Bleak House Hollywood Style
Kevin Killian | San Francisco, CA United States | 06/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I remember when this film came out and how people dared to compare it to Lancaster's 50s classic THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS in which he played a similar type of scum, with an edge. SCANDAL SHEET isn't actually unworthy of the comparison and in some ways it's almost better than the original. Burt Lancaster must have felt like he was coming home, it was his meatiest role in some time. He plays the editor of a Santa Barbara based "scandal sheet" that's sort of like the Enquirer in some ways, but more like the Weekly World News in others, with completely insane headlines and UFOs, alien abductions, paranormal headlines that the Enquirer usually shies away from now.
I love the way one reporter plants his own story by advertising for readers who might have seen Princess Grace on the beach at Malibu, even though Grace has been dead for a few years. Sure enough, he reels in one woman who claims she saw Grace just last night, walking down the beach in the moonlight. "But Grace, why are you here, in Malibu? You died!" And Grace sadly replies, "But something calls me back to America." The nationalism of such rags is always their most reprehensible part, and SCANDAL SHEET nails it. The scenes around the conference table are scathingly funny, as though Nathaniel West wrote them.
Not so funny, indeed downright painful, is the main storyline, in which our leading lady, Pamela Reed, takes a job at INSIDE WORLD and instantly loses the friendship of her greatest friends, Meg North and Ben Cabot (Lauren Hutton and Robert Urich). Reed is marvelous at the part, not realizing what a moral cesspool she's stepped into, and then when she does realize it her disenchantment and self-loathing rival those of Isabel Archer at the end of Henry James' PORTRAIT OF A LADY. Ben Cabot, sort of a Burt Reynolds type, was once America's top action star, but drink hit him hard and his career's been moldering for years. His loyal wife, Meg North, still a leading lady, has secretly put uup her entire 800,000 dollar salary to make sure he passes his insurance exam. They're wary of INSIDE WORLD, and even though Pamela Reed has been their best friend for years, they know enough of Hollywood to know that evil Burt Lancaster will manipulate Reed into betraying them one way or another, for with him, the story is everything.
For a TV movie of the week, this picture is bleak, bleak, bleak. I can't remember anything like it. You wind up hating everyone, and the ending just twists the knife. All four of the main actors do some of their best work, I saw Frances McDormand's name in the credits, but which one was she? It was years before FARGO!"