Monday, October 27, 2014

A Great Director Cashes Out: "Jinxed!" (1982)



An infamous flop when it came out, Don Siegel's final film is a chore of missed opportunities and obvious production problems.

Bonita (Bette Midler) is a second-rate singer following her gambler boyfriend Harold (Rip Torn, the film's only bright spot) from Nevada town to Nevada town. Harold is following blackjack dealer Willie (Ken Wahl). Harold consistently beats Willie at the tables, and Willie consistently gets fired, moving on to the next casino job. Finally, Willie's new boss (Tex Avery) advises Willie to break the jinx by taking something of Harold's, which he does by bedding Bonita. The two fall in love too quickly, and decide to get Harold out of their lives permanently, coming up with a murder plan that can't fail.

I can't go into too much depth from here on out concerning the plot, except to say that it gets very convoluted very quickly. This film was an odd choice for Siegel's swan song (he directed "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "Dirty Harry," and "Escape from Alcatraz"). It tries to be a black comedy, complete with some goofball morbid moments, but there is an underlying tension that ruins any "fun" that was to be had.

Wahl and Midler reportedly hated each other and fought constantly. Their onscreen lack of chemistry reflects that. Siegel also stated he would rather starve his family and pets instead of going through directing Midler again. One screenwriter took his name off the film, throwing in a pseudonym. All of this is evident, despite Vilmos Zsigmond's inappropriately beautiful cinematography. Torn isn't playing another lout, the screenplay has him beating Bonita in the past, but he seems to be the only actor to rise above the drama and turn in an actual performance. The Bruce Roberts/Miles Goodman musical score is sure to beat you over the head during the wacky scenes in case Midler's tiresome mugging and screeching doesn't clue you in that this is supposed to be FUNNY. Jack Elam is wasted in the second half of the movie- a bizarre scavenger hunt that feels lifted from another film.

"Jinxed!" was jinxed, doing no business and almost killing Midler's post-"The Rose" film career until "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" and "Ruthless People" came along four years later. It serves as a poor-to-bad movie curiosity, and little more. (* *) out of five stars. Get this movie now!: Jinxed [Blu-ray]