The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975) Poster

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cougar785 February 2004
I loved this movie.It wasn't depressing in the least.Neil Simon has written many brilliant and funny plays,this being one of them(and The Out of Towner's,also with Lemmon).Jack plays a man who gets fired from his job after working there half his life.Anne plays his wife who gets another job while Jack has a breakdown and they struggle to go on with the everyday life and calamities that face them.I laughed at so many of the lines.I laughed when Jack Lemmon was yelling at the New Yorkers out of his balcony after his house had been robbed,i laughed when he was banging back on the wall at his neighbours,when he and Anne had to climb all the stairs because the elevator is broken,the look on their faces is painful but funny! Jack could play a miserable on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown man,and make you really laugh aswell. Also features a young Sylvester Stallone before his Rocky days. I love it and its one of those films i can watch over and over.
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Terrific comedy drama
hayden-821 March 2002
I must confess I have a bias for films of the seventies. Most of my all time favourite films were made in that decade and this is one of them.

Jack Lemmon is a New York middle executive who is retrenched. We watch as he slides into depression. Their is some fine humour in this film, which, incidentally was not well received critically, but it is really the underlying drama that makes this such a great film. It is an intensely personal film for me and, apart from some overacting, there is little I can criticise. It is an incisive and briskly paced comedy drama which I never tire of viewing.

By the way, watch out for cameos by pre-fame Sylvester Stallone and F. Murray Abraham.
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A Hearty Approval of a Wonderful Film
Colby23 September 1999
Being a Jack Lemmon fan, I can't help but be biased when it comes to watching his films. But I have to say, even by Lemmon's standards, "Prisoner" is one of his finest performances. He displays a broad range of emotion as Mel Edison, a corporate exec who falls victim to the unemployment crisis of the seventies. Anne Bancroft is nicely cast as his wife, Edna--it's almost hard to believe watching this film that this is the same woman who played in "G.I. Jane" as a crooked senator. And, although another viewer here frowned upon the casting of Gene Saks' as Mel's brother Harry, I always enjoy seeing the director in front of the camera (Saks directed another of my faves, "The Odd Couple"). The direction is pretty tight, and the interludes between acts include humorous voice-overs from a fictional radio announcer (you'll have to listen closely to catch some of the jokes). Look for Sylvester Stallone in a cameo appearance. I heartily recommend this film to all Jack Lemmon fans, as well as to those who enjoy a good comedy that's not all slapstick and guffaws.
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"Where you gonna get the watah???"
blanche-21 February 2009
That moment of Anne Bancroft's is my favorite part of the entire film, often imitated where I used to work.

No one loves urban blight like Neil Simon, and no one depicts it as well. "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" goes much further than "The Out of Towners" because now, the leads (Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft) are actually living in a New York apartment, sleeping in 12 degree air conditioning in their bedroom during a heat wave and sweating everywhere else. Simon leaves nothing out: not having the right change for the bus, the elevator being out, no water, noisy neighbors, mean neighbors, a cheaply put together building, robberies in broad daylight, etc. Lemmon plays a 22-year veteran of a business who is fired, suffers a nervous breakdown, and goes into psychiatric care. His problems go beyond the loss of his job - he has to cope with his country dwelling brother Harry (Gene Saks) and his two sisters (Elizabeth Wilson and Florence Stanley) who want to help but only succeed in being aggravating. Also, his wife has gone back to work as a production assistant and is never home.

This is really a comedy-drama that shows the enormous range of both actors. The beautiful Bancroft is great as an empty nester who tries to be supportive of her husband, who is losing it, as she goes toward the same territory; Lemmon is alternatively a riot, as annoying as Felix Unger, and as sad as his character in "Save the Tiger" while he attempts to work through his issues and find out who he is.

With a high rise at Second Avenue and E. 88th St. as a backdrop, "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" is timely today because it takes place during a recession. Suddenly, a lifestyle that wasn't so outrageous to begin with is hard to keep up, and nerves fray.

