Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Janice Rule and Burt Lancaster
THE SWIMMER (1968). Director: Frank Perry.

"Pool by pool they form a river, all the way to my home."

Ned Merrill (Burt Lancaster of Desert Fury) shows up at the home of some friends who haven't seen him in awhile. Clad in a bathing suit, he tells them that he intends to swim from pool to pool on the estates in the area until he makes his way home. The reaction of the couple make it clear that something is off. As Ned makes his way on his journey, he encounters different people from his past, including many vulgar people with too much money, and the viewer slowly learns more and more about the truth behind this man's charming veneer and aura of health and success. The Swimmer is a quirky movie that is not for every taste, and some people might see it as an excuse for Lancaster to show off what good shape he was in, but if you're in tune with its style and content, it's an interesting and absorbing experience. Lancaster gives one of his all-time best performances, and he has wonderful support from such as Janice Rule, who plays a bitter ex-lover; Janet Landgard, who was once his babysitter and now is a nubile beauty; and Michael Kearney as a little boy who has been left alone with the maid by his vacationing parents. Joan Rivers, of all people, has a nice cameo as a lonely party guest who is attracted to Ned, and Jan Miner plays a vicious wife at a public swimming pool. Marvin Hamlisch's score is generally a plus. [Hamlisch also composed "Nobody Does It Better" for The Spy Who Loved Me.] The movie manages to work up sympathy for a man who may not be entirely deserving of it. John Cheever, who wrote the short story that inspired the movie, has a cameo as a party guest. Perry also directed Diary of a Mad Housewife.

Verdict: Don't kick a man when he's down. ***1/2.


angelman66 said...

Your review has convinced me to give this movie a try. Never was a big Lancaster fan, but this looks great. Doesn't Burt even do a nude scene in this one, one of the first for a major male star?

William said...

I was also never a big fan of Lancaster's but admired him in this movie. He does have a nude scene, from behind, no pun intended. I warn you that "The Swimmer" isn't for everybody; it think it got mostly negative reviews when it came out.

As always, thanks for your comment!