Peter Falk: 4-Film Comedy Collection (1967-1986) Mill Creek Blu-ray Review
An entertaining foursome of funny films with Peter Falk at various stages of his impressive career, this collection is a solid set with nice high definition transfers.
Happy New Year (1986) Plot:
Two master jewel thieves plan an elaborate jewel heist, but things get complicated when one of them falls in love with a woman who lives next door to the jewelers.
Master jewel thief Nick (Peter Falk) invests hundreds of thousands of dollars in what could potentially become the biggest score of his life. He enlists his trusted sidekick Charlie (Charles Durning) to assist, and so they set their sights on a Harry Winston jewelry store in Florida. There’s a great escape route that they plan on using, complete with a speedboat, but the job will take some finessing and planning. Nick uses a variety of masterful disguises (full-on Mission Impossible face and body transformations) and begins conning the manager of the store, an easily pliable man (played by a well cast Tom Courtenay) who is susceptible to Nick’s charms when Nick is in his disguises, one of which is an old lady with a huge pocketbook. But something unexpected happens to Nick: He develops a big crush on a beautiful, cultured woman named Carolyn (Wendy Hughes) who lives and works next door to the jewelers. Carolyn owns and operates an antique store, and so Nick uses that to his benefit as he begins charming her with his cunning and romantic approach. As Nick and Carolyn begin a mature and interesting relationship, Nick gets a little sidetracked and he makes a fatal error on the night of the big heist, resulting in a huge misfire that will alter the course of his destiny.
An utterly delightful caper comedy with some unexpected twists and turns, with a really solid sense of direction by John G. Avildsen and a good score by Bill Conti, Happy New Year had never been on my radar before, and so it was a great pleasure to discover it here. Based on a French film, and using star Peter Falk’s skill as a comedian to its maximum effect, the film is really entertaining and quite romantic as well. Highly recommended, and this should become part of everyone’s holiday film rotations, as it will certainly become one of mine.
Big Trouble (1985) Plot:
An insurance salesman get in way over his head when he agrees to help a woman dispose of her husband and collect millions in cash.
Upper middle class insurance salesman Leonard (Alan Arkin in a hilarious performance) is driving himself crazy trying to figure out a way to pay for his three twin sons to attend Yale after they all get accepted at the same time. He can’t mortgage his house anymore, and his wife is absolutely insisting that they send their boys to a school that will put them all in the poorhouse. When Leonard makes a house call to a sexy woman who wants to take out homeowner’s insurance, he realizes it’s not homeowner’s insurance she needs, but life insurance for her dying husband, who is insisting that he’ll be dead in a few weeks from a heart attack. While it goes totally against ethics and the law, Leonard schemes with his customer Blanche (Beverly D’ Angelo) to finagle a huge insurance policy for her “sick” husband Steve (Peter Falk), who’s a so-called adventurer, and in the process Leonard becomes an accessory to a murder and a whole lot more. When Leonard’s surly boss (played by Charles Durning) gets a whiff of the hinky things going on, an investigation is opened up about the “death” of Steve and all clues point to insurance fraud, which puts Leonard in the crosshairs of the law and a string of twists that will surely land Leonard in prison if he doesn’t think of a way out of the hole he’s dug for himself by aligning himself with the con artists that Steve and Blanche turn out to be.
Not as funny as it could’ve been, but good for a few solid laughs thanks to some great bits of comedy here and there, Big Trouble from writer and original director Andrew Bergman and John Cassavetes who replaced Bergman is a pretty fun film, if sometimes a bit uneven. Arkin does a really good job with some unexpected physical comedy and Falk dons a few disguises here and there, complete with prosthetic work. The score by Bill Conti is solid, and while not really a classic, this should still play well especially if you’re a fan of the cast.
The Cheap Detective (1978) Plot:
A private dick solves a bunch of cases at once.
