Saturday, September 18, 2010

That was no lady, that was Andrew Stevens's mom!

Las Vegas Lady (Crown International, 1975)

Before the camera:

Stella Stevens (Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold - she was the Dragon Lady!)
Stuart Whitman (Guyana: Cult of the Damned - he was the Reverend Jim Jones - er, Johnson!)
George DiCenzo (Back to the Future - he was Marty's grampa!)
Lynne Moody (Scream Blacula Scream!)
Linda Scruggs (Salty)
Jesse White (TV's first Maytag Repairman himself!)
and if you look fast -
Andrew Stevens (Stella's son, later a lead actor - The Fury - and more recently a producer - The Boondock Saints)
Frank Bonner (Harb Tarlek himself!)

Behind the Camera:

Directed by Noel Nosseck

Produced by Joel B. Michaels, Noel Nosseck, Gene Slott and Joseph Zappala

Written by Walter Dallenbach

    Lucky (Stevens - Stella, that is, not Andrew) is tired of hanging around Las Vegas making a few bucks here and there being arm candy for low end gamblers like Big Jake (White) and waiting on her casino security guard boyfriend Vic (Whitman) to dump or get off the pot. With the help of a shadowy figure, Lucky and two of her pals, Carol (Moody) and Lisa (Scruggs) plan to pull off a heist at the Circus Circus hotel and casino, which in this movie is managed by the really mean Eversull (DiCenzo). (Lesson #1: Maybe you should choose a heist target with a really old, nearsighted, sweet natured manager?) The plan will require flawless execution from each of the ladies - Carol as a fill-in serving girl, Circus Circus high wire acrobat Lisa mountaineering around the outside of the building, and Lucky opening some doors and windows on the upper floors by slipping away from a big game she gets into thanks to an unwitting Big Jake. It's not going to be easy, and each lady has an external complication that could trash the whole deal: Carol is in debt to a weaselly loan shark, Lisa has recently developed vertigo, and Lucky is dallying with a security guard at the place she's trying to rob. Will they be able to get it together and steal the cash? Who is that mysterious planner who set the whole heist up? And most importantly, will they be able to get away with it, or will Eversull figure the whole thing out and stop them cold?

Eversull figures it out and stops them. From the evidence, it wasn't too cold, though.

 I had very high hopes for this one, with it being from the mid 70's, set in Las Vegas, and with that cast. And though it's watchable, it isn't exactly what I was hoping it would be. This was only the second film for director Nosseck, made the same year as his first, and it shows. The first half hour is edited in a very ragged fashion, with several scenes just getting up to speed before suddenly cutting to a different unrelated scene that seems to start out on pause. Finally, as the second half gets going and we get to the heist, the editing problems fade out and the movie improves, staying mostly on target through to the end. The other big problem I had is the film's PG rating. I don't need every movie I watch to wallow in human filth and degradation (just some of them) but this movie sets up some harsh plot points and then ends up only hinting at them and dropping them. How mean was that loan shark, and what did he do to Carol? And what did Eversull do to that extremely frightened prostitute? We never find out. Again, I don't need to see hours of torture and gore, but if you're a filmmaker and you want to introduce these elements, give us some kind of a payoff. Leave what you want to the imagination, but give our imaginations something to work with. What we get is the girl grimacing as Eversull grins and moves toward her. Cut. We never hear another word about the young woman, and the whole subplot is dropped. Instead, why not have Eversull pull out some horrendous, evil prop (knife, blowtorch, Lady Gaga CD) and advance on the girl as she screams. Cut away. Later, have a lesser light in the cast mention the girl died from the wounds. Now I know Eversull is a REALLY bad guy and you still didn't show anything. But then, the movie is truly squeamish about the rough stuff all around. In fact **Major Spoiler Alert** no one even dies in the movie. At all. Ever. Including the bad guys.
    On the plus side, we've got good location work in Las Vegas, especially at Circus Circus, where James Bond had visited four years previously in Diamonds are Forever, and where I stayed when I got married in Las Vegas decades later. We've got the always welcome leads - the cool Stevens, and the earthy Whitman; and good support from Moody, Scruggs, and even ol' Jesse White. It's also cool to see Andrew Stevens and WKRP's Frank Bonner in small roles. The biggest acting kudos go to DiCenzo as a truly despicable jackwagon of the highest order, always angry, always grimacing, and never speaking anything approaching a kind word to anyone in the movie. There is also some stuntwork involving Scruggs' stunt double climbing around the outside of Circus Circus that looks like it came from a bigger budgeted movie (though there are also a couple of shots where the giant neon letters on the building look like weird miniatures combined optically with the stuntman). All in all, if you're really into heist movies or Las Vegas movies or you're a fan of the stars, this squeaks by with a recommendation. Others, not so much. Finally, a word on the presentation: I saw this on a double feature "Welcome to the Grindhouse" DVD from BCI/Eclipse. It's paired with Policewomen (which will turn up here sooner or later) and features trailers for Chinese Hercules, Weekend with the Babysitter (narrated by Casey Kasem, I do believe), Chain Gang Women, and Superchick - some or all of which are available on DVD from the same company.

Let's Get Out of Here ?

Approximately 43:00 in, Jesse White drops The Line on Stella Stevens to get her to leave the lounge and accompany him to the gaming tables .

Eye Candy ?

Stella Stevens might still qualify even now, but she definitely did in 1975.

Yeah, I know this is The Poseidon Adventure and 1972, go with it.

Buddha Man's Capsule Review

Buddha Man says "Las Vegas Lady isn't playing with cold dice, but it is a little choppy. That's gambling jargon, by the by."

1 comment: