• LUCKY LADY is a frothy, good-natured adventure film of the type that used to be turned out with some regularity 15 or 20 years ago. Gene Hackman, Liza Minnelli and Burt Reynolds portray happy-go-lucky rumrunners, plying their trade between Mexico and California on a small but speedy boat, and fighting off big-time gangsters and Federal agents with varying success. Liza Minnelli, as the prime mover behind most of the mayhem and adventure, makes the most of her opportunity to parade what has become her patented brand of kookery. Hackman's and Reynolds' roles seem tame by comparison, though they prove their mettle during several well-staged fight scenes. The three of them form a menage a trois, with humor and style that liven up the film's overly long landbound portions. The government is represented by a Coast Guard patrol boat, commanded by a paranoiac straight out of Dr. Strangelove, who is bent on enforcing any law at any price. However, he is less of a threat than a group of mobsters attempting to put the small-time operators out of business and monopolize the liquor market for themselves. Eventually the independents, including our heroes, band together against the gangsters in a climactic naval battle that would do credit to a war movie. Lucky Lady has very little to say politically about prohibition, but its choice of heroes shows that the filmmakers' hearts are in the right place. Rated "PG." —Charles F. Barr
• HEDDA is a stage play transmuted into a movie, and unfortunately that's exactly what it looks like. This static, stilted production of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler is reminiscent of the late, unlamented American Film Theatre of a few seasons back. Ibsen's mordant look at a bored 19th century housewife, trapped with a weak and pedantic husband, lacks the moral fervor of many of his earlier works. The passions of the central characters are turned inward, toward self-destruction. Despite the superior plotting that is Ibsen's hallmark, none of the characters is positive enough to inspire sympathy or identification. Glenda Jackson delivers a very narrow interpretation of Hedda, projecting energy without emotion. (She was reportedly better in the recent stage version.) The movie's single set, a modest cottage full of overstuffed furniture, becomes unbearable after a while. If any of Ibsen's plays can be successfully converted to film, Hedda Gabler certainly isn't one. Rated "G." —C.F.B.
• "Who's paying for all this?" asks one of James Caan's hired guns in the final scenes of Sam Peckinpah's KILLER ELITE as they come upon a mothball fleet of hundreds of discarded battleships stored by the Navy. It is, of course, a rhetorical question (although I suspect the hired gun does not pay federal income taxes). For Peckinpah the more compelling question is what are we paying for and why, and not surprisingly, there are no justifiable answers. Caan and his partner, Robert Duvall, are highly-paid killers who work for ComTeg, a "private" corporation funded by the CIA to carry out special projects. For reasons that are never adequately explained, Duvall shoots and maims Caan just before defecting. After partially rehabilitating himself, Caan accepts an assignment that appears to offer an opportunity to get even with Duvall and becomes enmeshed in an obscure and intricate intrigue which he never fully understands, nor is it always clear to him who the enemy is. The enemy, says Peckinpah, is everyone involved in the power game, including the No. 1 man at ComTeg, played by an appropriately jaded and desensitized Gig Young, who is using Caan to do some housecleaning for him. The result is a vision of power gone mad in the name of national security, power that is beyond the control of the government that created it, existing only for its own aggrandizement and fulfillment. It is a pessimistic vision, relieved somewhat by Caan's enlightenment at the end of the film as he turns down the No. 2 job at ComTeg and sails away. Killer Elite is a great little film, not simply because its ideological orientation is praiseworthy, but also because Peckinpah is a man who knows how to make an exciting movie, a master of suspense and action. The film is gripping, beautifully acted throughout and certainly his most satisfying effort since Straw Dogs. Rated "PG."—James F. Carey
• BARR'S "BESTS"
Here are my picks for the "bests" of 1975, a below-average movie year:
Best picture: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
Best actor: Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon.
Best actress: Liza Minnelli in Lucky Lady.
Best supporting actor: Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws.
Best supporting actress: Eileen Heckart in The Hiding Place. —C.F.B.