Blake Edwards cleans house -- Hollywood is an assembly of jaded whores, cinema itself is the veteran expiring unnoticed next to a beach house bacchanalia. The aftermath of a studio catastrophe finds the shellshocked producer (Richard Mulligan) in a suicidal daze, saved from death to wander about sybaritic Malibu and get struck by a bolt of inspiration: "Sex!!" The project bombed, itís up to old men to roll with the audienceís tastes, so his saccharine musical is tricked out into a softcore inferno ("We sold them schmaltz, they prefer sadomasochism"). His wife is the screenís perpetual virgin (a Julie Andrews role, and, sure enough...), to be sacrificed on the altar of Tinseltownís prurient Moloch in a purposeful degrading of the "Whistling in the Dark" 360į camera pan in Darling Lili (from Disney to Caligula is a matter of choreography). In a town of vultures and twats, honor means being honest about your meretriciousness -- the aging sensualist director (William Holden), the splenetic press agent (Robert Webber) and the soused Dr. Feelgood (Robert Preston), who understand compromise as a fact of life and art, are like musketeers next to the venal studio honchos and mag wags scampering around with the mediumís scalp in their hands. The graying movie troopers are given a dash of gallantry absent from the shrill TV stalwarts (Robert Vaughn, Loretta Swit, Larry Hagman), though, as befits Edwardsís post-Heavenís Gate scald, Holdenís director knows his place and passes the creative torch over to Mulliganís producer, who is snuffed for his trouble. The artistís extinction, eulogy and Viking send-off, in an analysis thatís dapper, coarse, cynical, sad, lecherous, hopeful, and full of appreciation for the shared humanity of fellow sinners. How else to fight the Eighties, Edwards posits, but sticking with friends and making art? With Marisa Berenson, Robert Loggia, Shelley Winters, Stuart Margolin, Craig Stevens, Jennifer Edwards, and Rosanna Arquette.
--- Fernando F. Croce