"The Haunting of Morella"

The Haunting of Morella (1990) is a Roger Corman produced titty flick based on a story of the same name by Edgar Allen Poe. Jim Wynorsky directed, and tried to include homages to both early Italian horror masters and Corman's Poe films fro the 60s. Morella, a witch, is put to death via crucifixion and haveing her eyes put out with a hot poker in colonial America. She warns her husband that she will return in the body of their baby daughter, Lenora. Cut to the future, and Lenora is nearly 18, but has been kept a near prisoner by her father, who is now blind. She is under the care of her governess, Lana Clarkson.

When a handsome attorney from town arrives to talk with Lenora about her inheritance, her father refuses to let them meet. Clarkson arranges the meeting anyway, and it is not long before we learn that Clarkson actually has Morella's best interests at heart. Lenora and Morella are both played by Nicole Eggert, and her nude scenes are done by a body double. Clarkson shows breasts and buns, and is also seen in a pair of wet panties that reveals a lot of detail at the juncture of her thighs. We also have breasts and buns from Maria Ford as Clarkson's lesbian lover, and from Gail Harris and Deborah Dutch as virgin sacrifices. I am getting the idea that virginity has always been a serious liability, much the same as winning Aztec championships.

IMDb readers say 3.9. It does drag on way too long, especially for a film with an obvious outcome. Still, it concentrates late 80s scream queens in one handy place, and some of the sets and photography are rather good for a small budget film. This is a C-.

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  • Body Double (1, 2, 3, 4)
  • Deborah Dutch (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  • Gail Harris (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Lana Clarkson (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21)
  • Maria Ford (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)

  • Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy)

    Heaven's Gate (1980):

    For those of you who have been living in a mountain monastery, this film is the standard by which all other underperforming high budget fiascos are measured. Waterworld was called Kevin's Gate, Sliver was Evans' Gate, und so weiter.

    The version of Heaven's Gate on the DVD has rarely been seen. It is the first version screened for the public in New York on November 18, 1980, and runs just less than four hours. The response to it was so negative that the nationwide roll-out was postponed and a shorter version was prepared for national distribution. Amazingly enough, the 3:39 edit is not the longest known version. Before the public ever saw Heaven's Gate, director Michael Cimino had screened a 5 1/2 hour version for the studio execs who had originally approved a $7.8 million dollar budget and had watched the total costs increase to more than forty million dollars as of the day of that screening. It is amazing to me that Cimino survived that meeting. I'm pretty sure that if I had been head of the studio, I would have killed him right then and there, irrespective of the legal consequences. At least his death would have created a big enough scandal to bring curious people into the theaters.

    In fact, I would like to see a movie about that screening day, starting from the moment the lights went up. Now that would be a good movie. Those studio boys must have had some tense talks that night, because every man in the room must have realized that the studio's money was lost forever, and that they would either have to write off the forty million or approve even more for a rescue effort. The smartest boys in the room must have known right then and there that their company would surely go belly up no matter which choice they made, and that their own negligence had created the financial debacle. Some of the people in the room had greenlighted the project personally, and all of them had contributed toward giving Cimino a free hand. United Artists had given Cimino such free reign that the studio had assigned Joann Carelli, Cimino's girlfriend, to be the studio's line producer on the project. It was her job to check his excesses. The studio suits could have skated through their lax management techniques and might even have laughed off all the budgetary excesses if a blockbuster had resulted, but when they saw what they had received for their money that day, they knew their heads would soon roll, and that many of them could never again work in the industry. It's surprising there weren't any suicides that day, ala the 1929 stock market crash.

    Yup, I'd go to a movie about that.

    NOTE: There has been no fictional treatment of that episode, but a documentary film has been released.

    After the November 18th public screening in New York, there was a party at The Four Seasons. Virtually nobody attended. That was a harbinger of the bad news which would come in the New York Times the next day. Respected film critic Vincent Canby called Heaven's Gate "an unqualified disaster" and pointed out that it "fails so completely that you might suspect Cimino sold his soul to the Devil to obtain the success of The Deer Hunter, and the Devil has just come around to collect."

    In a completely unprecedented move, United Artists immediately canceled the L.A. premiere and withdrew the film in order to try to cut it to a reasonable length. When it was re-opened in April of 1981, in a version pared down to about two and a half hours, it grossed a pathetic $1.3 million in 830 theaters. Some people say that the film's total cost had climbed close to $100 million dollars including the promotional and distributional costs. Andy Albeck, the head of the studio, resigned between the New York premiere and the L.A. re-release. He had been with United Artists for 32 years.

