Tag Archives: Gene Wilder

See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Handicapped men solve crime.

Wally (Ricard Pryor) is blind while Dave (Gene Wilder) is deaf. The two initially don’t get along, but find that they must work together after they witness a murder and the bad guys (Joan Severance, Kevin Spacey) come after them. The police are no help and threaten to jail Wally and Dave when they find them unreliable as witnesses so they figure out a way to escape and go on the run only to have their handicaps and personalities more of an obstacle than anything else.

This was the third teaming of Wilder and Pryor and it’s embarrassingly bad. The script is just a cheesy retooling of the mistaken identity scenarios of their first two films, Silver Streak and Stir Crazy with the handicap element thrown in to make it seem different, but it really isn’t. The laughs are definitely fleeting and in fact there are only two segments that even elicit a chuckle. One is an amusing barroom brawl while the other one features a gun showdown between the blind Pryor and the equally blind Anthony Zerbe.

Not only is the clichéd concept highly uninspired, but it depends on nonlogic to help propel it. For instance Wally, Dave and Wally’s sister Adele, played by Kirsten Childs, escape from the men chasing them by hiding inside a hotel room’s vent, but I’ve never come upon a vent in any hotel room that I’ve stayed at big enough to hold one person let alone three. Also, most vent screens must be screwed in from the outside, so how were these three people able to get the screen back on and fastened once they were inside the vent?

The chemistry between the stars is missing and their banter nothing more than strained babbling. The only moment where it shows slight potential is when the two men explained to each other how they came to have the afflictions that they do and how they learned to adjust to them making me believe this could’ve been a far better movie had it chucked the corny murder storyline and instead focused on the two trying to run a business or learning to rely on each to help them through the struggles of daily life.

Pryor, for what it’s worth, easily upstages Wilder who reportedly never liked the script and worked to rewrite it to make it less mocking to those with handicaps. There’s also a scene shot at night with the two talking on a park bench where it appears that some black object is trying to slide its way out of Wilder’s left nostril. I think it was simply the shadowy lighting, but I found it quite distracting and wondered why the cinematographer didn’t catch this while they were filming it and had the scene reshot at a different angle.

Alan North is engaging as the exasperated police sergeant and I wished that instead of him being an adversary to the two men he would’ve reluctantly helped them along. The two female cast members are generic, but Kevin Spacey, who speaks in an accent and has a large unexplained protrusion on his left check, is excellent and the best thing in this otherwise forgettable film.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: May 12, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 42Minutes

Rated R

Director: Arthur Hiller

Studio: TriStar Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

Hanky Panky (1982)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Caught up in espionage.

Gene Wilder plays a man by the name of Michael Jordon, yes Michael Jordon, who is from Chicago, but staying in New York. He shares a cab ride with Janet Dunn (Kathleen Quinlan) who seems to be on the run from someone and insists that she must mail a secret package, which Michael does for her. Later he tries to visit her in her hotel room, but it finds her dead and everyone thinks he’s the one who killed her. Now he is on the run himself from people he doesn’t even know and when he bumps into Kate (Gilda Radner) she agrees to help him, but for reasons that she does not initially divulge.

I was genuinely shocked and rather disappointed to find how very similar this storyline was to many of Wilder’s earlier efforts. In Silver Streak he played a man wrongly accused of murder, but there it was fresh and funny. A few years later he was in Stir Crazy with the same type of scenario, but it still worked. Yet by this time it’s old and clichéd with Wilder typecast in a role that no longer offers him anything new to add to it. You get the feeling like you’ve seen it all before right from the start and this tired formula should’ve been put-to-sleep long ago.

Radner’s presence is especially boring and she doesn’t have a single funny line in the whole thing. The reason for why her character decides to get involved in Wilder’s quandary is contrived and seems to be constantly changing. The two show no chemistry even though they fell in love with each other behind-the-scenes and later married. The role was originally intended for Richard Pryor who would’ve been better, but even pairing Wilder with Quinlan’s character could’ve been an improvement as the two had much better contrasting personalities.

The entire plot gets badly overblown and the nonstop chases soon become tiring and nonsensical. The humorous premise of a regular guy suddenly getting caught up in a spy game he knows nothing about loses its focus when he becomes too quick-on-his-feet in his responses to things and begins behaving more like a seasoned spy than an average-joe. The film’s only good moment is when the two are stuck in a small engine plane where the pilot dies and they’re forced to land it themselves, which gives Gene ample opportunity to go into one of his hyper rants as well as some great aerial views of the Grand Canyon, which are nice, but everything else in the film falls flat.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: June 4, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 47Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Sidney Poitier

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Pardon Mon Affaire (1976)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Married man wants hottie.

