Category Archives: Directed by Ted Kotcheff

Weekend at Bernie’s (1989, Ted Kotcheff)

What’s most admirable about Weekend at Bernie’s, outside the acting, has to be the narrative structure. The first third takes place before the titular weekend, establishing all the characters, then the rest of it takes place over a twenty or so hour period.

Robert Klane’s script changes gears during the film’s final third too. Instead of relying on jokes, he and director Kotcheff go for morbid sight gags. They might be the best jokes in the film, but they’re rather cheap. The acting’s still good for these parts, however, and there’s still François Protat’s gorgeous photography. Protat makes Bernie’s feel like a vacation at the beach; there’s even some cloudy shots inferring the passage of time. They might be unintentional, but they work great.

As for the acting… Catherine Mary Stewart has the film’s most “real” part. She’s Jonathan Silverman’s love interest and finds herself surrounded by the lunacy. Silverman’s sturdy and likable in the ostensible lead role, but Andrew McCarthy’s a lot funnier as his obnoxious sidekick.

Terry Kiser plays Bernie, both alive and dead. If you don’t know the film’s concept, it’s very high brow. Silverman and McCarthy escort their dead boss around a vacation island, pretending he’s alive. Anyway, Kiser’s great in both stages, but as the corpse… he’s really impressive.

As far as supporting performances, Don Calfa’s really good. The rest are fine. Except Catherine Parks; she could be a lot better.

Bernie’s is not a smart comedy. It’s a dumb one with some smart parts.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Ted Kotcheff; written by Robert Klane; director of photography, François Protat; edited by Joan E. Chapman; music by Andy Summers; production designer, Peter Jamison; produced by Victor Drai; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Jonathan Silverman (Richard Parker), Andrew McCarthy (Larry Wilson), Catherine Mary Stewart (Gwen Saunders), Don Calfa (Paulie), Louis Giambalvo (Vito), Catherine Parks (Tina), Gregory Salata (Marty) and Terry Kiser (Bernie Lomax).


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Switching Channels (1988, Ted Kotcheff)

In Switching Channels, Kotcheff attempts two styles he’s inept at directing—madcap and slapstick. He’s got Ned Beatty, who can act in both those styles, and Beatty does okay. He’s not any good, but one can’t hold the film’s failings against him.

But for his other buffoon, Kotcheff uses Christopher Reeve. The audience is supposed to dislike Reeve because he’s vain, wealthy and a nice guy. One of the biggest laughs in the film is supposed to be at Reeve’s expense, when he’s in an acrophobia-induced fit. Reeve’s got some decent moments (particularly at the beginning of the film), which makes it all the more unfortunate.

The hero of the film is Burt Reynolds, who doesn’t so much give a performance as audition for his subsequent sitcom. He and Reeve are rivals for Kathleen Turner’s affections… though not really. Turner and Reynolds have zero chemistry, making any romantic possibilities laughable.

If the film continued where it opened, with Reeve and Turner meeting and romancing in a tranquil Montréal resort, Switching Channels probably would’ve worked. Turner’s good. She’s just not the film’s protagonist and so, when it pretends she’s important to it, the film fails.

The film—and Kotcheff—do her and Reeve the most disservice.

Though set in Chicago, it’s a very Canadian one. City hall is apparently in an office park.

There’s some good supporting work from Henry Gibson and George Newbern’s endearing as Reynolds’s flunky.

Between Reynolds’s non-acting and Kotcheff’s awkwardness, it doesn’t have a chance.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Ted Kotcheff; screenplay by Jonathan Reynolds, based on a play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur; director of photography, François Protat ; edited by Thom Noble; music by Michel Legrand; production designer, Anne Pritchard; produced by Martin Ransohoff; released by TriStar Pictures.

Starring Kathleen Turner (Christy Colleran), Burt Reynolds (John L. Sullivan IV), Christopher Reeve (Blaine Bingham), Ned Beatty (Roy Ridnitz), Henry Gibson (Ike Roscoe), George Newbern (Siegenthaler), Al Waxman (Berger), Ken James (Warden Terwilliger), Barry Flatman (Zaks), Ted Simonett (Tillinger), Anthony Sherwood (Carvalho), Joe Silver (Mordsini) and Charles Kimbrough (The Governor).


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First Blood (1982, Ted Kotcheff)

Maybe if it weren’t for the Stephen J. Cannell television techniques (cars flying through the air or exploding on impact), the asinine, comedic banter between the deputies, some poor writing and Richard Crenna, First Blood might have been okay. Ted Kotcheff isn’t a good director though, so maybe not. Kotcheff shoots exteriors well (the stuff a second unit could have also done), but his composition for actors is simplistic and his director of the actors is terrible. Crenna’s role is just idiotically written, but both Stallone and Brian Dennehy careen from good to bad and not all their writing is bad; Kotcheff was just a terrible fit.

First Blood‘s actually kind of boring, mostly because it wastes all of its potential. The opening with Stallone visiting a friend off a beautiful lake really works, because it gets across the idea Rambo smiles when he sees children play. That characterization of Rambo doesn’t hold up through the entire movie and it’s a real problem. Anyway, after the opening, there’s the whole small town cops hassle Rambo stuff. Those scenes have some potential. Not a lot, because the transition from the sensitive Rambo who comforts an angry woman isn’t there. But David Caruso’s good as the sympathetic young deputy and Dennehy’s sheriff is still just a Western bad guy (the big mistake is later, when the script tries to give him depth).

But then Stallone hops on a motorcycle and starts doing wheelies and all the reality goes whoosh. Of course, after just showing him as a heartless animal, he’s warning people to get out of the way of the motorcycle on the sidewalk. Then there’s the long sequence in the forest, with awful cinematography. Then Richard Crenna shows up and is terrible and then a bunch of other stuff, then the ending Gremlins seems to have ripped off a little (it’s okay, since First Blood stole a lot from Raiders of the Lost Ark).

All the while, Jerry Goldsmith’s absurd score booms. Goldsmith appears to have never seen First Blood and is instead scoring an action movie with motorcycles. Oh, wait….

Stallone really does try during some of the scenes, but it doesn’t work. His big monologue is nowhere near as effective as when he tells some guy to get out of a speeding truck. Some of his wordless grunting scenes are bad, but most of his stuff is just boring–the movie probably spends fifteen minutes with him walking silently through a mine.

Nothing, of course, compares to that terrible end credit song, which is horrific. Sadly, the moment just before the song starts, Goldsmith’s score is for one second appropriate and First Blood actually seems all right. Then the song starts.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Ted Kotcheff; screenplay by Michael Kozoll, William Sackheim and Sylvester Stallone, based on the novel by David Morrell; director of photography, Andrew Laszlo; edited by Joan E. Chapman; music by Jerry Goldsmith; production designer, Wolf Kroeger; produced by Buzz Feitshans; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Sylvester Stallone (John J. Rambo), Richard Crenna (Col. Samuel Trautman), Brian Dennehy (Hope Sheriff Will Teasle), Bill McKinney (State Police Capt. Dave Kern), Jack Starrett (Deputy Sgt. Arthur Galt), Michael Talbott (Deputy Balford), Chris Mulkey (Deputy Ward), John McLiam (Orval the Dog Man), Alf Humphreys (Deputy Lester), David Caruso (Deputy Mitch), David L. Crowley (Deputy Shingleton) and Don MacKay (Preston).


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