In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_walk_among_the_tombstones

A Walk Among the Tombstones

Fans of the hardboiled detective, rejoice. Screenwriter-director Scott Frank and actor Liam Neeson, adapting the splendid work of crime novelist Lawrence Block, have brought a…

Thumb_zero_theorem_ver4

The Zero Theorem

Terry Gilliam's first science fiction film since "12 Monkeys" is an inventively designed but oddly inert satire on technology, God and the future of humankind.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

A Lovely Way to Die

  |  

"A Lovely Way to Die" is a workmanlike version of a very old plot. See if you recognize it: Young wife is accused of murdering rich old husband, hires wisecracking lawyer, who hires tough cop as bodyguard.

Plug in Kirk Douglas as the cop, Eli Wallach as the lawyer and Sylvia Koscina as the widow, and you've got 90 minutes for next year's late show.

The structure of such movies is predictable. You alternate three kinds of scenes until the movie is over.

Scene A involves cynical fast talk between the lawyer and the cop. Scene B involves a flirtation between the cop and the girl. Scene C involves the hero involved in violence, eventually leading to the rescue of the heroine and a final triumphant embrace.

This can be entertaining if it's done by pros. "A Lovely Way to Die" is acted by pros, but directed and written by amateurs.

The credits don't even list a writer, but someone must have been responsible for a screenplay with a hole in it large enough to slip Sidney Greenstreet through sideways. Toward the end of the movie, a guy gets bumped off with Douglas' gun and Wallach tells Douglas over the telephone: "The police want you for murder."

Douglas has to prove himself innocent, right? And he has to do it before the cops catch him, right? So what's the next scene? Douglas in police headquarters, checking out the file on a prime suspect. No explanation is offered; he's just there, that's all. Maybe a big wind blew up one day and carried off the scene explaining how Douglas was able to walk into headquarters with immunity.

Movies like this work best if you don't know who did it until the hero finds out. No such luck this time.

While Douglas is batting his brains out and Wallach is making inspired courtroom speeches, director David Lowell Rich is constantly flashing back to a meat freezer in a mysterious manor. The missing bodies are there, frosty toes and all, and we even hear the evil plotters mapping their dastardly schemes.

Still, the movie has a thing or two to recommend it. Eli Wallach is charming as a quick-talking criminal lawyer named Tennessee, and the script gives him some good lines. Kirk Douglas, who has run into some bad movies lately, does a better job than this one deserves.

And director Rich must be responsible for a shot that many people thought had been retired to the Old Clichés' Home years ago: While the lovers embrace, the camera coyly pans to a window. And -- yes -- the curtains are waving in the breeze!

Popular Blog Posts

The Unloved, Part Ten: "The Village"

Part ten in Scout Tafoya's The Unloved series tackles "The Village."

There's Something About "Blade Runner"

A new look at the role of hero and villain in Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner."

Now, "Voyager": in praise of the Trekkiest "Trek" of all

As we mourn Abrams’ macho Star Trek obliteration, it’s a good time to revisit that most Star Trek-ian of accomplishme...

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus