Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Final Film I Watched at the Red Vic

I miscounted the number of punches left on my Red Vic discount card. I thought I had one punch left but I had two. As I mentioned, I wanted to see The Last Waltz with my final punch but the screening was sold out. The Last Waltz was the penultimate film screened at the Red Vic. After it, the Red Vic closed on Thursday, July 21 and then screened Harold and Maude for three consecutive days before permanently shutting down. I've seen Harold and Maude a few times (never on the big screen) and I wouldn't have minded seeing it again but the Roxie was having Monte Hellman series at that time.

My final film at the Red Vic ended up being the 9:20 screening of What's Up Doc? on Wednesday, July 13.

What's Up Doc? starring Barbra Streisand, Ryan O'Neal & Madeline Kahn; directed by Peter Bogdanovich; (1972)

Filmed in San Francisco, the screwball comedy involves four identical valises owned by four very different people who converge at a hotel for various reasons. One bag is owned by Barbra Streisand, a homeless waif doing a Bugs Bunny impersonation throughout the film. The second bag (which is full of rocks) is owned by Ryan O'Neal, a uptight musicologist up for a grant award for his research into ancient man's use of rocks as musical instruments. The third bag, containing jewels, is by a wealthy dowager. The fourth bag contains unspecified government secret.

You can imagine the zany misadventures everyone gets into. The hotel dick (played by a pre-Boss Hogg Sorrell Booke) is after the jewels. A mysterious counter-espionage type is after the secrets. Barbra Streisand is after Ryan O'Neal even though he has an irritating fiancée (Madeline Kahn).

There is little point in recounting the plot further; all that needs to be said is hilarious hijinks ensues. Sometimes that is short-hand for stupidity follows but Peter Bogdanovich pulls it off skillfully. I thoroughly enjoyed the film. O'Neal plays straight man throughout the film to great effect. Streisand acquits herself satisfactorily but is overshadowed by Kahn and others. Supporting actors Kenneth Mars plays a Slav with a smile-inducing, scene-stealing accent and Austin Pendleton's character must have been Michael Myer's inspiration for Austin Powers.

In 1972, Streisand was nearing the peak of popularity and was an honest-to-goodness sex symbol. I always found that a little strange given her vaguely androgynous looks. She wears a cap through parts of the film which gives her the appearance of a 12 year old boy. However when she is scampering around in a bath towel or singing As Time Goes By while laying on top of a piano, her sex appeal come through. Like most comediennes or at least how audiences view most comediennes, Streisand cannot simultaneously be sexy and funny.

Bogdanovich drops a number of references to Golden Age films and caps the film with an elaborate car chase through San Francisco. What's Up Doc? adds to Hollywood's rich tradition of outstanding car chases in San Francisco. Bullitt, Freebie and the Bean, 48 Hours, The Rock, Basic Instinct and Jade are a few that I remember.

I'm disappointed the Red Vic has closed but with What's Up Doc?, I ended on a high note. I wish the members of the collective the best of luck in the future and thank you for the good times I had there.

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