Wednesday, February 24, 2010


The estimable Bill Shute saw this movie upon its release in 1975, and remembered recently that AIP put it out despite the MGM lion being all over the packaging of this DVD re-release. Me? I dumped my clothes into a washer at the laundromat the other day, then came back from the change machine and started the washer adjacent to the one containing my clothes.

So much for comparing memories, let's compare mammories, Raquel Welch's incomparable pair being the main reason why AIP picked up this movie when it couldn't find a home. Welch plays "Queenie", a former wanna-be actress who latched onto James Coco, a one-time silent movie star now being marginalized by talkies and changing tastes in comedy. His character is loosely based on Fatty Arbuckle, who as we all know was found INNOCENT in the Virginia Rappe bit of unpleasantness but had to endure years of snickering when having a bottle of hootch delivered to his table in a restaurant.

Welch is serviceable here, and the director relaxed her in the presence of Broadway vet Coco by making acting "suggestions" and cannily getting her to believe they were her idea. Her character once had genuinely deep feelings for the faded funnyman but now stays with him mainly out of convenience and loyalty.

Coco's character (I forget his name, I sent the DVD off to Bill Shute and I already told you that I have no memory) has risked everything he owns by bankrolling a comeback picture which he screens to an underwhelmed gaggle of invited Hollywood guests and prospective backers. Coco chews up the scenery and emotes like he is still on Broadway. He seems to be trying to reach a rube from Paducah in row ZZZ who is more interested in swatting a fly with a PLAYBILL.

In fact this flick feels a lot like a filmed stage play. If it were not for one outdoor scene where an Italian stereotype manning a fruit stand recognizes has-been Coco and gushes broken-English compliments while insisting that his daughter kiss the great man, it could have all been shot on one or two stages.

Brief snippets of the movie-within-a-movie Coco screens are included to convey that his pet project is dated and hokey, but anyone in tune with this blog will no doubt wish they could see more of Coco in a pot of water being menaced by cannibals, as you are no doubt under the belief that filmed comedy has declined steadily since the early 20's.

The fairly debauched for the time party scenes no doubt got cut but good when this aired on network TV way back when, and apparently the entire narrative was messed with in the editing room. It is restored to its original running order here. In a director commentary piece, it is claimed that today's politically correct climate would prevent him from including the bawdy, lesbian targeted "Put Your Finger in a Dyke" piano number, or the scene where a drunken Coco is prepared to ravish a starstruck underage girl. Has this man watched any cable TV lately?

This endless party finally winds down with a melodramatic finale as pronounced as Coco's profile. Worth a look, even if blogmeister Chris S. would tut-tut the musical number skewering historically wronged president Herbert Hoover, whom he once described as a lovable old pooperoo. or endearing fuddy duddy, or something similar. Or maybe that was George Bush. Or George Herbert Walker Bush. Or was it Lamont Cranston?

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