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This obscure, sublimely over-heated film is a second cousin to "Valley of the Dolls" in terms of pure, unadulterated Hollywood camp. The film is like a massive wad of cotton candy for those who enjoy a two hour trip to movie hell. Opening at the ceremony for the title statuettes, we see that Boyd is the front-runner for Best Actor. But first, the audience must step back in time to discover how he got there. It falls to Bennett to narrate the with the most dry delivery of horrendous socko '60's scripting. Looking like a Dean Martin wax figure that's been left in the sun for two hours, he is a stumpy, squatty disaster in this film. Billed as "Introducing Tony Bennett", he has zero charisma, receives corpse-lighting, doesn't sing even once and forever after (thankfully) played only himself in films. At any rate, as the film flashes back, lean, mean Boyd (in a performance that ensured he'd never see another "Ben-Hur") is instantaneously irredeemable and agonizing as a big mouthed roamer who's joined by his stripper girlfriend (St. John) and a passive buddy (Bennett.) In these early scenes, St. John actually manages to come off as sexy despite a crazed tigress costume and the tacky surroundings. Soon, though, she's chewing one end of the scenery while Boyd chews the other. They meet in the middle where hapless Bennett is sitting like a bump on a log. Soon Boyd is trying to make it as an actor with the assistance of love-starved talent scout Parker (in a typically dedicated performance) and agent Berle (solid, also, in a non-comedic role...at least it is meant to be non-comedic!) Boyd's eternal bad attitude and horrible personality continue to inflict pain on all those around him and the viewing audience. In the film, he has a magnetic presence that draws everyone to him and causes them to embarrass themselves repeatedly. This charm is invisible to the film's viewers. One of his victims is the lovely Sommer, who looks stunning in an array of Head gowns and intricate hairstyles. His rise to the top of his profession is spoiled by his own ego and eventually he gets tripped up. He even gets one of those hilarious dreams with smoke swirling and actors dully repeating their lines. The movie is jam-packed with bits by stars who should have known better, some of them even Oscar-winners themselves (Crawford, Brennan, Borgnine.) Other cameos of people playing themselves lend a faux verisimilitude to the proceedings (Hopper, shortly before her death, Head, Hope, Oberon, even James Bacon appears at a press conference looking pouty because Archerd got all the lines.) There's a great little part for Hale as a snotty, demanding starlet and it's one time when Boyd comes off well. Lawford has a bit as a fallen star who works in a restaurant. Sadly, his own career would soon hit the skids as well. Adams adds a bit of verve as Borgnine's showy wife. She has one unfortunate scene, though, in which her behind is spread right in front of the camera. The film is a feast of kicky '60's production design, fun clothing and enormous hairdo's. There are a few clever touches in the film. At least twice, scenes involving different people are duplicated to show the parallels. The film has one of the all-time hilarious "surprise" resolutions...one last cackle before the credits roll. A MUST for any connoisseur of bad films!
There is no other way to concieve of this film getting made other than being the by-product of extraterrestrials intercepting tv signals of DYNASTY, MELROSE PLACE and the like and recreating them as a realistic depiction of the way Earthlings behave. This gets my vote as the most unintentionally fall-on-your-ass hilarious movie ever made; you simply can't write comedy this good! The dialogue must have turned John Waters chartreuse with envy, and the performance by Steven Boyd is akin to what if one of the THUNDERBIRDS marionettes had been cast in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLFE?. His body language is quite like some poor puppet being randomly jerked around while the puppeteer tries to shake off LSD-conjured spiders. And the incredibly strange dialogue from a knife-wielding strip joint owner:(attempting to be intimidating, with a crazy gleam in his eye and tossing his switchblade between both of his hands) "Pretty? Pretty?" No one in the history of civilization has ever talked like any of the characters in this film. If you are fortunate enough to have this unjustly out-of-print film at your local video store, not only should you rent it immediately, but you should invite over all of your friends and let them stare at this mess in slack-jawed amazement. A solid 10 on the laughs scale! And you will pee your pants at Tony Bennet's narration/ performance!!! RENT IT RIGHT NOW, FOR GOD'S SAKE!
Absolutely atrocious film from producer Joseph E. Levine, here ripping the lid off the Hollywood can but getting nothing out of it except hot air. Ruthless, snarling Stephen Boyd scratches his way up from seamy strip joints (as manager for the non-blushing Jill St. John) to the top of the H-wood heap as the world's most constipated actor. Laughable backstage melodrama is high camp, but how can you laugh without feeling sorry for all those embarrassed personalities on the screen--none more so than Tony Bennett, looking like a basset hound in a tuxedo. The lousy, fifth-rate screenplay is full of now-legendary fruit-loop lines, Elke Sommer shows more skin than talent, and Frank and Nancy Sinatra have a cameo...It's not for the squeamish! *1/2 from ****
I just saw this film and I had to go out to buy it. Why? it's so bad its
This film was supposed to show all the nasty side of how an Oscar nomination goes to the head of its nominee and what he would do to win -- and in a way it does.
But the acting is so over the top...you can't help but laugh. The hair styles are big, the performances are big..come on, it's just one of those fun little 60's 'soap opera' films that you'd never watch for serious sake, but mindless fun with you and your friends. (Remember the soap opera 'General Hospital' in the early, early 60's with the obviously over the top acting, silly drama situations, the real organ playing, etc.? Well this is even funnier!)