    In a sense, Heaven's Gate was an important film in the history of the industry. The film not only broke the United Artists studio and destroyed its executives, but changed the entire system for making movies. Directors had taken control of the industry in the 1970s and the best ones could even obtain "final cut." There was nothing then present in the system to rein in the talent and force it to be cohesive, coherent or succinct. Heaven's Gate forced the studios to stand up and take notice of the problem, and thus to take control back from the directors so that the Cimino debacle could not be repeated. Martin Scorsese said, "Heaven's Gate undercut all of us. I knew at the time that it was the end of something. That something had died." Francis Ford Coppola said, "There was a coup d'etat that happened after Heaven's Gate. The studios were outraged that directors ... had all the control. So they took the control back."

    The final casualty of the film was, of course, Michael Cimino.

    • In November of 1979, because of his continued tinkering with Heaven's Gate, Cimino was fired as the director of The King of Comedy. The job went to some kid named Martin Scorsese.
    • In December 1981, Cimino could have had a second chance. He was signed to direct Footloose, under a contractual agreement that if the film went over its budget of $7.5 million, Cimino would have to cover the additional amounts himself. The following month, just as the movie was about to begin shooting, Cimino asked the producer for an additional $250,000 to rewrite the script and for an indefinite delay of production until the script changes were completed. The producer promptly fired him and hired Herbert Ross to direct.

    • In the last fifteen years Cimino has directed exactly one film, and that one (The Sunchaser, which I haven't seen) went straight to video in the USA. His previous film had been a disaster, The Desperate Hours, a film in the "so bad it's good" category.

    So is Heaven's Gate really that bad?

    Of course not. It isn't a bad film in the sense that it is incompetent. Indeed, many of the bad things you have heard about it are wildly exaggerated. Heaven's Gate is not a bottom-dwelling grade-Z movie. Cimino is not Ed Wood, so he doesn't suffer from lunatic ideas. He is not Kevin Costner, so he is not susceptible to mawkish sentimentality. Michael Cimino did have a monumental ego, but he also had great talent, and there is a lot of it on display in this film. There is some rich characterization and some of the actors deliver excellent performances. Chris Walken plays a complex good/bad character, the most richly written in the film, and turns in possibly the most nuanced performance of his career. Sam Waterston, Jeff Bridges, Brad Dourif and Mickey Rourke are good in small roles. Many of the visuals are artfully and beautifully composed. Filmgoers were actually awed by some scenes.

    But the film has two monumental problems: the pacing and the sound editing.

    First and foremost, the pacing is languorous. Heaven's Gate can be exquisite from time to time, but overall it is an exercise in tedium. 

    With the notable exception of "Run Lola Run", Heaven's Gate may be the only movie longer than the events it portrays. At least it seems that way. Of course, the events in "Lola" occupy about 20 minutes of real time, while Heaven's Gate spans 20 years. Oh, Lord, this is one slow-movin' film! And all the ponderous gravity of its four hour running time is brought to bear merely to develop the ever-hackneyed Western subject of "the farmers versus the cowmen."

    It's kinda like watching Oklahoma! without the singin'. 

    I have exaggerated, of course, but not by much. Several scenes are shot in real time or nearly so.

    • In the beginning of the film, John Hurt delivers the Harvard class valedictory, and we hear every single word of the speech.
    • Following the ceremony, the graduates perform a long celebratory waltz number in the courtyard. This might have been a beautiful scene because the costumes were spectacular and the dance was meticulously choreographed. Unfortunately, the director spoiled the impact of the scene by including every single beat of music.
    • Kris Kristofferson and Isabelle Huppert go for a buckboard ride for thrills and we see almost every minute of their journey from the Kristofferson Cam as if it we were supposed to feel the experience, like one of those 360 degree Disney things.
    • At one point a group holds a roll-call vote and we hear pretty much every member give his "aye".
    • Oh, there are other examples as well, but you get the point.

    The first two tedious scenes at Harvard actually place take place in the introduction, before the story even starts, in what seems to be an all-but-irrelevant prologue. This may be the only movie in history which put some people to sleep before the story even began! By the way, that marginally relevant prologue was never in the studio-approved version of the screenplay, and was not even written until the filming was supposed to have been completed. It was a Cimino brainstorm that just had to be added, and was filmed eight months after the rest of the film.

    Boy, that was worth the wait.

    Those scenes not only droned on at a length unnecessary to make their points, but Cimino had spent millions on elements of those scenes which were not critical to the presentation, arguably not even relevant. To film the tacked-on Harvard prologue, Cimino flew the entire crew to Oxford, which played the part of Harvard. To get the right centerpiece for the graduation waltz, Cimino uprooted a gigantic tree from a nearby town and re-planted it in the Oxford courtyard!


