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Friday, December 23, 2016

THE BIGGEST BUNDLE OF THEM ALL (1968)

Seriously terrible, a caper pic less movie than actuated deal memo. Director Ken Annakin, fondly recalled for some mediocre family fare, was the journeyman hack you called when you couldn’t get the journeyman hack you wanted. Here, he vamps to little avail after Robert Wagner & gang nab retired Mafia boss Vittorio De Sica for his fortune. Turns out, there’s not a lira to him. As alternative, De Sica suggests they join forces to steal 5 mill in platinum; his old pal Edward G. Robinson can set up the con. None of this makes much sense, in its absence, Annakin tosses Raquel Welch’s bust at us as distraction. Top-billed, Raquel is . . . well, enthusiastic; fourth-billed, but with the largest role, De Sica doesn’t worry the details. (Smart guy, he’s got gambling debts to pay off.) A laugh or two comes via gang member Godfrey Cambridge, a winning, eccentric presence at the time, but poor Bob Wagner turns in a flat/sour perf, even his hair looks defeated.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: De Sica had recently directed his own international caper pic, AFTER THE FOX/’66, from Neil Simon’s debut screenplay, with winning turns from Peter Sellers, Britt Ekland, Victor Mature & Martin Balsam. It’s uneven, but loaded with solid laughs, real Italian atmosphere and a general sense of messy fun.

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