Thursday, June 23, 2016

Special Delivery (1976)

          Had it been executed with more clarity and sophistication, the crime picture Special Delivery could have become either a clever farce or a tense melodrama. As is, it’s a muddle containing a few elements that are pleasant to watch. The main story hook is pretty good—during his escape following a bank robbery, a crook dumps a bag of cash into a mailbox, then must wait until the evening’s last mail collection for the box to be opened so he can reclaim his cash. Unfortunately for the crook, several people become aware of his plan, meaning that he must battle his way through assorted schemers and villains. Unfortunately for the audience, Special Delivery gets mired in several uninteresting subplots, and even the main action—a romance involving the crook and a beautiful woman who saw him stash the loot—fizzles because the second-rate actors playing these characters lack both individual fire and shared chemistry.
          The picture is murky right from the get-go, because during the very long heist sequence that opens Special Delivery, it takes a few minutes to discern that Jack Murdock (Bo Svenson) is the lead character. Once Jack and his buddies stage their wild escape—it involves a grappling hook and a window-washing platform—director Paul Wendkos unwisely cuts to flashes of Jack’s combat service in Vietnam. Way to keep things light! Then, after the momentous dropping of the loot into the mailbox, the movie cuts to several minutes of action involving a junkie, Graff (Michael C. Gwynne), who saw the drop and imagines scoring a payday. Thanks to this sort of narrative meandering, leading lady Cybill Shepherd, playing the woman who saw the drop from her apartment window, doesn’t show up until half the movie is over.
          And so it goes from there. In one scene, Shepherd and Svenson share bland flirtatious dialogue. In another, Gwynne delivers a gritty and wired performance that belongs in a more serious movie. And by the time everything comes together, it’s as difficult to care about what’s happening as it is to determine whom we’re expected to follow. Will the real protagonist please stand up? Shepherd looks great, coasting through a vapid role as a city girl who wants more from life, but Svenson is serviceable at best, and the flick wastes supporting players including Gerrit Graham, Robert Ito, and Vic Tayback. That said, if you’ve been looking for a movie that includes future Real Housewives star Kim Richards as a kid accusing random men of being perverts—and also features future soap-opera icon Diedre Hall as a scantily clad masseuse—then this Special Delivery is for you.

Special Delivery: FUNKY

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