The Top 10 Worst Movies I Saw in 2022

My worst movies list of 2022 is different from that of the previous year. This time, I’ll be talking about more films that were “so bad they were bad”, as only three of these movies were disappointments. The Dishonorable Mentions portion of the list has also returned! Though I did see more good movies than bad, I couldn’t avoid coming across a “stinker” every now and then. I like to think I’ll, one day, see less than ten films for my annual worst list. But someday has not come this year, as the title of this article suggests. As I’ve stated in past lists, I did not write my list to be mean-spirited or negative. It’s just a way to express my own, honest opinion. Since some of these films have been reviewed on my blog, I will provide links to those reviews.

Dishonorable Mentions

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Vows We Have Made, A Place for Annie, Swim Instructor Nightmare, Nikki & Nora: Sister Sleuths, The Corsican Brothers (1985), and Donnie Brasco (I only watched forty minutes of the film before turning it off)

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10. The New Adventures of Heidi

In 2022, I was hoping to finally find my coveted “so bad, it’s good” movie. Sadly, The New Adventures of Heidi was not it. As I said in my review, this film is “spectacularly average”. The more I think about the 1978 made-for-tv movie, the less justifiable reasons I can think of for the project’s existence. Yes, The New Adventures of Heidi was intended as a “modern” re-telling of Johanna Spyri’s story. But the movie didn’t feel unique enough, despite all the changes. Every year I’ve participated in the So Bad It’s Good Blogathon, there has been a pattern between movies that turned out ok and movies that were just disappointing. Hopefully, in 2023, I can break this pattern.

Take 3: The New Adventures of Heidi Review

9. Love in Wolf Creek

When I first read the synopsis for Love in Wolf Creek, I was excited at the idea of a “cozier” story filled with adventure and excitement. The 2022 television film seemed better on paper than in practice. For a movie titled Love in Wolf Creek, there was very little romance in the story. The writing was weaker than I hoped, filled with scenarios that were too unrealistic for my liking. This project was too ambitious for INSP, the network who created the film. It was so disappointing, I didn’t bother watching its sequel, Christmas in Wolf Creek.

8. Harvey (1950)

I think the 1972 Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation of Harvey is better than its 1950 predecessor. While I’m aware how controversial my opinion is, the 1972 film had more success executing its intended points. A mistake the 1950 movie makes is trying to be a comedy and a drama. This decision led the comedy to not only be underutilized, but also showcased medical negligence in a way that didn’t sit well with me. “Magical realism” was lacking in the 1950 film. This took away any opportunity for the story to be charming and whimsical. When I reviewed Harvey back in January, it was the most disappointing movie I saw in 2022. Now, eleven months later, the 1950 picture still holds that title.

Take 3: Harvey (1950) Review

7. Journey

The 1995 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation made the same mistake Durango did: not giving the audience a reason to care about the characters and their story. In the case of Journey, the creative team failed to provide explanations for the characters’ choices. At the beginning of the film, the protagonist’s mother, Min, abandons her family, claiming she hates her parents. But the script never explains why she made this decision. Even when there are cut-away scenes featuring Min, she isn’t doing anything significant. How am I expected to care about Min’s choice affecting her family when I don’t even know why she left in the first place?

6. My Mom Made Me Do It

According to a synopsis I read for this 2022 Lifetime film, the protagonist, Jade, turns to stealing in order to help her mom pay the bills. Both the title and synopsis turned out to be a lie because 1) Jade’s decisions were made on her own and 2) Jade never steals anything. What she does instead is crash wealthy people’s parties and photographs their belongings. Other issues contained in this movie are weak lead performances and characters who make one dumb choice after another. I will admit there was at least one effective plot twist. But I wish it had taken place in a better film.

Harvey (1950) poster created by Universal Pictures

5. The Sundowners (1960)

For a little while, I thought The Sundowners was going to be the worst movie I saw this year. Even though I was proven wrong, the 1960 film has still remained in my top five. Like I said in my review, one of the worst things you can do as a film-maker is waste your audience’s time. The story felt longer than necessary, which made the movie two hours and thirteen minutes not well spent. One of my biggest issues with The Sundowners was its “bait and switch” ending. While I won’t go into detail about the ending, as I don’t want to spoil the film, I will say it was cruel for both the characters and the audience.

Take 3: The Sundowners (1960) Review

4. The North Avenue Irregulars

This movie attempts to answer the question; “Wouldn’t it be funny if a group of women came together to solve a mystery”? By the time The North Avenue Irregulars was released in 1979, that question made the film dated on arrival, as there were several television programs from the ‘70s featuring at least one female character solving mysteries or fighting crime. The movie’s creative team told too many types of stories, yet failed at all of them. One minute, the film felt like a precursor to the Mitford series, revolving around a preacher trying to live his best life. The next minute, the film turns into a gangster heist picture, paired with car chases that were longer than necessary. Honestly, I wish this movie was a Scooby Doo-esque story about the film’s fictional band, Strawberry Shortcake. Maybe then the movie would seem more timeless.

3. Lake Effects

For the first time in 18 Cinema Lane history, all the movies in my worst list’s top three are Hallmark productions. Accepting the bronze is the 2012 film, Lake Effects. This movie has so many Hallmark movie clichés, you could create a bingo game around them. You could also create a bingo game around the many storylines found in this script. Lake Effects is a production that relies on style over substance. While Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia was captured well on film, there’s only so much the movie’s creative team could do with the weak script at their disposal. In my review from August, I stated how the movie seemed forgotten over the years. Its poor quality makes it not worth remembering.

Take 3: Lake Effects Review

2. A Boyfriend for Christmas

In 2019 and 2020, a Hallmark Christmas movie ended up in the top three of my annual worst movies list. History is kind of repeating itself with A Boyfriend for Christmas in second place. Like Lake Effects, the 2004 film contained a weak script. But in A Boyfriend for Christmas, I only liked two minor parts of the story. The lack of Christmas magic made my movie viewing experience unenjoyable. It was one of those stories that became worse the longer I watched it. I know this movie is one of the most beloved titles in Hallmark’s cinematic library. Honestly, though, I found it over-rated.

Take 3: A Boyfriend for Christmas Review

1. Francesca Quinn, PI

Remember when I said one of the worst things a film-maker can do is waste their audience’s time? Well, another worst thing a film-maker can do is disrespect their audience’s intelligence. As I watched Francesca Quinn, PI, I was given the impression the film’s creative team didn’t want me to solve the mystery alongside the protagonist. That’s because Francesca explained things that didn’t need explaining. Despite Francesca being a professional private investigator, she constantly made decisions an amateur detective would likely make. Her lack of personality didn’t help either. According to IMDB, Francesca Quinn, PI could replace the Mystery 101 series. The reason is “the main characters’ relationship and the crime at the end of Deadly History are the same as the main characters’ relationship and crime in Francesca Quinn, PI”. If this is the case, the Mystery 101 fans, including myself, deserve so much better.

A Boyfriend for Christmas poster created by Hallmark Entertainment,  MAT IV,  Alpine Medien Productions, Larry Levinson Productions, Gaiam Entertainment, and Hallmark Channel 

Have fun in 2023.

Sally Silverscreen

The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2022

As the sun begins to set on 2022, it’s time to publish my best and worst movies of the year lists! Last year, every film on my best list had been reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane. But that’s not the case this time around. For this list, only two movies were not reviewed, while another movie served as an editorial subject. Any film I covered on my blog will have a link included in this post. I’m thankful another year was filled with more good movies than bad. I’ll even have more titles in my Honorable Mentions! While these lists have become great traditions on their own, the variety of this collection of films has become another tradition. So, without any delay, let’s begin the list of the best movies I saw in 2022!

