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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

'S.O.B." BD: That Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Blake Edwards '80s Comedy

This discussion of the March 2017 Warner Archive Blu-ray release of the 1981 Blake Edwards comedy "S.O.B." is the promised follow-up to the review of the Archive Blu-ray release of the 1982 Edwards musical comedy "Victor/Victoria." These companion films successfully transform the image of star/then-Edwards spouse Julia Andrews from wholesome international sweetheart to a grown-ass woman who swears and who shows her boobies on screen. One spoiler is that they're real and they're spectacular.

One of many reasons that Edwards having Andrews shed her G-rated persona only being the tip of the iceberg (no pun intend) makes "S.O.B." notable is that it is an exception to a show business rule. The formal title being "Blake Edward's S.O.B." strongly suggests that the film follows the trend of adding the name of an auteur (such as "Stephen King's ..." or "John Grisham's ...") to a title in an effort to put lipstick on a pig. In this case, it is an unnecessary abundance of caution.

In the spirit of many films during the Golden Age of Hollywood gaining notoriety (and ticket sales) based on being deemed to be of such a prurient nature that they are banned in Boston based on not meeting the moral code of that city, "S.O.B." being known to feature Andrews cursing and exposing her breasts in the film drove large numbers to the movie theater. The second spoiler is that Edwards more than delivers on both promises of not-so-guilty pleasures.

"S.O.B." additionally is notable as a scaled-down version of the star-studded '60s madcap films, such as "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad. Mad World" and the (Unreal TV reviewed) Edwards classic "The Great Race." The latter even features a massive pie fight.

The skewering of the filthy nature of show business around which "S.O.B." centers almost certainly makes appearing in the film a great treat for the luminaries who appear in it. One highlight of this is literally seeing the kinky activity that occurs in the bedroom of several characters. This includes bi-racial homosexual activity and hilarious cross dressing.

The most apt casting has "Sunset Boulevard" star William Holden equally aptly having director Tim Culley being his final role. His opening scenes including picking up the young free-spirit hitchhiker whom Rosanna Arquette plays surely helps Holden die a happy man soon after finishing "S.O.B." (One can only fantasize about a "I'm ready for my close-up Mr. Edwards" moment in filming "S.O.B.")

Edwards hits even closer to home in having Hollywood legend/ future "Victor" star Robert Preston play Dr. Irving Finegarten. Finegarten gleefully dispensing actors and behind-the-scenes folks prescription drugs like they are candy is hilarious from a 1981 perspective but less amusing in the wake of the physician-assisted overdose deaths of celebrities that include Michael Jackson and Prince.

Additional household names/very good sports in "S.O.B." include Shelley Winters, Robert Vaughan, Larry Hagman, and Loretta Swit. Edwards also shows his usual great instincts in letting '60scom "F Troop" star Larry Storch run in a memorable '70slicious cameo.

The following Youtube clip of the "S.O.B." theatrical trailer highlights this proverbial cast of 1,000s and shows why Edwards earns the big bucks.

The aforementioned adult content is presented in the context of the central plot of this semi-autobiographical tale. Richard Mulligan, who is best known at the time for starring in the ABC satirecom "Soap" at the time, stars as producer Felix Farmer. The prior successes of Farmer include a long string of hits and a previously happy marriage with Andrews' Sally "Smiley" Miles. This changes in the weeks before the starting point of "S.O.B."

The latest Farmer production "Night Wind," which features Miles' character in an elaborate wholesome "Babes in Toyland" style dream sequence, is an epic flop. This resulting in Farmer effectively going from Hollywood royalty to box-office poison overnight prompts a deep depression that causes Miles to pack up the kids and leave him in the opening moments of the film.

These early scenes allow Mulligan to put his extraordinary talent for physical comedy to good use as he repeatedly attempts suicide. Highlights from this include Farmer trying to asphyxiate himself in his car as his gardener obliviously goes about his business. Even greater hilarity ensues when Farmer subsequently tries to hang himself.

Farmer having a hilarious brief encounter rouses him from his related depression and stupor and inspires him to rework "Night Wind" into an erotic film that is intended to change the image of Miles in a manner that he hopes will get people flocking to the theater. As shown above, this is a genuine intersection between reel and real-life; the glee that Farmer expresses on hearing Miles curse like a sailor mirrors the reaction of the audience.

Miles being coerced into reshooting the innocent dream sequence as a highly erotic S&M nightmare parallels a more wholesome incident in the life of former American sweetheart Doris Day. Day is not called on to curse or to go topless in her eponymous '60s sitcom (which features Storch in two episodes) but is forced to star in that series because of nefarious acts of her then-husband.

As mentioned above, Andrews completely sheds her wholesome image on baring her boobies. However, Edwards has her do so in a manner that largely preserves her integrity. Further, the reel and real-life reactions to that act demonstrate that this is a prime example of nudity being important to the plot.

Although "Pink Panther" veteran Edwards ends "Victor" on a comparable high note, his keeping "S.O.B." going strong after the public debut of the Andrews sisters shows why his films are classics. The roughly final 30 minutes are devoted to the fellow Hollywood veterans of Farmer ensuring that he is honored in an apt fashion. It is equally apt that Edwards explains the unexpected meaning of the titular acronym in the context of that subplot. It additionally makes Mulligan fan sad that real and reel-life do not intersect in the manner that we hope for regarding Burt Campbell and Harry Weston.

It is even sadder that they cannot make them like "S.O.B." anymore because (as Bette Davis famously noted and the Garry Marshall holiday films demonstrate) most matinee idols these days are stars rather than actors. Further, most comedies being faded remakes of superior films and television series shows that talents like Edwards are increasingly becoming fewer and further between.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "S.O.B." is strongly encouraged to email me. You alternatively can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

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