Foul Play [VHS]
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Not short on murder, mayhem, or any other screwball '70s conventions, Foul Play is a wonderful vehicle for Goldie Hawn. She plays Gloria, a librarian "ready to take a chance again," who ends up the target of an assassination ring. Chevy Chase, fresh off of Saturday Night Live, does the closest thing to real acting he would ever achieve (okay, maybe Fletch) as Tony, the cop assigned to protect Gloria. Dudley Moore made an indelible impression on American audiences as Stanley Tibbets, a surprisingly kinky symphony conductor. But it's the quirky things that make this film: the grandmothers playing Scrabble with expletives, Burgess Meredith's snake Esme, the old Japanese couple in the back of the careening limo. From the opening credits with Barry Manilow crooning the title song, this is a fond trip down memory lane. --Keith Simanton
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It's a pretty intense thriller but also funny and not terribly risque, especially compared to today. It's interesting that a lot of times, I like stuff that's inspired by Hitchcock, such as this and Charade (1963), more than Hitchcock's own work. This was one of the only movies created by Colin Higgins, who died 10 years later of AIDS (he was homosexual). I'm glad he still created something good even though he would later create a much more risque movie, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. From time to time, I have enjoyed Foul Play because it's just such a creative story and builds really excitingly to that final climax. It's dark, exciting, and funny, and its story is extraordinary. Even the opening scene is filmed with an originality I don't think Hitchcock had to that degree.
One kvetch I have is a slight bit of editing. In the original, Chase offers Hawn some pot while they're on a houseboat, and she looks surprised. Chase says, "Well, everyone knows cops have all the really good stuff," and she acquiesces, sharing a joint with him. This version has him asking if she smokes pot; she doesn't, and he says he doesn't either. The original lines were funnier, and fit the situation better, so I suspect this was a TV version of the scene.
Dudley Moore has a hilarious bit-part as an oversexed Brit who misinterprets Hawn's plea for help as a request for a liaison, with amusing results. The casting is great, with the late William Frankfather as an eerie and unsettling albino hitman, and the late Billy Barty as a...well, you'll know when you see him. Burgess Meredith is wonderful as Hawn's fatherly landlord, who lends a hand in solving the mystery.
Some of the references are dated, since this film came out in 1978, but the rest wears remarkably well. Definitely a good way to spend an evening.
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