Retro Television Reviews: The Feminist and the Fuzz (dir by Jerry Paris)

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay.  Today’s film is 1971’s The Feminist and The Fuzz!  It  can be viewed on YouTube!

At first glance, Jane Bowers (Barbara Eden) and Jerry Frazer (David Hartman) don’t have much in common.

Jerry is a cop, though he’s attending night school with the hope of someday becoming a lawyer.  Jerry is an old-fashioned law and order man.  He expects the law to be followed.  He’s also the type who definitely believes that there are clear differences between men and women.  As he explains it, there are some thing that men are just better at.  Jerry is dating Kitty (Farrah Fawcett), who works as a waitress at the local Playboy Club.

Dr. Jane Bowers is a pediatrician and a proud feminist, one who takes it personally when a cop like Jerry refuses to give her a parking ticket just because she’s a woman.  She wants to be treated as an equal in all matters.  She’s dating Wyatt Foley (Herb Edelman), an attorney who still lives with his mother and who constantly goes out of his way to let everyone know that he’s an ally.  Jane’s best friend is Dr. Debby Inglefinger (Jo Anne Worley), who has decided that it’s time to lead a protest at the Playboy Club.

The only thing that Jerry and Jane have in common is that they both desperately need an apartment but apparently, apartments were not easy to find in San Francisco in the early 70s.  Fortunately, a hippie (Howard Hesseman) has just been evicted from his apartment because the landlord (John McGiver) didn’t like the fact that he was constantly having overnight guests.  Jane and Jerry both end up at the apartment at the same time, with Jane getting offended by Jerry’s refusal to give her a traffic ticket.  (Jerry makes the mistake of saying that he’s going to let her off “with a warning.”  He wouldn’t give a warning to a man!  Seriously, though, who in their right mind would actually demand a ticket?  Those things cost money.)  Even though they take an instant dislike to each other, Jane and Jerry still decide to pretend to be husband and wife so that they can rent the apartment together.  With their busy schedules, they figure that they’ll never have to see each other.  They won’t even know the other is around.

Of course, it doesn’t work out like that.  Jane allows Debby to hold a consciousness raising meeting at the apartment.  (Future director Penny Marshall appears as a participant.)  Meanwhile, Jerry lets a prostitute (Julie Newmar) stay at the apartment, just to keep her off of the streets for the night.  The landlord is getting suspicious.  So, for that matter, is Jane’s father (Harry Morgan).  And, as you probably already guessed, Jerry and Jane are falling in love.

With its hippies and its militant feminists and its jokes about the Playboy Club, The Feminist and the Fuzz is a film that practically yells, “1971!”  Unfortunately, script’s attempt to turn the film’s rather predictable plot into a Neil Simon-style jokefest never quite works.  The “humorous” dialogue feels forced and the film’s 75-minute run time doesn’t do it any favors, as we never really have the time to get to know Jerry or Jane as human beings.  Instead, they just remain “The Fuzz” and “The Feminist.”  As a result, it’s not that easy to care about whether or not they actually get together.  Some of the supporting performances are amusing.  Barbara Eden manages to avoid turning Jane into a caricature of a humorless activist but poor David Hartman is stiff as a board and in no way convincing as a veteran cop.

The main thing I took away from this movie is that the Playboy Clubs were exceptionally tacky.  Way back in 2011, NBC actually tried to air a drama series that took place at a Playboy Club in the 60s.  (This was when every network was trying to come up with the next Mad Men.)  The pilot started with creepy old Hugh Hefner assuring the viewers that, “Everybody who was anybody wanted to be a member of the club.”  I mean, seriously?  What a strange world.

The Hard Way (1991, directed by John Badham)

Lt. John Moss (James Woods) is a cop with a problem.  A serial killer who calls himself the Party Crasher (Stephen Lang) is killing people all across New York and he has decided that he will be coming for Moss next.  However, Moss’s captain (Delroy Lindo) says that Moss is off of the Party Crasher case and, instead, he’s supposed to babysit a big time movie star named Nick Lang (Michael J. Fox)!

