CineSchlocker

Fringe cinema weirdness!

Basket Case


What critic Rex Reed howled in revulsion, filmmaker Frank Henenlotter wore as a bloody badge of honor. Rex ravaged Basket Case (1981, 91 minutes) as “the SICKEST movie I’ve ever seen!” Henenlotter knew such righteous indignation was gold to the exploiteer as he’d been worshiping at the B-cinemas of New York City’s 42nd Street since he was old enough to cut school.

However, Frank was thwarted by his own distributors who neutered the flick’s blood and gore with initially disastrous box office results. It wasn’t until its meaty plot was restored that a cult following began to build around the picture, thanks in large part to a cunning manipulation of the home video boom. The goretur often points with nostalgic glee that the bank roll seen in the flick is a large portion of its total $35,000 budget.

The movie: A tale of two exceedingly unusual brothers that’s rich with vengeance, lust and inexplicable charm. Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck) is a tall, lanky kid who wanders into the seedy Hotel Broslin toting a large wicker basket. He pays for Room 7 from an enormous wad of cash, then lugs his heavy cargo upstairs, under the prying gaze of suspicious and perhaps devious onlookers. Not long afterward, Duane begins talking to something, rather, SOMEONE inside the basket who snarls and quakes while being fed a sack of hamburgers — wrappers and all. That someone, as any CineSchlocker already knows, is Duane’s very tiny and very ferocious bubba Belial. The two are in town to systematically chew — one of them quite literally — through a gaggle of quack physicians they were wronged by many years before. Their wrath is ravenous and even, well, creative. Like when Belial turns a broad into a human porcupine with his gnarled fist full of scalpels. In a Shakespearian twist, all this revelry is complicated when Duane falls for a bright-eyed receptionist (Terri Susan Smith) with a revolving door on her virtue and a dime-store wig. Belial is enraged by and jealous of his brother’s Romeo antics which, fueled by his own sexual frustration, spawns a murderous rift between them with obvious Biblical parallels.

Despite the flick’s grim finale, the first of two increasingly wacky sequels finds our pint-sized terror continuing his search for romantic fulfillment among his own ilk at a bizarro commune of sideshow oddities (think Clive Barker meets Sid & Marty Krofft). While Basket Case 3: The Progeny follows the fruit of Belial’s loins in an apparent ode to Larry Cohen‘s immortal It’s Alive franchise.

Notables: Two breasts. Eight corpses. Monster cam. Nekkid dream sequence with untethered wangdoodle. Eye gobbling. Lock picking. Toilet diving. Hypodermic closeups. Apartment trashing. Gratuitous visit to Statue of Liberty. Boozing.

Quotables: Tenant taunts the young stranger, “[You’re] all alone in this cold, CRUEL world.” Sharon can’t believe a strapping fella like Duane is single, “Don’t they have girls up state?!” Duane lovingly describes his brother, “He’s deformed! He’s a freak! He looks like a squashed octopus!” There’s just been too much excitement for the Broslin’s manager, “This isn’t a hotel! It’s a nut house!!!”

Time codes: First of five people to ask “What’s in the basket?” (5:34). Feeding time at the Hotel Broslin (9:20). Kung fu scene from The Bodyguard (22:10). First clear look at Belial (31:06). Stop-motion creature animation by Henenlotter (36:55). The shocking origin of these troubled brothers (49:00). Belial returns to his basket after a midnight panty raid (1:09:48). Frank’s dedication to gore legend Herschell Gordon Lewis (1:30:50).

Final thought: Rex was only half right. Basket Case is an undeniable, unavoidable and unforgettable clasSICK. An absolute must own for any self-respecting CineSchlocker.

Cannonball Run

Cannonball RunLet’s all join in a moment of reverence for the awe-inspiring Ernest "Cannonball" Baker. Waaaay back in 1914, Cannonball mounted his motorcycle and made the 11 day, 12 hour and 10 minute trip across the grand old U.S. of A. — that’s 3,379 miles. And he’d do it again and again. His best time was in 1933, traversing from New York to Los Angeles by car in 53 hours and 30 minutes at an average speed of 60 miles per hour. That’s before interstates, folks. In 1971, gearheads and speedfreaks embarked on the first of a few yearly tributes known as the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash.

