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S.O.B.

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: One of Warner Archive’s Blu-ray upgrades is this scathing Hollywood satire, the notorious film in which Julie Andrews briefly flashes her bosom. Here’s my July 3, 1981, Deseret News review.

Blake Edwards is purging himself with “S.O.B.,” poking dark fun at all the Hollywood clichés that have made his life miserable over the years.

This appears to be his attempt to do to the movie industry what “Network” did to television, but instead it’s an inside joke that is far too inside for general audiences, and the picture itself is a mishmash of several styles of humor that just refuse to come together.

The story has a movie producer (Richard Mulligan) suffering a nervous breakdown because his latest big-budget film, which stars his wife (Julie Andrews), is a flop (a la Edwards’ “Darling Lili,” perhaps?).

The first third of the film is spent watching Mulligan attempt suicide in several ways, while all around him assorted fools, moguls, agents secretaries, gossips and pickups wander around oblivious to his intentions. The middle third is taken up with Mulligan’s scheme to turn his G-rated, insipid musical flop into an R-rated hit by having Andrews, a star with a “Mary Poppins” image, do a nude scene in an erotic dance sequence. A violent twist further darkens the film for its final third, as the historical rumors about John Barrymore’s body being dug up by friends is brought to life in another form.

     

                          Julie Andrews, 'S.O.B.'

Though Andrews, as the musical star who finally bares her bosom for the screen, and William Holden, as the film’s director, get top billing here, the intent is clearly an ensemble piece. But the focus is on Mulligan who is called upon to alternately perform as catatonic and manic. Mulligan, who was Bert in the TV comedy series “Soap,” offers an excellent, hilarious portrayal.

There are other good roles as well, particularly Robert Preston as an eccentric Hollywood doctor and Holden as the director.

And the Edwards brilliance, which covered the screen in the “Pink Panther” series and was shown in flashes of “10,” sometimes lights up “S.O.B.”

Occasional lines are bright and several sight gags are hilarious (most notably Mulligan slipping through a hole in the floor on a rug), but the jokes throughout the movie range from scatological to slapstick to satirical to very black, and the dry spells between laughs are too frequent.

     

There is also the feeling that Edwards should be ashamed of himself for exploiting his wife, Julie Andrews, as he does in “S.O.B.” There is a lengthy buildup to the moment when she finally bares her breasts, a buildup that ridicules the Hollywood system that would require such a measure from a “prim and proper”-imaged star. But Edwards has allowed the same thing to happen with this movie; for months we’ve had gossip column articles telling us that he has been making a film wherein his wife does a nude scene.

And I wonder about Andrews, too. She’s attempted to change her image before, with “The Americanization of Emily” and Hitchcock’s “Torn Curtain,” but “10” and “S.O.B.” are beneath her talent. This is a sad example of a husband-wife star team that is its own worst enemy.

Occasionally brilliant, very often crude, consistently nasty and, in some ways, very sad, “S.O.B.” is the kind of film that gives “sophisticated” comedy a bad name. Let’s get back to good movies, Blake, and leave the social statements alone.