A Movie A Day: Quint on THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY (1972)
There is a common sorrow here.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Today we get our third and final Shirley MacLaine movie of this run and it’s been a little bit of a disappointing run. Thank God THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY is a better movie than yesterday’s DESPERATE CHARACTERS, but it’s by no means a winner. This movie comes pre-EXORCIST (movie) and is a tale of possession, but a boring kind. You have a sweet younger brother to Shirley MacLaine’s Norah, the titular Joel Delaney (played by Perry King) who is having violent bursts and having no memory of them later. Turns out he’s being possessed by a Puerto Rican… you know this because in the big revealing evil full possession scene at the end he says Puta a lot, rolls his Rs and is dressed in leather with slicked back hair, wielding a switchblade. I guess if the Devil is going to possess a little girl she’ll look fucked up and have Mercedes McCambridge’s voice, so it’s only natural that if a well off white boy is possessed by a Puerto Rican spirit he’ll kill women and make little boys dance naked in front of him… Yeah, so like I said the movie isn’t a winner, but I will give it points for trying. There are a few shots in this flick featuring decapitated women that are genuinely creepy in a very Hammer Horror way. You know, the heads don’t look realistic at all, but the almost paper mache quality somehow heightens the WTF factor. And they really go fro broke with the ending, some may say they go too far. I don’t know where I fall on this issue. Is the threat to kids (and the subsequent naked boy dance) just cheap shock value or a real hard-edged, demented envelope-pushing cycle downward, showing the evil of the character? I’d have to think about it, but I must admit that I had no idea what was going to come next for much of the finale. MacLaine does better with her character, a definite precursor to Ellen Burstyn’s Chris MacNeil (with a little bit of Mia Farrow’s Rosemary Woodhouse thrown in for good measure). In fact, I don’t know how to pick this apart. Both THE EXORCIST and THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY were based on books published in 1971 and center on possession. THE EXORCIST focuses more on the spiritual aspect whereas today’s AMAD is more about solving the mystery behind a man’s condition… But there are definite benchmarks… hell, one character in today’s movie even utters a line that showed up almost word for word in THE EXORCIST “Hell, I don’t even smoke grass…” when asked if drugs might be an explanation. The direction by Waris Hussein is passable… He actually directed tomorrow’s AMAD (a comedy) as well as a movie I’m dying to see after years of hearing about it called MELODY reteaming OLIVER!s Jack Wild and Mark Lester about a ten year old boy and girl who decide to get married. What’s even worse is that a good friend of mine has (or had?) this movie on 16mm and I still haven’t seen it. I’m curious to compare Waris’ work here with tomorrow’s AMAD because while his work on POSSESSION isn’t remarkable, there are interesting visual flairs that pop up. He has a few great shots involving mirrors (nothing scary, just interesting compositions) and his reveal of the two big gore scenes are really well done. Final Thoughts: If you’re a horror completist and want to see Shirley MacLaine in a bizarre possession movie (like me) then yeah, give it a spin. It won’t make you want to tear your eyes out of your head like DESPERATE MEASURES did, but I don’t know if you’ll get more than a passing curiosity experience. It’s pretty devoid of atmosphere minus a few key scenes, but when it works it really does kind of hit you deep in the gut. I just don’t know how much that is due to a couple happy accidents or real technical skill of the crew/writers/directors involved. The schedule for the next 7 days is: Wednesday, August 6th: QUACKSER FORTUNE HAS A COUSIN IN THE BRONX (1970) Thursday, August 7th: START THE REVOLUTION WITHOUT ME (1970) Friday, August 8th: HELL IS A CITY (1960) Saturday, August 9th: THE PIED PIPER (1972) Sunday, August 10th: PARTNERS (1982) Monday, August 11th: BARRY LYNDON (1975) Tuesday, August 12th: THE SKULL (1965) Tomorrow we hit a film I didn’t know existed until I read Gene Wilder’s Autobiography KISS ME LIKE A STRANGER. When I read about his experiences doing a movie with a bizarre name like QUACKSER FORTUNE HAS A COUSIN IN THE BRONX I immediately hit Amazon and saw it was out on some small label DVD and purchased it. It co-stars Margot Kidder and that’s about all I know. Can’t wait to give it a spin tomorrow. I’m in Arkansas at the moment visiting my grandmother and great-grandmother (pushing 92), but I plan on keeping up with the column while here. Some good stuff coming up, so see you folks tomorrow! -Quint email@example.com
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Aug. 6, 2008, 2:24 a.m. CST
This is the first horror movie of the column! Woot! We actually have a lot of horror this month (yet strangely almost none in October), so keep a look out for some Bava, Christopher Lee and vampire stuff hitting in the coming weeks.
Aug. 6, 2008, 2:40 a.m. CST
by Duke of Hurl
Aug. 6, 2008, 2:42 a.m. CST
That you will not do Gremlins 2!!!
Aug. 6, 2008, 2:42 a.m. CST
by Duke of Hurl
I'm currently watching Mansion of the Living Dead aka La Mansión de los muertos vivientes. Soft core masquerades as horror. Eli Roth could learn a thing or two.
