Tag Archives: Movies Based on Stageplays

Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad (1967)

oh dad poor dad

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Overprotective mother dominates son.

This is an awful, awful film based on the Arthur Kopit stage play of the same name. Overly domineering mother Madame Rosepettle (Rosalind Russell) keeps her son Jonathan (Robert Morse), who is 25, in a near infantile state. She also travels around with her dead husband in a coffin. Problems ensue when they arrive at a resort and meet up with nubile Rosalie (Barbra Harris) who tempts Jonathan and threatens to break him away from his mother’s clutches.

If done right this film could have, I suppose, gained some sort of cult following. Yet it is so poorly realized and so thoroughly botched that it is impossible to know where one could begin to improve it as it deserves to be in the top ten of worst movies of all time.

One of the problems is the setting itself. For some reason it was filmed in Montego Bay, Jamaica. This certainly does provide for sunny and exotic scenery, but it does not at all work with its twisted, dark subject matter. The music score is also really bad. It was done by Neal Hefti the same man who did the music for the “Batman” TV-show and the soundtrack here sounds just like that one. He also has the theme song sung by children which is as irritating as nails scratching on a blackboard. The color schemes are garish and ugly. The humor is flat and the story itself is threadbare. When you get past the weird fringes all you have left is a stale, plodding coming-of- age tale.

Morse seems a natural for the part as the ‘man-child’ since he has always had a very boyish face. Yet, in an attempt to show that he is never let outside, he is made to look extremely pale and the effect is a bit sickening to look at. His infantile state is played too much to the extreme and comes off as pathetic. It is not at all funny even in an absurd, or dark way.

Russell’s presence makes it somewhat interesting. She was a legendary actress and this was certainly a very unique career move. Maybe she wanted to prove herself versatile after her Mother Superior part in The Trouble with Angels, which she had done just a year before doing this, yet in hindsight it was bad judgment. Seeing her in the strange part is fun for a few seconds, but eventually it gets over-the-top. She ends up looking like Faye Dunaway’s Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. You do however get to see her wear a variety of wigs and even do a wild water ski stunt at the end.

Harris has always been one terrific actress and she is good even here and the only reason I’m giving this film one point. She made a career out of playing neurotic women, but here plays a more normal one and it is interesting to compare this performance with her others.

Jonathan Winters (no relation) adds some amusing bits doing voice-over as the dead father. He was brought in after the film was completed and some of his lines have nothing to do with the plot.

The message of the story is nebulous. The video box cover states that it is a study of “human confusion”. Yet the characters seem too extreme to be relatable on any human level. They also don’t evolve and act the same idiotic way at the end as they did at the beginning so neither they nor the viewer come to any better understanding of anything. It is a complete waste of time.This film deserves its near extinct status and isn’t fun even as a curio.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: February 15, 1967

Runtime: 1Hour 26Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Richard Quine

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS

Happy Birthday, Wanda June (1971)

 

happy birthday wanda june

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Macho men are annoying.

Since today is my birthday I’ve decided to spend the next two days reviewing films with a birthday theme. Today’s review is based on a play by celebrated writer (and Indianapolis native) Kurt Vonnegut Jr., who also wrote the screenplay.  It examines what happens when an egotistical man and war hero from the past (Rod Steiger) returns home after abandoning his family eight years earlier.

Vonnegut’s script takes a lot of shots and makes some great comments about the empty bravado of the male image and the male’s changing role and expectations in modern society.  The protagonist, Harold Ryan, is deftly written as a relic from the past harboring all the age-old macho characteristics and clinging onto embellishments of the past while unable to evolve, or even communicate with those around him. Dr. Woodley (George Grizzard) represents the more educated and new-age man who is peaceful, sensitive, and cultured. The story revolves around the two battling for the same woman (Susannah York) and culminates with an interesting and off-beat symbolic type of showdown.

Director Mark Robson does an adequate job of implementing a cinematic quality to what is otherwise a filmed stage play. The cutaways involving dead characters that are now in heaven and speak directly to the camera help, but there needed to be more of them and more evenly placed. I would have also liked a few scenes shot outside and in the daytime as the perpetual indoor scenery becomes stagnating and claustrophobic.

Steiger, normally a very good and diverting actor, seems miscast here. He is never convincing as a tough guy and it affects the story’s impact. York, another fine actress if given the right role, doesn’t seem right for her part either although she does look surprisingly sexy in a skimpy waitress outfit during a flashback scene.

