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Hanky Panky (1982)
So-so Hitchcock derivation
A mildly engrossing, tepid suspenser that apparently bombed in theaters and drew the ire and castigation of moviegoers - an overreaction if ever there were one. Granted, it will never be taken for a masterpiece - the comic elements of the film consistently fall flat, and the plot is a fourth-rate knockoff of Hitchcock - but it isn't a complete dud either. At least 'Hanky Panky' manages to be consistently engaging as an actioner/thriller (as far as I'm concerned) and it is fun to see Gene Wilder and Richard Widmark sharing screen credit. And it boasts a fun supporting cast: Robert Prosky, James Tolkan, Kathleen Quinlan, the wonderful Josef Sommer (of Lydie Breeze fame), and even a young Larry Pine pop up and keep things hopping. Overall, a passable movie experience - it works as a time-filler if nothing else - but some of the attempts at comedy are pretty pathetic. If the scriptwriters had spiced up the scenario with a bit of wild physical comedy and more amusing situations, they probably could have saved the picture. No, Mr. Poitier - sorry to disappoint you, but watching a helicopter pilot belch for two minutes does not, by any stretch of the imagination, qualify as intrinsically funny.
Vomit-inducing comedy - should be avoided by everyone
Miserable, obnoxious, depressing, lazy, and unbearably filthy excuse for a comedy with ne'er a laugh in it. In many ways, it resembles a bad dream.
Everything in this picture is aesthetically and conceptually hideous - even the characters' names ("Felix Farmer") - and though Edwards presumably intended S.O.B. as a grand slam against mainstream Hollywood, his sense of humor here is so off that the film immediately becomes physically repellent - it turns one's stomach... again, and again, and again.
Richard Mulligan has been quite enjoyable on the small screen (in 'Empty Nest,' and in his brief appearances on 'The Golden Girls') but his performance here is wretched. It stands comparison with his somnambulism in another lousy film, 'Scavenger Hunt,' from two years prior.
But the worst aspect of S.O.B. is undoubtedly its complete implausibility. The film within the film, 'Night Wind,' is so ridiculous that it seems impossible - and insults the audience. Are bad films made in Hollywood? Every day. But never one this terrible.
Just how unfunny is S.O.B.? I laughed more at 'Ironweed.' I can't think of any director in history, American or otherwise, who is as uneven as Blake Edwards. Hard to believe that the same individual responsible for such classics as 'The Days of Wine and Roses,' 'A Shot in the Dark,' 'Experiment in Terror,' 'Darling Lili,' 'Micki and Maude,' and 'That's Life' could churn out crap on par with this and 'The Trail of the Pink Panther.'
The Star Chamber (1983)
"Listen to me, kiddo...."
An absolutely wretched movie. I caught the first twenty minutes of this on the Fox Movie Channel, and was so intrigued that I rushed out and rented it last night, after finishing a 3 1/2 year project.
Here are 90 minutes of my life I would love to have back. The film has a splendid cast... Michael Douglas, Hal Holbook, James B. Sikking, Sharon Gless (in a thankless role). It begins intriguingly, like a half-breed of 'The Parallax View' and early Grisham - a high-suspense legal thriller that hits the audience with a gripping, involving problem: a young judge (Douglas) is so faithful to the law that he sends a number of sociopaths free on legal technicalities, and then feels overwhelming guilt when innocent citizens are murdered by the scum he released. This is a wonderful and exciting theme; the judge's guilt and anger are palpable.
But the film spends the remaining hour jerking the audience around so frantically that the viewer will feel like jerking back. It goes out of its way to convince the audience that an "illegal" problem introduced to solve its early dilemma -- (a secret society of dissatisfied judges who murder the scuzzbags who have been let loose) is justifiable and laudable, then it doubles back and spends the rest of the movie contradicting itself, trying to prove that such a solution is morally repugnant.
What the hell??!!
The result: one feels a sense of overwhelming nausea and depression. The film traps the viewer in a depressing web of nihilistic futility.
I also found the subplot involving two child murderers and the glimpses of a child's bloodied, severed leg unspeakably depressing.
This is one to avoid.