- Movie Rating -

Movie Movie (1978)

| November 22, 1978

At a moment when the movies were changing fast in the wake of the auteur era and certainly in the wake of the success of Star Wars, it must have been a great temptation to want to rewind the clock.  The reliability of Hollywood’s Golden Age is always a temptation for movie producers mainly because they had control over every facets of the production, their actors, their technicians and their advertising but especially because the audience knew exactly that they would get.  Or as George Burns tells us in an opening narration, “The only four-letter word in the theater was ‘Exit’”.

In many ways, that’s the problem with Movie Movie.  It tries to recapture, and sometimes parody, the spirit of those pictures from the 30s and 40s but you’re always asking why you need it.  The films of Hollywood’s Golden Age are still widely available.  You can watch Singin’ in the Rain and Top Hat and The Harder They Fall and The Set-Up right now.  Why did we need this imitation?

At any rate, Movie Movie is cute.  Produced and directed (of course) by Stanley Donen, the man most famous for Singin’ in the Rain, the movie is a double-bill, two movies at a length of just under and hour that try and parrot some of the spirit and some of overcooked qualities of those movies of the past.

The first is kinda lame.  It’s a boxing picture called “Dynamite Hands,” the story of a handsome delivery boy (Harry Hamlin) who impresses a boxing promotor when he knocks out the #1 contender after an insult.  The promoter Gloves Malloy (George C. Scott, in a fun performance) sees a bright future for the kid and tells him that he has to train, punch, sweat, spit, and put all of his energies into becoming a good fighter – because his big night is Tuesday.

At first, the kid only wants to fight in order to (of course) pay for his sister’s operation, but success goes to his head and he starts playing the field, and gets involved with Troubles Moran (Anne Reinking), a tramp with a heart of stone.  And, of course, there’s trouble with a mobster (Eli Wallach) who wants him to the throw the fight – he bet 10 gs before telling him.

“Dynamite Hands” goes exactly the way you think it will.  It’s cute but you after half an hour, the parody wears a little thin, particularly Hamlin’s attempts to capture the good boy dialogue of the time.

Much better is the second feature, “Baxter’s Beauties of 1933”, a musical parody about a big-shot Broadway producer Spat Baxter (George C. Scott, again) who is told that he has only six months to live, and that it’s been five months since his last doctor visit, and it’s February.  Seeing that the clock is ticking, Spat wants one more hit to his name, and he hires (of course) a talented, fresh-faced kid (Barry Bostwick) to has talent to spare.  Will the show go on before Spats goes out?  You know the answer to that.

As I said, Movie Movie sort of fun in spots.  The parodies are cute but the features go on too long.  Perhaps if these were short films of about 20 to 30 minutes maybe it would work a little better, but at an hour, the gimmick wears thin pretty fast.  As parodies they’re just okay, and as a reminder of those old movies of the past, you’re just better off watching one of those.

[reviewed February 6, 2021]

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1978) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy, Drama, Musical