Vintage Cable Box: “The Lonely Lady, 1983”

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“I don’t suppose I’m the only one who’s had to fuck her way to the top.”

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The Lonely Lady, 1983 (Pia Zadora), Universal Pictures

Let’s get this out of the way first.  Pia Zadora is fucking hot!  She’s such a soft, sensual creature – goddess and demon.  She makes me nuts just thinking about her.  A diminutive yet voluptuous combination of nymph and vixen struggling tooth and nail against the evil masculine forces which circle her in tribal formation and threaten to destroy her delicate creative genius.  You can damn me, but I understand her frustration.  Not that I’m some babe out there with talent that’s always being ignored in favor of my gorgeous breasts and well-toned ass, but I get that when you’re out there, trying to take a swim, you’re going to run across a lot of leeches in the pool.

The movie opens with Pia’s character, Jerilee, on her way to a big award ceremony in Hollywood. From there, we go into a flashback. In high school, she wins her first creative writing award. Later, after a party, a young Ray Liotta rapes her with a garden hose. This movie pulls no punches when it comes to naming man as woman’s ultimate aggressor. The rape is filmed in such a way that a female acquaintance is laughing at her, and taunting her while Liotta does the deed. I can’t imagine any woman ever behaving in such a way when another woman is being raped, but this story is the brain-child of Harold Robbins, famous for a particular form of exploitation disguised as the trashy “romance” novel.

After an untold period of time chronicling her recovery, Jerilee gets back on the horse and continues writing. She ultimately marries her boyfriend’s dad (against mother Bibi Besch’s wishes), because he is a successful screenwriter. They try to consummate, but the old man has a heart condition. Her marriage gets her critical meetings with the power-brokers of Hollywood, but everybody seems to be interested only in her body. Tensions between her and her husband escalate when she rewrites one his scripts. They divorce, and she proceeds to screw every actor and producer in Hollywood to get her screenplay sold. She dates a manipulative actor (Jared Martin), who knocks her up, forcing her to get an abortion because he won’t support the child.

Sleazy Introduction
A sleazy introduction.

I don’t believe I understand the message of this movie, other than that men will rape you, take advantage of you, manipulate you, abuse you emotionally, or try to destroy you should you dare to live your dreams.  The meaning is lost in the details because Jerilee, while obviously telegraphed as being “talented”, is also extremely naive, and more often than not, idiotic in her ambitions.  Moreover, Zadora, in her performance, doesn’t strike me as a writer.  More like a curious observer in a world of snakes masquerading as men.  The other women in the movie aren’t much help, either.  They are either strict, judgmental authoritarians (like her mother), or slutty gold-diggers.  So, The Lonely Lady deceptively labels itself a product of feminine empowerment, but instead it skewers the fairer sex by creating a culture of victimization in it’s central character; an interesting female archetype who must be punished for being beautiful and sexually attractive.

A naive young man myself when first watching the film, I assumed this what movies for adults were; products laced with sex and nudity, violence, and profanity, but done up in a dismal melodramatic watercolor painting with unusual outbursts of primary color.  Unfortunately, the music, and the editing, and the many montages of The Lonely Lady make it seem like nothing more than a made-for-television drama with tits.  Not that I mind.  The movie is never boring.  I have to give Pia props for her bravery in being made the fool of this peculiar morality fable; she is remarkably easy on the eyes, even as her dialogue hurts our ears.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

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New Episode! “T.n.T. (Terror ‘n Tinseltown)”

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88th Academy Awards with Chris Rock, Angela Bassett, Louis C.K., and Leonardo DiCaprio produced by David Hill and Reginald Hudlin. Directed by Glenn Weiss.

“Act Naturally” (Johnny Russell/Voni Morrison) by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos.
“Til It Happens to You” (Lady Gaga/Diane Warren) by Lady Gaga.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” (a 2015 film directed by George Miller)
“The Road Warrior” (a 1982 film directed by George Miller)
“Bridge Of Spies” (a 2015 film directed by Steven Spielberg)
“Pulp Fiction” (a 1994 film directed by Quentin Tarantino)
“Cast Away” (a 2000 film directed by Robert Zemeckis)
“Joe Versus The Volcano” (1990 film directed by John Patrick Shanley)
“A Woman Under The Influence” (a 1974 film directed by John Cassavettes)
“Batman Begins” (a 2005 film directed by Christopher Nolan)
“Daughters Of Darkness” (a 1971 film directed by Harry Kümel)
“That’s Action!” (1991 film directed by David A. Prior)
“Expert Village” with Kevin Lindenmuth.
“Point Break” (a 1991 film directed by Kathryn Bigelow)
“Point Break” (a 2015 film directed by Ericson Core)
“Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sunshine In)” (Stuart Hamblen) by Pebbles and Bamm Bamm.

© BlissVille, David Lawler copyright 2016 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Lawler and selected guests each episode.  Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners.  This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107.  It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All music clips appear under Fair Use as well.

