Tag Archives: James Coco

The Set of 400: #111 – My Favorite William Tell Overture (Chicken Rendition)

Today! Because you share a love so big, I now pronounce you Frog and Pig –

The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)

Directed by Frank Oz (x2)

Starring Jim Henson, Frank Oz (x6), Dave Goelz (x4), Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson (x4), Steve Whitmire (x4), Juliana Donald, Lonny Price, Louis Zorich (x3), Art Carney (x2), Dabney Coleman (x2), Liza Minnelli, Joan Rivers (x2), Linda Lavin, Gregory Hines (x2), James Coco (x4), John Landis, Karen Prell (x2), Brooke Shields, Frances Bergen, Ed Koch, Gates McFadden

The first Muppet film I saw in theaters – Time tunnel shoutout to four-and-a-half-year-old Joe! – The Muppets Take Manhattan was also the last big screen adventure for Kermit and the gang until 1992, and the last time they would appear as their established characters in film for 15 years. This is also probably the Muppet film I’ve seen the most – it being the newest one when I was a kid and it feeling very much of the ’80s gave it the slight edge over the two earlier films.

I never think of the first three Muppet films as a trilogy, even though I guess in some ways they are. I mean, plot-wise, they aren’t connected whatsoever – but they are still the same characters performed by the same people, doing very similar stuff. I mean, the Toy Storys build on each other a little bit, but they are all pretty separate adventures, too, and that’s definitely a trilogy. The first Muppet outing was an origin story, the second is the standalone journalism/heist caper, and this one sees them graduate from college and try to put on a Broadway show. That, in a lot of ways, feels like one complete tale. Hell, Kermit and Piggy get (sorta) married in the end! That’s a capper to the journey! Plus, Jim Henson lived another six years and didn’t get another film together – that tells me they wanted these to stand together as a trilogy. You know what? From now on, this is the first Muppet trilogy! Christmas Carol, Treasure Island, and weirdly From Space function as the second, very loosely cobbled together Gonzo-led trilogy, and we’re still one movie short of a third modern trilogy. Get it together, Disney!

This old Jerry Juhl/Frank Oz script is allegedly great and ready to go, Disney

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The Set of 400: #164 – My Favorite Blind Butler

Today! Because conversation like television set on honeymoon – unnecessary –

Murder by Death (1976)

Directed by Robert Moore (x2)

Starring David Niven, Maggie Smith (x2), Peter Sellers (x4), Peter Falk (x4), Elsa Lanchester, James Coco (x3), Alec Guinness, Eileen Brennan (x2), Estelle Winwood, James Cromwell (x2), Nancy Walker, Truman Capote, Richard Narita

Neil Simon’s epic comedy mashup of legendary 20th century mystery novel sleuths is half brilliant, half standard Neil Simon-esque jokes, with a like 20% horribly racist overlay. It was the ’70s, and I know that’s no great excuse, and you had master of accents and buffoonery Peter Sellers as Charlie Chan-lite Sidney Wang, but that’s also no great excuse. Wang has some funny lines – not just funny accent bits – but it’s not for today’s audience, I’ll readily admit that.

However, Niven and Smith as Dick and Dora Charleston, Peter Falk’s Sam Diamond, James Coco’s Monsieur Perrier, and Elsa Lanchester’s Jessica Marbles take off wonderfully on Nick and Nora, Sam Spade, Hercule Poirot, and Miss Marple. The plot revolves around a secluded mansion where the detectives have been gathered to solve a murder by their host Lionel Twain, the ultimately murdered man, played fairly tongue-in-cheek by Truman Capote. It’s absurdist zaniness, with the house functioning very much as a character itself, moving rooms at will and facilitating numerous attempts on the detectives’ lives. It’s basically a wilder take on Clue, just ten years earlier and with only one ending. Continue reading

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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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