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SKELETONS OUT OF THE CLOSET
Getting a start as an actor can be tough. In order to eat, many young actors are forced into taking roles that are unworthy of their talents at best, and at worst, just plain embarrassing. As they move onwards and upwards in their chosen profession, they probably hope that those humiliating early roles will just fade into deserving oblivion.
Well, tough. Here at AYCYAS, weve made it our mission to unearth everyones dirty little secrets.
Meg Ryan. While still a part of the cast of "As The World Turns", Ms Ryan scored a small role as Candice Bergens daughter in George Cukors Rich And Famous and made a couple of TV movies before appearing in Amityville 3-D as "Lisa", the ditzy friend of the doomed daughter of the house. In her big scene, she gets to deliver a speech about how great it is to have sex with a ghost, advancing the opinion that her friends father has "some sex-starved ghost stashed up there with boobs out to here!" Entering the infamous Amityville house, Ms Ryan announces, "Im just dying to check this out!" but, sadly, she fails to make good the implied promise of this line. After instigating a séance that foretells her friends fate and taking part in the disastrous boat ride, she vanishes from the film. Perhaps the single most horrifying thing about Amityville 3-D is the discovery that, at the ripe old age of twenty-two, Ms Ryans screen persona (well, youd hardly say "personality") was completely developed. Its all there: the hair-do, the eye makeup, the little-girl grin, the Princess Di-like tilted head and glance up through the fringe. To date, Amityville 3-D remains Ms Ryans only foray into the horror field unless, of course, you count Youve Got Mail.
.his big screen debut in the
farcical Pia Zadora vehicle, The Lonely Lady. Many films about Hollywood almost
invariably made in Hollywood paint the town as a cruel and brutal place, full of
women willing to be used if thats what it takes to be a success, and sleazy, evil
men who cant wait to do the using. The Lonely Lady goes its brethren one better by
suggesting that the entire film industry exists purely to allow as many people as
possible, both male and female, to have sex with Pia Zadora.
Based upon a novel by Harold Robbins, this turgid drama tells the story of Jerilee Randall (Zadora), an innocent teenager with ambitions to be a writer, who learns the ugly truth on her way to the top. Her first intimation that a career in Hollywood might not be all beer and skittles comes when she has the chance to meet her hero, screenwriter Walter Thornton. Stars in her eyes, Jerilee goes off blithely with Walt Jr, who introduces her to his friend, Joe Heron, played by Ray Liotta. Noticing that Jerilee is still holding her school award for "Most Promising English Major", Joe demonstrates his sparkling wit by observing that "it looks like a penis". The sad thing about this line is that it is perfectly accurate. The early stages of this film abound with phallic symbols: not just the trophy, but suggestively posed bottles and a hot-dog thats positively obscene. A bit slow to pick up on the vibes that Joe is giving off, Jerilee climbs into a car with Walt Jr, Joe, and Joes girlfriend, Mary. No sooner does Walt start the car than Joe and Mary are all over each other in the back seat. Not satisfied with Marys breasts, Joe then lunges at Jerilees, laughing raucously at her repulsed reaction. After suggesting to Walt Jr that they swap girls, Joe settles back as Mary performs oral sex on him, while in the front seat, Jerilee nervously clutches her trophy in a manner surpassed for subtlety only by Dorothy Malones fondling of a model oil-well at the end of Written On The Wind.
At the Thorntons house, the awestruck Jerilee wanders around Walter Thorntons study, then ventures out into the grounds, where Joe is lurking in the pool. Joe pulls her into the water. Jerilee manages to climb out and then, finally aware of Joes intentions, she does what any woman would do: she trips over. Joe is on her in a flash but, obviously worn out by his backseat activities, finds he needs assistance to do the deed. Help comes to hand literally in the form of a garden hose with which, in a nauseatingly protracted sequence, Joe carries out his assault. Thankfully, Walt Sr arrives to put an end to the business. Coming home to find his sons friend raping a girl on his lawn, Walter does what any man would do: he packs his son off to Europe and marries the victim. After that, believe it or not, The Lonely Lady goes downhill .
Not surprisingly, it was three years before Ray Liotta made another movie, playing Melanie Griffiths ex-husband in Jonathan Demmes Something Wild. These days, The Lonely Lady may be just an ugly memory for Liotta, but so long as there are bad film fanatics willing to subject themselves to such cinematic horrors, his unforgettable debut performance will live on. Fortunately for me, The Lonely Lady falls outside the province of this website, so I am not obliged to dwell upon it sufficiently to write a full review. However, for those interested in just how bad this film is, visit Jabootus Bad Movie Dimension and Stomp Tokyo, whose hosts gallantly suffered through The Lonely Lady that others might be warned.