This need for speed even beset Hollywood and road pictures became all the rage with the likes of Death Race 2000, The Gumball Rally and the very first Cannonball. It’d be about five years before The Cannonball Run (1981, 96 minutes) would embrace the same racing formula, but never before had such a cast of mega-stars been at the wheel.

Now, that was 20 YEARS AGO, so y’all let it sink in how HUGE a certain Mr. Burt Reynolds was then. How about Dean Martin!? Farrah Fawcett!? Even James FREAKIN’ Bond!!!

The movie: After totalling their original mode of transportation, Burt and rotund sidekick Dom DeLuise ponder the best means of blazing across the country on four wheels without raising the attention of Johnny Law. It’s while they’re being rushed to the hospital — after crashing their speedboat — that inspiration strikes. AN AMBULANCE! Meanwhile, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. don priestly garb behind the wheel of their Ferrari. Adrienne Barbeau and Tara Buckman choose to rely on the overwhelming speed of their Lamborgini and their enormous feminine wiles. Everyone thinks they have THE gimmick that’ll give them the edge in this cross-country race for glory. With the presence of natural wiseasses Burt & Dom and Dean & Sammy comedy easily wells up among the orgy of car chases. More than that, we’ve got Stunts-O-Rama!!! Bert Convy rides a motorcycle out of the back of an airplane! A team jumps their truck over a TRAIN! But unlike Death Race 2000, no one ever gets hurt — not even the smokies. It’s simply good family entertainment with gratuitous cleavage.

CineSchlockers will recall that the Chairman of the Board himself joined his fellow Rat Packers in the only honest-to-goodness sequel. However, Brook Shields is certainly easy on the eyes in the low-gear, non-sequel sequel Speed Zone.

Notables: No breasts. No corpses. Drinking and flying. Seltzer to the crotch. Exploding van. Goosing. Excessive wheeze laughter. Monkey wrench to the jaw. Boozing. Subaru launching. Gratuitous Smokey and the Bandit reference. Wild driving.

Quotables: Farrah championed the cause of environmentalism long before it was fashionable, "You know what I like best about trees? You can lie under them on a moonlit night, with the breeze blowing, and ball your brains out." Campaign banner of Sean "Kill a Commie" O’Scanlon reads, "God, guns and guts keep us safe from hippie nuts." Dean kids Sammy about his height, "You’re small! S — M — ALL."

Time codes: First appearance of Captain Chaos (6:50). Plane makes an emergency landing on busy city street — for beer (8:30). Terry Bradshaw parks his car in the hotel swimming pool (17:20). Behold the power of Farrah’s nipples (26:50). The famous 007 Aston Martin (31:40). Ms. Barbeau’s amazing peekaboo zipper rises and falls BY ITSELF (46:30). Jackie Chan loves porno movies (1:14:10). The all-star biker brawl (1:20:30).

Final thought: They simply DON’T make movies with this level of celebrity excess and reckless abandon anymore. Rent the sequel and indulge in a nearly four-hour marathon of high-octane, low-brow hilarity.

Tinseltown Time Machine

Twenty years ago, Cannonball Run boasted a stunning cast of some of 1981’s biggest and brightest stars. Hollywood loves to recycle a proven success, so who would land the principal roles in 2001?

Jester sex symbol and his sidekick buffoon


Burt Reynolds and
Dom DeLuise

George Clooney and
Louie Anderson

Perky, blonde obsession of American men

Farrah
Fawcett
Britney
Spears

Hot cleavage queens with a need for speed


Adrienne Barbeau and
Tara Buckman

Pamela Anderson and
Elisabeth Hurley

International man of mystery and sophistication

Roger
Moore
Austin
Powers

Hipster jokesters of the cloth — with a mean streak


Sammy Davis Jr. and
Dean Martin

Chris Rock and
Jerry Seinfeld

Asian sensation with dazzling foot work

Jackie
Chan
Jackie
Chan

Nashville yokel and punch-drunk football great


Mel Tillis and
Terry Bradshaw

Garth Brooks and
Troy Aikman

Arabian oil baron with an eye for the ladies

Jamie
Farr
Wilmer
Valderrama

Twitchy proctologist known to frighten small children

Jack
Elam
Jeff
Goldblum

Elephant Parts

Elephant PartsYours truly finally drew the short straw — the DVD Talk Reviewer’s equivalent to jury duty. Released in 1998, it’s the assignment that’s been passed on by even the bravest of souls. Someone, finally, had to review Michael Nesmith‘s musical-comedy video Elephant Parts (1981, 62 minutes). Yep, Mike the Monkee. Perceived as revolutionary when it debuted, it even won the first Grammy Award for video — today it’s, well, funny.

