Catch Me a Spy (orig. To Catch a Spy), 1971, color. Dick Clement (dir.), Kirk Douglas, Marlène Jobert, Trevor Howard, Tom Courtenay, Patrick Mower. 1:34.
It’s a spy movie—or, rather, a spy romantic comedy. Hot young teacher (and daughter of a British Minister who seems to spend most of his time playing with games) is courted by a handsome young import/export businessman and, after three months, marries him. They begin their honeymoon in Bucharest so he can take care of some business…at which point, he’s arrested as a spy and taken to Moscow. Shortly before that, there’s some business with a “waiter” (Kirk Douglas) who tapes something into the lining of one of their two suitcases.
Things progress at a dizzying pace, as the wife tries to fly to Moscow, is drugged by the waiter in the airport, winds up flying to London, and manages to convince the government to trade her husband for a Soviet spy—the only Soviet spy that British intelligence has captured, apparently. That goes badly, and we proceed from there. (By now, we know that the husband is actually a double agent—near the end of the film, his ‘captor’ notes that he’s the only Soviet prisoner to gain weight.) There’s lots of plot, a fair amount of silliness, and generally good fun.
Great cast, well played in the light manner that suits the plot, flawed mostly by the soft print and panned-and-scanned version. Not a movie for the ages, but it’s fun and worth $1.50.
There Goes the Bride, 1980, color. Terry Marcel (dir.), Tom Smothers, Phil Silvers, Jim Backus, Broderick Crawford, Martin Balsam, Hermione Badderley, Twiggy. 1:30
Concussions sure are funny! Or at least that’s one way to read this comedy, since the plot turns on four concussions, each of which involves an immediate recovery but a changed view of reality. Tommy Smothers is an ad man always on the verge of a breakdown, whose daughter is getting married the same day he’s supposed to pitch for a new account. He also has some necessary errands to run—like, for example, picking up the groom’s parents from the airport.
As played, the ad man is so incompetent with reality that things would have gone wrong anyway, so bringing in an invisible flapper who’s later his invisible flapper wife just adds to what I guess is supposed to be insanely funny mixups. Maybe you have to be in the right mood. One key plot point: Apparently, in this universe’s version of the late 1970s or 1980, it was shocking for a young woman to have slept with her fiancée before the wedding—clearly, this wasn’t the 1970s I grew up in.
Great cast. I think a better script, livelier acting and better direction might have made more of this—but what the hey, it is a TV movie. Oh, wait—apparently it isn’t: It’s a production that sure feels like a TV movie and was first shown in the UK. Soft picture—even more so during sequences when Twiggy, the invisible flapper, is visible, but there the softness is apparently intentional. Charitably, if you’re really easily amused, $1.00.
Scandal Sheet, 1985 (TV), color. David Lowell Rich (dir.), Burt Lancaster, Lauren Hutton, Pamela Reed, Robert Urich. 1:41 [1:34]
What a cast! Burt Lancaster, Robert Urich, Lauren Hutton, Pamela Reed and others. What a…sad, trashy little movie. It’s about tabloid journalism, big pay, friendship and betrayal—except that it’s never quite clear who’s betraying whom. I couldn’t care about any of the characters. The script’s mediocre, the better-known actors don’t seem to much care, the picture’s a little soft. Even by TV movie, this one’s mostly a waste. If there’s a moral, it’s one most celebrities have learned: If you’re going into rehab for alcoholism or drugs, your publicist should announce it openly. The best I can do is $0.75.
The Driver’s Seat (orig. Identikit), 1974, col0r. Giuseppe Patroni Giffi (dir.), Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol. 1:45 [1:41]
How you feel about this Elizabeth Taylor vehicle will depend a lot on how you feel about Elizabeth Taylor (and, I suppose, truly strange Italian filmmaking). If you believe she was a gloriously beautiful woman and great actress at all times, you’ll thrill to this rarity, since she’s front and center in all but maybe 10 minutes of the film. Even then, though, you may go “wha?” from time to time.
The plot: A woman wants to meet the perfect man…to kill her. Along the way, she encounters various people, including several men, virtually all of whom attempt to rape her. (At least one of them has a schtick: He’s on a macrobiotic diet that requires him to have an orgasm a day.) That’s about it. Andy Warhol plays two brief scenes as a wholly disinterested lord, with all the vibrant flair of most Andy Warhol appearances—that is, he kept his eyes open throughout his scenes.
The print in this case was really very good—I’d say better than VHS quality—but there was a tiny disc flaw rendering 90 seconds unwatchable. I’m convinced that I didn’t miss anything that would have made this more than a very strange movie. I think the only people who would sit through this movie are Taylor completists and fans of vague Italian cinema. For them, it’s probably worth at least $1.25.