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July 02, 1976 - Image 6

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1976-07-02

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Arts & Entertainment THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Friday, July 2, 1976 Page Six

Jeffrey Selbst
jj7jt :Thearial
THE THEATER department has thrown down the gauntlet. This
is, as I understand it, not a mere product of a little high-level
pique, but rather a carefully thought out, brazen attack on every-
one who has ever had a slightly discouraging or less-than ecstatic
word to say about them.
In short, the department has decided that it will break tradi-
tion and accord complimentary passes for shows only to those
reviewers whose papers print free publicity before the show, or
as we refer to it, flack. The flack is to take one of three forms,
or "conditions," as Al Henry of the Theater Department gently
refers to it. A newspaper, to qualify for the department's munifi-
cence, must print either one of their press photos, a press release
prepared by the department, or run their own publicity story.
This is monstrous.
NEVER CAN I recall hearing of such a blatant attempt tc
blackmail any form of media into submission. The point is not
what we care about free tickets (I want to deflate that defense
right now) because if that were the point of this campaign, then
all free tickets would be denied to all media equally, which,
though perhaps an ill-tempered move, would be a fair one.
No, the point is, in the words of the aforementioned Henry,
that the "theater department has been hurt oo many imes."
Presumably, since I was old on the one hand that the fact of
our running reviews a day-and-a-half after the show is not their
chief complaint, and that our reviews do have an effect on their
box-office business, this means that, in their longer-running shows,
which may or may not sell out, the outcome is attributable to
the effect of our press coverage.
So, they are now demanding unpaid, blackmailed publicity to
counteract the bad reviews they are by now certain we will give.
To call this merely unprofessional is simpleminded; it is infantile.
WE DO NOT FEEL that we are the only ones to be so singled
out. Which makes the matter worse, of course, for they are now
saying (by their actions), "we can do without the whole review-
ing world." The implied, of course, haunts the edges, "unless you
are willing to buckle down to what we consider good standards
of artistic journalism."
Like petulant, outsize children, they are dangling what they
must consider the greatest adducements to good behavior the
world has ever known-a pair of tickets to-omigod-a PTP show
-as some kind of hopelessly idiotic reward
We have discussed the matter thoroughly, and we are taking
the following position: we are going to continue to review their
shows, as a service to the students who perform in them, as well
as the Daily readership as a whole, but we are going to buy our
own tickets regardless of whether or not we inadvertenly happen
to fulfill any one of their three insane conditions.
We can only hope the so-called leadership of the department
will recognize their own creeping stupidity, but on the other hand,
we don't expect much.
HAD A thoroughly delightful time at Meadowbrook, the summer
home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, last weekend. They
put on the second annual Marathon concert-five hours of your
favorite composer, in the Festival's bucolic setting.
I didn't know if there is much that is more pleasant than
listening to beautiful music played with thousands of people mill-
ing about beneath trees and sun and such. There was a slight
disappointment in that the Festival committee apparently decided
not tamper with the formula; hence, this year's concert was to
that last year's concert was such a success that hey had better
Beethoven exactly what last year's was to Tschaikovsky.
Most of which is good. Both years they played some of the
lesser-known chamber, choral, and solo vocal works, as well as
the most ppoular symphony (Tschaikovky's Sixth, Beethoven's
Ninth), polishing off the evening nicely with a musically simple
but appealing encore numbebr, replete with cannon (both years
as well: The 1812 Overture, Wellington's Victory). Oh, well. Noth-
ing succeeds quite as well as success, to coin a phrase, and the
munching of cheese, the slurping of wine, the reading of the
Sunday New York Times, visiting with old friends, all makes it
possible to suffer even a high-school orchestra concert of the
same music. And the DSO is rather better than that.
IN KEEPING with my remarks a little over a week ago about
the Bicentennial, and how privileged I feel to be alive at the
time of it, it might be worthwhile to note that WUOM (91.7 FM)
has a fine program of American classical music lined up for the
Fourth. In two programs; they will present, Ives' Holiday Sym-
phony, Delius' Appalachia, Bernstein's Candide Overture, Gersh-
win's Porgy and Bess, the requisite Dvorak New World Symphony
Largo movement, Joplin's Entertainer Rag, "Chester" from Schu-
mann's lovely New England Triptych, the Shaker Tune from Ap-
palachian Spring by Copland, and in the evening, perhaps the
choicest treat of them all: Count Basie and Sarah Vaughan from
the Newport Jazz Festival.
What funt