The movie: Basically, there are five really awful music videos surrounded by occasionally brilliant snippets of sketch comedy. About 35, or so. There’s advertising parodies like the one about Elvis Drugs, for children to give to their parents who’ve forgotten to take their dope. Game shows aren’t immune either, with "Name That Drug," in which a stoner and a DEA agent spar. There’s a bit about a Rock ‘n’ Roll Hospital, where patients fall victim to musical illnesses, including Bee Gees disease, which makes them sing-speak in falsetto. The best bit being a commercial for NNC (Neighborhood Nuclear Superiority) the leader in providing permanent peace for homeowners with bothersome neighbors.

Notables: No breasts. Four corpses. Effeminate Marine. Exploding produce. Pot smoking. Woman covered in batter. Gratuitous magic act.

Quotables: A spokesmen for Large Detroit Car Company, "We’re not just hoping your dumb, America. We’re banking on it."

Time codes: Gals in hot pants rollerskate past a porno house playing Ecstasy Girls (13:22). Trailer for the soon-to-be horror classic Have A Nice Day (44:30).

Final thought: Remember who took the bullet on this one. It’s my solemn duty to watch this stuff, so y’all don’t have to. But, if you must, the sketches exhibit moments of genius.

Evilspeak

EvilspeakDon’t know Clint Howard!?! Ain’t from ’round here, is ya? Every CineSchlocker worth salamander spit knows and IDOLIZES this toothy, balding bundle of twitches who’s as ubiquitous as he is terrifically talented. There was a time when, thank heaven, it seemed nary a single B-movie could be made without at least 30 seconds of screentime for the guy. Those moments are always, always, always gold which is what ranks Clint among the great character actors of any generation. The yeoman’s example of his daddy Rance had plenty to do with that. But let’s get on to the cult classick Clint calls his "coming of age" picture.

So what’s poor Stanley Coopersmith (Howard) to do when his parents croak and he’s shipped off to military school where the entire campus population — except for Dewayne from "What’s Happening!" — not only hates his dorky guts, but insists on calling him CooperDICK! Does Stanley suck it up and endure the insufferable cruelties of high school? YES! Well, at first anyway, at least until he’s rooting around the chapel basement and stumbles upon a secret SATANIC sepulcher full of the weird-beard personal effects of a 16th century cleric turned virgin-sacrificin’ warlock played by an ever-snarling Richard Moll (Bull of TV’s "Night Court.") Amongst the trove, Stanley lifts a dusty, petagram-adorned book whose title roughly translates to "Satanism for Dummies" and like any good geek begins pecking passages into the nearest computer until, with a bit of bloodletting, he ends up conjuring THE DEVIL!!! What better way to smite thine enemies, eh? And does he ever SMITE! More heads roll during the final reel than the entire Highlander franchise. Why? Well, you can do a lot of things to the kid, but don’t even THINK about messing with Stan’s good puppy dog.

CineSchlockers are well aware of the dueling taboos of exploitation cinema when it comes to the welfare of canines and children. It’s almost the ultimate litmus test: "Are they really gonna go THAT far?" The Hills Have Eyes boasts the double whammy, though even that innard twister hedges in the end. Strange, isn’t it? We’ll abide all manner of onscreen slaughter, but doggone it, hands off Fido! Cats on the other hand …

Notables: Four breasts. 13 corpses. Loogie hocking. Soccer sermonizing. Multiple decapitations. Gratuitous shower scenes (male AND female). Nose mining. Puppy in peril. Gratuitous "Miss Heavy Artillery" pageant. One pickled fetus. Gratuitous nightmare sequence. Multiple firesuit stunts. Satanic swine. Surfside banishment. Unsanctioned open-heart surgery technique. Boozing. Neck snapping. Pig slopping. Effigy burning. Public pantsing.

Quotables: Coopersmith engages in some canine-influenced introspection: "Maybe this puppy’s better off not making it. You got to be able to kick and scratch if you want to survive. I found that out right after my parents died. From what I can tell, like these other pups, it’s the ones that can do the most pushing and shoving that get the biggest piece of the pie." Colonel Kincaid’s campus nickname? Corporal Punishment: "Take the position, boy!" But CineSchlocker fave R.G. Armstrong‘s surly Sarge growls the line of the flick: "C@#KSUCKKKKEEEERRRS!!!"

