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Saturday, February 6, 2016

S.O.B. (1981)

Blake Edwards’ Hollywood takedown, a deadly serious poison-pen mirth machine, is usually assumed to be wildly exaggerated for comic effect. True enough for some literally painful slapstick; the rest is, if anything, understated to avoid disbelief. With a dream cast skirting disaster by inches, Edwards works out comic riffs on past personal mega-flops. (DARLING LILY/’70 figures heavily as does the Julie Andrews/Robert Wise bomb STAR/’68, which really did get pulled from distribution, reedited & retitled.) Perfectly capturing the time, place & fear of what remained of Old Hollywood in ‘81, Edwards misjudges ‘the fix,’ putting faith in a little erotic dream sequence & a flash of Ms. Andrews’ perky boobs to save the day. As if. But he vaults over the misstep with a quartet of Hollywood pros: Richard Mulligan, Robert Webber, William Holden & especially Robert Preston who covers himself in clover as a hilarious, nearly wise Dr. Feel-Good.* And you can count on Edwards to reward deserving tv actors often ignored in features; here Robert Vaughn & Larry Hagman get to shine. If only the same could be said for an out-of-her-league Loretta Swit as the gossip columnist wife of Edwards’ original PETER GUNN actor Craig Stevens. Stevens' real wife, Alexis Smith, would have been just right in the part. Busy elsewhere?

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Edwards got lots of PC grief using Mickey Rooney as the stereotyped comic Japanese upstairs neighbor to Audrey Hepburn in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S/’61. Damned if he doesn’t do nearly the same thing here using lowbrow comic Larry Storch as Julie Andrews’ Indian Swami at a big Hollywood funeral. Storch is very funny in the part and it’s obvious that Edwards feeds off his baggy-pants humor and the shock of rude energy it gives. It may not change your mind vis-à-vis Rooney, but it does help explain what it’s doing there.

CONTEST: *During the informal wake these four guys have while the rest of the cast is off at the proper studio-lot funeral, Preston tosses out a few quotes from HAMLET. Explain why to win a MAKSQUIBS DVD Write-Up of your choice.

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