If you've ever wondered what happened to such 1970s television icons as Adrian Zmed ("T.J. Hooker") or Antonio Fargas ("Starsky and Hutch"), wonder no more. They've resurfaced in the not very romantic thriller "Unconditional Love," which crept into town over the weekend without press screening.
Zmed and Fargas are just two of the actors who look mighty uncomfortable slogging through this poorly scripted vanity production, which gives the impression that the casting process involved the filmmakers calling in a lot of favors. The convoluted story revolves around Joe Kirkman (played by the film's executive producer, John Kennedy Horne), an ex-investigative reporter for the Washington Post, who has returned to Los Angeles to work for a small newspaper called New Times, where he can focus on such neighborhood problems as slum landlords.
Between investigations, he finds time to fall in love with the brainy and beautiful Patrice Sommers ("Star Search" spokesmodel champion Tracey Ross), whom he meets at a local bookstore. But just as their romance is heating up, complete with roses, champagne and love scenes that resemble malt liquor commercials, one of Joe's former co-workers at the Post is murdered on the job, and Joe must risk his life and long-term happiness to pick up the trail of the story she had been working on.
Because of the movie's obvious low budget, not to mention its profound lack of directorial imagination, scenes are staged in ways that are unintentionally hilarious. All we ever see of Joe's apartment is his red couch, where people sit and exchange expository information; a key murder takes place near a dimly lit phone booth that could be outside any convenience store in the U.S.
But the highlight of the film has to be when Joe warns crime kingpin Ted Markham (Henry Silva) to lay off his girlfriend. "Don't try to threaten me," Markham snarls. "I've been threatened by men who eat their own children!" All three of us in the theater found the line plenty amusing.
Rating: 1/2 star
Petrakis is a Chicago freelance writer.