Thursday, October 28, 2010

Slither (1973)

So offbeat that I’m surprised Wes Anderson hasn’t bought the remake rights, this amiable comedy stars James Caan as an ex-con (ex-caan?) who inadvertently gathers a surrogate family of weirdos as he pursues a fortune in stolen loot. The eccentricity is front and center right from the first scene, in which Dick (Caan) visits his crooked pal Harry (Richard B. Schull) in a ratty old country house. As they chat, gunsels close in from all directions and riddle Harry with bullets, so a dying Harry secrets Dick into an underground bomb shelter and blows up the house, obliterating the gunsels in the process. Dick exits the rubble, dusts himself off, and shuffles away to his next adventure. He soon crosses paths with ditzy drifter Kittty (Sally Kellerman), who has a nasty habit of holding up roadside establishments at gunpoint. And eventually Dick partners with low-rent bandleader Barry (Peter Boyle), who claims to know the location of the stashed cash. So once the movie’s up to speed, Dick, Harry, and Kitty are roaming through trailer parks and other kitschy locations in Harry’s Winnebago, while mysterious villains in color-coordinated vans chase after them. It’s all very zippy and absurd, sort of like a novelistic character study with a crime element thrown in to keep things moving. Caan seems unsure how to play his character, but Boyle and Kellerman go full-out in every scene; Boyle’s a smooth-talking loser eager to latch onto something big, and Kellerman’s a motor-mouthed space case eager to latch onto anything. The imaginative screenplay by first-timer W.D. Richter (of Buckaroo Banzai fame) eventually runs out of gas, but it travels to quite a few interesting places before that happens, wringing affectionate chuckles from the spectacle of hapless characters trapped in pathetic situations; a playful scene set during a trailer-park bingo game is a standout in terms of sheer eccentric fun. (Available at

Slither: FUNKY

No comments: