The Blues Brothers

Every hack has his top ten list of classics (7) and pseudo-classics (3), but what they really crave is pabulum. The Blues Brothers is hardly that, so critical opinion may safely be ignored as not to the purpose.

The technique required is somewhat beyond Landis, notably in a dance scene accompanied by Ray Charles. Landis triumphs with this gag: Elwood and Jake are being pursued by half the police cars in Chicago and a country band called The Good Ole Boys and a bunch of neo-Nazis led by Henry Gibson, they stop halfway off an unfinished elevated expressway, burn rubber in reverse and brake, pivoting their old police cruiser up on its back bumper and into the air (Landis cuts to a long shot), where it somersaults and soars in the other direction over the first car in back of them. The chase under the El is electrifying, and there is Twiggy, and there is Cab Calloway.

 

Trading Places

An entirely arbitrary experiment is devised as a wager between two old coots, who are sufficiently sketched-in to make the Nobel bid at settling Heredity vs. Environment a contest of Imagination and Greed, the two being wealthy Philadelphia brothers with a seat on the commodity exchange.

The Prince and the Pauper, but also Arzner’s The Bride Wore Red. The subjects get wise and overthrow the laboratory by proving the only point made definitively, that insider trading gives an unfair advantage to speculation.

The fractured flickers aren’t deep one by one, but cumulatively make up a tally of characters and situation. Everything is dissected by glancing blows, the satire of a thousand cuts. A scrounging con man out of The Threepenny Opera slowly awakens to a sense of his station in life as unwonted as that of the Harvard man he displaces, who learns desperation, and both acquire independence of the footling swindlers who keep the ball rolling in place.

The fix is in, and Yankee ingenuity undoes it. Or, as the lazy student at the back of the class said when asked how he scored an A on his Hemingway test, “The Scum Also Rises”.

 

Twilight Zone: The Movie

Landis’s bit is a classic tale of The Twilight Zone, curiously related to “The Encounter”. A man greatly pressured by modern life complains obstreperously, friends and strangers mock and insult him.

But he is the Jew in the cattle car, the rescuer of Vietnamese orphans, the hunted man, unable to make those around him perceive it.

 

Into the Night

The Lord is wont to call his favorite city a wanton wife who has gone a-whoring, and then to send Persians as an army for punishment.

Landis’s Biblical epic begins like one of the minor prophets and follows the pattern. Obviously the critics work on Sunday.

The eminence of construction parallels Sekely’s Hollow Triumph, the masterpiece of another director who stayed up all night in the city that does sleep. D.O.A., of course, and the penthouse from The Long Goodbye with Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein on every TV and a boudoir of corpses, also the beach house from Altman’s film inhabited by Paul Mazursky, Roger Vadim as a thug named Melville, and on the expressive side, the eminence of Irene Papas as a sinister Shahrahzad.

Landis’s neutral technique is precisely keyed to Wilshire & Rodeo at three o’clock in the morning. What he films is the city after the location trucks have left. Compare the night shoot on the studio back lot, with a gag from real life. Someone I know stopped to make a phone call on Pacific Coast Highway when James Garner walked over and explained, “it’s a prop,” they were filming.

Goldblum and Pfeiffer pass through a low tunnel entrance to Farnsworth’s estate, and she stops to take a nap because she’s tired and it happens in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

 

Spies Like Us

Admirers of The Road to Hong Kong, that rare and curious spectacle, will be delighted by this continuation of the series as a spoof of The Man Who Would Be King (i.e., The Road to Er-Horeb), which has everything, including the kitchen sink and Bob Hope, as well as a fantastical Cold War military plot (a variant of Dr. Strangelove and Seven Days in May situated between Panic in the City and The Fourth Protocol) featuring secret bases under abandoned drive-in theaters in the Antelope Valley, and more filmmakers in bit parts than you can shake a clapstick at.

 

íThree Amigos!

What seems clear is that Landis has “played the sedulous ape” to Blake Edwards, who in his turn has devoted himself to a very precise study of the slapstick comedians, one of the greatest of whom is Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau (see the bedroom scene in The Pink Panther, taken from a Three Stooges two-reeler, What’s The Matador?).

íThree Amigos! absorbs its stars, its sets, a great supporting cast and a good deal of technical skill (note the photographic re-creation at the opening) into a very touching comic variant of The Magnificent Seven, with most of the energy directed to a mockery of Hollywood hirelings, who are “all show and no dough,” unless (like Keaton’s projectionist) they “get in the act.”

 

Innocent Blood

There’s a certain aspect of The French Connection which needed a touch of clarification, and this is it (much as Dog Day Afternoon received Quick Change).

 

Beverly Hills Cop III

Foley at the computerized BHPD kiosk outside the new Babylonish civic center, whose recorded voice offers English, Spanish, and Farsi, is a complete study in itself.

His partner in Detroit is murdered, he follows the clues to Wonder World, “the largest private security force in America” guards the terrible secret there, in the confines of a closed ride, The Happy Forest. Uncle Dave has nothing to do with it, the CEO and designer of the park is missing, they’re printing something else beside Wonder World Dollars.

“Look at what passes for the new,” says William Carlos Williams where he speaks of getting the news, or not.

Amid the general excellences of this film, it will be noticed that Paramount and Universal join in the satire as part of the scenery.

 

Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project

A great portrayal of Rickles, with the faggot at Pixar like Mel Brooks’ Dark Helmet playing with his Mr. Potato Head.