Etienne (Jean Rochefort) is a mild mannered, middle aged man who has lived a practical lifestyle both with his marriage and career and then one day goes absolutely gaga over a beautiful model named Charlotte (Anny Duperey) that he spots by chance in a parking garage. He goes to great, tireless lengths to meet her with no regard to how it is upsetting and even destroying his once quant and secure life.

This is the French version of what was later Americanized in The Woman in Red starring Gene Wilder. For the first five minutes the two films are almost identical as the opening scenario plays out in exact same fashion frame-for-frame, but then after that there are some distinct differences with this version being far superior to the remake. The disintegration of Etienne’s friend Bouly’s (Victor Lanoux) marriage is much funnier here as the philandering character gets upset when his wife leaves him we will realize its more because of his inflated, deluded ego thinking that somehow he is such a ‘great’ guy that his wife will tolerate his misgivings and when the harsh reality hits him that she won’t it’s a genuinely amusing meltdown to see. I also liked that the film cuts to a reaction shot of the main character as he observes his friend’s meltdown, which helps tie the scene more into the central plot and something that the Wilder version did not do.

I also liked how this film digs to a deeper level in regards to Etienne’s relationship with his male friends showing how competitive they are at times with each other, which is something that occurs even in the best of friendships, but when it counts they are still there to help their friend out of jam which came off as being very natural and real. The side story dealing with the homely female office worker which is played by Gilda Radner in the remake is also better handled. In the American version like with this one the character mistakenly thinks that Etienne is in love with her and not the model and when he doesn’t show up to their ‘dates’ like she expects she gets quite upset and trashes his car, but here Etienne attributes her outrage to the idea that she is aware that he wants to fool around with the model and thus does these things to defend his wife’s honor, so therefore he does not retaliate when she destroys his property for fear she will then go to his wife and tell her. In the remake this is never explained, which makes the main character’s reluctance to retaliate after his property is damaged seems strange and confusing.

This movie also has a side-story dealing with the daughter’s boyfriend hitting on Etienne’s wife something that only gets slightly touched upon in the remake. Here it gets played out more and the scenes watching this 17-year-old kid clumsily try to come on to this much older woman who has no interest in him are some of the most amusing moments in the movie.

The acting here is far better as well. The Charlotte character seems more like a real person instead of a one-dimensional sex object as LeBrock did. Rochefort is much funnier than Wilder and sports a brown mustache, which makes him seem very Inspector Clouseau-like. The American version, in an apparent attempt to make the protagonist more ‘marketable’ to a mass audience, conforms more to mainstream values by being portrayed as constantly guilt-ridden, but the character here is not shackled with such restraints and the way he recklessly chases after the woman even as it causes him more stress is what makes the movie so funny. It also has some very astute observations about marriage, middle-age, sex and the male animal while the remake is just vapid, silly escapism.

I presume the reason why the nuances of this one didn’t get transferred to the Hollywood version is because the producers felt that American audiences would not be ‘sophisticated’ enough to pick up on them, which is why I tell everyone who considers themselves to be a film lover to be sure to stay abreast of the foreign films that are out there. In most cases they are much more original, creative and observant to the human condition than anything that’s come out of Hollywood and the main reason for this is that they are treated more like an artistic endeavor with the director given full control while here the films are forced to work within a studio driven formula and treated more like a business byproduct made to give a profitable return on their investment and nothing more.

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My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: September 22, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Yves Robert

Studio: Gaumont

Available: VHS

The Woman in Red (1984)

woman in red 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Lusting after a model.

Teddy (Gene Wilder) seems to have it all. A great wife (Judith Ivey) a good home in the suburbs and stable job, but then one day that all changes when he inexplicably meets Charlotte (Kelly LeBrock) a beautiful model who turns him on so much he can no longer think straight and jeopardizes his marriage in the process. He gets his friends Buddy and Joey (Charles Grodin, Joseph Bologna) to cover for him while he makes any excuse he can to get away and see her. Unfortunately through a misunderstanding the homely Ms. Milner (Gilda Radner) thinks she is the source of Teddy’s affections, so as Teddy tries to get with Charlotte he must also avoid Ms. Milner who is just as relentless.

