Episode 25: Blue Collar (1978, Paul Schrader/ The Hand (1981, Oliver Stone)

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This week on An Alan Smithee Podcast we roll up our sleeves and git-r-dun Paul Schrader style with Blue Collar, his directorial debut after becoming a household name writing Taxi Driver. The leads are one part household name, one part Hollywood name and one part b-actor on the verge of breakout. Richard Pryor was in his prime and does a dramatic turn while still being funny. Harvey Keitel was still riding high on the Martin Scorcese train but was about to disappear for ten years. Yaphet Kotto had a bunch of blaxploitation movie credit before Roots but it looks like he’ll always be remembered as the black guy in Alien. He’s in this too – and he’s awesome.

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Schrader’s direction was probably never better after this, and his first time success is all the more impressive considering the accounts that his three leads hated each other’s guts. This is a very underappreciated movie, especially since Richard Pryor rapidly began his descent into lame movie mediocrity almost immediately after this unheralded serio-comic performance. Things kind of fall apart at the end but this odd mix of crime story, comedy and drama shows a ton of best effort from every talent involved.

To say The Hand is not the worst killer hand movie ever made is a backhanded compliment. You’ve got to hand it to Oliver Stone for having a career after this sophomore writing-directing effort (his debut was the even more forgotten Seizure.) Michael Caine is always handy for starring in crappy movies when he needs a new garage and gives Stone a performance just unpleasant enough to match the paranoid, misogynist and mean-spirited screenplay he wrote for him. Stone even gets hands-on and has himself killed in a cameo at one point. There’s more than a handful of things to talk about as we manhandle this rightfully neglected piece of shoddy handiwork.

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Also, someone should have lent Stone a hand directing the “scary” scenes. They’re none too handsome.

NEXT WEEK: HARLEY DAVIDSON AND THE MARLBORO MAN (1991, SIMON WINCER) & BLOWUP (1966, MICHAELANGELO ANTONIONI)

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Episode 21: Wages of Fear (1953, Henri-Georges Clouzot) / Talk Radio (1988, Oliver Stone)

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This week on An Alan Smithee Podcast, Andrew and Matt take a dangerous road trip through Puerto Rico with two trucks of nitroglycerin in the 1953 classic so says the Criterion Collection The Wages Of Fear. There’s a lot to praise about the film’s curiously bifurcated structure which begins with an hour of character development and concludes with an hour of nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat suspense setpieces involving the transport of those dangerous trucks. We also touch upon Sorcerer, William Friedkin’s ill advised 1977 remake starring Roy Scheider.

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Then it’s on to the histrionic ravings of Oliver Stone, whose completely forgotten 1988 film Talk Radio is a big pile of sensationalistic cheese and completely ignorant about it’s own subject matter. To be fair, the ignorance comes mainly from star Eric Bogosian, who wrote and starred in the original stage play.

However, Stone makes things a whole lot more incoherent by fusing Bogosian’s story with the true-life story of murdered talk radio host Alan Freed, transplanting the character from Cleveland to Texas and compounding the already baffling level of hate drawn by a character who’s supposed to be incredibly popular and on the verge of breaking nationally. We do our best to rationalize what Stone was thinking at the time.

NEXT WEEK: YOJIMBO (1961, AKIRA KUROSAWA) & BAD MAGIC (1998, THE POLONIA BROTHERS)

PLUS A VERY SPECIAL HALLOWEEN II (1981, RICK ROSENTHAL) COMMENTARY TRACK!!