Honorable Mentions

Cut, Color, Murder, Sailor Moon S: The Movie, Cyrano de Bergerac (1950), Children of a Lesser God, Sweet Revenge: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Honeymoon, Honeymurder, The Princess and the Pirate, Dirty Little Secret, Singin in the Rain, McBride: Tune in for Murder, McBride: Dogged, McBride: Requiem, Hugo, Akeelah and the Bee, The Shoplifting Pact, and Secrets at the Inn

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10. Fiddler on the Roof

When I reviewed the 1971 musical back in February, I said it was too early to say whether it would be one of the best movies I saw this year. But Fiddler on the Roof captivated me so much, the film ended up on my annual top ten list! I described the movie as a well-made quilt, with each of the film’s strengths representing a different quilt piece. The inclusion of Jewish faith/culture also gave the project a unique identity by asking questions and discussing topics that aren’t often found in musicals. Looking back on this movie, Fiddler on the Roof was three hours well spent. It’s a special project in both the world of musicals and cinema. I hope to check out more Jewish cinematic stories in 2023!

Take 3: Fiddler on the Roof Review

9. The Lost Empire/The Monkey King

Out of all the movies on my best list for 2022, The Lost Empire/The Monkey King is the most unique one! A fantasy film based on Chinese folklore, this was an imaginative production I enjoyed watching. The story was sometimes thought-provoking and even somewhat educational, as it included literature related discussions. Strong acting performances brought to life characters who seemed believable. The set designs boasted a realistic and fantastical setting, which effectively presented the illusion of an immersive world. I wish Hallmark created more movies like The Lost Empire/The Monkey King, where the stories and ideas are more creative. With the network prioritizing rom-coms and dramas, though, I don’t know what their decisions will be in the new year.

Take 3: The Lost Empire/The Monkey King Review

8. Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Haunted by Murder

Talking about this movie is bittersweet, as it is the last film in the Aurora Teagarden series. I’ve thought about all the moments the fans will never get to see, such as Aurora and Nick’s first Christmas, Phillip’s college graduation, and Sally falling in love. But if this is where the story must end, at least it ended on a strong note. The realistic and supernatural elements of the story complimented each other nicely. Supernatural elements being incorporated at all gave this chapter a more creative approach to the series. It was nice to spend time with Lawrenceton’s favorite residents; the acting performances and on-screen camaraderie remaining consistent. Even though I would have loved to see the Aurora Teagarden series continue for many more years, I know nothing lasts forever. But as the saying goes “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened”.

7. Redwood Curtain

There are very few movies I found better than their source material. Redwood Curtain just so happens to be one of them! The creative team behind the Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation took advantage of the expansive nature of film by providing the story with more locations. Allowing characters like Julia and Laird to appear in the movie showcase the Riordan family dynamic not present in the play. I found Geri more likable as a character in the movie. Lea’s performance paired with the screenwriting gave Geri an empathetic and understanding personality. Redwood Curtain is a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation I wish was re-released on DVD.

‘Redwood Curtain’: From Stage to Screen

6. The Pit and the Pendulum

The Pit and the Pendulum was one of the biggest pleasant surprises of 2022! Despite the film not being my first choice for its respective blogathon, I thought it was engaging and entertaining. Vincent’s performance didn’t disappoint, as his portrayal of Nicholas was versatile and fueled on emotion. The mystery not only started right away, but it also allowed the audience to experience the journey alongside Francis, the main character. The Pit and the Pendulum is, to me, one of the more effective horror movies, like 1962’s Cape Fear. While this film would be a perfect choice to watch on Halloween, I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it around Vincent’s birthday!

Take 3: The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) Review

Redwood Curtain poster created by Chris/Rose Productions, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, American Broadcasting Company (ABC), and Republic Pictures (II)

5. The Song of Bernadette

And another film of Vincent’s joins my list! Faith based films come in two forms; those that emphasize a message and those that emphasize a story. The Song of Bernadette falls into the latter category, as it revolves around religious phenomena affecting a small town. What I like about the 1943 film is how different perspectives relating to the phenomena are explored, highlighting how various members of the town view the events unfolding. The story doesn’t choose sides on the main topic, allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions about what is taking place in the movie. Even though The Song of Bernadette was released during the Breen Code era, the film is a good representation of the quality from that period in cinema. As I said in my review, Easter would be an appropriate time to watch the movie!

Take 3: The Song of Bernadette Review

4. Heaven Is for Real

Heaven Is for Real shares a major similarity with The Song of Bernadette. The 2014 film also revolves around religious phenomena affecting a small town. But what Heaven Is for Real does differently is encourage the audience to have a conversation about their beliefs on Heaven. Like I previously stated, faith based films come in two forms; those that emphasize a message and those that emphasize a story. However, I’ve rarely seen a movie of this nature start a discussion about one of their themes. This creative decision brings something new to the table and gives Heaven Is for Real a unique identity.

3. Words on Bathroom Walls

It seems like I’ve been talking about this title for as long as my blog has been around. But I’m glad I finally got the chance to see Words on Bathroom Walls this year, as it was such a good adaptation! There were changes between text and film. Despite that, the adaptation was, for the most part, respectful to its source material. The visual presentation of the story gave the audience a glimpse inside Adam’s mind. Interactions between the characters were believable, thanks to the actors’ performances and screenwriting. As I mentioned in my review a month ago, the adaptation for Words on Bathroom Walls seems more underrated. Based on the response my review received, my statement may be wrong.

Take 3: Words on Bathroom Walls Review

2. Top Gun: Maverick

I’m going to be honest; I had low expectations for Top Gun: Maverick. That’s because sequels released over ten years after their predecessor can be hit or miss. Top Gun: Maverick ended up surpassing my expectations, making it in the top three of my best of the year list! From what I know about Top Gun, the sequel respected what came before it. At the same time, new elements were added to the story, like focusing on an overarching mission. In a cinematic landscape where a film receiving over a billion dollars has become a rarity, Top Gun: Maverick achieved what some studios only dream of. As the 2020s move forward, maybe more filmmakers will turn to this film as an example of what can be cinematically possible.

Take 3: Top Gun: Maverick Review + 450 Follower Thank You

1. A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love

When it comes to “Godwink” stories, I prefer those that focus on a conflict. While that is the case for A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love, I found the overall production impressive! The interactions among the characters, as well as each volunteer’s talent being showcased, provided a nice amount of character development. Christmas activities were incorporated in more unique ways, such as the Romero family’s gift exchange. The inclusion of Advent was a newer approach to the Christmas movie genre. I don’t know what’s in store for the Godwink series. But I’d love to see more adaptations of these stories!

Take 3: A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love Review

A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love poster created by Crown Media Productions and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Have fun in 2023!

Sally Silverscreen

Top Ten Characters Who Didn’t Reach Their Full Potential

For my World Television Day Blogathon, I was originally going to review one of the books in the Murder, She Wrote series. But with the recent passing of Angela Lansbury, I thought it would be a bit too soon. Therefore, I decided to write about the top ten characters who didn’t reach their full potential instead. What does it mean for a character to reach their “full potential”? In my opinion, it means a character is given the opportunity to reach their goals, make their dreams come true, and allow their stories to be told to a satisfying extent. Unfortunately, some characters are denied these opportunities for various reasons. This list will address the characters I wish had received their full potential. For the sake of this discussion, I will focus on characters who appeared in television shows or made-for-tv movies. While there are some characters I have talked about before, I tried to include those I never talked about on 18 Cinema Lane. There will also be spoilers for the television shows and movies discussed in this list.

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1. Matthew Rogers from Little House on the Prairie

Yes, I’m starting this list with a character I’ve written part of an editorial about. However, I feel there’s an argument to be made for Matthew not reaching his full potential. On Little House on the Prairie, he was introduced in the show’s last season. Within that season, Matthew only appeared in a total of three episodes, departing in the series finale. This left him with little to no time to reach his full potential. Meanwhile, characters such as Albert Ingalls, Willie Oleson, and even Nancy Oleson had their potential recognized because they were introduced in earlier seasons. Had Matthew made his debut in, say, season seven, his chances to reach his full potential may have been stronger.

