Triple Fisher: The Lethal Lolitas of Long Island (2012)

Back in 1992, the news cycle was dominated by Amy Fisher, a sixteen-year-old girl who had an affair with auto mechanic Joey Buttafuoco, the auto mechanic who had continually fixed her car. As their affair reached its close, she ended up heading to his wife’s house and shot her in the head twice.

Somehow, Mary Jo Buttafuoco survived and Fisher was named as the suspect, serving seven years in prison. In the pre-Twitter era, this was all people talked about in person, in the papers and on the relatively new idea of 24/7 news.

Back then — 28 years ago feels like a lifetime — three TV movies were made telling the story. This is what happened back then — news didn’t burn out in hours and we got to watch made-for-TV versions of stories ripped from the headlines. The three films were Amy Fisher: My Story with Noelle Parker in the lead (NBC, December 28, 1992); Casualties of Love: The “Long Island Lolita” Story had Alyssa Milano as Fisher and Lawrence Tierney as Joey’s father (CBS, January 3, 1993) and The Amy Fisher Story with Drew Barrymore (airing the same night on ABC). Of the three, the Barrymore version was considered the best — all things considered — and earned the highest ratings.

Now, writer and director Dan Kapelovitz (The Three Geniuses: The Re-Death of Psychedelia, the short Amazing Angelyne and the upcoming 48 Hrs. Literally) has taken all three films and remixed them into one overlapping narrative. Much like trying to combine the story of Fisher from The National EnquirerThe ExaminerThe New York PostInside EditionHard Copy and Star Magazine and creating your own version of what really happened inside your head, the Rashomon-esque overlayering of these films.

What is the real story of Amy, Joey and Mary Jo? Is it the one that played out in the media, including brutal back and forth moments on The Howard Stern Show? Was it in the tabloids that I devoured? Or did these movies tell the right story? Is there a right story? Can multiple people play multiple roles in multiple movies and all combine to tell one story that has numerous touchpoints that are told through multiple lenses and points of view?

I don’t have the answers, I just like watching movies.

As someone who has never been a sixteen-year-old girl in love with a Zubaz wearing older man — confession time! — I can’t really understand why Amy did what she did. But I do know that love makes you do things that money, obligation and duty can never match. I’ve also never had a woman eat a pizza in a sexual way while looking at me. And I have no idea if that’s actually possible.

This movie makes me happy for repetitive drug tracks, for protagonists doing blow while cops trail them then a race through a cemetery pausing only to kneel on your mothers grave, for beepers, for fake Long Island accents, for Le Barons, for dudes swept up in killing the wives of boyfriends because they’re also having sex with the girl, for made-up movies that aren’t nearly this convoluted and for the fact that this exists at all, while hair metal ballads blaring while three different Amys shoot three different Mary Jos and three different Joeys have no idea what to do. That doorbell keeps on ringing over and over and over and as all three wives approach all three doors to confront all three mistresses, I find myself asking myself, “What is truth?”

The answer? As Joey tells Amy when she asks what their future is going to be, “It’s whatever you want it to be.”

I got to see this via AGFA and Fantastic Fest, which presented it in a limited edition stream through the Alamo Drafthouse. It was worth every minute. To learn where it may play some day again, you can learn more at the official site or read more about the film at AGFA’s site.

The Point! (1971)

The Point! was the sixth studio album by Harry Nilsson, as well as this film, which was directed by Fred Wolf, who would go on to help make the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon and the TV special Free to Be You and Me.

Yes, the creative force behind Son of Dracula helped make a cartoon and it’s exactly what you’d want it to be.

Originally airing as The ABC Movie of the Week on February 2, 1971, this film first featured Dustin Hoffman in a framing sequence. Hoffman would only allow his voice to be used for the initial airing, so his part is dubbed by Alan Barzman. On some releases, Ringo Starr and Alan Thicke did this part.

It tells the story of round-headed Oblio (Mike Lookinland from The Brady Bunch) who wears a pointed hat to fit in. However, once the king’s son knocks his hat off after being bested in a game of Triangle Toss, Oblio is kicked out.

Our hero and his dog Arrow are sent to the Pointless Forrest, where they somehow learn that even things that don’t have a point really have a point, in spite of themselves. They tell everyone this news and the king’s son knocks off Oblio’s hat again to reveal that he now has a point at the very same time that everyone loses theirs.

In 1977, a stage version of The Point! played in London, with Monkees members and Nilsson friends Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz appearing.

