Tag Archives: Dom DeLuise

The Set of 400: #273 – My Favorite Cabbie Bias

Today! Because I’m using rented bullets for my gun. We’ve all got problems –

The Cheap Detective (1978)

Directed by Robert Moore

Starring Peter Falk, Madeline Kahn, John Houseman, Stockard Channing, James Coco (x2), Eileen Brennan, Dom DeLuise (x3), Louise Fletcher, Marsha Mason, Abe Vigoda, Vic Tayback, David Ogden Stiers, Scatman Crothers (x2), Nicol Williamson, Paul Williams, Phil Silvers, Fernando Lamas, Sid Caesar, Ann-Margret, James Cromwell, Jonathan Banks (x2)

A spiritual sequel to the zany Neil Simon comedy Murder By Death, The Cheap Detective is a more direct parody than its predecessor, taking Peter Falk’s twisted Bogart impression and slamming Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and The Big Sleep together into one silly 1940’s San Francisco mystery, replete with Nazis, secret identities, Romanians, stolen treasure, and an acronymed pseudo-villain named Vladimir Tserijemiwtz, which works out to Ezra C.V. Mildew Dezire Jr.!

Many members of the large cast appeared in Murder By Death as well, including Coco, Brennan, and Cromwell, but Falk’s is the only character transplanted over more or less intact, even with a different name (Lou Peckinpaugh here, Sam Diamond in Murder). These movies are in the rare group of Neil Simon screenplays that weren’t adapted from his stage plays, which includes The Out-of-Towners, The Goodbye Girl, and Seems Like Old Times. They do, however, have that indefinable Neil Simon-ness about their jokes, which mostly land, even if they can verge into mild racism here and there. Ah, the 1970s!

And some vintage Sid Caesar shtick!

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The Set of 400: #282 – My Favorite Grapevine

Today! Because you have violated my farging rights –

Johnny Dangerously (1984)

Directed by Amy Heckerling

Starring Michael Keaton (x2), Marilu Henner, Joe Piscopo, Danny DeVito (x3), Maureen Stapleton, Griffin Dunne, Peter Boyle (x2), Ron Carey, Ray Walston (x2), Dick Butkis, Dom DeLuise (x2), Richard Dimitri, Glynnis O’Connor, Alan Hale Jr., Carl Gottlieb (x2), Bob Eubanks, Jack Nance, Chuck Hicks, James Coco, Joe Flaherty (x3), Vincent Schiavelli (x2)

This zany gangster movie parody from the mid-’80s was another heavy rotation film in my house growing up, again for reasons I simply can’t explain. Before I knew him as Beetlejuice or Batman, Michael Keaton was Johnny Kelly, brother of D.A. Tommy Kelly, who morphs into good-natured mob figure Johnny Dangerously, the man whose last name is an adverb. And while the movie may not totally hold up as the years wear on, it still has a ton of great one-liners, and a load of terrifically funny performances, no matter your opinion of Joe Piscopo.

From equally good-natured mob boss Jocko Dundee (Peter Boyle) to psychotic mob hitman Danny Vermin (Piscopo!) to The Pope (Dom DeLuise), yes, the movie is a bit all over the place. Essentially a Mel Brooks style parody of the ’30s mobster/cop brothers film Manhattan Melodrama, Dangerously throws a ton of gags at you, with varying success, but with this many pro comedians on hand, more land than they probably have any business of doing. And yet, amidst all the Marilu Henners (as the lounge singer moll Lil) and Maureen Stapletons (as the Kelly brothers long suffering Ma), the movie is probably best remembered (if it’s remembered?) for the extreme Italian gangster stereotype character of Roman Moronie (played by Richard Dimitri), who hilariously mangles English curse words into “you fargin’ icehole” and “som-a-nom-batches,” and later gets deported to Sweden, despite not being from there.

“Say your prayers, icehole”

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The Set of 400: #395 – My Favorite Medieval Malcolm X

Today! Because we didn’t land on Sherwood Forest, Sherwood Forest landed on us –

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

Directed by Mel Brooks

Starring Cary Elwes, Richard Lewis, Dave Chappelle, Roger Rees, Tracey Ullman, Amy Yasbeck, Mark Blankfield, Patrick Stewart, Mel Brooks, Isaac Hayes, Dom DeLuise, Dick Van Patten, Robert Ridgely, Eric Allan Kramer, Megan Cavanagh, Matthew Porretta, Avery Schreiber, Clive Revill

While far from the best Mel Brooks outing, it is the last good movie he’d direct (in fairness, this was only followed by the thoroughly meh Dracula: Dead and Loving It), and it was on TV constantly in the early/mid nineties. But I’m not trying to make excuses for its inclusion here – there is a lot to like about Men in Tights. Cary Elwes was perfect for this sort of comedy – only really on display here and in Hot Shots! – and effortlessly carries the mayhem along. I also can never keep straight whether he appeared in Mel’s Dracula or Coppola’s Dracula that inspired it, so solid is he at both types of movies. Sure, it revels in the dated, Catskills-style jokes Mel would lean more and more into as the years wore on, but between Chappelle’s great early work here as Ahchoo, Tracey Ullman uglying it up as the witch Latrine, and Richard Lewis doing his best Richard Lewis impersonation as Prince Johnthere is plenty to enjoy. Does it have the laugh-out-loud highs of Mel’s early films? Not really, but it also pushes harder on parody, and really dials up the number of jokes per minute. So what if the success rate is 50/50? I still really enjoy Men in Tights. Continue reading

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