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The Last of Sheila (1973): A better than average, Agatha Christie styled who-done-it featuring James Coburn, James Mason, Raquel Welsh and a hand full of other notable heads.  Eccentric and madly egotistical movie producer Coburn assembles a group of movie business friends onto his boat for a week of elaborate games on the anniversary of his girlfriend’s unsolved hit and run murder.  His machinations unfold while curiosity and suspicion begin to settle in between the guests.  Director Herbert Ross keeps things pretty fleet of foot, while the screen play by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins (Psycho’s Norman Bates) cleverly skips along, juggling its priorities with ease.  Its fashion and attitudes may date it a bit, but the skill at work here is still apparent and easy to admire.  Fun for those who enjoy not easily solved mystery cinema.

Downhill Racer (1969):  A snow covered piece of tedium.  Robert Redford plays an up and coming skier out to make Olympic gold, whether his teammates and coach (Gene Hackman) like him or not.  Director Michael Ritchie got a lot of kudos for the unconventional, European way he assembled “Racer”, so much so that DVD boutique king Criterion decided to throw its prestigious name behind a release.  A few interesting beats here and there but on the whole, nothing at all to warrant such fuss.  Boring.

Marooned (1969): A snore, a chore and a bore.  An absolutely bone dry, deadly dull astronauts in peril flick with Gregory Peck, Gene Hackman and Richard Crenna.  Three astronauts are stranded in a space craft with a malfunctioning engine which can’t return them to Earth.  NASA mounts a rescue mission.  Watching the movie is kind of like being one of the astronauts trapped in space.  You feel stuck in a small tin can from which escape is impossible, you’re powerless do anything and and the air is slowly running out while you wait and wait and wait for anything to happen.  Someone told me MST3K lampooned this.  Don’t know how they stayed awake for it all.  Awful.

The Last American Hero (1973): Newly anointed Oscar winner Jeff Bridges starred in this decent little piece about moonshine running hillbillies and redneck car racing.  And no, it’s all played completely straight which works.  If you want the same material done silly seek out Burt Reynolds.  The movie doesn’t condescend or judge, it just tells the story.  Gets a little bogged down in unimaginative race footage in places, but as far as white trash cinema goes, it’s pretty decent.

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