October Extras 2: Foul Play (1978)

OCTOBER 9, 2008


I meant to watch Foul Play yesterday, in honor of my hero’s birthday, but I got my dates wrong. Sorry Chevy. But since you don’t read this site and don’t know who the hell I am, I guess being a day late is OK. But if you DO read this site... whoa! Did you download the Prom Night commentary yet?

For the rest of you, how awesome is this movie? I think Princess Bride may be the only other film I can think of that satisfies on so many levels, and by levels I mean genres. It works as a comedy, a romance, a thriller... and apart from the 70s clothing and occasional dialogue (“Far out!”), it hasn’t even aged. A remake was recently threatened, but since it probably won’t star me I don’t think it’s a good idea; the original is still pretty damn perfect.

When I was a kid, I used to tape movies when I saw them on TV, even if they had already started. Chevy’s films were a particular target; for years I only had the last 40 minutes of Vacation and maybe half of Three Amigos. Foul Play was another, I think I saw the film’s opening scene (which sets up the damn plot) for maybe the 2nd time today. My taped version began with Chevy’s first scene, knocking stuff over and doing his trademark “Whuh oh! Oh no, no problem!” shtick.

Another thing I got out of the movie that I never did before was realizing that I have been inside the theater where Scotty and Gloria have their date. Even though the movie is set and otherwise filmed entirely in San Francisco, the theater is actually the NuArt in Santa Monica, where I’ve gone several times for midnight films (read: naps). It’s funny how little the place has changed in the 30 years since this film came along.

Like I said, it’s a multi-genre movie, and I think it should be taught in screenwriting classes, because the blend works so goddamn perfectly. The comedy never distracts from the thrills, the romance never distracts from the laughs, etc. Even though Chevy is MIA for most of the film’s first half (he only has one scene in the first 40 minutes!), it’s always amusing. Goldie Hawn (how f-ing cute was she in this movie? Christ.) is certainly no slouch in the comedy department, and the supporting cast (including a hilariously whacked out Burgess Meredith) brings it as well. Hell, even Brian Dennehy manages a laugh or two. I also love the stereotypical Italian chef who pops up late in the film when Chevy and Goldie, racing to get to the Opera house, smash in his new storefront. He actually yells out “Mama mia! Luigi!”. Awesome.

But Chevy is the real draw. This was his first movie, and it remains one of the very few where he was sort of acting and not just playing an extension of himself. It’s weird to see him shooting a gun and stuff, but even weirder to see him play a scene where he’s not constantly going for an easy laugh. But that doesn’t stop him from being funny; the bit where he first talks to Gloria about the stuff that’s been happing to her is pure Chevy the wiseass. “Our suspects are Albinos and chain smokers?”

And it’s scary! The scene with Don Calfa scared the hell out of me as a kid (I still get spooked whenever I hear “Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is!”, but luckily I only hear it whenever I am watching Foul Play, so it sort of evens out), and the Albino is pretty creepy too. The stuff between the two Chevy scenes of the first 50+ minutes is pretty much all just Goldie being chased around, and it packs in a hell of a lot more suspense than most films manage, even ones that are 100% pure thriller.

If the movie has one flaw, it’s the sort of goofy notion that they don’t know that the Pope is the target. They know all this stuff involves an assassination, and they also know that the Pope is coming to town to watch The Mikado. Yet when they FINALLY figure it out (actually they don’t, the bad guys go to the Bond school of “let’s explain everything before killing our heroes”), it’s supposed to be a surprise. Still, it’s hardly an issue – the movie is too charming and fun to be nitpicking. Christ, I haven’t even mentioned Billy Barty or the foul mouthed Scrabble players or Dudley Moore’s swinger pad....

This is one of those movies that I honestly can’t see someone disliking. Some of my favorites I can totally understand people’s reasons for hating them: “Astronauts should know how to drill a hole”, “It doesn’t have Michael Myers”, “Sophia Bush doesn’t make a movie good”, etc. But there is nothing I will accept for this movie; if you aren’t entertained by it, you simply have no goddamn soul.

What say you?


  1. The albino scared the hell out of me as a kid, and the scrabble scene is one of my top ten favorite comic moments in any film. I also think as far as actual acting goes, this might be Chevy's best performance; although "Fletch" is tough to beat, and "Memoirs of an Invisible Man" is always the overlooked one. I need to watch this again.

  2. I just watched this last night. My netflix is about 2 months behind your reviews... I loved it. Dudley Moore and The Penguin made the movie for me.

    The Kung-Fu fight at the end was awesome. My disc was in shitty condition so I missed the stereotypical Italian chef scene. Oh well.

    Mutherfucker... " I think you spell that word with a hyphen"


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