Sunday, July 11, 2004

Video: The Day of the Dolphin (1973)

Some great movies have been made when A-list talent tackles a high-concept idea: THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, ROSEMARY’S BABY. Plenty of crap results, as well. But when I was a kid, in the days before ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT, the lousy films still attained a strange kind of respectability, as if no one wanted to admit that big names could be responsible for such stinkers. I remember THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL being hugely popular among my parents and their friends, even though aside from its great if crazy Ira Levin premise the movie has nothing going for it. Look at all the Oscar winners involved with this thing; it can’t be as bad as it seems to be.

Every adult I knew loved this movie, too. It’s about a talking dolphin who is used in a plot to assassinate the President. Concepts don’t come much higher. But you can’t laugh a movie off the screen when it comes from GRADUATE golden boys Mike Nichols and Buck Henry and stars Patton himself, George C. Scott. That would be rude. Or maybe the talking dolphin (voiced by Henry) won everybody over. I’m at a loss to explain its popularity otherwise. The movie is tedious and full of the knee-jerk anti-establishment paranoia of the era.

Maybe it still has an audience; the well-produced DVD only came out last year. It includes an interview with Henry, who says that Nichols made the film only to get out of a contract. He admits that the movie’s a stiff, but says the best-selling novel on which it’s based is even worse. From his description, I believe him.

I’m surprised there hasn’t been a remake. They could get someone more laid-back to play the scientist. Owen Wilson, say. And this time the dolphin could speak perfect conversational English. A big star could do the part. Sean Penn, maybe, using the Spicoli voice from FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH. It would be more of a buddy movie, sort of a FINDING NEMO meets LETHAL WEAPON.

Excuse me. I have to call my agent.

TV: Ultimate Film Fanatic

Comedy Central’s late, lamented BEAT THE GEEKS asked harder movie questions than this IFC game show, which doesn’t even have a lightning round. Instead, there are lame debate and show-and-tell segments featuring celebrity judges.

On the plus side, those celebrities included Richard Roundtree. I love the surly usherette who serves as hostess, and the fact that the category ‘Hollywood Loves Hookers’ was all about Best Actress nominees who played prostitutes. And any game show that quotes Tom Cruise’s raunchiest line from MAGNOLIA uncensored in a question can’t be all bad.