By Richard Winters
My Rating: 2 out of 10
4-Word Review: Klutz can’t find work.
Bo Hooper (Jerry Lewis) is a circus clown who finds himself out of a job. His sister Claire (Susan Oliver) and her belligerent husband Robert (Roger C. Carmel) agree to take him in and help him find a new source of income. Things aren’t easy as Bo proves to be a major klutz at everything and gets fired from most of his jobs on his very first day. He finally gets hired as a mailman that after a rough start begins to go semi-smoothly, but will his secret relationship with Millie (Deanna Lund) who is his boss’s daughter help ruin it?
I admit I’ve never been much of a Lewis fan. His routine seems too much like that of a 5-year-old desperate for attention and willing to do any inane thing for a cheap laugh. Peter Sellers and Don Knotts have played similar klutzy characters, but they at least came off as semi-believable adults albeit not very bright ones. Lewis though is this middle-aged man who for no warning or reason will suddenly revert to the behavior of a 6-year-old, which isn’t funny, but creepy, weird and pathetic instead. You start to wonder how this character was able to make it in the adult world as long as he had without being sent away somewhere instead of whether he will get a job or not.
His shtick amounts to nothing more than accidently knocking something over and spilling contents onto the floor, which is about as simplistic and basic as you can get. In many cases he doesn’t even offer to pick it up, which forces others to do it instead. In one instance he knocks over some materials that were lying on top of his boss’s file cabinet and then just lets them remain on the floor only to have the stuff three minutes later magically reappear on the top of the cabinet anyways.
The empty logic of this already threadbare concept is another issue. Why must this circus clown resort to doing jobs he has no experience in? Aren’t there other circuses out there that he could work for? And wouldn’t a man who has spent years working in that industry have built up a network of contacts that he could go to in time of need?
His foray working as a sushi chef where he pretends to be Japanese will be deemed offensive and racist by today’s standards, but the film’s worst scene is the one involving a blimp. He decides on a whim to pilot one despite being on-the-clock as a postman. Since the character is unable to flip even a light switch without causing a catastrophe one would expect his blimp drive to have dire consequences, but instead he pulls it off without a hitch and then somehow doesn’t lose his job or get arrested afterwards.
Filmed in 1979 the production was forced to go on hiatus for 6 months when it lost funding, which may be why Oliver and Carmel, who appear predominantly during the first half, disappear completely without explanation during the second part. In either event Lewis’ ‘big comeback’ after a 10-year absence from the big screen is a complete misfire. His material hasn’t evolved at all and he relies on the most infantile jokes and insipid scenarios imaginable that wouldn’t entertain a bored child let alone an adult.
My Rating: 2 out of 10
Released: April 3, 1981
Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes
Director: Jerry Lewis
Studio: 20th Century Fox
By Richard Winters
My Rating: 5 out of 10
4-Word Review: Older man/younger woman.
Joe is a middle-aged, recently divorced man trying to stumble his way back into the single scene. He passes by Ginger (Sissy Spacek) who is hitchhiking alongside a roadway and decides to pick her up. He is attracted to her youthful carefreeness and hopes to take advantage of her ‘free-love’ hippie attitude by bringing her back to his place for some quick easy sex. However, Ginger is secretly pregnant and looks at Joe’s maturity as a good father-figure for her child, which Joe is not ready for. Charlie (Mark Miller) is Joe’s best friend who along with his wife Sugar (Susan Oliver) barrages in and disrupts everything.
The story starts out okay with the budding relationship between the two leads and their attempts to try to get beyond the generation gap I found to be appealing. The film though shifts gears in jarring fashion by allowing Charlie and Sugar to enter into it and then gets even further away from the main theme by having the third act dealing with the male bonding between Charlie and Joe. It is only at the very end that it gets back to the romantic concept, but the whole thing ends up coming off like three movies crammed into one. All three story threads are weak and better suited for an episode of ‘Love American Style’ than a feature film.
Screenwriter Miller casts himself as Charlie who is obnoxious and dumb and given too much screen-time. Blonde actress Oliver wears a black wig that looks hideous and their incessant bickering is contrived and the cutesy way they magically make-up at the end is strained.
Markham who has been acting consistently since 1966 and remains busy even today, but has never achieved stardom is okay in a rare leading film role. His character of a middle-aged man trying to ‘connect’ with the much younger Ginger by making broad assumptions about her generation is quite relatable. Spacek though comes off best out of all of them. Her character seems like a real person while the rest are caricatures and her twangy Texas accent fits the part. She even sings the film’s theme song, which isn’t bad.
Character actor David Doyle can be seen at the beginning as a yapping man who gives Joe the ‘finer points’ of picking up women and one-night-stands. Slim Pickens is essentially wasted as the town’s sheriff, but he manages to make the most of the few scenes that he is in.
The use of a hard spotlight gives the production a cheap, low budget look and some soft lighting would have created a better mood and artistic design. There is also a boom mike that can be seen for several minutes in one scene. Yet despite the film’s amateurish look I still liked its unpretentious quality as well as the cute climatic sequence that takes place on a bus, which propelled me to give this thing a rather generous 5 rating.
My Rating: 5 out of 10
Released: July 17, 1974
Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes
Director: Gordon Wiles
Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video
Posted in 70's Movies, Cold Climate/Wintertime Movies, Comedy/Drama, Low Budget, Romance
Tagged David Doyle, Entertainment, Mark Miller, Monte Markham, Movies, Review, Sissy Spacek, Slim Pickens, Susan Oliver
By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Doctors with opposing viewpoints.
Two doctors working at a psychiatric hospital come at odds with each other over how to treat their patients. Dr. Donovan MacLeod (Robert Stack) believes in a more humanistic approach in treating mental illness including group therapy and more patient freedoms. Dr. Lucretia Terry (Joan Crawford) is hard-lined and exacts rules on her patients that have severe penalties if broken. The film examines their infighting and how it affects their patients.
Director Hall Bartlett has a nice cinema-verte style to the material that manages to avoid being ‘Hollywoodnized’ or overtly sanitized. The subject is approached in a matter of fact way and the patients are not portrayed as ‘crazy’ or ‘scary’, but instead as sick people looking to get well and learning how to do it. The opening sequence done over the credits and featuring all sorts of moody artsy drawings have an excellent avant-garde flair.
Polly Bergen is effective as Lorna a middle-aged mother and housewife who suffers a nervous breakdown and begrudgingly becomes a member of Dr. MacLeod’s therapy group. Some of her acting particularly when she is having her breakdown is theatrical and over-the-top, but I did like the way Bartlett shows things from her perspective allowing the viewer in a visual sense to feel what she is going through and makes one compassionate and sensitive to her condition.
It is great to see Crawford as always and the scene showing her in a leotard and teaching the other nurses judo lessons is a gem and much too brief. I was hoping to have her play up the part of the heavy more making her almost like a Nurse Ratched, which she could have easily done to perfection, but unfortunately the script doesn’t take advantage of it. I was also disappointed that we never see Crawford ever dealing directly with her patients, which seemed to me should have been necessary.
Stack in the lead is terrible and completely wrong for the part. The role required a man with a more youthful appeal instead of the middle-aged Stack who never displays the kind of sensitivity and compassion that his character supposedly has. Instead he delivers his lines in a stiff and monotone fashion and comes off like he came from the old school of acting.
The scene where his character allows the patients to go to an outdoor park for a picnic and mingle with the staff unsupervised seemed to be pushing the plausibility meter to the extreme. It also makes him look like a complete schmuck who should have known better especially when one of his patients leaves the picnic and runs away while he chases after her in a panic.
The supporting cast is outstanding showcasing many up and coming stars and is one of the major highlights for watching the film. Barbara Barrie is great as the silent and troubled Edna. Janis Paige is excellent as the brassy prostitute Marion. Susan Oliver gives one of her best performances as a young nurse who is just learning how to deal with those with mental illness and Robert Vaughn is also effective as Lorna’s long suffering and confused husband. This is also a great chance to see a young Van Williams before he starred as the Green Hornet as well as the beautiful Sharon Hugueny whose promising acting career was cut short when she was hit years later by a speeding police car.
If you come to this film looking for genuine insight into the illness you will be disappointed as it goes only to the most elementary level into the area of psychiatry. MacLeod’s speeches about how his group therapy can be a ‘cure’ to mental illness are shallow and almost laughable. However, for the era the film manages to be gritty and slick enough to pass as entertainment.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: August 21, 1963
Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes
Director: Hal Bartlett
Studio: United Artists
Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix streaming
Posted in 60's Movies, Black & White, Drama, Movies Based on Novels, Movies with a Hospital setting, Psychological
Tagged 60's Movies, Barbara Barrie, Drama, Entertainment, Hall Bartlett, Janis Paige, Joan Crawford, Movies, Polly Bergen, Review, Robert Stack, Robert Vaughn, Sharon Hugueny, Susan Oliver