2. Jamey Farrell from 24

24 was released during a very interesting time. It was almost ten years after the premiere of Jurassic Park, a film that showed Dr. Ian Malcolm breaking the mold of a “geek/nerd”. But 24 was also released almost ten years prior to Iron Man, when the idea of the “cool geek/nerd” would be fully embraced by the media. Before Robert Downey Jr. accepted the role of Tony Stark/Iron Man, Karina Arroyave portrayed Jamey on 24. A beautiful, intelligent, and charismatic woman, Jamey had the potential to be the Dr. Ian Malcolm of the show. In fact, I think if the show’s writers had allowed her to reach her full potential, Jamey could have been the reason why the media embraced the “cool geek/nerd” idea a lot sooner than they did. As the events of 24’s first season unfolded, though, Jamey’s sparkling personality became watered down and her unique attire morphed into looking just like every other employee. Becoming a villain and dying after appearing in ten episodes ended all chances of Jamey reaching her full potential.

3. Jiggy Nye from Felicity: An American Girl Adventure

Another character I’ve written an editorial about joins this list. In the 2005 made-for-tv film, Jiggy was presented more as a victim than a villain. This is because he didn’t come across as a big enough threat to the protagonist. It also doesn’t help how Jiggy’s backstory was poorly incorporated into the script. Felicity: An American Girl Adventure is based on a six-book series. Like any adaptation, changes were made between books and film. When it comes to Jiggy’s part of the story, though, it seems like he received the short end of the stick. From a writing perspective, he deserved so much better.

4. Libby from Lost

Out of all the characters from Lost to not receive their full potential, especially those from season two, Libby is the one you can make the strongest argument for. Introduced as one of the “Tailies”, there was so much mystery and intrigue surrounding her and her story. When Libby and Hurley started a romantic relationship, things seemed to be going well with her character development. Sadly, Libby’s story was short-lived, as she died toward the end of the second season. Because of her departure, none of the mysteries surrounding her were ever addressed. Libby never even received any flashbacks.

5. Amédée Chevalier from Hallmark Hall of Fame’s O Pioneers!

I first mentioned Amédée in my review of the 1992 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation. In his limited appearance in the movie, he had so much potential. From his athleticism to his charisma, Amédée could go anywhere and be anyone he wanted. Sadly, his story was cut short due to dying off-screen of appendicitis. From the information I’ve found about Amédée, he only made three appearances in the book. This makes me wonder if his full potential was always meant to be denied?

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6. Captain Lynch and Judy from Crusoe

Long before 18 Cinema Lane existed, there was a television adaptation called Crusoe. In the season premiere, Captain Lynch and Judy arrived on Robinson’s island. Similar to Libby from Lost, Judy and Captain Lynch were surrounded in mystery and intrigue. But toward the end of the season premiere, these characters departed from the show. While Captain Lynch died, Judy was taken away by the Royal Naval Police, never to be seen again. It also didn’t help how Crusoe survived for only one season.

7. Barry Klemper from Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Boys Next Door

I always thought there was an argument to be made for Barry Klemper’s full potential in the 1996 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation. A photogenic and articulate man, Barry had a passion for golf, which he kept alive at his job at a driving range. Had he received a more one-on-one, individualized approach to his care, I honestly think Barry could have lived a, somewhat, independent life. But all that momentum Barry had was destroyed when his father showed up and intimidated him. This interaction caused Barry to spend the remainder of the story in a psychiatric hospital. The Boys Next Door is based on a play that I have not read or seen in its entirety, so I’m not sure how respectful the adaptation is to its source material. All I know is Barry Klemper not reaching his full potential is, in my opinion, heart-breaking.

8. Moon from Cedar Cove

The proprietor of Moon’s Café, Moon is one of the most important characters of the 2013 Hallmark Channel show. Along with coffee and baked goods, Moon serves up wisdom to those who will provide a listening ear. I even recall one episode where he claimed he was adopted. This tidbit could have opened the doors to a compelling story for Moon. But during Cedar Cove’s three season run, Moon, more often than not, was overshadowed by the other characters and their stories. Since the show ended in 2015, there have been no announced plans to release a Cedar Cove movie or reunion special. Hallmark’s lack of interest in revisiting their first scripted show leaves Moon with no more chances to reach his full potential.

9. Harris Trinsky from Freaks and Geeks

After watching some episodes of Freaks and Geeks, Harris has become my favorite character from the show. His “wise beyond his years” perspective make him a character the “geeks” can trust and others can respect. Harris also had a lot going for him, from his intelligence to his interest in Dungeons & Dragons. Unfortunately, Freaks and Geeks lasted for only one season. The fact Harris was a recurring character didn’t help his case either, as he appeared in ten of the show’s eighteen episodes.

10. Jesse and Clara from When Calls the Heart

When I was creating this list, I, at first, didn’t think there were any characters from When Calls the Heart who didn’t reach their full potential. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized Jesse and Clara fit my list’s criteria. Clara came to Hope Valley in season two, still healing from a broken heart. Season three saw the arrival of Jesse, seeking a second chance after living a life of crime. When Clara and Jesse became a couple, they had their whole lives and relationship ahead of them. But the longer they stayed on the show, the more overshadowed they became. Jesse and Clara were given few good stories during their time on When Calls the Heart. They were also denied the outdoor wedding of their dreams. Clara and Jesse were written out of the show after season seven.

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Have fun on television!

Sally Silverscreen

Welcome to the World Television Day Blogathon!

The day you’ve been waiting for is finally here; the World Television Day Blogathon! Since the dawn of television, this particular medium has become a staple in popular culture. Through this lens, history has been recorded and memories have been made, giving people a way to look back on the past. Television’s broad landscape has provided something for everyone, from cozy mystery shows to beloved musical competitions. In this blogathon, various television related topics will be showcased. Each entry highlights different decades, made-for-tv movies, and shows, illustrating the importance of World Television Day!

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18 Cinema Lane — Four Reasons Why ‘The Flamingo Rising’s Adaptation is Different from its Book, Top Ten Characters Who Didn’t Reach Their Full Potential

The Stop Button — THE JERICHO MILE (1979, MICHAEL MANN)

Taking Up Room — My Top Twelve “Gilmore Girls” Episodes

Four Reasons Why ‘The Flamingo Rising’s Adaptation is Different from its Book

When we talk about book-to-film adaptations, we are quick to point out how both pieces of media are different. Some of these differences can lead to insightful conversations between the fans and the casual audience. Other differences can cause a negative reaction, from readers walking out of the theater mid-film to Youtube videos showcasing fans’ rants and complaints. But one topic I haven’t heard addressed is why these changes between book and film likely happened. This topic can be applied to any adaptation. For the sake of my editorial, though, I’m writing about Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Flamingo Rising. Back in June, I published a list of the top ten movies I’d love to, one day, review. The 2001 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie was on that list. Because I own a copy of Larry Baker’s novel, I thought it would be interesting to read the book after I saw the movie. Now that I’ve consumed both pieces of media, I have gained an understanding for why Hallmark likely made the changes they did. There are four main reasons why The Flamingo Rising’s book is different from its adaptation, which will be explored in this editorial. This article contains spoilers for the story of The Flamingo Rising.

Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express

The Run-Time

Abraham Isaac Lee is the protagonist of The Flamingo Rising. In Larry Baker’s novel, Abraham takes a biographical approach to telling the story, reflecting on various moments that occurred in his life. He even goes into detail about the history of his parents and Grace’s parents. According to IMDB, Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Flamingo Rising has an hour and thirty-four-minute run-time. As I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane, that run-time gives a film’s creative team only so much time to tell a story. Hallmark Hall of Fame’s adaptation of The Flamingo Rising condensed the events in Abraham’s and his family’s life. The book explains how Hubert, Abraham’s father, purchased the land for The Flamingo Drive-In before Abraham and his sister, Louise, were adopted. While Hubert was a soldier in the Korean War, he sent building plans and business ideas to his wife, Edna, who was put in charge of putting those plans into fruition. The purchase of the land and creation of The Flamingo Drive-In, in the movie, took place long after Hubert left the military and in a shorter amount of time. Both Abraham and Louise are teenagers for the majority of the movie, with only one flashback showing the siblings as babies.

There are many characters in The Flamingo Rising. While reflecting on his life, Abraham takes the time to explain who each person in his life is, as well as giving these people a significant presence in the story. Most of these characters were present in The Flamingo Rising movie. But because the film’s run-time is an hour and thirty-four-minutes, their parts of the story were reduced. Abraham’s sister, Louise, is one of these characters. The book reveals Louise grew up to become an actress, as Abraham claims she had the talent for it. In one scene, Louise expresses interest in flying in Harry “Judge” Lester’s plane. This interest was sparked by a promise Hubert made to his children. The movie’s script, however, never addresses why Louise wants to fly with “Judge”. In fact, the audience never sees her flying in “Judge’s” plane. When it comes to Louise’s acting, it was only mentioned once throughout the movie. During a conversation between Abraham and his friend, Gary, Abraham mentions how his sister wants to be an actress someday.

Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Flamingo Rising VHS cover created by Hallmark Entertainment, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, McGee Street Productions, CBS, and Artisan Entertainment 

The Budget

From what I’ve heard over the years, a typical made-for-TV movie costs somewhere between one to three million dollars. While that sounds like a lot of money to the average movie blogger, that amount is actually on the lower end of the financial spectrum, when it comes to making movies. If the aforementioned millions were the budget for Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Flamingo Rising, it would explain why some parts of the source material were cut from the movie. In the book, Abraham shares his family had a temperamental dog named Frank. This dog was so unstable, he not only bit Louise, he was forced to live in an empty room above Abraham’s room, due to the dog’s behavior. In the film, however, Frank the dog is nowhere to be seen and is never acknowledged by any of the characters. If a movie’s creative team chooses to include an animal in their production, the training, veterinary care, and other related expenses will need to be factored into the overall budget. Working with an animal trainer also requires time, something the creative team behind The Flamingo Rising only had so much to spend. Therefore, the inclusion of Frank the dog was an expense the adaptation’s creative team likely thought was unnecessary.

Location scouting is a film-making component also affected by a creative team’s budget. Like I said in my editorial, ‘Redwood Curtain’: From Stage to Screen, a location scout might not be able to secure a location similar to one described in the source material. Even if they succeeded, there’s a process in order to film at a residential building, especially if it’s someone’s real-life home. This process, along with the budget, is the probable reason why the funeral home has a different appearance in the movie than described in the book. Larry Baker’s novel gives the West Funeral Home the look of a “Southern plantation style house”, complete with white columns and Jeffersonian arches. The Home also contains a garage full of hearses and limousines. The Flamingo Rising’s adaptation gives the funeral home a different exterior. Referred to as the Knight Funeral Home in the movie, the facility boasts a bungalow style in a dark green hue. The Home’s garage is not shown on-screen. However, the Home itself does feature a full-sized porch. The funeral home’s interior has more appearances in the book than in the movie. In fact, the only time the Lee family enter the Knight Funeral Home is shortly after Edna dies. For those two scenes, the creative team may have filmed them on a set, away from the building that portrayed the funeral home.

Image of The Flamingo Rising by Larry Baker found on Goodreads

Appropriateness of Content

For many years, Hallmark garnered a reputation for presenting themselves as a “family-friendly” company. This has been reflected in their programming, including their Hallmark Hall of Fame productions. As someone who’s read The Flamingo Rising book, I’ll be the first person to say there are some parts of the story that are not “Hallmark appropriate”. One of these parts is Louise’s social life. Abraham, in the novel, recalls how, one night at The Flamingo Drive-In, Louise snuck out with some male college students. During this interaction, these males attempt to take advantage of her. Even though Louise is saved just in time by some of the drive-in’s employees, the ordeal is a frightening one. This event is not included in the movie. The only older characters Louise is friends with are Polly and Alice, who all happen to work at the drive-in. It should also be noted that Abraham and Gary are the only male characters Louise hangs out with in the film.

Louise’s story was not the only one to change in Hallmark’s efforts to keep the adaptation “Hallmark appropriate”. Polly, an employee of The Flamingo Drive-In, is a very problematic character in the book. A reason for this is due to her racism. Polly expresses how she didn’t like her high school becoming integrated. She also thinks Abraham is “too brown”, causing Abraham to have self-image related issues. Even though Polly’s role in the movie is smaller, she never comes across as racist. In fact, racism is never addressed in the film. Polly, along with Alice, appear to get along with both Abraham and Louise. Alice, throughout her time at the drive-in, gives Abraham advice and looks out for him, like an older sibling would look out for their younger brother or sister.

Antique car image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/red-classic-car_803652.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/vintage”>Vintage vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

The Casting

When an author creates a story, they sometimes don’t consider how that work could be translated to film or television. If that author’s work does receive an adaptation, the casting can dictate how the story changes. Abraham describes Alice Kite, in the book, as being “as tall as my mother”. Edna is six feet tall in the novel. Because of her height, Alice wore baggy jeans and shirts, never shorts. Elizabeth McGovern and Angela Bettis were cast as Edna and Alice in the Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation. According to IMDB, Elizabeth is 5’7, while Angela is 5’3. Alice wardrobe’s, in the movie, included tank tops and shorts. This creative decision was likely made to compliment Angela’s height.

In both the book and movie, Grace looks like her mother. Turner, Grace’s father, tells Edna, in the film, “she looks just like her”, referring to his daughter’s resemblance of his late wife. But Grace’s mother never makes an on-screen appearance, as she dies before the movie’s events. Therefore, The Flamingo Rising’s creative team cast an actress that resembled the actor portraying Turner. William Hurt portrayed the owner of Knight Funeral Home. He appears blonde in the film, despite his character having “coal-black hair” in the book. Erin Broderick was cast as Grace, though it isn’t known if Erin or William was recruited to the movie first.

Since The Flamingo Rising takes place in Florida, I figured featuring this screenshot was appropriate. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Image originally found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiBkULOrf7Y.

When I reviewed the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, O Pioneers!, back in July, I said that story should have been adapted into a multi-part mini-series or a television show. That’s because I felt an hour and thirty-seven minutes was not enough time to tell a story with that many moving parts. I feel similarly about The Flamingo Rising. Because Abraham, in the book, is reflecting on his life, there are a lot of characters and plot points included in the text. With the Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation being an hour and thirty-four-minutes, Larry Baker’s story was forced to be condensed.

There are several parts of The Flamingo Rising book that were either omitted or changed in the adaptation, due to these parts not being “Hallmark appropriate”. With that said, it makes wonder why Hallmark Hall of Fame chose to adapt Larry Baker’s novel over a story that was more “Hallmark appropriate”? This situation kind of reminds me of when Hallmark Channel adapted At Home in Mitford. Last September, I reviewed the 2017 film for one of my double features. After reading the book and watching its adaptation, I came to the conclusion the network was attempting to fit a round peg into a square hole, trying so hard to fit At Home in Mitford into their brand of film-making. Perhaps something similar happened to The Flamingo Rising, causing history to repeat itself sixteen years later?

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Top 5 Hallmark Films Based on a True Story

Last December, I was nominated for The Pick My Movie Tag by Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews. My selected topic was “A list of must-watch Hallmark film star biopics”. In my quest to find these kinds of films, however, I found very few Hallmark titles about film stars, especially those I’ve seen. More often than not, I came across Hallmark movies that were based on true stories that were not celebrity related. Therefore, I decided for this tag I would write about the top five Hallmark films based on a true story! Before I list the tag’s rules, I’d like to thank Gill for the nomination, as Gill’s thoughtfulness is appreciated.

