Saturday, October 14, 2017

1980 Week: The Man With Bogart’s Face

          Nostalgia for the golden era of film noir infused a number of movies in the ’70s and ’80s, from Roman Polanski’s provocative Chinatown (1974) to Carl Reiner’s silly Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) and beyond. Yet perhaps the strangest tip of the cinematic fedora was The Man With Bogart’s Face, a lighthearted mystery flick starring Humphrey Bogart lookalike Robert Saachi. Ostensibly a comedy, the picture has an innately surreal quality not only because of Saachi’s eerie resemblance but also because of the bizarre way that writer/producer Andrew J. Fenaday addresses the resemblance within the storyline. The flick begins with Sam Marlowe (Saachi) in a doctor’s office, having bandages removed from his head. The idea is that Sam, or whatever his real name might be, is so nuts for Bogie that he had his features surgically altered. Sam also starts a private-eye business, drives around in a car from the 1940s, and wears a trenchcoat reminiscent of Bogart’s costume from the final scene of Casablanca (1942). People often ask what’s wrong with his face whenever Sam mimics Bogart’s signature tic of flexing his lips. And so on. But because Fenaday never provides any backstory for the leading character, The Man With Bogart’s Face dodges the big question of whether the title character is a raving lunatic.
          Vexing mysteries about the leading character aren’t the only issues plaguing this film, which is overlong but otherwise pleasant to watch thanks to an eventful storyline and the presence of familiar supporting actors. The biggest problem is the limp nature of the picture’s comedy. Sight gags and verbal jokes fall flat on a regular basis. That said, its possible to consume The Man With Bogart’s Face as a goofy mystery and overlook the weak attempts at hilarity. As one might expect from a genre homage, the plot is formulaic—several clients hire Sam for cases that turn out to be interconnected, and everyone’s after a priceless treasure. Sam’s pithy voiceover connects scenes of betrayal, seduction, suspense, and violence, all of which are played for lukewarm laughs. Providing the movie’s eye-candy quotient are Sybil Danning, Olivia Hussey, Michelle Phillips, and Misty Rowe. Lending various shades of villainy are Victor Buono, Herbert Lom, Franco Nero, George Raft, and Jay Robinson. As for Saachi, his mimicry is smooth enough to complete the weird illusion created by his dopplegänger appearance.

The Man With Bogart’s Face: FUNKY

1 comment:

Unknown said...


Andrew J. Fenady (rhymes with Kennedy, sort of) wrote this originally as a novel, intending to make a movie as soon as it became a best seller (it didn't, but that's another story ...).

Fenady, who'd had a long career in TV Westerns (the best known were The Rebel and Branded), had long-range plans: he published a second novel, "The Return Of Sam Marlow", with the full intent of filming that too, thus launching a movie series a la James Bond, for himself and Bob Sacchi (that didn't happen either, and that's another "another story" ...).

These days, Andy Fenady is writing mystery and Western novels, with one eye on possible film versions ... and that's yet another story ...