Thursday, June 2, 2016

Hammersmith Is Out (1972)

A misguided black comedy that bounces between crude farce and silly satire, Hammersmith Is Out loosely retells the legend of Faust, which concerns a man who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for success. As ineptly written by Stanford Whitmore and clumsily directed by Peter Ustinov, Hammersmith Is Out concerns an ignorant slob named Billy Breedlove (Beau Bridges), who works as an orderly in a mental hospital. Billy agrees to free a psychotic patient named Hammersmith (Richard Burton), who in turn agrees to kill people on Billy’s behalf, thereby imbuing Billy with the victims’ money and power. Along for the ride is greasy-spoon waitress Jimmie Jean Jackson (Elizabeth Taylor), whom Billy enjoys screwing until her vapidity becomes annoying. The narrative of Hammersmith Is Out moves at awkward rhythms, sometimes lingering on scenes as if they’re pieces of theater, and sometimes rushing through important ones by way of perfunctory voiceover. The tone of the picture is inconsistent, complementing sly verbal jokes with a crass gag about flatulence. Bridges gives an exaggerated turn playing an irredeemable scumbag, and Burton dubiously opts for icy restraint, which makes him seem bored. Taylor is awful—all cartoonish artifice—though in her defense, she’s grossly miscast as a salt-of-the-earth type. Given these wholly unsympathetic characters, it’s a drag to watch Hammersmith Is Out, because the flick is a would-be laugh riot about killing and maiming people for no reason other than greed. Furthermore, it’s hard to cut the movie slack as a spoof of 1972-era society, seeing as how Ustinov’s idea of a witty joke is showing an all-female rock band called “The Tits” performing topless. By the time the movie stops dead so La Liz can deliver an interminable monologue, gifting her character with previously unknown soulfulness, Hammersmith Is Out has degraded into pointless sludge.

Hammersmith Is Out: LAME

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