Foul Play (1978) / Comedy-Thriller

MPAA Rated: PG for language and some violence
Running Time: 116 min.

Cast: Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase, Dudley Moore, Burgess Meredith, Rachel Roberts, Eugene Roche, Marilyn Sokol, Brian Dennehy, Marc Lawrence, William Frankfather
Director: Colin Higgins

Screenplay: Colin Higgins
Review published December 27, 2003

Foul Play marks the second of two Colin Higgins screenplays to liberally lift plots straight from the works of Alfred Hitchcock, then wrap it up in 70s comic style, Silver Streak being the other.  Call this The 39 Steps meets The Man Who Knew Too Much, but played mostly in farcical style.  It's probably as much an homage as High Anxiety, but this definitely is closer to the true spirit of Hitchcock, with no less than a dozen references to some of the best of his films.

Goldie Hawn (Protocol, Everyone Says I Love You) plays Gloria Mundy, a reserved librarian yearning for some excitement in her life, and she gets it, when picking up a stranded man on the freeway.  Unbeknownst to her, the stranger has slipped her a mysterious roll of film (aka "The MacGuffin"), and when he ends up dead, she becomes the next target for the bad guys searching for it.  The cops don't buy her story, leaving Gloria with only a rogue San Francisco police detective (Chase, Caddyshack) to protect her, although he probably only pretends to believe her to get in her pants.  With her pursuers unrelenting in their quest, it's up to Gloria to get herself out of this pickle, before their nefarious plans come to fruition.

In addition to this being Colin Higgins first directorial effort, it's also the first starring role for comedian Chevy Chase, who adds a few signature pratfalls of his own into the mix.  Although he was written to be much more of a romantic lead, Chase set the glib tone he would take for the rest of career in films, never quite taking anyone or anything really seriously.  Goldie Hawn continues her streak of sweet-natured funny-girl roles, and while the duo aren't exactly Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, they're fun to watch together.  The success of this film saw them re-team for one more film three years later, in Neil Simon's Seems Like Old Times.  Also, watch for some very funny scene-stealing roles given to Dudley Moore (10, Arthur) and Burgess Meredith (Rocky, Batman: The Movie).

While in the end, it's rather unremarkable, the likeability factor is high, making this a good time for those seeking funny, escapist entertainment.  If you're a fan of the stars, 70s films, or are just a Hitchcock junkie, this is one Foul Play that ends up being a hit all the way.  

Qwipster's rating

©2003 Vince Leo