Even Neil Simon fans (and they do exist, believe it or not) will probably be bummed out by this stunningly unfunny 1976 parody of detective films, with Truman Capote, Nancy Walker, Alec Guinness, Maggie Smith, Elsa Lanchester, Estelle Winwood, Peter Sellers, Peter Falk, Eileen Brennan, James Coco, and David Niven, none of whom has much to do. Simon is the Sisyphus of gag writers, endlessly repeating gags and situations that were barely funny the first time. Peter Falk nearly saves the picture with a funny Bogart impression, no mean feat in the midst of the Humphreymania that reigned at the time of the film’s release.
Crackpot professor Lionel Jeffries leads an 1899 expedition in an entertaining 1964 children’s fantasy based on an H.G. Wells novel. The idea of a Victorian outer space is charming, even if the British humor is overplayed. Animator Ray Harryhausen contributes a few memorable effects, including a giant stop-motion caterpillar. With Edward Judd, Martha Hyer, and an uncredited Peter Finch; former art director Nathan Juran (who designed the Welsh village in John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley) directed.
John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd star as two white boys who love nuns, blacks, and the blues. But for all of the dramatic focus on poverty, the subject of John Landis‘s mise-en-scene is money—making it, spending it, blowing it away. The humor is predicated on underplaying in overscaled situations, which is sporadically funny in a Keaton-esque way but soon sputters out through sheer, uninspired repetition. With Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, James Brown, Cab Calloway, and Aretha Franklin, who steals the show singing a song in a diner.
I probably laughed harder at this 1978 collection of college slapstick sketches than I ever have at a film I didn’t really like. Which is to say that while the low comedy is undeniably effective, the film leaves behind a bad taste of snobbery and petty meanness. In the world of the National Lampoon, humanity is divided into two groups: Us and the Assholes. And guess what—we win. John Landis directed; with John Belushi, Tim Matheson, John Vernon, Verna Bloom, Tom Hulce, Peter Riegert, Stephen Furst, Karen Allen, and Donald Sutherland. R, 109 min.