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ANOTHER NICE MESS (1972).

Released in the months before Richard Nixon's '72 Presidential re-election, this political satire is more notable for its participants than any legitimate entertainment value. Produced by Tom Smothers and Jonathan Haze (star of the original LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS!), it portrays Nixon and running mate Spiro Agnew as a bumbling, modern-day Laurel & Hardy, and while this one-joke premise might've worked as a variety show skit, 66 minutes of it is downright painful, with 29-year-old writer-director Bob Einstein (1969 Emmy winner for THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR and older brother of Albert Brooks) quickly running this offbeat concept into the ground (not a big surprise, since the guy later recycled "Stuntman Super Dave Osborne" for three decades). Considering its targets -- two of that era's slimiest politicians, who both left office in disgrace -- and Smothers' liberal bent, the humor is also surprisingly toothless... Made up to look vaguely like our then-sitting Prez and V.P., impressionist Rich Little and character actor Herb Voland (BEWITCHED, M*A*S*H) star as "Richie" and "Spiro." Spiro is a moron who confuses a "peace sign" with "the middle finger," Richie is perpetually annoyed, plus they're inseparable -- the inauguration, golfing, a dinner party for a visiting dignitary, they even seem to live together! Meanwhile, Spiro embarrasses Richie by doing things like confusing a "peace sign" with "the middle finger," or telling a dirty joke to Congress. When the pair stop their limo in order to mingle with everyday folks, a bushy-haired hippie (Steve Martin, making his first screen appearance!) antagonizes a hardhat and Richie gets conked by a brick. Oops! Einstein also intercuts snippets of the real Laurel & Hardy and copies their classic mannerisms and routines (including a White House soft shoe, a la WAY OUT WEST), but while that's amusing once or twice, it becomes intolerable at the half-dozen point. Then there's a subplot involving Bruce Kirby as an ex-Nazi, Commie-spy named Adolf (yep, it's a white-haired, aged Hitler!) conspiring with Richie's sexy new secretary (Diahn Williams) to get these two boneheads high on marijuana-cookies, with Adolf planting a car bomb while the stoned duo hallucinate Ku Klux Klan members playing handball on WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS. Also look for Hal Smith (town drunk Otis from THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW) as the Chief Justice, Michael Elias (co-writer of THE JERK) plays Richie's chauffeur, Stanley Adams (Cyrano Jones from STAR TREK's "The Trouble with Tribbles") is the President of Persia, and Secret Service agents (disguised as potted plants) include wrestling champ Tiger Joe Marsh, hot-rod-builder/actor Norman "Woo Woo" Grabowski and Bob Einstein as "the toughest Jew in the world." The music and original tunes are provided by Robert Emenegger, who earlier scored LANCELOT LINK, SECRET CHIMP. Even when the film appears to be making a statement (e.g. incorporating actual footage of anti-Vietnam protests outside the White House), it only results in a hoary sight gag (Richie confronts the demonstrators off-camera and returns with his suit comically shredded). Still, the real Nixon and his cronies were so incensed by the mere idea of this spoof that cops conducted a drug raid on Smothers' San Francisco home while he was in Los Angeles working on post-production. Ridiculing Nixon and Agnew as clueless buffoons is an idea worthy of support, but ANOTHER NICE MESS is both excruciatingly humorless and, despite having cinematographer John A. Alonzo (SCARFACE, CHINATOWN) onboard, utterly amateurish. Hell, even Tom Smothers wound up calling it "a terrible film."

© 2014 by Steven Puchalski.