SAINT JACK (director/writer: Peter Bogdanovich; screenwriters: Howard Sackler/Paul Theroux/based on the novel by Paul Theroux; cinematographer: Robby Muller; editor: William Carruth; cast: Ben Gazzara (Jack Flowers), Denholm Elliott (William Leigh), James Villiers (Frogget), George Lazerby (Senator), Joss Ackland (Yardley), Rodney Bewes (Smale), Lisa Lu (Mrs. Yates), Mark Kingston (Yates), Monika Subramaniam (Monika), Peter Bogdanovich (Eddie Schuman); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Roger Corman/Blaine Novak/George Morfogen; Vestron (New World Productions); 1979)
“It’s too hollow and sentimental to rise to any great critical heights.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Peter Bogdanovich’ (“The Last Picture Show”/”What’s Up, Doc?“/”Daisy Miller”) first decent film in three years after a few flops. It’s a well-acted, well-scripted and well-crafted drama, that still failed to move me. The low-budget fare plays out as a whimsical black comedy character study. It’s based on the novel by Paul Theroux, and is scripted by the novelist, the director and Howard Sakler. The film’s executive producer was Playboy’s Hugh Hefner, which should explain all the sex exploitation scenes.
Ben Gazzara plays Jack Flowers, the titled character, someone ethical working in an unethical profession (he’s supposedly a metaphor for American imperialism). Jack’s an American Korean War hero with a big heart, who becomes a pimp after jumping ship in Singapore. The pimp caters to mostly the sexual needs of American and British businessmen. He tries to operate as an independent, but the mob tries to put him out of business. The pimp succumbs to pressure and takes a pimp job for the sleazy cigar smoking Cuban gangster Eddie Schuman (Peter Bogdanovich), who forces him to take compromising photos of an American senator (George Lazerby) with a male prostitute.
The story is set in 1971.
In a small part, Denholm Elliott is just excellent as the sensitive Brit businessman brothel patron.
It bombed at the box office, but it won the Italian Journalist Award for Best Film at the 1979 Venice Film Festival. It’s a small drama that is never as great as it aspires to be, as it’s too hollow and sentimental to rise to any great critical heights.
REVIEWED ON 3/8/2015 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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