You can get this from MVD and watch it on Tubi. It’s worth watching and appreciating, perhaps even more today than it was in 1971.

Mr. Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Alan Freed Story (1999)

Based on John A. Jackson’s book Big Beat Heat: Alan Freed and the Early Years of Rock & Roll, this is the warts and all story of Alan Freed, who may have invented rock and roll — or at least popularized it — but lived fast and certainly anything but scandal free.

Director Andy Wolk was behind the 2002 film The Christmas Shoes, a movie that I am forced to watch every year. I am still upset that this year, I will have to watch it yet again.

Judd Nelson plays Freed, who rose from small stations in New Castle, PA and Youngstown, OH (WKST and WKBN, which I grew up on) to making history coining the term “Rock and Roll” on Cleveland’s WJW. So if you’re ever wondering why the heart of rock and roll is in Cleveland, Huey Lewis wasn’t just writing a line that rhymed with “believe them.” His wife Jackie McCoy is played by Mädchen Amick from Twin Peaks and Sleepwalkers.

For all the actors playing musical stars in this, Bobby Rydell and Fabian Forte are both in this. Honestly, the fact that I don’t have a Fabian Letterboxd list is a major oversight. And oh yeah — a later love interest is Paula Abdul.

The payola scandal and alcoholism that ruined Freed’s life is touched on, but you get the idea that he loves rock and roll so much that none of that — much less his wife and kids — got in the way of putting on a show for the kids.

Look at that — three versions of Alan Freed — a 70’s movie, his version of the story and the TV movie — all in one day.

You can watch it on Tubi.

Desire, the Vampire (1982)

When you see the name John Llewellyn Moxey on the credits of a movie, you know you’re getting into something awesome. Just look at The House That Would Not DieA Taste of EvilThe Night StalkerNightmare In Badham CountyDeadly Deception and, well, just about everything he did. I didn’t even mention The City of the Dead and Psycho-Circus!

Originally called I, Desire and airing November 15, 1982 on ABC, who knew this little vampire film would be amongst the best ones I’d find for our vampire week? There’s a great cast — David Naughton from An American Werewolf In London makes for a fine lead, as well as Brad Dourif as a priest, Barbara Stock as the bewitching vampire, Dorian Harewood (he was in Sudden Death!) as a cop, Marilyn Jones as Naughton’s fiancee and even an appearance from Not Necessarily The News‘ Anne Bloom (or Frosty Kimelman in that long-lost HBO program).  Oh yeah — and Marc Silver, who was the guitarist in Ivan and the Terribles, the ill-fated band in Motel Hell.

There are some great twists and turns in this one, as well as an incredible vampiric apartment at the end that I wish that I could live in. I’ll assume it’s just a studio set so that I don’t get sad that I can never go back in time and see it for myself.

You can watch this on YouTube and feel the same way.

Moon of the Wolf (1972)

Daniel Petrie made some pretty much films — Fort Apache the BronxA Raisin in the Sun and The Betsy — as well as some memorable made-for-TV movies like Sybil (which ruled mid-70’s bookshelves and viewings) and The Dollmaker.

Here, he’s in Louisiana along with a stellar cast making a movie that honestly could have played drive-ins. That’s how great these made-for-TV films were.

In the Lousiana bayou country of Marsh Island, two farmers (Royal Dano! and John Davis Chandler) find the ripped apart remains of a local woman. Sheriff Aaron Whitaker (David Janssen!) and the victim’s brother Lawrence Burrifors (Geoffrey Lewis!) both show up at the scene, but it’s soon determined that somehow, some way, the girl died from a blow to the head. Lawrence blames her most recent lover. The sheriff things it was wid dogs. And the Burrifors patriarch claims that it was someone named Loug Garog.

That mysterious lover could have been rich boy Andrew Rodanthe (Bradford Dillman!), who along with his sister Louise (Barbara Rush, It Came from Outer Space) lives in an old mansion, the last of a long line.

Based on Les Whitten’s novel, this originally aired as an ABC Movie of the Week on September 26, 1972, then reran as part of ABC’s Wide World of Mystery on May 20, 1974.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Dog Soldiers (2002)

Neil Marshall has directed several Game of Thrones stories, as well as the remake of Hellboy. This movie is much better than that one by several dog hairs. It’s the story of a squad of six British soldiers who are on maneuvers when they meet an enemy even more deadly than they are — a werewolf.