I did like the child performers and felt that they did better than their adult counterparts. Steven Paul is excellent as Paul Ryan who initially idolizes his father until exposed to his many flaws. Pamelyn Ferdin is cute as Wanda June, the girl who gets hit by an ice cream truck and spends the entire time jaunting through heaven. Ferdin later became a famous animal activist and was runner-up for the Regan MacNeil role in The Exorcist. Linda Blair was of course great, but Ferdin’s uniquely piercing gaze always made me wonder if she might have ended up playing the part better.

William Hickey is engaging and amusing as Harold’s best friend. Don Murray almost steals it from everyone as Herb Shuttle a very vapid man whose pathetic attempts at trying to be macho are hilarious and make up most of the film’s humor.

The one thing that eventually ruined it for me was the main character who is too obnoxious. At least Archie Bunker in ‘All in the Family’ had a vulnerable side, but the guy here is ignorant without being funny and having to watch the callous way he treats everyone is straining and unpleasant. Also,the musical score is dreary and almost non-existent.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 9, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated R (Adult Theme, Language)

Director: Mark Robson

Studio: Columbia

Availability: None 

Entertaining Mr. Sloane (1970)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: The first gay marriage.

Based on the Joe Orton play of the same name, this film deals with a handsome young stranger named Sloane (Peter McEnery) who becomes a lodger at an isolated household in the English countryside. He is on the run from a murder he committed and feels this will be a safe haven due to the only other inhabitants being a quirky old lady name Katherine (Beryl Reid) and her equally quirky father Kemp (Alan Webb).  Katherine, or Kath, takes a sexual interest in Sloane despite their wide age difference, which Sloane doesn’t mind as he uses this to manipulate her. When Kath’s brother Ed (Harry Andrews) arrives and takes an amorous interest in Sloane as well, he does the same thing to him. Then Kemp recognizes Sloane as the killer and Sloane is forced to kill him, which culminates with ironic results.

Playwright Orton was years ahead of his time. His plays always had a dark, sexual, even explicit nature to them and his characters were always perverse and amoral in a darkly hilarious way. It is unfortunate that he was bludgeoned to death in 1967 by his jealous gay lover and his career was cut short. However, this adaptation done by screenwriter Clive Exton seems to miss the mark. The dialogue is endless with very little action. The other adaptation of Orton’s work that was made into a film, Loot, was much more lively and full of a lot of campy, zany humor as well as quick edits and imaginative camerawork. This film is visually dull and all the action is jammed into a cramped, dark house with bland decorations. It never really gets going until the final 15 minutes when you get to see the world’s very first gay marriage performed, but by then it is much too late.

For 1970 this film does seem edgy and even controversial in certain parts. The gay erotic subtext is quite strong especially the way the camera scans Sloane’s tan, half naked body. There is also Ed’s pink Cadillac that he drives around, which I got a real kick out of. I liked the way it squeaked as he drove it and was constantly bouncing up and down.  There is also his very provocative hood ornament of a naked man that the camera hones in on. The best part comes when Ed washes his car and is more focused on the ornament, which he lovingly caresses with his towel, than the rest of the vehicle.

However, 40 years later this stuff seems pretty tame and there are too many segments where nothing happens and is handled too conventionally.  It seemed like director Douglas Hickox really didn’t get, or appreciate the material enough, or interpret it in some interesting way because the final result is nothing more than a filmed stage play. The music that is used is terrible and almost enough to get you to turn off the film. It also gets overused and played over scenes when it isn’t needed and hurts the film’s mood in the process.

The biggest problem with the film may actually be with actress Reid herself. Don’t get me wrong this is a wonderfully unique actress who has done some memorable work. I especially liked her in The Killing of Sister George, and she is quite good here as well. However, I do have two issues. The first is a small one. It involves the fact that the character wears dentures. In one scene Sloane supposedly knocks them out and breaks them, but then Reid turns around and screams and you can see that she still has teeth in her mouth.  The other, much more serious issue is the fact that near the beginning of the film she is seen walking through a cemetery in broad daylight wearing a see through blouse. Now with some woman this can be quite sexy and I certainly wouldn’t complain, but when they are 60 and looking more like 70 this is a bad idea, even for perversely comical purposes as it is here it is still a bad idea. What is even worse is when she turns around and a gust of wind blows up her skirt and you can see her entire bare backside, which might be enough to make some viewers sick.

