‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ with writer Dale Launer

Title:
Dirty Rotten Socundrels (1988)
Rated: PG
Written by:
Stanley Shapiro (original)
Dale Launer (update)
Directed by:
Frank Oz
Starring:
Steve Martin as Freddy Benson
Michael Caine as Lawrence Jamison
Glenne Headley as Janet Colgate
Dana Ivey as Mrs. Reed
Anton Rodgers as Inspector Andre
Ian McDiarmid as Arthur

 

By Bo from Last Blog on the Left

Pre-screening memories: The film trailer is a dying art.  There was a time, not so very long ago, when the trailer was its own entity, less a preview of the film advertised than a separate entity, possibly containing no actual footage from the film, whose raison d’être was to capture the tone of the film.  The trailer for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was of this type, featuring Steve Martin and Michael Caine strolling along an elegant seaside path, dressed to the nines.  As they pass woman at the edge of the path, Martin casually extends his arm and gives the woman a shove into the waters of the Mediterranean. 

It was at that moment I knew I had to see the film.

And what a film it was… Filled with cons, deception and a monkey-boy obsessed with Oklahoma.  I was already a fan of Martin’s, and Caine brings a touch of class to any production, but to see a film move deftly between broad comedy and sly wit was a revelation to a young film-goer who had yet to see the sophistication and silliness of a Billy Wilder film, or the bawdy wit of the Marx Brothers.  In many ways, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was a gateway film, one that led to the aforementioned comedic classics, but it still maintained its own lofty stature in my recollection.

New memories: Returning to the film after far too long away, it remains a gem.  Martin’s assumed elegance curtailed by the genuine sophistication of Caine, the reed across the legs, the revelation of just how good Glenne Headly is in the film… seeing the movie again is like reuniting with an old friend and finding that the chemistry is still there, awaiting the slightest breath to rekindle it fully.  Better still, this old friend had moves that a younger viewer missed entirely, and it’s nice to discover that movies one remembers fondly are not only as good, but better, than memory describes.  I don’t believe it will be quite so long before I put the cork on my fork and revisit this genuinely funny film again.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ podcast right here

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Our featured guest: Writer Dale Launer

Only his second (credited) film, Dale had certified himself as a go-to name for comedy with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. His first film, Ruthless People garnered him much attention (including from Mick Jaggar, the details of which you can find out about in this podcast).

Dale details the tale of taking a 1964 script from Stanley Shapiro from a David Niven-Marlon Brando comedy called Bedtime Story and its path to the screen.

Dale went on to help Marissa Tomei win an Oscar as the screenwriter to My Cousin Vinny, then stepped into the director’s chair himself, helming a young Sandra Bullock in Love Potion No. 9.

Dale’s original plans for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels were a bit different than what played on screen. Just what were they? Guess you’ll just have to listen to the podcast.

‘My Cousin Vinny’ with director Jonathan Lynn

Title:
My Cousin Vinny (PG-13)
Written by:
Dale Launer
Directed by:
Jonathan Lynn
Starring:
Joe Pesci as Vinny
Marissa Tomei as Mona Lisa
Fred Gwynne as Judge Chamberlain
Ralph Macchio as Billy
Mitchell Whitfield as Stan
Austin Pendleton John Gibbons
Lane Smith as Jim Trotter III
Bruce McGill as Sheriff Dean

By Scott Knopf from He Shot Cyrus

Pre-screening memories: Take one part Family-Friendly Home Invader, one part Rookie Martial Artist, and one part George Costanza Fantasy Object and you’ve got the formula for a movie Young Scott would have drooled over. And did. No distinct “initial Cousin Vinny screening” memories to speak of but I have plenty of memories of the film since then. My favorite Vinny memory is when I talked My Conservative Mother into watching this R-rated film with me with promises that probably sounded like “There’s nothing bad in it, maybe a little language.” My Conservative Mother enjoyed the movie then but denies it now.

Pesci and Tomei’s characters are incredibly unforgettable. The thick accents, Years after having seen it last, the most memorable scenes are undoubtedly the most mundane. Discussions on regional mud or how to properly prepare grits not only make for humorous dialogue but each play a pivotal role in the court case at the center of the film. Macchio, on the other hand, plays a not-so-memorable character whose friend and co-defendant is even more so. But they all serve their purpose and at the end of the day, you’ve got a movie that Scott, young and old, drools over.

New memories: The writing is so tight! Every little scene you think is unimportant or menial turns out to be a part of this gigantic puzzle. Vinny is right up there with that episode of “Law & Order” where those people stumble upon a dead body at the beginning. Herman Munster (his human name escapes me) is fantastic as the Southern judge with a distaste for shenanigans.

And of course, this movie is famous for the Oscar award that followed. The Academy and I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye (Diane Lane in Unfaithful. Anyone? Anyone?) and with all the trash talk aimed towards them over Tomei’s win, I figured that the list of her competitors would be shocking and undeniably more deserving of statues. That’s what I figured until I read this list:

  • Miranda Richardson – Damage
  • Joan Plowright – Enchanted April
  • Vanessa Redgrave – Howard’s End
  • Judy Davis – Husbands and Wives

First, I have no idea who Miranda Richardson is.

Second, never heard of Damage either

C. Joan Plowright was great as Mrs. Wilson in the Dennis the Menace movie.

D. What’s Enchanted April?

Fifth, I won’t way anything bad about Vanessa Redgrave but Howard’s End is a 140-minute period piece romance taking place at the turn of the century. Which century, you ask? Not the twenty-first, I can tell you that.

