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  Rabbit Test Male Delivery
Year: 1978
Director: Joan Rivers
Stars: Billy Crystal, Joan Prather, Alex Rocco, Doris Roberts, George Gobel, Paul Lynde, Roddy McDowall, Imogene Coca, Tom Poston, Keene Curtis, Norman Fell, Alice Ghostley, Sheree North, Fannie Flagg, Rosey Grier, Jimmie Walker, Billy Barty, Joan Rivers
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lionel Carpenter (Billy Crystal) is an awkward teacher of night classes who has had next to no luck with women. After a night of failed romance with a blow up doll, he trudges to the college the next day, only to find the place has been closed for a holiday - more bad luck. He gets back to his apartment to receive the customary call from his possessive mother (Doris Roberts), who has worried about him living on his own since he left, although she lives in the apartment opposite. When Lionel's brash cousin Danny (Alex Rocco) gets leave from the army, Lionel reveals to him that he's still a virgin, so the soldier makes up his mind to find him a woman, which he does - but with unexpected results...

Quick-witted comedienne Joan Rivers wrote this comedy with Jay Redack (the producer of Hollywood Squares), and if there's one thing you could say about her on the strength of this effort, it's that she's not short of ideas. Obviously trying to go the same route as Mel Brooks, with as many gags packed into every minute as possible, regardless of their poor taste, at least if you don't find many of the jokes funny then there will be a few hits in there to make it worthwhile simply due to the barrage of comic quips and setpieces. Looking as flat as a seventies sitcom, the film utilises much in the way of television talent to deliver the humour, which adds to the novelty.

After Lionel spends the night, well, half an hour, with a woman desperate enough to sleep with him, he is delighted, and leaves the USO club with a spring in his step. But this is where his problems really start as over the next few weeks he feels nauseous and throws up a lot. One night, while taking a class of immigrants who barely understand English, he tries to get talking to Segoynia (Joan Prather), who does speak English, but accidentally vomits on her. This turns out to be a blessing in disguise, as it gives him an excuse to ask her out for the evening (after she's cleaned up, of course), and he ends up at her family home, where her mother (Imogene Coca) works as a fortune teller.

It is here that it is revealed by Segoynia's grandmother (played by Roddy McDowall in drag, of all things) that Lionel is the world's first pregnant man. And here we have the main joke, which surprisingly isn't harped on until every last combination is beaten out of it. In fact, Rivers seems happier to make fun of immigrants (Segoynia excluded) than to go into much detail about the consequences of male child-bearing, as all the while the anti-immigrant humour is hammered into the ground. Some of it is amusing, as in the game of Scrabble, but a lot of it can leave you uncomfortable these days - they steal, they're needlessly superstitious, they have bizarre customs and they're all daft, according to this.

Fortunately, there are bright spots, or certainly memorable ones; Rosey Grier appears as a taxi driver who refuses to take Lionel to an abortion clinic, or he doesn't before offered twenty dollars. Bizarrely, Jimmie Walker and little Billy Barty in blackface appear as a ventriloquist act. The snide Paul Lynde is a "baby doctor" as it says on his office door ("Call maintenance, I have sperm all over my desk again"), who is greatly entertained by the thought of having a star patient, but like a lot of the turns, he's hardly in the film for more than two scenes. Even Rivers barely shows up for a short sequence in the hospital.

By the time Lionel is a celebrity, he is invited all over the world, which is the cue for more off-colour funny foreigner jesting, but the prime minister of India sees pregnant men as a dangerous addition to the population boom, and Lionel is forced into hiding. All the fuss resolves itself in a parody of the Nativity, ensuring that Rivers has cheerfully offended just about everybody by the end - you can't say she's not consistent in aiming for her targets. Not as awful as its reputation as a bad movie classic, Rabbit Test has enough funny bits for those with a strong sense of humour and who don't care about political correctness, because this film certainly doesn't. The seventies were a strange time judging by this. Music by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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