It’s 1940 in San Francisco, and there’s more than just a war going on: There’s a bunch of murders to solve in the city! The cops are befuddled, but private dick Lou Peckinpaugh (Peter Falk, of course) seems to have it all under control. There’re Nazi’s in town (played by Nicol Williamson and James Cromwell), and a bunch of dames are desperate for Lou’s attention, but he’s only got room for one at a time, even if they pile up in his little apartment all at once, but not to worry – he compartmentalizes each one in a separate hiding spot and deals with their problems one by one. First, there’s sexy lounge singer Betty DeBoop (Eileen Brennan), then there’s his old flame Marlene (Louise Fletcher) who long left him behind to chase the injustices of the world alongside a revolutionary (Fernando Lamas), and then there’s also a married woman named Georgia (Masha Mason) who divorces her husband to be with Lou, but now that she’s about to be a free woman, Lou wants nothing to do with her. There’s also his love-struck secretary (Stockard Channing) and a sultry murderess named Jezebel (Ann-Margret) who gets Lou in her crosshairs. Who got killed? What for? It doesn’t matter, but it’s all over a dozen eggs and little spring chicklets.
Good for some guffaws and some sporadic chuckles, The Cheap Detective from writer Neil Simon and director Robert Moore sends up the old Bogart detective films in a spoof fashion. It’s fun if you’re into those old movies, but if you’re not, this movie will fall on deaf ears. In a way, it’s very dated by spoofing films made 30+ years before it was made, but I had a pretty goodtime with it, so there you go. Some of the gags don’t work, but that’s fine. The writing is clever and quick, and Falk and company do a good job maintaining straight faces while delivering it all like the legends they emulate.
Luv (1967) Plot:
A suicidal man is saved by an old classmate who targets him to fall in love with his wife so that he can get divorced and marry his mistress.
Harry Berlin (Jack Lemmon) is a split second away from jumping off a bridge and ending his life when a junk collector named Milt (Peter Falk) rides by on his moped and stops him. Turns out Milt and Harry used to be friends 15 years ago when they went to college together, and while Milt’s life has more or less flourished, Harry’s has taken a proverbial nosedive. Milt takes Harry home for dinner, despite the fact that by the time they get there Harry has already made at least one more suicide attempt. Milt gets the bright idea to introduce him to his longsuffering wife Ellen (Elaine May) who is at her wit’s end with Milt because he won’t sleep with her anymore. Milt has already moved on in that department with his mistress Linda (Nina Wayne), a P.E. teacher who’s in great shape, but in order to completely win Linda over, he’ll have to get a divorce from Ellen. Which brings us all back to Harry: Milt sets him and his wife up to be won over by each other, and by some miracle it works! Despite the fact that Harry is a hopeless case without any prospects or appealing aspects to his irritating personality, Ellen falls for him, and the rest falls into place: She and Milt divorce and she ends up marrying Harry, who falls so head over heels in love with her that he can’t see beyond the love they supposedly share for each other. He’s still suicidal, he won’t get a job, and he insists that his hypochondriac maladies are going to kill him somehow eventually anyway, so why bother living at all? Milt, too, finds temporary happiness – he and Linda marry, but they have nothing in common and within six weeks she moves out and demands a divorce, which is interesting because Ellen is ready to pull all her hair out with Harry in about six weeks as well. What’s next? More divorce? The results become ridiculous.
For about 45 minutes, Luv is pretty hilarious with Jack Lemmon’s twitchy and very physical performance. He makes his character very real and believable, which is, perhaps, the biggest problem with Luv because it treats its subject and characters as if it’s all a big farce, but Lemmon’s character becomes more pathetic and less relatable the more the movie goes on. The film drags to a grinding halt about halfway through when everyone except his character is in on the joke of the whole thing. The movie acts like a spoof of romantic comedies, but it becomes cruel and punishing to watch everyone despise Lemmon’s character to the point when they want to kill him. It’s a sad movie, really, and all the laughs that came before fade away, which is depressing. Based on a play. From director Clive Donner.
Mill Creek has just released this two-disc collection on an affordable Blu-ray package. The picture quality and transfers of the four films are more than adequate, but there are no special features. Recommended, on the whole.