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

Thursday, October 1, 2015


CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC (1980). Director: Nancy Walker.

"We are going to make milk more glamorous than champagne."

Aspiring composer Jack Morrell (Steve Guttenberg) figures it would be great if there was a new group to perform his music, and enlists the aid of his pal and former model, Samantha (Valerie Perrine). "Sam" goes to ex-boyfriend and record producer Steve (Paul Sand), and importunes him to sign the group even as they audition singers and put it all together. One by one the right fellows show up and Voila! -- it's the Village People! Will the members blend into a new sound and will everybody be happy? Can't Stop the Music, which pretends to be a "bio" of the once-popular group, now considered a "camp classic" by some people, tried to be all things to all people and made the mistake of alienating many gay fans -- the group courted the gay community by utilizing gay arch-types (or stereotypes) -- by trying to "straighten" the gay out the group. Even the openly gay members (such as "cowboy" Randy Jones, but there were others) are put into semi-romantic situations with women, and the production numbers feature lots of leggy female models draping themselves on and around the fellows. Unless I missed something, the word "gay" is never uttered, even in the "Liberation" number, although there's a brief moment when it is questioned if the milk commercial the group appears in conforms to "America's family image." All that being said, what's left is a kind of boring musical with the occasional bright spot, such as the aforementioned production number for "Milkshake." Jacques Morali's songs -- YMCA, the title tune -- are catchy enough, and the members of the Village People, while uncertain actors, seem pleasant enough. "Leatherman" Glenn Hughes does a nice rendition of "Danny Boy" and lead vocalist Ray Simpson (the "policeman") has a very good voice. June Havoc plays Guttenberg's mother; Bruce [now Caitlyn] Jenner plays Perrine's romantic interest; Jenner's mother is played by Barbara Rush; and Tammy Grimes appears as an agent and gives the picture it's only fleeting laugh. Altovise Davis and Marilyn Sokol are also in the cast. In her brief turn Rush [Bigger Than Life] comes off the best, Grimes is fun, Guttenberg is his usual likable self, Perrine is okay, and Paul Sand is Paul Sand. Allan Carr was one of the producers.

Verdict: "Like Nothing You've Ever Seen Before" claimed Movieline. That's for sure. **1/2.


angelman66 said...

Great cast, but a mess of a movie, I concur with your assessment, Bill. The musical numbers are fun, especially Milkshake and YMCA...but if you don't like camp, skip it entirely!

You are absolutely right that the gay sensibility of this movie is thinly veiled so as not to offend middle America, I suppose, but did anyone really expect this to be a hit? I think Allan Carr and friends were so high on disco and blow and "free love" that they actually believed this fantasia would have universal appeal. It is quite a curio.

Bruce J. was SO cute, especially in his cut-off "Daisy Dukes." Now he can be his fabulous authentic self as Cailtyn. It's all good--though this movie really isn't.

William said...

I confess I had to watch this one in stages, because I could only take so much, but was determined to get through it all. I saw it in theaters so I guess I knew what I was in for, but since campy movies can be fun I thought I'd give it a try after so many years. It does not improve with time. In some shots you can see how Bruce was already Caitlyn even back then.