Aug. 6, 2008, 2:45 a.m. CST
I know the grandmother thing is important (mine is 95) but I know we, or at least most of us, appciate this, you are reminding us or introducing us to some great movies and some awful movies and some movies in between. Over in the OLEG thread in the Zone we're doing a similar movie viewing club, inspired by this column, we're not doing it every day, but we're doing it as we can<P>Finally and I don't mean this as a diss, because I HAVEN'T seen it, but I"m a little surprised you haven't seen Barry Lyndon
Aug. 6, 2008, 4:21 a.m. CST
Reading you reviews, especially for the movies I've seen, really illustrates what a movie lover you are, but it also makes me nostalgic for the Danny Peary Cult movies vols 1,2,3 and 4, and his "guide for the film fanatic books." this is gonna sound pompous(coz it is)but nobody should review movies until they have read his books.this is not so say that the writing here is bad. You'd know what i mean when you read them. Anyway enjoy quackser. The movie is a real one off.
Aug. 6, 2008, 4:46 a.m. CST
That's a great little Amicus picture. JOEL DELANEY was one of a slew of similar movies sniffing around the same territory as THE EXORCIST: THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD, TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER, THE MEPHISTO WALTZ, I DON'T WANT TO BE BORN and so on..., heck even THE OMEN. Good cheesy fun if ylou're in the mood for po-faced 'serious' horror.
Aug. 6, 2008, 4:48 a.m. CST
Also, I had a book of his called OMNI'S SCREEN FLIGHTS, SCREEN FANTASIES - an excellent book on late 70s/early 80s scifi - I'd love to read that again and see if it holds up.
Aug. 6, 2008, 4:52 a.m. CST
Reading through that, and having not seen it, I pictured the film as having a similar, if slightly more camp, vibe to the initial possession scene in Constantine. Also, while we're on the subject of great-grandmothers (?!??!) I was horrified to discover that upon reaching 100, centenarians no longer receive a telegram from the Queen, but an automated birthday card. My 98 year-old grandmother is much displeased.
Aug. 6, 2008, 4:58 a.m. CST
you have to apply for it; at 100: Shocking. <BR> Looking forward to Barry Lyndon. I've been catching up with Kubrick recently and have yet to watch both this and Lolita. Clockwork was brilliant, though I prefered the look of the novel in my head to that of the movie; Dr Strangelove is entertaining and clever, if not hilarious; and 2001 was ... odd. Beautiful, but odd.
Aug. 6, 2008, 5:23 a.m. CST
There is really something depressing about seeing sexy, sweet Shirley MacLaine in a movie with decapitated heads hanging from poles. This movie is definitely valuable for the way it shows how the societal shock of the Manson murders manifested in the mainstream. It's a Hollywood movie with a Hollywood star going some very dark places. It's also ineptly made trash. If this sounds like your cup of tea, fine, but I hate this movie.
Aug. 6, 2008, 5:47 a.m. CST
have you seen Hell Drivers? It'd go great after Hell Is A City. Can't beat a bit of Stanley Baker, why aren't there any actors that manly these days?
Aug. 6, 2008, 5:59 a.m. CST
And yep, Stanley Baker was a bit like a decent British John Wayne. Though Ray Stevenson (especially in ROME) showed he could do both brutish and tender in a similar way to Baker. Let's hope he doesn't get bogged down exclusively in thick-ear action stuff.
Aug. 6, 2008, 7:04 a.m. CST
you got a shoutout on Conan O'Brien: http://tinyurl.com/6jeyxz
Aug. 6, 2008, 7:06 a.m. CST
I know not many people join the discussion, but I'm sure they are reading!
Aug. 6, 2008, 7:22 a.m. CST
by Abominable Snowcone
Eat it, Shrek bitches!
Aug. 6, 2008, 7:28 a.m. CST
I resemble that remark! Seriously, though, when you described the possessing spirit, I kept picturing a cross between Willie the 'rican hoodlum from "Ghost" and el chupacabra. As as side note, I've really enjoyed the column so far (just saw "the Matchmaker", BTW, and agree wholeheartedly w/your review). Keep up the good work, man.
Aug. 6, 2008, 9:04 a.m. CST
I just love possession movies. The very concept itself has so many possibilities. Too bad it's been done so many times in the same old fashion. Hopefully Jennifer's Body can add something new. At least Diablo Cody is a Herschell Gordon Lewis fan. And Megan Fox is worth staring at. I'd like to invade her body, if you know what I mean. And I think you do.<p> I'm pathetic.
Aug. 6, 2008, 9:30 a.m. CST
Have you seen THE CHILDREN'S HOUR, SWEET CHARITY, & THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY? I would have gone with those. And that's assuming you've seen THE APARTMENT.
Aug. 6, 2008, 10:25 a.m. CST
Aug. 6, 2008, 10:48 a.m. CST
Quint, you should track down this 70's made-for-tv thriller starring Joan Hackett. Scared me silly when I was a youngster. Also features Harrison Ford and PJ Soles. Probably not on dvd & probably dated, but very scary for tv at the time.
Aug. 6, 2008, 3:17 p.m. CST
by blonde redhead
but it's because of patrick mcgoohan.
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