Leonard Part 6

It was directed by one of Mr. Bean’s later staff, and written by the author of Micki + Maude. The main variant of the gag in Sternberg’s Jet Pilot, a Cold War version of Ninotchka, is what its premise constitutes (Sternberg has a Soviet lady fighter pilot defect to the West, where she is taken to Palm Springs for a steak dinner, before luring a male American counterpart to Russia).

The salad wars are anticipated in Medusa’s revolution of the animal kingdom against the eating of meat. Leonard, whose previous exploits have not yet been Watsonized on film (owing, it is said, to their classified nature), is summoned into action.

He and his lady fair are fastened to the walls of a dungeon, permeated by a horde of lobsters. He seizes one, uses it to free his other hand, and when it won’t cooperate on the lady, menaces it with butter.

Medusa’s headquarters are in the International Tuna building. As the secret lab is destroyed and the animals are freed, Leonard rides an ostrich through the letter O on the roof, flapping and floating to the ground.

Over a candlelight dinner, the lady fair drapes him with each course, from soup to nuts, and they kiss.

The incredulity of the critics stems entirely from a lack of professional curiosity, it did not occur to them to see what is meant. The producer and author of the story went so far as to demand his Razzies be made of gold, but Gloria Foster’s hypnotic performance won’t lie down for anybody, not even on a bet. Medusa’s weightlifting heavies hand her a carefully peeled banana as the moment of her triumph approaches, her unconscious hand squeezes it to a pulp rapturously, with her mind elsewhere.

Leonard’s butler is English, like Alfred (Tom Courtenay has the part), and like Batman there is a car and costume for the hero.


City Slickers II
The Legend of Curly’s Gold

City Slickers II is much an improvement on the original, because of a rapturous and extensive involvement with its model, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. It was the lack of a coherent analysis of The Cowboys that dropped City Slickers short. You have to put it in the pan, hooking it isn’t enough.

Now you have a film that settles in the West like a saddle (the irony isn’t lost on one). Jack Palance is less a monstrous curiosity than an accoutrement of the general film structure, and you have Jon Lovitz leavening the whole lump, or the opposite of this.

What happens is a certain freedom as a result of accepting a certain responsibility. Stupid jokes and great jokes are jokes all the same in a vast landscape measured by correct directorial placement. And the real surprise is a sudden shift to The Maltese Falcon.

Another sequel might have gotten it right.