    The second major problem in the film is the sound track. In fact, audiences found this even more irritating than the slow pace. Cimino decided to throw out the old movie saw which states that the audience should always hear what the actors are saying, even if that would not actually be possible in the situation being portrayed. In the old fashioned style of Hollywood movies, we can hear Nelson Eddy even if he is standing in front of a foghorn, or in a rioting crowd. The background noises are never loud enough to drown out the principal dialogue. OK, that is obviously not realistic, so maybe that old chestnut needed some cracking, or at least some tweaking, in the mode of Robert Altman. But what did Cimino choose as his alternative to the trite conventional approach? Complete anarchy. We sometimes can't hear what the main actors are saying over locomotive noises, raging rivers, and angry crowds. Let's face it, Kris Kristofferson's mumbling is difficult to decipher under ideal conditions, but with ambient noises he's nigh on to impossible.

    Cimino seemed to save all of his legendary attention to detail for visual details, and to ignore or deprecate the sound problems. Cimino brought an authentic period locomotive to the set over thousands of miles of track, on a circuitous route mandated by the fact that the 19th century engine didn't fit into 20th century tunnels. He recreated every scene in the film from authentic period photographs. Yet he wouldn't spend a few minutes to get the dialogue comprehensible. In addition to the ambient noise issues, Cimino allowed Isabelle Huppert to misread some dialogue in the final cut, even though a fix would have required nothing more than re-taking a simple two shot. Cimino's editor, William Reynolds, a competent old-time pro who had edited The Godfather and The Sting, told his director about the dialogue problems, but the auteur huffed, "I don't know what you're talking about. I can understand every word." Reynolds knew that was only the case because Cimino had written those words, but he could not convince his boss to make any changes.

    I guess it would be remiss of me to point out that the film's claims to be based on real events are, to say the least, fanciful, although the authenticity claims of the marketing campaign persist to this day. The current DVD box says, "this lavish epic Western retells the true story of Wyoming's famous Johnson County War -  a brutal conflict in which wealthy cattlemen, backed by the U.S. government, hired mercenaries to murder 125 immigrant settlers." In the real Johnson County War, two guys died, one of whom was a notorious cattle rustler. The  U.S. Government was involved, but only insofar as the U.S. Cavalry arrived to break up the standoff before any further casualties could occur. The troopers did, in fact, take the mercenaries into protective custody, thus saving their lives, but the invaders were arrested and jailed - at least temporarily - and were driven from the county permanently. In other words, Michael Cimino's dedication to the historical accuracy of his visuals did not extend to his facts. When informed of this, he said, "It was not my intention to write a history book. The specific facts of that incident recounted in a literal way would be of no interest. One uses history in a very free way."

    Or to put it another way, if history refutes our preconceptions, we need to change it.

    Bottom line:

    Heaven's Gate has some beautiful visuals created from period photographs, and some good moments scattered through the film, but in general is a bloated and tiresome cliché with sound problems. On the other hand, it doesn't deserve its reputation as an utter disaster. If you ever watch it (which I don't recommend), you'll see that there is tremendous talent on display, but it is out of control.


    Other Crap:

    Other Crap archives. May also include newer material than the links above, since it's sorta in real time.

    Click here to submit a URL for Other Crap




    Here are the latest movie reviews available at scoopy.com.


    • The yellow asterisks indicate that I wrote the review, and am deluded into thinking it includes humor.
    • If there is a white asterisk, it means that there isn't any significant humor, but I inexplicably determined there might be something else of interest.
    • A blue asterisk indicates the review is written by Tuna (or Junior or Brainscan, or somebody else besides me)
    • If there is no asterisk, I wrote it, but am too ashamed to admit it.

    Jr's Polls
    Finally...here are the results of our recent "Most Overrated Movie" poll

    .Email Scoopy Jr. if suggestions for future polls.

    Here are the results of our previous polls:
    The Top 20 Nude Scenes of 2004
    The Best Nude Film Debuts of the 80s
    The Best Nude Film Debuts of the 90s
    Which actress has been the most convincing playing a stripper.
    Who has the best bum in Hollywood?
    Best All Time Television Comedy
    Best Nudity in an Oscar-winning performance
    The Top 20 Best Straight Sex Scenes
    Best Lesbian Love Scenes

    'Caps and comments by Hankster:

    Today is an all "Hankster Light Day. First up is Angelina Jolie in "Gia",cleavage, bra and then showing her beautiful body topless.

    • Angelina Jolie (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

    Then we move on to Pamela Anderson in "Scary Movie 3". She kept her clothes on, but did display a whole bunch of awesome cleavage.

    • Pamela Anderson (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

    'Caps and comments by Oz:

    Judith Godreche is down to her underwear in Quicksand and some unknowns are topless.

    "Chicago Joe and the Showgirl"
    No nudity in Chicago Joe and the Showgirl but there are nice caps of Patsy Kensit and Emily Lloyd.

