Sunday, June 21, 2015

The 500-Pound Jerk (1973)

The 500-Pound Jerk tells the story of Tennessee hillbilly muscleman Hughie Rae Feather (played by former NFL star Alex Karras), whose local reputation for lifting weights brings him to the attention of struggling ad executive Gil Davenport (James Franciscus). Davenport trains Feather to compete in the 1972 Olympics, not only managing his training but every aspect of his personal life as well. But things get complicated when the strongman falls in love with a beautiful Russian gymnast named Natalya (played by Claudia Butenuth), creating an international incident. First broadcast a few months after the actual 1972 Olympics, the movie features stock footage of the real Olympic games, in which real life Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut captured the hearts of the world. Howard Cossell has a cameo role, and Hope Lange plays Davenport's long-suffering girlfriend, a news reporter covering the Olympics.



Saturday, June 20, 2015

Ghost Story/Circle of Fear, "At the Cradle Foot" (1972)

In the episode “At the Cradle Foot” of the 1970's supernatural TV series Ghost Story (originally titled Circle of Fear but renamed), James Franciscus plays Paul Dover, a man experiencing strange recurring dreams involving his five year old daughter, Emily (played by Lorie Busk).

feels very much like it could have been an episode of that mostly-forgotten series, as it revolves around a disturbing psychic vision, or premonition.  Here, Paul Dover (James Franciscus) begins to experience recurring dreams that involve his five-year old girl, Emily (Lorie Busk). 

In his dreams, Emily appears as a grown 25 year old woman (played by Lisa James) riding a merry-go-round in a small Wyoming town. But as she is riding, her angry boyfriend Rafe Norris (George McCallister) shoots her and Paul watches helplessly as his daughter dies calling to him for help.

Paul is deeply disturbed by these dreams, because he has had psychic visions come true before - years before, he had a vision of his father dying in a plane crash, a vision which came true. Paul continues to regret not having warned his father and becomes obsessed with not allowing his daughter to suffer a similar fate because of his inaction.

But Paul's estranged wife, Karen (Elizabeth Ashley) doesn't share his belief in the veracity of his dreams and believes that he is losing touch with reality, but that doesn't stop Paul from going to Wyoming to try to stop his dreams from coming true. But once there, his meddling with fate only seems to make the death-dreams come back stronger and stronger, as if his interference is only increasing the likelihood that his dreams will come true...

This episode is one of those little supernatural gems that storytelling TV shows such as Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and Night Gallery used to offer that are sadly missing from the otherwise excellent television of the present day. Franciscus and Ashley both deliver great performances.