Tag Archives: Alexandra Paul

Dragnet (1987, Tom Mankiewicz)

Dragnet was a hit. I’m always shocked when good comedies are hits. Good comedies haven’t been hits since I’ve been able to legally buy cigarettes.

There are a couple things, right off, I don’t want to forget about. First is Tom Hanks. He’s such a good comedic actor, what he’s done since–the serious man bit–is nothing compared to what he does here in Dragnet. Tom Hanks, to reference another 1987 comedy, is at his best when wearing women’s lingerie.

The other thing is the script (which had three screenwriters, so it’s hard to compliment the right person)–but the script is brilliant. Dragnet‘s structure is impressed and the pacing is fantastic, but the film has these two characters–Dan Aykroyd and Alexandra Paul–who the audience is supposed to laugh at in almost every scene… but the audience also needs to root for them (and their romance–I mean, Ira Newborn’s got a great piece of music as a love theme–but rooting for the rubes’ romance should be a tall order but isn’t here).

Paul has a harder acting job, since Aykroyd is, after all, the hero.

The film’s nearly perfectly cast… Christopher Plummer is great, Dabney Coleman too. Only Jack O’Halloran is problematic. He looks perfect in the part, but once he starts “acting,” it fizzles.

Mankiewicz is a fine director. He’s got a good sense of composition mixed with a nice, straightforward style. The editing is quite good as well.

It’s just an excellent comedy.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Tom Mankiewicz; screenplay by Dan Aykroyd, Alan Zweibel and Mankiewicz, based on the radio and television series created by Jack Webb; director of photography, Matthew F. Leonetti; edited by Richard Halsey and William D. Gordean; music by Ira Newborn; production designer, Robert F. Boyle; produced by David Permut and Robert K. Weiss; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Dan Aykroyd (Sgt. Joe Friday), Tom Hanks (Pep Streebeck), Christopher Plummer (Reverend Jonathan Whirley), Harry Morgan (Captain Bill Gannon), Alexandra Paul (Connie Swail), Jack O’Halloran (Emil Muzz), Elizabeth Ashley (Jane Kirkpatrick), Dabney Coleman (Jerry Caesar), Kathleen Freeman (Enid Borden), Bruce Gray (Mayor Parvin) and Lenka Peterson (Granny Mundy).


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8 Million Ways to Die (1986, Hal Ashby)

About halfway through 8 Million Ways to Die, I realized–thanks to a boom mike–my twenty year-old laserdisc was open matte, not pan and scan. The widescreen zoomed suddenly made the shots tighter and crisper, regaining Ashby’s usually calmness. I suppose I should have stopped and went back to the beginning to see if it made any difference, but I doubt it. The first forty minutes of 8 Million Ways to Die suffer multiple plagues–summary storytelling, sometimes good but Jeff Bridges’s wife in the movie doesn’t even have a line when she’s on screen it’s all so fast; Alexandra Paul, who’s supposed to be playing a “wuss,” so maybe her crappy performance is intentional; and Rosanna Arquette. At the halfway point, moments after I saw that boom mike (it actually was a mike for Arquette), she changes. Goes from being bad to being good (sometimes great) in the rest of the film.

8 Million Ways to Die is a Chandler-esq “mystery” where the detective forces his way through the case instead of actually detecting anything. It’s solved because the bad guy comes shooting for the detective. But once the film gets going, the problems with the story fall away. Throughout, Jeff Bridges is absolutely amazing. It’s probably his best performance. Watching it, I wanted to rewind and watch him think about what to say next again. Amazing performance. And once Arquette takes off, Bridges is in good company. Supporting suspect slash good guy Randy Brooks is good and has some nice moments, but Andy Garcia’s great as the bad guy. It’s a wild, eccentric performance and Garcia doesn’t do these things anymore. He’s crazy; he’s great.

So Bridges and some Ashby’s real nice stuff in here–the studio the movie away from him but whoever cut it did a nice job fitting the music and sound (some shoddy cuts here and there though, lack of coverage and such)–but the really amazing thing about 8 Million Ways to Die is this five minute scene between Arquette and Bridges when they talk. They have coffee and wash dishes but they mostly talk and very naturalistic and it’s unlike most scenes in every other movie ever made. To say there aren’t scenes like it enough doesn’t go far enough, because seeing it suggests maybe all scenes should be like it. It’s beautiful.

I actually found 8 Million Ways to Die in a box of other unreleased-on-DVD laserdiscs I didn’t know I still had. It’s a shame it’s not out, but I can’t control Lionsgate or whatever likely lousy company owns the rights. But I did lose track of this film somewhere in the last eight or nine years and I really shouldn’t have.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Hal Ashby; screenplay by Oliver Stone and David Lee Henry, from a novel by Lawrence Block; director of photography, Stephen H. Burum; edited by Robert Lawrence and Stuart H. Pappé; music by James Newton Howard; production designer, Michael D. Haller; produced by Stephen J. Roth; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Jeff Bridges (Matthew Scudder), Rosanna Arquette (Sarah), Alexandra Paul (Sunny), Randy Brooks (Chance), Andy Garcia (Angel Maldonado), Lisa Sloan (Linda Scudder), Christa Denton (Laurie Scudder), Vance Valencia (Quintero), Vyto Ruginis (Joe Durkin) and Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister (Nose Guard).


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