    "Class Reunion"
    Misty Rowe flashes her breasts in Class Reunion and Shelley Smith is supposed to be doing the same in a photograph, although it doesn't look like her.

    • Misty Rowe (1, 2)
    • Shelley Smith (1, 2)

    "The Entertainer"
    A bit of Shirley Anne Field's leg in the 1960 British film, The Entertainer.

    • Shirley Anne Field (1, 2)

    "How to Beat the High Co$t of Living"
    An upskirt by Jessica Lange in How to Beat the High Co$t of Living and Jane Curtin flashes her breasts, although it is obviously a body double.

    "Dumb and Dumberer"
    No nudity in Dumb and Dumberer just lots of cleavage and pokies by Mimi Rogers, Rachel Nichols, Cheri Oteri and some unknowns.

    "The Job"
    Daryl Hannah is an assassin in The Job. She is topless but we can see nothing.

    • Daryl Hannah (1, 2, 3)

    "The Favor"
    It's all sex appeal by Elizabeth McGovern and Harley Jane Kozak in The Favor.

    • Elizabeth McGovern (1, 2)
    • Harley Jane Kozak (1, 2, 3)

    "The Last Casino"
    A fair bit of cleavage by Katharine Isabelle in The Last Casino.

    • Katharine Isabelle (1, 2)

    "Outlaw Blues"
    It's the same again by Susan Saint James in Outlaw Blues, not that she had much to boast about.

    • Susan Saint James (1, 2)

    "Sex and the Single Mom"
    Gail O'Grady is the single mom in Sex and the Single Mom and Danielle Panabaker is her daughter. Gail exposes her breasts, although it is probably a body double, and Danielle is in her underwear.

    "Hollywood Homicide"
    It's close but there's no nudity in Hollywood Homicide by Ragan Wallake and Lena Olin.

    Jennifer Jason Leigh
    (1, 2, 3, 4)

    Kitt 'caps of Leigh topless and going full frontal in scenes from the 1985 Paul Verhoeven movie, "Flesh & Blood".

    Janel Moloney
    Paget Brewster

    DeadLamb collages featuring some Prime Time Skin as seen in the made-for-TV movie, "Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution". "West Wing" co-star Moloney plays Amber Frey and shows pokies and poses semi-nude (black bars over the goods). Paget Brewster looks fantastic while showing a bit of cleavage.

    Margot Stilley
    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

    We frist ran these back in February, but since Scoop has beem covering the films of Michael Winterbottom, it seemed like a good time to revisit these LC 'caps. Here is the former model in scenes from the controversial UK movie "9 Songs" (2004). We see every inch of her body (including close-up gyno views) as she bares all, masturbates and has 100% genuine sex on screen.

    Reese Witherspoon
    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

    The Skin-man takes a look at Witherspoon's first and only on screen nudity in scenes from "Twilight".

    Mail Bag
    Subject: Danica Patrick

    Hey Scoops,
    Scoop, I was watching Fox News this morning and according to Lynn St. James, Danica Paatrick has done some risque posing, if not totally nude. She didn't say for sure.

    I looked on the web and found some of her from FHM magazine but nothing I would write home about. Do you (or anyone out in Scoopy-land) know of or have any pics to share?


    Pat Reeder www.comedy-wire.com
    Pat's comments in yellow...

    Try Horizontal Stripes - Friday, both the prosecution and defense in Michael Jackson's trial rested. Next comes Michael's toughest choice: what to wear for the verdict. Two personal tailors have been creating a new outfit every day and driving 90 miles to deliver it. One told the L.A. Times that the first day, they had him all in white to suggest pure innocence, but people got upset, so they switched to darker suits accented with epaulets, gold braid, brocade, faux reptile fabric or British military medals. He said they have several tailors who can't work fast enough because "when we get together with Michael, it's show time."

  • Same thing his defense attorneys say.
  • Nothing makes a man look less like a gay pedophile than an ice cream suit covered with brocade and epaulets.
  • The velvet "Little Lord Fauntleroy" suit was not a good idea.
  • The combination of the white suit and Michael's face kept blinding the jurors.
  • Just in case Michael is sent to prison, I'd suggest something with cast iron pants.

    Imagine Our Sadness - A British government study found that the penthouse may be the worst place to live in case of an emergency. In three separate tests, firefighters who climbed 28 floors carrying emergency equipment were too exhausted and overheated to commit to battling the fire for more than a minute or so.

  • If it's Trump's penthouse, the firefighters might decide it's in such bad taste, let it burn.
  • The firefighters could land on the helipad on the roof, but the penthouse owners would say, "Sorry, that's private."

  • A quick site note
    Hey gang, we invite you to check out our new affiliate program at Scoopycash.com.

    If you have your own site or blog, sign up today and earn some extra cash in 2005 by promoting the Fun House!