Friday, 6 April 2012

TOP FIVE UNDERRATED MOVIE PSYCHOS

In the middle of 2010, I decided to put the time I spent on Facebook to a semi-good use and began using the Note app to create reviews and lists of Pop Culture related fluff. Some was good, some was bad, some was composed at 3 in the morning.

And so to commemorate the shift to this new blog, over the next few days/weeks/whatever, I'll be making up for my lack of posts with some of the goodies from the old days (okay a year and a half ago).

First up, here's my stunning debut from August 4th, 2010:

Harry Sledge, SUPERVIXENS

"That's what you get for bein' sassy!" 

In a film filled with nymphomaniacal amazonians, it takes something special to stand out - especially when the film is from the demented brain of a certain Russell Albion Meyer.

Played by Meyer’s favorite heavy Charles Napier, at first glance there is little to differentiate Harry from the proud tradition of sneering rednecks that seemed to be on the verge of overwhelming American action movies in the early Seventies.

Harry’s claim to fame comes early when he gleefully stomps a woman to death in a bathtub. Our impressions of Harry are totally blown: Rather than simply being an over-compensating corrupt psycho cop, Sledge is an IMPOTENT over-compensating corrupt psycho cop. Leapin' lizards!

Nabbing all the best lines, and permanently nashing on a suggestive stogie, Harry’s is such an overpowering presence that when he disappears a quarter in, the movie loses most of its unique shot-out-of-a-blunderbuss intensity. And in a film populated by six of the most abundantly buxom strippers-turned-thespians ever to grace the silver screen, that’s saying something. And he wears a BERET.

Red Grant, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE 


"You may know the right wines, but you're the one on your knees." 

The archetype for all the tall, blonde Germanic hardasses Her Majesty’s finest has had to contend with over the years, Red Grant, played by the late, great Robert Shaw (JAWS’s Quint), is inarguably the best of the bunch.

From the opening “Holy Shit, Bond is dead!-oh wait it’s an impostor” stalking sequence to the still ridiculously visceral train fight, Grant is established as Bond’s equal, if not his superior, beating, shooting, stabbing and strangling the hell out of whoever is unfortunate enough to cross his path.

Stripped of the metal teeth/claw/hat fetishism that has come to encapsulate the Bond henchman, Grant is memorable for simply being very good at what he does, and giving viewers more chills than a pool of sharks with laser beams attached to their frickin' heads. And in a film starring Sean Connery at his badass prime, we should have expected no less. 

Bennett, COMMANDO

"I don’t need the gun, John ..." 

Okay, I’ll be honest. This spot was a tossup between Vernon Wells’s madder-than-a-sack-of-monkeys-with-sledgehammers ex-super soldier and Eric Foreman’s dad as drug kingpin Clarence Boddicker in ROBOCOP. But as any true action fan knows, when it’s a choice between prescription specs and a chain mail vest, Wells comes out on top. 

Uncle Charlie, SHADOW OF A DOUBT


"He said people like us don’t know what the world is really like..." 


Years before Norman Bates, Alfred Hitchcock made a small, unassuming slice of suburban suspense called SHADOW OF A DOUBT. His first film set in America, Hitch’s film revolves around the figure of charming Uncle Charlie (the woefully under-appreciated Joseph Cotten), a handsome bachelor who may just be the infamous ‘Merry Widow’ murderer.

Pursued by imposing men in official looking suits (Police? IRS? Jehovah’s Witnesses?), Charlie decides to make an unexpected visit to his sister’s family in the charming (boring) town of Santa Rosa.

A more subtle evocation of the psychosis with which Hitchcock would soon be identified, the cat-and-mouse struggle between Charlie and his favorite niece is played out as a series of underhanded mind games, with Charlie attempting to re-assure and then silence his niece. A fresh conceit compared with the typical blood and viscera of most contemporary psycho thrillers.

Cotten’s performance is first-rate, lending Charlie a sense of charm which masks the calculating killer just beneath the surface. And his murder-turned-suicide at the climax is a great, ironic coda to the masterfully understated menace of the film’s final act.



Harry Roat Jr, WAIT UNTIL DARK

"Now all the little children have gone to bed..." 

From his first moments onscreen, Roat is one cold fish. He doesn’t do ANYTHING for the first two acts. No bathtub stomps or wrist watch-garroting for this one. Instead, he manipulates and cajoles everyone else into his scheme to steal a child’s doll (filled with heroin) in the unknowing possession of blind woman Suzy Hendricks (Audrey Hepburn).

It's a testament to Harry's sheer, nasty vibe that even when Miss Hepburn fights back, her survival is always in question. For anyone who is familiar with this film, the climax of WAIT UNTIL DARK ranks with the great horror film set pieces. Our fair lady (sorry, had to drop it in) smashes every light bulb in the house, plunging her opponent (and for the last eight minutes, the viewer) into total darkness.

What elevates this sequence is Harry. He's this film's uncontrollable variable and it should come as no surprise that at this moment of potential victory, he is there to snatch it away - revealing the one light source Suzy forgot to unplug...

Unlike most of the psychos on this list, Harry benefits from having a scheme that actually makes sense, and the way in which he manages to fool both his quarry and cohorts only adds to his diabolical credentials.

I never rated Alan Arkin as a great actor. Now I sit in fear, waiting for him to bust down my door and shove his little friend Geraldine repeatedly into my back.

Quite simply, Arkin's performance as Harry Roat Jr from Scarsdale (“Scarsdale?”) is utterly terrifying. And if there were any justice in this world it would be placed in the inner most circle of the pantheon of great cinematic knavery.

1 comment:

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