Tag Archives: Dyan Cannon

Author! Author! (1982)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Playwright has family issues.

Ivan (Al Pacino) is a playwright struggling to get his next creation ‘English with Tears’ financed and produced. While he has managed to attain the necessary funding he still has a second act that everyone feels ‘needs work’, but before he can tackle that his wife Gloria (Tuesday Weld) leaves him for another man (Frederic Kimball). Now he must contend with raising the five kids alone with four of them being hers from a previous relationship.

The screenplay was written by Israel Horovitz and loosely based on his own experiences as a single parent. Horovitz has written many plays, over 70 of them, several have been considered at least in their day as groundbreaking, so this thing seems incredibly contrived by comparison. The scenes dealing with Ivan’s struggles in regards to his play and the politics that ensue in order to get it made are the most interesting aspects of the movie and the story should’ve solely focused on this angle while the home-life stuff proves sterile and better suited for a sitcom.

The kids seem too connected to the adult world around them. Children can certainly be astute at times, but they still dwell in their own little bubbles and this film shows no awareness of that and instead has them saying lines that more likely would’ve been uttered by an adult. Benjamin H. Carlin has a few cute moments as the young Geraldo, but Ari Meyers, who would later go on to star in the TV-show ‘Kate and Allie’ gives the best performance when she breaks down into tears as she describes the hardships of being booted around from one household to the next.

It’s nice seeing Pacino doing light comedy, which is a real change of pace for him, but he’s too intense and does not play off of Weld, who is more emotionally restrained, well at all. The scene where he tries to physically drag her into a taxi cab isn’t funny, but scary instead and most likely would’ve had those who were standing around witnessing it trying to intervene, or calling the cops.

Dyan Cannon is not effective as the kooky actress who stars in his play and then later moves in with him. Had her character’s eccentricities been played up more she might’ve at least been amusing, but the script doesn’t go far enough with this and having her call him up out-of-the-blue and ask to go to bed with him seemed too outrageously forward. There was some dramatic potential when, after she moves in with him and his kids, she is then asked to move out when Weld’s character comes back into the picture. This could’ve opened the door to a lot of dramatic fireworks and given the film a real lift, but instead she just leaves quietly and is essentially forgotten, which then begs the question why even bother introducing her character at all?

The scenes where Ivan frets about his play and the audience reactions to it are the best parts of the film because it shows the inner anxieties of just about any playwright or screenwriter out there, which is why this should’ve been the central point of the movie as it is the only thing that helps the story stand out. By comparison the family life stuff is generic and filled with too much manufactured cutesiness. It also wastes the talents of Alan King who is mildly amusing, at least at the beginning, as the play’s producer as well as the legendary comedy team of Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding who play the part of the play’s financiers.

The film’s title song ‘Coming Home to You’, which plays over the opening credits as well as the closing ones is so overly sugary that it is enough to make you want to turn the movie off before it’s even begun. It got nominated for a Razzie award for worst original song and it should’ve won as there could not be anything that would be worse, but what is even more amusing is that no one gets credited for singing it, which should’ve been a signal to director Arthur Hiller not to feature it in the film because if the song’s own singer is embarrassed by it then who else would like it.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: June 18, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Arthur Hiller

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD

Doctors’ Wives (1971)

doctors wives

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: His wife sleeps around.

Several wives of prominent surgeons at a prestigious hospital get together for a game of cards, but one of the women, the oversexed Lorrie Dellman (Dyan Cannon), gives them a shocking proposition. Seeing that they are not satisfied with their sex lives, she tells them that she will sleep with each of their husbands and then critique their ‘performances’, so as to enlightened them as to what they might be doing wrong. The women turn down her ‘friendly’ offer, but then panic when Lorrie tells them that she has slept with ’50 percent’ of them already.  They have no time to worry though because the next day Lorrie is shot dead by her brain surgeon husband (John Colicos) after she is found in bed with one of the physicians. Now the women must try to figure out which doctor it was while worrying if their husbands were also involved with Lorrie at some other point.

The film, which is based on a novel by Frank Slaughter, is just too trashy and soap opera-like to take seriously. The productions values are strong and director George Schaefer shows a flair for the visual, which makes it watchable, but the characters are one-dimensional and the dialogue seemingly stripped straight out of a potboiler paperback.

