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THE GODMOTHERS (1973).

Mickey Rooney is clearly the king of wrongheaded movie choices. From the acid heights of Otto Preminger's SKIDOO, through the surreal psycho-fest THE MANIPULATOR, to a diapered-baby billionaire in THE MILKY LIFE, Mick has proven he'll sign onto any gig where the check won't bounce. Unfortunately, this Mafia-comedy abomination is my definition of the Seventh Circle of Cinematic Hell. A G-rated, no-budget mobster-farce starring and written by Rooney (who also penned the songs!), and co-starring equally-down-on-their-luck cronies Jerry Lester (who hosted the first network late-night variety show, BROADWAY OPEN HOUSE, back in 1950) and a frighteningly obese Frank Fontaine (best known as THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW-sidekick Crazy Guggenheim). The end result is so painful to watch that only Rooney could've been responsible. Fontaine (mumbling like a braindead Brando) plays Don Palermo, who needs to find a husband for his portly daughter Rosa with the Mastrasso Brothers, Rocky (Rooney) and Ricky (Lester), two of the prime matrimonial candidates. Like it or not, Rocky wins her fat li'l hand, but he also has a half-baked plan to escape marriage via "the Polish Connection," which involves a smuggled cabbage crop that's worth its weight in gold. Rooney and Lester eventually wind up dressing in drag, with both of these butt-ugly broads getting propositioned by Palermo's top henchmen, The Hawk (Billy Barty) and Gino (CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU? star Joe E. Ross). Later, their gender-bending costumes get more pathetic when these two pasty-faced old farts slip into Japanese kimonos, complete with snaggley front-teeth. Oh, it gets even worse, folks -- wait until they pose as airline stewardesses! It concludes with the most boring high-speed boat chase in film history, as the script self-destructs. And what's with the title? It's their final, lamest attempt at a gag. Lensed in and around Fort Lauderdale, the viewer cringes through pasteboard sets, oversized guns, goofy sound effects, plus a cast that's drunk, senile or both. Honestly, I doubt they had enough cash for even a second take, and only Barty gets away (relatively) unscathed. In the production's strangest move, director William Grefe was hired (thanks to his previous comedy experience helming DEATH CURSE OF TARTU and THE NAKED ZOO?), but even he can't save this misguided, cut-rate debacle. Clocking in at a merciful 75 minutes, it plays like a crappy DEAN MARTIN SHOW skit that went terribly, terribly wrong, and made me long for the comparative subtlety of Jerry Lewis' HARDLY WORKING.

© 2004 by Steven Puchalski.