The film starts off with lots of potential, but is unable to fully deliver. Part of the problem is that it introduces this amusing side-story involving Radner’s character and then abruptly drops it during the second half. Radner makes for a perfect comic foil and her scenes should’ve been played up much more. However, her attempts to get back at Teddy by vandalizing his car is amusing, but you would think that Teddy would want to know why she is so angry at him as he is unaware that he has mistakenly asked her out or at the very least sued her for the damages that she has done and yet the film doesn’t tackle any of this, but realistically should’ve.

Wilder, who also wrote and directed the film, is okay, but it doesn’t take enough advantage of his signature comic rants and high strung persona. Bologna is good as Teddy’s brash, womanizing friend, but I didn’t understand why he got so upset when his wife left him as he had openly fooled around on her with a lot of different women and most men in his situation would rejoice that they were now ‘free’.

The usually reliable Grodin is ineffective and the segment where he pretends to play a blind man that inadvertently tears up a bar is dumb and unfunny. I did however enjoy LeBrock who looks gorgeous throughout.

There are a few amusing moments including Teddy’s attempts at riding a horse despite having no experience, but overall the comedy is spotty. The pacing is poor and the story is disjointed coming off more like a bunch of vignettes strung around a one-joke plot. The only thing that saves it is the ending where Teddy attempts at ‘hiding out’ while standing on the ledge of a tall building that quickly attracts a lot of onlookers who think that his ready to jump, which is the movie’s best moment.

This film is actually a remake of the 1976 classic French film Pardon Mon Affaire, which I will review for next week.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: August 15, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 27Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Gene Wilder

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask (1972)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: Woody takes on sex.

This is a very loose adaptation by Woody Allen of the famous sex manual written by David Reuben, but given a comic spin. This was made when Allen was at his absolute peak as nearly everything is funny and original.

Some of the jokes are outrageously over the edge even for today. The highlights include Gene Wilder’s incredibly long reaction shot after a shepherd informs him that he has fallen in love with one of the sheep from his flock. Another highlight includes Allen trying to fight off a giant ‘monster breast’ by using a Crucifix and a giant bra. Cross dresser Lou Jacobi getting caught in a women’s dress while visiting a friend’s house is another classic as well as ‘What’s My Perversion’ a very brilliant and inspired send up of ‘What’s My Line’. Of course the best may be, should I say, the climactic sequence involving the control room of the inside of a man’s brain as he goes through ejaculation.

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The only negative is the second segment entitled ‘Why some Women can’t have orgasms’ is a misfire. The joke of having Allen and Lasser talk in only Italian with no subtitles wears thin pretty quickly. The only pluses from this segment involve seeing Allen in a pair of trendy glasses as well as watching an electric dildo catch on fire.

In a lot of ways I consider this to be Allen’s best comedy. Just about everything works and it’s all laugh- out-loud funny. Even the few things that don’t are still creative enough to get kudos.

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My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: August 6, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated R

Director: Woody Allen

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Rhinoceros (1974)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: People turn into rhinos.

Much maligned film is really not as bad as its reputation states. Yes the scenes and scenarios are at times awkward and stilted. The sets and color schemes run from being drab to horribly garish. The music is loud and obnoxious and doesn’t fit the mood of the film at all. Also despite having the name in its title and being all about rhinos you never actually see one. Sure it’s low budget, but even some stock footage of one from “Wild Kingdom” would have helped.

Yet even with all this the film still has its moments. It’s based on the Eugene Ionesco play and involves everyone getting turned into a rhinoceros. Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, and Karen Black all resist, but slowly unravel to the ‘peer pressure’ and wanting to be ‘part of the crowd’. The outrageous premise is simply a front to examine the human phenomenon known as conformity, both on those that do and those that don’t. It is rare that anything tackles this subject with any serious study, yet this one does. The observations are, believe or not, quite interesting and accurate and Wilder really does make a terrific non-conformist.

The best part though may actually be one of filmdom’s most bizarre scenes ever. It features Wilder and Mostel alone in a room where Mostel slowly turns into a rhino. The scene goes on for well over twenty-five minutes and features no special effects or makeup. It relies totally on Mostel and his acting range to pull it off. He gives it an amazing amount of energy and seems more than up to its weird demands. It’s definitely worth a look for this scene alone.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: January 21, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Tom O’Horgan

Studio: American Film Theater

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video