Tag Archives: Carol Burnett

Pete ‘n’ Tillie (1972)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Marriage and then tragedy.

Tillie (Carol Burnett) is a 33-year-old secretary still looking for ‘Mr. Right’. Her friend Gertrude (Geraldine Page) sets her up with Pete (Walter Matthau) a lifelong bachelor. The two don’t hit-it-off initially, but the other prospects are so dim they decide to make a go of it, so they get married and have a kid (Lee H. Montgomery) only to then be faced with terrible news.

On the onset this may seem like a misfire. The viewer expects, especially with these two stars, a very broad comedy of which this is not. Instead the script, which is based on the novel ‘Witches’ Milk’ by Pete De Vries, relies heavily on dry wit particularly through the dialogue, which on a low key level is quite funny. The attempt to create a sort-of unromantic romance that goes completely against what we’ve come to expect in most other romantic films is commendable and for the first hour or so it kind of works.

Matthau again shines by managing to make an unlikable character likable and even downright engaging while Montgomery is fun as the kid by playing a child that seems far more mature and sensible than his two parents. Burnett’s performance though doesn’t work as well. She’s known for her hammy performances from her TV-show and yet here plays a more serious part that barely has much comedy to it at all. The scene where she  screams up to the sky in a fit of rage over her son’s death is her best moment, but overall her appearance here is largely forgettable.

Her character’s motivations are confusing as well particularly with the way she jumps into marriage with a man she really doesn’t like and who would repel most other women and then she decides to stay with him even as it becomes painfully clear that he’s cheating on her. It just seemed that a reasonably attractive woman such as herself should have other male suitors to choose from, so why she sells-out for this one and sticks with him when others would run is not clear and the movie should’ve done a better job at answering this.

Geraldine Page’s character seems completely out-of-sync with the proceedings. She’s personally one of my favorite actresses and even though she was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance here I didn’t see what her presence added to the story. Having her pass out at a courthouse simply because she doesn’t want to reveal her age gets rather exaggerated. The physical altercation that she has with Burnett afterwards does not fit the tone of the rest of the film, which tried to be low-key while this bit becomes over-the-top slapstick and completely out of place.

Had the film focused entirely on the courtship phase this thing could’ve been a winner as it has a nice dry offbeat touch. Even the melodrama of the second act I could handle, but the crazy antics of the third act don’t work at all and the ending leaves no impact at all making this an interesting experiment that ultimately fails.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: December 17, 1972

Runtime: 1 Hour 40 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Martin Ritt

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD-R (Universal Vault Series)

Chu Chu and the Philly Flash (1981)

chu chu 4

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Goofy couple steals briefcase.

Flash (Alan Arkin) is a former big league pitcher who is washed up while living on the city streets selling stolen watches that don’t work. Emily (Carol Burnett) is a former dance instructor who is equally down-and-out and now makes a meager living doing dance routines on the streets while wearing a Carmen Miranda outfit. The two inadvertently meet one day while coming into contact with a briefcase that has stolen government documents. They agree to give it back to the men who are demanding it, but only for a price, which only helps to get them into more and more trouble.

This offbeat comedy, which was written by Barbara Dana who at the time was married to Arkin, has a few funny, dry humored moments at the beginning that makes it somewhat passable, but it’s unable to sustain any type of momentum and does not have enough action or comedy to keep it engaging. The middle half is slow and boring and the ending, which takes place at an amusement park, is too full of forced humor and sloppy slapstick to be considered either funny or entertaining. The film also never explains what specifically these secret plans are, or who these men are that are chasing after it, which only proves how poorly thought out and threadbare the plot really is.

The relationship between the two main characters doesn’t work either. They seem to let their guards down too easily for people that have been living alone and on the skids for so long and having them share more of a bickering and distrustful chemistry would’ve made it more realistic and edgy. The whole middle half is spent hearing them telling each other about their woeful pasts, which is neither compelling nor insightful and only bogs the film’s already slow pace down even further. These are the type of wacky character who can only be effective if put into comically frantic scenarios of which there needed to be much more of.

Arkin manages to give a pretty good performance playing a surprisingly subdued character that does not go off on hyper rants like the characters in some of his other film roles do, which is a good thing. However, Burnett is completely wasted despite seeing her in a Carmen Miranda outfit, which is a definite hoot. The only one who is genuinely funny is Danny Aiello as the exasperated bad guy.

Danny Glover can also be spotted in an early role as a homeless person trying to spy on Burnet and Arkin to see what they’re up to, but his part is one of the corniest ones in the movie and should’ve been dropped completely. The San Francisco setting may remind one of the classic comedy What’s Up Doc?, which also took place in that city and had a similar storyline dealing with a misplaced briefcase, but that film was far more consistently funny and took more advantage of the bay area locales while this one only focuses on the rundown areas of the city.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: August 28, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated PG

Director: David Lowell Rich

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS

HealtH (1980)

health 4

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Altman’s take on politics.

Normally I’m a big proponent of the European and independent filmmaking system that allows the director to have complete creative control over their projects, which in Hollywood doesn’t always occur and many times the studios will meddle with the film until it becomes nothing like what the director had originally envisioned. However, this film is a great example of what can happen on the opposite end when a director and his ego are allowed too much leeway until their movies become self-indulgent exercises that appeals to no one except themselves and a few of their most ardent followers.

During the ‘70s director Robert Altman had achieved such heightened celebrity that 20th Century Fox studio head Alan Ladd Jr. gave him the green light on virtually any project or idea he wished to pursue. Ladd was such a big fan of Altman’s stuff that he didn’t even care if the film made money or not, which they usually didn’t. It was during this period that Altman was able to achieve some of his most bizarre onscreen creations like Brewster McCloud, which was brilliantly quirky, while others like this one petered out before they even began.

Here Altman was clearly borrowing from his own well particularly with the way he captured running conversations going on at the same time between different people that 10 years earlier had come off as being fresh and inventive, but by this time was now derivative and distracting. The film’s parade of eccentric characters is not interesting or relatable and Altman’s stab at political satire is too soft and unfocused with no connection at all to the political scene of today.

health 3

The threadbare plot, which deals with two political candidates played by Glenda Jackson and Lauren Bacall who compete for the presidency of a Florida health food convention, has too much dialogue and not enough action. It manages to be mildly amusing for the first 30 minutes, but then like with a tire suffering from a slow leak it starts to fizzle until it culminates with a dull and pointless conclusion.

It’s almost worth a look just to see Carol Burnett playing a more subdued type of character than she usually does although the part where she becomes ‘shocked’ at the rumor that her favorite candidate had a sex change operation now seems quite dated. Dick Cavett is also engaging playing himself and trying to corral all the nuttiness around him, but it’s Paul Dooley, who is also credited with co-writing the screenplay, that is the real scene stealer playing an independent candidate willing to do anything for attention.

I’m a big fan of Altman’s work, but I found this one to be slow going, uneventful and sloppy. The film’s concept could’ve used a lot more fleshing out as the whole thing plays like it was simply a lark done by a director that was coasting too much on his past successes while not throwing anything new into the mix.

health 1

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: September 12, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Robert Altman

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: None at this time.