Category Archives: Musical

Popeye (1980)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: He doesn’t like spinach.

Popeye (Robin Williams) is a sailor who travels to the seaside village of Sweet Haven in search of his long lost father (Ray Walston). It is there that he moves into the upstairs room of the Oyl residence and becomes attracted to their daughter Olive (Shelley Duvall). Olive though is engaged to the gruff Bluto (Paul L. Smith) whose bullying ways is giving Olive second thoughts. When she tries to leave town in order to avoid the impending marriage she meets Popeye and they get into a relationship while also coming upon an orphaned baby that they name Swee’pea (Wesley Ivan Hurt), but Bluto becomes determined to destroy their union by kidnapping the child.

I remember watching the Popeye cartoons growing up and while I was never much of a fan this film version fails to replicate the original storylines. In the cartoons the relationship between Olive and Popeye seemed in constant flux and many times Olive would be ‘stolen away’ by Bluto’s courting and Popeye would have to win her back. Here the confrontations between Bluto and Popeye are played down significantly and there’s only two fight sequences between them and they last for only a few minutes.

The biggest difference though is that here Popeye doesn’t like spinach even though in the cartoons his spinach consumption was the whole reason he got his strength. Apparently when Popeye was introduced in 1929 he got his strength from rubbing the hairs on a magical whiffle hen named Bernice, but modern day audiences equate Popeye with spinach and changing this concept makes it seem like the film is not staying true to form. Kids who enjoyed the cartoons come to the movie expecting the same theme not watching something that’s going to take what they love into a completely different direction. What’s worse is that here there’s no explanation for how Popeye gets his amazing strength, which makes the already loopy storyline even dumber.

Williams gives a great performance, but his presence gets drowned out by the introduction of too many other characters including Paul Dooley as Wimpy who almost seems to have more screen time. Watching Walston play an older version of Popeye as the father is not funny, but instead incredibly annoying and again only helps to overshadow Williams’ great work.

I originally thought the casting of Duvall was inspired as I don’t think there’s any other actress living or dead who shares the physical traits of the Olive Oyl character quite as well as Duvall and in fact she admitted in interviews that she was nicknamed Olive Oyl by the school kids growing up. However, she overplays Olive’s nervous mannerisms which become repetitive and irritating while her attempts at singing are beyond bad.

The town of Sweet Haven, which took seven months to construct and consisted of 19 buildings built off the cost of Malta that still stands today, are the film’s strongest element, but everything else from its unfocused script evaporates into a mass sea of boredom. Robert Altman, who can be a great director at times, was the wrong choice for this type of production. He excels at doing existential adult dramas not kiddie flicks and children watching this thing will most assuredly become bored and the adults will too.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: December 12, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 54Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Robert Altman

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Hairspray (1988)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Integrate the dance show.

Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake) and her best friend Penny Pingleton (Leslie Ann Powers) audition for ‘The Corny Collins Show’ a local teen dance contest. Penny isn’t able to make the cut, but Tracy is much to the infuriation of the snotty Amber (Colleen Fitzpatrick) who was the show’s reigning dance queen. The rivalry between the two heats up even more when Tracy tries to integrate the show with black performers which incites Amber’s racist parents (Sonny Bono, Debbie Harry) to resort to desperate and violent means in order to keep the show segregated.

This was the movie where John Waters became a legitimate filmmaker who could use his craft to create a story instead of making a movie that was simply a foray into crude humor. When he first broke into the underground scene his films such as Mondo Trasho, Pink Flamingoes, and Female Trouble where refreshingly trashy and daring to show things other movies wouldn’t. The stark frankness and complete disregard of who it offended were both hilarious and groundbreaking, but by the time it got to 1981’s Polyester the formula had gotten stale and hearing campy characters shout incessantly at each other was becoming derivative while also exposing Waters as possibly being just a one-dimensional talent who was sadly losing his edge.

This film though was a complete change-of-pace with each shot and scene a loving tribute to his days growing up in Baltimore during the 50’s and early 60’s. The film has a lot of dance numbers that normally could bog the pace down, but here I got into the energy of it and it helped me to feel even more like I had been transported into a different time period. The musical soundtrack is filled with a lot of lesser known songs which most viewers will have never heard of and thus helping the film’s soundtrack avoid sounding like just another generic playlist from an oldies radio station.

