A onetime friend of gangsters (frankie laine) reminisces about 'the good old days'
Ever notice how gangster-movie spoofs never seem to work? Even when done on a big budget, like ROBIN AND THE SEVEN HOODS with Frank Sinatr and Dean Martin as Chicago 'Hoods' (in the Locksley sense) who fight with sticks not over a pool but next to a pool table. Must have sounded great on paper. Even the legendary GUYS AND DOLLS didn't translate all that well from the stage to the screen, and modern attempts, like JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY with Michael Keaton, mostly fell flat on their faces. Maybe it's because the gangster period piece is so over the top to begin with that satires don't seem any funnier than the old Cagney/Robinson/Bogart/Garfield flicks they're doing a riff on. Still, if western spoofs can work (CAT BALLOU, BLAZING SADDLES), then why not gangster comedies? Your guess is as good as mine, but if you want to see the absolute bottom of the barrel of this disappointing genre, then catch HE LAUGHED LAST. The film begins in the mid-1930s, with a crooner/club owner (Frankie Laine) warbling and welcoming guests. He's asked about 'the good old days,' and the rest of the film is a flashback to the Roaring Twenties, when he was in with such mob figures as Big Dave. Lots of fine character actors, who do look like fugitives from a Damon Runyon fable, pop in and out of the story, but to little avail. This was one of the first efforts by then young writer-director Blake Edwards, and it's amazing, considering the results, that he ever got to work again. Not one joke really scores, and many are groaners. It also doesn't help that this was filmed in vivid color - there's always been something about that era that calls out for gritty black and white. And if you've ever wondered why Laine didn't become a screen star like Sinatra and Martin, look no further for the reason why. Though he certainly sang in a league and class with both of them, there's no charisma at all - much less acting ability. The ultimate disparagement is that this doesn't even make it as a 'so bad it's good film' - hats off to any one who can make it all the way through to the supposedly clever but overly telegraphed ending.
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