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Comedy - Romantic

What’s Up, Doc? (1972)

Duration1h 34m
RatingsUK: U, USA: G, Norway: 12 
Source of storyA sort of adaptation of a novel “A Glimpse of Tiger” by Herman Raucher
DirectorPeter Bogdanovich
Writers/ScriptBuck Henry, David Newman, Robert Benton
StarringBarbra Streisand, Ryan O’Neal, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, Austin Pendleton, Sorrell Booke, Mabel Albertson, John Hillerman, Randy Quaid, Phillip Roth,
RatingsIMDb: 7.6/10 by 23,704 people.  Rotten Tomatoes: 89% by 44 reviewers. Review2view: 8.5/10.

Elevator Pitch: Central to the plot are four identical “plaid” bags one containing rocks owned by Howard Bannister a musicologist, one by Judy Maxwell containing personal items, one by Mr Smith containing secret government papers and one containing jewels owned by Mrs Van Hoskins. Howard is in San Francisco to compete for a $20,000 grant for music research offered by Frederick Larrabee. He, his fiancée, Mrs Van Hoskins and Mr Smith all have rooms in the same corridor of the Bristol Hotel. Judy gets into an empty one. Mr Smith is chased by a government agent who wants the bag containing the papers, Mrs Van Hoskins jewels are the objective of a thief in the hotel, and Judy manages to replace Howard’s overbearing fiancée at the at the awards dinner. What else can go wrong and who’s got the bags?

Content: No sex or nudity although Judy wears a towel decorously. This is an intentionally screwball comedy so the bags find themselves in different people’s hands as time passes, we would have a job to know which bag is where in the end. Judy is kooky and attractive and Howard, who is slow on the uptake is gradually captivated. His fiancée is overbearing and unpleasant. There is a lot of action in the corridor containing everybody’s rooms. Judy spends some time on a hotel ledge. The dinner takes place with some comic effects, later a party in Larrabee’s mansion is a scene for a showdown after a car chase round the streets of the city.  There is also a comic court appearance.

A View: This was an intentionally screwball comedy in the style of those from the 1930s. It has made it into various “100 Best” lists over the years. It cost $4 million and made a fortune. I had not seen it for years but remembered the chase quite well, so was interested to know if the humour had held up. So despite the fact that I used to find Barbra Steisand’s public persona slightly irritating, I still laughed a lot and really enjoyed it. It could be because many of today’s comedies are so lacklustre. But anyway well worth a watch, today probably for nothing. 

I have searched through the various comedy outings reviewed on this site to find others with something like the same zany tone. Here are three possibilities: There’s Something About Mary, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Date Night.   

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels



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