The Cat from Outer Space

The Cat From Outer Space.
Walt Disney Pictures 1978.

Before watching the movie:

In the 60s and 70s, Disney’s live action movies department came up with some pretty outlandish ideas. Some of them are cartoon ideas, but done in live action, some are just… did they throw darts at a board or something?

This is an adventure about an extraterrestrial cat. There’s some humans trying to help the stranded alien cat get home and some other humans trying to steal the cat’s technology, and I don’t really know much more than that, which I learned only minutes ago.

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The Black Hole

The Black Hole. Buena Vista 1979.

Before watching the movie:

This always seemed a strange choice for Disney, even considering the weird live action movies they made in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The trailer I dimly remember seeing for it on some tape seemed dark and scary and serious, not the kind of fanciful family outing that most Disney live action movies try to be. I’ve heard there are fun comic relief robots for the kids, but this always seemed to be positioned as “Disney does Star Wars” (which took about three and a half decades to actually happen).

The synopses I’ve seen are not much help for shaking this notion. It seems like Alien meets 2001: A Space Odyssey. A deep space mission with a sense of foreboding encounters a mystery that ultimately takes them beyond anything the reality we know prepared them for. You know, for kids!

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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.

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Going in Style

Going in Style. Warner Bros. 1979.

Before watching the movie:

I didn’t realize until I started looking for the poster that there was what appears to be a remake a couple of years ago. While the combination of Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin sounds pretty compelling, I’m also drawn to the idea of seeing George Burns and Art Carney together too. Lee Strasberg is not as big a name, but I’m sure he’ll probably hold his own with the other two.

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Support Your Local Gunfighter

Support Your Local Gunfighter. Cherokee-Brigade 1971.

Before watching the movie:

I don’t think I’ve paid much attention to anything with James Garner. He was in Move Over, Darling!, but I don’t really remember who was in it, just what happened, which movies of that time seem to be particularly susceptible to.

So, James Garner comes into town and gets mistaken for a notorious outlaw, and things get even more mixed up. So kind of like The Shakiest Gun in the West, but less neurotic.

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Find the Lady

Find the Lady.  Quadrant Films 1976.

Before watching the movie:

This is an old and (perhaps deservedly) forgotten movie from the early days of John Candy’s career. I’ve seen two wildly different posters for it, it was released under different titles, and his character has a partner the promotional material doesn’t care about because the partner didn’t become as famous as Candy.

So, my time would probably be better spent watching SCTV sketches, but here we are.

After watching the movie:

With the police force stretched thin, the chief wants to resolve the kidnapping of prominent businessman Lewenhak’s daughter Victoria quickly, and puts seasoned officer Broom on the case. Inexplicably, the otherwise competent Broom is the only one on the force who likes young oaf Kopek, and requests him as his partner. As it happens, Lewenhak planned the kidnapping with mafia thugs so he could use money from Victoria’s inheritance as “ransom” to pay off his own gambling debts. Only the thugs grabbed the wrong girl. And Victoria has run off with her boyfriend. And then gotten kidnapped by someone else. Now Lewenhak is trying to coordinate his business with the mobsters while allowing Broom and Kopek to tap his phone.

This seems like it’s mostly moving from one slapstick setup to another, yet it doesn’t actually have many showstopping slapstick gags. The plot is farcical, Kopek is a clumsy idiot, and Mickey Rooney is a goon frustrated that he doesn’t get to kill anybody, and nothing really comes together the way it seems like it should. Little makes sense beyond “this is supposed to be funny”. Sometimes it is funny. Sometimes I can just see what they were trying for.

One of the subplots is that Victoria is supposed to be an opera singer, but wants to be a cabaret performer, and is good at neither, and through that, a burlesque troupe gets involved. The comedy of mixing Broom and Kopek with them seems to be meant to come from how uncomfortable Broom is about everything. Even though the choreographer is a gay-coded man who refuses to stop dressing in drag once he starts, unless the punchline is simply “man in a dress, rimshot”, and given the quality of the writing and the time it was made, it’s entirely possible that’s what was meant, I think the jokes are mainly on Broom.

John Candy’s retroactive star power puts too much focus on the police investigators, but even so, they seem to be meant as stronger leads than they end up being. I was most interested in Lewenhak’s compounding problems, and I would’ve preferred a version where he was a proper Villain Protagonist, because he’s the most central character to the bumbling kidnappers plot that drives the story. And also because it would give Peter Cook more to do.

This movie was simply a waste of potential. It needed a few more rewrites before going into production. It fails at being a vehicle for the lead characters that were apparently established in a previous movie. It fails at holding interest. It often fails at being funny. The concept could’ve been a hoot, but it needed a lot of punching up.