New Episode! “The Great American Movie (Part Two)”

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“Making A Murderer” (a 2015 Netflix documentary series directed by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos), “The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear” (a 1991 film directed by David Zucker), “Bruce Almighty” (a 2003 film directed by Tom Shadyac), “Young Frankenstein” (a 1974 film directed by Mel Brooks), “Bugs Bunny Get The Boid” (a 1942 Merrie Melodies cartoon directed by Bob Clampett), “Oh Happy Day” (Edwin Hawkins, based on 18th-century hymn) by The Edwin Hawkins Singers.

New Episode! “The Great American Movie (Part One)”

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“Psycho Killer” (David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Tina Weymouth) by Talking Heads (from the 1977 album, “Talking Heads: 77”), “Making A Murderer” (a 2015 Netflix documentary series directed by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos), “Bruce Almighty” (a 2003 film directed by Tom Shadyac), “Young Frankenstein” (a 1974 film directed by Mel Brooks), “Bugs Bunny Get The Boid” (a 1942 Merrie Melodies cartoon directed by Bob Clampett), “Scarface” (a 1983 film directed by Brian De Palma), “Terms Of Endearment” (a 1983 film directed by James L. Brooks), “How I Could Just Kill a Man” (Louis Freese/Senen Reyes/Lawrence Muggerud) by Rage Against The Machine (from the 2000 album, “Renegades”).

“Amityville II: The Possession, 1982”

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“Why didn’t you pull the trigger? Why didn’t you shoot that pig?”

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Amityville II: The Possession, 1982 (Burt Young), Orion

This is about as real as a family gets. What would’ve ordinarily been a shocking expose’ about the tensions bubbling under the roof of a seemingly normal domestic unit instead masquerades as not only a horror movie, but an Amityville movie. It’s almost as if the supernatural fantasy is secondary to the suburban melodrama.

Burt Young is an old school Italian patriarch, the “family man” who rules his house with a belt and a shotgun. Right after the opening titles, when the family has purchased their dream house, a gorgeous Dutch Colonial on Ocean Avenue in the idyllic Amityville section of Long Island, Burt threatens to beat his oldest, Sonny (Jack Manger) for driving too fast. The youngest kids (portrayed by real-life siblings Erika and Brent Katz) play asphyxiation games with plastic bags. Perhaps that’s why this family stuff works. Because it’s real!

They have a boathouse and lake rights! Honestly, if it were me, and I knew about the history of the house, I wouldn’t care. Saving money on an enormous piece of property where some murders occurred? I couldn’t care less. Remember the old Eddie Murphy gag about what would happen if a black family moved into the house? “GET OUT!” “Too bad we can’t stay, Baby!”

Young plays a frustrated middle-class working man with violent impulses. The violence doesn’t stop at his first-born Sonny. It extends to his wife, Dolores (Rutanya Alda). Alda states in a 2013 interview with Shattered Hopes director Ryan Katzenbach that there was a rape scene between Young and Alda (omitted before release). The scene has been reduced to a couple of hushed lines between Sonny and his sister, Patricia (the beautiful Diane Franklin), in which she voices her suspicions about their relationship.

Sonny and Patricia are another matter. They’re … close. They’re very close. A lot of people may have forgotten chunks of the narrative of Amityville II: The Possession. They might have forgotten the dialogue and the set-up and the final act, but one item that always comes to mind when people remember this movie is the incest subplot. I have to wonder if Sonny’s ultimate demonic possession is the cause of the incest, because as I said earlier, Sonny and Patricia already have an unusual chemistry and attraction for one another.

The family (minus Sonny) go out one night, leaving him alone in the house, which makes for some surprisingly skillful camera acrobatics. Sonny is lifted, thrown, and suspended in mid-air by some unseen force, while undergoing some radical facial transformations. It could be that the ensuing demonic possession simply lifted some moral barriers in Sonny, causing him to behave closer to his Id. He presses a shotgun against his father’s head when he gets violent with Dolores. Later, a backwards message on his tape player admonishes him to “kill the pig”. That’s strange. Usually the backwards messages on my tape player rant about the evils of streaming audio content. But that’s fine.

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Later, Sonny puts the moves on his sister, and Patricia is so shaken by it, she can’t bring herself to confess. Later that night, Sonny goes full-on Jack Torrance and kills everybody. After his arrest, the family’s priest (Andrew Prine) becomes convinced Sonny is possessed by the Devil, which leads to an abbreviated court case. Father Tom visits the house and attempts to exorcise the demon.

33 years on, Amityville II: The Possession still stands as the best Amityville title in the canon (13 titles including the 2005 reboot and counting). The movie is everything a horror movie should be. It’s engrossing; a meditating, brooding powder-keg – chilly, you get the shivers watching it, but there is a point to be made in the violence. We see the stories all the time in newspapers and on television about domestic violence and family massacres. It’s just an unfortunate part of reality in this world. Many of us give in to our violent impulses without the need for demonic intervention, and Tommy Lee Wallace’s (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the 1990 mini-series, It) script is low on the idea of hope that this family will pull together, because really, the demon would not have to possess anybody since they all seem destined for body bags anyway.

Up next, Nightmares from 1983.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month. Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

For an amusing review of this movie and the movies that preceded and followed it, I urge you to check out Phu Yuck: A Discussion of Film with Mark Jeacoma and Christopher Hasler at: Phu Yuck.