Now, before anyone accuses me of ageism let me relate an interesting experience that happened to me. Back in 2003 I was home from work and decided to take in a movie. I was living in Chicago at the time and I went to the neighborhood theater to see the interesting French mystery Swimming Pool starring Ludivine Sagnier and Charlotte Rampling.  It was a Tuesday and little did I know that it was senior discount day and the place was packed, literally, with people all looking well over the age of 70. The lady that sat beside me looked to be at least 80 and came in using a walker. The film featured an abundance of nudity from the young and attractive Sagnier, which I thought might shock and offend the seniors, but no one reacted to it and everyone went on enjoying the film. Then, towards the end of the movie, 58 year-old actress Rampling starts to take off her clothes and this indeed elicited a nervous response from the crowd. The lady next to me even said ‘oh dear’. In all fairness Rampling didn’t look all that bad naked, but it still hits home the point that even old people don’t want to see other old people naked.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: July 27, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated R

Director: Douglas Hickox

Studio: Continental Distributing

Available: VHS, DVD (Region 2)

Happy Birthday Gemini (1980)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Gay son comes out. 

A brother and sister by the name of Judith and Randy Hastings ( Sarah Holcomb, David Marshall Grant) travel to Philadelphia over the summer to visit their college friend Francis Geminiani (Alan Rosenberg).  Judith dated Francis during the school year and wants to continue the relationship. Francis though has come to terms with his homosexuality and realizes that he is now more attracted to her brother.  The story examines their adjustments and attitudes to this news as well as the many eccentric characters that make up the neighborhood.

Despite not rating well with the critics, I kind of liked this movie for the most part. The film was directed by Richard Benner who received acclaim for the directing the groundbreaking Canadian film Outrageous. I think he captured the row houses and inner-city neighborhoods of Philadelphia well. My Mother is from the city and I spent many summers visiting there. I enjoyed the bright color schemes of the different houses as well the character’s costumes. The movie has a very European feel featuring a lot of long takes and a leisurely pace. The characters are also much more open-minded and accepting of each other’s transgressions than you would usually find in an American film.  The toe-tapping ragtime music and upbeat ending help fill it out.

Kudos must also go to Madeline Kahn and her performance as Bunny Weinberger. I was very impressed with this woman’s comedic skills after seeing her in What’s Up Doc as well as in Paper Moon. I didn’t think anything could top those, but this comes close. Her portrayal of a foul-mouthed, ditzy blonde with a very heavy eastern accent is outstanding and a highlight of the whole movie.  Her scenes in a courtroom where she has to defend herself from a battery charge as well as a nicely photographed scene where she threatens to jump off an abandoned building are two of her best moments.

Where the film fails is in the fact that there is little cohesion between the scenes. The film goes off on long tangents, particularly with the Bunny character, until it seems like Francis’s problem is only a side-story. There is a lot of extraneous dialogue that goes nowhere and was not needed. A 115 minute runtime is much too long for this kind of material.  For a comedy the laughs are lacking and the script needed to be injected with a lot more witty conversations and sharp one-liners. Rita Moreno is completely wasted as the character of Lucille Pompi.  She has nothing funny to say and it would have been more entertaining if they had built up more conflict between her and the Bunny character as the two had very contrasting values. The subject matter itself is no longer fresh or groundbreaking and the film failed to put any new or interesting spin on the topic. Although I liked the positive message I still felt that it glossed over the homophobic sentiments that are still out there and did not do its subject matter any real justice.

Fans of Kahn should see this, but others may find it placid and lacking in any type of distinctive quality.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: May 2, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 47Minutes

Rated R

Director: Richard Benner

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS

Wait Until Dark (1967)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: They want the doll.

Horror writer Stephan King, in his non-fiction book ‘Dance Macabre’, lists Wait Until Dark as the scariest movie ever made and Alan Arkin as one of the scariest film villains. Of course that is a statement that could be wildly debated, but as a thriller it is very well structured with a original storyline, a fantastic heroine, and a terrific climatic sequence that still rates as one of the best.