Private Lawrence Cooper (Kevin McKidd, Trainspotting) failed his special forces test because he refused to shoot a dog. Now, he’s stuck back with his old unit in the Scottish Highlands for wargames against an SAS team. As soon as they get there, they find the remains of those men and realize that maybe they shouldn’t be here.

Before long, the team’s commander Captain Richard Ryan (Liam Cunningham, The Card Player) reveals that they were here to capture a werewolf alive. What follows are twists, turns, double-crosses and bloody death. It’s a nailbiter and honestly, I don’t want to give much away.

There was talk of a sequel, Dog Soldiers: Fresh Meat, and a prequel, Dog Soldiers: Legacy, but neither ended up being made.

Between references to H.G. Welles, ZuluThe MatrixEvil Dead, Jurassic ParkThe Company of WolvesThe SearchersStar Trek II: The Wrath of KhanJaws, Zabriskie PointA Bridge Too FarApocalypse NowThe ShiningSouthern ComfortAn American Werewolf In LondonPredator, Love, Honor and ObeyBattle Royale, the TV show Spaced (Simon Pegg was almost in this)and Aliens,  this movie is packed with references to other genre favorites. Marshall would later claim, “I think I got completely carried away.”

You can watch this on Pluto.

The Jayne Mansfield Story (1980)

Dick Lowry has worked in made-for-TV movies for some time, working on many projects with Kenny Rogers (The GamblerThe Coward of the County) and connected movies like In the Line of Duty and Jessie Stone, as well as the Project ALF TV movie reunion and Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again.

Based on the Martha Saxton book Jayne Mansfield and the American Fifties, this is — at best — a fictionalized accounting of her life. John Wilson’s book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.

Arnold Schwarzenegger — four years before The Terminator — plays Mansfield’s second husband Mickey Hargitay, who is telling a reporter the story of her life. Mansfield is played by Loni Anderson, who is perhaps the worst person — outside of bust line — to play her. She just seems wrong, from how she approaches the role to look. Maybe she identified with Jayne, seeing as how she started as a sex symbol and struggled to get her intelligence across. I’m not really sure, but it just doesn’t work.

Ray Buktenica plays her manager Bob Garrett. Buktenica was best known as Benny Goodwin, the rollerskateing toll-booth working boyfriend of Brenda Morgenstern on Rhoda. Also in the cast are Kathleen Lloyd (who memorbaly is killed by The Car as it flies through her kitched window) as Carol Sue Peters and G. D. Spradlin, who mostly plays cops in movies, as Gerald Conway.

Jayne Marie Mansfield is played by Laura Jacoby, who beyond being in Rad is also Scott Jacoby’s sister. The younger version of the character was played by Deirdre Hoffman, Anderson’s daughter.

If you look close enough, Lewis Arquette — the man whose loins gave the world Rosanna, Patricia, Alexis, Richmond and David — shows up as a publicity man.

There were no fact checkers in 1980. After all, how can you explain a movie that purports to tell the life story of Mansfield report that she was 36 when she died when the truth is that she was 34? Or that Jayne is shown making Las Vegas Hillbillys which is supposed to be a Western, which it is not, much less the fact that it was made two years after she and Mickey were actually divorced, yet they are married here? Shouldn’t that be The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw? And while we’re on the matter of facts, how great is it when Jayne is getting a new convertible sometime in the mid-1950’s, you can clearly see a 1980 Honda Civic roll by?

Much like how Jayne is dying to play the lead in The Jean Harlow Story, Valerie Perraine wanted this role. Surely she would have done better than imitating the worst vocal tics of Mansfield and none of the brains behind the glamour. Also, of all people to narrate this movie, Arnold in 1980 would not be the person I’d pick.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Vanishing Point (1997)

Did you know their was a remake of Vanishing Point? It’s okay. No one does.

The FOX-TV Network—back when they were in the business of creating original content, in lieu of reality programming and weirdo-dorky Seinfeld (sorry, Sam) wanna-be shitcoms—retooled this 1971 classic made by their sister film studio. Ack! No one should be poking around Richard C. Sarafian’s classic. And how did Sarafian go from this, to Farrah Fawcett’s Sunburn (1979), to become “Alan Smithee” on Solar Crisis (1990)? And so it goes in the B&S About Movies universe. (See? Too many movies, so little time. So many reviews to write!)

