Customer Review

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Robards and Wisdom, jiggles and bumps, great songs...and how the strip tease was born, July 23, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Night They Raided Minsky's (DVD)
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. Chick just falls for Rachel. Minsky's, however, is on the verge of closing. Then Raymond has an idea. They'll advertise a midnight show featuring Mademoiselle Fifi, "the hottest little cooch artist in the world." When Fowler shows up with the cops, Fifi will be Rachel doing her Bible dances. Fowler will be a laughing stock and Minsky's will be saved.

Now forget all that. What's important is the sweet nature of this burlesque gift. Most of the movie takes place backstage, on stage and in a near-by deli. It's a great, true deli, where we have bowls of half sours on the table and plenty of chunks of rye bread. (In that deli we'll watch Raymond nearly sweet talk a good looking woman at the next table into his bed, and then sweet talk her husband, who suddenly appears, into agreeing Raymond just gave them both a great compliment. Robards is as smooth as warm chicken fat.)

Backstage is packed with sets, lights and half dressed chorus girls, but it's on stage where the goods are delivered...chorus girls who can barely dance but can jiggle with vigor and bump with oomph. Jason Robards and Norman Wisdom do wonderful work together. Robards is the wise-guy straight man to Wisdom's eternally innocent optimist. Their song and dance numbers really work. We'd expect this of Wisdom, who got started in English music halls and became one of Britain's great clowns. Robards, who was one of America's great stage actors, is almost as skilled. Their "Perfect Gentleman" number by rights should be a remembered classic. I don't know how Friedkin managed it, but the people in the audience look authentic, right down to their delighted reactions.

The Night They Raided Minsky's also has a clever script. Says Raymond to Chick when the little guy wants some reassurance after meeting Rachel. "You met a girl!" says Raymond with a big smile. "Ah, Chick, my boy, when it comes to girls you have three qualities that are far worse than being short and funny looking. You have the curse of the three D's. You are decent, devoted and dependable...good qualities in a dog, disastrous in a man!"

Charles Strouse scored the movie and, with Lee Adams, provided great songs. "The Night They Raided Minsky's," "Take Ten Terrific Girls" and "Perfect Gentleman" establish more than anything else the good-natured, fast, harmlessly bawdy style of the movie. The Night They Raided Minsky's had a troubled parentage, with director William Friedkin disliking it and film editor Ralph Rosenblum claiming credit for everything good about it. There's more jump cutting than we need and perhaps a few too many historical clips. Still, we have potent nostalgia for things past that no one now is alive to remember. The movie carries Norman Lear's imprint at his best, and if Rosenblum and Friedkin want to arm wrestle over the movie, that's all right with me. Who cares who cut the paper lace for the valentine? I'm just happy we've got it.

I'm ready for Dexter Maitland as the tenor to see us home...
"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.
Mix in some amber lights and elegant scenery, then stir in a fine jazz band.
Then add some funny men
And pepper with laughter.
It's hot and tasty I know.
Then serve it piping hot and what have you got...
A burlesque show!"

The DVD is bare bones and looks fine.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 

Comments


Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 27, 2008 7:39:19 AM PDT
Mary Whipple says:
Nice, review(s), C.O. It's fun to read reviews of some of the lesser known and older films. You are filling a niche that DisplacedHuman used to fill--and that's a high compliment. Best, Mary
‹ Previous 1 Next ›

Review Details

Item

Reviewer

C. O. DeRiemer
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: San Antonio, Texas, USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 4,219