Divine’s presence is much less crucial to the story’s plotline than in Waters’ past films. Sadly by this time his/her appearance was looking even more like just some fat guy wearing wig and no longer coming off in any way as being an overweight woman even though in the past films it was at times hard to tell. His physique looked so out of shape here that it should be no surprise that he died of a sudden heart attack just three weeks after the film’s release. In fact as the mother he really isn’t funny or engaging at all and only in a brief few scenes where he plays the station’s cantankerous owner Arvin Hodgepile does he show actual energy and gets a few laughs.

The original idea was to have Divine play both the roles of the mother and daughter, but fortunately that got nixed and Ricki Lake was brought in. She has a genuine, honest presence about her that creates instant empathy and it’s nice having a film showing an overweight person where her body type did not impede her from achieving her goals nor work as a detriment at keeping her down.

The supporting cast is eclectic, but unfortunately most are wasted particularly Jerry Stiller and Sonny Bono as the two fathers. Debbie Harry is great with her increasingly outrageous beehive hairdos, which become the most memorable and imaginative thing about the film. Lesser known actress Joanne Havrilla is quite funny as Penny’s racist mother especially the scene where she panics when trapped in a black neighborhood. John Waters himself gets some good comic bits playing Penny’s quack psychiatrist and Pia Zadora is engaging as a pot smoking beatnik.

The film is full of comical highlights that playfully runs the gamut between subtle, over-the-top and crude that somehow works to form a cohesive whole culminating in a very funny ‘race riot’ at the end. If the film has any fault it is in the fact that it treats racism in a little too much of a trivial way like it is just some silly thing that can be easily fixed instead of the serious and deep-rooted issue that it really is.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: February 16, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Waters

Studio: New Line Cinema

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Staying Alive (1983)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Tony juggles two women.

It’s been 5 years and Tony Manero (John Travolta) is still struggling to make it big in the dancing world in this sequel to Saturday Night Fever. Now instead of working at a paint store he’s employed as a nightclub waiter while spending his days desperately going to every agent in New York looking for a break, but getting none. He’s in a relationship with Jackie (Cynthia Rhodes), but when a hot new dancer named Laura (Finola Hughes) catches his eye he decides to have a fling with her, which further complicates the fact that all three of them are dancing in the Broadway production of ‘Satan’s Alley’.

The idea of turning a classic movie into a sequel should’ve been given the kibosh from the start as that film conveyed such a perfect slice-of-life tale that it didn’t need any continuing. This film also doesn’t have any of the key players from the first including Donna Pescow and Karen Lynn Gorney. It was Travolta’s and Gorney’s relationship that made that movie sizzle, so if you’re not going to have her then why even bother making it as it’s hollow and incomplete otherwise. Too much time had also elapsed and disco was no longer trendy by the early ‘80s, so to compensate they tried gearing it more to the struggles of working on a dance line, but only succeeds at making it seem like a poor man’s version of A Chorus Line.

The romantic angle is uninteresting. Tony becomes attracted to Laura in the same way that he did with Karen Lynn Gorney, which was by watching her dance, which makes it formulaic and redundant. The Laura character is also quite kooky by constantly giving Tony the hot-and-cold act making her seem like someone with a split personality disorder. Jackie on the-other-hand is dull and catches on to Tony’s two-timing too quickly and then does nothing about it, which kills off any possible tension or drama. Tony himself is equally useless. Travolta plays him well, which is the only saving grace, as he manages create an engaging character despite the shitty way he treats Jackie, which normally would make him unlikable.

The scenes between Tony and his mother (Julie Bovasso) are touching and the best moments in the film although she’s played more like a real person here and not the comic caricature like in the first one. The garish set designs and special effects used to create the scenes for the play ‘Satan’s Alley’ at the end may be good for a few laughs, but it’s so over-the-top and campy that it degrades any serious intention that the film may have otherwise had. Watching the older audience members including Tony’s mother stand-up and applaud the play after it was over seemed disingenuous as I think most of them would in reality be rolling-their-eyes  and asking themselves ‘what the hell did I just watch’ instead.

The musical score, which was such a strong element in the first film, is completely lacking. Instead of a pounding soundtrack we get jazzy songs better suited for a quiet lounge. Absolutely nothing works except maybe inducing 93 minutes of boredom, which in that regards it does quite successfully.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: July 11, 1983

Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

S.O.B. (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: His wife goes topless.