Where’s the goldang sequel?

Madman

MadmanImitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It’s also a great way to make a buck. Joe Giannone and Gary Sales were inexperienced, short on cash, but they had an idea for a flick based on an upstate New York summer camp legend, The Kropsy Maniac. It’d be the sort of film that’d be relatively inexpensive to make, and might easily tap into the booming success of Friday the 13th, and their favorite, Halloween. The duo’s combined efforts hit theaters as Madman (1981, 88 minutes).

The movie: A farmer murdered his wife and two children in their sleep, and then went into town for a drink. The townspeople were so angry with what he had done, they lynched him, and while he hung there, split his face with an ax. By dawn, he was gone and the legend of Madman Marz was born. His story would only be spoken of in hushed tones around campfires like the one at a summer camp for gifted children — conveniently within earshot of the Marz farmhouse. Seems if you speak his name above a whisper, he’ll come looking to string you up like he got done, and sure enough, one of the "gifted" starts screaming "MADMAN MARZ!" It’s very funny until the wild-haired and barefoot beastie answers the taunt by stalking the woods in search of camper meat and a late-night manicurist. Counselors wander one-by-one into the forest to look for the now missing loud-mouth and meet with gruesome ends. Including one poor gal who should have called Triple A instead of tinkering under the hood herself — in such a pressing situation, that’s a great way to break a nail, or completely loose your head. CineSchlockers will recognize Gaylen Ross from Dawn of the Dead. Here, she’s Betsy the nurturing blonde with the summer-of-love attitude (credited as Alexis Dubin).

Notables: Two breasts. 10 corpses. Homicidal-maniac cam. Diddling in a pup tent. Gratuitous campfire song. Refrigerator hideout.

Quotables: What not to say to your sweetie while nuzzling by the fire, "I love to feel the flames devour the wood. Who says there’s no beauty in destruction." Words that always signal impending doom, "Be careful!"

Time codes: First appearance of the menace (11:42). Hot tub lovin’ (23:40). Terrific severed head effect (53:50). Finally, a clear look at Marz (1:25:15).

Final thought: Marz inflicts truly gruesome carnage, and the audience isn’t spared the bloodletting. It also succeeds where many in the genre fail — with a great ending.

Omen III: The Final Conflict

Omen III: The Final ConflictIt was Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist that proved moviegoers were itching to have the wits scared out of them by Old Scratch hisself — the original bogeyman who has pervaded our collective fear for all of time. And Hollywood didn’t have to look any further than The Bible itself for truly horrific inspiration, as the pages of Revelation are chock full of garish descriptions of Earth’s end times, about the rise of the Anti-Christ and all the really nasty stuff he’s gonna do. So, what if the apocalyptic prophecies are true? What if Satan’s child WILL rise to rule the world? And what if your rosy-cheeked, newborn son WERE the Anti-Christ? That’s exactly what The Omen pondered and would laboriously explore through THREE sequels — Damien: Omen II, Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981, 108 minutes) and Omen IV: The Awakening.

The movie: It’s real hard to kill the Anti-Christ, as he’s survived two flicks so far, and his chances look great this time around also. Free from the shackles of his youth, Damien (Sam Neill) rises to helm his family’s company, and become a darling of the world stage. He’s young, charismatic, but most of all ambitious. Oh, and evil, don’t forget that. The J-Man is due back on Earth at any minute, so say the prophecies of The Bible, and the Anti-Christ seems to agree. He twists the arm of his buddy the president to appoint him to a big post in Great Britain, where he believes a young Christ child will once again come into the world, and Damien wants to be there to hassle him right away. Those seven Ginsu knives from the first Omen are somehow rediscovered — a priest got them on eBay, or something — and they make their way back to a goon squad of Catholic priests who plot to get medieval on Satan’s backside. The knives are said to be the only weapons able to destroy the Anti-Christ, but the zealot in the first movie told Gregory Peck he had to use ALL SEVEN — details schmetails. The priests turn out to be the WORST assassins ever as they die one by one, giving up their Ginsus. When he isn’t thwarting attempts on his life, Damien is making eyes at a swooning TV reporter (Lisa Harrow) he meets in England. Only when she discovers his true identity — it actually TURNS HER ON! Speaking of kinky sex, Sam made The Final Conflict the same year he did Possession an utterly incomprehensible flick featuring slime-monster nookie.