Borgnines right-hand man in Robert Fuests bizarre horror-western, The Devils Rain. Draped in a black cowl, heavily made
up, Travolta must have felt that there was a reasonable chance of his inauspicious film
debut passing unnoticed. However, he probably reckoned without a simple anatomical fact:
he possesses a chin of extraordinary recognisability. That chin pops up in the oddest
places throughout the film: behind William Shatners right shoulder as Bill takes
pot-shots at the satanic congregation; in Bills car, blocking his futile attempt to
flee; in a brawl with Tom Skerritt, whos in town looking for Bill; and in a
desecrated church, finding the lost-lost Book that will deliver the doomed souls into the
power of the goats-headed Borgnine. The Chin is also present when "the
devils rain" starts to fall, and along with the rest of the satanists, slowly
and graphically melts away into a puddle of goop.
Silent throughout 99% of the film, Travoltas big moment comes when he detects Tom Skerritts infiltration of the congregations black mass. Moving with odd, jerky motions that suggest he is literally sniffing out the intruder, Travolta points an accusing finger and delivers his one and only line which, I am saddened to say, is one of the Medveds notorious misquotations. The line is not, in fact, "Blasphemer! Get him, he is a blasphemer!" but merely, "Blasphemer! Blasphemer!" It is hard to believe that two words could be delivered so woodenly and harder still that the actor who delivered them would one day command fees of $20,000,000. Oh, excuse me - $20,000,001. After all, take care of the dollars and the millions will take care of themselves .
The 13th. The rise of the slasher film gave many, many young actors
employment during the early eighties. As long as you didnt mind an idiotic
storyline, hours in the makeup chair, and an abrupt and bloody termination to your role,
there was always a way of keeping the bills paid. In his third film appearance, and first
sizeable part, Kevin Bacon plays Jack aka Onscreen Victim #5. Along with his
girlfriend, Marcie, and his best friend, Ned, Jack takes a job as a counsellor at Camp
Crystal Lake, better known to the locals as "Camp Blood". Jack learns the
meaning behind this affectionate nickname when he steals away with Marcie for a quick
bounce on a bunk. As movie sex scenes go, this one is positively modest: we see much more
of Jacks shoulder blades than any other portion of his or Marcies anatomies.
But, in the slasher film world, a moral transgression is a moral transgression; and Jack
is suitably rewarded for his with the films most notorious and gruesome death: an
arrow through the throat from underneath, complete with pumping, nastily realistic blood.
Word has it that in the uncut version of this film, Jacks death lasts about forty
seconds longer than it does in the generally released R-rated version
Im sure that no-one watching Friday The 13th in 1980 could have anticipated that Kevin Bacon would go on to a lengthy acting career: theres nothing in the film to suggest anything of the kind. Making his first appearance twelve minutes in, and slaughtered only twenty-nine minutes later, Bacon doesnt get much of a chance to make an impression. Granted, hes not helped by the films screenplay, which gives its girls character moments, but restricts its boys to behaving like idiots. Nevertheless, Bacons overall performance in the film is just as uninspired and as stilted as that of any of his fellow victims-to-be. That he alone of the cast went on to a career seems perfectly arbitrary. In fact, if I were asked to nominate who in this film gives the most indication of possessing genuine talent, Id vote, not for Kevin Bacon, but for Laurie Bartram who, as Brenda, projects an attractive warmth and sassiness onscreen. However, a quick trip to the IMDb indicates that Friday The 13th was Bartrams only screen appearance. Shows how much I know, huh?
