A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich
Alice Childress took it upon herself to write the screenplay for the 1978 cinematic adaptation of her 1973 young adult novel, and it's easy to understand why. That book, of course, inculcated thousands of white, suburban high schoolers with the notion that their urban black peers were doomed to lives of drug-addicted ghetto-dwelling; despite the best efforts of well-meaning lit teachers, the book's astonishingly judgment-free look at the trials of smart-ass Benjie could easily be mistaken for tacit approval of his teenage junk habit. Of course, it wasn't, although it could be said that Childress' use of nuance and subtle character-building — not to mention her lack of an appropriately uplifting resolution — may have easily gone over the heads of many in her intended audience. No such nuance was employed in the film version. Benjie clearly is painted as a victim of circumstance here, the oppressive and poverty-stricken setting of early '70s Harlem beating him into submission as the earnest but quixotic efforts of his mom (Cicely Tyson) and stepdad (Paul Winfield) barely keeping the young man afloat. As in the book, the most provocative character here is the Black Power-spouting teacher Nigeria Greene (Glynn Turman). Although Ben Nelson's flat and linear direction doesn't do justice to the refined morality of Childress' streamlined screenplay, the power of the story and some notable performances keep Hero from turning into an afterschool special. —Jason Ferguson
Patrick (Special Edition)
Movie ratings sure have changed in the last 30 years. Hell, PG is but a sanitized rating given to flicks that are light on excessive violence, drug use and multiple swear words. But back in the day — uh, before 1984, the year the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) created the trusty PG-13 rating — a PGer could contain all sorts of naughty stuff. The smart kids knew. So no unsuspecting parent would've thought that a PG-rated Aussie flick called Patrick would contain brief male and female full-frontal nudity, a heroine whose ex-hubby acts out a rape fantasy to win her back plus a gruesome — and no doubt real — severing of a frog's spine. Yep, PG movies ain't what they used to be. The film's namesake is a mentally warped young man who ends up in a coma after frying his sexually active mom and her lover in the bathtub with an electric heater. Comatose in a small private hospital, Patrick becomes a guinea pig for the head doctor, who's obsessed with what happens at the moment of death. Enter the pretty, newly single nurse, who discovers that Patrick — mommy issues notwithstanding — isn't the helpless patient doc thinks he is.
It'd be easy to dismiss Patrick as Carrie in a coma, but director Richard Franklin (Psycho II) and horror scribe Everett DeRoche crafted a surprisingly thoughtful and stylish chiller that resonates with discussions of a patient's right to die and the emotional detachment of lifelong medical professionals.
Goblin — the band that scored countless Argento films — did one for Patrick for its Italian release. This nicely packaged DVD, however, contains a shockingly bland score by Queen's Brian May. Overall, Patrick works as both cinematic nostalgia and as a way to qualify the change in American filmgoer morality. —Paul Knoll
Lex the Impaler 4
Jules Jordan Video
Adult fans'll be well familiar with gifted African-American multi-talent Lexington Steele, a man who writes, directs, produces, acts and has a penis the size of Rhode Island. And, despite the "size doesn't matter" credo bandied about to help lesser-schweened men feel remotely decent about themselves, if this two-disc set is any indication, size is of the utmost importance to the ladies.
The victims of Steele's impalement include Jenny Hendrix, Gianna, Lisa Ann, Kelly Devine, Raven Black and the lovely, never-say-quit Tiffany Mynx, all offering a variety of looks, ages and sizes, and all bound by the enthusiastic adoration of a big member.
Mynx has been in the game for years, but if anything, her dedication to an inspired, slutty performance has only grown. Here the pale sweetie gorges on darkened beefsteak until her eyes water, then takes a colon fornication like the trouper she is.
Gianna — naturally stacked and pillow-assed — puts her all into a scene that offers Lex putting all of himself into her. Normally a cool customer, even Steele seems to be overcome by the sheer floppy pulchritude of her God-given chesticles. Mega MILF Lisa Ann (noted for her resemblance to one Sarah Palin, but with bigger boobs, and smarter) handles Lex's magic chocolate ride like a pro. Yet another excellent scene in some three and a half hours of nasty business. Highly recommended. —Fern LaBott