City dwellers won't find it difficult to relate to this film, and today, with jobs cuts and loss of income, nobody will. Lots of fun.
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Pertinent Prisoner
jimmylee-16 August 2008
I've always thought of Neil Simon as being the one playwright consistently able to capture the genuine flavor of New York as a backdrop to the realistic personalities of his characters. Not being a New Yorker - Silicon Valley is about as far away as you can get - I'm afraid I have not been drawn to movies of his plays as strongly as to other comedies.

But Prisoner of Second Avenue is an exception. Maybe it's because I am indeed in Silicon Valley, where layoffs are something we all get to experience. But this movie captured so aptly the craziness of being laid off, staying home all day - seeing only the one you love (but starting to hate him/her too as an extension of your own self-hatred). Making petty grievances huge, and trying to pretend the truly huge issues no longer exist. And worrying about the bills, and the clothes, and how silly the family behaves when money gets involved. And how the bad luck seems to snowball. And how "therapy" sessions seem so futile.

The acting is superb - but I don't know of a movie where Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft have ever given us any less. Bancroft, in particular, when she makes the transition to anger, is perfect. Thankfully we're not handed any sop at the end either.

The subject is so realistic that I don't find it funny at all - but that's a failing of the times we live in, not the movie. A great flick.
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One of Jack Lemmon's funniest movies!!
matt_tawesson-122 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This movie from 1975, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, is one of Jack Lemmon's funniest films ever. He and Anne Bancroft, who plays his wife, are so wonderful. Jack Lemmon plays a man who works an office job and is always complaining about the problems going on in his life and around the apartment building that he and his wife live in. It is cold in one room, hot in the other, can't sleep well, etc. are his complaints. Shortly later on, he loses his job and is extremely stressed out BIG TIME about it, then several days later, his wife comes home from getting groceries and finds that their apartment was robbed!! Ouch! This is a very funny piece of entertainment with a stressed out man having a nervous breakdown and his wife trying to reassure him that things will be okay. I really love the remarks that Lemmon and Bancroft's characters trade to each other in this movie. It is so hilarious, you will just laugh till your sides hurt. I don't know if this film is available on DVD yet or not, but if it isn't, you are just going to have to rely on seeing it on some cable channel. If it is on TV, make a date to tape it.
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Caustic but funny
preppy-329 January 2009
Mel Edison (Jack Lemmon) and his loving wife Edna (Anne Bancroft) live on Second Avenue in NYC. Mel hates the city and his job and complains nonstop. Edna tries to calm him down. Then Mel is laid off from his job and has a complete nervous breakdown.

Sounds like a drama but it's not. It's an adaptation of a Neil Simon play (adapted by Simon himself) and it's more or less a comedy with a very serious edge. The script itself manages to switch gears from comedy to drama pretty effortlessly and great acting by Lemmon and Bancroft keeps it going. There are quite a few people who hate Simons plays. They say the one liners are old and the characters are stale but I'm not one of those people. I happen to think his jokes are quite funny and finds he writes three-dimensional, believable characters. But, if you don't like Simon, this movie won't change your mind. Some people might accuse this of being dated--there was a huge recession going on in the mid 1970s and that is worked in to the plot. But, seeing as we're in another one at the moment, this is very timely. My only complaint is the ending is way too pat to be believable but that's minor. I give it a 7. Look for F. Murray Abraham as a cab driver and Sylvester Stallone.
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Even lesser Neil Simon is funny...based on his Broadway play...
Doylenf29 August 2006
Worth a chuckle or more, this sometimes hilarious comedy hits a raw nerve with anyone who has lived in an apartment building where you can hear all the noise you never wanted to (at all sorts of hours), in a world that starts with listening to the radio news detail one horror after another.

That's the way the Broadway play started. The lights went out before the curtain opened and all you heard was a radio announcer delivering one crazy incident after another on the local news. That was the prologue to what you knew was about to follow. Then the curtains parted and the play began.

JACK LEMMON and ANNE BANCROFT play off each other brilliantly, but when all is said and done, there's just something missing in this Neil Simon comedy. The payoff that you should feel when the movie ends, just isn't there.

And yet, when you hear some of the news, it's almost quaint. Just think what was supposed to get a laugh: a news flash that a Polish freighter had just run into the Statue of Liberty. How tame!! Imagine what kind of news flash there would have been if this were written after 9/11.

Good supporting roles from Gene Saks, as Lemmon's brother, and Elizabeth Wilson and Florence Stanley as his sisters.

It may be lesser Simon, but it's still worth seeing, especially for New Yorkers.
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Brilliant piece of writing
grahamis4818 April 2006
Saw this movie on TV again the other day, was disappointed coz i did'nt even know it was missed half...but seen it before so knew what to expect. Even though this movie was initially a stage play it transfers well to movie, well written and acted with such timing between all actors in the movie especially the 2 main characters who bounce off each other with consummate ease.The hilarity and one liners which come thick and fast are a joy to listen to and my feeble attempts to remember and use them myself only add weight to this joy of a comedy. I am going to see if this movie is available on DVD so that i can pause and rewind every funny line i hear to use for my own pleasure, though i will not claim them to be my own as this would be an insult to the writer and the late great Jack Lemmon and his late great co-star Anne Bancroft who deliver with such togetherness like a well stitched jumper.

Do yourself a favour, on the next rainy day go to the rental shop get this movie, take the phone off the hook, shut the curtains ( drapes)don't answer the door and watch this movie and savour every word, and i dare you not to laugh, and if you don't then ring up the undertakers because boy are you dead !!!!
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Jack Lemmon= Awesome!
michael_the_nermal1 September 2008
After giving a positive review of the (apparently) universally-maligned "Disaster Movie", I thought it'd be nice to give another positive review of a comedy that, unlike the one I've mentioned, is very-well written and stars the cream of the Broadway crop. Jack Lemmon is excellent as the neurotic and ambiguously-crazy apartment dweller, harried as he is by noisy neighbors, chronic unemployment, and Sylvester Stallone bumping into him at the park. Neil Simon is a maestro of dark comedies about harried New Yorkers ("Biloxi Blues" with Matthew Broderick is another excellent example). In spite of Simon's cool dialogue and ability to make brilliant observations about minor events (such as a ransacked apartment), this movie would not be superb without Lemmon's proficient performance. Anne Bancroft seems like the perfect foil for Lemmon to play off against, and she fulfills that roll beautifully. Lemmon shows he as just as brilliant with comedy as he is drama (i.e. "The China Syndrome"), and this movie is just another example of why he was an underrated Hollywood legend.

P.S. Pay close attention to the one-liners disguised as news reports in the voice-overs by Gary Owens.
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Thirty years old but still relevant
AustinKatAnne25 July 2005
Maybe this movie was our rental choice because Anne Bancroft had just died, and "Prisoner" is now on DVD - I'm not sure why we took it, but I'm glad we did! It is definitely comedy toward the dark side, and the mechanisms of life have changed, but the human element is stronger than the 1970's decor and you feel like you know these people. Maybe you don't want to live next to them, but you know them. It's not that dated - aren't we still discussing the prevalence of crime, gay rights, organic food and the effect of talk radio? Anne Bancroft was totally wonderful, it was fun to see Gene Saks - never a big star, but a wonderful actor, and Jack Lemmon was Jack Lemmon, which was perfect.
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Laughed so hard it hurt!!!
tcaffrey8 June 2005
I visited this site because of Anne Bancroft's death. I was shocked when I didn't see it on her Obituary as one of the movies that she was in. Although she has most known for the Miricle Worker and the Graduate, Prisoner on Second Avenue was always my favorite. Perhaps it because I also love Jack Lemmon. This movie is most appreciated by New Yorkers and can only remind you of experiences or characters that you grew up with. My wife and I watched it the first time when we first were married in the early '80's on TV I can't get passed it when I see it while surfing the TV channels. So I highly recommend renting this movie, ex specially if you were raised or now live in a urban environment.
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Don't "Save the Tiger"--it's Second to this Prisoner
ColbyDMay12 October 2000
Though Jack Lemmon received a Best Actor Oscar for "Save the Tiger"--a film on which that honorable performance was wasted--perhaps his finest performance was the character of Mel Edison in this contemporary-for-its-time dramedy. One of the only films that I have seen him in where I genuinely "feel his pain"--study his expression after the deserved dousing with water he receives on his "growth on the side of the building they call a terrace"--Lemmon progresses from disgruntled advertising executive, to desperate unemployed victim of robbery and "the plot", then through a nervous breakdown and his eventual recovery. Perhaps this film's only flaw is its subject matter, as unemployment nowadays is virtually extinct, but it does not warrant anything less than a perfect 10 on my scorecard. Make this a Lemmon-must-see, along with "The China Syndrome", "Mister Roberts", "The Odd Couple", and "Glengarry Glen Ross".
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Very funny, believe it or not.................
sijoe226 February 2013
For some reason, I only think us New Yorkers would appreciate this movie, but maybe not.

Anyone aware of what Manhattan was like in the 1970s will know this movie really nailed it; it terms of location shots, attitudes, Jewish stereotypes, and so on. This was a pre-Koch time in New York (May he rest in peace- he just passed a couple days ago. Great mayor, great person) and city was at the beginning stages of becoming an open sewer.

Street scenes will surprise all modern-day Manhattanites; I watched this movie several times, and there's not a single store or shop around then that survives today. (Near 87th & 2nd Ave.) So sad.

Jack Lemmon's character was funny, from start to finish, without TRYING to be funny. Always a treat- watch for Sly Stallone as a "mugger."
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Funniest Movie Ever
DaveCable128 March 2004
With all of the movies I've seen in my life, I have to say that this movie was the best! If you like to laugh or just need to laugh, this movie is for you. Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft were at their best (and their best is great) and nothing about this movie fell short. I find myself quoting this movie 25 years after I first viewed it. If you appreciated the premise of the silly 60's show, Green Acres--where Oliver was constantly frustrated by life, then you'll love this superbly-done movie. As a bit of trivia, this was Sylvester Stallone's first movie, albeit in only one scene. When you're done watching this movie, watch it again to pick up the nuances you missed the first time around. Clear your evening, pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back and be ready to laugh as Lemmon and Bancroft take you on the comedy ride of a lifetime.
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Jokes are endangered in this ill-fated adaptation...
dfranzen7019 December 1999
Ordinarily, you would think a movie adaptation of a Neil Simon play starring Jack Lemmon as a very harried New Yorker would be perfect cinema - and ordinarily, you'd be right! Think of The Odd Couple and you have a good idea of a 'good' Simon film.

Lemmon's character, Mel, is a Manhattan businessman who's going through a bit of a midlife crisis. We've seen this sort of thing before in the movies - Lord knows we have!! - but the problem is, we've seen it much better. There's a fine line to be walked here between maudlin and funny/touching, and sadly that line is crossed early on in the movie and never recrossed.

Mel suffers through a lot of problems in this movie, and your closeness to NYC life will dictate just how much sympathy you have for his plight. But be warned: Simon doesn't combat these problems with wit and wisdom; to me, Mel just yells and screams and basically is thoroughly obnoxious - only Anne Bancroft as his suffering wife gives an appealing performance.

Bottom line is that unless you're a diehard Simon or Lemmon fan, you might want to avoid this collection of angst, agita, and aneurysms waiting to happen.
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A real gem!
Arcturus198024 November 2017
Very fond though I am of Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft, I could not have known how lucky I was to find a VHS copy of this movie (yes, I still use a VCR). Any big fan of theirs should prioritize it. It is jam-packed with humor and Lemmon's endearingly characteristic pathos. It was another tailor-made role for him, and Bancroft played her part to perfection. It is also very much a New York City movie in that Manhattan is not simply the backdrop, but is experienced as such.

