THE MAN IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SUIT
Your January 2006 RMC II Results Are In!
TAGLINE: The Motion Picture That May Very Well Be THE VERY GREATEST!
The Preshow Entertainment was POLICE SQUAD! This was the short lived TV show by the Zucker brothers (post-AIRPLANE!, pre-POLICE SQUAD! movies). They made and ran 6 of them in 1982, and then they were gone. Rumors abounded, but the general consensus was the network hated them. And I believe that. For POLICE SQUAD! was one of the funniest series on television.
Earlier this year, the movie POLICE SQUAD 33 1/3: THE FINAL INSULT came up in RMC. That was made 12 years after the show was yanked. And it was the third of three movies. I believe they all did well. So, there you go, networks at their best. But it's easy to be a couch critic. It wasn't my network. But it should have been.
Anyway, as you must surely know, POLICE SQUAD! followed in the tradition of AIRPLANE!, but this time poking funny at the noir/DRAGNET amalgam. That's perfect for deadpan Leslie Nielson's narration. Lots of running gags, like the week's guest star being announced and killed during the opening titles, and the shoeshine boy giving the police tips for some scratch, followed by a celebrity (we saw Dr. Joyce Brothers) who paid for tips regarding their careers. And the freeze frame in the Quinn Martinish epilogue, which was simply the actors keeping still while something would always be moving behind them. And whenever Nielson as Lt. Frank Drebin pulled his car up, he'd knock over the only garbage cans in the street (the number of cans was also the episode number).
Now go out and see them! Oh? You can't? They're not available?
The running time of the movie selected was over 2:20, so we had the option to veto it, due to RMC's 220 Rule. But since it was just the two of us, we opted to watch it, thinking we'd have to watch it another time as an RMC double feature anyway.
THE MAN IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SUIT is about a man, maybe Cary Grant, who invented a suit that made him invisible. At least that's what I thought it was about. Have I been more wrong in my life? Well, yeah, but still.... In his second appearance at RMC (THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL was his first), Gregory Peck, the man with the coolest speaking voice in film, stars as Tom Rath, a man with secrets he doesn't even know about. A man who despite the curve balls of life, just wants to do the right thing. How Peckian.
Rath's problems are aplenty: commuting to NYC from Connecticut, a wife who wants him to make more money, a kid with chicken pox, a dead end job, a new job offer that makes him an office-political victim, an inherited house that may not be legally his, and...a child he had with an Italian girl while in the war 10 years earlier. But here's the funny thing- I never got a sense of "frantic." It's such a low-key performance that I didn't even realize there were all these conflicts until I wrote them down just now. Not saying that as a bad thing (Michael Douglas would have played it over the top, no?). It's actually an interesting choice. But it only works for so far.
I thought TMITGFS a strange movie. Almost dreamlike at times. The war flashback was maybe 30 minutes (featuring the film's best scene; a dead soldier that Rath is in denial over), then back to the present day, where it doesn't get mentioned for perhaps another hour. But I suppose because of that, there is that niggling that it will return to take a chunk out of him. People love this movie, but I did not. I didn't hate it, either. It was right there on the tightrope. I liked its subtleties and performances, yet was thrown by its structure and meandering. Thrown, but not tripped up. TMITGFS was written and directed by Nunnally Johnson, who did TAKE HER SHE'S MINE (a 2005 RMC pick), and boasts a score by Bernard Herrmann. Also of mucho importance, DeForest Kelley in a small role, actually saying the line, "This man's dead, Captain!"
I think I'd like to see this movie again in a few years. It left me with an uneasy feeling. Maybe that was the point. Or maybe I just think I'll see Gregory Peck put a suit on and turn invisible.