Saturday, May 28, 2011

#295. S.O.B. (1981)

Directed By: Blake Edwards

Starring: Julie Andrews, William Holden, Richard Mulligan

Tag line: "Once upon a time in Hollywood..."

Trivia:  This was William Holden's last movie

S.O.B. is the cinematic equivalent of a scathing piece of hate mail, addressed by director Blake Edwards to every actor, producer, publicist and agent working in the motion picture industry. With its hilariously damning representation of the Hollywood system, S.O.B. leads one to the conclusion that, while Tinseltown may, indeed, be rotten to its core, it hasn’t lost its sense of humor. 

Producer Felix Farmer (Robert Mulligan) suffers a nervous breakdown when his latest film, an overpriced family movie titled Night Wind, bombs at the box office. 

When his numerous attempts at suicide fail, Felix does the next best thing: he buys Night Wind back from the studio, then sets out to turn his kiddie-friendly failure into a pornographic blockbuster! 

For his glorious plan to succeed, however, Felix must convince his estranged wife, squeaky-clean family film icon Sally Miles (Julie Andrews), to appear in a nude scene. Ignoring the advice of good friend Tim Culley (William Holden) and family doctor Irving Finegarten (Robert Preston), Felix goes ahead with his crazy plan, and in the process generates a media buzz unlike any Hollywood has seen before! 

The potshots that director Edwards takes at the so-called “professionals” populating the Hollywood system hit their mark often, and with deadly accuracy. David Blackman (Robert Vaughn), the president of Capital pictures, is a bottom-line executive who expects every film to not only turn a profit, but come in under a certain running time (if he feels a movie is too long, Blackman, who fancies himself a skilled editor, will personally cut it to shreds). 

Along with the executives, S.O.B. also takes a few pokes at the agents, who - if Edwards is to be believed - amount to little more than blood-sucking parasites. When Sally tearfully announces her intentions to divorce Felix, her long-time agent Eva (Shelley Winters) and publicist Ben (Robert Webber) abstain from offering any personal condolences, worrying instead about the effect a broken marriage will have on their client's “image”. 

As a parallel to its often cold-hearted approach to the business end of the industry, S.O.B. reveals, in no uncertain terms, that Hollywood is morally bankrupt, a place where sex and debauchery are used to seal million-dollar contracts. 

Amidst exposing all the treachery and tangled webs of deceit, S.O.B. also finds time to offer up a barrage of uproarious jokes and brilliant sight gags. Webber and Preston are especially funny in their respective roles, and a late scene, where they (along with Holden's Culley) get plastered is one the the film's funniest. 

It’s been rumored that Blake Edwards made S.O.B. in response to the horrible experience he had directing 1970's Darling Lili, a movie that went way over budget, then bombed at the box-office. Perhaps S.O.B. was a form of therapy, a way for the longtime filmmaker to release some of his pent-up frustrations. 

If you listen closely, you might even hear the sound of Edwards’ teeth gnashing in the background. 

That is, if you can hear it over the laughter.


Anthony Lee Collins said...

I was raised on this movie. My father loved it. It's a great cast, but my favorite is Robert Preston. He gets most of the best lines, and his delivery is faultless. "A shyster is a disreputable lawyer. I'M a QUACK!"
"Is Batman a transvestite? Who knows?"

DVD Infatuation said...

Anthony: YES! Robert Preston is hilarious in this film. He definitely has the best lines. I love the QUACK line you refer to, and the give-and-take with Robert Webber later in the film is unforgettable ("In the course of this evening, you have demonstrated most of your excremental bodily functions").

Just excellent!

Unknown said...

A lot of my best friends are nervous.

DVD Infatuation said...

@SoulDogg: Yet another GREAT Robert Preston line!

Thanks for stopping by!

James Robert Smith said...

A generally excellent film with one of the most cynical scripts of all time. Held together by the power of Richard Mulligan's performance. I thought the weakest link in the chain was Julie Andrews' work on the movie. Hard to believe, but she was unconvincing as, basically, herself.