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November 11, 1976 - Image 5

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Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1976-11-11

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s &THE MICHIGAN DAILY
A rts& Entertcinm ent Thursday, November 1 1, 1976 Page Five

'Burnt Offergs A fine,
though inconsistent thriller

By DAVID KEEPS
BURNT OFFERINGS, on dis-
play at the Briarwood Mov-
ies, is a fine thriller, despite
some inconsistencies. The prob-
lem is simple - there's more
to this neo-Gothic suspense sto-
ry than meets the eye, and the
questions this unsolved mystery,
leaves unanswered are beauti-
fully maddening.
Because the film is visually
spellbinding, because the acting
is superb, because the suspense
is strangling, and most import-
antly because the interwoven
horrors are never fully explain-
ed, this film will either drive
you crazy with its inefficiencies
or it will stay in your mind for
quite some time.
The film opens slowly, in the
best tradition of thrillers. Ben
and Marian, played by Oliver
Reed and Karen Black, have
rented a fascinating, but run-
down mansion for the summer.
They, "their son and an elderly
aunt (Bette Davis) are to take
care of the place while the own-
ers are away.
THE HOUSE is theirs - al-
most, The Allerdyces have left
behind their mother, who re-
quires no further care than
thrice-daily trays brought to
her room. She never leaves her
room and, of course, there is
some doubt as to whether she
exists at all. Nevertheless, Mar-
ian continues to bring her trays
up to the sitting room, where
the old girl keeps a collection
of photos, whose subjects have
disturbing, staring eyes. Event-
uallly Marian' becomes obsessed
with the room and a music box
on the photograph-laden tables.
She soon begins sleeping there,
as strange and viouent disturb-
ances begin to splinter the fam-
ily.
Each incident is set against

a glowing, pastel cinematogra-
phy suffused with eerie light-
ing and disconcerting camera
angles. The house, a pre-Vic-
torian monstrosity, serves as,
the lone setting for a series of
tragic, yet beautiful transfor-
mations. The polished produc-
tion values add to the obvious
conventions in the script that
make the house the main char-
acter of the movie and offer the
only concrete answer to the
film's puzzles.
The music, too, is thrilling
and, in ' combination with the
rich visual atmosphere, is ex-
tremely compelling.
THE ACTING is the surprise
of the picture, with restrained
performances the rule. Occa-
sionally, a few minor characters
will cut loose, but for the most
part it is a credit to the writers
and stars that, no matter how
spooky the action becomes, the
acting is at all times real and
believable. As cameo players,
Eileen 'Heckart and Burgess
Meredith, as the owners' chil-
dren, are effectively weird,
without resorting to cliche. Lee
Montgomery, as the son David,
acts like a normal child; neith-
er precocious nor bratty.
Bette Davis, who plays Aunt
Elizabeth, appears only briefty,
offering her clipped, polished
bravado as a comic foil, be-
fore falling victim to some of
the house's more meager mach-
inations. Though some might
feel her part is inconsistent with
her star-status, she is interest-
ing. And in a role that requires
less than a broad range of emo-
tions, she can still tug at the
heartstrings like she used to.
Karen Black and Oliver Reed
make an interesting couple;
both performing faultlessly and
enhancing each other's streng-
ths. Black undei-goes an amaz-
ing series of transformations
with a great deal of subtlety

and a shocking emotional range.
Reed, too is brilliant, whether
cursing good-naturedly or cry-
ing from the emotional anguish
of his death fantasies. He is
an actor who must work over-
time to compensate for a phy-
sical appearance which sug-
gests stereotypes, and through-
out the film he proves a strik-
ing example of depth and sensi-
tivity.
OBVIOUSLY the film was
shrewdly cast. The coupling, at
first, could not seem more un-
likely. But Karen Black is bril-
liant at playing horror, and de-
spite the mundane personali-
ties of their roles, Black and
Reed spark each other off. The
shrewdness is evident because
they look and act like typical
people, and both actors' flaw-,
ed attractiveness roots the au-
dience to the reality of the situ-
ation.
The film is evidently a one-
man product, and the creative
mind responsible for Burnt Of-
ferings is Dan Curtis, who
wrote, produced and directed
the film. Curtis, a veteran of
TV drama (Dark Shadows),
knows not only a successful,
formula when he sees one, but
also how to bring it off stylish-
ly. If the film has any failings
it is because it presents too
many viewpoints, probably
more in tune with the novel it
was based on, and offers too
few explanations.
After all the objections and
inconsistencies are pared away,
and many viewers will suffer
none. of these, the film still
emerges as a beautifully
wrought chiller. Distinguished
by fine performances, and the
creative unity of Dan Curtis's
direction, Burnt Offerings de-
serves much praise as an ex-
ample and suspense unaided by
cliche grotesquery and sensa-
tionalism.