Movie producer Felix Farmer (Richard Mulligan) is suffering from what they call in Hollywood as Standard Operating Bullshit. His recent film, a family oriented musical that starred his wife Sally (Julie Andrews) and was titled ‘Night Wind’ is a box office flop. Now no one wants to work with him and the studio tries to reedit the film in an attempt to ‘save it’. All of which sends Felix on verge of suicide until he gets the idea of turning the movie into a soft core porn flick and having  Sally bare her breasts in it.

The film is loosely based on experiences that writer/director Blake Edwards had along with his real-life wife actress Julie Andrews during the early ‘70s when their project Darling Lilli did not do well financially and his next several films after that met with lots of studio interference before he was finally able to rebound by resurrecting the Pink Panther franchise.

The satirical jabs are obvious but amusing and the real problems come more with the shallow/jaded characters. Even the wholesome Sally comes off as cold with her rather ambivalent reaction to her husband’s depression/suicide attempt. There is also a running gag dealing with a man (Herb Tanney) who has heart attack at the beach while jogging and his loyal dog stays by his side even though no one else pays attention to it, which starts out as darkly amusing, but eventually gets cruelly overplayed.

Mulligan makes a flat impression as the star to the point of being almost transparent. For the first half he doesn’t say a single word while behaving in an overly exaggerated despondent way. When he finally snaps out of this he then eagerly tries to sell-out on his own film vision simply so it can make a buck, which makes him no better than the rest of the scummy Hollywood elites that he is supposedly trying to fight. Andrews is boring too and her brief topless scene comes off as exploitive and ill-advised.

The best bits come from its supporting cast. Robert Preston as the perpetually inebriated doctor has a few great lines and Robert Webber does well as a very nervous, high-strung press agent. Loretta Swit is hilarious as a bitchy, cantankerous gossip columnist who gets cooped up in a hospital after an accident and an almost unrecognizable Larry Storch hams it up under heavy make-up as a spiritual guru. There is also Robert Vaughn wearing high heels and women’s clothing.

I enjoyed the film within a film approach and the tawdry dream-like sequence scene, but the story suffers from adding in too much slapstick including a drawn-out car chase that seems suited for a completely different type of movie. For mild comedy it is okay, but as satire it fails to make any strong or impactful statement.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: July 1, 1981

Runtime: 2Hours 1Minute

Rated R

Director: Blake Edwards

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, Youtube

The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988)

decline-of-western-civil-2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: The Heavy Metal scene.

Director Penelope Spheeris returns to the L.A. music scene this time chronicling heavy metal bands and looking at the lifestyles of those who are in it. This film has a bigger budget, less of a grainy look, and more irreverent than the first installment.

The interviews are again what make the film interesting and I liked how Spheeris brings in a broad scope of people to talk to, which includes members from bands desperately trying to break-in as well as veterans who’ve made it to the top and their many groupies and fans. There’s even an interview with a parole officer talking about the ‘evil influence’ the music has on teens and their attempts at ‘deprogramming’ them, but even then she breaks into laughter when Spheeris asks her about Ozzy Osbourne and his dangerous ‘satanic’ message.

There’s also an interview with a bubble-headed beauty queen at a sleazy strip bar whose name is Cindy D. Birmisa and who talks about wanting to get into modeling and ‘actressing’ and made such a strong impression at being the perfect caricature of a dim-witted blonde that she became the inspiration to Christina Applegate’s character in the hit series ‘Married With Children’. The film’s most notorious scene though deals with W.A.S.P. lead singer Chris Holmes doing an interview while in a pool and completely drunk, but what he says and does isn’t half as interesting as seeing his Mother’s reactions to it who sits poolside.

Like in the first film the living conditions of some of these bands is less than glamorous including seeing several members and their groupies cramming themselves into a small camper, which was their sole ‘residence’. I also enjoyed the segment that cuts back and forth between band members discussing how they take advantage of their groupies while these same groupies talk about how they do the exact same thing to the guys in reverse. Hearing all these wannabe’s discuss how they ‘will succeed’ as rock stars and ‘failure is not an option’ is tarnished only by the fact that we can’t see where they are now and how time most likely has forced them to adjust their outlooks.

I was also fascinated by the fact that the tone in this one had shifted drastically from the first one where anger and rebellion permeated every scene. Outside of their wildly over-the-top ‘80’s hairstyles, which makes the film enjoyable to watch just for that, there really isn’t all that much nonconformity from these participants, or if there is it’s in the most shallow of contexts . Their mission here seems more on becoming ‘rich and famous’ and reaping the benefits of system instead of exposing its many flaws. The theatrics are certainly there, but the essence of what underground rock was truly meant to be about seems to have gotten lost on white suburban kids who simply want to exploit the medium as a quick shot to fame.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: June 17, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated R

Director: Penelope Spheeris

Studio: New Line Cinema

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)

decline-2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: The Punk Rock Scene.

A fascinating and surprisingly intimate look at the L.A. punk rock scene of the late ‘70s. The film starts out by showing footage of several concerts with fans jumping up and down like they are on a pogo stick and getting into violent clashes with other fans by physically attacking each other unprovoked. Shots of various band members in garish make-up, outfits and behaviors are also shown, which could give one the feeling that the state of humanity is truly on the decline, but then the film cuts away and we are treated to interviews of the people involved where we start seeing them as actual multi-dimensional human beings who are simply unhappy with the establishment and fighting to have a voice.

The interviews are the best part and I was impressed with how candid many of them were and the introspection some of them showed with one stating that punk rock was simply an excuse to ‘make an ass of himself and get away with it.’ The most shocking moment comes when you see the sleeping quarters of one of the bands, which was in the closet of some dingy, cramped, graffiti laden room that wasn’t much bigger than a storage closet and housed all the members for a mere $16 a month, which was all they could afford.

Another memorable moment deals with Darby Crash, who died from a heroin overdose before the film’s release, and watching him play with a tarantula spider that he allows to crawl all over him. The final segment dealing with Lee Ving the lead singer of the group Fear spitting at his audience who then spit back before they charge the stage and physically attempt to attack him is vivid.

When John Doe and Exene Cervenka sing the song ‘We’re Desperate: Get Used to It’ you know that they are speaking straight from experience, which is what ultimately makes this excursion so impactful. These aren’t rich rock stars from the ‘burbs with million dollar contracts spouting about hardships they’ve never had. Instead we get people that are at society’s bottom speaking to others who feel the same way and who are desperately looking for an outlet for their aggressions and anger. The interviews with some of the fans are equally enlightening and helps shed light on many of their troubled lives.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: July 1, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Penelope Spheeris

Studio: Spheeris Films Inc.

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

Fame (1980)

fame 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: School of Performing arts.

Filmed at the now demolished Haaren High School the film is intended to be a showcase of New York’s famous Fiorello LaGuardia High School that specialized in training students in the arts, dance and drama. The story centers on an eclectic mix of teens that join the school. There’s Doris (Maureen Teefy) who is pushed by her mother (Tresa Hughes) into becoming a singer/actress despite suffering from horrible stage fright. Leroy (Gene Anthony Ray) wants to become a dancer despite not being able to read while Ralph (Barry Miller), Montgomery (Paul McCrane) and Bruno (Lee Curreri) all suffer from personal demons/insecurities of their own.

I’m sure in its day this came off as fresh and exhilarating, but time has not been kind to it. The film starts out with the teens auditioning to get into the school, which might have been interesting had it not come off as a poor man’s version of ‘American Idol’, which has dulled our senses so much to the audition process that anything else now seems second-rate. I think what surprised me most about these scenes is how patient the judges/instructors were as all of the teen’s auditions were quite poor and they should’ve been politely escorted out a minute into them instead of being allowed to continue on with something that was clearly not working. What shocked me even more though is that several of the main characters gave horrid auditions that made it look like they had no talent at all and yet somehow they were accepted into the school anyways making it look like this wasn’t necessarily a place for gifted students after all, but instead just someplace willing to bring in any loser that wanted in.

The characters aren’t appealing either. Doris is much too neurotic; Montgomery is boringly benign and Ralph comes off as an obnoxious, attention-seeking clown. There are many scenes showing the students being highly disrespectful to their instructors that normally would’ve gotten them kicked out of any other school, but here for some reason they don’t. Out of all the students Coco (Irene Cara) was the only one I liked as she had genuine talent and also seemed much more dedicated, but the film ends up degrading her by having her character go to a rundown apartment of some slimy producer who wants to ‘audition’ her for his next film even though it is quite obvious to any viewer that the guy is a first-rate sleazebag and his audition is clearly just a set-up to a scam, or in this case an underground porno.

The script is filled with a lot of unresolved storylines and loopholes. For instance Leroy is unable to read and when this gets discovered he tears up the school in a fit of rage and yet somehow still remains a student for the full four years. Did he eventually teach himself how to read and pay for the damages that he caused? These pertinent questions never get answered, but really should’ve.

I enjoyed the shots capturing the New York’s busy and sometimes dangerous city sidewalks as well as a bird’s-eye shot of Times Square. The scene where a couple of students go to a showing of The Rocky Horror Picture is great, but the rest of the movie is just one long mish-mash. At certain points it tries to be a gritty drama and then at other times it breaks out into tacky dance routines. Instead of being a compelling drama it’s more of a broad overview and would’ve worked much better had the number of main characters been paired down to just one or two and the time span cut from four years to just one.

 

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: May 16, 1980

Runtime: 2Hours 13Minutes

Rated R

Director: Alan Parker

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Angel, Angel, Down We Go (1969)

angel angel 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Singer manipulates rich family.

Tara (Holly Near) is an overweight teen who feels like a social outcast. Her family is rich, but empty on love. Her mother (Jennifer Jones) is a former star of stag films and boozes it up on the bottle, but still manages to look quite attractive, even better than her daughter, which she constantly reminds her of. Her father (Charles Aidman) is a closet homosexual who routinely brings in male lovers for entertainment. When a rock group with a dashing lead singer (Jordan Christopher) arrives at her sprawling family home to help host a party Tara doesn’t hesitate to fall into his open arms. At first he seems to be the answer to her loneliness, but after a while she realizes he has a plan of his own as he not only seduces the mother, but her father as well before manipulating his way into the family fortune.

The main reason to watch this film, if not the only one, is for the performance of Jones in this her second-to-last cinematic appearance. She gives an incredibly strong, multi-faceted portrayal of a middle-aged woman on the emotional edge who realizes she’s being used, but allows it to happen simply so she can still feel desirable. Her presence lifts the sleazy material to watchable heights and comes just a year after she herself tried to commit suicide after hearing of the death of a close friend in real-life.

Near, who has later become a well-known folk singer, gives an effectively sensitive portrayal of a troubled teen, which allows her to be the one character that the viewer has any sympathy for. The rest of the cast though, which includes Roddy McDowall and Lou Rawls as Christopher’s band mates, are essentially wasted although you will get a full view of McDowall’s bare bottom for those few who are interested.

The garishly colorful collages done by Shirley Kaplan are visually alluring, but writer/director Robert Thom goes back to them too often. The aerial skydiving footage is excellent, even breathtaking, but the script as a whole, despite its lurid and even groundbreaking subject matter, falls flat. A lot of the reason for this is the fact that it’s poorly paced with too much time given to Christopher who sings a total of five songs, which does nothing but slow the proceedings down to a screeching halt. The ending is vague and aloof, which only helps to cements this as a misfire and good only as a curio.

The film did quite poorly upon its initial release, so it was reissued under another a title called Cult of the Damned in hopes that it could cash in on the hysteria of the Manson murders that had occurred around the same time, even though the story doesn’t have anything to do with a religious cult and the movie still fared no better at the box office.

angel angel 2

Alternate Title: Cult of the Damned

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: August 19, 1969

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated R

Director: Robert Thom

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Oh! Calcutta! (1972)

oh calcutta 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: No clothes no problem.

This film is based on the long running stage play that ran from June 17, 1969 to August 12, 1972 and later revived in the ‘80s to become one of the longest running shows in Broadway history. This version was taped in front of a live audience on a closed sound stage and then broadcast on pay-per-view, which eventually was transferred to theaters in ’72. It has a mainly nude cast performing in skits with a sex related theme and later became popular for featuring Bill Macy who went on to star as Walter in the hit TV-show ‘Maude’.

The film starts out interestingly enough as it shows the audience members filing in and examines the nervous looks on their faces as this was when nudity on stage was all still quite new and controversial. The film then cuts back and forth between the audience and the backstage cast who are in-the-buff and getting ready to perform.  They then come out on stage in bathrobes and do an Avant-garde-like dance sequence in which their names get matted over the screen while they flash the audience.

It then goes into the skit portion and everything goes rapidly downhill from there. The first segment isn’t funny at all and actually quite disturbing. It deals with two adults pretending to be teens who are starting to become aware of their sexual awakenings. The boy, who is named Jack, takes out a ruler in order to put it up Jill’s ‘thing’ to make sure it will be deep enough to fit in his ‘thing’. She becomes reluctant, so he tackles her and forcibly rapes her while killing her in the process. Unable to grasp what he has done he props her up and has a ‘conversation’ with the corpse before walking away and allowing the camera to zoom in on a close-up of her vacant, empty eyes.

The second segment deals with the cast reading letters of sexual fantasies written by anonymous authors that isn’t as titillating as it sounds. The third segment deals with a man who has become bored with his sex life and wants his reluctant girlfriend to try out some new fetishes. This segment is particularly boring because during the time the couple is having sex the viewer is treated to watching three minutes of a matted picture of a city skyscraper instead.

After this there is a skit dealing with a conservative couple inviting over some swingers as well as a segment dealing with an examination done at a doctor’s office, which is has a vaudeville theme and comes complete with cheesy cartoon sound effects.

There was a time when the mention of sex or nudity shown of any kind would be deemed ‘controversial’, but that period is long gone and this insipid thing hasn’t aged well at all. In fact there are old episodes of the ‘Love Boat’ that are more provocative and funnier than anything you’ll see here.

oh calcutta 2

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: June 16, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Jacques Levy

Studio: Cinemation Industries

Available: DVD (out-of-print)

Come Blow Your Horn (1963)

come blow your horn

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kid brother moves in.

Buddy Baker (Tony Bill) has just turned 21 and is looking to get out into the world by moving in with his older brother Alan. Alan (Frank Sinatra) is living the bachelor’s dream by residing in a luxurious apartment in the heart of Manhattan while entertaining wild parties and a wide array of lovely ladies. Their parents (Lee J. Cobb, Molly Picon) do not feel that Alan and his lifestyle will be a good influence on Buddy and forbid him from doing it, but he does it anyways, which drives the father to disown his sons and cut out all communications with them.

This was the first Neil Simon play to be turned into a movie and it was loosely based on Neil’s relationship with his older brother Danny. For the most part it is talky and stagy while lacking Simon’s patented one-liners and humorous exchanges. It also has for some bizarre reason a musical number that comes out of nowhere at the 40-minute mark where Sinatra sings the film’s title tune and then just as quickly it goes back to being a straight comedy, which came off as jarring, out-of-place and misguided.

I did enjoy the film’s set design, which got nominated for an Academy Award, especially the interiors of Alan’s swanky apartment. However, I was confused why Buddy had to sleep in the same room as Alan as I would think such a large and fancy place would have more than just one bedroom. The movie also strongly implies that Alan is having sexual trysts with his lady friends, which would then imply that he must have a king sized bed somewhere, so why are only twin beds shown? He also has five telephones in the living room, which seemed beyond absurd and made me feel that if he had purchased a few less phones then he might’ve been able to afford a double bed.

Sinatra’s presence is the film’s weakest link as this type of comedy doesn’t mesh well with his otherwise caustic personality. He was too old for the part as he was not only pushing 50, but also only 4 years younger than Cobb who plays his father. I didn’t like Jill St. John’s ditzy character either as she was too dumb to be believable, which was not only painfully unfunny, but stereotypical and insulting to women.

I did like Tony Bill in his film debut and his nicely understated performance helps keep the film balanced. Dan Blocker is also great as a jealous husband and Molly Picon is a scene stealer as the mother. You can even spot Dean Martin as a wino in an uncredited cameo.

The fact that Alan doesn’t want to give up his swinging lifestyle despite the pressures from his girlfriend Connie (Barbara Rush) is the story’s one and only redeeming quality. I could never understand why a single man, who’s enjoying the bachelorhood at its most ideal, such as it is portrayed here, would want to suddenly throw it all for the married life. Most of the of films from that era with a similar theme would portray it as simply being the ‘magic of love’, but here the character is much, much more resistant to the idea and doesn’t change his ways until having a life altering event where he sees things from a different perspective, which made more sense.

Sinatra fans may want to check this out, but it is far from his best stuff and although the material is agreeable it is only slightly engaging and barely worth the time.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: June 5, 1963

Runtime: 1Hour 52Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Bud Yorkin

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video