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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Silver Streak (1976)

On a cross country train trip from Los Angeles to Chicago, a man (Gene Wilder) sees a dead body thrown off the train during the night. But when he attempts to investigate, he's thrown off the train. I love movies that take place on trains and I love comedy thrillers but this one is so inept I don't know where to begin. Wilder's character is rather a dim bulb and while Wilder is perfect for the eccentric, quirky characters he played in BLAZING SADDLES and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, he's all wrong for a conventional romantic leading man. As the "girl", it's near painful to see a talent like Jill Clayburgh wasted on such a near non existent part. An hour into the film, Richard Pryor pops in and one perks up as he livens up the proceedings but soon after, there's that sinking feeling that he's not going to save the picture. There's a sequence with Wilder in blackface that's so lame that one can't even be offended by it. It's the kind of sloppily made film that leaves too much time (like Wilder milking a cow) for us to wonder why the characters are behaving so illogically. Dully directed by Arthur Hiller from a script by Colin Higgins, who would go on to write and direct one of the best comedy thrillers of the 70s, FOUL PLAY. The silky score is by Henry Mancini. With Patrick McGoohan, Ned Beatty, Ray Walston, Clifton James, Fred Willard, Stefan Gierasch and Richard Kiel in a dry run for the role he'd play the next year in THE SPY WHO LOVED ME.

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