Cannon, who’s billed as being the star, is on-screen for less than five minutes, which has to set some sort of record. Who on earth would ever accept a part to be the film’s ‘star’ if they are going to only be in it for that short of a period, or why bill someone as being such if they ultimately will have that little to do? In some ways I wished the character had remained as she is so outwardly slutty that it becomes campy and her initial proposition would certainly have created a more interesting scenario than what ultimately gets played out. Besides any character whose first words out of their mouth is “God, I’m horny” can’t be all that bad.

The supporting cast, which is made up of many familiar faces, are essentially wasted especially Gene Hackman in what may be the dullest role of his otherwise illustrious career although the way he repeatedly slaps his wife (Rachel Roberts) across the face after she confides in him that she once had a lesbian affair does have a certain outrageous quality.

Colicos is competent as the heavy, but Anthony Costello steals it as a young intern who sleeps with the middle-aged wives of his superiors. In real-life he was gay and ended up dying of AIDS at the young age of 45, but here successfully comes off as a flaming heterosexual who brags of his conquests and acts like going to bed with married women is as common place as taking out the garage. His best bit comes when he beds fellow intern Sybil (Kristina Holland) who is making a sex documentary and narrates a ‘play-by-play’ of her sexual intercourse with him as it happens.

The film’s most memorable moment, and it’s a doozy, is when it shows in incredibly graphic style the operation of taking a bullet out of a man’s heart. A real pumping human heart was used and the footage would rival that of any educational film. Not only do we see them tear off the organ’s outer membrane, but we also watch as the doctor sticks his finger into it and then in one truly ghoulish shot pop the bullet out of it. It’s all real and done in close-up making it far more explicit than any gore movie out there and one of the most stomach churning things ever to be put in a mainstream Hollywood movie.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 3, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated R

Director: George Schaefer

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD-R

The Burglars (1971)

burglars 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Corrupt cop hounds thief.

Azad (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and his cohorts pull off a daring heist by robbing a gem collector of his emeralds in his home by using a state-of-the-art machine that is able to create a key to the safe on the spot by simply entering in the safe’s serial number. However, things go awry when Abel (Omar Sharif), a corrupt police captain, becomes suspicious of their activity after seeing the gang’s car parked on the road. Initially he lets them off, but only so he can follow them later and then blackmail them for the jewels, or threaten them with prison otherwise.

The film, which is based on the novel by David Goodis and made 14 years earlier as The Burglar, which starred Jayne Mansfield, has all the trappings for being a classic heist film. I enjoyed watching the intricate way they are finally able to crack open the safe, which takes up much of the first half-hour. I also liked the creative action, stunt work, story twists, luscious Greek scenery and musical score by the legendary Ennio Morricone. Unfortunately none of this is able to overcome a rather plodding pace and a lingering feeling that you’ve seen it all before.

The film’s biggest claim-to-fame is its two chase sequences. The first is similar to the one done in The Italian Job as two small compact cars drive all over Athens, including on sidewalks, stairwells, and through crowds of people, which is exciting to watch. However, the fact that no one gets injured and no other automobiles are damaged even as the cars drive straight into on-coming traffic is hard to imagine. The camera also cuts to a close-up shot of the lead car driving on its rim, but somehow the vehicle is still able to continue to go several more miles on rough surfaces and high speeds, but why have a shot like that inserted if it ultimately doesn’t mean anything?

The second chase works better, which involves Belmondo hanging onto the side of a bus as it travels speedily down a crowded city street while he tries to kick shut the door of a police car that is following, which is quite realistic looking especially since it appears to be Belmondo himself and not a stunt double doing it. This one culminates with Belmondo being tossed from a dump truck and down a steep hill while other large rocks roll with him, which again is impressive, but the fact that he doesn’t even receive a scratch from it is hard to believe.

Sharif is outstanding in a rare turn as a bad guy. He commands every scene that he is in and in the process makes co-star Belmondo seem forgettable and unable to equal the same strong presence. Dyan Cannon, who is the only American in the cast, gets a pointless part as a pin-up magazine model that catches Belmondo’s eye. Her character doesn’t appear until an hour in and is not all that integral to the plot. Her voice is also clearly dubbed in the French version, which makes her acting here limited and probably not worth signing up for to begin with.

