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Friday, 20 May 2011

Foul Play (1978)

It isn't easy being a Colin Higgins who writes about film. Someone got there with the name first, someone far more talented. The other Colin Higgins is most famous for writing and producing the existentialist comedy Harold and Maude. Before his tragically early death from AIDS in 1988 he wrote six more films, three of which he  also directed. Foul Play is probably the funniest of the three, the only one not to feature Dolly Parton, and the only one with a librarian as a principal character.

Goldie Hawn plays the librarian and Chevy Chase a cop in this lighthearted comedy thriller. A series of improbable circumstances bring them together to prevent the assassination of the Pope. There are many cinematic nods and in-jokes (a trenchcoated Brian Dennehy is even cast as Chase's partner, his 7,000th film as a crumpled policeman). We are continually reminded of the most famous San Francisco film, Vertigo. Higgins's pacing, like Hitchcock's, is expert.

Hawn's workplace provides an evocative backdrop for a couple of fun scenes. In one, she is attacked by a killer albino (perhaps Dan Brown was watching); in another a sex-obsessed colleague gives Hawn a variety of self-defense tools and one-liners, though no puns about libraries, alas! Librarianship here is little more than a hook for Hawn's spinsterdom though - it doesn't make sense for an attractive blonde in her early thirties to be single... unless she's a librarian! The embedded video, at right, gives some indication of Higgins' subversive comedy.

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