The Tag’s Rules

  • Nominate one or more people to review the film or films of your choice. Or you can request they review something from a certain year, genre, or star. Everyone can review the same thing, or you can request each person cover something different. As long as it’s something they haven’t written about yet, you’re good.
  • Nominees are allowed to request a different pick for whatever reason no more than five times. Stuff happens. We all know it.
  • Nominees must thank the person who nominated them and provide a link their blog.
  • Nominees may nominate others to keep the tag going. Picking the person who nominated them is allowed, or they can nominate someone else. Maybe both.
  • All participants need to include these rules in their post, whether they’re nominees or picking nominees.
  • All participants should use the “Pick My Movie” banner or something similar in their posts.
  • Have fun!
The Pick My Movie Tag banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room and found on Realweegiemidget Reviews

1. The Christmas Choir (2008)

It’s been years since I’ve seen The Christmas Choir. From what I remember, I enjoyed this film! The cast as a whole is strong. Quality in acting talents and screenwriting allow the characters to come across as realistic and endearing. The Christmas Choir is one of Hallmark’s more unique Christmas titles, as it doesn’t follow a formula or contain a certain set of Christmas movie tropes and cliches. In fact, it’s surprising this film isn’t a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, as the story of a choir that started in a homeless shelter seems like the perfect material for that collection of movies. Another thing I remember about The Christmas Choir is the genuine good-heartedness the film exuded. As the Christmas season is on the horizon, this may be a movie I end up revisiting!

2. Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (2009)

I first talked about this film in my tier rank list of all the Hallmark Hall of Fame movies I’ve seen. In that list, I mentioned the film’s presentation, as the film itself felt like a theatrical release. However, that’s not the only strength The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler contains. Historical accuracy is an element that Hallmark Hall of Fame productions have, more often than not, executed well. This film is no exception, as the movie appropriately reflects the story’s time period! Movies like The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler make me wish Hallmark had created more period dramas. Yes, we have When Calls the Heart. But, to me, that feels like the exception to the rule.

3. Hallmark Hall of Fame’s A Smile as Big as the Moon (2012)

If you asked me to name a “space camp” movie, A Smile as Big as the Moon is the first one that comes to mind. As I said in my aforementioned tier rank list, this film is the perfect example of what a Hall of Fame title should be. I still stand by that statement, with the movie containing so many good components! Similar to The Christmas Choir, the strong acting performances and screenwriting brought to life characters that were worth rooting for. It was also interesting to see what it takes to be enrolled in space camp. The story’s messages and themes are just as relevant today as they were in 2012 or even the late 80s, when the story takes place. A Smile as Big as the Moon is a Hallmark Hall of Fame title that I consider a classic!

4. The Color of Rain (2014)

In my opinion, The Color of Rain is Lacey Chabert’s best film from Hallmark. One reason why is the story in this film is so different from those in Lacey’s other Hallmark movies. The Color of Rain does contain sadder moments, as both families are dealing with the death of a family member. But similar to films like Holly and Ivy, the movie’s creative team adopted a balance between sorrow and joy. It also helps how the cast’s acting talents were strong, as it allowed the characters to be memorable. The more I think about The Color of Rain, the more it feels like a Hallmark Hall of Fame title.

5. A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love (2019)

Personally, I enjoyed this sequel in the “Godwink” series more than the first film. A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love does a better job at explaining and showcasing what a “Godwink” is. Like Holly and Ivy and The Color of Rain, this movie’s creative team successfully balances joy and sorrow. I also think Cindy Busby’s portrayal of Alice is one of her best performances, as it is well-rounded and contained emotionality. In a year when Hallmark premiered new films weekend after weekend, A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love was, to me, one of their stand-outs. I may have to seek out the other two films in this series.

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Nominations

  • Jillian from The Classic Film Connection – A Hallmark Hall of Fame movie starring at least one “classic” film star
  • Rebecca from Taking Up Room – A vampire film released after 1960
  • Eric from Diary of a Movie Maniac – A made-for-TV movie from the 1990s
  • Andrew from The Stop Button – An underrated sports film
  • J-Dub from Dubsism – Another entry in the Movies Everybody Loves That I Hate series

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Corsican Brothers Review

When I reviewed the 1982 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, Witness for the Prosecution, back in July, I stated how I didn’t think I’d ever see the film. This was due to the movie’s lack of DVD or VHS release. But this is not the only Hallmark Hall of Fame production I didn’t think I would ever receive the opportunity to watch. One of these titles is the 1985 film adaptation, The Corsican Brothers. Similar to Witness for the Prosecution, the 1985 title didn’t receive a VHS or DVD release, as far as I know. Also similar to Witness for the Prosecution, I was able to locate the full movie on Youtube! Besides these similarities, both films star Donald Pleasence. In fact, Donald’s involvement in The Corsican Brothers is one of the reasons why I chose to review this film, as I’m participating in The Devilishly Delightful Donald Pleasence Blogathon!

The Corsican Brothers poster created by Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Norman Rosemont Productions, and CBS

Things I liked about the film:

The scenery: Within the movie’s introduction, there is a shot of the ocean surrounding Corsica. As the introduction continues, rocky terrains, rolling hills, and a city on a mountain are also showcased. The natural beauty of this island was captured well on film, making outdoor scenes visually appealing. When scenes took place in the town, quaint looking buildings met cobble stoned streets. A fountain was located in the town’s square. From a visual perspective, the town looked peaceful. It resembled Wanda’s hometown in the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, In Love and War!

The historical accuracy: According to the film’s introduction, the story begins in 1820. Though the majority of the story revolves around Louis and Lucien’s life as adults, the film still takes place in the 19th century. While watching The Corsican Brothers, I was impressed by the historical accuracy shown on screen! Furniture is one example of this. In a scene where the camera pans over a section of a study room, a green embroidered chair with bolted upholstery was featured. An oil lamp was also included in the room. The windows boasted a lattice design, which highlighted an old-world charm to the titular characters’ home. These details provided a nice blend of the characters’ past and present!

The Devilishly Delightful Donald Pleasence Blogathon banner created by Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews and Barry from Cinematic Catharsis

What I didn’t like about the film:

The underutilization of Donald Pleasence: As I stated in the introduction, Donald Pleasence is one of the reasons why I chose to review this adaptation of The Corsican Brothers. As this is his second Hallmark Hall of Fame production I’ve seen and reviewed, I was eager to witness more of his acting talents. But, to my disappointment, Donald only appeared in about three and a half scenes. He did a good job with the acting material he was given. However, it made me wonder why he was cast in this movie in the first place, especially if the role didn’t allow his talents to be fully showcased?

Unexplained parts of the story:  I have never read this film’s source material. Despite this, I expected The Corsican Brothers to be like other adaptations of Alexandre Dumas’ stories; exciting tales full of adventure and intrigue. With the 1985 Hallmark Hall of Fame project, however, I was, more often than not, confused by what was happening on screen. At the beginning of the movie, a voice-over talks about how the region of Corsica is overruled by a multi-generational long vendetta. What this voice-over forgets to mention is how and why this vendetta started. From time to time, a mysterious woman appeared in Corsica, giving some of the characters fates. No explanations are provided for who this woman is or why she wants to get involved in the story’s events.

Little to no sense of urgency: In the adaptations of Alexandre Dumas’ stories I’ve seen, a common ingredient is a sense of urgency. Since there is a sense of adventure found in these stories, an added element of urgency gives the audience a reason to stay invested in the characters and their journey. With The Corsican Brothers, though, this sense of urgency was almost non-existent. I’d say about fifty percent of this movie showed Louis attending fancy events in Paris. Even when parts of the story were meant to be exciting, they either came across as anti-climactic or were not shown on screen. A good example is the trial in Paris that Louis is a part of.

Limited use of lighting: In a few scenes, events took place at night. But because of the limited use of lighting, it was difficult to see what was happening on screen. It got to the point where I couldn’t see characters’ faces. I am aware cinematic technology in the mid-80s was not as advanced as it is today, especially when it comes to made-for-tv films. Had the creative team of The Corsican Brothers incorporated a little more light to the nighttime scenes, it would have remedied the issue.

