Armed Response

An elaborate mirror of the Pacific war, set in Los Angeles decades later. Ray’s variegated style encompasses The Maltese Falcon by way of Chinatown, a significant dream sequence that summarizes the latter part of Full Metal Jacket, naturalistic lighting of interiors treating color as chiaroscuro, and a night chase filmed as city streets for straightforward realism in a POV.

The bone of contention is a small figure or statue. The Japanese mobster is named Tanaka (Blood on the Sun). The last shot of a dead shamus in his sunken car while money floats to the surface suggests the U.S.S. Arizona leaking oil.

Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is perhaps the model for the desert exchange and ripoff. Ray uses slo-mo for a nightmare asleep or awake.


Bad Girls from Mars

An evilly-masked poetaster is killing the leading ladies of a low-budget film called Bad Girls from Mars (“Plan 18 from Outer Space”) one by one as each is hired.

The production is oversold, underfinanced, and stands to make more money on insurance than distribution.

The solution is a further tribute to the director of Glen or Glenda.

“Filmed on location in Beverly Hills, Ca.”, also at Glendale Airport and Gower Gulch.


Haunting Fear

This capital little film is not actually based on “The Premature Burial”, except by way of “The Fall of the House of Usher”, and then only in the light of “Never Bet the Devil Your Head”.

It is a classic study of repressed Eros, closely related to Carrie and Repulsion and Les Diaboliques in various ways, and admirable in every way, not least in the dramatic construction of two scenes, the latter expressly giving the force of the whole structure as it displays the hidden strength of the lady Madeline untimely entombed, while the former rather hews to “The Premature Burial” in a dream of catalepsy from which the victim awakes with a shriek when the mortician begins to apply his tool to her abdomen.

The story is of a man who deserts his child-wife for his secretary, because the latter knows how to keep his desk cleared, though eventually he loses his head over her.

There is a further homage as well among the dramatis personŠ, Mr. Visconti.


Air Rage

Five Marines are court-martialed for war crimes. The presiding officer, Gen. Prescott, accepts Col. Sykes’ acknowledgment that the group acted under his own direct order, and sentences the colonel to life in Leavenworth. The others are released and spring their CO from a prison van. The five now board an airliner at Dulles Airport, and hijack it for a 100 million dollar ransom. Gen. Prescott is aboard with a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist containing a list of every U.S. agent undercover in the world.

The decisive confrontation takes place between the colonel and the general in flight. “You’re not a soldier,” says the general, “you’re a traitor,” and again, “What are you if not a terrorist?” The colonel replies, “A patriot.”

Matt Marshall and his band of merry men fly an SR-71 into docking position and board the plane, but are wiped out. Only Stewardess Kelly, a dab hand with a coffee pot or an Uzi, can save the day and bring the plane home, helped by limping Matt Marshall.

Ray knows every film on this subject, from Skyjacked to Airport 1975 to The Delta Force and beyond. His budget is minuscule and superb in its carelessness of the 747 Operator’s Manual and other rudiments, to the gnashing of teeth among cinÚastes everywhere. He notices Ice-T’s remarkable resemblance to Clark Gable in certain shots, and has Gil Gerard in the Scott Brady role. Alex Cord’s makeup is a Wellesian disguise, and one of the hijackers is made to look like Clint Eastwood in, say, Coogan’s Bluff.

The cinematography is admirably clear, and the sleeping gas comes out of Things to Come, to complement the Seven Days in May contretemps. The rest room signs are bilingual, “Occupied” and “Besetzt”. Steve Hytner plays the heedless cellphoner.