It grabs ya, but you cannot help but laugh, laugh laugh, it's SO over the top. If anyone wants to know what makes a "campy" film, don't rent "Mommie Dearest", rent this one. There isn't any way you could hate this film, you'd be laughing too hard. I'd watch it on rainy days, or if I'm feeling blue, or I just want to get together with a bunch of friends and just point out just how over the top this is.
This is a 10+ on the campy scale, a 5 regular. Go out and rent it, just to have a ball. It's fab-u-lous!
....you come up smelling like fleas". One of the lines actually spoken (by Tony Bennett)in "The Oscar". Words can not describe this film. It is so so bad...it is GREAT! Stephen Boyd's performance is way way way over the top like nothing you have ever seen before. He is like a rabid dog hopped up on speed. The other performers are terrible too! Especially Tony Bennett who looks like he is reading his lines off cue cards. But it is the script that will have you on the floor laughing. There are so many memorably bad lines in this that I recommend you have a whole pad of paper and a pen ready to jot them all down. Rush don't walk to your nearest video store and rent this! One of the best (if not THE best) of the camp crazed melodramas of the 1960's. 10/10 as ultra grade A+ high camp. Regular still high 6/10 for its sheer audacity and 60's chic look at the bowels of Hollywood. Norma Desmond Mr. Boyd is ready for his close up.
This expose of a Hollywood heel plays like a bush-league attempt at the baroque language of SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, but man, does it work. Stephen Boyd is the absurdly mannered amoral punk who'd screw over his mother and steal her shoes to make it to the top. Among those with his shoeprints on their neck are Milton Berle (horny, melancholy, used-up agent), Jill St. John (tragic "roundheels broad"), Tony Bennett (as Hymie Kelly, the tragic Jewish-Irish second banana) and Elke Sommer (Swedish zaftig-bomb with a conscience). As directed by Russell Rouse, THE OSCAR has the feel of Sam Fuller doing overbright TV. The movie is way beyond "campy" or "good-bad;" nearly every scene is a diamond-plated jaw-dropper.
When oh WHEN, will whom ever owns the rights to this classic HOOT, ever release it on video (VHS/DVD)? I'd buy it in a NANU SECOND! It's got to be the funniest "Drama" ever! The fact that NOBODY involved in this movie noticed, at the time it was being filmed, how DREADFULLY BAD it was turning out is ASTOUNDING! I haven't even seen it on broadcast, cable or satellite TV lately. I wish I'd have taped it when it was running. Other MUST release films are, "Crack in the World", "The Great Bank Robbery" (Zero Mostel). Still waiting.....P.S. Maybe IMDb can have a page set up just for movie fans to LIST films that we think should be available to buy, then maybe studios could check it out and see how popular those films are and hasten their release!
I also love this movie. I first saw it about 12-15 years ago on a short-lived series on TNT called "Bad movies we love" or something like that. For many years I traditionally watched it right before the Oscar broadcast. The "Airplane" of bad movies, the hilarious dialogue just keeps coming. I taped it from a pay TV source many years ago, but would also buy a pristine VHS or DVD copy. Jill St. John's finest hour. Struggling young actor,impatient for stardom, steps on everyone he meets on his way to an Oscar nomination. Terrible overacting by nearly everyone involved, and ridiculous,riotous dialogue make this a classic guilty pleasure. Made at a time when Hollywood was not yet consciously making "bad" movies. Great fun.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I believe that this movie was a career killer for Stephen Boyd. He made a brief resurgence in Fantastic Voyage, but the die was cast after this epic.If you look at his career after making this film, you will definitely notice a downward spiral. In a few years he was doing TV pilots and well known turkeys like Slaves and Kill. In Hannie Caulder, he didn't even get a credit.The movie, itself, is so poorly written, cast and acted that it almost looks intentional. You keep thinking to yourself, this was a joke, right! Tony Bennett takes the acting honors as "Hymie" Kelly(they couldn't decide on an ethnic group, so they made him bi-ethnic), the heel's good buddy and stooge. The producers probably thought -- "Now here we have a popular Italian singer, with some real acting potential, This will do for him what From Here To Eternity did for Sinatra." All I remember is Bennett flailing his hands around and saying, "If you lie down with pigs, you wake up smelling like garbage." A nifty line, if I do say so, and quite original. Needless to say, Bennett went back to his vocals. The part that always makes me laugh is the ending, where the Oscar nominees competing with Frankie are announced. There is something with Richard Burton and Frank Sinatra. Then the last nominee is Burt Lancaster in the "Spanish Armada". Burt Lancaster in the "Spanish Armada". Sure sounds like an Oscar candidate to me.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Did Harlan Ellison really contribute to the screenplay of this film? Did he really script the scene at the end when Oscar nominations are read and we find that Richard Burton is a nominee for something called "Grapes In Winter"? Worse than "Valley of the Dolls," even worse than "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," this one deserves a permanent place in the video library of all those who love deplorably bad movies. It's impossible to decide who gives the worst performance in this film, but Stephen Boyd has the most screen time so he deserves the prize even more than the laughably inept Tony Bennett. The movie is incredibly naive about the importance of the Oscar. Sure, it can make a career, but losing one isn't likely to end one either. Like they say, it is an honor just to be nominated, but when Boyd learns he will not go home with the gold, well, the movie suggests it's all over for him. But for all its glorious badness, this movie's greatest contribution to popular culture came in the 80s when SCTV produced a memorable spoof called "The Nobel" that is even more side-splitting.
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