Tag Archives: Scatman Crothers

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: #331 – My Favorite Punchable Child Character

Today! Because he’s got a chip on his shoulder the size of the national debt –

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Directed by Joe Dante, John Landis, George Miller, and Steven Spielberg

Starring Dan Aykroyd (x2), Albert Brooks (x2), Vic Morrow, John Larroquette (x2), Steven Williams, Scatman Crothers, Selma Diamond, Bill Quinn, Murray Matheson, Kathleen Quinlan, Dick Miller, John Lithgow, Donna Dixon, Burgess Meredith (x3), Abbe Lane, Bill Mumy, Nancy Cartwright, William Schallert, Patricia Barry, Kevin McCarthy, Jeremy Licht, Priscilla Pointer, Martin Garner, Helen Shaw, Charles Hallahan, Doug McGrath

A wildly uneven movie, which is to be expected considering the basis, the highs in Twilight Zone are pretty damn high, while the lows are only mediocre – this is a wall-to-wall watchable movie, even if on paper it seems like it shouldn’t have worked at all. Bringing in the high profile quartet of directors was certainly a good first step – with the only one I tend to skip being Dante’s “It’s a Good Life.” I don’t know, it’s not an episode I particularly enjoy either, so I’m not blaming the way they execute it, I’m just not a huge fan of that asshole kid. It’s pretty meh.

But the other three – pretty solid. The only original story of the group – the Landis directed “Time Out” is a bit heavy-handed, but effectively lead by Vic Morrow (famously killed on the set of this film, requiring a different ending to be concocted). Spielberg’s “Kick the Can” is schmaltzy, but has always been my favorite segment, with its sadly sentimental senior citizens getting one night to be young again. But clearly they saved the stand-out sequence for the finale, as George Miller’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” surpasses the episode it’s based on (the best episode they chose to adapt, too) and gets a dynamite performance from Lithgow as the tortured passenger, seeing a monster on the wing of the plane.

Lithgow is largely not doing well

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