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Friday, December 19, 2014

THE SILENT PARTNER (1978)

After earning his bona fides as the coolest cat in early ‘70s American cinema (largely thanks to his trio of Robert Altman pics), Elliot Gould’s career went very flat very fast. M*A*S*H* derivatives as insultingly bad as S*P*Y*S and WHIFFS did the trick. So, this little Canadian thriller came as a welcome surprise. A sub-Hitchcockian entertainment, very STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, it has Gould’s bank-teller anticipating a robbery and contriving to slip most of the loot not to Christopher Plummer’s vicious thief*, but to himself. A neat trick . . . until Plummer figures out the scam and comes a’callin’. Susannah York does well as a confused bank co-worker while Céline Lomez is sexy (if no actress) as a two-faced femme fatale. And look for young John Candy in a bit. In hindsight, it’s easy to see this works less from the decent enough helming of Daryl Dukes than from a sharp, nasty script from Curtis Hanson of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL/’97 fame. A frustratingly unfecund filmmaker, this gives us an extra chance to see his suspense savvy in spite of a few too many plot contrivances. As for Gould, he never did find his way back to the top of the A-list heap. But this film reminded audiences of what they liked about him and how charming he could be. Five decades (and counting) later, he’s still at it.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Someone worked up a daringly creepy make-up for Plummer, using a touch of mascara to unsettling effect. Almost as scary as his Captain von Trapp.

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