Foul Play is a refreshing nostalgia trip back to the days of cute romantic comedies starring actors with staying powerâ€”and this suspense-filled comedy is loaded with them.
Gloria Mundy (Goldie Hawn) is at a party, where she meetsâ€”and blows offâ€”a man she meets briefly, played by Chevy Chase. On her way home from the party, she sees a man stuck on the side of the road with his broken down car. She picks up the stranded man, Scot (Bruce Solomon), who then makes a date with her to meet him at the movies that night. Little does she know he slipped into her purse a box of cigarettes that holds a mysterious roll of film. Before she knows it, Gloria, just an innocent librarian, is being stalked by numerous weirdosâ€”an albino, a man with facial scars, and a man Scot warned her about, known only as "The Dwarf." Problem is, no one believes she's being stalked, because crazy mishaps keep making it seem like she's just nuts. Her friend Stella (Marilyn Sokol, who steals the show in her unfortunately short amount of screen time) tries to give her tips on fending off attackers. She begs a man named Stanley (Dudley Moore) to take her home when she's chased into a bar by one of her stalkers. Stanley is a sex-crazed bachelor who misunderstands Gloria's meaning, and Dudley Moore is perfect to play the roll of the bumbling Brit who can't seem to get any much desired action. Even Gloria's landlord, Mr. Hennessey (Burgess Meredith playing his typical character of the 1970s) lends a helping karate chop when Gloria needs it. But it's not until about 40 minutes into the movie that Chevy Chase reappears, and we learn he's actually Detective Tony Carlson, who, along with his partner Ferguson (Brian Dennehy), are sent to investigate the seemingly delusional Gloria.
Ironically, it is when Chevy Chase comes into the picture that the fast pace of the film comes to a screeching halt. All of a sudden, the chemistry and romance between he and Goldie has to be established. They are both wonderful comedic actors, and they have fine chemistry, but it's not used to the advantage of the film. For the most part, it ends up being the supporting cast that shines. Watching this movie now, years after I originally saw it as a kid, I realize how much Goldie's comic presence improved with later movies, and Chevy gives a rather subdued performance in this film. Even so, it's still a lot of fun, if not just a bit too drawn out in the center before reaching its cute, simple ending. The film also manages to benefit from unintentional camp at this point in time. For starters, it opens with Barry Manilow's "Ready to Take A Chance Again," which is used for instrumental score throughout the film, not to mention that "Copacabana" also gets a little air time. And then there's Dudley Moore's apartment, which, with the push of a button, converts into a disco, blasting "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees. There are several record players placed on the sets, and there's also a moment where Gloria turns on her TV and we here the "plop-plop, fizz-fizz" commercial playing in the background! Now THAT'S nostalgia. Does this make the film dated, you might ask? Perhaps, but I'll just say without giving away the ending, the great reveal at the end makes the plot of the mystery oddly timely considering the current state of domestic affairs.
It's rare that I see a movie from the 70s get as nice a transfer as this film has gotten. The aspect ratio of 1:85:1 is enhanced for widescreen televisions. I was impressed at how well this DVD handled progressive scan, showing only the slightest hint of grain. There's a barely noticeable amount of dust on the print. The black levels are rich, if perhaps a bit too dark, but the colors are vibrant with no bleeding, and the flesh tones are quite natural. The image is sharp with excellent depth. The film probably looks better on this DVD than it did in the theaters over 20 years ago.
The Dolby 5.1 audio track is crisp and clear, but it's mostly just the musical score that makes use of the separate channels. All other sound in the movie tends to be center focused with only hints of left/right separation. The track also leans towards highs with little bass response.
There's not even a trailer for the film on this release. The main menu is a still shot of the cover art, and you have scene selections with 15 chapter breaks. Set up offers English 5.1 surround or mono audio tracks, as well as an option for English subtitles.
Foul Play is still a fun film starring two comedic greats, Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase. It's funny, cute, and even suspenseful, and the two leads are charming, but it's the supporting cast, including Dudley Moore and Marilyn Sokol, who make this one even more enjoyable.