Not every bad film manages to fail on multiple levels, but The Late Liz bombs as an alcoholism melodrama, a story of Christian faith, and a late-career showcase for faded Oscar winner Anne Baxter. Based on a book by Gert Behanna, who in real life credited God with saving her from booze, The Late Liz has the ugly visual style of a cheap TV movie, the stiff dramaturgy of a public service announcement, and the over-the-top messaging of a Sunday-morning sermon. Worse, Baxter is genuinely terrible here, cooing much of her dialogue coquettishly and bulging her eyes for emphasis during heavy scenes. Watching Baxter strut into the foreground or dramatically turn away from the camera suggests nothing more than a laughable soap-opera performance. That’s a shame, because she’s effective whenever she stops trying so hard, and she looks quite lovely except in scenes when she’s meant to appear bedraggled. Had Baxter opted for sincerity instead of flamboyance, she might have made this sketchy project palatable. Anyway, Baxter plays Liz Hatch, an upper-crust Californian whose drinking torpedoes two marriages and sends her rushing toward self-destruction until one of her sons, Peter (William Katt), returns from Vietnam as a devout Christian determined to share the good word with his mother. Katt plays the material so straight that he seems like a robot, and the great Jack Albertson is wasted in a supporting role as a kindly priest. Therefore Steve Forrest, of all people, gives the picture’s most vibrant turn, playing Liz’s second husband. Incidentally, those who dig camp will find much to enjoy here, thanks not only to Baxter’s overheated performance but also to the florid dialogue (“You’re not only a drunk, you’re a nymphomaniac!”). What’s more, Tonight Show regular Foster Brooks shows up in one scene to do his patented friendly-drunk routine.
The Late Liz: LAME