"A bad day in Beverly Hills" opens with a TV commercial for auto carcasses with mangled bodies inside, an image from Weekend thatís dilated over the course of the picture to include Sympathy for the Devil, too. America cannot defeat Vietnam, the bourgeoisie is running on fumes, thereís a rat in the pool. The patriarch (Andrew Duggan) is "a janitor in my own house," his wife (Joyce Van Patten) tans herself nearby; Bone (Yaphet Kotto) materializes armed only with his blackness, and terrorizes the couple into awareness... of their mutual contempt. "I was thinking of raping her, but you have enough problems." The fourth dancer in this quadrille is the shoplifting kook (Jeannie Berlin) the husband meets when he goes fetch ransom money -- at her apartment she coolly remembers being touched as an 11-year-old theatergoer, Duggan fits the molester description, they fuck. Back home the wife's violation is aborted, Kotto reveals his impotence ever since the "nigger mystique" deserted him; Van Patten sympathizes with his "social pressures," they fuck and plan to off Duggan. Larry Cohenís superbly disagreeable comedy bristles with vehemence, political dissonance, and an appreciation for the delayed reaction of a banana-peel gag. At least one detail (the jailed, druggy son the couple has convinced itself is a war hero) points to a travesty of Albee, though Cohenís handheld, zooming camerawork denies viewers even the stability of recognition. Husband, wife, and "buck" ride the bus and get off at the sandy void from the very end of Teorema, Van Patten goes through with the scheme and denounces the criminal for the camera once he disappears. Who needs illumination? The light bulb in the prison cell comes to life only to be smashed (cf. Chabrolís ņ Double Tour). With Casey King, Brett Somers, and James Lee.
--- Fernando F. Croce