Archive for the ‘Charlotte Rampling’ Tag

Asylum (1972)   1 comment

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I love anthology films.  It doesn’t matter if they’re anthology drama, comedy, or horror films, but I hold a special place in my heart for anthology horror.

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ASYLUM begins with Modest Mussorgsky’s A Night on Bald Mountain.  As the music swells, we see Dr. Martin (Robert Powell) arrive at a remote sanitarium.  Martin meets with Dr. Rutherford (Patrick Magee) who offers him a proposition.  Rutherford will hire Martin if, after interviewing four patients, he can identify which of the inmates is B. Starr, the former head of the institution.  Starr had a complete breakdown and is now an inmate.  Attendant Max Reynolds (Geoffrey Bayldon) takes Dr. Martin from room to room to hear each patient’s story.

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“Tonight on Spot the Loony…”

In the first segment, “Frozen Fear”, Bonnie (Barbara Parkins) tells the story of her lover, Walter (Richard Todd) and his wife, Ruth (Sylvia Syms) and their, um…breakup.  Walter, sweet guy that he is, takes his wife down to their basement to show her a gift he just bought for her.  She’s always wanted a chest freezer and is delighted until Walter surprises her further with a blow to the head.  Fortunately, the freezer is Ruth-sized so Walter has plenty of room to store the bits of Ruth he chopped up and wrapped neatly in brown paper and twine.  Now Walter can abscond to Rome or Nice or Trenton with Bonnie and live happily ever after, right?  Not so fast, bub.

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“Oh, honey?”

Barry Morse plays the titular role in “The Weird Tailor”.  With no money coming in and the threat of eviction looming, Morse gets an odd request from new customer, Peter Cushing.  Cushing commissions Morse to make him a suit made of special fabric he brings himself.  Morse must construct the clothing in a particular order to exact specifications and during the times mandated by the instructions.  Since Cushing wants the outfit immediately and promises to pay handsomely, Morse agrees to his terms.  Things move along swimmingly until delivery day when Morse makes an odd discovery.

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“I’m odd.”

Dr. Martin sees patient Barbara (Charlotte Rampling) next.  Barbara tells of her release from another sanitarium.  Her brother, George (James Villiers) drives her back to the family home and introduces her to her new nurse, Miss Higgins (Megs Jenkins).  Barbara, annoyed at the prospect of a nurse telling her what to do, goes to her room to find her friend, Lucy (Britt Ekland) there.  Barbara is overjoyed to see her old friend who immediately suggests that they go over the wall and go on a spree.  Their outing doesn’t go as planned.

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“Summerisle?  No, I’ve never been there.”

“Mannikins of Horror” stars Herbert Lom as Dr. Byron, a man who believes he can transfer the essence of himself into a small robot who will carry out his will.  All I can say is I want a Herbert Lom robot.

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The Lombot in action.

ASYLUM has a scary, dramatic score by Douglas Gamley and Mussorgsky, a great horror film setting, and a super cast of veteran British actors.  Robert Bloch of PSYCHO fame wrote the stories, and Roy Ward Baker directed.  Baker also directed A NIGHT TO REMEMBER and quite a few films for Amicus and Hammer Productions including the portmanteau horror, VAULT OF HORROR.  Amicus made a number of anthology horror film in the 1960s and 1970s and this is one of the best.

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The Verdict (1982)   Leave a comment

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“There are no other cases.  This is the case.”

Frank Galvin (Paul Newman), a drunken, bottom-feeding lawyer, chases hearses instead of ambulances. When he’s not trolling funerals for clients, he’s drinking his breakfast at a local Boston pub. Even his best friend, Mickey Morrissey (Jack Warden) has had enough.

Morrissey arranges for Frank to take a simple malpractice case, settle it, and get back on his feet, but eighteen months after taking the case and within days of the trial, Frank has done nothing to prepare.

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Frank even cons the family of the victim. During a meeting with the victim’s sister and her husband, he sits on a desk, clucking and feigning empathy while doodling dollar amounts on a legal pad. After the meeting, Frank visits the victim, Deborah Ann Kaye, who lies in a hospital in a permanent vegetative state. She lapsed into a coma during childbirth 4 years earlier. Her family believes she received the wrong anesthetic. The hospital, a powerful establishment run by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, claims complications and inaccurate statements by the now comatose woman led to her coma and the loss of her child.

While taking Polaroids to legally blackmail the hospital into settling, Frank does something unexpected. He sees Deborah Ann Kaye. After that, he can’t bring himself to settle. During a meeting with the Bishop (Ed Binns), Frank says, “If I take the money, I’m lost.” Frank decides to take the case to trial because it’s the right thing to do. The scene in which he tells Morrissey of his decision smacks of Mamet. Newman says, “They killed her.  They’re trying to buy me.” Morrissey says, “That’s the fuckin’ point.” Morrissey reminds him who the defense attorney is and Newman admits he’s good. Morrissey says, “Good!  He’s the prince of fucking darkness! He’ll have people testify she was waterskiing in Marblehead last summer.”

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James Mason as Concannon is the horned one and proves it in his bloodthirsty preparations for the trial. Concannon’s team of attorneys builds a case from every angle. They use connections at newspapers and the local PBS affiliate to plant stories about the goodness and competence of the doctors. They pay off Frank’s star witness. Concannon has an even nastier trick up his sleeve that almost derails the case, but Frank soldiers on.

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Once at trial, we see just how outgunned Frank is. His star witness AWOL, Frank finds another to take his place only to see him discredited on the stand. Even the judge, (Milo O’Shea), clearly favors Concannon. The deck stacked against him, Frank puts his head down and continues with the case.

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The Verdict does the David and Goliath thing without hitting you over the head with it and we watch Frank lift himself up from the gutter and fight to stay up. His mantra, “There is no other case. This is the case.” serves as a pep talk he gives himself to keep from giving up or giving in.

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Sidney Lumet and Paul Newman made a beautiful film about a tortured soul seeking redemption. A bunch of A-listers wanted the Frank Galvin part and Richard Zanuck and David Brown went through several screenwriters and directors before choosing the Paul Newman, Sidney Lumet, David Mamet combo platter. It works. Lumet, no stranger to courtroom dramas or dialogue-heavy films, knows how to make a conversation between people sitting in chairs dynamic. Fail-Safe and 12 Angry Men proved that.  The Verdict, a smaller, less world-shattering film still has me on the edge of my seat every time I see it and I already know how it ends.

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Part of that excitement stems from the talented character actors who flesh out the film.  Along with Mason, O’Shea, and Binns, Roxanne Hart, James Handy, Julie Bovasso, and Charlotte Rampling in a wonderfully restrained performance, make The Verdict ring true. Only Lindsay Crouse disappointed me. I liked her before she got on the stand, but her trial demeanor seemed a bit overdone. Jack Warden, on the other hand, had me believing he lived in the world of back room card games and Bushmill’s for breakfast. He didn’t get enough screen time.

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All that talent aside, the film belongs to Newman. He goes from sleazy to earnest to desperate to inspiring and a lot of places in between. His moods turn on a dime. One second he’s buying the boys a round and the next he’s sobbing in a hotel bathroom. You can’t take your eyes off him. Dominating every scene, Paul Newman has you wondering what will happen and how he’ll react to it. He also makes you care. Even as the shyster lawyer at the beginning of the film, Newman has you wondering what made him this way. His summation to the jury at the end of the trial shows both his world-weary sadness and his earnest faith. Though he would win the best actor Oscar four years later for The Color of Money, Newman deserved it more for this lower profile tale of loss and redemption.

Run out and see this film.

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