Wednesday, February 8, 2017

From Avco to Dino: 69-76

In the interest of brevity, the two segments of this series that were going to follow this one are being folded into one giant post. The reason for this is that I have looked over the lineup and to be brutally frank, it sucks for the most part. Besides, the real interesting stuff during this era wasn't being released into theaters.

While Avco/Embassy wasn't necessarily able to capitalize on their great showing at the end of 1967 and 1968; that is not to say they tanked completely (that won't happen until the mid 70's). From 1969 till 1972, they released a nice variety of films, some good, and some... Well, we can get to that. Either way, though they ended up falling victim to the law of diminishing returns, that is not to say they put out nothing of any merit. Let's take a look at a sampling of their wares for this stretch.

The first of two Harold Robbins adaptations we'll cover in this piece, this is your standard "hitman tries to retire but is targeted by his former employers" flick. Can't find it anywhere but that's okay because the real main event is coming up soon.

Jackie Gleason stars in this comedy based on a Woody Allen play about a couple that ends up behind the Iron Curtain. Early Allen is generally pretty funny and so is Gleason. Didn't really have the time to see this one but it sounds decent enough. New Line released it on VHS in the early 90's.

This is where the Harold Robbins adaptation craze fizzled out in spectacular fashion. The Adventurers is a nearly three hour cavalcade of trash about a young man who runs from his war torn South American home to become a rich, sleazy playboy and also avenge the death of his entire family when he was a kid. The bad acting and silly plot lines flow like a torrent of water here to create a Bad Movie gem.

Controversial due to the level of violence, Soldier Blue depicts a brutal massacre of Native Americans in the Old West, this was released around the same time the My Lai massacre in Vietnam was getting news coverage. As tended to be the case when they couldn't get Peter O'Toole or someone of that caliber in their movie (no offense to Donald Pleasence but he wasn't getting any acting awards anytime soon), Embassy mixed social relevance with shameless exploitati0on and ended up with something memorable, of not exactly palatable or great.

After the success of The Graduate, Mike Nichols directed this solid drama about two friends and their romances with various women starring Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel (it was the early 70's, musicians were getting acting roles even more so than today) and Candice Bergen. It garner good reviews and of course, Nicholson is fun as always to watch.

From thoughtful drama, we slam back to horror with this prequel to the 1961 film starring Deborah Kerr The Innocents. In that film, a governess was haunted by the ghosts of a murdered caretaker and her predecessor who drowned herself after her lover's death. This prequel tells the backstory outlined in the original and features a torrid romance between Marlon Brando and Stephanie Beacham that naturally, ends in tragedy though with some details changed that sort of rob the original of its ambiguity (honestly, the original is not a favorite of mine and the lack of a concrete explanation is sort of most of what it has going for it). Still, this did well enough.

Now this, on the other hand, is one of my favorite dark comedies. Peter O'Toole stars as a mentally ill man who belongs to a prominent British family. When his father dies, he naturally is the next in line but his family tries to sabotage him. O'Toole is great here both as the crazy yet gentle man who thinks he's Jesus and in the last third of the film as a truly dangerous (but more socially acceptable) crazy person who thinks he's Jack the Ripper. Pete has one moment near the end where where he screams in rage that might be the most unnerving thing I have ever seen an actor do. And this is coming from a guy who watches lots of horror films. It takes a lot to creep me out. That aside, the rest of the film is top notch as well.

After two more releases, 1972 came to an end for Embassy. The ensuing years would see the company cut down on production, finally stopping making films altogether for the most part in 1975. They lost several millions in 1973 and the following year, Joseph Levine would resign from the company.

The films released during this period were, as noted in the first paragraph, less than inspiring. For this reason, I'll just be highlighting a few titles and moving things along.

 Glenda scored a Best Actress Oscar for this romantic comedy which also starred George Segal.

 The tagline probably didn't do the movie any favors, nor did the apparent jettisoning of the source novel's more satirical take on the idea of dolphins being used by the CIA in favor of a more earnest approach.

 Robert Mitchum is hard boiled detective Philip Marlowe in this decently reviewed movie that has the standard solid Mitchum performance which he would reprise three years later in a remake of The Big Sleep.

 To quote myself from a post on this blog way back when (in other words, not linking to it because it isn't good): This is an adequate heist movie that's an early effort from Golan-Globus.  Yeah, that's pretty much all I have for this one.  I saw it, it wasn't bad, I barely remember anything about it.

We can also add in that Shelley Winters is in this and is as annoying as usual.

 Another early Golan Globus endeavor, this is a mob comedy starring Jack Palance as a mobster trying to defend everything in his life he values (as in his girl, money and business interests) and is really the best and probably only reason to seek this one out. Early Cannon (let's face it, Golan and Globus were making Cannon films long before they even bought the damn company) films usually interest me and this one is... Well, Palance is good in it at least.

The rest of 1975 and the following year were not good for Embassy and though they were apparently close to shutting down, a fresh beginning was not far off.

Coming soon: Embassy Goes Commercial!

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.