Always something of a connoisseur’s piece, John Huston, working from a typically sardonic Richard Condon novel, manages to keep it all broadly played, drily satiric & lethally accurate, a fabulist’s hat-trick for a one-of-a-kind Mafia story. (CORRECTION: Alberto Lattuada’s MAFIOSO/’62 makes it two-of-a-kind.) Jack Nicholson & Kathleen Turner devour each other in passion as East Coast/West Coast contract killers, but tru-love keeps bumping into sordid backstory. Worse, a shared job results in collateral damage that threatens to destroy their hard-won bliss as various branches of the mob start to pull in opposing directions . And all the while Nicholson’s ex (Anjelica Huston) is weaving her own spider’s web of revenge. Director Huston puts many balls in the air at the same time, but never lets you catch him doing it; the accumulated art of a lifetime. (And just have a look at those long-take/two-shot wooing scenes.) With deliciously eccentric casting (not the usual mob guy thing at all), gravel-voice William Hickey got most of the attention on release, but John Randolph as Jack’s hilariously upbeat Dad is tops. So’s the film.
DOUBLE-BILL: Huston hit similar notes of comic deconstruction in his caper pic BEAT THE DEVIL/’53.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Alex North’s score is largely drawn out of Rossini & Puccini, especially the one-act comic opera GIANNI SCHICCHI. Woody Allen staged Puccini’s piece for L.A. Opera in a ‘50s commedia all’italiana style, but mysteriously (and controversially) tacked on a murder not in the libretto right at the end. Where, oh where might he have gotten that idea from?