WITHOUT BECOMING INVOLVED
How to watch a reh
By JOANNE KAUFMAN Mendelssohn Theater c o m e muttered "there but for the same dance steps
"DON'T BE surprised if we opening night December 9. grace of David Merrick go 1." the same songs a
stop you in the middle of Whatever happened to all the TO SAVE grief all around, the same speeche
a line. We're just trying to get backbiting of those Ruby Keeler here are a few bits of audition Those auditioning
an idea of your voice, and movies? etiquette for aspiring Mary Mar- fascinated by w
whether it's good or bad we may AS I SAT through the dancing tins and Alfred Drakes. No. 1 ceive as deep in
cut you off. But don't worry. It and singing warm-ups, I had the Don't sing a song from the Director's table.
doesn't' mean anything." chance to make a few random show being presented. The direc- there I can assur
It means something. First of observations. While it is not true tor has heard too many other one is murmuring
all it means that the Soph Show that ciothes make the woman, people do it and do it badly. voodoo chant or s
production of How to Succeed in it seemed that those wearing he'll thank you for your con- the Koran. Mor
Business Without Really Trying leotards were ineffably more sideration by inviting you to l"someone, getn
Bsins Wu for rehearsal, and graceful than those in jeans and call-backs. No. 2. Audition on coffee," "I need
second, if the director has di- sweatshrirts-the former tripped the first night. If that is im- "Did you catch th,
rected that particular little the light fantastic; the latter possible, audition as early as red leotard," an
speech at you, gripping your had more of a tendency to trip. possible on the following nights. I go to business s
sheet music and trembling, you On the other hand, the women The director, choreographer et This soph show
probably aren't going to be at in blue jeans sang better. You al are in good moods then and ferent. Its versi
those rehearsals. Such are the figure it out. can't be sure of what kind of Succeed is full of
hard cold realities of the Thea- Also, for some inexplicable talent they'll be offered. What' where the male
tre. reason, there are always more is regarded as vintage the first original Broadwa
Actually many of the hard women than men at these gath- night may be viewed as less portrayed by wo
cold realities of the Theatre erings. Since directors are often than vinegar two evenings later. , versa. The produc
coldreltesdy hebsen atrenthactually desperate for male per- No. 3. When it's your turn to assures me that
for the first round of auditions, formers, men are practically a sing, don't say you're just get- has never been d
forwhefrstw rondy- e ofuosI shoo-in for a spot on stage, ting over a cold. Not even the I believe him. I t
which saw twenty-seven hopefuls merely by showing up and look- greenest director will fall for interesting to see
aning, sggre and gacg wh ing at least one-quarter alive. that. No. 4, Don't grovel. No tors will do with
varied degrees of grace, pa- It does help, of course, if they matter what the director tries There is som
nahead tent.FnkThe chorecan tell their left foot from to convince you to the contrary, special about Soph
ographer, Sherry Fnkel], was their right. he is jest a human being. one is about the
art puary supportive o er- The warm-ups over and he Now don't think for a minute one can call on
marges,pwit: Sile Een idance audition completed, I be-, that the "artistic directors" en- vanced years to
you don't know the steps, fake gan to tense up, and I suspect I joy ' putting the auditioners There is rage, a
it. 'Sell t. Come on you .guys, was not alone. Now understand through all this torture. When