E. Judy Davis? For Husbands and Wives? Thanks for trying, maybe next never.

So, these were the women who everyone thought should beat Marissa Tomei? The early 90s were an odd time for us all but this is just silly.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘My Cousin Vinny’ podcast right here

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Our featured guest: Director Jonathan Lynn

We once again welcome Jonathan Lynn, who actually knows a thing or two about law, having earned his degree years prior to his involvement in entertainment. Here, he chats about the casting process of Vinny, the prospective of an Englishman directing culture clashes between the States’ North and South, who was originally supposed to play Vinny, and the various rumors that have surrounded the film.

Find out about Vinny’s legacy as well as Lynn’s favorite scene in this particular podcast, and we are thankful to Mr. Lynn for hanging with us once again.

‘Clue’ with director Jonathan Lynn

clueposterFilm: Clue (1985)
Rated: PG
Directed by:
Jonathan Lynn
Written by:
John Landis and Jonathan Lynn
Starring:
Tim Curry as Wadsworth
Martin Mull as Col. Mustard
Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White
Christopher Lloyd as Professor Plum
Michael McKean as Mr. Green
Eileen Brennan as Mrs. Peacock
Lesley Ann Warren as Miss Scarlet
Colleen Camp as Yvette

 

countBy Count
Vardulon
 

___________________________________________________

groupPre-screeening memories: It’s not often we get to say that a movie is utterly and completely unique, is it? There was simply nothing out there at all similar to Cluewhen it was first released, and that fact (along with my love of the boardgame and Christopher ‘Reverend Jim’ Lloyd) made it something I absolutely had to track down and see. Today, in the age of special features an alternate ending isn’t shocking or unusual, in fact, coming from a Hollywood production, we now almost think of it as odd if a film’s climax doesn’t go through two or three different iterations. But in 1985, the whole concept of multiple endings was unheard-of, and impossibly enthralling – going to see a movie a second time and having the ending change? Impossible! Does science even allow for that?

group3Which makes it a little funny that it wasn’t until years after seeing the film that I ever actually got to see those multiple endings. Residing solidly in the lower of the middle classes, I didn’t get out to movies much, and the concept of going to see the same movie twice was on the hilarious side. Strangely I have no real memory of the lack of two extra endings ruining the film for me at all. In many ways it was a perfect film to see at a really young age, full of capering and slapstick, and wordplay just clever enough that while I didn’t understand the naughtier bits, I could tell that something risque was definitely going on, which engaged my curiosity. Even the one solution I saw, in which (SPOILER ALERT) Miss Scarlet was the killer and Wadsworth worked for the FBI was perfectly satisfying, leaving me happy enough with the result that I didn’t really question what the other endings might have been.

kahnlloydNew memories: If there’s one thing I learned from my second viewing, however, it’s that I shouldn’t have been as complacent as a child. I should have demanded to be taken to another viewing and see the other endings, because it’s only once I’d seen all three that I could really appreciate what a masterpiece of comic construction this film is. The movie has to accomplish something almost miraculous – it has to not only work both as a comedy, keeping people laughing all the way through, and as a mystery, keeping them guessing, but it has to drop hints and leave enough clue that three separate endings all work perfectly without a plot hole in sight. The fact that it succeeds at all of these things is an amazing compliment to the writer/director Jonathan Lynn, who keeps the movie speeding along so that the audience never has a chance to do anything marvel at how entertained they are.

timcurryI could talk about one of the greatest comedic ensemble casts I’ve ever seen, or the Tim Curry performance that anchored the film and turned me into a lifelong fan of the actor, or how satisfying it was to finally see the film in its intended form, with all the endings intact – but I think my favorite thing about the film was that it entertained me exactly as much as an adult as it had on my first viewing all those years ago. And not just because I finally got all the jokes, but because it’s one of those rare movies with as much to offer adults as it does children, a comedy that anyone can enjoy, which doesn’t stop being funny on repeated viewings. I’m a little ashamed to have taken as long to get back to clue as I did, but it’s a mistake I won’t make again.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘Clue’ podcast here

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lynnOur featured guest: Writer/ Director Jonathan Lynn

Now in his fourth decade of film, Mr. Lynn has served in almost every facet of the entertainment industry — stage, television, film, books, and shows no signs of slowing, having recently wrapped Wild Target with Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Grint, Rupert Everett and Martin Freeman.

His cinematic contributions prior to this include The Fighting Temptations (with Cuba Gooding Jr and some chick named Beyonce?), The Whole Nine Yards (starring Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry), Nuns on the Run (with Eric Idle and Robbie Coltrane), and directed a young Marisa Tomei to an Oscar win in My Cousin Vinny.

Early in his distinguished career, from 1977 to 1981 Lynn served as Artistic Director of The Cambridge Theatre Company, where he produced more than forty plays, twenty of which he directed. The company’s production of Macbeth featuring Brian Cox toured the United Kingdom and India and staged a special performance for then Prime Minister Mrs Ghandi. Lynn went on to direct one of the companies at the National Theatre of Great Britain, which performed his Society of West End Theatres award-winning production of Three Men on a Horse (1987).

It was during this time that Mr. Lynn created for the BBC Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, regarded as one of the top series of all times by the British Film Institute.

And the acclaim from that series brought him to our shores to write Clue, a 1985 comedic murder-mystery based on the beloved board game, and starring a sterling comedic cast. It was his first forray into feature films, and Mr. Lynn has many a story to share about the experience.

Cheers, Mr. Lynn, and thank you for allowing us choose our weapon with which to pick your brain and solve some of the behind-the-scenes mysteries of Clue.

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