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Little Murders
Little Murders
Actors: Elliott Gould, Marcia Rodd, Vincent Gardenia, Elizabeth Wilson, Jon Korkes
Director: Alan Arkin
Genres: Comedy
R     2007     1hr 50min

The Newquist's are a typical American family living in a typical terror-ridden neighborhood in a typical explosive large city. They have already lost a son to a street sniper and tired of being victims take up guns and bec...  more »

     
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Movie Details

Actors: Elliott Gould, Marcia Rodd, Vincent Gardenia, Elizabeth Wilson, Jon Korkes
Director: Alan Arkin
Creators: Gordon Willis, Howard Kuperman, Burtt Harris, Jack Brodsky, Jules Feiffer
Genres: Comedy
Sub-Genres: Comedy
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 04/10/2007
Original Release Date: 02/09/1971
Theatrical Release Date: 02/09/1971
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 1hr 50min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 8
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
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Movie Reviews

"The dynamism of apathy."
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 04/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Little Murders (1971)...I really had no idea what I was getting into with this film, as I had neglected to read any reviews. Often I may buy a film, without any prior knowledge, if it looks interesting enough and if the price is right, which was both the case here (involvement by Arkin, Sutherland, and Gould peaked my interest). It's not unusual that I might find disappointment in such a haphazard, grabasstic method of picking a movie, but this one looked promising, and it turned out to be much more than I ever would have thought. Based on a play by syndicated cartoonist and social commentator Jules Feiffer (I Want to Go Home), the film was directed by Alan Arkin, who also appears in the film, stars Elliott Gould (M.A.S.H.) and Marcia Rodd (Handle with Care) in her feature film debut. Also appearing is Vincent Gardenia, who many may remember as the effervescent and kooky Frank Lorenzo from TV's All in the Family, Elizabeth Wilson (Nine to Five), Lou Jacobi (Amazon Women on the Moon), Jon Korkes (The Day of the Dolphin), John Randolph (Serpico), Doris Roberts, who can most likely now be seen as the interminable pushy Marie Barone on the popular TV show "Everybody Loves Raymond", and Donald Sutherland (Kelly's Heroes).

The film begins with an unlikely relationship developed between Alfred Chamberlain (Gould) and Patsy Newquist (Rodd) in what can probably be characterized as a very normal circumstance (in New York, at least) of getting harassed on the streets for no real reason other reason than someone thinking you're asking for it by giving them what they perceive as a disrespectful look. Anyway, Patsy, who's an optimistic sort, sees Alfred, who's a self-described apathetist, as sort of a project or cause, someone who needs to be shown that there are reasons to embrace life. Their relationship progresses, more so due to Patsy than anything else, and this leads to Patsy taking Alfred to meet her family, and, eventually a nuptial performed in a very untraditional ceremony. Patsy's still having difficulties in changing Alfred's outlook on life in general and tensions arise, a breakthrough does come, but at a very inopportune moment to which I won't comment on any more as not to spoil the effect. Sounds fairly simple, doesn't it? Well, my synopsis hardly begins to relate the absurdities that emanate at nearly ever turn of this movie, some obvious, others a bit more subversive, for lack of a better term.

