James Anderson

Seven Miles of Bad Road (1963, Douglas Heyes)

Once you get past Jeffrey Hunter (at thirty-seven) playing a character about fifteen years younger–and some other significant bumps, Seven Miles of Bad Road isn’t entirely bad. It shouldn’t be entirely bad, even with those bumps, but it’s an episode of “The Chrysler Theatre,” shot on limited sets with limited imagination from director Heyes.

Heyes also wrote the teleplay, which tries real hard. Heyes is talking about big issues–he’s talking about men, women, post-war, youth, age, responsibility, regret. There’s subtext about race and class and all sorts of things. Heyes doesn’t know how to direct any of it. He doesn’t know how to direct his actors. Neville Brand–as Eleanor Parker’s abusive husband–is simultaneously good and bad in the part.

The overbearing Jerry Goldsmith music doesn’t help.

Parker and Hunter have their problems due to Heyes’s direction, but they’re effective. Parker’s got a couple fantastic scenes.

1/3Not Recommended


Written and directed by Douglas Heyes; “The Chrysler Theatre” executive produced by Roy Huggins; music by Jerry Goldsmith; produced by Richard Berg; aired by the National Broadcasting Company.

Starring Eleanor Parker (Fern Selman), Jeffrey Hunter (Gabe Flanders), Neville Brand (Sheriff Rufus Selman), James Anderson (Bert) and Bernie Hamilton (Joe).

Take the Money and Run (1969, Woody Allen)

Take the Money and Run kind of dangles on a line. It’s occasionally a screwball comedy–something the Marx Brothers would have done–and alternately a thought-out spoof of documentaries. The breeze moves the film’s direction and it’s hard to know where it’ll go next. Allen has a significant problem with the film’s structure, however, with the documentary makers never a part of the film. It’s never clear why they’re making a documentary about Allen’s incompetent criminal. As far as the film’s pacing goes, this oversight doesn’t have much negative effect. Take the Money and Run moves fairly well, only getting tedious in some of the longer scenes. Where it goes wrong is with the interviews. The people who are interviewed, the school teachers, the parents, the psychiatrists, don’t have a logical order. The clips are assembled for humorous effect. If a scene isn’t ending on a particularly funny note, in comes the interview clip with the punch line.

Allen’s fantastic as the lead, easily transitioning between the voiceover interview (he doesn’t appear on screen, as an interviewee, until the last shot, which doesn’t make any sense), the narrated segments (it’s a brilliant idea for a first film, especially a low budget one, because lots of it is just Allen walking around) and the actual acting scenes. His deliveries are all excellent and there’s a lot of physical humor in the film, smart physical humor, which benefits a great deal from his direction.

The film is alternately manic and placid. The narrated sequences can be as benign as Allen walking down a street or as excited as him robbing a bank. The humor’s quiet–for the most part–in both approaches. There are rarely any loud jokes and many expect the viewer to be paying attention–the one with the pants, for instance, isn’t funny unless the viewer is aware of how he or she was watching the scene.

The shot framing does not work for the documentary approach–I’m not sure why I’m harping so much on Take the Money and Run being a documentary spoof, except maybe the lack of direction and the reliance on narration–but Allen’s camera moves rather well. Or, more accurately, Allen knows how to move people in front of his camera. The editing is occasionally jumpy (and not in a way to lend itself to the concept), but it’s a decently made film. Marvin Hamlisch’s score does occasionally get to be a little much.

The supporting cast is mostly Janet Margolin. She does a good job, but her role isn’t particularly difficult. She’s just got to be too good for Allen and constantly show it.

Take the Money and Run, pardon the expression, runs out of steam towards the end, when it becomes one sketch after another. The sketches aren’t particular to the film, they’d work just as well on a variety show, and Allen can’t quite come up with a cohesive gesture. It’s a fine first film, though, but its execution is its greatest success.

However, the Cool Hand Luke spoof is hilarious.



Directed by Woody Allen; written by Allen and Mickey Rose; director of photography, Lester Shorr; edited by Paul Jordan and Ron Kalish; music by Marvin Hamlisch; produced by Charles H. Joffe and Jack Rollins; released by Cinerama Releasing Corporation.

Starring Woody Allen (Virgil Starkwell), Janet Margolin (Louise), Marcel Hillaire (Fritz), Jacquelyn Hyde (Miss Blair), Lonny Chapman (Jake), Jan Merlin (Al), James Anderson (Chain Gang Warden), Howard Storm (Fred), Mark Gordon (Vince), Micil Murphy (Frank), Minnow Moskowitz (Joe Agneta), Nate Jacobson (The Judge), Grace Bauer (Farm House Lady), Ethel Sokolow (Mother Starkwell), Dan Frazer (The Psychiatrist), Henry Leff (Father Starkwell) and Mike O’Dowd (Michael Sullivan); narrated by Jackson Beck.

The Freshman (1925, Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor)

The Freshman has one of the most peculiar approaches to storytelling I’ve seen. It has very little establishing exposition–a few lines on a title card about maybe four of those exposition title cards throughout–and its scenes are gag-centered and the film is these gags strung together. Maybe the approach isn’t so peculiar (arguably, it’s the same approach used in say… The Waterboy), but The Freshman is successful and other films with such strings are not.

Most of the success is due to Harold Lloyd. He plays an incoming freshman desperate to be popular, but he’s full of geeky ideas of college he’s picked up from a movie. The Freshman is so lean, it doesn’t even bother giving Lloyd fellow geeks to hang around (he’s the star after all), just the antagonists, who vary in terms of hostility. There’s only one real bully in the film, actually, but it’s not too concentrated on Lloyd making friends with specific folks, just in general. Also in The Freshman is the touching love story between Lloyd and a town girl, played by Jobyna Ralston. There’s little tension to the love story–by the hour-mark, the two are a couple–and it gives Lloyd his confidant, as well a greater goal.

The gags vary in terms of athleticism. There’s a football game and a football practice and I kept remembering M*A*S*H throughout those scenes, but otherwise Lloyd’s not doing much in the way of acrobatics. The comedy’s not particularly physical and it made me wonder why if the film even qualifies as “slapstick.” It’s a real achievement how affecting the film ends up being, given how hard-pressed I am to think of any characters besides Lloyd and Ralston’s who leave any impression. Besides the two of them, I think the football coach gets the most screen time, though he’s not really a character….

Lloyd’s films are finally readily available (I remember, when I worked at a video store in the late 1990s, they were not, nor was there any hope for them to be) and The Freshman is a good entry point to silent films for newcomers. The Freshman moves incredibly fast–since it is that gag string–and it’s constantly entertaining. It does demand close attention, as Lloyd’s a busy comedian, but in structure, it has more in common with modern comedies than other silent comedies do.



Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor; written by Taylor, John Grey, Tim Whelan and Ted Wilde; director of photography, Walter Lundin; edited by Allen McNeil; produced by Harold Lloyd; released by Pathé.

Starring Harold Lloyd (The Freshman), Jobyna Ralston (Peggy), Brooks Benedict (The College Cad), James Anderson (The College Hero), Hazel Kenner (The College Belle), Joseph Harrington (The College Tailor) and Pat Harmon (The Football Coach).

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