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FOUL PLAY(director/writer: Colin Higgins; cinematographer: David M. Walsh; editor: Pembroke J. Herring; music: Charles Fox; cast: Goldie Hawn (Gloria Mundy), Chevy Chase (Tony Carlson), Burgess Meredith (Hennessey, Landlord), Rachel Roberts (Gerda Casswell), Eugene Roche (Archbishop Thorncrest / Archbishop’s brother), Don Calfa (Scarface), William Frankfather (Whitey Jackson – The Albino), Dudley Moore (Stanley Tibbets), Marilyn Sokol (Stella), Brian Dennehy (Fergie), Marc Lawrence (Stiltskin), Chuck McCann (Theater Manager), Billy Barty (J.J. MacKuen), Cyril Magnin (Pope Pius XIII), Bruce Solomon (Bob Scott); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Thomas L. Miller/Edward K. Milkis; Paramount Pictures; 1978)
“The comedy/thriller plods on for too long with tasteless and witless physical comedy, though it has a few funny moments.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Typical ditsy shallow Goldie Hawn movie that her fan base should love while others might find it clumsily executed, poorly helmed and a tiresome rehash of Hitchcock, and not be that forgiving of its many flaws. Writer-director Colin Higgins (“9 to 5″/”The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”), in his directorial debut, gives the parody a Hitchcock suspense look, but the suspense gives way to the usual unfunny comical car chases and a stale climactic theater shootout. It also brings on and all too familiar barrage of stock scare tactics from a sinister dwarf (Marc Lawrence), a phony archbishop (Eugene Roche), a cold-hearted albino hit man (William Frankfather), a scary desperate man with a scar on his face (Don Calfa) and a sociopath con artist woman (Rachel Roberts). They are the villains chasing after a damsel in distress.

The comedy/thriller plods on for too long with tasteless and witless physical comedy, though it has a few funny moments to prevent it from being a complete dud. However, its flatness didn’t stop it from being a smash box office hit. The short directorial career of Higgins came to a halt when he died from AIDS in 1988 at the age of 47.

Gloria Mundy (Goldie Hawn) is a recent divorcee, starting over on her own as a librarian in San Francisco. The innocent woman somehow gets involved in a plot by a group of politically motivated radicals to assassinate the visiting Pope Pius XIII (Cyril Magnin, S. F. department store magnate) while he attends the San Francisco Opera House to see Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado (it borrows the plot device from the 1956 Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much). The villains aim to promote by violence an end to the exclusion of organized religions from paying property taxes.

Gloria picks up on the road an undercover agent (Bruce Solomon) tailed by the villains, who passes onto her a Marlboro pack that has inside it a film about the assassination plot. He later turns up dead before he retrieves it. Thereby the gang goes after Gloria, who is so ditsy no one believes that there are killers after her. Especially since the corpses disappear that are killed. But bachelor S.F. detective, Lt. Tony Carlson (Chevy Chase, his first starring movie role), who does some nice pratfalls, falls for her and acts as her protector, even taking her to his houseboat for protection beyond the call of duty.

The funniest guy in the pic is Dudly Moore (the Brit’s first American pic), who plays a perverted sex-starved symphonic orchestra leader who keeps having sorrowful run-ins with Gloria in so-called massage parlors and night spots while she’s on the run from the bad guys.

The theme song “Ready To Take A Chance Again” became a hit for Barry Manilow and it earned an Oscar nomination for Best Song.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”