I do love the darker comedies, and this one is about as dark as they come. While watching the film, I couldn't help but notice perhaps the characters presented where meant to be representative of certain elements of society. You have Alfred, the uncaring, apathetic individual who's content to live in a world to which he has no control, allowing the chips to fall where they may, succumbing to forces rather than trying to face them head on and deal with them. Pasty represented to me those who would try to make things better, knowing that while there is plenty of unpleasantness in the world, each day brings forth new opportunities to make a change. Patsy's father Carol (Gardenia) appears to be akin to those who would value institutions over progressive change, constantly seeing the world in comparative terms of how different (and better) things where to how they are now, forever critical of the current state of affairs, more often only seeing the superficialities rather than understanding the true nature of issues faced by a contemporary society. And then there's Patsy's mother (Wilson), a woman that seems to understand little outside of her own world, content to live happily within one of her own making, one that isn't affected by forces she can't control. Finally there's Patsy's brother Kenny, who's just strange, but possibly due to something within himself that others might find beyond their ability or desire to understand and accept. Well, aside from all my pontificating, this is a really wonderful film for those who can deal with it...so often with a film of this type it finds difficulty in acceptance, as some people just don't relate the possibility that absurdity, taken to this level, can be funny. There are any number of great sequences throughout the film, but the highlights to me where the ones featuring The Judge (Jacobi), The Reverend (Sutherland, who's cast perfectly here), and Lt. Practice (Arkin) as each came into the film, left their indelible mark, and left. There's also an excellent scene involving Gould's character on the subway, to which I won't say any more, but given the reactions by his fellow riders to his `situation', it exemplifies what most of us would readily assume about life in The Big Apple. Not only is the film filled with great performances, but also wonderful lines, a couple of my favorites being `Are you really so down on people or are you just being fashionable?, and `So many complications when you marry a man shorter than yourself.' Given my descriptives of various characters, you may be able to tell who said what, but to get the full and total effect you really should see the film, that is if your sense of humor is broad enough to include what some might find offensive or not open minded enough to appreciate a thoughtful and enjoyable journey into the absurd.

The wide screen anamorphic (1.85:1) picture on this DVD is very clean and clear, but I do suspect a little bit of cropping as there was a very minor bit of the titling credits missing, but certainly nothing to get upset over. The Dolby Digital stereo comes through very sharp. Extras include a theatrical trailer, a couple of television spots, and a commentary track by Jules Feiffer and Elliot Gould. As another reviewer has already mentioned (to which I was thankful), avoid looking at the titles to the chapter stops as not to give away some very important elements of the film.

Cookieman108
"
You want black comedy? Ya came to the right place!
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 08/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Top o' the heap, far as the black comedy thing goes. First film directed by Alan Arkin; he also plays a neurotic paranoid detective who does more than stumble over his words; he sputters them out due to mental freneticism that is completely unavoidable, some form of psychosomatic willies going on there, for sure. He's investigating the 345 homicides in the preceding six months (these days, that may not be so far from the truth, in New York City), and one of them has affected the family of our hero (see below).

Donald Sutherland is absolutely hilarious as a free form minister whose hedonism knows no bounds. He takes pains to let the entire wedding party know of his tremendous pleasure at making them squirm in their seats, using the word masturbation (remember, this is a 1971 film!) a few times in his diatribe as he marries off our hero and heroine, Elliot Gould and his leading lady, Marcia Rudd.

Gould plays a photographer whose passive nature results in his getting beat up a lot by neighborhood youths who have nothing better to do, and Rudd, the girlfriend he meets when she saves him from yet another drubbing. Of course, being passive and all, he does nothing at all to save her when she herself gets set upon by the same ruffians. She cottons to him anyway and takes him to meet her parents, played by the always great Vincent Gardenia (here, he plays an uncannily foreshadowed version of the husband in Moonstruck) and Elizabeth Wilson.

Gardenia is definitely one of the stars here, with his "So young fella, what's your pleasure?" to Gould, over and over again. He's a comic gem. With a first name of Carroll ("I told you never to call me that"), his threatened masculinity is always on display (here is where the foreshadowed Moonstruck character thing comes in), and he's spot on, trying to prove how valuable he is to his family.

Also here is Lou Jacobi as a portentous, stertorous judge in probably his funniest role on film. He has never been better than he is here. His monologue is one of the true comic masterpieces in American cinema and MUST be seen. The movie is worth seeing for Jacobi alone, but there is so much more here, it's a true classic.

Rodd is constantly "attacked" by phone calls from The Breather, and in one punchy little scene, describes to Gould her typical day in which one small thing after another goes wrong (the real meaning of the film's title).

The ending is a zinger and makes this film completely up to date, not at all obsolete. A great piece of cinema for those who find joy in how pain can make us laugh. Or how laughter accompanies pain. Or how it HAS to accompany pain; otherwise, what fun would we have at all, at all...in this world?

Punchy, smart--written by the brilliant Jules Feiffer. See it."
There's a fox loose in the chicken coop...Kill Him, Kill Him
bob lundy | San Mateo CA | 10/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"After WWII, about 1948 the British started churning out really good satires(Passport to Pimlico, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Man in the White Suit and so on and so on)till about the early to mid sixties(Dr.Strangelove and Bedazzled). Then in America started an age of satirical movies that stretch from around 1965(The Loved One)to 1974(Dark Star). Some of the best comedies, especially satirical, black comedies, were made during this time. The Landlord, The President's Analyst, Cold Turkey, A New Leaf, A Boy and his Dog, Bananas and The Groove Tube are to name but a few. It's not that they weren't making them before 1965 but really good ones like Sullivan's Travels and The Senator Was Indiscreet were few and far between.

Little Murders, like the President's Analyst, is a landmark film from this era. It has so much to say about our mores and institutions. This one's so black, the sarced cow's been jerked.

This has been one of my favorites since it came out in 1971 and I've been judiciously lending out my VHS copy for years. So, when I punch the title into All Products and the DVD came up, I was jacked. I read a few reviews and if you haven't seen the movie I'd heed the warnings of those who have complained that chapter menu gives too much away and not to look before viewing the movie itself. You don't want to know anything about the plot before you watch it. Each new premise, and there are many, is a joy or depending on your sense of humor, a shock to discover for the first time. So also watch which reviews you read. Be careful what details are revealed to you.

(I saw some reviews recently where the reviewer put as a header to some of his paragraphs where he had written sensitive details the word SPOILER in parenthesis. What a Great and Thoughtful Idea ! ! !)

One of the details I will speak about are the monologues, two by Elliott Gould(one about his work and one about college), one by Donald Sutherland, one by Lou Jacobi and a monumental one by Vincent Gardenia and then there's Alfred's(Gould's)visit to his parents(John Randolph and Doris Roberts). These six scenes are priceless and are scripted with some of the best words you'll ever hear. Feelings you rarely ever feel or get from any other movie. They are very special. On top of this there are a million quotable lines. Jules Feiffer's words are devastatingly funny and Alan Arkin's directoral debut is inspired. The flavor of New York comes through in the same way as it does in The Owl and the Pussycat, They Might Be Giants, Midnight Cowboy or Coogan's Bluff and the cast has the same feel. Like the best New York has to offer in comic, character actors. Truly, a deeply gifted ensemble. I love every character in this movie. Also, there is virtually no musical soundtrack except for a sequence at a resort and a wonderful section late in the movie in Central Park with music by the legendary Modern Jazz Quartet. Finally, this movie has the deepest, darkest, "happy ending" ever. Once again, don't go to chapters menu till you viewed the movie once, all the way through.

Amazon is offering some savings with a great package of Little Murders and The Day of the Locust, a great, but also dark, movie of Hollywood in the 1930's. That's over four hours of the best stuff ever made. In closing I must say as good as these movies are they are also quite jaded and in no way lightweight fare. They are though, if you can connect, extremely satisfying.

Addendum: Amazon has changed their offer from The Day of the Locust to Where's Poppa?. I do not recommend Where's Poppa?. It, unlike The Owl and the Pussycat, does not stand the test of time. I was very disappointed when I viewed a couple a years ago and was on-the-other-hand delighted to find that The Owl and the Pussycat retained all its humor and charm. Meanwhile, Little Murders and The President's Analyst grow in stature with every year that passes, as does A Face in the Crowd and Bob Roberts.

PSA number one to the sun"
One of the greatest dark comedies of all time
billt1000 | maryland | 10/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"if not for the bleak social commentary, if not for the heady tibalt-ian presence of lou jacobi or the glorious chaos-in-the-weeds direction of first time director alan arkin, if not for the unforgettable vincent gardenia performance, buy this for the "righteous" 20 minutes that donald sutherland blazes the screen in one of the funniest supporting roles of all time. one viewing of this, and a person comes away with the knowledge of where wes anderson and the coens came from, even if they weren't directly influenced by it. it is the very defintion of black comedy and it goes places few dare to go today. why can't writers write anymore?"