Rupert Pupkin Speaks: My Warner Archive Grab Bag - THE EYES OF CHARLES SAND, THE TODD KILLINGS & THE SORCERERS ""

Monday, January 27, 2014


THE TODD KILLINGS (1971; Barry Shear)
Hippies. Even when they're not evil it's hard to root for them. In THE TODD KILLINGS, Robert F. Lyons plays a "charming", philosophizin', vinyl-jacket-wearing sociopath whose mom (Barbara Bel Geddes) runs and old folks home. When he comes across a loser played by Richard Thomas (whose mom is Gloria Grahame), he decides to take him under his wing. Lyons educates him in the ways of being a 23 year old who hangs around with high school girls (occasionally forcing himself on them). Lyons is an icon of sorts of counter-culture cinema of the late 60s/early 70s. He popped up in GETTING STRAIGHT and another Warner Archive title - DEALING: OR THE BERKELEY-TO-BOSTON FORTY-BRICK LOST-BAG BLUES. DEALING is one of these such films that I find more tolerable than most. I think my problem with hippies and the films of this type is the sense of dripping entitlement that they tend to exude most of the time. Lyons character here is no exception. I can vaguely see the charm he's trying to portray, but it gets a bit muddle for me and lost in the period milieu and blather he does as do most of the characters he runs with. A late appearance by Ed Asner gives the film a little boost.

THE SORCERERS (1967; Michael Reeves)
Boris Karloff is a "practitioner of medical hypnosis" with a plan to test some new equipment. He and his wife just need a bored aimless youth as a subject for the test. Cut to a swinging 60s nightclub with some rock tunes coming from a live band and the requisite "weird 60s dancing" going on. See where this is going? Sure you do. Karloff finds a youth, brings him back to his place and shows him his fancy hypnosis apparatus.
This film has been on my radar for quite a while as I first learned of its existence from a short paragraph in Danny Peary's wonderful Guide For the Film Fanatic. Being a huge fan of Karloff's film TARGETS from the next year, I'd always meant to seek it out. Its definitely a product of the good old psychedelic 60s. The hypnosis sequence is quite trippy indeed and feels like its being played for the amusement of the those who might have gone to the movies 'under the influence' as it were. Basically, Karloff and his wife set up a telepathic, suggestive and sensual link with the guy and can control him and feel what he feels. As you might expect, they abuse this link a little bit. While watching this one, I found myself thinking I would really like to have seen it reworked into an 80s comedy format (and perhaps it was and I don't know about it).

THE EYES OF CHARLES SAND (1972; Reza Badiyi)
Charles Sand (Peter Haskell) sees dead people. You see, he has been gifted with the Sand family legacy, "the sight". Only one member of the family may posess it at any given time and Charles gets it when his uncle with it dies. Of course, seeing creepy looking folks with whites for eyeballs and walking corpses takes some getting used to.
This is one of those TV Movie pilots that didn't go anywhere, but it definitely has the feeling of a pilot. One thing I often enjoy about this sort of production is the kind of cast they trot out for them. In this case Barbara Rush, Bradforld Dilman and Adam West are among the faces chosen. That's enough to keep me interested for 90 minutes or less for sure. Being a TV Movie Pilot as I mentioned, this one reminds me a bit of THE NORLISS TAPES, but it isn't as good. NORLISS is one of the best of this type of supernatural TV film kind of ideas and would have been an interesting show. One thing it had that CHARLES SAND doesn't is Roy Thinnes at the center.Sadly, Peter Haskell ain't no Roy Thinnes.

1 comment:

Ned Merrill said...

"Hippies...hrumph." You're starting to sound like Joe, Rupe. To be fair, a lot of the portrayals of hippies, particularly in films of the late '60s / early '70s were made by older white men--often former lefties themselves, like Don Siegel--who disliked or did not understand young radical types / hippies, so we get things like evil, sniveling hippies being shot down by the likes of Eastwood and Bronson over and over. Nick Ray is one of the few of this generation who embraced / collaborated with the young whippersnappers, which you can see in WE CAN'T HOME AGAIN, which he made with his students at SUNY Binghampton in the '70s.

Things are better for the youth in movies like DEALING, which I think I like better than you, or GREETINGS, HI MOM!, which are made by younger, more contemporary filmmakers, or MEDIUM COOL, whose director's leftist bonafides were and remain unimpeachable.

THE OMEGA MAN strikes me as a big studio picture of the era, which goes against the grain, with Paul Koslo's Dutch being a positive representation of the hippie type, as I recall and even Heston (a liberal turned neo-con) seems to admit that those dirty longhairs at Woodstock were right about something, as he watches Wadleigh's film for the umpteenth time at the start of the picture.

When this country starts to go rightward to Reagan, then we get some films which are sympathetic to hippie casualties of the era, a la CUTTER'S WAY or RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN.

I haven't seen THE TODD KILLINGS (it's been on my shelf forever), but from what I know of the real character and case that the film is based on, Lyons' character is not one that I would characterize as a hippie.

Lyons, interestingly, after his days in some of these aforementioned "counterculture" roles would be an episodic television mainstay and show up in a few Bronson films...playing cops, lawyers, rednecks, i.e. not the anti-establishment types of his early career.