The film is based on the hit Broadway play by Frederick Knott and follows that script very closely.  It centers on a recently blinded woman named Susy Hendrix (Audrey Hepburn) who accidently acquires a doll filled with heroin and then becomes terrorized by the three drug dealers (Alan Arkin, Jack Weston, Richard Crenna) when they come to retrieve it. Trapped in her small apartment by the three men with her phone line cut off, she decides her only possible recourse is to smash all the light bulbs and then, in the pitch blackness, use her handicap to her advantage and try to escape.

Normally stage plays transferred to film don’t usually work too well namely because all the action takes place in one setting, which eventually creates visual boredom, but here this becomes an asset.  As the story progresses the viewer begins to feel claustrophobic and as entrapped as Susy as well as successfully tapping into the fear of isolation. The lighting is also impressive.  It may not be something one consciously thinks about, but good lighting can really help accentuate a film’s mood and style, which it does here.  I enjoyed the interesting color schemes and the contrasts between light and shadows that becomes more apparent as it goes along.

Of course the element that really makes this film special is the fantastic performance of Hepburn, which I consider to be her best.  She was nominated for the Academy Award and she should have won it.  She displays just the right level of emotions, which creates empathy from the viewer almost immediately. Her reactions as well as the fear and panic that she shows are very convincing. Arkin, as the villain, tends to get a little too flashy and hammy. I felt Hepburn easily out performed him and everyone else. The film just would not have been as good had anyone else played the part.  This also marks her career pinnacle as she went on a nine year sabbatical after this and when she did finally return, the films she did weren’t all too great.

I also like Julie Herrod as the child named Gloria who lives upstairs and becomes a very crucial link to the story.  So many movies portray children as either total brats, or overly wide-eyed innocents solely put on this planet to say cute and amusing things on cue.  Here the balance is just right and so believable she will remind you of kids that you know in real life as it certainly did with me.  She is sneaky and precocious at certain times, but also genuinely helpful and concerned at others, just like adults are.  The line she says to the Hepburn character just before she runs out to find help is a gem.

The climatic sequence still ranks as one of the best.  The clever ways that this petite, handicapped woman manages to outwit the brutal thugs are classic.  The viewer also gets the satisfaction of seeing the character grow and find an inner strength that she didn’t even know she had. It also features a very well staged scare/shock that sent viewers jumping out of their seats when it was first released and still does today as evidenced by the other people who watched the film with me and all screamed out loud when it happened.

As with any film released 40 years ago, there are some dated qualities that do hurt it.  Some of the ‘tough guy’ talk between the thugs seems a bit stilted.  The film was released a year before the ratings system took effect, so there is no cursing, but a little bit of it would have helped make it more authentic.  It would have also been a little more gritty had the bad guys actually carried guns instead of the brass knuckles and silly looking knives.  Air travelers of today will also be shocked at just how easily it was for people to get through airports in the old days.

However, even with these few weaknesses I still feel this film is a pretty solid, compact thriller that can be used as a blueprint for all other thrillers to follow.  There is also the excellent music score by Henry Mancini that is really creepy although the song played over the closing credits should have been avoided.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: October 26, 1967

Runtime: 1Hour 48Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Terence Young

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

A Soldier’s Story (1984)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Murder at army base.

This film is based on the off-Broadway play that won the Pulitzer Prize for best drama in 1982 and was written by Charles Fuller. Many of the performers in the play ended up reprising their roles in the film including the stars, Adolph Caesar and Howard E. Rollins, Jr. Director Norman Jewison spent many years trying to get the green light for the project and ended up being rejected by just about every studio. Finally Columbia Pictures gave the go-ahead, but only after Jewison agreed to do it for no salary and all the performers agreed to be paid at the minimum union scale.

The story is actually pretty well written and I’m surprised that so many studio heads refused it by using the excuse that it wasn’t ‘commercial enough.’ The plot involves the murder of a black army sergeant (Caesar) and the subsequent investigation by a black army captain (Rollins) brought in from Washington. The period is around the end of World War II and the setting is an all black army base in the deep South, which leads to many expected racial tensions. What sets this story apart from others of its type is the fact that the racism and underlying tensions is not just white vs. black, but also, and more prominently, black vs. black.

Caesar plays a memorable victim. He is hated by his own men due to his harsh treatment of them. When he is killed everyone is a suspect and as his men recount their dealings with him, it is easy to see why. Yet this is also no one-dimensional character. The story does a very good job of letting us understand why this man has become the way he is. The viewer can’t help but come away feeling sorry for the man and genuinely sad for the way he ended up. The suspects are equally complex, so the film easily becomes quite riveting as it goes along.

