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March 29, 1981 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1981-03-29

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F The Michigan Daily-Sunday, March 29, 1981-Page 7'
'The Final Conflict' lacks grace

What is the blues? "An infinitely long
salami," according to
bluesman/folksinger/guitarist Dave
VanRonk. "Most blues don't have a
beginning, middle, or end; you just cut
up.a couple of slices of blues." VanRonk
;has been carving his blues since 1957,
'which gives him the additional title of
survivor. VanRonk will perform at the'
Ark tonight at 7 and 9:30 p.m.
With an extensive background in
black music, VanRonk became a leader
of the 60s folk revivial that brought the
vitality of black music to white audien-
ces Immersed in the Greenwich
Village crowd a decade and a half ago,
VanRonk and a handful of others gave
the widest possible exposure to
ragtime, jazz, and jug band music.
;AND UNLIKE so many of his peers,
Bob Dylan among them, VanRonk's
gravelly voice can still be heard in
many of the same clubs he played
- during the 60s. Yet more than from the
dubs he plays, VanRonk's integrity is
'derived from the rich Jelly Roll Morton
and Scott Joplin blues he performs and
aiis come to embody.
VanRonk has recorded numerous
F albums for big and small labels, Sun-
day Street being the most recent,
-without ever having been a commercial
pfienomenon. However, he has not been
without impact.
''Cocaine" was first recorded by
'anRonk, which led to Jackson Browne

Dave VanRonk

recoraing it and mistaking it as being
written by VanRonk. (In fact, the
Reverend Gary Davis originally wrote
the song.)
VanRonk's brand of folk music is
peculiar in that it is not limited to Ozark
Mountain ballads of the' J.C. Child
catalog of music.
He makes light of his steadfast
adherence to folk music and his in-
fluence on others. He has managed to
remain relatively obscure, unlike many
of his contemporaries who have suc-
cumbed to the lure of pop and rock 'or
have faded away.
VanRonk is hardly fading. "I do this
because I do this for a living," he told a
reporter recently. "What the hell, I'm
lucky because I like it."
* Phil IDschaine

The Final Conflict is your basic low
budget, low effort, low intellect motion
picture. And like a tape worm, it sucks
off of the unexpected past glory of its
predecessor, The Omen, picking up
rather unimaginatively where
Damien-Omen II left off.
As you may recall, Damien Thorn is
the Antichrist - the son of Satan - the
Beast. In The Omen we witnessed his
"coming" and his early years. And we
thoroughly enjoyed watching him
gruesomely bump off various persons
who were a threat to him. Spectacular,
unexplained falls and window pane.
guillotines were the rage. In
Damien-Omen II we watched him
adolesce. We also learned that he can
be killed if he is stabbed with one of the
seven daggers of Meggido.
NOW; IN THE FINAL and (thank
God!) last episode we are introduced to
a 33-year-old Damien Thorn (Sam
Neill), whose mission, to dominate the
collective souls of mankind, is well un-
der way. He is presently the head of his
own multi-billion dollar corporation,
and he spends a good deal of his time
hob-nobbing with the President of the
United States and other powerful
leaders in hopes of increasing his own
But despite his omnipotence, Damien
is scared out of his horns, for he knows
that the Second Coming of Christ, or the
Nazarene, will soon be at hand. And the
Nazarene has the potential to exter-
minate him. He is also aware of the
danger of the daggers, which find their
way to the lovable Father De Carlo
(Rossano Brazzi) and his dedicated
monks in Subiaco, Italy.
DE CARLO KNOWS who Damien is,

and it is his intention to kill him in order
to save the Nazarene, who is but a new-
born babe. And finally there is the
charming Kate Reynolds (Lisa
Harrow), television interviewer and
part-time masochistic lover of Damien.
She is perhaps the most dangerous of
all for Damien.
Thus, within the first few minutes,
the film becomes a horse race between
Good and Evil. But it is a 1 -hour long
horse race, and the excitement dies
rather quickly - like a beach ball
against the wind. The inevitability of
Damien's demise acts as a dramatic
thorn in the side of this film. After all,
though it was shot in England, The
Final Conflict is a typically American
picture. And Americans cannot stand
the idea of ending something so
apocalyptic with the bad guys winning.
It is not even so awful that The Final
Conflict is relatively tame compared to
its nastier, more suspenseful contem-
poraries. But what is so unsatisfying
about the picture is that it fails to har-
ness any of its creative potential.
THE CONCEPT OF Armageddon, or
the final struggle between good and evil
forces, is intriguing enough. But An-
drew Birkin (scriptwriter) brings forth
a story that is not even remotely in-
teresting or original.
Sam Neill has been well received for
his role in the Australian film My
Brilliant Career. Rossano Brazzi has

also led an extremely successful career
in Italy and Hollywood, and Lisa
Harrow has starred in numerous fine
productions throughout Europe. With a
seemingly weathered cast as this, one
might expect The Final Conflict to at
least attempt something beyond banal
plot summary.
NO SUCH LUCK. Perhaps there are a
few times when Damien appears
slightly compassionate, but this por-
trayal is half-hearted. There is not the
commitment on the part of Neill or
director Graham Baker to develop the
character of Damien into anything
more than a sly creature with a tinge of
humanity. After years of preprogram-
med devil worshipping movies, it would
seem reasonable for Americans to ex-
pect a little more than second-rate
melodrama and weak characterization.