The climactic finish that entails a man being drowned inside a grain elevator is novel as is the final moment inside a giant, mobile chicken coop with thousands of loud, clucking chickens, but overall the film fails to illicit much tension and would’ve been better had the runtime been trimmed and the scenes shortened.

burglars 2

Alternate Title: Le Casse

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 24, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 57Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Henri Verneuil

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD-R

Honeysuckle Rose (1980)

honeysuckle rose

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: On the road again.

Buck Bonham (Willie Nelson) is a country music singer who enjoys life on the road traveling to different concert venues with his band much to the consternation of his wife Viv (Dyan Cannon) who wants him to stay home more and help raise their child. When his longtime guitarist Garland (Slim Pickens) decides to retire they bring in Garland’s daughter Lily (Amy Irving) as a temporary replacement. Then Buck starts fooling around with Lily, which creates turmoil both with Buck’s relationship with his wife as well as Lily’s relationship with her father.

After his successful stint in Electric Horseman this film was supposed to send Nelson to the next level as a leading man, but fails miserably because the guy just can’t act. In fact he conveys his lines in such a laid back manner it’s almost like he’s half-asleep and not even there. His screen presence is nil and he ends up being badly upstaged by both Cannon and Pickens. I realize he is considered a country music legend and has many adoring fans, but personally his trembling voice type of singing is not for me. Out of the many, MANY songs that he sings during the course of this picture the only one I even remotely liked was ‘A Song for You’ and even then I consider the Leon Russell version to be far superior.

The film like its star is too laid back. It takes a full 30 minutes before we get anything even resembling a plot going. There’s lots of concert footage and scenes taken on their traveling bus, which to some extent gives the viewer a good taste of what life on the road is like, but then it becomes excessive. It’s almost like a concert movie with the slightest of plots intermittingly mixed in for good measure. The story itself is too obvious and takes too long to play out and then when it finally gets going and we have some actual dramatic tension it then resolves too quickly.

Cannon is pretty good and even does her own singing. Irving on the other hand seems in-over-her-head and looks quite uncomfortable playing on stage. She got nominated for a Razzy award for worst supporting actress and I felt it was well deserved. Rodeo clown-turned-actor Pickens is super in one of his best roles that allows him to show both his comedic and dramatic side. Lane Smith is hilarious in a brief, but funny stint as an aggressive agent looking to get his client, a guitarist who wears some very loud suits, into the band while also trying to push some cheesy money making schemes on the side.

The part where Pickens attacks Nelson with a gun and chases him all around a lonely beach is amusing as is their drunken bus ride along an isolated Mexican highway. I also liked Irving meeting with her father after the secret of her affair has come out as well as her moment of apology to Cannon, but this all comes during the film’s final 20 minutes. Before then it’s just a lot of stock footage of Nelson on stage, which is nice if you enjoy his singing, but not if you’re looking for an actual movie, which at times this barely seems to be.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: July 18, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 59Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jerry Schatzberg

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Such Good Friends (1971)

such good friends 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Her husband fools around.

Julie (Dyan Cannon) is a well-off New York Housewife living in a swanky Manhattan apartment with her husband Richard (Laurence Luckinbill) who is the successful editor of a New York fashion magazine. Her life seems fulfilled and happy until Richard goes into the hospital for routine surgery, which has unexpected complications that sends him into a coma. While going through some of his personal belongings she comes upon his little black book that lists all sorts of sexual conquests he has had with her friends, which first leads the devastated Julie into considering suicide, but then ultimately into revenge.

This film can be considered Otto Preminger’s swan song as the two movies he made after this weren’t worth watching. This movie also proves to be a giant improvement from the awful Skidoo that he did just three years before where he tried unsuccessfully to get with the ‘hip generation’, but failed miserably. It has the same irreverence and satire as that one, but it is much more disciplined and sophisticated and makes its point without going overboard. It also shows that despite his renowned cantankerous nature behind-the-scenes he was still a gifted director who managed to span five decades with movies that had vastly different styles and themes and he deserves to be labeled a filmmaking legend.

I loved the way the camera spins around in a circle during a scene inside a New York art museum as well as some breathtaking shots of the New York skyline while on top of Jennifer’s and Richard’s condominium. The fractured narrative that deals heavily with flashback sequences is also nicely handled though the scenes showing a middle-aged Cannon trying to look like she is an adolescent while wearing pigtails looks tacky and should’ve been scrapped.