Notables: One poorly-lit breast. 15 corpses. THE Beast. Demon-dog cam. 45-caliber to the brainpan. Demonic Boy Scouts. Gratuitous astronomers. Flaming trapeze act. Hokey computer graphics. Death by dog pack. Run-away stroller. Laundry iron attack. Baby killing. Kamikaze priests.

Quotables: Kate gives in to sins of the flesh, "I feel like a moth that’s flown too close to the flame." It only makes sense that Damien would be a sadist in the sack, "Death is pain. Birth is pain. Beauty is pain."

Time codes: Sam Neill prays to his new agent, Satan — lands role in Jurassic Park (37:50). Damien likes it rough (1:26:55). The Second Coming (1:44:10).

Final thought: Even with more blood and a smattering of sex, this is still the worst installment of the series. Yet, Sam Neill manages to remain darkly convincing.

Piranha II: The Spawning

Piranha IIHe wasn’t always King of the World. Nearly 20 years before, a young FX slinger named James Cameron arrived in Jamaica at the behest of Italian schlockmeister Ovidio G. Assonitis to direct what’d be the REAL Titanic of his career. Legend tells how the fledgling auteur struggled to communicate with his nearly all-Italian crew. How he stayed up nights fashioning rubber piranhas. How he appropriated a waiter’s uniform to outfit CineSchlocker idol Lance Henriksen as a cop. But the biggest fish story of ’em all is how Jimbo, who was said to have been under constant fire from Ovidio for technical incompetence, broke into the lab where his maligned footage was being stored and cut the flick together himself. The loins of Cameron’s fans positively stir at the thought of such rebellious heroics regardless of whether or not Assonitis USED his version. Not that either fella could elevate the pedigree of what’s simply a deliciously absurd, oft ridiculed FLYING PIRANHA MOVIE!

As is the government’s way, they’ve continued their clandestine "Project Razorteeth" even after the tragic events of Piranha Number-o Uno when a swimming pool chock full of flesh-eating fishies escaped and hightailed it down a Texas river feasting on kiddie camper combos or anyone else unfortunate enough to dangle an appendage where they shouldn’t. Now, the feds have misplaced a whole barrel of NEW and IMPROVED piranha eggs that naturally HATCHED not long after a Navy supply ship went down off the coast of Jamaica. A pair of horn’d up divers are first to benefit from this blunder when the gal skinnys out of her scuba duds to engage in some deep-sea hanky-panky only to become piranha pate before the amorous couple can close the deal.

Meanwhile, Anne Kimbrough (Tricia O’Neil) begins her morning in bed by playing "hide the fish" with her teenage son (Ricky Paull Goldin) before taking her diving class out to the wreck where the hungry little devils pack on a few MORE pounds thanks to a dim-bulbed recreator who dog paddles from Anne’s side and into harm’s way. From then it’s a marital battle royal with her local lawman hubby, Steve (Mr. Henriksen), to see who’s gonna get to ape the Chief Brody role from Jaws and save the "Beach Festival" for the exceedingly eccentric guests of Club Elysium.

Thankfully, they’re not immediately successful, or we’d miss the midnight spawning party when hundreds of vacationers, expecting to feast on docile, land-loving grunion, march down to the beach chanting "WE WANT FISH! WE WANT FISH! WE WANT FISH!" That’s when Jimbo ties clotheslines all over the hotel grounds and slings phony piranhas down them while encouraging bloodied extras to look really, really scared as they pretend to fend off the winged critters being jabbed at them. If only Leo and that yip-yap girlfriend of his had met a similar fate!

Wanna recreate this seminal moment of fringe cinema? Book a room at the Renaissance Jamaica Grande Resort. Can’t promise the "Mr. Muscle Contest" will still be at 4:30 sharp, though. CineSchlockers will be pleased to note that the topless "sea bandits" scene left out of some incarnations of the flick is present in its highly gratuitous glory. Indeed, Penthouse Pet Tamara Kapitas turned songstress Carole Davis was BORN to shiver many a timber!

Eight breasts. 22 corpses. Dynamite fishing. Killer fish cam. Gratuitous stuttering chef. Gruesome forensic slideshow. Exploding helicopter. Gratuitous steel drum band. Teenage diddling. Alien-esque chest bursting. Nekkid navigating.

