By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
4-Word Review: Stories about illicit sex.
International production has 4 stories taking place in a different country with a famous male movie star and director native to that region. The stories central theme revolves around love-making, or attempts thereof, and all outside of marriage. The concept sounds like it should’ve been a creative experiment especially with all the big-name talent, but the results are flat and forgettable.
The first story, ‘An Englishman’s Home’, stars Roger Moore as Harry Lindon, a rich man who owns a villa that Winston Churchill once resided in. He meets by chance a beautiful young blonde named Donna (Priscilla Barnes), who’s an airline stewardess in London on layover and who becomes impressed with Harry’s home and goes with him to visit it. It’s there that Harry plots with his loyal butler (Denholm Elliot) to get her to go to bed with him, but his plans are disrupted when his lady friend Lavina (Lynn Redgrave) comes for a unexpected visit. He and his butler spend the evening trying to avoid having the two meet by creating a scheme where Harry will be ‘forced’ to leave the dinner table with one to answer a phantom phone call, which allows him to then visit the other one before being informed by his butler of yet another ‘phone call’.
Moore is funny with his glib and sarcastic delivery and Barnes is amusing playing-up the ditzy blonde persona. The plot though is neither original, or entertaining and becomes boring quite quickly. The ending has a novel twist, but this is where I felt the story should’ve begun, which would’ve been more interesting.
The second segment, ‘The French Method’ was written by the prolific Francis Veber and deals with Francois (Lino Ventura), a French businessman, trying to close a deal with an American businessman named Henry (Robert Webber) The problem is that Henry is a middle-aged lech who’s got the hots for Francois’ attractive receptionist Christine (Catherine Salviet). Henry insists that before any deal is made he must have dinner with both Francois and Catherine. Francois is reluctant to ask Catherine to come along, but he’s so desperate for the deal to go through he becomes willing to do almost anything. Christine agrees despite disliking Henry. Once the dinner engagement commences Henry makes clear that he wants Francois to come-up with a polite excuse to leave, so the two can be alone together. Francois does as he’s asked, but then returns to have a confrontation with Henry, which leads to unexpected results.
This segment is expertly played by the three leads particularly Ventura and the characters are fleshed-out enough to keep it intriguing. The final twist is fun making this easily the best of the four.
The third segment, ‘Skippy’, was written and directed by Gene Wilder who also stars in the lead. It’s about a suicidal patient who’s allowed a weekend pass out of a mental hospital. He then meets-up with a younger woman (Kathleen Quinlan) at a disco. They hit-it-off especially after finding that each of them are ‘nutcases’. They go back to her place and share a passionate night of lovemaking only for him to have his heart broken the next day when she confides in him a surprising revelation.
This story is helped greatly by Quinlan who is young and beautiful and you even get to see her topless though you also have to put up with Gene’s bare bum too. Either way she gives a sprightly performance, but the story is odd and takes too long to play out. I was expecting it to go in a different direction than it does and the ending offers no pay-off.
The final segment, ‘Armando’s Notebook’, stars Ugo Tognazzi as a married man whose wife goes off on a trip to visit her sick mother. Armando uses this as an excuse to hook-up with old girlfriends from the 60’s by using his little black book that still lists their addresses and phone numbers. Unfortunately when he meets them he finds that things have changed quite a bit and not for the better. Many have aged to the point that they’re no longer attractive, or have become ‘liberated’ through feminism and won’t allow him to take advantage of them like they used to. One turns-up dead while yet another has become a high class prostitute who even accepts credit cards.
While this story is watchable it’s also too jokey and features a weird bit where one of the women, played by Sylva Koscina, has acquired the ability to suck in a massive amount of air and then blows it out with hurricane force, which has a strange supernatural vibe that doesn’t fit with the rest of the material.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Released: October 31, 1980
Runtime: 2 Hours 5 Minutes
Directors: Bryan Forbes, Edouard Molinaro, Dino Risi, Gene Wilder
Studio: Viaduk Productions