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Since Gloria Mundy, a fair divorcée
And mousy librarian, won’t often stray
And take any risks, all her friends feel it’s known
She’ll not embrace chances but end up alone.
While driving one day, she picks up a hitchhiker
In need of a ride, and this Scott seems to like her.
He gives her his smokes (plus a film classified)
And says he will date her that night for the ride.
That night at the theater where they would meet,
He warns of a dwarf and then dies in his seat,
But Gloria’s shocked when he just disappears
And tells landlord Hennessy of all her fears.
One night at her workplace, an albino fella
Attacks her but gets a taste of her umbrella.
With help from a pervert with love on the brain,
She gets away, wondering if she’s insane.
A man with a scar then attacks and upsets,
Demanding the package of Scott’s cigarettes.
The albino kills him; when cops have arrived,
The scene is all clean, and her tale seems contrived.
Though cop Tony Carlson likes the fruitcake,
They leave, and she’s caught. When again she’s awake,
She flees from her captors, and, jumpy as heck,
Proves to a dwarf she’s a pain in the neck.
At last, Tony finds evidence of her tale
And acts as her guard, and their romance sets sail.
When Gloria goes out, again she is caught,
And Tony uncovers a sinister plot.
The villains involved have a blackhearted hope:
They’re planning to murder the visiting Pope.
Both Tony and Hennessy rescue the lass,
But this evil purpose may still come to pass.
Both Tony and Gloria race across town
To reach the opera ere the curtain comes down.
Despite challenges, they arrive just in time
To stop the albino, preventing the crime.
Then up on the stage, with the pontiff safe now,
The lovers embrace, and they all take a bow.

Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, Foul Play is a near-perfect blend of action, suspense, and comedy. There’s a wine cellar scene (Notorious), a shower curtain scene (Psycho), and an abortive strangulation scene (Dial M for Murder), plus other familiar tropes, like an unsuspecting bystander drawn into a murderous conspiracy (take your pick). Most of the film actually works as a straight-faced mystery, but much humor is derived from two-sided conversations in which both people have an entirely different understanding of what’s going on. The clever script also tows the line between serious dialogue and funny one-liners.

Goldie Hawn as Gloria is hilariously scattered in her confusion of how she ended up in this mess, and Chevy Chase as Tony actually proves he had potential as a romantic lead back in the day. Burgess Meredith gets more physical than most of his other roles as a former anthropologist/black belt/ landlord. But the funniest role goes to Dudley Moore as nervous weirdo Stanley Tibbets, whose extended cameo often steals the show. This was his first introduction to American audiences and gained him the popularity that led to 10 and Arthur.

There are several memorable encounters, such as the albino’s library ambush and the cruel yet humorous dwarf attack. By the end, the comedy ratchets up to some long, over-the-top sequences, like an elderly martial arts match and a thrilling, opera-laced race through the streets of LA (it’s technically not a car chase). The part with the Japanese couple in the back seat of the taxi ranks among the best comedic scenes ever.

It’s not quite perfect. The score is sometimes overly dramatic, probably to imitate a Hitchcock film, and the seemingly important film coveted by the bad guys is just ignored by the end, again most likely an intentional irony. Some unnecessary scenes could also have been cut, such as a totally pointless Scrabble game using obscenities. The labyrinthine plot contains a hole or two as well, such as why the albino didn’t kill Gloria when he repeatedly had the chance; plus, the final showdown with the albino is a tad underwhelming.

Nevertheless, Foul Play is a good film with splashes of greatness along the way. I love genre mashes as long as they’re not overly obscene, and Foul Play succeeds as both an homage and a great mystery in its own right.

Best line: (Japanese couple, near the end) “Kojak, bang, bang!” (you just have to see it)

Artistry: 6
Characters/Actors: 8
Entertainment: 9
Visual Effects: 7
Originality: 7
Watchability: 9
Other (language): -1
TOTAL: 45 out of 60

Next: #169 – Wreck-It Ralph

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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