Steve doesn’t buy Anne’s tale of the ones that got away, "I don’t want to hear anymore of your cockamamy ideas! I want you to go home and sit on your hands!" Later, he dramatically changes his tune, "THE BASTARDS FLY!!!" The fussy hotel manager (Ted Richert) is consumed with bodily harm, "You’re sticking a red hot poker up my ass by cancelling now!" and "I can’t cut all my beach activities! Fiscally, I’d be cutting my nuts off!" Ancile Gloudon emotes as Gabby, "They killed my son. I’m gonna kill them fish."

Possession

PossessionWhen most people saw Possession (1981, 123 minutes) it was 45 minutes shorter than writer/director Andrzej Zulawski‘s cut. Either way it’s certain I’d still be just as bewildered and sleepy when the final credits rolled. But the movie was a hit with the art-house crowd at Cannes, where the lovely Isabelle Adjani won Best Actress for her role as Sam Niell‘s whacked-out wife. Andrzej says that upon seeing the completed film, Isabelle was so deeply disturbed by what she later called "psychological pornography," that she attempted suicide.

The movie: Mark (Niell) is trying to make his marriage work with Anna (Adjani), but she still wants him out of their Berlin home, as he’d put a real damper on her midnight petting parties with Heinrich (Heinz Bennent). The first 20 minutes, is basically shouting matches between Mark and Anna, with him whining about whether she still thinks he’s good in the sack. They also squabble over their little boy, Bob (Michael Hogben), who seems oblivious to the whole situation. Anna gets more and more bonkers, while Mark assumes she’s bedding Heinrich, but it turns out she isn’t with him either. Heiny is an uber-weenie who wants to touch everyone’s soul, the sort who reads books about auras and what not. Anna shows up at Mark’s periodically to scream at him and cut herself with knives. There’s also the matter of Helen, Anna’s good-girl doppelganger, who stops by to pick up the pieces after Anna’s manic outbursts. After a while, Mark figures maybe something’s up, so he hires a private eye to follow her around and find out who she’s REALLY shacking up with. The guy turns out to be the WORST detective in history, as he might as well ride on her shoulders when he’s supposed to be covertly tailing her. He eventually discovers where she’s been hid out, and that’s when the whole movie slams on the emergency brake and speeds off in a completely different direction, which is great if you’re into kinky slime-monster nookie, but bad if you’re into interminable domestic tirades … or even WORSE if you’re just trying to wade through the whole ridiculous mess like myself.

Notables: Two breasts. Eight corpses. One beast. Dress sniffing. Restaurant trashing. Snorkeling yard monster. Bitch slapping. Exploding apartment. Electric carving knife to the neck and arm. Puking. Diddling. Multiple exploding cars. One dead dog. Motorcycle wipeout. Fridge stocked with body parts.

Quotables: Helen the nekkid school teacher in Mark’s bed says, "You don’t have to make love to me." Mark pleads with Anna, "If I threw myself at your feet and yelped, would you still walk over me?!" Slime-ball guru, Heinrich, whines, "It’s going to take a long time to restore my harmony."

Time codes: Things start to get weird (29:00). Anna loses her mind and her lunch in a subway tunnel (1:14:40). A close-up look at the creature created by Carlo Rambaldi who did The Hand the same year, and also worked on E.T. and Alien (1:23:15). Anna diddles her creepazoid beau (1:46:50).

Final thought: An exhausting and ultimately unrewarding experience.

The Pride of Jesse Hallam

The Pride of Jesse Hallam A widower and Kentucky coal miner (Johnny Cash) packs up his youngins and skedaddles to the big city in search of treatment for his daughter’s pretzel’d spine. Yet enrolling his son in high school, applying for a job or even reading a story at the bedside of his little girl becomes rife with tension and prime emotive potential for The Man in Black, because for all his years, JESSE NEVER LEARNED TO READ!!! Oh, if there EVER were a template for the made-for-TV tearjerker! Blackhearted CineSchlockers will be hard-pressed to keep from grinning ear-to-ear as Brenda Vaccaro gets Jesse SO hooked on phonics that, as the genre demands, he also ends up HOT for teacher! Unlike the next made-for-TV gem in the Gary Nelson/Johnny Cash trilogy, Murder in Coweta County, the legend lends a few tunes to the soundtrack: "Moving Up," "I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal" and "Paradise."