|As has been observed with respect to Paul Newmans debut
performance in The Silver Chalice, it isnt everyone who gets to embarrass
themself in a full-blown starring role first up. Jessica Lange joined this elite group of
unfortunates when she was cast as the female lead in the ill-advised re-make of the
classic King Kong. Lange plays "Dwan" ("like Dawn, except I switched
two letters to make it more memorable"), cast adrift when the yacht she was
travelling on exploded. She subsequently explains her survival to her rescuers by
revealing that everyone else was below deck watching Deep Throat at the time of
the, ah, "tragedy". I hesitate to use that expression because Dwan herself seems
largely unmoved, consoling herself with the reflection that "Harry probably
wouldnt have cast me in that movie anyway". Before long, Dwan finds herself
attracted to palaeontologist Jack Prescott, but Jack turns out to have a rival for his
affections in the shape of a fifty-foot ape named Kong
As Dwan, Lange is simply awful. To be fair, she gets no help whatsoever from either her director or her screenwriter. Her dialogue is just atrocious, and to make matters worse, John Guillermin has her deliver it in a breathy, little-girl voice meant to convince the audience that despite that whole "Id do anything to be a star" bit, Dwan is just a naïf adrift in a big cruel world. Add in behavioural habits like twisting her shoulders with her hands in her pockets, shuffling from foot to foot, and biting her lip while gazing up through her hair, and you have one of the most irritating characters ever put on screen. Indeed, its hard to imagine what Kong sees in her other than the very obvious since Dwan spends a lot of time yelling abuse at him and punching him in the mouth. Langes Oscar-clip or more likely, Razzie-clip moment comes when Dwan, convinced that Kong is about to eat her, reacts by shrieking the line that everyone who sees this film remembers: "You goddamn chauvinist pig ape!" It is frankly incredible that Langes career survived this scene; and more incredible still that she won the Golden Globe for the years Best Acting Debut - Female. (Although this was of course the era that saw Pia Zadora win New Star Of The Year for Butterfly .which I object to purely because she wasnt qualified, so settle down, Chris and Scott!) It was three years before Lange made another film, finally scoring a role in All That Jazz. From there she went on to build a hugely impressive body of work in films both popular and critically-acclaimed, her debut performance becoming something to be recalled only by the mean-spirited and those with a taste for the truly terrible .not mentioning any names .
.Cutting Class. It was not, believe me, because of any intrinsic merit that I tracked down a print of this weak horror effort, but rather because the film was brought to my attention by a friend who summed it up with the line, "Oh, thats the one where someone sticks Brad Pitts head in a vice!"
How could I resist?
Like many of his acting forebears, Brad Pitt got his "big break" (or at least his first starring role) in a slasher movie. In Cutting Class, Pitt plays Dwight Ingalls, the emotionally volatile boyfriend of the films Final Girl, Paula, played by Jill Schoelen. Since the screenplay makes it clear that either Dwight or the certifiably crazy Brian Woods (Donovan Leitch) is the films killer, we spend a great deal of the films running time examining Dwights "qualifications": his foul mouth, his utter lack of consideration for anyone else, his constant drinking (including while driving, and even on school grounds!), and his violent temper. Does all this make him a killer? Of course not! hes just a typical American movie teenager! (I wont say typical American teenager, but judging by the movies, you would think so.) Convinced that Dwight is the killer who has been working his way through the high school faculty, Paula flees from him in horror only to witness Brian axing the math teacher to death. Dwight rescues Paula from Brian, and after a futile, not to say embarrassing, attempt to blow Brian up with a rock (dont ask), the two take refuge in the schools motor shop, where the final showdown takes place.
This scene is quite enjoyable in a mindless sort of way. First Brian and Dwight duel with power tools, then Brian traps Dwights neck in long metal tongs before offering him a choice: he can kill Paula, or be killed himself. Although the film has given us no reason to expect anything of Dwight, he does the right thing and chooses to sacrifice himself. At that, Brian hauls him over to a large bench vice and begins a practical demonstration of his lifes philosophy: "Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey". It is at this point, with the vice doing its work on both of Dwights temples (and with visions of Casino dancing in my head), that Paula intervenes, offering to "do anything" if only Brian will stop. Brian accepts this offer, leaving Dwight rather uncomfortably situated as he encourages Paula to strip for him. Paula says she will, if only Brian will do something for her: "Close your eyes ." Incredibly, Brian does and ends up with a hand tool buried in his brain. And rightly so. Paula then rushes to free Dwight from his predicament. I did have some hopes that our heroine might confuse "righty-tighty" with "lefty-loosey", but no such luck.
Often in early roles such as these, it is difficult to see any talent in the future star in question, but in fairness I have to admit that Brad Pitts performance in Cutting Class isnt too bad. (That he gives a performance at all puts him one up on most of his co-stars.) Unlike many young actors who, upon finding themselves stuck in such a dog of a film, try to idle in neutral and attract as little attention to themselves as possible, Pitt attacks his role with enthusiasm, making Dwight not just an arsehole, but a believable arsehole. Indeed, there were times while watching this film that I found Pitts performance a little too convincing, if you know what I mean and I began to wonder just how Mr Pitt got along with the members of his high school faculty .
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