(director: Jack Smight; screenwriters: based on a John Updike novel/Howard B. Kreitsek; cinematographer: Philip Lathrop; editor: Archie Marshek; music: William Lava; cast: James Caan (Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom), Jack Albertson (Marty Tothero), Margot Stevenson (Mrs. Tothero), Carrie Snodgrass (Janice Angstrom), Sondra Scott (Miriam Angstrom), Anjanette Comer(Ruth), Marc Antony Van Der Nagel (Nelson Angstrom), Melodie Johnson (Lucy Eccles), Henry Jones (Mr. Angstrom), Josephine Hutchinson (Mrs. Angstrom), Carmen Mathews (Mrs. Springer), Arthur Hill (Jack Eccles), Virginia Vincent (Margaret), Nydia Westman (Mrs. Smith); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Howard B. Kreitsek; Solitaire/Warner Bros.; 1970)
“Only remains watchable because James Caan runs with the slight story-line and gives it some appeal.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
John Updike’s brooding novel might have been witty but the screen version as written by the producer Howard B. Kreitsek is not. Incidentally, Updike is from Reading, Pennsylvania, where the story is set. Jack Smight (“Damnation Alley”/”Midway”), who was pissed that Kreitsek re-wrote the screenplay and ruined it by making it facile, unsuccessfully attempted to have his name removed from the credits.
Smight helms it as an uninteresting sex-filled soap opera that only remains watchable because James Caan runs with the slight story-line and gives it some appeal. The small-town Reading, Pennsylvanian, Harry Angstrom (James Caan), a former high school basketball star nicknamed Rabbit, is now an unemployed and unskilled family man with a young son (Marc Antony Van Der Nagel) and an alcoholic pregnant wife (Carrie Snodgrass) that he no longer loves. Impulsively Rabbit runs out on his wife and visits his former coach (Jack Albertson), who is now a deadbeat. The coach introduces Rabbit to a hooker named Ruth (Anjanette Comer), and he shacks up with her. While living in sin, Rabbit is counseled by the friendly family Episcopalian minister (Arthur Hill).
The busy plot has Rabbit returning to his wife when she gives birth, but leaving her after she accidentally drowns their infant in the bath tub when reaching for her bottle. Rabbit returns to his pregnant hooker, who wants him to marry her. He promises he will, but the last we see of Rabbit is going for groceries but presumably never returning as he runs out of town on foot.
REVIEWED ON 7/19/2017 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/