By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: They shoot at people.
Patsy (Marcia Rodd) is a woman who practices the art of positive thinking despite her dismal urban surroundings. She meets Alfred (Elliot Gould) who is very detached and dropped out of society and no longer shares any hope in humanity, but she decides to marry him anyways and ‘reform’ him.
For a black comedy this one has got to be tops. It stays on a grimly humorous level from the beginning and doesn’t let up especially with its wicked ending. Everything gets the offbeat treatment and if it starts out conventional it is soon turned upside down until it is absurd. The funniest scenes involve Patsy taking Alfred home to meet her parents where things become very odd until they are absolutely hilarious. The wedding scene is also a classic where Donald Sutherland plays a hippie minister and gives a speech about masturbation that is as outrageously funny today as it was back then. Yet it is the surreal scene of seeing Alfred riding a subway car while dripping with blood and nobody saying anything that leaves the strongest impact. The targets that this film satirizes are just as potent today as they were back then. The film also manages to dig a bit deeper than most and successfully analyzes the myriad of societal complexities while not siding with any particular social movement or philosophy.
Rodd is terrific in her film debut and Gould is good in a surprisingly restrained performance. Jon Korkes is also excellent as an infantile adult son in an over-the-top send-up of grown children still living at home. However, it is Vincent Gardenia that ultimately steals it playing a hard-liner conservative father who finds himself becoming literally imprisoned by the increasingly insane world around him.
Although still potent this outrageous story seems to have lost some of its zing through the years and doesn’t seem to be as offbeat or ‘out there’ as it once did. It also lacks any type of cinematic flair and at times seems to be nothing more than a filmed stage play.
However, for fans of black comedy and relics of a bygone era it doesn’t come much better than this. Although it has softened a bit there are still enough bizarre and funny moments to please those with an acquired taste.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: February 9, 1971
Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes
Director: Alan Arkin
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Available: VHS, DVD