Friday, October 10, 2014

Michael Caine Week: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Welcome back for another helping of Michael Caine Week. Well with the fair amounts of laughter we got from Alfie, why keep the ball rolling at Caine's uncanny ability at comedy. Anyone can emote, shriek and scream at drama but conquering comedy is an entirely different matter. To quote Edmond Gwenn: Dying is easy. Comedy is difficult. Now as many of you, I enjoy a good con movie. The likes of The Lady Eve,The Sting, Ocean's Eleven, Diggstown and The Grifters. It is popular in books, TV and film for more decades that we are willing to admit. The end goal is never the most important issue but how you set the game. A tale of two con men working different angles with different styles and approaches are operating in the same town. Both consider the other a poacher and try to figure how to correct this. This is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

I shant fetch you a martini, as I am not Alfred!

Lawrence Jamieson: Do you ever have a single spoiler that originates from above the waist?

Freddy Benson: No!

Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine of Zulu, Get Carter, The Ipcress File, Alfie, The Wrong Box and Gambit) comes off as a suave, sophisticate who has set his den of thieves and liars in the French Riviera. With the aid of his manservant Arthur (Ian McDiarmid of The Awakening, Richard's Things, Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, Dragonslayer and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi) and his bought police official Inspector Andre (Anton Rodgers of The Old Curiousity Shop, Richard the Lionheart, Carry on Jack, Fresh Fields and May to Remember) the prey is watched and the fleecing can begin. The con of choice is seducing wealthy women and taking their money through misdirection and sleight of hand.

Hmm, Lord Poseidon look different than I imagined.

Jamieson has feathered his nest rather well but is concerned when he hears of a con artist only known as "The Jackal" who operates in the same fashion. Hustler Freddy Benson (Steve Martin of SNL, The Jerk, The Man with Two Brains, The Amigos, Parenthood and Bowfinger) meets Lawerence on the train and brags about his "conquests" to him when he catches Freddy lifting some fun money off an unsuspecting girl. Amused by Freddy but not overtly concerned he preps for his next pigeon only to find out she has already been taken by Freddy. With prison over his head, Freddy vows to take the next plane out of the Riveria when he encounters one of Lawerence's former marks. Figuring out the scam he visits Lawerence and informs him he wants in.

Lawerence in a desperate attempt to give Freddy a bit of class and style realizes this is not his cup of tea and has him portray Ruprecht, the awkward and mentally retarded little brother to terrify the marks away after the money has cleared. Not receiving any payment for his part, Freddy decides he is out on his own again, a lone wolf among the sheep. A showdown between both men is on the rise unless they can come to some sort of agreement or pact. Who will be the better man? Is the Jackal moving in on their turf?

A few words on the film now. This brilliant film was directed by none other than Frank Oz, puppeteer of Jim Henson's The Muppets, the voice of Yoda the Jedi Master and the utter disdained guard in The Blues Brothers. Now more than a few folks have made the comment that this is a remake of the famous film Bedtime Story starring David Niven and Marlon Brando and yes I guess I cannot argue with it given it is shot in the same town of Beaulieu-sur-Mer and all the characters have precisely the same names and cons and while I would like to think of this film as more of a homage to the original, it would be hypocritical of me. 

 Nevertheless, this is a charming film, amazing musical score and the actors are on top of their game. Incidentally, Bedtime Story is an exquisite con movie as well. Watch both and make your own conclusions I say.   

Well, the Riveria's homage to Ann Margret is captivating.