It has been my observation that spiraling into madness is always funnier than madness itself. The movie is after all based on "a serious play that's very funny" to quote the playwright and adapter Neil Simon. Although it soars as a comedy and certainly does not go awry as a drama, I give it nine stars instead of ten because it is considerably more amusing to me than it is emotive. It is great comedy and good drama, as apparently intended.

Sylvester Stallone's memorable cameo is a much appreciated bonus!
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Careful: this 'comedy' has some very sharp edges!
fung029 September 2017
It's not surprising to see some bad scores for this challenging little film. If you know nothing about it, be warned: this is one of the blackest 'comedies' you're ever going to encounter. But it's also one of Neil Simon's best works, cutting much deeper and sharper than simple little farces like The Odd Couple.

Prisoner of Second Avenue tells the tale of a man coming totally unglued under the pressures of the modern world. Jack Lemmon plays a modern Job, suffering every trial a sadistic - but very up-to-date - God could imagine. Neil Simon brilliantly weaves in a gleam of underlying humor, which Lemmon brings out with his usual skill. But it's never more than a gleam; you have to be sensitive to it, or this film will seem like a dreary ordeal.

In fact, far from being dreary, this is a remarkably joyous, uplifting film. It shows us that hope is always just inches away, if we can only see it. Our crushing problems are largely internal: what matters is how we meet them. Seeing that lesson, of course, is the challenge. Like the song says, when you've been down so long, it starts to look like up to you.

Aside from its clever writing and fine performances, Prisoner of Second Avenue features some great New York ambiance, and a real feel for its time. This is a more personal, less-theatrical, less-contrived film than most of Simon's works.

The Prisoner of Second Avenue is not just entertaining; it's therapeutic. Open yourself to the slightly masochistic pleasure of wallowing in it, and feel your own aches and neuroses burn away!
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One of my least favorite Jack Lemmon films
vincentlynch-moonoi24 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I contrast this film with "The Out Of Towners". Both films were starring Jack Lemmon. Both were about a frustrated man battling New York City. But, "The Out Of Towners" ("TOOT") was strangely uplifting and I enjoyed it immensely, while this film is downright depressing.

It's not Jack Lemmon's fault. His acting is downright perfect. And let's face it, there was and remains no actor who could play frustration better than Jack Lemmon. But in "TOOT", Lemmon's character was were rooting for him in his quest to overcome the forces against him. Here, however, Lemmon's character wallows in his troubles.

A problem I have with this film is that it is often listed as a comedy-drama. I don't eve think it's a black comedy. There's nothing funny about a man going through a nervous breakdown. Yes, there is humor here and there, but this is not a funny film. That's a general gripe I have -- too many review entities think that any film that has some humor in it is a comedy. That's wrong.

The best acting here, however, is that of Anne Bancroft as the wife. Gene Daks is good as the brother.

I think what's sad here is that as Lemmon begins to recover, the pressure that has been on his wife begins to destroy her life.

Maybe I'm also just a little tired of Neil Simon. Did he ever do anything really different? Bottom line: Okay, I watched it once, I would not want to watch it again. And I don't usually say that about films with Jack Lemmon.
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Lemmon Is Awesome
slightlymad2221 January 2015
I'll admit from the off, I am slightly biased as I love Jack Lemmon, and Neil Simon seems to bring out the best in him

The Prisoner Of Second Avenue is a lot of fun, I really enjoyed it.

Plot In A Paragraph: Executive Mel Edison has a nervous breakdown when he suddenly finds himself unemployed.

I'm a Jack Lemmon fan anyway, so I enjoy most things that he stars in, and I always enjoy seeing him on screen. It's also fun to see a young pre-Rocky Sly Stallone in another of his early roles. Sly only has the one scene (Available on YouTube) as he attempts to pickpocket Jack Lemmon and a fed up Lemmon snaps, before he turns the tables on him and pursues him through Central Park.
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Still one of the funniest movies ever
roymax1 January 2004
I must admit that I have always loved Jack Lemmon as an actor. He was one of those few actors who could be at ease in dramatic movies such as the Chinese Sindrome or in very uncomplicated but yet exhilarating comedies like The Prisoner of second avenue. In this movie the presence of Anne Bancroft as his supporting wife is essential, and both give an outstanding performance throughout the entire movie. How could one not forget Lemmon's expression after he gets a bucketful of water on his face from the naughty neighbour? Yet while watching this movie you are not constantly driven by laughter, the skilful director shows familiarity with both comedy and drama, giving the movie a certain depth not easily found in similar pictures.
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Neil Simon is one of a kind
ivan-229 August 2000
Brilliant as Lemmon and Bancroft ALWAYS are, the biggest credit always belongs to the writer. Let's not forget that. Why do writers get SO little credit in Hollywood?????

Is there a Neil Simon film I dislike? Yes. I didn't care for "Plaza Suite" or "Chapter Two". But "Prisoner" is another riveting, amusing, touching opus about middle-aged people going bananas in a big city. Their alienation is appealing because it is a search for human dignity. Nervous breakdown, unemployment, burglary are not funny subjects, but then which subject is? Simon wants us to laugh, and laugh we do, inwardly. SOMEONE understands us!
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Personal diatribes at high decibel in place of satirical universal truths...
moonspinner5517 September 2015
Modern day New York City couple struggles with day-to-day hardships while living in the treacherous Big Apple. Jack Lemmon has yet another series of Neil Simon-scripted nervous breakdowns--too soon after "The Out-of-Towners". In fact, within the first 15 minutes of "Prisoner", we're reminded of "The Out-of-Towners", "The Apartment" and "Save the Tiger". It's a replay of themes--Jack Lemmon's Greatest Hits. Often times, there's simply no point to Lemmon's ranting, and the sources of his anger (unemployment, crime, etc.) are expressed as personal diatribes--these are his exclusive problems rather than universal frustrations. Anne Bancroft is touching as Jack's put-upon spouse, though not even she can save the perplexing finish, which throws everything out the window for the sake of an innocuous chuckle. ** from ****
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Is this a comedy?
agentmaxsmart21 July 2005
Okay, let me start by saying I love Neil Simon movies.The Odd Couple ranks up there in my top 10. I love the Out-of-Towners, love Murder By Death, the Sunshine Boys & many of his other films. In fact, I can say I liked every one of his movies I have ever seen. This being said, I went into watching Prisoner thinking it would be a laugh-out-loud comedy. Instead, the movie borders on full-blown drama. Sure, there are quick one-liners thrown out from Jack Lemmon towards Anne Bancroft, but these seem more like insults than zingers. Throughout the film, every line I knew was supposed to be funny made me crack a smile, but there are no burst out laughing jokes.

I guess we're supposed to feel sorry for Mel Edison & his wife. But, instead I find him to over-react at every little thing. He's a weak little man who probably deserves a lot more than he got. You feel more sorry for his wife for having to put up with him. Then later on, when the roles are reversed, you could care less about either character. The funniest parts of the movie have to do with the radio announcements made throughout the film. But 5 or 6 of these cannot hold this film together as a comedy.

It's not a bad film, & it was somewhat enjoyable to watch. The acting by Lemmon & Bancroft are top notch. But it's just not funny enough.
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VERY Lesser Simon
paxton-124 May 2011
Sorry people, this is marred by predictability and over-the-top acting. And, in 1975 could a humble clerk really have lived like that, when today you have to be practically a millionaire to live in a flat like that? Would even a nutty lady as played by Bancroft REALLY have left the door open, and could the robbers really have taken so much stuff in 5 minutes, and in broad daylight? The house is full of books, but just for show 'cuz these two obviously are not great readers. I usually don't leave the room till the films finished, but since I intuited EXACTLY what was going to happen, I came here to write these words. If you got hooked by this, more power to you; compare this to the sophisticated comedies of the thirties and forties, and you'll see what I mean.

Both of these actors were capable of far better efforts, but I'll give it a four just so I don't get lynched. :~)
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