Friday, March 22, 2024

Lapin 360 (1972)

Watching a movie as muddled as Lapin 360, one can only marvel that anyone ever thought the piece would hold together. After all, it’s not as if Lapin 360 is some no-budget experiment by counterculture outsiders—this was rendered by experienced Hollywood professionals including a director with legit TV credits and a supporting actor with an Oscar on her mantlepiece. Here’s the head-scratcher of a story. Young rocket scientist Bernard Lapin (Terry Kiser) works for a military contractor. Returning home after a business trip, he discovers that attractive stranger Delia (Peggy Walton-Walker) broke into and stayed at his place while he was away. They become romantically involved. Bernard soon learns that Delia and a group of nefarious men are plotting some sort of illegal activity. Before the nature of that scheme is revealed, viewers learn that Bernard is the key man for a nuclear-missile project at work and that recurring migraines are driving him mad. Neither of those subplots goes anywhere. As for the mysterious scheme, the gist is that Delia carried a baby for a rich benefactor, and now she’s enlisted thugs to kidnap the baby—the thugs expect to collect ransom, but Delia wants to keep the kid. What does Bernard have to do with any of this? You guessed it—nothing! Aside from providing assistance during the climax, Bernard doesn’t matter to Delia’s narrative, and Bernard’s narrative is so underdeveloped that his positioning as the main protagonist feels arbitrary. Sure, the idea of Delia using a dude to get her baby could have made for an interesting-ish noir, but as executed, Lapin 360 is confounding and frustrating—or at least it would be if it elicited strong enough reactions for viewers to feel confounded or frustrated. Kiser, later to achieve notoriety playing a corpse in Weekend at Bernie’s (1989), gives an overly earnest performance while Walton-Walker bangs against the limitations of her skill set. As for the aforementioned Oscar winner, she’s Anne Baxter of All About Eve (1950) fame, and, wow, is she terrible in her scant screen time—by comparison, Norma Desmond seemed less desperate for attention. Lastly, details are murky on whether Lapin 360 played theatrically in the ‘70s, though the film’s final resting place (as of this writing) was a VHS release with the new title Always the Innocent.

Lapin 360: LAME

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