Tuesday, August 30, 2016

No Way To Treat A Lady

Boy oh boy, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rod Steiger (THE PAWNBROKER), the ultimate ham, paid Paramount to play the master-of-disguise serial killer in this adaptation of William Goldman’s novel. Eyes a-buggin’, lips a-smackin’, accents a-waverin’, ol’ Rod propels NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY with a wild tour de force that straddles the line between genius and insanity.

Filmed in New York City by director Jack Smight (HARPER) and director of photography Jack Priestley (who brilliantly lensed the Big Apple for the NAKED CITY television series), the adaptation by John Gay (SEPARATE TABLES) differs wildly from Goldman’s vision, but remains a great deal of fun. Most of the fun, however, drips from the performances by Steiger and George Segal (THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT) as two mother-dominated figures on opposite sides of the coin.

Segal is dead right as Morris Brummel, a nebbishy cop investigating a series of murders in which woman are strangled and left with lipstick on their foreheads. The killer, revealed as Steiger’s Christopher Gill, celebrates murder by calling Brummel on the telephone, which upsets the detective’s mother (Overbearing Jewish Mother Supreme Eileen Heckart) and interferes with his budding relationship with lovely Lee Remick (TELEFON) as the beguiling witness Kate Palmer.

As much a dark comedy as crime meller, NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY gets good mileage from its cast, including supporting players victim (Martine Bartlett, Doris Roberts) and non-victim (David Doyle, Val Bisoglio, Michael Dunn as a midget who confesses to the murders). Director Smight, whose verve for the theatrical pales next to that of Steiger, Segal, and Gay, doesn’t totally connect with the material. In particular, a scene in which both Steiger and his victim (Kim August) are, unbeknownst to each other, in drag should play with more wit than it does. There’s unintentional humor in the obvious rug the actor Steiger wears when his character is not in disguise, even though his character seems like the kind of guy who would wear a bad toupee.

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