Badfinger unleashes a loud, nasty raver with shouted vocals and pumping piano. From the “Magic Christian Music” album (and from the Peter Sellers-starring film), this virtually unknown song (at least these days) should be in heavy rotation on classic rock radio.
One of the funniest scenes in movie history. Peter Sellers plays an American president giving a courtesy phone call to the Soviet premier letting them know that nuclear weapons are heading their way. As Sellers’ president Merkin Muffley advises: “I’m sorry, too, Dmitri… I’m very sorry… All right, you’re sorrier than I am, but I am as sorry as well… I am as sorry as you are, Dmitri! Don’t say that you’re more sorry than I am, because I’m capable of being just as sorry as you are… So we’re both sorry, all right?… All right.” The fact that Rex Harrison won on Oscar over Sellers that year is a major tragedy.
What can I say? I’m in a very Hal Ashby mood tonight. This is director Hal Ashby’s last great film, a wonderful adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s 1970 novella about a simpleton who is mistaken for a genius and the next great hope of the American political system. Peter Sellers in his last terrific performance (a performance for which he should have won the Oscar … seriously, Dustin Hoffman for “Kramer vs. Kramer”?) plays the idiot savant Chance the Gardner, mistaken for Chauncey Gardiner, genius intellectual. This almost made my Top 10 films of all time, but I think I hesitated, because in a weird way, I identify with Chance. I don’t think I’m particularly smart, but somehow, I not only got into a top university (without the credentials of a connected family), but got into a fully-funded Master’s program as well, and a Doctoral program. The payback? My current job, which is decent, but let’s just say I’m not exactly setting the world on fire. There’s no such thing as a free lunch and your limitations will catch up with you, no matter what fancy words you drizzle on top of your mediocrity. Fortunately, you don’t quite get to see this in “Being There,” so it remains, prime intellectual entertainment you don’t have to be smart to enjoy. This is everything “Forrest Gump” wanted to be, but wasn’t. And while I actually like “Forrest Gump,” “Being There” smokes it on every level.
I missed this one a couple of days ago, but I just wanted to pay tribute to one of my all-time favorite character actors. I remember first seeing Lom when I was 5 years old in “The Return of the Pink Panther,” playing Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau’s character’s long-suffering boss Chief Inspector Dreyfus. He was quite good in any number of movies he appeared in, but in addition to Dreyfus, my favorites are the original “Ladykillers” from 1955, his KGB spy in “Hopscotch” (1980) and as the kindly neurologist in David Cronenberg’s “The Dead Zone” (1983).
Here is one of my favorite Lom / Dreyfus scenes, from the opening of 1976’s “The Pink Panther Strikes Again.” Dreyfus is leaving a mental hospital after being driven mad by being Clouseau’s boss, but goes off the deep end again after running into Clouseau. This is a bit slapsticky (director Blake Edwards’s stock in trade), but it still brings a smile to my face.