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

Thursday, April 12, 2018


Woody Allen and Mia Farrow
CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (1989). Written and directed by Woody Allen.

"When I grew up in Brooklyn, nobody committed suicide. Everyone was too depressed."

Opthamologist Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau of Mission: Impossible) has a wife, Miriam (Claire Bloom), and children, as well as a mistress, a stewardess named Delores (Anjelica Huston of Manhattan Murder Mystery). Delores is making noises that she wants to "have it out" with Miriam, and keeps pressuring Judah to leave his wife, which Judah will simply not do. Fearing that his life and reputation will be shattered, in desperation Judah turns to his much less respectable brother, Jack (Jerry Orbach), who suggests a certain final "solution"... As this plays out, we also meet documentary filmmaker Cliff Stern (Woody Allen), who has an unhappy marriage to un-supportive wife, Wendy (Joanna Gleason), and finds himself falling for producer Halley Reed (Mia Farrow), who is working with Cliff on a film about his brother-in-law, a borderline obnoxious TV personality named Lester (Alan Alda of Same Time, Next Year). Crimes and Misdemeanors is in some ways an odd and very Allen-like movie, with the two different story lines never quite merging, but the picture is still compelling, amusing, and ultimately horrifying. Its exploration of moral complexities is a little uneven because Judah's solution to the "problem" of his mistress is on a much darker level than Cliff's contemplation of an affair when it is clear that neither he nor his wife are in love with each other. Still, the picture features some wonderful performances (from virtually everyone, although Landau and Huston are cast stand-outs), Allen's typically trenchant dialogue and observations, and a depressing but sadly realistic wind up. Initially seen as a benevolent figure, it is clear that Judah is a selfish and self-justifying monster. There are no dramatic fireworks or revelations concerning his immoral actions, but the ending is nevertheless sickening. The theme of the film seems to be, as Judah states, "only in Hollywood are there happy endings."

Verdict: One of Allen's more memorable and entertaining pictures. ***.


angelman66 said...

I like this one too a lot, Bill, it's one of Allen's very best. In addition to what I call "the usual Woody Allen suspects"—Mia, Alan Alda, Joanna Gleason–the wonderful Martin Landau elevates this to tragedy with his great performance.
I will miss the underrated and brilliant Landau, who i just realized basically carries the second half of the 1963 Cleopatra along with Roddy McDowall...Burton and Taylor are mere supporting characters in the last hour or so of that epic!
Also love Landau as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood--he finally got the Oscar he deserved!

William said...

Yes! He was excellent as Lugosi. To think he started out on "Mission: Impossible," then did some silly space show with his wife, and finally emerged as an Oscar-winning top-notch actor.

I will have to look at Taylor's "Cleo" again (not as bad as it;s reputed) to re-appreciate Landau's performance.