Movie Movie

Movie MOvie. Warner Bros. 1979.

Before watching the movie:

I never heard of this movie before I found I had it available to me, but I like movies that satirize the movie business, and there are some big names I recognize here, so I decided to go ahead with it.

The summary I saw described it as specifically poking fun at the movies of the 30s, carrying the same ensemble through multiple genres, so it’s probably somewhat but not very much like the Hollywood Director improv game where one player keeps changing the genre on the other players while they improvise a scene.

Anthology movies are hard to synopsize though.

After watching the movie:

George Burns invites the audience into the theater for an old fashioned double feature. In Dynamite Hands, Joey Popchick is content to work as a sandwich seller to earn money for law school until his sister is diagnosed with an eye condition that could only be cured by a specialist in Vienna at the price of $20,000, he throws himself into a boxing career on an agreement with retired boxing legend Gloves Molloy, but he gets impatient and sidetracked by money and fame. In Baxter’s Beauties of 1933, Broadway producer Spats Baxter could never face his daughter after his drunken car crash killed her mother, but he’s been sending regular checks to her, until he finds out a month before opening what he hopes is his last big hit that he has a month to live. He hires Kitty Simpson, a nobody from upstate who just got off the bus, to join his already full choir because he’s got a feeling about her, and when his cantankerous star Isobel demands a new score by tomorrow, he commissions one from his new accountant Dick Cummings. Dick and Kitty almost start dating, but Isobel decides she wants the attention of the brilliant young composer. Through many ups and downs, the show must go on, at any cost.

This is just an odd film. It seems to mainly be aiming to hit the nostalgia factor for people who remember seeing double features by packing two movies into one feature, but both stories start a lot more in spoof territory before the plot sets in, and then they seem more like plain pastiche. I’d be more satisfied with pastiche if it wasn’t sold as spoof and started off setting a spoof tone. The fake flying ace trailer between movies is pure spoof as well, which both makes sense because it’s a parody of a trailer and doesn’t have to have a plot, but also doesn’t help the uneven tone. There does seem to be slightly more ribaldry than would have been in Hays Code-era productions, but just enough to get a chuckle and move on.

The pacing seems surprisingly on point. The two stories get about 50 minutes each (though I don’t know how the runtime actually breaks down), but I could believe I watched two 70-90 minute movies back to back. “Baxter’s Beauties” feels shorter, but that’s probably because it’s a musical with a somewhat complicated setup that concludes pretty quickly once it’s time to wrap it up. Musical numbers pad out stories, so it often seems like less happens in more time. However, with only half a movie, there’s no time for the songs to make the experience drag on, and they’re mostly used to illustrate plot beats or carry the story through a montage.

While there are a handful of actors who cross between the stories, George C. Scott is the only one who seems to really qualify as a main character in, well, all three stories presented. It would have been interesting to see them slot into analogous roles, but the rest get mixed around between stories and I guess that makes it more attractive for the actors. George C. Scott certainly gets to show his range between playing the retired boxer/mentor/agent and the successful producer who wears nothing but pure silk and still has plenty of money to be generous.

I’m not sure if the modern summaries are trying to play into the pure spoof of the “______ Movie” franchise (Scary Movie, Date Movie, Epic Movie, etc), or if I brought that into my expectation entirely on my own. The title Movie Movie seems to evoke the idea of a movie about movies, but it seems to just be more about how there are two movies in one. Just a classic double feature, for people in a hurry.

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