Hand-written letter image created by Veraholera at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Veraholera – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/love-letter-pattern_1292902.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When creating a book-to-film adaption, you should strive to create a movie that satisfies both the casual viewer and readers of the source material. As I stated in this review, I have never read The Corsican Brothers. Instead of being invested in the characters and their stories, I was, more often than not, confused by the events on screen. It felt like the creative team behind the movie expected the audience to have read the book prior to watching their presentation. Story related flaws are not the only flaws that stood out to me. Limited use of lighting made nighttime scenes difficult to see. The underutilization of Donald Pleasence also didn’t help. Not all Hallmark Hall of Fame movies are created equal, as some are bound to be better than others. Sadly, The Corsican Brothers isn’t one of the better ones.

Overall score: 5.5 out of 10

Have you seen The Corsican Brothers? What’s your favorite adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ literary work? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Harvey (1972) Review

One of the first movies I reviewed this year was the 1950 film, Harvey. Since publishing my review back in January, that movie has become the most disappointing one I’ve seen this year, so far. Jillian, from The Classic Film Connection, recommended I give this story a second chance by checking out the 1972 Hallmark Hall of Fame production. Since this title is a remake and since I’m participating in The “Take Two!” Blogathon (which focuses on remakes), I found the perfect opportunity to watch this movie! When I reviewed 1950’s Harvey, I questioned what the point of the story was. This is because I was confused by what the movie’s creative team was trying to say through their project. Will I be less confused by the 1972 adaptation? Keep reading if you want to find out!

Harvey (1972) poster created by Foote, Cone and Belding Productions, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Talent Associates-Norton Simon, and National Broadcasting Company (NBC)

Things I liked about the film:

Changes from the original film: As I said in my review of the 1950 film, there were things about Harvey I didn’t like. One of them was the medical negligence Veta experiences at Chumley’s Rest. In the 1972 version, that specific scene plays out differently. When Veta is being interviewed by Dr. Lyman Sanderson, he notices how distressed Veta appears. Her body language, tone of voice, and tears are noted by the doctor as he listens to what Veta has to say. This leads Dr. Lyman to admit Veta into the hospital for her well-being. The mix-up is presented as an example of good intentions leading to bad results. The film’s dramatic tone also helps elaborate how terrifying Veta’s experience would be.

A sense of magical realism: An element I thought was lacking in the 1950 version of Harvey was a sense of ‘magical realism’. Because the story featured a 6 foot 3 ½ inch, invisible white rabbit, I thought that aforementioned element would be automatically included in the film. In the 1972 adaptation, there was a stronger sense of ‘magical realism’ within the overall story. At the hospital, a hat with two holes on top is found in Dr. Lyman Sanderson’s office. The staff question who this hat could possibly belong to. Since the holes on the hat would allow rabbit ears to stick out, the hat itself implies Harvey does exist. This along with other strange occurrences in the story show how the film’s creative team put more effort into including ‘magical realism’.

The acting: When I reviewed the 1950 version of Harvey, I talked about James Stewart’s portrayal of Elwood P. Dowd, saying it was “laid-back” and “somewhat philosophical”. Reprising this role in the 1972 version of the story, James brought these same elements to his performance. But this time, his portrayal of Elwood reminded me of Mister Rogers from Mister Rogers Neighborhood. What I mean by this is Elwood came across as the type of man you’d want to spend hours having a conversation with. Elwood’s approachable and pleasant persona make him such a fascinating individual. If Elwood P. Dowd existed in the real world, I’d like to think he’d come up with an interesting TED Talk!

Despite appearing in the film for a limited period of time, I liked Madeline Kahn’s portrayal of Nurse Ruth Kelly! Her pleasant on-screen personality allowed her to stand out and give a memorable performance! Her interactions with the other characters also came across as realistic. After Veta was admitted to the hospital, Dr. Lyman has difficulty finding her. In a state of panic, he thinks Veta escaped. Sensing Dr. Lyman’s panic, Ruth becomes concerned. Her face has fallen from the smile she usually carries and her tone of voice contains a sense of dread. There’s even an ounce of timidness to her overall demeanor. Scenes like this one make me wish Madeline was given more on-screen appearances.

The “Take Two!” Blogathon banner created by Annette from Hometowns to Hollywood

What I didn’t like about the film:

Most of the story being rehashed: When creating a remake of a pre-established story, it’s important to do two things: respect the source material that came before your project and bring your own voice to the table. In the case of Hallmark Hall of Fame’s version of Harvey, more emphasis was placed on respecting the original film. While this idea isn’t a bad one, the 1972 movie’s creative team didn’t allow themselves to create a unique identity for their project. The sets in this film looked almost exactly like they did in the 1950 film. The story, more often than not, followed the 1950 movie’s narrative, making very few deviations. While watching the 1972 version of Harvey, I wondered, at times, why this remake exists?

A televised version of a play: In my review of Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Foxfire, I talked about how that title felt more like a televised play. This is because the 1987 film contained a smaller cast and a condensed story. The 1972 adaptation of Harvey also felt like a televised version of a play. Fewer locations are a reason why. In the 1950 version, Elwood is shown taking Harvey to Charlie’s Pub. Elwood simply recalls this experience in the 1972 version. What’s also important to note is how the 1972 story takes place in either the hospital or the Dowd family home.

The underutilization of Betty Chumley: At one point in the 1972 story, Elwood makes plans with Dr. Chumley’s wife, Betty, to meet at Charlie’s Pub and share drinks. But because this trip was never shown on-screen, Betty received one less on-screen appearance. Within the story, she only appeared in two scenes. Personally, I think Betty should have had a stronger significance in the film.

Collection of white rabbit images created by freepik at freepik.com Hand drawn vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com

My overall impression:

After publishing my review of the 1950 version of Harvey, Jillian, from The Classic Film Connection, explained how the story’s point was “about the right to be uniquely yourself and live life on your own terms”. Now that I’ve seen the 1972 version of this story, I think the Hallmark Hall of Fame film did a better job at executing this idea. What worked in the movie’s favor was how the story was just a drama instead of trying to be both a drama and comedy. Scenes like Veta’s hospital admittance elaborated how terrifying her situation would be. There was also a sense of ‘magical realism’, something I thought was lacking in the 1950 film. However, the majority of the 1972 movie was a copy of the 1950 movie. In 1993, Hallmark Hall of Fame released the film, To Dance With the White Dog. Based on what I know about the story, it sounds like a version of Harvey. But this time, a man sees a white dog only he can see. Maybe I’ll write about that movie in a future review.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Have you seen any version of Harvey? Are there any Hallmark Hall of Fame movies you’d like to see me review? Let me know in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Redwood Curtain’: From Stage to Screen

The Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation of Redwood Curtain is based on a Broadway play. It was also released in 1995. With these facts in mind, I found Redwood Curtain to be the perfect subject for the Fifth Broadway Bound Blogathon. Prior to this event, I saw the movie and read the play. This lent itself to an interesting idea. Discussions about film adaptations often feature films adapted from books, short stories, or poems. Movies born from plays aren’t often included in the conversation. So, I decided to write an editorial highlighting the similarities and differences between the Redwood Curtain play and film. This article contains spoilers for the story of Redwood Curtain.

The Fifth Broadway Bound Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room

Movie-Exclusive Characters

On the stage, Redwood Curtain contains three characters: Lyman, Geri, and Geneva. While there are other characters in the story, they’re only mentioned within the dialogue. Geri’s father, Laird, is one of these characters. According to the script, Laird was a desk-jockey lieutenant in the Vietnam War. This means he “didn’t see a day’s fighting, to come completely unglued in the war.” Laird taught Geri how to play the piano simply to entertain dinner guests. He also developed a dependence on alcohol and died two years prior to the play’s events. Laird is even described as a “drunk.” Because Laird never physically appears in the play, all the information about him is hearsay.

