Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lady in White (1988)

A recent visit to a thrift store in Alberta paid off for this film fan.

While visiting my brother, I found The Lady in White in a stack of VHS movies for 50 cents.

I watched this film when it was released in 1988.

My memory is enjoying a spooky film that wasn't filled with blood and guts.

What would I think of this feature film, one of just a few directed by Frank LaLoggia, 27 years later?

Lady in White still stands up fairly well, due largely to the fine work by Lukas Haas as lead character Frankie.

This young lad, locked in his class cloakroom as a prank, sees the ghost of a girl who was murdered a decade ago.

Her spirit is not at rest, until she can be reunited with her mother who killed herself after her death.

Frankie has a clue, a ring he found in a furnace duct he thinks can be tied to the murderer.

There's a few gaping moments in reality in this film. Unfortunately this is one. Why would the suspect wait so many years for a chance to retrieve a key piece of evidence? Were the investigators too dense to search the area at the time for clues?

What's also disappointing about this mystery is just how easy it is to figure out who the killer is. I don't remember much about this film after 27 years, but quickly picked out the killer. I'm usually pretty slow in this department.

A silly subplot about Frankie's grandparents - grandpa wants to smoke, grandma wants him to butt out - keeps reappearing. It's silly and not very funny.

What is creepy about Lady in White is the depiction of a child killer, a rare sight on screen these days. There's a good use of Bing Crosby's take on the Harry Revel and Mack Gordon song, Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?, sung by the dead child, Melissa (Joelle Jacobi).

The use of what appears to be a faux forest and liberal use of a dry ice machine are distracting. The film's finale drags on too long. We get not one, but two false deaths.

Lady in White touches lightly on racial discrimination in the United States in the 1960s, but this too is largely a wasted subplot.

The cast also includes Len Cariou (Thirteen Days ), Katherine Helmond (Cars) and Renata Vanni (Three Coins in the Fountain )

I'm glad I finally found Lady in White. It's pretty expensive to find a copy online. It's good to see creepy efforts, without explicit violence, but Lady in White is marred by numerous weaknesses. Too bad, but great work Lukas Haas.

RATING: 7/10

FUN FACTS: Bruno Kirby appears as a cab driver.

Hey, that's Lucy Lee Flippin as Frankie's teacher. She was Eliza Jane Wilder on television's Little House on the Prairie.

Jared Rushton, the up-to-no-good classmate of Frankie's, was Billy in Big with Tom Hanks.

Lady in White is the only film appearance by Melissa Anne Montgomery. She later appeared in two television movies. That's it.

Has anyone seen the director's cut? I'd be curious to know what's different.

Cheapest copy on Amazon as of this writing in March 2015 - $16.83 US.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Crimson Tide (1995)

Things are looking up.

K-19: The Widowmaker, even with Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson at the helm, was a disappointing view.

Crimson Tide is a much more solid effort, thanks in large part to a stronger one-two punch with Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington starring.

Russian nationals spark a major crisis when a civil war starts in the Soviet Union. Some of the communist country's nuclear weapons are seized in the uprising. There are fears the American west coast, or Washington, could be obliterated.

American submarine Alabama is tapped to head to the trouble zone and, if necessary, launch its arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Capt. Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) is the last skipper to have seen actual combat action. He chews through commanding officers with regularity. Lieut. Cmdr. Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington) is next in line.

Ramsey commands by barking orders. "We're here to preserve democracy, not practise it," he tells Hunter. The new CO is more personable with the crew, while still demanding results. Ramsey is disdainful of Hunter's record, noting "the closest he's been to battle is a policy seminar."

The situation in Russia worsens. The sub gets orders to release its weapons, but not all the message is received. Ramsey wants to follow through. Hunter urges caution, noting if the order is misinterpreted mankind is doomed. Ramsey's not impressed: "We don't have time to f--- around."

Hunter wants to take control of the sub to prevent Ramsey from firing the missiles. He has his backers. Ramsey is determined to act on the order he received. The skipper has his supporters.

Frantic radio repairs are done while the clock ticks down to when Russian nationals can launch their missiles.

Crimson Tide has a great cast with support work from not-quite-known talents such as Viggo Mortensen and James Gandolfini. The back-and-forth between the two camps of crew members gets a little silly.

Watch for the cast, some solid tension and a nice cameo from Jason Robards.

Next sub drama to watch: Das Boot.

RATING: 7.5/10

FUN FACTS: Viggo Mortensen's first film role was Peter Weir's Witness.

George Dzundza, who appears as Chief of the Boat, appeared in The Deer Hunter.

Didn't recognize him, but that's Rick Schroder as Lieut. Paul Hellerman and, in his film debut, Ryan Phillippe as Seaman Grattam.