Sunday, September 4, 2011

May I Have The Envelope Please: With Six You Get Eggroll, Do Not Disturb, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

Two more Doris Day movies, including one that was her last feature film, and a film that should have been much better than it was round out this week’s Netflix selections.  Let’s get busy.

Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

The best thing about The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is Dolly Parton.  The worst thing is….well take your pick.  This could have been a memorable big screen musical, but instead it’s just a a goofy reminder of a good idea gone sour. 

Everybody  on the planet, unless they just dropped in from Mars,  knows that  Dolly Parton has big boobs.  In Whorehouse, Dolly as Madame Mona is photographed and costumed with tight corsets in such a way that her assets are overemphasized to the umpteenth degree that it looks more  grotesque  than sexy.  I guess it was an artistic decision by someone who had an overwhelming preoccupation with Parton’s mammaries, but it’s hard to say who.  Could have been the director, may have been the cinematographer, possibly the costume designer or perhaps they were all in this conspiracy together.    Director Colin Higgins had also worked with Parton in 9 to 5, where it was her comedic skills that shined instead of the Mountain Twins, so he should have known better.

And Parton sparkles  at times in this film as well, mostly in her musical numbers, including a cute little duet she wrote herself called, “Sneakin’ Around” that she does with Reynolds.  Unfortunately, when the music stops, the film dies a slow painful death, and were the ones that suffer.  Humor is practically non existent, and with a less than believable romance between Mona and Ed Earl, there’s not much else to recommend this concoction.

Reynolds plays sheriff Ed Earl as if he just walked off the set of Cannonball Run or Smokey and the Bandit, a shtick that may have worked in those films but does nothing at all to further his acting credentials here.  To say his his chemistry with Parton is lacking, would mean that there was at least some small indicator that there was something there in the first place, when in fact there is none.

Along for the ride are Burt’s old buddies, Jim Nabors and Dom DeLuise.  Nabor’s role as Deputy Fred, who is also the film’s narrator, could have been left on the cutting room floor and nobody would have noticed.  He adds nothing to the film and will leave you puzzled as to what purpose there was to put him in the movie in the first place.   Nabors, whose biggest asset is his singing voice, does not sing at all.  So go figure.  But maybe you’re a big Gomer Pyle fan and it’ll work for you.  I’m a Pyle fan, and I still think his character stunk.

DeLuise, plays self-righteous moral crusader Melvin P. Thorpe  in the same over the top comedic vein that he plays practically every thing else he was ever  in, and simply imported that character from one film to the next.  It’s just so ridiculously unbelievably weird, idiotic and gratingly obnoxious, that you don’t know whether to blame him, director Higgins, or the trio of writers of which Higgins was one of as well.  What ever satirical inference the character may have had, it’s totally lost in a big side of DeLuise Canned Ham.  A shame that such an opportunity was lost especially when you consider that the title of this film was censored in some states and towns.  It would have been almost poetic if the film had growled back at the real moral idiots out there trying to tell us what we can or cannot watch.

The film’s biggest shining moment is Charles Durning in a small part as the governor.  He does a terrific singing and dancing number called “The Sidestep” that is a send up  of every politician ever to run for office. It gives you some indication of what this film should have been:  A biting humorous satire on political moralizing.   Instead  there is not enough Durning  and way too much of Reynolds, Boobs, Gomer, and DeLuise.  So why rent the film?   For Durning of course, and the other musical numbers that are at least fun if way over produced.  That’s the great thing about DVD’s.  You can skip to the good parts.  On the other hand if you have to do that I have no choice to render my grade of a C-.

Do Not Disturb

I really have to cut Doris Day some slack in regards to some of these films she was in during the latter stages of her career.  If you know the history of Doris Day, then you know that her husband/business manager/embezzler/Svengali Marty Melcher, would stick her in just about anything to make a buck.  But no matter how flimsy the script was, she always seemed to manage to rise above the material.  And that’s pretty much the case with Do Not Disturb, a film I had never seen until renting it from Netflix.  Frankly, the synopsis on the envelope makes the movie sound much better than it is, so kudos to whoever wrote it or to whatever web site they copied it from.  They should win a Pulitzer.

With a few tweaks in the script here and there, this film could almost be the sequel to the last Doris Day film we received from Netflix, The Glass Bottom Boat, except for the  fact that this film was  released the previous year.   At least if this were the aftermath of Glass Bottom Boat, we would have some reason and at least a modicum of understanding as to  why Janet (Doris Day) and Mike (Rod Taylor) actually walked down the aisle together.   A drunken honeymoon in Vegas perhaps?  At least in Paris, Janet shows us  how that might have been a possibility.

When they are together, they do nothing but argue.  Mike shows little or no patience with Janet, even when she’s trying to do her best to make him a nice home.  They don’t trust each other. He’s never at home except to sleep, or get him some.   Everything they do is misinterpreted, misunderstood, or taken completely out of context by one another.  I almost suspected the movie would end in divorce court, and in fact that subject matter does come up a couple of times but is quickly resolved when some little something, such as a late arriving telegram, clears the air even if only temporarily until the next scene.

There is a big long scene in Paris that would be great if Janet and her “fantasy man,”  Paul (Sergio Fantoni) could stop to  admire the scenery, but most of their time is spent in a café and in an antiques shop finding new ways for Paul to get her drunk so he might seduce her.  Or at least I think that’s what is on his mind.  The movie isn’t exactly clear.  Call it totally unnecessary ambivalence.  

I can’t say that Taylor and Day have chemistry in this film, because despite their billing, they spend very little time on screen together except to argue and bicker.  And of the Rod Taylor films I’ve seen, this is perhaps his worst performance in any of them.  The whole shebang is a total bore, not funny at all,  and unfortunately not really worth your time unless you are a big Doris Day fan. 

That being said, I will mention that the colorful outfits designed for Day by Ray Afghayan are superb.  I mention that because it’s the one thing in this film that stands out.  A lot of times these costume designers from the fifties and sixties  will put the leading lady in straight jackets so to speak.  I know it’s not much to recommend a movie on, but at least that’s something.  And it does help save it from being a total fail which means I have no choice but to give Do Not Disturb a grade of D.

With Six You Get Eggroll

With Six You Get Eggroll is the last film Doris Day ever starred in before she went on to do series television.  I would like to say that she went out on a high note, but I can’t.  If you’ve seen the movie, Yours, Mine, and Ours, with Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, then you already know the plot except for the fact that there's a much smaller number of obnoxious brats littering the screen.  Instead of 18 little Hellions running amok, we only get four, so that in itself is a big plus.

The movie actually starts out rather well with the slowly developing romance between Abby (Doris Day) and Jake (Brian Keith).  In fact, if they had just made the entire movie about that, it probably would have been a  pretty good experience for all concerned including yours truly.  I don’t know why Brian Keith wasn’t cast more often as a leading romantic type, but he was certainly up to the task. 

Unfortunately for our two lovebirds and us, the kids aren’t exactly jumping with joy  about the whole romance thing going on with their parents.  Having one kid around can reduce the ardor level of a couple of passionate adults by about ten percent, so if you multiply that times 6, well…. you get my point.

So instead of just sitting the kids down and reading the little tykes and the big teenage tykes  the riot act, the parents sneak around as much as they can so as not to hurt the little offspring’s sensitive sensibilities.  Most of the time when  they sneak, it’s to  a drive-in diner for coffee where the only person that works seems to be Herbie Fleck (George Carlin).  And although Abby and Jake get annoyed with his presence, I didn’t because I thought he was the funniest thing going in this film.

Eventually one night when the kids are away camping or something, Abby invites Jake into the house out of the rain, and we are supposed to take it for granted that they do the nasty.  But it’s alright because by now it’s 1968, Day’s Abby is a widow with kids so it’s not exactly like this would be unexplored territory for her character, even if we are unnerved a bit by the thought of our favorite movie virgin having a late night liaison out of wedlock.  I guess we all have to grow up sometime.

Fortunately, whatever they did in that rainstorm behind those closed doors, it was something they liked doing because they want to do it again…and again…..and again.  But it’s harder and harder to sneak around without the little wee folk  catching on and being under foot.  So Abby and Jake decide to do the only thing they can do which is to elope.  Unfortunately this act also drives the movie into a ditch bigger than the one Obama claims the Repugnicans drove the economy into and this movie never recovers either.  Most of the rest of the film is about Abby and Jake being  in a quandary over which house they are  to reside in, and then trying to get all the kids to just get along with each other and to love and cherish their new parentage.  Fat chance of that.

The first half of the film that concentrates on the romance is done very well for the most part.  But,  Barbra Hershey, who stars as Jake’s spoiled daughter Stacey, give absolutely  no indication of where her acting career might go after this film.  Most of her screen time is taken up by pouting, acting like a spoiled brat, or being cold and distance.  But to me, her emotional range seemed stuck in  the cold and distant gear.

John Findlater as Abby’s oldest son Flip, fares pretty well in the opening five minutes when we see him working at his mother’s lumber yard.  Then it’s all down hill from there as he become just another pain-in-the-ass kid out to keep his mother from getting any exercise between the sheets.

This film is also a who’s who of future TV series inhabitants and character actors.  Pat Carroll, who was absolutely memorable as the Sea Witch in The Little Mermaid, shows up and is her usual funny self.  And keep your eye out for:  Jamie Farr (MASH), William Christopher (MASH), Alice Ghostly (Bewitched), and Allen Melvin (The Brady Bunch). 

And one last thing.  I don’t know whose decision it was to use different colored swipes for some scene transitions, but they are awful.  This is hard to explain unless you’ve seen the film, but there are times when the scene switches where some idiot, probably the film editor, decided to have the scene slide to a color screen (red, blue, yellow, or green, take your pick) then cutting directly into the next scene from there.  It’s awful and distracting, and makes you wish someone would go in and re-edit the film putting in normal fades and wipes.  Hell, I’d do it for free.

So two actors who do very well together in the first half, some good character actors, a believable romance, and George Carlin fall into the plus side of the ledger.  The predictable second half, obnoxious kids, terrible editing, cold, distant Hershey, and an atrocious ridiculous  chase scene that leads to the final fade out fall into the minus side of the ledger.  So adding up the pluses and subtracting the minuses, I have no choice but to give this film a C-.

And in case you were wondering, the title simply refers that when six people dine together at a Chinese Restaurant, you get free eggrolls.  Now you can sleep in peace with that mystery solved.  Let this video take you off to bed and cheer you up.

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