i love you, alice b. toklas!
Mazursky is the great authority on Los Angeles, as writer and producer (with Samuel Fuller’s Pagliacci) he sets the table for Averback to feast upon authentic, original views of the city.
Critics complained from the start that the scene was not well represented, which is not borne out by the facts.
Ginsberg is Tennyson, there has to be another way.
Variety concurs, “pic derives its prime value from an excellent screenplay.”
The Great Bank Robbery
Lady Godiva breaks the bank, the Reverend Pious Blue soars away in a hot air balloon, or is it the Lady and the Ranger, caught in an updraft over ignorant armies?
Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came
The image is paradise itself (cf. Hamilton’s Battle of Britain), who would leave it for Army business?
Particularly with reference to Ken Russell’s Billion Dollar Brain and General Billy Joe Davis of the National Crusade, “an organization of true Americans devoted to a healthy and American America,” like Lee H. Martinson’s Batman villains with fists held high (“ee-ho!”), out in the desert amidst echoes of Frankenheimer’s ECOMCON (Seven Days in May), “this—is my new communications center!”
The title is laid on as a bumper sticker, from Carl Sandburg. “Sergeant Jones” at the bank is from The Best Years of Our Lives (dir. William Wyler).
Question of “community relations”, the CO wants to be a brigadier in his retirement. Jerry Fielding supplies a latter-day march and swing band evening and an amusing arrangement of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” for the “General”. The redneck sheriff’s “beer hustler” wife likes the little town she lives in, “it’s safe” as Tiffany’s to Holly Golightly, her name is Ramona. Borgnine as the sheriff is by way of Zinnemann’s From Here to Eternity. Sir Walter Scott is cited on rusty swords, Robert Frost tacitly on neck sizes.
The inspiration for Chomsky’s Tank. Between the two there is The Last Detail (dir. Hal Ashby). This is correctly understood out of Preston Sturges’ Hail the Conquering Hero.
Variety, “main problem is that Hy Averback’s direction and the screenplay, both of which have their moments, never focus and decide if it is a comedy, serious drama or farce.” TV Guide, “indecisive scripting and direction.” Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “viewers should receive Purple Hearts and director Hy Averback should be court-martialed.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “muddled farce”.
Suitable for Framing
The art collector is playing Chopin’s E Major Étude, Op. 10, No. 3, the art critic shoots him dead (with the help of the art student) and pins the murder on the art benefactor. In the midst of this the critic kills the student.
The first smiling murder takes place a few seconds after the episode begins, in Bel-Air. Rembrandts and Picassos look on.
He’s an acerbic critic who admires “the relations between the pieces” of a mobile, and says so. A policewoman descends a stairway, imitating the art student.
Lt. Columbo spots the culprit right away, as he shows no grief for the deceased but plenty (feigned) for the Degas pastels he’s just purloined.
Does he know the second victim? In words echoing from the Salon and the fox Chardin, the critic replies, “Lieutenant, there must be over a hundred thousand art students in Southern California.” These are very trenchant words.
Mary Wickes as a Hollywood landlady gives a Cook’s Tour of the tourist attractions (date farms, Chinese Theatre, graveyards, zoo).
The critic is berated by the dealer for preferring Paris and London to “us peasants.” The artist is berated by the dealer for having a mind of his own. The model is berated by the artist for fidgeting.
Like Kowalski’s “Fade in to Murder”, the solution is imagery, and here it is as elegant as the two pastels Columbo identifies by his own fingerprints (he wears Chekhov-gray gloves for this demonstration).
A Stitch in Crime
As it opens, an ambulance is speeding west on Melrose Avenue past RKO Studios of old. The gallantly geometric hospital is seen in a low-angle establishing shot.
An operation carefully timed to fail so as to advance an unfledged theory casts a spreading pall of incrimination and murder. And lo! there is Lt. Columbo littering the scene of the crime with the shell of a hardboiled egg.