John Lithgow portrays Laird in the film adaptation. The film version of Laird did fight in the Vietnam War, though his specific role was never mentioned. Like in the play, he develops a dependence on alcohol. However, this dependence was Laird’s attempt to cope with war-related trauma. Toward the end of the movie, Geneva shares with Geri how Laird wanted to be a pianist, but didn’t feel he was talented enough. So, he became invested in Geri’s piano career, appearing to live vicariously through his daughter. His presence in the movie shows the audience the strained, yet close relationship between Geri and Laird. Laird’s death within the film’s first half and Geri’s discovery that Laird is her biological father are presented as bittersweet moments.

Redwood Curtain poster created by Chris/Rose Productions, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, American Broadcasting Company (ABC), and Republic Pictures (II)

Expanding the World

The majority of Redwood Curtain’s story in the play takes place in Arcata’s redwood forest. A few scenes happen in Geneva’s house, Geneva’s car, or a local coffee house. Geri’s first encounter with Lyman is when the play starts, with the lead-up to this moment woven into the dialogue. Events such as Laird’s death take place off stage, prior to the play’s story. The creative team behind a play is given a limited amount of space and time to work with. Therefore, designating a few key locations makes sense among these limitations. In the Redwood Curtain play, Geneva’s house is described as “a large and very fine Victorian house.” The script states her house contains a music room as well. When presenting this play at a theater, only the home’s sitting room and music room would be staged and the style of the house would be heavily implied through décor and set structure.

A plus side to film-making is the freedom to take the story wherever the film-maker chooses. If a movie’s creative team desires to adapt a stage play, that story has the opportunity to grow beyond the boundaries of a stage. In the case of the Redwood Curtain film, the events from the play are contained in the story’s second half. That means the movie’s first half takes place in and around the Riordan family home. This inclusion not only expands the world the characters exist in, but also gives the audience a glimpse into Geri’s world that they wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Filming on location provides benefits to visual storytelling. However, that creative decision has its own limitations. Using Geneva’s house in the movie as an example, a location scout might not be able to secure a location similar to one described in the source material. Even if they succeeded, there’s a process in order to film at a residential building, especially if it’s someone’s real-life home. That’s probably why Geneva’s house is presented as a smaller log cabin with a large deck, but no music room.

A picture of the Redwood Curtain play from my copy of the play’s script. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen

Geri’s Motive

In both the play and movie, Geri attempts to search for her biological father. This attempt is the story’s main conflict. Geri’s reason for her search was different in each version of Redwood Curtain. In the play, Geri knew some information about her past. Prior to the start of the play, Geri discovered Lyman tried to help her and her biological mother get to the United States. The script mentions that Geri began her search when she was twelve. Her search turns into an obsession, to the point of abandoning her musical endeavors. In fact, the play’s synopsis states Redwood Curtain “is a story of obsession and discovery.” Though the information Geri received was partly true, she eventually learns more through her interactions with Lyman.

The movie version of Geri has three motives for her search. Wanting to receive answers about her past was the first motive. The film’s script heavily implies Geri did not know much about her past until the events of the movie. Yes, she was aware she was adopted. But Geri’s belief that Lyman was her biological father stemmed from a photo and a note bearing the name ‘Raymond Farrow’ that Laird gave his daughter after he died. At various moments in the movie, Geri expresses how she feels she doesn’t belong. She even shares these thoughts with the Riordan’s house-keeper, Matilda. These feelings fuel Geri’s journey of self-discovery and finding her biological family. Her third and final motive is her music, which plays a crucial role in Geri’s life. Geri believes if she finds her biological father, she will be able to incorporate more emotion into her musical pieces.

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Significance of the Redwoods

As I’ve said before on my blog, a film’s title can serve as a promise to the audience. In the case of Redwood Curtain, the audience should expect not only to see redwoods, but also to receive an explanation of what the “redwood curtain” is. The “redwood curtain,” in both the play and movie, is the redwood forest itself, where Vietnam veterans choose to live their lives. This is one of the reasons Geri meets with Lyman in the forest. While Geri learns about the “redwood curtain” in each version of the story, the way she learns about it is different. An Arcata Union reporter provides the explanation for the “redwood curtain” to Geri in the play. In the movie, she is given this same explanation by a gentleman working at Arcata’s veterans’ office.  

As I mentioned above, the majority of Redwood Curtain’s story in the play takes place in Arcata’s redwood forest. The redwood forest in the movie only appears in the story’s second half. Because of how often or little this location appears in the story, its association with the characters and the themes connected to it depend on these appearances. Topics relating to the environment are brought up throughout the play. When Lyman asks Geri why she’s visiting Arcata, she tells him she’s studying horticulture and botany at the local college. Geri also claims to have magical powers, which allow her to do things such as control the weather. Within the play, Geneva talks about how her family’s portion of the redwood forest is being bought out by investors. While this part of the story is also in the movie, it is discussed in more detail in the play, from Geneva bringing up the specifics of the sale itself to describing Arcata’s weather. The theme of family connects with the redwood forest in the movie. The Riordan family owns a portion of the redwood forest. While Geri stays at Geneva’s house, Geneva shows her niece a wall of family photos. These photos showcase various members of the Riordan family in the redwood forest. The number of photos and whether or not the photos are in black-and-white indicate how the forest has been in the family for generations.

Wellbeing of Veterans

When I brought up the movie version of Laird, I mentioned how he depended on alcohol to cope with war-related trauma. I also mentioned how Geri learns about the “redwood curtain” at Arcata’s veterans’ office. These are just two examples of how the movie includes the subject of veterans’ well-being. In the history of Hallmark films, veterans have been presented with a sense of reverence and respect. Veteran-related issues have also been included in Hallmark’s programming. An example is a veteran struggling with trauma in Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Lost Without You. Even though the film adaptation of Redwood Curtain was released a decade before Hallmark debuted the Hallmark Channel, this tradition can be seen and felt in this Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation. At Laird’s funeral, Geri shares with Geneva how she wished the family had addressed Laird’s alcohol dependency sooner. Geneva reminds her niece how Laird had a problem related to his experiences in the war. Geri says the family’s politeness and willingness to skirt the issue are what enabled Laird’s struggles. The points Geri makes to her aunt highlight how seriously these topics are taken in this adaptation.

While veteran-related issues are brought up in the play, it was never enough to be one of the story’s main topics. Compared to the movie, there isn’t the same amount of reverence for veterans. During her first interaction with Lyman, Geri’s personality is pessimistic and bitter. When Lyman asks Geri about the translation of her hometown’s name, Geri responds by saying, “Well, you’re not Spanish. You must belong to the other half of the country’s population.” After Geri learns Laird was her biological father, she says, “You’re right, Lyman, he was the saddest man I’ve ever known.” Geri also says, “And I thought I was joking when I said to follow in my father’s footsteps I had to mope and pine and drink myself to death. Not a very promising path he’s laid out for me to follow.” With the way veterans’ well-being wasn’t addressed, it made the play seem less hopeful. It also seemed like none of the characters were willing to find any solutions.

Children holding American flags during a sunset image created by rawpixel.com at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People photo created by rawpixel.com – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Lyman, Geri, and Geneva

As mentioned above, I said Lyman, Geri, and Geneva were the only three characters to physically appear in the play. These three characters also serve prominent roles in the movie. Geri’s personality in the play was pessimistic and bitter. She was also disrespectful when talking to Lyman or talking about Laird. In the movie, however, Geri was a more empathetic character. While interacting with Matilda in the Riordan family kitchen, Laird recalls a memory of Geri when she was younger. In this memory, Laird was tearing up as he was chopping onions. Upon seeing this, Geri asks if Laird is sad because the onions are hurt.

Lyman, in both the play and movie, shares parts of his life story with Geri. In the play, though, more of this information is given. Toward the end of the movie, Lyman tells Geri how, before the war, he would fix and race cars with his dad. He also talks about how he never dated a crush he had. Lyman in the play not only drag-raced vehicles, he also worked in his dad’s garage. He recalls owning a Mustang Boss 302 and never having a girlfriend. Geneva’s family’s portion of the redwood forest was being bought out by investors. As a result of this, Geneva, in the play, is planning on moving to Key Biscayne, Florida, with her husband, Barney. In the movie, however, Geneva expresses no interest in moving out of Arcata. In fact, after one of Geri’s piano performances, Geneva tells Laird how she plans on fighting to keep her land. She and Barney are also divorced.

