BORN AGAIN (1978)

Part Watergate political-historical biopic but mostly Christian propaganda that includes veteran actor (and our personal favorite) Dana Andrews quoting C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity to a somewhat selfish, partially greedy and supposedly only-coincidentally guilty Richard Nixon lawyer Chuck Coulson thrown into jail; and that's where the good stuff occurs, especially thanks to the always-intense blaxploitation ace Raymond St. Jacques, the tough guy in the federal prison...

Who initially bullies and then protects Coulsin, played by Dean Jones, usually cast in Disney flicks as their then-modern-day Jimmy Stewart; thus that kind of man-next-door quality keeps this character-study down-home and intriguing albeit one-sided and self-promoting yet never boring but not altogether great either but, for what can be called a 2-hour cinematic Alter Call (resembling a Television Movie-of-the-Week), BORN AGAIN fits both the title and purpose, nicely enough to pass the time since these kind of preachy melodramas can often feel like eternity. Rates: ***/12

A KILLER IN THE FAMILY (TV MOVIE)

Year: 1983 Cast: Robert Mitchum, James Spader, Lance Kerwin, Eric Stoltz rates: **

Google a picture of the real life sons after they were arrested... Look at their hard, calloused faces, edgy, mean, deadly... Then watch as little-dipper eyed Lance Kerwin and docile Eric Stolz play the whining, kindhearted, manipulated, vulnerable, blue-eyed sons of the father they broke out of the jail... A father who kills an entire family including a small child...

Anyhow, if KILLER IN THE FAMILY were meaner and colder, like the real life Tison family, who were rampaging white trash serial killers throughout Arizona, unlike especially the law student son played by James Spader, supposedly wanting to kill his father while on the road, then it'd be more realistic and more an exploitation piece instead of a TV-movie that's not sure who exactly the bad guys are... 

Much of the blame is laid on the dad's convict friend. Sadly, this road movie could have been really good, but Robert Mitchum was far too old to play a man with sons that could be his grandchildren... With a melting face, he has one of those ballooned stomachs that looks hard as steel from drinking and he can hardly move his old bones... Miscast, to say the least... Again, Google the real Gary Tison and see the empty shell of a human being, around forty-years old and dead to life, dead to the world...

The lawyers of his sons/crime-spree partners must have made this TV-movie to keep them from spending too much time there, despite winding up on Death Row (before given life sentences instead, because of their age). They never seem to have anything to do with the murders or anything else, pretty much, short of the opening breakout, which seemed more daring than anything else. 

Either way, while not terrible and sometimes entertaining, this was a missed opportunity... Reminds one of the horrible Death of a Centerfold TV-movie, that was soon trumped by the incredible theatrical Star 80... Too bad nothing came out to straighten out this crooked mess... There's a Straight-to-Video job starring Robert Patrick from 2017, but... The best thing to come out of this was the Warner Archives DVD with the original blue outlined cover; a collector's edition but, sadly, what's inside there is merely a forgotten curio, for good reason.

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