earsal
, often hearing ment and lots of hysteria for a
nd listening to while and everything finally
es adnauseam. smoothes out for opening night
g are always i with the director assuring his
hat they per- cast that "this will be the best
intrigue at the Soph Show anyone has ever
Having been seen.
e them that no PLUS CA CHANGE, plus la
g a mantra, a meme chose. I said the exact
selections from same thing to my cast. And just
re likely it's about two months before, that
me a cup of same cast had been asking,
a cigarette," "When will call-backs be post-
hat chick in the ed?" And both prospective casts
d "Why didn't had left the audition hall mut-
chool?" tering, "God, I really blew it,
is a littlte dif- I really blew it. How could I do
on of How to a thing like that?"
role-reversals The director thanks everyone
parts of the for coming and mercifully does-
y cast will be n't add, "Don't call us, we'll
men and vice call you." Who says you can't
cer, Jim Stern, go home again? With the right
such a thing clothes and make-up I could
one before and pass for a sophomore. And you
hink it will be should hear me belt out "To-
what the ac- ih
it. night.
iething really
h Show. Every- The United States named
same age; no nine new astronauts on Sept.
his more ad- 17, 1962, including two civilians,
win a point. four air force officers and threw
little tempera- navy officers.

SMILE."
Where else but the Soph Show
would you have a musical direc-
tor who lets you try again when;
you begin the song an octave
and a half beyond your range?
Where else but the Soph Show
would the director let you read
for three parts without the
slightest suggestion that your
acting is on a part with, say,
Tab Hunter's or Elizabeth Ray's.'
And where else but Soph Show
would the hopefuls encourage
and applaud each other? I must'
say such outward signs of good-
will are damned sporting of
them considering that out of the'
120 people vying for a place in'
the show, only thirty or so were
going to be on stage at Lydia

this: I was merely a no:- I someone has finished dancing
participating spectator but as' and siking he or she can leave.
soon as I heard the words "havean
your sheet music ready," my The director and his staff must
vocal cords suddenly tied them- sit in one place 4ree or four
selves into sailors' knots and I nights running, watching the
NOON LUNCHEON
Home-made soup and sandwiches 50c
Friday, November 12 '
"A QUEST FOR JUSTICE"
A discussion of indictments 'of two nurses
at Ann Arbor V. A. Hospital.
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Ritz':

ill

fun for comic buffs
By MICHAEL BROITY various amorous advances by
The Ritz's inmates.
ATIEWING The Ritz, now play-
ing at the State Theater, THE FILM gives us some hi-
is a lot like eating a Chinese lariously wacky characters, in-
diner; it's very enjoyable, yet chiding a non-talented madcap
very little remains a few hours "singer-dancer" named Googie
later. One gets the feeling this Gomez (Rita Moreno) who
could have been a good film if thinks Procol is a producer
only writer Terrence McNally looking for new talent, a de-
(adapting his own Broadway tective hired by Carmine to find
play) and director Richard Les- Procol with a voice that would
ter had put a little more sub- make Alvin the Chipmunk
stance into their work. wince, and a perpetual "chub-
by chaser" who races maniac-
As the picture opens, we see ally around after the rotund
a New York-based Italian-Am- Procol.
erican family grieving wildly
over their terminally-ill patri- These loonies almost trans-
arch. His son-in-law Procol (hi- form The Ritz into a rich and
lariously played by Jack Wes- memorable comedy; almost but
ton) is just in from Cleveland, not quite. For all its non-stop
where he runs a successful gar- activity, all that lingers after
bage collection business. Just the film's end are the charac-
before the old man dies, he tells ters themselves. Writer McNal-
his Mafioso son Carmine (Jer- lv has a superb way with one-
ry Stiller) to "kill Procol!" The liners, but the plot - what lit-
sinister Carmine is only too ea- tle there is - is quickly forgot-
ger to oblige, and Procol de-
cides he'd better make himself' ten. One leaves The Ritz feel-
scarce in a hurry. He tells a ing starved for more, but only
cab driver to take him to the' because there was so little there
one place where no one would to begin with.
think to look for him, and the -
cabbie dutifully responds by de- Adolf Hitler wrote "Mein
positing him at a bathhouse
called The Ritz.Kampf" while serving time in
What Procol doesn't know is pison in 1924. The book's Eng-
that The Ritz is a gigantic, lish title was "My Battle."
posh haven for homosexuals.
Naturally, many of the ensuing r-- ---
events involve Procol's discov- S
ery of this fact and his franti-1
cally humorous attempts to hide'
from both his brother-in-law and
his wife, while also evading the
- i The Mil

I

TONIGHT:
McCaffrey
(Formerly Whiz Kids)
Second Chance
994-5350
Art I:
"INSIDE URSA LA"
AND
"COME WITH
MY LOVE"
Art 1I:

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