Category Archives: Satire

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

Shampoo (1975)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hairdresser shags his clients.

George (Warren Beatty) is a successful hairstylist who makes a habit of sleeping with his lady clients. He wants to open up his own beauty salon, but lacks the funds and not enough collateral to qualify for a loan. He is currently sleeping with Felicia (Lee Grant) who tells him to ask her husband Lester (Jack Warden) for the money. Lester is having an affair with Jackie (Julie Christie) who used to be George’s girlfriend. George’s current girlfriend is Jill (Goldie Hawn) who is having the inklings to sleep with Johnny (Tony Bill) since she thinks George is not being faithful to her. Everything comes to head on the night of November 5, 1968 during the election returns when everyone finds out that everyone else has been cheating on them and things get hilariously awkward.

This could quite easily be the best satire on the mores of Southern California culture ever made. The fact that it gets juxtaposed with the election where the same people who voted for an administration that vows to crackdown on the ‘permissive culture’ are the same ones doing the immoral behavior makes a very loud statement on the foibles and hypocrisies of the establishment.

Richard Sylbert was nominated for the Academy Award for his set decoration and he should’ve won as the vibrant and colorful interiors of the plush homes that the characters reside in become almost like a third character and makes you feel like you are right there inside the places with the characters and immersed completely in their world. The spectacular skyline views seen from the window of Lester’s office are equally impressive and I also enjoyed the party sequence, which reflected a true party atmosphere particularly the one attended by members of the counter-culture and the stylized set lighting by a slowly opening refrigerator door that gradually exposes the identities of a couple making love in the dark to the shocked onlookers standing around is outstanding.

The talented female cast is terrific, but a bit misused. Jackie’s meltdown during the election party seemed way overdone. This was a smart woman who would’ve seen through Lester’s thin veneer from the start and therefore wouldn’t have been that ‘traumatized’ when it finally came out in the open.

I was also disappointed that we didn’t see more of Lee Grant’s character. She won the Academy Award for her work here, but there needed to be more of a wrap-up with her as well as a scene showing an ultimate confrontation with her daughter (Carrie Fisher in her film debut) who has a secret fling with George behind her back. However, the shot showing Fisher giving her mother the most hateful and disdainful glare you can imagine that literally burns through the screen is almost a gem in itself.

Despite his many transgressions I found Lester to be strangely likable. His quirky ‘bonding’ with George near the end is cute, but I really wanted to see him jump into the hot tub and smoking some weed with the hippies after they offer him a joint and was disappointed it never came to pass even though it does come close.

Beatty, who co-wrote the screenplay, has his moments too, but they don’t come until the final half-hour, but it’s worth the wait. His ‘confession’ to Jill about what motivates him to sleep with all of his female clients and what he gets out of it is not only funny, but quite revealing to any male with the same traits. His final desperate plea to Jackie at the very end is equally interesting and even a bit surprising.

My only real complaint is the fact that it doesn’t seem like a legitimate ‘60s atmosphere even though that’s when it supposed to take place. The adult characters are too brazen in their actions. The college crowd was the first to embrace the free love philosophy while the middle-agers, who were raised in a more repressed, guilt-ridden era, took longer to catch-up to it. It just reeks too much of the mid ‘70s where by that time ‘everybody was doing it’ particularly in swinging L.A., which is where the time period should’ve stayed. There is also never any explanation for why the fire department comes in to evacuate the guests from the building as they are watching the returns.

Still the message of how people who use other people will eventually end up getting owned by the very same folks that they think they are manipulating is very on-target and amusingly played-out.

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My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: February 11, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Director: Hal Ashby

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

The Tall Blonde Man with One Black Shoe (1972)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Following the wrong man.

Bernard Milan (Bernard Blier) and Louise Toulouse (Jean Rochefort) are two rivals within the French Intelligence agency with each looking to unseat the other from their position of power. To counterattack his rival’s ambitions Louise decides to trick the other side into wasting their time by getting them to believe that a man chosen at random is a spy and having them follow him around even though in reality he has no connections to the spy game at all. Violinist Francois (Pierre Richard) gets chosen when he is spotted at the airport wearing only one black shoe. Bernard and his men fall for the bait and follow around Francois wherever he goes and eavesdrop on his conversations like there is some hidden meaning in whatever he says and does, which leads to many amusing results.

The film’s main charm is its satirical jab at governmental bureaucracy and the way they spend so much time and money on wasteful elements that lead nowhere while blithely ignoring the bigger problems. It also playfully taps into the foibles of human nature and how people, once they are convinced of something, will continue to believe it to the point of willfully rejecting or rationalizing evidence that may point elsewhere.

The best bit comes with the overly serious facial expressions that Blier and his subordinates show as they intently listen into Francois’ lovemaking with a woman (Colette Castel).  The slapstick during one of Francois concerts and the side-story dealing with Francois’ friend Maurice (Jean Carmet) who thinks he may be going nuts as he spots the spies at various times when no else does are equally side-splitting.

Pierre Richard, who was not the original choice for the part, is perfect in the lead with his flaming, curly, disheveled hair the perfect look for a man that’s just a bit out-of-touch with world around him. The fact that he continues about his daily life while oblivious to all the spying going on around him makes it even funnier and I liked that despite the character being on the goofy side he still ends up coming off like a real person albeit on the eccentric end.

The script by Francis Veber manages to sustain its comical edge throughout, but like with many of his other plots it borders on stretching its one-joke too thin and seeming more like a collection of gags than an actual plot. The humor is funny enough that it works, but the story still lacks a second or third act and could’ve ended sooner than it does. The film also fails to show the most crucial moment of the story, which is why Francois was wearing one black shoe to begin with. It gets briefly explained later, but this is a scene that should’ve been shown right up front before any of the rest of it got played-out.

In 1985 20th Century Fox did an American remake of this film that starred Tom Hanks and was called The Man with One Red Shoe, which will be reviewed tomorrow.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 6, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Yves Robert

Studio: Gaumont

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

Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bum befriends rich family.

Jerry (Nick Nolte) has been living on the streets for years to the point that he has become used to it. One day his dog that is starving runs away from him and befriends a lady on the sidewalk who gives him food and eventually takes him home with her. When Jerry realizes that his pet is gone he panics and goes throughout Beverly Hills on a mad search. When he can’t find him he decides to drown himself in a pool of a posh household. Dave (Richard Dreyfuss) is the owner of the home who saves Jerry before he can kill himself and the two begin an awkward friendship. Jerry is even invited to move in with the rest of Dave’s family, which quickly sends the household out-of-control.

This film is a remake of the 1934 French classic Boudu Saved from Drowning and director Paul Mazursky nicely weaves the theme of the rich befriending the poor into the tapestry of Reagan’s ‘80s capitalism. The pace is breezy and non-confrontational and shows the wealthy as actually being the weaker of the two as they are much less able to adjust to harsh elements while trapped in their sterile surroundings and boring livelihoods simply so they can keep up the challenging pace of staying in tandem to the standards of society’s upper crust.

Midler has some funny moments as the snotty wife who doesn’t at all enjoy Jerry’s presence until he is able to give her a type of orgasm that she never had. Nolte is excellent as the bum in one of his best all-around performances. The scene where he eats dog food straight out of the bowl alongside the family’s pet Matisse (Mike the Dog) is an absolute keeper.

There are also some great supporting performances including ‘50’s rock icon Little Richard who plays Dave’s rich African American neighbor and is just as wealthy as the rest of the people in the neighborhood, but still feels badly discriminated against and doesn’t mind letting anyone he meets know about it. I also enjoyed that Mazursky stays with his ongoing theme of employing his own real-life therapist (Donald F. Muhich) into many of his movies. Muhich had already appeared as a psychiatrist in three of Mazursky’s earlier efforts and here appears again as a mental health counselor, but this time for the family’s dog.

At that times though the film does get a bit too serene and seems to blithely ignore many of the more serious elements of homelessness. Many scenes make it seem almost like they want to be on the streets and even enjoy it. It also would’ve been funnier had Dave been more a rich snob and his personality contrasted more severely with Jerry’s only for him to eventually come down to his level at the end, but overall I still found the whole thing to be amiably entertaining.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: January 31, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Mazursky

Studio: Buena Vista Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Wild in the Streets (1968)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rock star becomes President.

I was going to post this review the day after the election, but decided given the results that I might postpone it a few days as I didn’t want some readers who might feel a bit on edge with the outcome getting any more nervous. The film’s subject matter consists of what at the time was considered simply wild satire, but now in these crazy political times may actually hit frighteningly close to home.

The story centers around Max Frost (Christopher Jones) a rock star who has become a major teen idol to the nation’s young people. Senator Johnny Fergus (Hal Holbrook) is running for office and wants to campaign to lower the voting age to 18 in an attempt to garner support from young Americans, which in turn he hopes will get him into the Presidency. He asks for the assistance of Max to help him in his pursuit. Max agrees, but then promotes the idea to his fan base of lowering the voting age not to 18, but to 14. Fergus is ill-prepared for the onslaught of enthusiasm this idea has with the teens. He reluctantly agrees to compromise and pass a bill that allows this, but to his shock it gets Max elected President and not him. With Max in office things spiral recklessly out-of-control. Hippies take over the senate and pass extreme laws that send anyone over 30 into concentration camps where they are forced fed LSD.

The script by Robert Thom is unabashedly cynical, which is what I liked most about it. It takes no sides. The younger generation is exposed with just as much foibles as the older one. The film never compromises on its dark tone and the bleak scenarios get pushed to the ultimate extreme, but horrifyingly never fall all that far from the truth.

The film’s acerbic humor is refreshingly on-target. Director Barry Shear camouflages the low budget with a quick pace that emphasizes the frailties and reactions of its characters. Holbrook is superb as the idealist who gets a harsh dose of ugly reality that sends him more and more on edge. Shelley Winters is hilarious as Max’s narcissist mother who uses her son’s rise to fame as an opening for her own entrance into the spotlight. She appears sporadically throughout, but manages to own every scene that she is in when she does.

Jones is excellent in the lead and I considered him very much like James Dean both in is looks and acting method. He’s perfect for the role except in close-ups he looks middle-aged as he was already 30, which hurts the theme since anyone over 25 was considered the enemy. Diane Varsi is quite sexy as a flower child and I loved the scene of her first day in congress where she and her radical young followers send the elders in the room into a shocked free-for-all. The film also gives you a glimpse of famous child TV stars in early roles including Barry Williams, famous from playing Greg in ‘The Brady Bunch’ and Kellie Flanagan who went on the play Candice in ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’.

While I was impressed with the bird’s-eye-view of the mob scenes and how many people they were able to get to be a part of the teen protesters I still felt that there should’ve been violence and raw emotion in these sequences in order to have been more effective. The ending makes its point and then gets very heavy-handed and goes on too long repeating the same statement that the audience already got the first time, but overall I really liked this film and felt that now more than ever it’s quite timely.

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My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: May 29, 1968

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: Barry Shear

Studio: American Pictures International

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

First Family (1980)

first-family

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: President discovers giant vegetables.

Manfred Link (Bob Newhart) is the current President of the United States. His 28-year-old daughter Gloria (Gilda Radner) is a raging nymphomaniac and his wife Constance (Madeline Kahn) a closet alcoholic. He travels with his family to the fictional nation of Upper Gorm because their active volcano harbors an energy source that could be used to propel nuclear energy. While there he comes upon some giant vegetables that they grow and learns that if he and the nation are willing to sacrifice one virgin per year he could harvest the same results, but with a price.

I’ve been a fan of writer/director Buck Henry for many years, so I’m not exactly sure what went wrong here, but it’s a disaster of epic proportions. Literally nothing is funny and many times just plain excruciatingly lame. It’s almost like they intentionally were trying to make a bad movie and see how many dumb jokes they could throw out before the viewer went screaming from the theater. Much of the humor gets badly botched with a good case in point being the scene where Newhart sips a drink made from goat urine and when he finds out what it is his face turns green, but this effect was done by shining a filtered spotlight on his face and it is very obvious making the effect like much of the movie seem quite hokey.

The movie would’ve worked better had the humor stayed linked to actual politics or what could occur to someone who actually worked in the White House. Instead they throw in any dumb joke that they can simply for the sake of a cheap laugh. The satire is extremely dated and has no connection at all to today’s political scene. The story thread dealing with the giant vegetables is not only stupid, but makes it seem like a material for a completely different genre like cheesy sci-fi.

I didn’t like Gilda Radner’s part at all. Having the secret service constantly chase her down every time she tries to make-out with a man might’ve been funny had the character been an oversexed teen, but this is a 28-year-old woman who has every right to sleep with anyone she wants no matter if her father is the President or not and she should’ve had her parents sued for trying to deny her civil rights.

The rest of the cast is pretty much wasted as well especially Rip Torn who’s given only 4 minutes of screen time. Harvey Korman is mildly amusing as the exasperated Ambassador and Bob Dishy elicits a few chuckles as the wimpy Vice President, but the highly talented Kahn gets stuck in a very unfunny role with her character’s alcoholism being an attempted, but very tasteless satirical stab at First Lady Betty Ford who did suffer from disease.

The filmed bombed badly at the box office and it’s easy to see why. It’s sloppily put together with no eye for detail. Not only is the comedy a dud, but everything else too including the filming of the outside of the island nation which was clearly shot in an indoor set as well as the scene that is supposedly shot in Minnesota, but shows mountains in the background. I was born and raised in Minny and believe me there are no mountains anywhere making me wonder if there was any thought put into this useless tripe at all.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: December 25, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: Buck Henry

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD-R (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Midnight (1989)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Horror hostess is goofy.

Midnight (Lynn Redgrave) is a Goth dressing host of a late night TV-show where she rises from a coffin to help introduce a bad B-movie. She has managed to attain a strong cult following and Mr. B. (Tony Curtis) the head of the TV-station where she works wants her to sign over the syndication rights, but she continually refuses. She then meets Mickey (Steve Parrish) and the two get into a relationship, but when he proves to be unfaithful dead bodies begin turning up including that of Mr. B.’s. Is Midnight the killer, or is she being framed by someone else lurking in the shadows?

There are a few snappy lines here and there, but overall this thing is a complete bore and too poorly paced to be entertaining. The film shifts so clumsily between comedy, satire and horror that it becomes hard to figure what audience the filmmakers where intending to draw in.

Redgrave’s send-up of Elvira and Vampira misses the mark completely. The wacky outfits that she wears is indeed eye-catching, but the camp level gets played up too much and the fact that she continues to display the goofy persona that she has in front of the camera even at while at home gets way overdone and eventually quite annoying.

Curtis is far more entertaining and should’ve been giving a larger role. His hanging death in which he struggles in mid-air with a rope around his neck is actually impressive, but I did spend most of the film thinking about the white mop that was on top of his head and wondering if it was his real hair, or a wig. Parrish, as the young love interest, is thoroughly dull and drains what little energy this film has right out with his presence.

The strangulation death that occurs under water deserves some merit and I did enjoy the exteriors of Mr. B’s mansion as well as Midnight’s, but the attempts to satirize the behind-the-scenes wheeling’s-and-dealings of the entertainment world fall horribly flat and eventually becomes a joke onto itself.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: July 5, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 26Minutes

Rated R

Director: Norman Thaddeus Vane

Studio: Kuys Entertainment Group

Available: VHS

Catch-22 (1970)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: The insanities of war.

Having to fly numerous combat air missions has sent Word War II fighter pilot John Yossarian (Alan Arkin) to the brink of insanity. He goes to his unit’s psychiatrist Dr. Daneeka (Jack Gilford) asking him if he can be sent home. The doctor admits that anyone who feels that they are going crazy shouldn’t be flying, but there’s a problem known as ‘Catch-22’, which states that anyone who no longer wants to fly combat missions isn’t crazy but normal and therefore John’s request is denied and he is forced to remain while observing how utterly ridiculous everyone else is, particularly his military superiors, even though they’re considered to be the ‘normal’ ones.

The film is based on the best-selling novel by Joseph Heller, who started writing his novel in 1953 and would only spend 1-hour each day working on it until finally completing it 8 years later. The story is very loosely based on some of his experiences and emotions that he had as a fighter pilot during the war and it’s always nice watching something that was done, no matter how satirical, from an insider’s perspective and his numerous potshots at the nonsense that makes up the military hierarchy could easily be parlayed to anyone who has had to deal with bureaucracy at any level.

Certain changes were made in the novel’s transition to the big-screen, but overall screenwriter Buck Henry does well in bringing the fragmented narrative vibe of the book to the film. I was really impressed with the aerial sequences, which used the B-25 Mitchell and took 6 months to film. The cinematic style was years-ahead-of-its-time as well including having things occur in the background of a scene that has no connection to what the characters in front of the camera are discussing and at times even oblivious to.

The film features many laugh-out-loud segments with my favorite being the part where Yossarian attends a military award ceremony and accepts his medal while being, to the shock of the military brass that is handed out the medal, stark naked. Anthony Perkins, who plays the hopeless chaplain, is also quite funny in a rare, but interesting turn in a comedic role.

One of the things that I didn’t like about the film, although it didn’t bother me quite as much as it did when I first saw the movie many years ago, is the way the tone shifts from being quirky and hilarious at the beginning to somber and serious towards the end. I realize that the novel works in the same way, but the first half of the film successfully balanced the line of exposing the absurdities of war in a comedic vein while still showing the serious consequences without ever getting overwrought, so it’s a shame that the second half couldn’t have worked the same way instead of leaving the viewer with a gloomy, depressed feeling when it’s over and almost forgetting completely about the comedy that came before it. I also believe this is why this film failed at the box office while the similar M*A*S*H succeeded simply because that movie remained funny all the way through.

Arkin, in the lead, is miscast and seems too old for the part. His nervous, hyper persona doesn’t work and would’ve been more effective had it been toned down by being played by a younger actor who was more emotionally detached. The rest of the supporting cast though is great including Martin Balsam who makes cinematic history by being the first actor to ever appear sitting on a toilet in a movie.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: June 24, 1970

Runtime: 2Hour 2Minutes

Rated R

Director: Mike Nichols

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

O Lucky Man! (1973)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: A young man’s journey.

Mick (Malcolm McDowell) is a wide-eyed young man entering into the adult world and full of Horatio Alger-like illusions of working real hard and becoming insanely rich while doing it. His first job is as a coffee salesman where he is told that ‘the-sky’s-the-limit’ in regards to his earning potential, so with the carrot-on-the-string firmly in place he dives into it, but ultimately finds little to show for it. He then meets up with a rich tycoon ( Ralph Richardson) and essentially becomes the man’s lapdog assistant only to learn that this doesn’t work either. After spending time in jail he comes back out into the world as a ‘reformed’ man extoling on the idealistic virtues of humbleness only to again meet with aversion and failure.

The film, which is based on an original idea by McDowell, is essentially a broad look at society’s many socio-economic class levels and how easy it is to fall down it, but hard to move up. Some consider Glengarry Glen Ross to be the bleakest indictment on the sales profession, but having worked in the business when I was like the character here first getting out into the working world I can say that this one is even more searing and accurate.

On a wider scope the film successfully works as a critical statement on capitalism, which due to the purveying political climate of the day most American audiences are just now ready to catch up to. Mick’s journey is more his eventual disillusionment as he slowly realizes that being a ‘go-getter’ and having a ‘good attitude’ isn’t going to be enough as the system is rigged so that the individual is more likely to lose than win and can’t really function otherwise. His efforts then become exploited while helping to make someone else richer as he tolls in the bottom rung doing lateral moves into areas that have potential promise, but only produce the same results.

Although the character’s perpetual delusions of grandeur become a bit annoying McDowell plays the part well. The intent was for him to play against type from the one that he did just previously in A Clockwork Orange by portraying someone who is clean-cut, respectful and obedient, but with all the transitions that the character goes through and at one point even having him strapped to a chair in much the same way that he was in the Kubrick film it eventually comes off more like a continuation of that part than a completely different one.

The fun of watching the film is seeing the supporting cast playing dual roles. Arthur Lowe is great especially in the part where he gets put into heavy black make-up to play the leader of a fictitious foreign nation. Rachel Roberts is good too with the erotic scene where she transfers coffee from her mouth into McDowell’s and then later as a poor woman who commits suicide, which has a foreboding quality to it since Roberts ended up doing the same thing five years later in real-life.

Fans of Helen Mirren will enjoy seeing her when she was much younger and playing the part of a rebellious daughter. I also liked the way Alan Price and his band fits into the film. They do the movie’s soundtrack, which is quite good, but instead of having their music played over the action the movie cuts away and captures them doing their renditions inside a sound studio, which in any other case would be considered distracting, but here helps accentuate the film’s  already cerebral tone. It’s also amusing how the band ends up becoming a part of the story as the McDowell character almost gets hit by their van, which allows the opportunity for Price to say the film’s best line “Are we suing you, or are you suing us?”

The film is full of many surreal and original moments and is so consistently inventive that you hardly notice its three hour runtime. However, to me the best part about it is the way it attacks and criticizes the status quo, which is something that no Hollywood movie ever does.

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: March 26, 1973

Runtime: 2Hours 58Minutes

Rated R

Director: Lindsay Anderson

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

The King of Comedy (1983)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: Struggling comic craves fame.

Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) is a lonely 34-year-old still living in the basement of his mother’s home while fantasizing about one day appearing on the top-rated Jerry Langford show as a stand-up comedian. When he tries to contact Langford (Jerry Lewis) he’s given the blow off, so he decides to plot an elaborate plan with an equally obsessed fan named Masha (Sandra Bernhard). Together they kidnap Jerry at gunpoint and take him back to her apartment where they tie him up with duct tape. They then call the show’s producers and demand that Rupert appear that night as a guest comedian on the show or Jerry’s life will be ended.

Paul D. Zimmerman’s script, which was originally written in the late ‘60s and intended as a vehicle for talk show host Dick Cavett, is nothing short of brilliant and the main reason for its success is that it takes an outrageous idea and adapts it to realities of modern day life while pinpointing with amazing clarity all the absurdities of today’s celebrity worship culture. The story is told by people who’ve worked in the entertainment business, which makes the viewer feel like they’ve experienced life from inside after watching it.

There are so many ingeniously funny moments that it is hard to pick only one in fact you have to watch the movie several times in order to appreciate all of its subtly and satirical nuances. I loved the scene where Rupert talks to cardboard cutouts of Liza Minnelli and Langford as he pretends to be on their show or when he imagines doing his routine in front of an audience while speaking to a blown-up picture of a crowd of people. The segment in which Rupert arrives at Langford’s home unannounced is equally good and was entirely ad-libbed by the cast. The scene involving Langford’s kidnapping and subsequent ‘ransom’ note, which he must read from cue cards is also hilarious and Rupert’s wedding that he imagines being done live on the Langford show is a terrific send-up of the real-life wedding between Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki that occurred on ‘The Tonight Show’ on December 17, 1969.

Director Scorsese does a masterful job of jumping from the real to surreal as well as allowing the viewer to get inside Rupert’s head and appreciating the warped logic that many obsessed fans like him have. I also enjoyed the inspired casting including having Scorsese’s own mother playing the voice of Rupert’s mom and De Niro’s real-life wife at the time playing Rupert’s would-be girlfriend. Frederick De Cordova who was the producer of ‘ The Tonight Show’ during its run with Johnny Carson essentially plays himself as Langford’s producer and even Scorsese can be spotted during a brief bit with actor Tony Randall.

Lewis is interesting in his first serious role and it’s fun seeing a picture of him when he was only 12-years-old. Comedian Sandra Bernhard is surprisingly good and I enjoyed the fact that even though her character was nutty she still came off as being quite sensible when compared to Pupkin. De Niro though steals it by making psychotic character seem strangely likable.

The few drawbacks include why at 34 would Rupert suddenly decided to break into the entertainment business and what was he doing before this. The Bernhard character also needed more of a backstory especially when we find that she’s living in a luxurious apartment and apparently loaded with money, which goes against the grain of most celebrity stalkers who are almost always on society’s fringe.

The humor may not resonate with everyone, but if one is a fan of dark comedy then it doesn’t get much darker than this. The twist ending, which blew me away when I first saw this years ago, now doesn’t seem quite as believable, but the rest of it is on-target in what is clearly a top comedy to of the ‘80s.

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: February 18, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Martin Scorsese

Studio: 20th Century Fox

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