Nick is famous for playing “Smoking” Joe Gunn in a series of Indiana Jones-style action films.  However, Nick wants to be taken seriously.  He wants to play Hamlet, just like his rival Mel Gibson!  (That Hard Way came out a year after Mel Gibson played the melancholy Dame in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1990 adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.)  Nick thinks that if he can land the lead role in a hard-boiled detective film, it will give him a chance to show that he actually can act.  To prepare for his audition, he’s asked to spend some time following Moss on the job.  Mayor David Dinkins, always eager to improve New York’s reputation, agrees.  (David Dinkins does not actually appear in The Hard Way, though his name is often mentioned with a derision that will be familiar to anyone who spent any time in New York in the 90s.)  Of course, Moss isn’t going to stop investigating the Party Crasher murders and, of course, Nick isn’t going to follow Moss’s orders to just stay in his apartment and not get in his way.

The Hard Way is a predictable mix of action and comedy but it’s also entertaining in its own sloppy way.  Director John Badham brings the same grit that he brought to his other action films but he also proves himself to have a deft comedic touch.  Most of the laughs come from the contrast between James Woods playing one of his typically hyperactive, edgy roles and Michael J. Fox doing an extended and surprisingly convincing impersonation of Tom Cruise.  Woods and Fox prove to be an unexpectedly effective comedic team.  One of the best running jokes in the film is Woods’s exasperation as he discovers that everyone, from his girlfriend (Annabella Sciorra) to his no-nonsense boss, are huge fans of Nick Lang.  Even with a serial killer running loose in the city, Moss’s captain is more concerned with getting Nick’s autograph.

Woods and Fox are the main attractions here but Stephen Lang is a good, unhinged villain and Annabella Sciorra brings some verve to her underwritten role as Moss’s girlfriend.  Viewers will also want to keep an eye out for familiar faces like Penny Marshall as Nick’s agent, a very young Christina Ricci as Sciorra’s daughter, and Luis Guzman as Moss’s partner.

With its references to David Dinkins, Mel Gibson’s superstardom, and Premiere Magazine, its LL Cool J-filled soundtrack, and a plot that was obviously influenced by Lethal Weapon, The Hard Way is very much a period piece but it’s an entertaining one.

4 Shots From 4 Films (John Heard): Chilly Scenes Of Winter (1979), Cutter’s Way (1981), After Hours (1985), Big (1988)

I know everyone knew John Heard from the Home Alone series, but he did others things as well. Early on he was even given lead roles. I tried to pick a mixture of his early stuff, and when he was moved to largely playing character and supporting roles.

Rest in peace, John Heard.

Chilly Scenes Of Winter (1979, dir. Joan Micklin Silver)

Cutter’s Way (1981, dir. Ivan Passer)

After Hours (1985, dir. Martin Scorsese)

Big (1988, dir. Penny Marshall)

Playing Catch-Up With The Films of 2016: Alice Through The Looking Glass, Gods of Egypt, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Me Before You, Mother’s Day, Risen

Here are six mini-reviews of six films that I saw in 2016!

Alice Through The Looking Glass (dir by James Bobin)

In a word — BORING!

Personally, I’ve always thought that, as a work of literature, Through The Looking Glass is actually superior to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  That’s largely because Through The Looking Glass is a lot darker than Wonderland and the satire is a lot more fierce.  You wouldn’t know that from watching the latest film adaptation, though.  Alice Through The Looking Glass doesn’t really seem to care much about the source material.  Instead, it’s all about making money and if that means ignoring everything that made the story a classic and instead turning it into a rip-off of every other recent blockbuster, so be it.  At times, I wondered if I was watching a film based on Lewis Carroll or a film based on Suicide Squad.  Well, regardless, the whole enterprise is way too cynical to really enjoy.

(On the plus side, the CGI is fairly well-done.  If you listen, you’ll hear the voice of Alan Rickman.)