'Murder by Death
Dearth of comedy

The advertisement in the Detroit Free Press
claims that after viewing Murder by Death,
. you could die laughing!" The commercial
seems ripe for an FTC ruling. However, the first
part of the statement has some validity. You
could die after seeing the movie but it would
more likely be due to boredom or nausea than
laughter. In fact, humor is lacking in this film.
This is not to say that Murder by Death had no
potential of being a funny movie. It definitely
has but never realizes its potential. A truly all-
star cast includes Peter Falk, Alec Guinness,
David Niven, Peter Sellers, James Coco, Tru-
man Capote and Nancy Walker. The purpose of
the Neal Simon-authorized movie is humorous
enough, to parody mystery characters.
There is a plot, however thin. The story com-
mences when the mysterious owner of a ghoulish
mansion invites five of the greatest detectives
in the world to his abode. They are to solve a
future murder of one of the persons staying at
the mansion. Lionel Twain, host of this bizarre
home (played by Truman Capote), offers a re-
ward of a million dollars to whoever solves the
murder of the victim. The detectives must weed
through a number of illusions and obstacles
erected by Twain in their attempts to discover
who among them is the victim, and who the
THIS PLOT has a number of elements which
should keep the viewer's interest. Though devoid
of any philosophical depth, the film should be
compelling throughout since the viewer along
with the detectives could attempt to uncover the
victim as well as the murderer. There are a
number of competent actors and actresses to
complement the plot and satirize the plethora
of coincidences, trite expressions, hyperbole and
other phrases used by writers of ratiocination.
The great mystery then is why this film does
not present itself as an epitome of humor. There
is ample opportunity for satire. Simon does at-
tempt to parody mystery characters. Playing
the noted criminologist Miss Marbles, Elsa Lan-
chester has a chance to poke fun at the famous

Agatha Christie heroine. Peter Sellers plays Sid-
ney Wang, a Charlie Can-type personage replete
with Japanese Number Three Son. But those op-
portunities are lost because the satire is neither
biting nor humorous. Attempting to be funny,
Sellers rattles off Chinese fortune cookie phrases
and nauseum. Lanchester is not able to parody
Agatha Christie's character beyond her name.
It is difficult to determine whether James Coco,
as Milo Perrier, a famous Continental sleuth,
even tries to be funny.
THOUGH MOST of the performances are mis-
erable, there are some sequences which evoke
some chuckles. The scene of the blind butler
(Alec Guinness) who attempting to explain the
deaf and dumb maid (Nancy Walker) is absurdly
funny. Unexpected actions and utterances from
the characters also arouse one from somnolence.
For instance, Miss Marbles' aging nurse (Estelle
Windwood) surprisingly attempts to entice Sam
Diamond (Peter Falk), a San Francisco Private
Eye. Unfortunately, these types of scenes are
few and far between.
The failure of Murder by Death to fulfill the
promises of the advertisement may not be totally
the fault of the actors. Neal Simon's screenplay
is only weakly humorous. Perhaps better type-
casting could have saved this movie. Sellers
should have played the Continental sleuth with
the French accent. He could have parodied his
own characterization of Inspector Clouseau. If
Peter Falk played a detective similar to Colum-
bo's character, he might appear more humorous
than his portrayal of a crass sleuth with a Hum-
phrey Bogart twang. Also, there are too many
characters for the development of any one of
them. The movie thus had to rely on stereotypes
of certain mystery characters and suffered be-
cause of it.
In conclusion, it appears that a more apposite
title for this film would be Murder by Dearth. In
this movie, there is a dearth of humorous acting,
good screenplay and typecasting which murdered
any chance that a viewer might ". . . die

All H uiey
Arthur Hailey, author of "The Moneychangers," visits the set of the movie. Helen Hayes and
Kirk Douglas star in the venture, which will air on TV late this year or early next year.

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