The Final Conflict even misuses the
prophecies of the Book of Revelation,
which predicts that an Armageddon
will occur when Christ comes down
from the heavens to smite the Beast
and his millions of disciples at the plane
of Meggido in Israel. The "final con-
flict" takes place in this film at a
dilapidated 12th century abbey, which
is a nice enough place for an adventure
movie (e.g. James Bond). But the con-
frontation between the Beast and the
Nazarene comes off more as a religious
High Noon than an all-deciding battle
concerning man's future existence.
The Final Conflict falls flat on its face
because it does nothing to hold itself up
as a worthwhile film. It seems to have
no point other than to end a trilogy that
has already been stripped of its
monetary value.



______ _ __ ..,- e



Back Roads'

( Given 'a spunky Mobile, Alabama
hooker and an ex-prize fighter, both
penniless yet afflicted with the inex-
plicable itch to go west, you have an
imminent and inescapable romance.
Perhaps it sounds far-fetched, but in
the movies anything can happen, as
Back Roads irrefutably proves.
For director Martin Ritt, Back Roads
could be considered a step backwards,
since his previous film credits include;
Sounder and Norma Rae, both laden
with social commentary. Back Roads,
has its share of social commentary too,
but it's out of context with the rest of the
film. This one's for fun.
The film opens with shots of gam-
biling hands and lspike-heeled legs
trying to lure Oxfords in neon shadows.
Here and throughout the film, camera
movement tends to be a bit rocky -
perhaps, because the story involves a
rocky relationship?
Anyway, Sally Field, as a cherubic

hooker, and Tommy Lee Jone
leave Mobile for California af
slugs a cop who is about to bt
They hope to get by on "wit;
(which so far seems to be
abundant for them as money)
fantastically good luck that
gets them places.
Wary of each other at first,l
Jones go through a series c
amusing (but not hilarious
following their initial meeting
render them in love iri spite
selves. Jones valiantly shie
from the licentious intention
men, and she graciously bla
for their misadventures.
Jones revels in the attenti
all, they ne(ed each other,
don't realize it until the en
movie. We, on the other hand,
the secret from the beginni:
film, when Jones picks Fielc
dank bar amidst Lone St

dead end
es quickly flourescent prostitutes, and grimy
ter Jones patrons. True love is obviously
ust Field. blossoming.
and grit""
about as FIELD AND JONES perform their
, but it is not-too-challenging roles with a charm
actually that lends Back Roads vivacity and
sometimes substance. Otherwise, the
movie drags.
Field and
of mostly Ritt attempts to depict the essense of
) events Southern low-life with extended
that soon sequences of shots in truckstops,
of them- Greyhound buses, carnivals, and the
lds Field like, providing the movie-goer with
s of other frequent opportunities to go to the con-
ames him cession stand for popcorn and jujubes.
At the end of the movie, Jones is sit-
ting on the side of a desolate highway in
on. After the middle of nowhere, while Field hit-
but they chhikes for cars that aren't there
are in on (maybe she's practicing). They never
; areofnthe really get anywhere, and neither does
ng of the Back Roads - but at least it's good for
d up in a a short escape into the world of make-
ar beer, believe.

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Altered States' a trip



(Continued from page 5)
metallic and mean-spirited-colorfully inane as in
Tommy's freak parade, or aiming for self-conscious,
"brilliance" through the simple; dumb hysteria of
The Devils. Figures acted out their baroque little'
crescendos of emotion on striking landscapes, yet
even the out-of-doors seemed closed-in, made
frivolous by being a frame for a live-action cartoon.
In Altered States, Russell suddenly and
miraculously discovers space-there's a sense of realr
expanse, of tangible open air even in the interior
sequences that too few films achieve. Beyond that,
Altered States just seems far too disciplined, smooth,
humorous, sincere, skilled and casual for the pop-
eyed cheesy maestro of yore.
IT MANAGES things that didn't have anything to
do with earlier Russell films - genuine suspense (as

opposed to head-banging jolt effects), visual and
editing fluency (no choppy gimmickry), sympathy
towards the characters (replacing contempt for
caricatures), and a sense of when (and how) to play
things seriously to best effect rather than going for a
schlock bizzare effect in every moment.
What the hell happened? Russell seemed to be the
one director who wouldn't be compromised, .who
wouldn't relinquish his crazed, 'narrow little vision
for anyone - because he was mad, not figuratively
but certifiably. God knows how he's even managed
enough calm to deal with the complexities of film-
making all these years.
See Altered States, and see it for what it is-an in-
stant midnight-movie classic, full of' invention and


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