Tag Archives: F. Murray Abraham

The Ritz (1976)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hiding out in bathhouse.

On the run from is homicidal brother-in-law (Jerry Stiller) heterosexual businessman Gaetano (Jack Weston) decides to hide out inside a Manhattan bathhouse unaware that it’s for gay men only until he’s already stuck inside. While there the overweight Gaetano gets harassed by an amorous chubby-chaser (Paul B. Price) as well as an aging starlet named Googie (Rita Moreno) who thinks Gaetano is a Broadway producer who can finally give her the long-waited break that she feels she deserves. Things get even worse when his brother-in-law finds out where Gaetano is hiding and proceeds to shoot up the place until he is finally able to weed him out.

For a farce, which is based on the hit Broadway play by Terence McNally and has much of the same cast recreating their roles for the movie, this thing is pretty much dead-on-arrival. The plot is thin and predictable and not enough happens to justify sitting through it. There are a few snappy lines here-and-there, but overall it’s effect is flat while filled with a lot of mindless running around that eventually grows quite tiring. Director Richard Lester has had success with this genre before, but the material here is unimaginative and second-rate and having everything confined to one setting gives it a claustrophobic feel.

The supporting cast gives the proceedings a boost and to some extent saves it from being a complete misfire. F. Murray Abraham nails it as a flaming queen and manages to elicit laughs with every scene he is in. Treat Williams is quite good as an undercover detective who’s a very well built man, but stuck with the voice of a 5-year-old. Jerry Stiller is surprisingly effective as the gun-toting bad guy and this also marks the film debut of John Ratzenberger.

Kudos must also go out to Moreno whose hilariously bad rendition of ‘Everything’s Coming up Roses’ is a film highlight. I also liked the precarious way that she puts on her eyelashes and the fact that her so-called dressing room is inside the building’s boiler room. The only performance that doesn’t work is Weston’s as his character is too naïve and his over-reactions to everything that occurs around him quickly becomes one-dimensional.

There may have been a time when this type of storyline would’ve been considered ‘fresh’ over even ‘daring’, but that time is long gone. In fact I couldn’t believe how tame and shallow it was. Whatever passed for farce back-in-the-day is no longer tangible, which makes this one relic that deserves its place on the back shelf of obscurity.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: August 12, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated R

Director: Richard Lester

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Video, YouTube

The Big Fix (1978)

the big fix

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: 60’s radical turned detective.

Moses Wine (Richard Dreyfuss) was at one time a student radical during the tumultuous 60’s, but now it is 1978 and he is working as a private eye. Most of his cases are unexciting and even mundane, but then Lila Shay (Susan Anspach) a woman he had a fling with during his college days shows up asking for his help. She is now working for a candidate running for governor and she wants Moses to find Eppis (F. Murray Abraham) a former student radical himself who has now gone underground, but seems to be smearing her candidate’s campaign and hurting his ability to be elected. Moses takes the case on a whim, but finds it to be much more complex and dangerous than he bargained for.

The film is based on the novel by Roger L. Simon who also wrote the screenplay and it is almost like a revisionist private eye movie. Everything that we’ve come to accept in this genre gets turned upside down and for the most part with great and amusing success. Moses is not a tough, brawny, stoic figure like most detectives in these films, but instead a little shrimp of a guy that can easily get hyper and frazzled and is certainly never cool under pressure. Many times he will bring his two young sons on the case with him and even use there insight to help him solve the case. He makes mistakes and even has to write certain things down to avoid forgetting them unlike those other detectives that always seem to remember even the smallest tidbits of information. By making the Moses character more human he becomes better relatable and the viewer feels almost like they are in his shoes, which is what makes the story work.

Simon’s script also is a great character study showing how the student protestors from the 60’s have now begrudgingly and awkwardly taken on adult roles and even become a part of the dreaded ‘establishment’. This comes to a head with the Abraham character the one time head of an underground movement that now is seen living in suburbia as a ho-hum family man. His line about why so many of his fellow radicals ‘sold-out’ and became a part of the suburban culture is an excellent and keen observation.

Dreyfuss is perfect in the role as a wise-guy, cynical smart ass. Most of the times characters and actors with these traits are off-putting, but somehow with him it is always engaging. The character is also nicely multi-dimensional. He is acerbic and brash one minute, but then singing lullabies over the phone to his children the next. He acts like his has ‘moved on’ from the 60’s, but then later on tears come to his eyes when he looks at a film of some old student protests. Dreyfuss also broke his wrist just before filming began and so they wrote it into the script and it becomes a funny running gag as different people ask him how he broke it and each time he tells them something that becomes increasingly more outrageous and amusing.

Bill Conti’s musical score is bouncy and distinctive and gives the film an added kick. He also employs several different styles including ragtime, disco, electronic and even a ballad by Leon Redbone.

The mystery is full of twists and close attention must be paid, but it is doubtful anyone will figure the surprise at the end. Baby boomers that lived through the period may be more connected to this than others, but it is still entertaining and a terrific time capsule.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: October 6, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 48Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jeremy Kagan

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, Netflix streaming