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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Jinxed! (Blu-ray)
Jinxed! (Blu-ray)
Olive Films // R // March 22, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted April 1, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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There's little reason to see Jinxed! (1982), Bette Midler's second starring feature after The Rose (1979), not counting her concert movie Divine Madness! (1980). The picture, an intended black comedy-farce, works not at all. A distant cousin to Billy Wilder's Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) and not dissimilar to a few other ‘80s comedies like Jonathan Demme's Melvin and Howard (1980) and Albert Brooks's Lost in America (1985), all far superior, Jinxed! was the last film of Don Siegel (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dirty Harry). He and Midler apparently grew to hate one another during production, and he ended up suffering a heart attack in the middle of filming. Siegel had in the meantime hired down-on-his-luck protégée Sam Peckinpah as an (uncredited) second unit director, and apparently allowed Peckinpah to take over for a few days while Siegel recovered.

But if one is looking for signature Siegel or Peckinpah moments in Jinxed!, there are none to be had. Some critics claim the stormy relationship between Siegel and Midler, as well as between Midler and co-star Ken Wahl, is perceptible in the final film. I don't really see that. It's just not a good movie for a variety of reasons. It was not a success, earning less than $3 million against its $13.4 million cost.

Photographed by the late, great Vilmos Zsigmond, Jinxed! at least looks very nice on Blu-ray. No extras beyond Jinxed!'s deceptive trailer.


Midler is Bonita Frimi, an aspiring lounge singer who can't hold onto a job very long because her abusive, alcoholic, chronic-gambler husband, Harold Benson (Rip Torn), has latched onto a blackjack-winning jinx over dealer Willie Brodax (Ken Wahl). When Harold wins big, Willie loses his job and finds a new one in another city, only to have Harold, with Bonita in tow, following him there.

Willie's latest, sympathetic pit boss, Milt Hawkins (Val Avery, giving a good performance), suggests Willie might turn his bad luck around by stealing away something of Harold's, and break his winning streak. Willie decides to seduce unhappy Bonita but, in an unexpected (but not appealing or believable) twist, she proposes that they murder Willie and split the life insurance policy Harold had purchased a few years back out of guilt, after breaking Bonita's wrist. Aware that Harold is planning one last big score at his blackjack table, certain to ruin his career if it's successful, Willie agrees to the plan.

The climatic blackjack showdown is really the only good scene in the film. It's an unusual set-up, the stakes are believable, and Rip Torn is excellent sadistically torturing Willie psychologically. Wahl, curiously, makes almost no impression, but also in the sequence are Avery, very good, Jacqueline Scott playing a minor but important character seated next to Torn, and ancient Ian Wolfe in a charming bit as a cashier supervisor.

Wahl isn't bad but there's nothing likeable or interesting about the character at all. Because of its passing resemblances to other, better movies (like Kim Novak in Kiss Me, Stupid, Midler is a blonde living out of a trailer in dead-end Nevada, looking to get out, etc.), for starters the movie would have worked a bit better with a different male lead. Paul Le Mat's Nevada gas station attendant in Melvin and Howard was a loser, but a likeable, indefatigable one. Wahl, at least here, is like a hole in the screen.

Rip Torn, meanwhile, packs a lot more verisimilitude as the abusive, hard-drinking, and merciless Harold, even managing to be almost charming at times, enough to hint at why Bonita stuck with such an unpleasant man for so long. But in the end he's mostly just repellent, and the movie pulls a few punches to avoid the darkest sides of this wife-beater in a contradictory attempt to keep things light.

Not helping either are several musical sequences shoehorned in an attempt to make Jinxed more a vehicle for its star. Because she's a minor (not bad) singer, the numbers aren't really anything special, and while Midler's performances are full of energy, plot-wise she might just as well have been a waitress for all the difference it makes.

After the big blackjack scene, Jinxed gets progressively stranger and even less credible, particularly a bizarre, unpleasant sequence set in a Western ghost town's abandoned gold mine (!) where genre veteran Jack Elam plays a lascivious old coot. Indeed, the last half-hour of the film is totally illogical and pointless.

Video & Audio

In 1.85:1 widescreen, Jinxed! is in excellent shape, looking anything but a 34-year-old movie. Detail is sharp, the color varied and pleasing, and no obvious tweaking. At least parts of DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (English only, no subtitles) seemed to be a few frames out-of-synch, as has happened all to often with Kino releases of MGM-licensed titles, a baffling mystery. Region A encoded. The lone Extra Feature is a trailer, suggesting a madcap musical comedy.

Final Thoughts

Cinematically important from a historical perspective (as Siegel's last film, and for Peckinpah's involvement) but lacking utterly as entertainment, Jinxed! gets a Rent It.




Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian and publisher-editor of World Cinema Paradise. His new documentary and latest audio commentary, for the British Film Institute's Blu-ray of Rashomon, is now available.

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