Rollins gives an outstanding performance as the head of the investigation. It’s sad that his career, and ultimately his life, was cut short by his drug addiction because he makes a solid impression here. I liked the way he remained stoic throughout despite having to deal with a myriad of different personalities and at times overt racism. Denzel Washington is also very good in a pivotal role.

There were a few things that were thrown in that I felt were not necessary and ended up hurting the film as a whole. One of them is the musical score. It has a very bouncy, ragtime sound to it that would be good if this was a comedy. However, for a drama it seems completely out of place and at times is even jarring. The film has a few musical interludes as well. A couple of them are by Patti LaBelle, who I think is a great singer, but in this film she is out-of-place. It starts to take away too much of the grittiness of the story, which should be the central theme. I also found the use of slow motion to be distracting. It occurs twice. Once during the murder scene and another time during a baseball game between the soldiers.

Overall the film succeeds enough with its story and characters that the viewer is forced to think and feel, which is always a good thing. I can’t say that the resolution was anything shocking, but it does manage to keep you guessing. However, this is one rare case where I might have actually preferred seeing the stage version.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: September 14, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Norman Jewison

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix Streaming

Under the Yum Yum Tree (1963)

under yum

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Landlord likes pretty woman.

Jack Lemmon plays Hogan, an apartment landlord who charges $450 a month to men, but only $75 a month to a young beautiful woman. He then puts on his moves and most of the time ‘scores’ with his nubile tenants. He sets his sights on attractive college co-ed Robin Austin (Carol Lynley) who has just moved in.  Unbeknownst to him she is also bringing in her boyfriend Dave (Dean Jones). The two have decided to live platonically, so they can see if they can get along together before taking the big step and getting married. Hogan is unaware of her male counterpart as when she signed up she simply told him her roommate was a brunette and Hogan presumed it was female. When he finds out who it really is it puts a crimp on his plans, but he still persists anyways.

Although the premise of two young people who are in love cohabiting without having sex may seem antiquated and remnants of a bygone era, the truth is the characters and filmmakers were probably a little more worldly-wise then one might presume initially. For one thing Dave considers the arrangement to be ‘nutty’ and states ‘no one could live that way’. He also, towards the end of the film, gets her to drink some strong tequila in order to get her drunk and allow him to seduce her. The characters, particularly the apartment’s husband and wife maintenance crew (Imogene Coco, Paul Lynde) do not condone Hogan’s playboy lifestyle, but are also privately jealous of it and in the case of the Lynde character even fantasizes about it. I also thought it was a hoot when Robin asks her college instructor Irene (Edie Adams) whether her and her husband ‘did it’ before they were married and although Irene acts all aghast at the suggestion she is also careful not to specifically answer it either.  So even though things are not as explicit as today’s films the underlying leering elements are still there.

This was pretty much Lemmon’s vehicle and he does alright. He has never played the part of a lecherous cad before, so it was fun seeing him do something different and away from his otherwise clean-cut good guy image. The best thing though may actually be the way his apartment was decorated. It is painted in a garish, bright red and this includes the carpets, drapes, and bed sheets. He also wears shirts, socks, and a watch band with the same bright red color making the place look like hell and he the devil. I also got a kick out of a pair of violins that he has stored in a case and at the press of a button they rise up and play romantic music with the help of electronic, robotic hands.

Carol Lynley is sensational as the female lead and quite possibly the best thing about the movie. Her portrayal of a young female college student who is sweet and polite, but still headstrong and full of ideals seems timeless. I also liked that the college students here were portrayed as thinking, breathing young adults and not just one-dimensional, stoned party- animals.

Jones does well as the boyfriend who sees right through Hogan’s schemes and does not allow him to get the upper hand. However, some of the stunts that Hogan pulls including walking in on the couple unannounced at different times of the day and night as well as having him eavesdrop on them and even admit to it, would not go over in the real world and would likely get him sued.

The biggest problem with the film is that fact that there is really no plot. The entire movie is made up of these silly little schemes that Hogan tries to pull to get Dave out of the way and his hands on Robin. None of these are clever, funny, or imaginative. The one-joke premise gets stretched until it becomes excruciatingly monotonous. Most of these films that are based on hit stage plays at least have some funny banter and sharp one-liners, but this movie doesn’t even have that.  This all might have worked as a cute 30 minute episode on the old Love American Style TV-show, but at 110 minutes it is outrageously over-long. Even for a fluffy 60’s sex farce it’s incredibly vapid and lifeless.  Legendary comic character actors Coco and Lynde are wasted.

