Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thankfully there's no M. Night Shyamalan

I wouldn't quite call it a beach movie; instead, it's closer to one of those 1960s generation gap films. But you can watch the 1967 film The Happening early tomorrow morning at 4:15 AM on TCM.

The movie starts off with four young folks who aren't quite hippies, but are too late to be beatniks, played by Robert Walker Jr., George Maharis, Michael Parks, and Faye Dunaway not long before Bonnie and Clyde. They're sort of living a bohemian lifestyle, doing whatever they do just for the fun of it. One day, they wind up at the home of Roc Delmonico (Anthony Quinn), a retired mob boss. They take him in what is at first a semi-serious kidnapping, until they realize they could actually hold him for a hefty ransom, which they naturally proceed to do. The shocker, however, is that nobody seems to want to pay off the ransom. Roc has a wife Monica (Martha Hyer), but she sees this as her chance to ditch her husband because she's been having an affair with his business partner (Milton Berle). Roc's former godfather (Oskar Homolka) is also happy to have Roc out of the way.

What's a mobster to do? Well, at this point the movie becomes reminiscent of Too Many Crooks (a point I briefly mentioned back in August 2011). Roc, seeing that nobody seems to want him, decides to turn the tables on all of them. As a mobster, he knows where all the dead bodies are buried, so to speak. He can blackmail his former associates, and get the young folks their money that way instead of a ransom. His four new associates, of course, know next to nothing about how to do a kidnapping, so like Brenda de Banzie in Too Many Crooks, Quinn has to show them how it's done.

The Happening isn't the greatest movie ever made, by any means. In fact, I don't know if I'd say it's even as good as Too Many Crooks. It's still entertaining, however. The movie is more of a mix of comedy and drama than is Too Many Crooks, but Quinn proves himself to be adept at comedy. It helps that the movie has a bit of a dark edge, although it's nowhere near as dark as any noir would be. One other thing for which The Happening is known is its theme song. Vocals were added, and the song was performed by Diana Ross and the Supremes, with a sound rather different from everything else they did at Motown. Unfortunately, the Supremes' version is only heard over the opening credits. I think the movie would have been better off putting the Supremes' version at the beginning rather than having a straight-up instrumental arrangement, as it would have set a lighter tone. That, and the song is just that good when put over by Diana Ross.

The Happening hasn't gotten a DVD release, and shows up on TCM far too rarely, which is a shame for such a fun movie.

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