Of course, since this is a TV film, the vague existentialism and “thinking road flick” gibberish of the original is excised, thus transforming Barry Newman’s Kowalski into an action hero. Luckily: it features the same model 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T as the original film. Sadly: the messages regarding religious cults, racism, drug abuse, homophobia, and police entrapment are lost . . . and we’re stuck with a Challenger-driven Bonnie and Clyde redux.

And if you thought Sarafian’s transition from Vanishing Point ’71 to Farrah was odd: The director, Charles Robert Carner, wrote Gymkata (1985) for Robert Clouse. Yes. The film starring American Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas—as if no one learned their lessons from trying to turn Olympian Mitch Gaylord into a film star with American Anthem and American Tiger.

In the Challenger cockpit is the always welcomed Viggo Mortensen (who starred in the rock-religious flick Salvation with his then wife, Exene Cervenka of X; and yes, he’s Aragorn from Lord of the Rings) as Kowalski; he’s still employed by a car delivery service, but now he’s a Desert Storm veteran pining for his glory days as a stock car racer. This Kowalski’s “need for speed” isn’t the result of drugs, bets or personal demons: he’s a clean, faithful husband desperate to get home to his pregnant wife who’s suddenly hospitalized. While the ‘70s Kowalski didn’t need a reason to say “Fuck the Man!” to earn his folk hero status, the ‘90s Kowalski becomes an Americana hero as result of being mislabeled as a “terrorist” by an overzealous government abusing new anti-terror laws. 

Helping out on the radio front is a politically outspoken DJ simply known as “The Voice,” (Jason “Beverly Hills 90210” Priestly, a FOX-TV series, natch) on KBHX 106.5, “The Voice of the Rocky Mountains.” At least Priestly’s DJ is hip enough to spin tunes such as “Volunteers” by the John Doe Thing. Not helping matters is a hard-edged, ex-stock racer turned Utah State Trooper (the always welcomed Steve Railsback of Lifeforce) in hot pursuit with a Hemi of his own and a catch-Kowalski-at-all-costs attitude (if this sounds a lot like the Marjoe Gortner-Railsback persuit in The Survivalist, it probably is.) And in with the desert-dwelling assist is rocker John Doe (A Matter of Degrees) as an anti-government tax evader with a knack for repairing Hemis. (And rock trivia buffs take note: This is only time you’ll see the ex-husbands of X vocalist Exene Cervenka—Viggo and John Doe—together in the same film.)

It’s interesting to note that while a TV movie, Vanishing Point ’97 has a 90-minute, theatrical-running time. Movies shot-for-TV run 80 minutes, then 40 minutes of commercials are added to fill a two-hour programming block. Thus, 10 minutes of advertising are lost to fit the film into that 120-minute programming block. That’s bad business. So, considering Viggo’s status at the time, was this intended as a theatrical feature, and 20th Century Fox realized their production faux-pas and dumped it on TV?

What do you think, Eric?

“Jesus. Even the poster for this sucks. What the f**k was Viggo thinking.”
— Eric, purveyor of film quality and Seinfeld hater

Indeed, Eric. Indeed.

You can watch Vanishing Point ’97 on You Tube.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean (1990)

When I think of Leona Helmsley, who I remember from WOR commercials, I think of Suzanne Pleshette as her. This film is from that near-exploration sub-genre of made-for-TV films: the ripped from the headlines takedown of the fallen.

Somehow, they talked Lloyd Bridges into being in this movie. Don’t ask me how, but man, when he’s all out of it and can barely shave? Magic.

Director Richard Michaels did 55 episodes of Bewitched, which seems to me like the perfect start for a career of making TV movies just like this. It’s filled with so much sleaze

Somehow, no one on Letterboxd has reviewed this except me. This either makes me happy or makes me realize that I will watch anything and everything, then try and tell an uncaring world how the movies make me feel.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Regreso a Moira (2006)

Known here as Spectre, this was directed by Mateo Gil, who wrote the 1997 movie Abre De Ojos that was remade here as Vanilla Sky.

Tomás became a success as a writer but has never returned to Spain. But after the death of his wife, a tarot card lures him back to the town where he was born, reminding him of his young days, when he fell for a woman that everyone said was a witch. Now, despite her being burned alive, she is calling him from beyond.

This was part of a Spanish TV movie series, Six Films To Keep You Awake. This is less a horror movie and more doomed romance, a tale of the superstitions of a small village before it became a tourist trap and the lives that were destroyed along the way.

It’s a slow burn, so be warned.

You can watch this on Tubi.