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  S.O.B. Standard Operational Bullshit, Apparently
Year: 1981
Director: Blake Edwards
Stars: Julie Andrews, William Holden, Marisa Berenson, Larry Hagman, Robert Loggia, Stuart Margolin, Richard Mulligan, Robert Preston, Craig Stevens, Loretta Swit, Robert Vaughn, Robert Webber, Shelley Winters, Jennifer Edwards, Rosanna Arquette, Larry Storch
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Felix Farmer (Richard Mulligan) was one of the most successful movie directors Hollywood ever saw, making tons of money for himself, his employees and his studio. Was. Now he has just suffered what looks like will be the biggest money loser of all time, and he's not taking it very well as he holes up in his Californian beachside mansion and ponders his next move as his friends and associates try to work out what to do for him. He really is in a bad way, and wanders unseen into his garage where he decides to close the door, turn the engine on and gas himself: but there's something he hasn't considered...

And that was something writer and director Blake Edwards considered to make a hit for himself, which was to offer his wife Julie Andrews a topless scene, a sequence which generated the necessary publicity but failed to generate the hit he had anticipated, suggesting that there were some ruses the public were not going to fall for. It was right there in the trailer, not the nudity but for the audience what was intended to be sole reason for showing up to watch it, and it sounded so cynical that many were put off getting a glimpse of Mary Poppins getting her kit off, though if they had they would have found a very cynical comedy to accompany that setpiece, and one more bitter than funny.

It appeared Edwards was still smarting over the failure of his megamusical vehicle for Andrews, Darling Lili, which had been ten years before S.O.B. was made and in the interim he had enjoyed successes with Pink Panther sequels and the blockbusting adult comedy 10, so you may be wondering why he didn't roll with the punches when it came to flops and savour the times where it all came together to everyone's satisfaction in his career. But nope, he delivered a hearty "fuck you" to the industry that had placed him in such a privileged position instead and gathered a bunch of middle aged and older stars to put across his amused disgruntlement with Tinseltown, at least you had to assume it was amused.

That cast included such luminaries as William Holden in his last role, Larry Hagman taking a break from Dallas to fall through a hole, Shelley Winters as an agent who goes to bed with black lesbians, and best of all Robert Preston who managed to wring some semblance of humour out of what was a barrage of crass potshots from Edwards' stance as the ultimate moviemaking grumpy old man. The gags here were really only palatable for the most jaded viewers who saw through the artistic value of Hollywood straight to the heart of its avaricious need to make as much profit as possible, which is what leads Felix to retool his flop as a near the knuckle sextravaganza, or he does in one musical number at any rate - we never really find out what the production was about.

The trouble with that was if he had put the nudity at the end of the sequence we saw under the opening titles with Julie making cutesy faces in a fairyland trilling Polly Wolly Doodle then it might have been funny and indeed shocking in a good way, but as it turns out Felix reshoots the whole thing as some out of touch old geezer's idea of sexy, and that included the erstwhile singing nun whipping them out. There's certainly nothing erotic about it, leaving only a curiosity and mild discomfort that it had reached this point, and besides, there was a brief shot early on where Rosanna Arquette doffed her T-shirt which would have been a lot more people's idea of what constituted the movie sexuality they preferred. With this overshadowing everything else, including Robert Vaughn in women's underwear, all you had left were a shrill action scene and a lot of maudlin talk. Basically, the one Hollywood satire which got this exactly right hadn't been made until James Robert Baker's novel Boy Wonder reaches the screen. Music by Henry Mancini.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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