Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Olive Films - FATAL BEAUTY and BETRAYED on Blu-ray ""

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Olive Films - FATAL BEAUTY and BETRAYED on Blu-ray

FATAL BEAUTY (1987; Tom Holland)
It is still kind of shocking to me to think about the act that Whoopi Goldberg was making R-rated films back in the 1980s. JUMPIN' JACK FLASH, BURGLAR and FATAL BEAUTY all came out in close proximity to one another. So not only is it strange for me to recall the adult nature of her 80s films, but it is equally odd to see her working with genre director Tom Holland - who is responsible for things like FRIGHT NIGHT, CHILD'S PLAY and PSYCHO II (which he wrote). These two things don't really go together in my mind from the outset. That said, I did remember that FATAL BEAUTY was perhaps the most violent of all the Whoopi vehicles and that makes some sense. While it is pretty violent in parts, what I think I was remembering was the  high body count. Now some of that is due to gunplay, but a big chunk of the deaths in the movie result from people overdosing on a bad batch of cocaine (nicknamed "Fatal Beauty"). This movie basically opens with a scene between Whoopi and Cheech Marin (as a bartender) which is never a bad thing. Like Chevy Chase's FLETCH, Whoopi's character here is also something of a smartass master of disguise. She's Rita Rizolli - a smartass, but a clever cop. Streetwise. The movie is a decent showcase for Whoopi and her comedic persona, but the real highlight of the film is the low key romance between she and Sam Elliott's characters. It's a pretty adorable  courtship and they have nice chemistry together. It's also neat because Sam Elliott starts off at a pretty big romantic disadvantage (as opposed some of his much more confident characters). Except for one kind of over the top emotional scene (which seems a little shoehorned into the movie), all of the scenes with Goldberg and Elliott are great. The supporting cast is also great. Brad Dourif  and John  P. Ryan with white hair, looking like Lorne Greene are both fun to watch here. And keep an eye peeled for the guy from THE THING whose chest bursts open and bites off that guys arms (Charles Hallahan), and a super young James Legros.
Also, as a deep cut, the guy who played Craig Mattey in THREE O'CLOCK HIGH is here too.

BETRAYED (1988; Costa-Gavras)
It's always intriguing to me to take a trip into the past via a movie that is almost thirty years old. The movie star landscape is totally different obviously. Tom Berenger was a solid box office draw as was Debra Winger was still going strong. Character actors like John Heard (one of my favorites) and John Mahoney were still regular go-to guys for big studio films. It was also a time when studios made middle budget adult dramas (which is sadly almost gone nowadays). BETRAYED is an interesting slow-burn thriller. We're set up to believe that Katie Phillips (Winger) is just a gal working the combines in the American Midwest. She's actually an FBI agent, under a false name conducting and undercover investigation of a one specific farmer and his family. At first it feels like a domestic romantic drama, but when it turns it turns hard into darker territory and almost becomes a horror movie. I won't go into details about what this movie is loosely based on, but it will justifiably make you pretty uncomfortable. Veteran director Costa-Gavras handles the material pretty well and coats everything in an aura of low-level dread (until its not low-level anymore). The script by Joe Eszterhas, is during the period a few years before he broke out big with BASIC INSTINCT, but it absolutely has an edge to it. I remember when thrillers along the lines of this one were coming out all the time. I felt like the thriller was the principle movie genre when I was a kid because my parents and our family used to see so many of them. There are plenty of thrilling films still around, but many of them veer more into straight horror territory. The adult drama variety thriller was an enjoyable genre. This movie actually has a moment of "discovery" where I felt myself trying to lean back away from the screen - as it was quite troublesome. Berenger is a charismatic actor who can play both wholesome and less than that in similar degrees of quality. I like it when an actor isn't afraid to go to dark places like that. I know I couldn't do it myself. That has to be truly challenging to find that grounded, humanized place wherein evil still flourishes.

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