beatty (Joseph Frady), Paula Prentiss (Lee Carter), William Daniels (Austin Tucker), Walter McGinn (Jack Younger), Hume Cronyn (Bill Rintels), Kelly Thordsen (Sheriff L.D. Wicker), Chuck Waters (Thomas Richard Linder), Earl Hindman (Deputy Red), Anthony Zerbe (Prof. Nelson Schwartzkopf) and William Joyce (Senator Charles Carroll).

KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978, Gordon Hessler), the theatrical version

What’s there to say about KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park? It moves pretty fast. Wait, I didn’t specify nice things to say about the movie. Oops.

There’s a lot of bad things to talk about. The easiest targets are KISS, who frequently seem lost–supposedly they got fed their lines immediately before shooting–but also vaguely uncomfortable. Especially Gene Simmons, who has a very painful-looking gait. Paul Stanley probably gives the best performance of the band members; he’s still awful, but doesn’t swagger as much as the others.

Once it’s clear the band doesn’t show up immediately, which is too bad because it never feels like “Scooby Doo” and KISS as Scooby Doo would be a lot better, the story plays out rather predictably. Deborah Ryan loses track of boyfriend Terry Lester, who works for mentally unstable amusement park designer Anthony Zerbe. Zerbe’s awful as the Phantom of the Amusement Park, but he’s still leagues ahead of the rest of the cast. Ryan’s risible. Lester might be much better, actually–he spends half the movie as a zombie, which doesn’t require a lot. Carmine Caridi is real bad as the amusement park boss.

But, like I said, Phantom of the Park does move fairly well. There are a few somewhat effective montages with the music (it’s all KISS, obviously) and they usually last the entire song.

Phantom of the Park never manages to be distinctively bad, however. It’s just a crappy TV movie with KISS. It doesn’t have a single surprise.



Directed by Gordon Hessler; written by Jan Michael Sherman and Don Buday; director of photography, Robert Caramico; edited by Peter E. Berger; music by Hoyt Curtin; production designer, James Hulsey; produced by Terry Morse Jr.; aired by the National Broadcasting Company.

Starring Peter Criss (Cat Man), Ace Frehley (Space Ace), Gene Simmons (The Demon), Paul Stanley (Star Child), Anthony Zerbe (Abner Devereaux), Carmine Caridi (Calvin Richards), Deborah Ryan (Melissa), John Dennis Johnston (Chopper), John Lisbon Wood (Slime), Lisa Jane Persky (Dirty Dee) and Terry Lester (Sam).

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