The film is based on the Lois Gould novel of the same name and while that book had a much more serious tone the movie gives the material more of a satirical spin much like Diary of a Mad Housewife, which Preminger had scriptwriter Elaine May (who gets credited as Ester Dale) watch before writing this one. The result is endlessly witty dialogue and some near brilliant conversational exchanges between the characters. Some of the best bits are Jennifer’s discussions with Richard’s doctors who seem reluctant to take responsibility for their medical blundering as well as Jennifer’s awkward sexual encounter with her friend Cal (Ken Howard) when he is unable to ‘rise to the occasion’.

Although she has a face that can show pain and sadness well Cannon may not have been the best choice and some other actresses would’ve been more interesting in the part. Apparently Preminger had her in tears already on the first day and she has in subsequent interviews called him a ‘horrible man’. The scene showing her naked in a snapshot is actually that of another nude model with Cannon’s face cropped on it.

James Coco is great in support and I was genuinely shocked that it didn’t get him nominated for best supporting actor. The scene where Cannon is undressing him for some sex and he tries desperately to distract her while he takes off a corset that he is wearing underneath is frickin’ hilarious. Burgess Meredith has an outrageous moment where he is seen nude while attending a posh party and only his genitals are covered by a book hung from a belt that he is wearing.

The only real negative is the ending that is too serious and somber and deflates the energy from the film’s otherwise snarky tone. Some of the music used doesn’t work with the scenes either including the O.C. Smith song played over the closing credits. Otherwise it’s as fresh, original and timely as it was when it first came out and ripe to be rediscovered by the right audience. The title sequence created by Saul Bass that is used to open the film is diverting and I wished it had been extended.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: December 16, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 42Minutes

Rated R

Director: Otto Preminger

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Coast to Coast (1980)

coast to coast

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kooky couple goes truckin’

Maddie (Dyan Cannon) escapes from a mental hospital after she finds out that her husband (Quinn K. Redeker) had her committed there simply so he could avoid an expensive divorce. On the run she hitches a ride with truck driver Charles Callahan (Robert Blake) who reluctantly takes her in despite having troubles of his own including running from a man named Jules (William Lucking) who is after him for late payments on his truck. Together the two ride all the way from New York to California dealing with calamity and even some romance along the way.

Cannon has not had a lot of success in films where she has been the star, but she scores here and pretty much saves it and deserved top billing over Blake. Her energetic upbeat personality that has just a tinge of the fun-loving despite the circumstances helps keep things moving and entertaining. I loved the fact that she had herself trained on how to drive a big rig, so she could go through exactly what her character did when she first gets behind the wheel. The part where she climbs into some stalls housing a bunch of cows including a wild steer deserves mention for her tenacity, which is something some other plastic Hollywood stars wouldn’t even consider.

Blake on the other hand doesn’t fare as well and his attempts at trying to leave Maddie behind and stranding her in the middle of nowhere does not make his character very likable. He is also a poor choice for a romantic lead and the scenes in the snow where they finally do kiss seem forced and unnatural.

The casting of 60-year-old Maxine Stuart as a tough talking bounty hunter out to nab Maddie is interesting simply for its novelty. Lucking literally puts his body on the line getting chased by a steer that comes very close to nailing him. Michael Lerner is entertaining as the psychiatrist who gets knocked out by a bust of Sigmund Freud and then put into a strait-jacket and left on the side of the road.

The film though is disjointed and the first hour runs flat and fails to gain any momentum. The broad humor is not very funny and the couple’s constant bickering is more tiring than engaging. There is also the problem that the story is all about this great big cross-country trip that they take and yet it was entirely filmed within the state of California. Obviously this was for budgetary reasons, but when the film’s theme centers on a big trip then they should’ve taken the extra step and done everything on-location where the scenery could have helped during the slow parts of which the film has many.

The second hour manages to be a bit of an improvement. The part where Maddie takes her big truck and drives it through her husband’s posh garden party is amusing especially when she proceeds to crash the rig right through the wall of their big house and then careen’s the thing straight through their living room, which is done in slow-motion. This scene as well as the shocked reactions of the snotty party guests is enough to save what is otherwise a misfire.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: October 3, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Joseph Sargent

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS