Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bet you've never seen one like this before

The Villain (1979)
I was intrigued and looking forward to this one.  Kirk Douglas, Ann-Margret and her cleavage, Arnold, and one of Hal Needham's early films!  That should be at least good mindless fun.  Sure, I've never heard much about it, but how bad can it be?

Pretty damn bad as it turns out.  When you see a character named Parody Jones in the titles, then shortly afterward see Mel Tillis and Paul Lynne both in the cast, you know exactly what kind of film you're in for.  But hey, I like Mel and Paul just fine.  Unfortunately by the time the boulder falls off the cliff and actually lands on Kirk, I've had it.  The painting a fake tunnel on the cliff wall and having Arnold and Ann-Margaret drive through it RR-style is just grating by that point.  I think all of that could have worked in the proper hands, those hands just should have been someone other than Hal's. 

So Hal debuts with the very solid Smokey and the Bandit, then the fun, if indulgently semi-autobiographical, Hooper... and then he plops this out.  I can see where this might have seemed fun on paper: let's do something like Blazing Saddles, but go over the top and make it like a Road Runner cartoon.  Fair enough.  But you have to actually do something with that premise.  Like a story or at least some fun dialogue and characters.  What we got was something with less plot that your average RR cartoon and 1/10th the humor.  Sure, there were some half-way decent stunts and Kirk Douglas actually seems to be having a lot of fun and is actually pretty good given what he was asked to do, but it's all groan-inducingly bland and forgettable.  I hope Kirk did have so at least someone got some enjoyment out of it. 

The casting of Arnold as Handsome Stranger (that's not an untitled character or anything, that's actually his name) had potential and should have given fun opportunites to play up his size, but he's completely wasted here.  I'd say that perhaps he couldn't get his lines down or they had to trim his part down or something, but he did just fine in Stay Hungry.  They just didn't write squat for him or make any meaningful use of him.  He's got some seriously wooden acting in this, but I really don't know how much to blame him and how much to blame script, story, and directing.

This might be the biggest waste of talent between the 3 leads I've ever seen.  Kurt's at least having fun and Ann-Margret is scaldingly hot as always, but otherwise... blargh.  Special nod to Ann-Margret and her scene-stealing cleavage throughout.  Next to Kurt hamming it up, easily the best thing about the film.  Her character is pretty thinly written, but she really plays it up and was quite a lot of fun to watch.  I've always enjoyed her in everything I've ever seen her in and this is no exception. 

Ahnold Quotient: -5
He really might as well not have been in the movie.  Other than a couple of times where Ann-Margret or Kurt notice he's strong, we get nada.  Very little dialogue, intentionally little humor, and absolutely nothing memorable.  Good or bad, Arnold's always memorable, so you do have to be impressed how thoroughly they under-utilized him here.

Rewatchability - Hell no
I've seen worse films, but I think this is now the worst Arnold film I've seen.  I'd thought that distinction was going to rest soundly on Raw Deal or Batman & Robin, but neither of them are as consistently poor as this was.  It's possible that I wasn't in the right frame of mind and that made the jokes fall even flatter.  That happened the first time I saw Spaceballs and The Naked Gun.  Nearly walked out of the theater on both and now love them dearly.  Somehow I don't think that's going to be the case with this one.  I'm now almost looking forward to watching B&R, so I guess the movie served that purpose at least.

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