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Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1972)

Week of June 1, 2005

We end up wanting the time back a lot here at Blind Phyllis, Inc. Evidence last week's Longest Yard premiere in our Creve Coeur living room, for which yours truly had to whip up four gallons of martini for eight aging widows. The martinis got us tipsy, yet we soldiered on to the closing credits.

Neil Simon's Last of the Red Hot Lovers most assuredly did not make it to the closing credits, joining Star Trek: Insurrection as one of two movies that did not clear the 35-minute mark on our VCR. With the Star Geek sequel, this was almost understandable: It's a movie made for nerds, by nerds. We get it. But with Lovers, we don't get it. Neil Simon at the helm, Alan Arkin in the lead role -- this should have been tolerable at the very least.

But the first 30 minutes of Last of the Red Hot Lovers are so inexplicably grating that we had to shut it off before the Elvis-autographed thirty-ought-six stashed underneath our couch shut it off for us. Most plays are plays because they were meant to be plays. The ones that succeed -- and it's a tough racket -- are adaptations that feature a screenwriter other than the playwright who's intent on reimagining the sets and decompressing dialogue. The Broadway-adapted Lovers doesn't ascribe to this power-relinquishing theory and thus fails miserably, namely because it's all Arkin, all the time -- which makes for a super-annoying experience.

In the first half-hour alone, Arkin's narration (which should have been cut wholesale) has him saying "Please God, Amen" at least 153 times. Arkin's a wonderful character actor. He should have received a Best Supporting Oscar for his criminally overlooked performance in Thirteen Conversations About One Thing. But give him the lead role in a dialogue-heavy Broadway adaptation, and what you get is a VCR shutdown in Creve Coeur.

Each week the author treks to the Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library, where a staff member blindfolds him and escorts him to the movie shelves. After selecting a film at random, Seely checks it out and reviews it. Editor's note: Is our face red! Last week, in what turns out to have been an ill-advised experiment in "alternative" journalism, we allowed Blind Phyllis to stray from her usual modus operandi and review the new Adam Sandler blockbuster, The Longest Yard. Owing to what can only be described as a calamitous series of boners, our intrepid -- but, let's face it, blind -- reviewer screened the original 1974 classic, not the remake. Sad to say, it's all too easy to pull the wool over Blind Phyllis' eyes. But rest assured, this will not happen again.

 
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