Little Murders (1971) The Seventies and Elliott Gould
Alan Arkin directs, Elliott Gould stars in this seventies oddity taken from a 1967 Broadway play that Gould starred in only to see it flop after a mere seven performances. If the play failed to find an audience, I’m not sure if Gould the producer expected a different outcome with the film now that Gould the actor was a bankable name.
“I wanna do what I want to do lady, not what they want me to do.”
Gould stars here as an introverted photographer. He’s shy, offers very little in the way of conversation and yet Marcia Rodd falls for him. Their courtship starts when she rescues him from taking a beating on the street and he runs off leaving her to fend for herself from the hooligans. She’s ready to beat the hell out of him upon catching up with him but her thoughts quickly turn to her need for a partner in life as she isn’t getting any younger.
There’s an odd feeling to the proceedings and they are only going to get stranger as the plot unfolds. First up is when she takes Elliott home to meet her family. Vincent Gardenia plays her high strung father who talks rapidly and loves to bitch about most anything. Long time character player Gardenia, perhaps best known for his role in Death Wish is fun to watch in this and reminds me somewhat of Jerry Stiller’s role on Seinfeld as George’s Dad.
While it’s impossible for me to say I liked this film, there were a couple of monologues that were well done and the bright spots of the film. When Marcia announces the two are going to be married, Elliott pronounces there will be no mention of God in the ceremony. This allows family friend and district court judge, Lou Jacobi a wonderful bit where he regales the couple with stories of his past and family and just how he found God in his heart.
Joining in the fun and stealing his part of the film is Donald Sutherland as the long haired minister who marries the couple. It’s the most unorthodox of weddings and homily one is likely to see on film. Sutherland plays the scene as a con man of sorts and talks of everything from the percentage of marriages that fail to sex and masturbation. It’s the highlight of the film that has Donald looking as if he just walked over from the set of Kelly’s Heroes.
As I was watching this I kept waiting for something meaningful to happen and help the plot move forward. By the time it does at the 80 minute mark, I was struggling to stay with the film but I had committed far too much time to give up on it now. Sadly I hated where the film went though I’m not about to divulge details. You’ll have to test the waters for yourself and see if you find some enjoyment in this film that seems to ramble on far too long.
Director and Oscar winner Arkin turns up in the last segment of the film as a detective on the edge of a nervous breakdown. In essence he’s not much different than any other character as most seem to be on that same edge.
I suspect this is a little seen film but if you have come across it I would welcome your thoughts on it though I suspect the final scene of the film is one we would agree on. In today’s political climate, it’s just not funny. The problem is I’m not sure if it was meant to be at the time. Perhaps I just missed the humor of the piece altogether. For a look at the film, keep your eyes on TCM which is where I happened to come across it.