"A bad day in Beverly Hills" opens on a metallic note from Godard's Weekend, the car dealership boasts mangled corpses inside the vehicles. America cannot defeat Vietnam, the bourgeoisie is running on fumes, the Hockney pool has a rat in the drain. The patriarch (Andrew Duggan) is "a janitor in my own house," the trophy wife (Joyce Van Patten) tans herself mindlessly; Bone (Yaphet Kotto) materializes armed with only 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 spinner in the quadrille is the shoplifting young kook (Jeannie Berlin) the husband bumps into while fetching ransom money—she coolly recalls molestation as an 11-year-old moviegoer, he fits the culprit's description, "some kind of perversion of your own to make it special." Back home the violation is curtailed, the invader is shorn of his "nigger mystique," the wife sympathizes with his "social pressures." A splendidly disagreeable Larry Cohen comedy, bristling with political vehemence, class and racial dissonance, and appreciation for the delayed payoff of a banana-peel gag. The allegory has an olfactory side, it passes from Pinter spoof to Albee spoof to greasy Double Indemnity on the Strip. The mansion with nothing but bills, the druggy prisoner the family has convinced itself is a war hero, the "big black buck doing what's expected of him." The characters ride the bus to the very end of the line and get off on Teorema's sandy void, Bone evaporates so the wife is left with the official story. Who needs illumination? The light bulb flickers to life in the jail cell to be shattered at the close (cf. Chabrol's À Double Tour). With Casey King, Brett Somers, and James Lee.
--- Fernando F. Croce