Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sorry for the Seventies

S*P*Y*S (1974) seemed like a sure thing: a spy spoof starring Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould as spies (of course) in Paris. It's directed by Irwin Kershner, who did a couple of good things, including the George C. Scott/Michael Sarrazin Flim-Flam Man. But it just never took off.

Sutherland is the by-the-book spy, and Gould is the rebel (or maybe it's the other way around). Their agency may be trying to kill them, or it may just be a misunderstanding. By the end of the movie, the agency is definitely trying to kill them, but they have joined up with some anarchist bombers. After all, the spies need their sources, and the head anarchist is free-loving Zou Zou (Chloe from Chloe in the Afternoon).

This film is pretty brutal for a comedy, and also not that funny. It depends on the charm of Sutherland and Gould, and that wears a bit thin.

Murder by Decree (1979) shows similar promise: Christopher Plummer as Sherlock Holmes and James Mason as Watson, after Jack the Ripper, with an assist by psychic Donald Sutherland. It was a lavish production with fine production values, and some nice moments. Plummer is a more human Holmes, outraged by the evil he finds in low and high places. Mason is not a dummy as Watson, although he has a silly scene or two. Sutherland's outrageous facial hair is worth a mention, but his role is entirely superfluous, and could have been cut out entirely. Genevieve Bujold shows up at the end and does a fine mad scene, which is also superfluous. The same is true for a lot of this rather ponderous, slow-moving action film.

I liked the end, even if it seemed tacked on, because it was full of Masonic flummery, of which I am fond. I had no problem with the all-star cast. Many of the scenes were quite memorable. But it went on too long and didn't really hold together.

I don't want to cast aspersions, but director Bob Clark went on to make Porky's. That tells you something.


Mythical Monkey said...

I saw the Sherlock Holmes one, Murder By Decree, in the theater at the time of its release -- that was part of about a five year run where I lived at the movies.

I only remember one scene, James Mason as Watson trying to catch a lone pea on his dinner plate and Holmes/Christopher Plummer reaching over and mashing it with his fork.


and Mason frowning with disappointment and faint revulsion:

"It's not the same."

That's it, that's all I remember.

Mythical Monkey said...

By the way, I feel like The Great Train Robbery, starring Sean Connery, was a much better use of Donald Sutherland's penchant for crazy hair.

mr. schprock said...

I'm glad Mythical Monkey mentioned "The Great Train Robbery" because the only thing I can add to this discussion is that, based on what I saw from that movie (having never seen "Murder by Decree"), Donald Sutherland can't do an English accent.