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The Happening (1967).

January 9, 2009

The Scoop:
Four of the cleanest beatniks/hippies you’ll ever see (Michael Parks, Robert Walker Jr., George Maharis and Faye Dunaway) accidentally get talked into kidnapping Miami mobster Roc Delmonico (Anthony Quinn) then have to figure out what to do with him. When he finds out that no one wants to pay his ransom — not his wife (Martha Hyer), not his business partner (Milton Berle and his bad mustache), not his mob boss (Oscar Homolka) — Delmonico decides to take matters into his own hands.

The film starts out promisingly enough as the sort of campy unintentional comedy that was so prevelant at the time as the major studios tried (but failed) to understand and cater to the burgeoning counterculture movement. But it quickly devolves from there into a typically “wacky” (and unfunny) mainstream ’60s comedy.

That’s not to say there aren’t a few bright spots after that first half hour. Quinn gives his all for the trite material like the old pro he is, and there are a few genuinely funny gags here and there.

And, of course, there’s Dunaway at her most enchanting. “The Happening” was just her second film (following her debut in Otto Preminger’s “Hurry Sundown” by just a month), and she would follow it up with her twin breakout roles in “Bonnie and Clyde” and “The Thomas Crown Affair.”

But none of this is enough to save what is ultimately a snoozefest that works neither as a campy bad movie nor an unironic good movie. The film just falls flat in between, which might be the worst fate of all.

Best Line:
“Call the cops? That’s socialism! Can’t anyone do anything for themselves anymore?”

Side Note:
Composer Frank De Vol, who wrote both the score and the swinging Supremes songs on the soundtrack, had a second career as a television character actor, guest starring in a wide range of shows, such as “My Favorite Martian,” “Get Smart,” “Bonanza,” “The Jeffersons” and “Silver Spoons.”

Companion Viewing:
“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (1963).


Take a Look:
The trailer:

The whole film in installments on the YouTube plan, beginning here:

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