Foul Play

1978, Movie, PG, 116 mins


FOUL PLAY is a funny, successful, and very derivative crime-comedy that grossed about $30 million first time around. Higgins, who wrote and directed it, should have included Hitchcock's name in the credits, as the plot pivots on a twist from THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. Roberts, Roche, Lawrence, et al. want to end the exclusion of religious properties from taxation. To make their point they intend to murder the Pope, who is visiting San Francisco and will be attending a performance of "The Mikado" at the opera house. At the right musical moment, the whacky group plans to shoot him. Hawn, in her best performance to that time, picks up Solomon on the road. He posesses evidence of the cabal and is dying of a wound. Chase, a detective living on a houseboat in Sausalito, is assigned to investigate Solomon's death. He believes Hawn and, through a morass of twists and turns, manages to save the pontiff (played by San Francisco department store magnate Magnin in a nonspeaking role). Moore's portrayal of an orchestra leader and frequenter of massage parlors got him the lead in 10, which instantly catapulted him into stardom. (That role was originally written for Tim Conway, who turned it down.) Chase is at his best here, does not overplay, and establishes himself as an excellent light comedian. McCann is superb as the manager of a theater specializing in retrospectives (a little homage from Higgins?). One of the best second bananas around, he can be seen regularly in commercials (as Oliver Hardy in one), many of which have won national awards for excellence. A serious actor as well as comic, McCann demonstrates his breadth of talent in parts as disparate as the memorable mute in THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER and his hysterical title role in THE PROJECTIONIST. Little Barty also deserves praise for his playing of a religious bookseller. The music provides the perfect light and bubbly background. (The theme became a hit for Barry Manilow and earned the film an Oscar nomination for Best Song.) Composer Fox has worked for producers Miller and Milkis with great success in the past--writing TV-series themes for "Happy Days" and "Laverne And Shirley," and themes for such other shows as "Love American Style" and "Wonder Woman." leave a comment

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