I’m pretty sure this name will ring a bell with genre fans; I mean the man produced one of the most iconic horror films of the 80’s with CUJO. He was an apprentice to the late great Sydney Pollack and he worked with Roger Corman on many films as a Second Unit Director. He began directing in the 70’s and really hit his stride with a string of films in the 80’s. He’s since gone on to direct a lot of TV stuff, and some short films. His career has winded down, but he’s certainly left his mark on the genre.
I actually found it rather difficult to decide on what I felt was his best, having watched a majority of his genre related efforts I was left with a few contenders to choose from. His films can be quite the hit or miss and certainly if you aren’t in the right mood they can come off more as a miss. The film that ended up winning my heart was CAT’S EYE, an anthology written by Stephen King (his first screenplay) based around a couple of his short stories and one specific for this film. I think it is a fair point that Stephen King’s material isn’t the easiest to film and they probably have a 50/50 chance of success. CAT’S EYE is one of those cases where it worked, King actually wrote a very solid screenplay and Teague was the right man for the job. I have said previously that King probably had the best pairing with Romero but his work with Teague isn’t that far off.
CAT’S EYE has three main stories, ‘Quitters Inc’, ‘The Ledge’ and ‘The General’ with the first two based upon short stories. ‘The General’ kind of wraps things up together a bit more as it really features the cat who is featured in the ‘wrap around’ segments. Each story is going to make the audience feel something different, as a kid one stuck out to me more and re-watching it older the same one stuck out. I’ll say first off they are all solid, and entertaining in their own right. The little nods to other works that Teague throws in are clever and very much at home here. The cast throughout are all great, with the standout being one James Woods and a young Drew Barrymore.
‘Quitters Inc’ was my favourite, and I remember this so well as a kid that watching it again brought back memories. I think I can attribute my anti-smoking stance to this film as those fella’s at Quitters Inc take smoking seriously and they’ll go to sadistic lengths to ensure you don’t! That is the basic plot, you have James Woods signing up to stop smoking, but he really can’t resist. Once their methods come into play it is both shocking and darkly humorous. It is played out well, expertly shot with some stunning visuals and of course a pretty awesome performance by James Woods. A big kudos to both Teague and King for their work with this one is definitely in order.
‘The Ledge’ is equally as sadistic however this one drags on a bit much and just doesn’t have enough interest. This might be the weakest link but it is still worth a watch with great turns from Robert Hays and the crazed Kenneth McMillan. ‘The General’ is quite entertaining and features Drew Barrymore in a role that King wrote specifically for her. It also brings the cat front and center and somehow it just seems to works. The story features a troll of sorts who is haunting Barrymore and the cat is there to help. The effects done here are pretty cool especially for the mid 80’s, it does look a tiny bit dated but impressive all the same. This one isn’t as sadistic as the other two and lacks the dark humour and it is played a little straighter. It still works and rounds out a fine film, this could have easily been a CREEPSHOW sequel; it felt very much in that same vein.
Again this was not an easy decision and anything of Teague’s that I deemed to be weak weren’t really all that bad overall. They had that ‘so bad its good’ vibe, and sure something like COLLISON COURSE isn’t a masterpiece but it had its moments, I mean what can you expect from a buddy cop film with Pat Morita and Jay Leno. I think the one that works the least, as an actual good film is WEDLOCK, but it remains a fun film and one that Jason Adams could easily feature on his Awfully Good column over at the Digital Dorm.
The film features a bit of an all-star cast with Rutger Hauer as the lead with Mimi Rogers and supporting roles from Joan Chen, James Remar, Stephen Tobolowsky, Glenn Plummer and even Danny Trejo. It is meant to be set in the future, yet there is nothing to indicate this, it feels like the least amount of effort went into the futuristic aspect. Its main story is that of a group of theives who steal some awesome loot, but Frank (Rutger) gets double crossed by his fiancé Noelle (Chen) and partner Sam (Remar). He gets caught and sent to prison but not before storing the loot away. This prison is rigged with a device that will explode if the prisoners try to escape, and everyone is after Sam’s loot. He goes on the run with female prisoner and token love interest Tracy (Mimi Rogers) and double-crossing from everyone ensues.
It is a really silly premise, and half the cast plays it way too seriously and the other half don’t. It sort of is directed in much the same way, and it felt like no one had any idea what sort of film they wanted to make. Rutger could act his way out of a paper bag; he’s easily the best part of the film. He does what he can as does Tobolowsky who is campy but entertaining. Chen is rather dreadful here, and it might be the worst performance I have seen her give. Rogers is fine and she was quite a stunning sight back in 1991. While this film isn’t a complete failure, it is fun for the most part and remains strangely entertaining. It is subjectable whether this is Teague’s worst, you may feel differently on the subject. It is like SHOWGIRLS where sure all these elements don’t work but it remains watchable and entertaining.
Teague isn’t so much a man of trademarks; each film of his is quite different. He doesn’t put on a repeat performance, changes it up genre wise and has worked with a wide range of talent. With that said he does have some and they are certainly interesting. I’ve noticed that Teague is quite the Spielberg fan, more specifically a JAWS fan. There are nods to the film in several of his works, more noticeably in CUJO and ALLIGATOR. Both films have homage’s to JAWS, with ALLIGATOR almost feeling like a semi-rip off, and CUJO using a very similar score. The main characters are always very strong, whether they be man, woman or child. Their will is what drives them, and rather than sit back and do nothing about their situation they over come the odds and do something about it. Teague is a bit of a master with the POV shots, and it is something he’s subtle about and never over-uses it. As I mentioned with CAT’S EYE he does like to put in nods to other things, and they are always fun to spot.
His entire filmography aside from maybe two titles could really fall into this category. However I have decided to go with ALLIGATOR. Now I first watched this the other day, and I flat out hated it. I was ready to place it as his worst work, but then I realised, I watched it when I was really ill and in a really bad mood (I had just seen THE THING “premake” of course and I was in a bad mood) and perhaps I needed to watch it again. I thought to myself ‘surely it isn’t that bad?’ and as I sat down to watch it prior to this write up, I actually really enjoyed myself and found that this was worth a watch.
Now this isn’t a perfect film, and it does feel like a JAWS rip-off but in the end it isn’t too bad. You have a fantastic lead with Robert Forster, a nicely placed urban legend and a creature that is both menacing and hilarious! This is B-movie goodness, and probably one of the better post-JAWS ones I have seen. It kind of takes itself seriously and it doesn’t (the same issue I had with WEDLOCK) but Forster knows how to go about it and he sells that alligator perfectly. The build up is handled pretty well, we know something is there but how long will it take everyone else too. The character build up is fine, it doesn’t drag on forever like it does with CUJO. The alligator itself looks a bit dated now but considering when this was made and how big they made it, it aint too shabby.
Teague plays up some cool tense scenes with some really neat kills, he actually manages to keep a good balance between story and kill scenes. The pacing after the initial 20 minutes is pretty solid, and it flows rather well. The script isn’t anything to write home about but everyone involved did their best. At the end of the day ALLIGATOR is a fun B-movie creature feature so just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Teague is a bit of a mixed bag, but the man tries and it’s evident that he does. If he has a weak script he certainly tries to overcome it and all of his work has a fun and entertaining factor to it. He’s an 80’s staple and his films from that time should be appreciated. It is a shame he didn’t do more horror in these most recent years but regardless his mark has been left. He’s a filmmaker I’d recommend seeking out, and one I am glad I got to re-visit. A big thanks to Eric Walkuski and reader Johnny for the suggestion.