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USA 1983
Directed by
Anthony Harvey
100 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars


There are plenty of films which are ill-conceived and poorly executed but they don’t have the credentials of this made-for-television movie.  Therein lies the horror of this terminally lame film which for naffness rivals if not outdoes Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise (1978).

Peter O'Toole plays an aging singer and former stage sensation, Anton Bosnyak, who coaches a young woman (Jodie Foster) to stardom.  He’s supposed to be Hungarian but O’Toole (who presumably was on the sauce throughout) sometimes affects an accent sometimes doesn’t bother as he does his usual imperious schtick and mixes it with a bit of the romantically-tortured artist thing. Apparently Anton was a big star years earlier in a show called ‘Svengali’ but “lost his voice”.  You’d think that one would need more than one hit show to justify Anton's longueurs but so be it. Oh, and he lives in apartment whose tatty entrance bears no resemblance to its plush interior.

Although she dresses like a matron in her 50s Foster is supposed to be a twenty-two year old singer in a rock band, Even if we overlook the you’d-think significant problem that she can’t sing for nuts why she would be sent by a talent agent and producer (Elizabeth Ashley, truly awful) to be classically trained is a mystery.  We are supposed to buy the story that she becomes a pop sensation but singing exactly what kind of music is never clear. She starts off with some kind of wet MOR ballad, then appears on some kind of Janis Joplin type tour bus before appearing as some kind of Bette Midler/Irene Cara god-knows-who showgirl. And still she can’t sing for nuts.

While the script drops such howlers as Anton's farewell line to Zoe "You are intact now. Go away, and leave me intact. Please" the level of incompetence in all departments is staggering (there’s even a boom mike dangling from above in one shot) but director Anthony Harvey is far from inexperienced (he directed O’Toole in The Lion in Winter in 1968). Indeed it is hard to believe that anyone of even moderate ability could turn in such a jaw-droppingly awful film. 




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