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The Night They Raided Minsky's

41 customer reviews

Additional DVD options Edition Discs
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(May 20, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

One of the funniest, most entertaining movies-you-never-heard-of. Jason Robards shines as the well-meaning but manipulative comedian and Britt Ekland is the lovably innocent Amish girl in this affectionately, poignant but lighthearted view of Burlesque and a time gone by.

Before The French Connection made him a household name, William Friedkin drafted this love letter to the burlesque era. In 1925, Amish redhead Rachel (Swedish bombshell Britt Ekland) travels from Pennsylvania to New York to dance. On the advice of Professor Spats (The Wizard of Oz's Bert Lahr, who died during filming), she catches the variety show at Minsky's, which is run by the proprietor's son, Billy (Elliot Gould). Comic duo Raymond (Jason Robards) and Chick (Oscar nominee Norman Wisdom) enlist Rachel to perform her Bible routine, billed as the scandalous Madamoiselle Fifi, to make a fool out of moral guardian Vance Fowler (Denholm Elliot), who threatens to sic the vice squad on the theater if they don't tone things down. While helping her prepare, both men fall for "this real religious girl," but Chick, as Raymond puts it, "suffers from "the curse of the three Ds." He's "decent, devoted and dependable," while his partner is "a BFC," i.e. "Bastard First Class." Rachel gets the last word when she accidentally invents the striptease. Adapted from the novel by Rowland Barber (Somebody up There Likes Me) and produced by Norman Lear (All in the Family), Minsky's zips between comedy and drama through the rapid-fire editing of Ralph Rosenblum (The Producers), who inter-cut the newsreel footage in post-production. If the film feels like a battle between opposing sensibilities, i.e. art vs. commerce, warm-hearted entertainment wins out in the end. The only real crime is that this long-awaited title arrives without any extras. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Jason Robards, Britt Ekland, Norman Wisdom, Forrest Tucker, Harry Andrews
  • Directors: William Friedkin
  • Writers: Norman Lear, Arnold Schulman, Rowland Barber, Sidney Michaels
  • Producers: George Justin, Norman Lear
  • Format: Color, Dubbed, Closed-captioned, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: United Artists
  • DVD Release Date: May 20, 2008
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0014BJ1AY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,970 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Night They Raided Minsky's" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By D. M. Farmbrough on November 23, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
Jason Robardes shines as the well-meaning if manipulative comedian and Britt Ekland is slightly miscast as an innocent Amish girl. The story is however subsidiary to the beautifully created setting of a burlesque night club. The music in particular enhances the atmosphere as do the claustrophobic sets and authentic performances.
The film loses focus because of its length and the sheer number of stars. Sometimes it seems Elliot Gould is the star, sometimes, Robardes. But the nominal stars of the film are upstaged by both Norman Wisdom who throws everything into his performance, and the great Bert Lahr, more well-known as the cowardly lion from the Wizard Of Oz, who died during filming. This is not a deep film, but an affectionate (and reportedly accurate) portrait of a time gone by.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 26, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
Seeing Britt Ekland step off the subway and observe the sights of the Lower East Side as the picture slips from color to black & white in the opening scene is great to see again after many years is refreshing! I have to admit that this is one of my favorite films and William Friedkin's zestful direction and Bert Lahr's splendid appearance as Professor Spats is truly a great thing to see. Allthough the subject of the early days of striptease isn't the best subject for families, this could work out to be a good family film (!!) and for people willing to find out what burlesque and vaudeville was actually like, this Norman Lear ("The Jeffersons") production is a visual treat. This is funny, vibrant, and highly nostalgic! See it and I can guarantee that you'll enjoy it. Take my word for it.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The lights dim. The curtain goes up. The girls are on stage. The spot hits the tux-wearing tenor, silver haired and a little plump.
"I have a secret recipe
Concocted with much skill
And once you've tried my special dish
You'll never get your fill...

"Take ten terrific girls, but only nine costumes, and you're cooking up something grand..."

The Night They Raided Minsky's is a valentine to the long-gone burlesque houses of the Twenties. Naughty, bawdy and surprisingly innocent, filled with chorus girls who might generously be called a little past their prime, with plenty of belly work, with comedians and their second bananas, with pratfalls, seltzer bottles and song and dance acts. This Norman Lear/William Friedkin/Ralph Rosenblum movie has it all. It even has a story. Most of all, it has some great songs by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, wonderful performances by Jason Robards and Norman Wisdom, and a collection of pungent characters played by the likes of Elliot Gould, Forrest Tucker, Bert Lahr, Harry Andrews, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Burns, Denholm Elliot and Dexter Maitland. And we're there when history is made, as Britt Ekland playing an innocent Amish girl from Smoketown, Pennsylvania, who longs to perform her Bible dances on stage, inadvertently invents the strip tease.

Billy Minsky runs Minsky's Burlesque. Vance Fowler, secretary of New York's Society for the Suppression of Vice, is determined to close it down. Then Rachel Elizabeth Schpitendavel shows up. She's young. She's innocent. She's built. She catches the eye of headliner Raymond Paine (Jason Robards), a song, dance and straight man who works with his second banana, the small, mild and fall-down physical Chick Williams (Norman Wisdom). Paine wants Rachel to fall into his bed.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Brent R. Swanson on August 3, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This movie is a great big flawed bundle of fun, fun enough to make it worthwhile in spite of itself.

As theater history, it's oversimplified and just short of coy. Nudity didn't come to the popular stage by way of Minsky's, and there were far worse shows for raunchiness (Earl Carroll's, anyone?). As for the movie itself, I suspect its inner unity suffered a permanent blow with the unexpected death of Bert Lahr during production. "Professor Spats" was obviously supposed to have a bigger role in the story, and Lahr all but steals the show anyway, even if he's only symbolically present in the final heart-tugging scene.

Lahr is certainly more watchable than a miscast Jason Robards, who is just too old to be sympathetic or even acceptable as naive Britt Ekland's love interest. Robards seems more like a predator than a suitor, making his sudden change-of-heart unconvincing.

The movie totters back and forth from farce comedy to human drama, while its take on history has to be taken with as much salt as those "Genuine Belgian chocolates--with the nuts inside!" However, in what other movie are you going to find Britt Ekland, Norman Wisdom, Elliot Gould, Denholm Elliot, Forrest Tucker, Bert Lahr, Jack Burns (a riot as the candy butcher), dear old Judith Lowry as dear old Mother Annie, a very young Richard Libertini, the voice of Rudy Vallee, and the jovial Dexter Maitland (doing what he did at Minsky's), reviving the shadow of burlesque and doing so with contagious joy? The music itself is worth the cost of this very basic, no-extras disk. And for added fun, try counting how many studio names appear in the packaging and credits.
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