Tag Archives: Robert Morley

Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (1978)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: He eats too much.

Max (Robert Morley) is a famous food critic who writes an article for the food magazine The Epicurist titled ‘The World’s Most Fabulous Meal’, which described four dishes cooked by four of the world’s top chefs. The problem is those chefs are now turning up dead. Natasha (Jacqueline Bisset) was the chef famous for creating the dessert called the bombe, which was also written about in that same article. Since the other chefs have already been murdered Natasha fears she may be next, so she works with the police to find the killer while also being a suspect since she was with each victim just before they died.

The film is based on the novel ‘Someone is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe’ by husband and wife writers Nan and Ivan Lyons, which came out two years earlier and had more erotic overtones while also detailing the specific recipes of each gourmet dish described in the story. Ted Kotchef’s excellent direction focuses strongly on the food element and each exotic meal is nicely captured and crafted by an actual cuisine chef named Paul Bocuse. Not only do you see the cast eating the stuff, especially Morley’s character, but preparing it as well including a detailed, drawn out segment showing Natasha creating her world famous desert.

The on-location shooting, done in three different European countries, is vivid and the dialogue is quite amusing. The denouncement is interesting because you think for sure it’s one person only to genuinely get surprised when it turns out to be someone completely unexpected. The plot though is too leisurely paced and the side-story dealing with Natasha’s ex-husband (George Segal) trying to rekindle their relationship is unnecessary and could’ve been cut, which would’ve helped shorten the runtime, which is overlong for such otherwise trite material.

Morley is a scene-stealer with everything he utters being hilarious. Bisset is great too and should’ve received top-billing as she’s seen the most while Segal’s presence comes off as downright intrusive. It was nice having a beautiful woman in a lead that was not sexualized and it would’ve made the film a bit ahead-of-its-time had she carried it alone, which she easily could’ve without Segal as a sort of male sidekick.

For light entertainment it’s enjoyable, but I was surprised at seeing how things have changed as there are several throwaway bits that at the time I’m sure were considered innocuous but would be deemed quite controversial by today’s standards. One scene has Bisset speaking with an Italian chef (Stefano Satta Flores) who openly pinches her twice on the rear without her permission. She protests it the first time, but he boldly does it again later and she lets it go, continues to casually talk to him and even agrees to meet him later for dinner. The film seems to play the whole thing off as a ‘boy-will-be-boys’ scenario coupled with the Italian male stereotype that this is simply ‘a part of their nature’.

In another part she refers to a French chef (Jean-Pierre Cassel) as a ‘fag’ and she visits a processing plant where thousands of chickens are housed in tight little cages and barely able to even move which doesn’t seem to bother her at all. I’m sure these scenes back in 1978 went completely over-the-heads of the viewers and most likely were quickly forgotten even though now these same moments would most likely elicit outrage, protest and headlines.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: October 5, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 52 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Ted Kotcheff

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD (Warner Archive)

Way…Way Out (1966)

way way out

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Living on the moon.

The year is 1989 and both the Russians and Americans have set-up bases on the moon. Each base has 2-people living in them. For the Russians things go smoothly mainly because they have a man and a woman (Dick Shawn, Anita Ekberg) cohabitating while the Americans have two men (Dennis Weaver, Howard Morris) who quickly go crazy because there are no women around for sex. NASA decides to replace the two men with a man and woman like the Russians have, but insist that unlike the Russians the American couple must be married. Pete (Jerry Lewis) who is a long time employee of the space agency is chosen and his female counterpart is fellow astronaut Eileen (Connie Stevens). The two had never met and are forced to accelerate their courtship and eventual marriage in a matter of 3 days before getting rocketed up into orbit.

To some degree this is an interesting idea and the first 15 minutes or so allows for some comic intrigue, but the filmmakers blow it by backing off of their novel approach and turning the whole thing into just another contrived romance. Stevens may be attractive, but her acting is limited and her presence adds no other added element to the proceedings besides being ‘eye candy’. The film would’ve been funnier had Pete been forced to go up with agency’s second choice, which was Esther (Bobo Lewis) who was a more aggressive, less attractive woman who could’ve added humorous conflicts. The spats between Pete and Eileen is banal and the second half devolves into one long drunken party between the American and Russian couple that isn’t funny and more like filler  put in when the writers ran out of ideas from their original concept.

From a sci-fi angle it is implausible. The rocket ship takes only a few minutes to get from earth to the moon and when they get there the lack of gravity is never addressed and they are able to walk around normally except for the few times when they get into fights, which sends one person flying off into the air when punched by the other. The earth that is shown in the sky has no clouds even though clouds can always be seen from just about every satellite shot taken of earth from space. The film also ruins the most intriguing element, which is seeing how they might’ve predicted things would look like in the ‘80’s from a ‘60’s perspective by having a narrator state right away that ‘little has changed’ in the past 23 years and therefore making no attempt to show anything from a futuristic viewpoint.

Lewis is amazingly restrained and doesn’t end up ruining things with his overacting, which instead gets done by Shawn. Weaver has a few good moments as the stressed out astronaut slowly going nutty as well as Brian Keith as a gruff American general, but Robert Morley is the funniest as the over-worked and over-burdened head of the space program.

Since one must set the bar very low from the beginning with any Lewis comedy this manages to be tolerable despite being more benign than it needed to be.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: October 26, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Gordon Douglas

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD (Region 2), Amazon Instant Video