A young Bill Bixby can be seen briefly as a college student trying to rent an apartment.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: October 23, 1963

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: David Swift

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Thieves (1977)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: A couple drifting apart.

Sally and Martin Cramer (Marlo Thomas, Charles Grodin) are a middle-aged, married couple whose relationship is slowly drifting apart.  They were once connected through their youth and idealism, but now Martin is older and more cynical. He just wants to settle down and live the quiet life as he feels ‘the world is not worth saving’. Sally is still the idealist, she teaches at an inner-city school and even wants to adopt a young African-American boy, which Martin does not want because of the boy’s propensity to steal things. Sally is also pregnant and considering an abortion. The film consists mainly with them arguing about these issues while considering divorce and having affairs.

The film did not go over well with the critics at the time of its release and I was surprised because it was written by renowned playwright Herb Gardner.  I was impressed with Gardner’s talents after seeing the film A Thousand Clowns, which was based on one of his plays. I enjoyed his offbeat characters and situations as well as the sharp one-liners.  I was expecting more of the same here, but found this to be flat and slow going. The idea of having a couple argue almost endlessly for the entire movie can be tough to pull off, but has been successfully done. Most notably in Made for Each Other starring real-life husband and wife Joseph Bologna and Renee Taylor as well as Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?. However, in both of those films the characters were eccentric and interesting and their fights were lively and animated.  Here the characters are dull to the point that there is really no reason to care how their marriage turns out, or even what happens to them. Their arguments become almost soap opera like. Yes, some of the dialogue is eloquent and you can tell it was done by a playwright, but there still needed to be more action and cutaways. The overall mood of the film is very downbeat and paints the city of New York and modern life in general as an urban hellhole.  There could be some truth to this, but it ends up becoming real depressing when the viewer gets beaten over the head with it the whole time.

Although billed as a comedy there is very little of it. The majority is heavy drama and the comedy that they do have comes off as forced, unimaginative, and heavily reliant on stereotypes. For instance Sally makes all her inner-city students put their weapons into a box before they enter her class. I thought it would have been more believable had one of them decided to use them on her, but they never do. Despite the ‘rough and tough’ image the kids seem strangely compliant.  Martin is a principal at a snotty private school, so his problems are at the other end. One scene has him ‘negotiating’ with a spoiled ten year old to come out of his limousine and into class, which is equally contrived.  There is also the strange neighbor who lives in the apartment beneath theirs and is played by actor Hector Elizondo.  He makes random, weird comments throughout that supposedly are used for comic relief, but end becoming quickly irritating.

I thought it would be fun to see Marlo Thomas in a film role as she has done very few of them in her career. She is most well-known for playing the part of Ann Marie the struggling actress in the 60’s TV-series That Girl. Her character was known to be very naïve and proper in that series. Here her character is more jaded and savvy, which makes for an interesting comparison although she is known as a feminist and liberal activist in real-life, so if anything this character more closely identifies with her true personality. She does end up giving an excellent performance overall. Charles Grodin does not fare as well. Usually his sardonic humor and dry approach can elevate even the blandest material, but here the maudlin script ends up pulling him down. Even Grodin fans who have seen this film stated that he seems to be just going through the motions. I also didn’t like the fact that he has a flute and ends up constantly playing the same sad tune. Noted character actors Gary Merrill and Mercedes McCambridge appear as homeless people, but are not given a single line of dialogue, which I found to be frustrating and a waste of their talents.

If there is one positive thing to say about this dreary production that has no visual or cinematic style it is in the presence of Irwin Corey, who plays Sally’s racist and scatological father.  He manages to liven up all the scenes that he is in and I came away impressed as he is mainly a stand-up comedian famous for his bawdy Professor Irwin Corey act. I was even more impressed to find that as of this writing he is still alive and well at the ripe old age of 97 and still doing his comedy act while married to the same woman for over 70 years. A documentary about his life and career called Irwin and Fran is set to be released later this year. Judging just from the trailer it looks more interesting and enjoyable than this film.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: February 11, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Berry

Studio: Paramount

Available: Netflix Streaming