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JINXED!

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 29, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: Bette Midler’s second starring role (after her Oscar-nominated turn in ‘The Rose’) was in the film noir comedy ‘Jinxed!’ —  and it apparently was jinxed, as explained in my review below, published in the Deseret News Oct. 26, 1982. As for its video history, following a VHS release in 2001, it went out of print until a couple of years ago when it popped up as an Amazon exclusive on a double-feature DVD with ‘A Matter of Time.’ And last month Olive Films gave ‘Jinxed!’ a Blu-ray upgrade. It’s not a great film but Midler fans know she’s great in it.

“Jinxed!” is Bette Midler’s second acting effort (you can’t really count “Divine Madness,” which is a concert film), and she still shows a high-energy potential for being a major influence in films – but like “The Rose,” “Jinxed!” is notable mainly for her, and it doesn’t have “The Rose’s” tremendous musical numbers to hold it together.

A black comedy version of “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” “Jinxed!” is a bizarre little film that is almost three separate movies.

For the first third, we have the story of Willie (Ken Wahl) the blackjack dealer, whose plague is Harold (Rip Torn). Willie can’t keep a job because Harold is his jinx, following him around from job to job, playing blackjack and winning every hand. Bonita (Midler) is Harold’s woman. She gets singing jobs (allowing for two musical numbers) in the casinos to help set up Willie.

   

                 Ken Wahl, Bette Midler, 'Jinxed!'

The second third of the film has Willie arranging to meet Bonita, the two of them falling in love and eventually plotting to kill Harold.

The third section has dead Harold being carted around like luggage, then evolves into a scavenger hunt of sorts, as Bonita sets out to find Harold’s hidden fortune.

There is a lot that goes unexplained in this film, such as who Harold makes all those mysterious phone calls to – and who he really is, for that matter. And it’s impossible to believe that Bonita and Willie can really fall in love so quickly. Whatever else she is, Midler is not irresistibly alluring.

But the real problem is one of general character development. There is no chemistry between the stars, no understanding of what Bonita sees in sadistic, nasty Harold in the first place, and as a result, the entire picture becomes unbelievable.

Individually, Midler and Torn are fascinating to watch, and Wahl displays a certain amount of charm, but they never seem to get together, and the film is so often somber that it seems to contradict the comic musical score that accompanies the action. Further, a scene with Jack Elam as a curmudgeon miner is totally out of place – and looks as if it belongs in yet a fourth movie.

     

“Jinxed!” is one of those pictures that looks as if it had some possibilities going in but fell apart somewhere in the making. Rumors are that veteran director Don Siegel and Midler had some two-fisted disputes about making this movie, and it shows. Everything here seems to be at odds with everything else. (Another veteran director who hasn’t made a film in awhile, Sam Peckinpah, reputedly worked on the film as a second-unit director, though he receives no credit.)

Rated R for her usual brand of profanity, as well as some violence, “Jinxed!” is a film that could have – should have – been much better. And it’s one only one of many in that vein that seem to be making the rounds lately.