Grabby Grab-bag

Seems Like Old Times: written by Neil Simon; directed by Jay Sandrich; starring Chevy Chase (Nick Gardenia), Goldie Hawn (Glenda Parks), Charles Grodin (Ira Parks), Robert Guillaume (Fred), T.K. Carter (Chester), and Yvonne Wilder (Aurora) (1980): Highly enjoyable Neil Simon farce written specifically for Hawn and Chase, who were coming off the success of their first film together, Foul Play. Chase does an insane number of pratfalls, Hawn is goofy and funny, and Charles Grodin offers able, mostly deadpan supporting work. The rest of the supporting cast is also excellent, including a half-dozen dogs used to surprisingly potent comic effect. Recommended.

The Paper Chase: adapted by James Bridges from the novel by John Jay Osborn Jr.; directed by James Bridges; starring Timothy Bottoms (James Hart), Lindsay Wagner (Susan Fields), and John Houseman (Professor Kingsfield) (1973): Excellent chronicle of first-year law school at Harvard gives one just enough bildungsroman without overwhelming the viewer with some sort of message. Timothy Bottoms is excellent as first-year-law-student Hart, who faces assorted school and relationship problems on his way to understanding the law.

Bionic Woman Lindsay Wagner does nice work as Hart’s on-again, off-again love interest. John Houseman won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar as the imposing contract law professor Kingsfield. The male hairstyles may look wild now, but the movie grounds everything in verisimilitude. It’s one of the few movies set at college with classrooms and facilities that actually look like college classrooms and facilities (and have some of the same lax security from time to time). Highly recommended.

The Alphabet Murders: adapted by David Pursall and Jack Seddon from the novel The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie; directed by Frank Tashlin; starring Tony Randall (Hercule Poirot), Anita Ekberg (Amanda Beatrice Cross), and Robert Morley (Hastings) (1965): Completely loopy attempt to reimagine Agatha Christie’s Belgian super-sleuth as some sort of combination of Inspector Clouseau, Our Man Flint, and James Bond… as played by Tony Randall doing a Peter Sellers imitation. The approach doesn’t really work, but the film has a surprising number of laughs. I’m guessing it was a box-office bomb, as no one ever tried something like this again with Poirot. Bizarre enough to be lightly recommended, especially if you’re accustomed to the more traditional portrayals of Poirot by such actors as Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov, and David Suchet.

Seven Keys to Baldpate: adapted by Anthony Veiller, Wallace Smith, Glenn Tryon, and Dorothy Yost from the play by George M. Cohan based on the novel by Earl Derr Biggers; directed by William Hamilton and Edward Killy; starring Gene Raymond (William Magee), Margaret Callahan (Mary Norton), and Henry Travers (The Hermit) (1935): Fifth version (!!!!!) of a 1913 drama adapted from a popular novel by Charlie Chan creator Earl Derr Biggers. Fifth version! And there would be more under this title and others! It’s a mystery farce set at an off-season hotel where a writer has gone to write a novel in 24 hours. The hotel is empty and only he has the key. Or does he? Much running around ensues in a very stagey manner, and things wrap up in barely more than an hour. Of interest for its historical value, but certainly not in any way a classic. Lightly recommended as a curiosity more than an entertainment.

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