Gods of Egypt (dir by Alex Proyas)

I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to describing the plot of Gods of Egypt.  This was one of the most confusing films that I’ve ever seen but then again, I’m also not exactly an expert when it comes to Egyptian mythology.  As far as I could tell, it was about Egyptian Gods fighting some sort of war with each other but I was never quite sure who was who or why they were fighting or anything else.  My ADHD went crazy while I was watching Gods of Egypt.  There were so much plot and so many superfluous distractions that I couldn’t really concentrate on what the Hell was actually going on.

But you know what?  With all that in mind, Gods of Egypt is still not as bad as you’ve heard.  It’s a big and ludicrous film but ultimately, it’s so big and so ludicrous that it becomes oddly charming.  Director Alex Proyas had a definite vision in mind when he made this film and that alone makes Gods of Egypt better than some of the other films that I’m reviewing in this post.

Is Gods of Egypt so bad that its good?  I wouldn’t necessarily say that.  Instead, I would say that it’s so ludicrous that it’s unexpectedly watchable.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War (dir by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan)

Bleh.  Who cares?  I mean, I hate to put it like that but The Huntsman: Winter’s War felt pretty much like every other wannabe blockbuster that was released in April of last year.  Big battles, big cast, big visuals, big production but the movie itself was way too predictable to be interesting.

Did we really need a follow-up to Snow White and The Huntsman?  Judging by this film, we did not.

Me Before You (dir by Thea Sharrock)

Me Before You was assisted suicide propaganda, disguised as a Nicolas Sparks-style love story.  Emilia Clarke is hired to serve as a caregiver to a paralyzed and bitter former banker played by Sam Claflin.  At first they hate each other but then they love each other but it may be too late because Claflin is determined to end his life in Switzerland.  Trying to change his mind, Clarke tries to prove to him that it’s a big beautiful world out there.  Claflin appreciates the effort but it turns out that he really, really wants to die.  It helps, of course, that Switzerland is a really beautiful and romantic country.  I mean, if you’re going to end your life, Switzerland is the place to do it.  Take that, Sea of Trees.

Anyway, Me Before You makes its points with all the subtlety and nuance of a sledge-hammer that’s been borrowed from the Final Exit Network.  It doesn’t help that Clarke and Claflin have next to no chemistry.  Even without all the propaganda, Me Before You would have been forgettable.  The propaganda just pushes the movie over the line that separates mediocre from terrible.

Mother’s Day (dir by Garry Marshall)

Y’know, the only reason that I’ve put off writing about how much I hated this film is because Garry Marshall died shortly after it was released and I read so many tweets and interviews from people talking about what a nice and sincere guy he was that I actually started to feel guilty for hating his final movie.

But seriously, Mother’s Day was really bad.  This was the third of Marshall’s holiday films.  All three of them were ensemble pieces that ascribed a ludicrous amount of importance to one particular holiday.  None of them were any good, largely because they all felt like cynical cash-ins.  If you didn’t see Valentine’s Day, you hated love.  If you didn’t see New Year’s Eve, you didn’t care about the future of the world.  And if you didn’t see Mother’s Day … well, let’s just not go there, okay?

Mother’s Day takes place in Atlanta and it deals with a group of people who are all either mothers or dealing with a mother.  The ensemble is made up of familiar faces — Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, and others! — but nobody really seems to be making much of an effort to act.  Instead, they simple show up, recite a few lines in whatever their trademark style may be, and then cash their paycheck.  The whole thing feels so incredibly manipulative and shallow and fake that it leaves you wondering if maybe all future holidays should be canceled.

I know Garry Marshall was a great guy but seriously, Mother’s Day is just the worst.

(For a far better movie about Mother’s Day, check out the 2010 film starring Rebecca De Mornay.)

Risen (dir by Kevin Reynolds)

As far as recent Biblical films go, Risen is not that bad.  It takes place shortly after the Crucifixion and stars Joseph Fiennes as a Roman centurion who is assigned to discover why the body of Jesus has disappeared from its tomb.  You can probably guess what happens next.  The film may be a little bit heavy-handed but the Roman Empire is convincingly recreated, Joseph Fiennes gives a pretty good performance, and Kevin Reynolds keeps the action moving quickly.  As a faith-based film that never becomes preachy, Risen is far superior to something like God’s Not Dead 2.