The cover of my copy of the play’s script. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen

After I watched and read Redwood Curtain, I ended up liking the movie adaptation over the source material. What worked in the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation’s favor was how the story was expanded. Not only were more locations added to the characters’ world, more context was given than the play provided. Even though there were more characters added to the film, the cast as a whole was smaller. Through their interactions, the audience gets a more intimate look into the characters’ relationships. The changes to the characters from the play made them more likable, especially Geri. Both the screenwriting and acting allowed Geri to be one of the strongest protagonists in Hallmark movie history. Redwood Curtain reminded me of another Hallmark Hall of Fame movie based on a play: The Boys Next Door. Similar to Redwood Curtain, The Boys Next Door contained multiple locations and provided context to each of the key characters. Since I have seen the 1996 adaptation, but have never read the play, perhaps another comparison and contrast editorial is in order.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s O Pioneers! Review

When I participated in the Legends of Western Cinema Week last year, I reviewed the Hallmark Hall of Fame film, Durango. Unfortunately, the movie was weaker than I hoped. While thinking about what to write about for 2022’s event, I remembered how I had never seen O Pioneers! Therefore, I thought the Legends of Western Cinema Week was the perfect time to finally see the film! In the 1990s, Hallmark Hall of Fame had a history of adapting stories from the western genre. After the premiere of Sarah, Plain and Tall, the story’s sequels were released; Skylark in 1993 and Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter’s End in 1999. Outside of this trilogy, Hallmark Hall of Fame created O Pioneers! (in 1992), Rose Hill (in 1997), and Durango (in 1999). While looking back on this history, one has to wonder if this was done in an effort to capitalize on Sarah, Plain and Tall’s success? Whatever the reason, these films provide more than one perspective of westerns. Now, with that introduction out of the way, let’s review O Pioneers!

O Pioneers! poster created by Craig Anderson Productions, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Lorimar Television, and Prairie Films

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I’ve seen a small handful of Heather Graham’s projects from her filmography. Based on what I’ve seen, she seems to receive one of two types of roles: a “damsel in distress” or the “ditzy” girl next door. But in O Pioneers!, Heather’s role was different. Portraying Alexandra Bergson in her younger years, she not only displayed a motherly persona, she also showcased a quieter strength. After trying to find more fertile farm land, Alexandra comes up with a plan to purchase the surrounding farm land near her family’s home. When she discusses this plan with her brothers, Alexandra explains it in a sure, yet calm way. Even when her brothers doubted her enthusiasm, she consistently maintained her composure, never letting uncertainty get in her way. Through her performance, Heather does a good job at foreshadowing who her character would become!

The majority of O Pioneers! revolves around Alexandra after her family’s farm is established and successful. Because this part of the story takes place fifteen years later, Alexandra is portrayed by Jessica Lange. Throughout the film, Alexandra experiences a variety of situations. This allowed Jessica to utilize different facial expressions, body languages, and emotions. As she reads a letter from her brother, Emil, a warm smile lights up Alexandra’s face. She appears to be sitting in a comfortable position, a friendly demeanor plain to see. Two scenes later, as Alexandra is sharing bad news with Emil, a sullen look is seen on her face. Her tone of voice is serious, as she’s trying to break this news as honestly, but gently as possible. The strength of Jessica’s acting abilities helped her performance appear believable!

One of the most important people in Alexandra’s life is Emil. Portrayed by Reed Diamond, Emil had a personality that was pleasant. Reed adapts to each situation in Emil’s life as well, similar to Jessica’s performance. In the aforementioned scene where Emil receives bad news, a concerned look is shown on his face. He also listens intently to what Alexandra had to say. Emil’s bottom lip quivers, as shock quickly morphs into sadness. The scene ends with Alexandra consoling her brother as he crumbles into tears.

Historical accuracy: O Pioneers! takes place between the late 1880s and early 1900s. Keeping this in mind, it’s important to note how the production looked and felt like the viewer was transported back to that time! In one scene, a man named Frank is walking around the interior of his house. On the wall in the kitchen, a telephone can be seen. The style of this phone is similar to those featured in programs like When Calls the Heart. Another timely piece of technology was the kerosene lamp hanging from the ceiling. This lamp was found in the dining room of Alexandra’s house. Three more kerosene lamps are located in Alexandra’s posh sitting room. Even though these props are smaller components of the movie, it shows how detail oriented this film’s creative team was!

Reed Diamond and Anne Heche’s on-screen chemistry: Anne Heche portrays Marie, a friend of Emil’s since childhood. Most of Emil and Marie’s interactions take place after they grew up, when they are able to live their own lives. During these encounters, I found their on-screen chemistry very sweet! Marie carried herself with a sense of whimsy, almost like she’s a “child at heart”. Meanwhile, Emil is more headstrong, choosing to ground himself in reality. Instead of clashing, these differences worked in Anne and Reed’s favor. The opposites attracting created a balance between their characters. During Marie and Emil’s interactions, they seemed to share an understanding with each other. Their shared history provided that layer of understanding, as well as Anne’s and Reed’s performance.

Legends of Western Cinema Week banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine, Olivia from Meanwhile, in Rivendell, and Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy.

What I didn’t like about the film:

An episodic story: The story of O Pioneers! revolves around Alexandra’s attempts at creating a successful farm with the land she inherited. But instead of those attempts providing an overarching conflict, the movie is filled with smaller conflicts that are resolved in a shorter amount of time. Ivar is a man Alexandra and her family have known for many years. He claims to have powers from God, which causes him to receive some negative attention. At one point, Ivar is threatened of being sent to an asylum. But in the very next scene, Alexandra simply talks to her brothers about what she’ll do if something happens. After that, the issue is unceremoniously resolved.

Too many characters: O Pioneers! is based on a book I haven’t read yet. Despite this, I could clearly see how large of a cast this production contained. Stories with a larger number of characters can be hit or miss. In the case of O Pioneers!, it didn’t work. Because of how many characters were in this story, some of them didn’t receive the amount of attention I feel they deserved. One of these characters was Amedee, a friend of Emil. A European baseball player, Amedee was such a charismatic character I wanted to learn more about. But with all the other characters trying to compete for attention, he only appeared in two scenes.

Some loose ends: Despite the movie having an hour and thirty-seven-minute run-time, there didn’t seem to be enough time to tie up some loose ends in the story. A good example is when one of the characters gets in trouble with the law. Alexandra visits this character in jail and claims she will help them. However, this issue is never resolved. That’s because this conflict takes place within the last eighteen minutes of the movie. It made me wonder why the creative team would include this part of the script when there was no intention to find a resolution to that conflict?

I know this is a screenshot of Wilma’s house from the Walker, Texas Ranger episode ‘The Lynching’. But Alexandra’s house in O Pioneers! reminded me of Wilma’s house, especially that wrap-around porch! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

There are some movies where the style is executed better than its substance. O Pioneers! is one of those films. As I said in my review, the project looked and felt like the story’s respective time period. The acting as a whole was good as well. But when it comes to the script, it could have been stronger. A major flaw is the movie’s run-time, which was an hour and thirty-seven minutes. This was not enough time to address the story points and characters within the narrative. Personally, I think O Pioneers! should have been adapted into a multi-part mini-series or a television show. With more time, the creative team would have been able to explore more stories and give some underrated characters more attention. Having an episodic narrative for a mini-series or television show would also make sense, as each story would be more condensed than a film’s plot. Like I mentioned in my review, I haven’t read this movie’s source material. Therefore, I don’t know if it’s better or worse than the 1992 Hallmark Hall of Fame production.

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Have you seen or read O Pioneers!? Is there a book-to-film adaptation you like? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen