By Richard Winters
My Rating: 5 out of 10
4-Word Review: Mailman kidnaps suburban housewife.
Ben Harris (Eli Wallach) is a middle-aged mailman living in a crummy, rundown basement apartment. He is bitter and angry at the world around him, which he feels is filled with a lot of vapid followers to a rigid and dehumanizing system. When his upstairs neighbor puts a hole in his roof and both his landlord and the housing authority refuse to do anything about it he decides to kidnap a young beautiful women as a form of insurrection. Instead he mistakenly nabs middle-aged housewife Gloria (Anne Jackson) who has similar issues and the two slowly form a budding friendship.
The screenplay is written by Murray Schisgal and is based on his one-act, two-character off-Broadway play ‘The Tiger’. The film is filled with a lot of diverting, offbeat humor some of which works and some of it doesn’t. I liked the part where Gloria’s neighbor Leo (John Harkins) gets his entire family on their knees to pull out crabgrass from their otherwise ‘perfect’ lawn and we eventually see them tear the entire lawn to bits from a bird’s-eye view and in fast-motion. Wallach’s confrontation with Sudie Bond inside the housing authority office is also amusing, but his attempts at kidnapping a woman come off too much like Wiley E. Coyote trying to get the roadrunner and turn the film into an ill-advised live action cartoon.
Director Arthur Hiller does a fabulous job of disguising the fact that this was originally a play. The editing is quick and the locales varied particularly at the beginning. The pace has a kinetic late 60’s feel, which gives it a certain time capsule quality. However the choice of music, which includes a studio group singing the film’s theme, is quite sterile.
Wallach gives a flawless performance and Jackson is also good. The two have been married since 1948 making them Hollywood’s longest lasting couple. Unfortunately the scenes of the two of them inside the apartment are rather stagnant and the one-time that the film gets boring.
There are also some great supporting performances including Rae Allen as a paranoid woman who thinks every man is a potential stalker and Charles Nelson Reilly as a goofy college registrar. The film also marks the film debuts of Dustin Hoffman and Mariclare Costello as his jilted girlfriend, Bob Dishy as an exasperated husband and John P. Ryan as an escort to a female impersonator. You can also spot a young Joe Santo inside the housing authority office and Frances Sternhagen as a passenger on a bus as well as Barbara Colby who in 1975 ended up getting murdered in mysterious and yet unsolved circumstances.
The one error that I noticed in the film is the gaping hole in Ben’s apartment ceiling somehow gets strangely taken care of and is nonexistent when he comes back to the place with his victim. I realize this movie borders on the bizarre and quirky to begin with, but I still felt there needed to be some explanation for that and none is given.
My Rating: 5 out of 10
Released: August 18, 1967
Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes
Director: Arthur Hiller
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Available: None at this time.
Posted in 60's Movies, Kidnapping Movies, Movies Based on Stageplays, Movies that take place in the Big Apple, Obscure Movies, Quirky
Tagged Anne Jackson, Arthur Hiller, Barbara Colby, Charles Nelson Reilly, Eli Wallach, Entertainment, Movies, Rae Allen, Review
By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: The game is rigged.
June Ryder (Jane Fonda) is a boy-crazy college coed who has her sights set on Ray Blent (Anthony Perkins) the star of the school’s basketball team. Ray ends up being as infatuated with June as she is with him and the two decide to get married, but before they do they purchase a motor home from Ray’s friend Fred (Tom Laughlin). Unfortunately they don’t have enough of the required money until a mysterious stranger gives Ray $2,500 to blow the upcoming game his team has with the Russians, which puts Ray in a difficult quandary.
The film has a nice fluffy appeal and was based on the hit stage play, which in turn was based on the novel ‘The Homecoming Game’ by Howard Nemerov. The college campus atmosphere for its time period seems realistic. It is refreshing to have the adult faculty portrayed as normal human beings relating to the students on a relatively equal level and vice versa as opposed to the trend that started in the 70’s and went full-throttle in the 80’s where adults in these types of films were written as preachy, oppressive, out-of-touch, authoritative humorless pricks. In fact Marc Connelly as Professor Osman was my favorite character as he looked and spoke like a true professor and helped balance the silliness by being the most normal of the bunch. Anne Jackson as the wife of Professor Sullivan (Ray Walston) comes in a close second and has some amusing moments and a few good comeback lines particularly near the end.
Fonda is perfect as a character lost in her own little world and enthusiastically going by the beat of her own drummer while oblivious to the consternation she causes to those around her. Initially the character is written a little too aggressively making her too deluded and like a stalker, but fortunately that gets toned down and she becomes likable enough. Perkins is great as her boyish counterpart and the two even sing a duet together.
The pacing is a bit poor. Initially it is very zany and fast paced making the thing seem almost like a live action cartoon, which doesn’t work at all. The film then slows down and becomes a draggy only to rectify things with a funny conclusion. If you like things that are cute and undemanding then this should work although the sequence in which Ray comes into the game and singlehandedly wins the game after the team is far behind is just too contrived and over-blown for even Hollywood standards. The humor is light and comes in spurts with some of it managing to elicit a few chuckles. One of the few interchanges that I liked consisted of:
June: “Did you know that elephants only mate once every seven years?”
Ray: “There are some that do it every six years.”
June: “They’re nymphomaniacs”
One of the biggest problems with the film is the ending as Ray decides to play in the game and win it for his team despite keeping the money that he was paid in order to throw it. However, there is just no way a criminal organization would let anyone keep that money especially when the other party did not uphold their end of the bargain. Most likely they would track down Ray and June and exact a very unpleasant revenge. However, the film never even touches on this and instead shows Ray and June buying the motorhome and riding happily off into the sunset while leaving open a major loophole in the process.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: April 6, 1960
Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes
Director: Joshua Logan
Studio: Warner Brothers
Available: VHS, DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video
Posted in 60's Movies, Basketball Movies, Black & White, College Life, Comedy, Movies Based on Novels, Movies Based on Stageplays, Romance
Tagged Anne Jackson, Anthony Perkins, Drama, Entertainment, Jane Fonda, Marc Connelly, Movies, Review