Tag Archives: Dean Martin

The Cannonball Run (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: A very stupid movie.

This film is based on the same real-life cross country race that also inspired The Gumball Rally and Cannonball, but unlike those two, which weren’t very good anyways; this movie doesn’t emphasize the race and doesn’t even get going with it until 35 minutes into the runtime. Instead the viewer gets treated to one lame, cornball gag after another making the already threadbare premise seem like only an afterthought.

The most surprising thing is that the screenplay was written by Brock Yates, who was the man who came up with the idea for the race back in 1971 and was participant in all 4 times that it ran. In fact both he and director Hal Needham took part in the 1979 race as driving partners using the very same ambulance that Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise use in the movie. The two pretended to be actual paramedics in order to avoid being stopped by cops when they sped. They even hired a medical doctor to ride along in back to make it seem more legit in case they did get pulled over and Yates’ wife was used as a pretend patient. They almost won it too out of 46 other participants that ran, but lost when their transmission conked out 50 miles from the finish line.

You would think if the script was written by someone who had actually driven in the race that he would’ve been able to offer more insight about the experience, but instead we get bombarded with ‘zany characters’ that are so outlandishly over-the-top that you feel embarrassed for the actors playing them.

The only interesting aspect is the eclectic cast that unfortunately, like with the movie, seem uninspired and going through the motions simply to collect a paycheck. Reynolds, who admitted in interviews to not liking the movie and having ‘sold-out’ simply for the salary, is especially lethargic. He’s not involved in much of the action and never even seen driving while wearing what looks like a wig and ultimately at the cusp of what would eventually be a major career downturn that he was never able to fully recover from.

Supporting players seem almost exploited particularly Jack Elam whose real-life handicap gets used to make his character seem ‘crazy’. Back when he was a child he got into a fight with another kid at a Boy Scout meeting and his left eye was poked with a pencil, causing him to lose his sight with it and giving him a perennial ‘lazy-eye’ that never moved in tandem with his right one. To help make this less pronounced he grew a mustache and beard, but here that gets shaved off making his weird gaze more pronounced, but the ‘crazy look’ gag is a boring one-joke that gets way overplayed.

Dean Martin, in his first movie in 6 years, looks old and washed-up. His Rat Pack partner Sammy Davis Jr. is also on-hand, but is much more energetic and into it while Martin walks around constantly with a drink in hand and looking ready for the grave.

The only member of the cast that comes off well is Farrah Fawcett who was at her all-time hottest and is just cute enough to keep the film passable, but the rest of it is worthless. Silly humor is okay as long as other elements are wrapped around it, but this thing has nothing else to offer. It’s just one stupid comedy bit after another that will prove too moronic for even those with a low bar.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: June 19, 1981

Runtime: 1 Hour 35 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Hal Needham

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

“something big” (1971)

something big 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kidnapping the colonel’s wife.

Joe Baker (Dean Martin) is an aging bandit looking to do “something big”. He becomes aware of a hoard of treasure being hidden inside a church that sits just across the border and safely guarded by a throne of Mexican bandits. Joe figures that to be able to overpower them he’ll need a Gatling gun and turns to black market dealer Jonny Cobb (Albert Salmi) who agrees to sell him one in exchange for a woman as he’s been without the company of one for “too long”. Joe then begins robbing stagecoaches in a mission to find a woman attractive enough for Jonny’s tastes. After several attempts he finds one who just happens to be the wife of the cavalry colonel (Brian Keith) who then goes on a mission to rescue her while attempting to put a kibosh on Joe’s plans.

This is another film that was given a ‘bomb’ rating by Leonard Maltin that I didn’t think was all that desrved. It’s certainly no classic but James Lee Barrett’s script if full of dry humor and offbeat touches that manages to keep things consistently amusing. Some of my favorite bits include Martin traveling around with a small pooch in his saddle pocket, or his horse having gold crown teeth. Don Knight as his Scottish travel companion Tommy who carries his bagpipes with him at all times and will even occasionally play them as they enter new frontier towns is funny too.

Keith is spot-on as the slightly stuffy colonel who is stuck with incompetent underlings and just wants to move on with his impending retirement in peace, but can’t. His facial expressions alone are terrific and he gives a far more nuanced performance than co-star Martin and should’ve been given top billing.

The attractive and sassy Honor Blackman is great as Keith’s wife and could easily be considered a ‘milf’ by today’s male audience. Joyce Van Patten and Judi Meredith as two women living on a lonely ranch willing to have sex with any man that comes along, including the uptight colonel, are quite funny as is Salmi with his garishly discolored, tobacco stained teeth.

The climax features some nifty gun action including seeing Martin use his Gatling gun to shoot down the bandits in domino-like fashion, but for the most part the script too leisurely paced and in desperate need of more confrontation and elaborate scenarios. Marvin Hamlisch’s soft-rock score is out-of-place for the time period and the theme song sung by former Paul Revere and the Raiders front man Mark Lindsey doesn’t have any type of western feel to it. I also got tired of hearing the phrase “something big” mentioned over and over again. Initially it seemed cute and clever to repeat the film’s title in the dialogue, but it eventually goes overboard.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: November 24, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 48Minutes

Rated GP

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen

Studio: National General Pictures

Available: DVD

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