Appellate Judge Tom Becker doesn't like to be taken for granite.
All men are not created equal.
In the early '60s, as the standards of the Hays Code slowly fell away, Hollywood churned out a steady stream of increasingly smutty sex comedies. Most of these were forgettable little projects, generally starring a "name" actor or two and often with titles that titillated. Unlike the all-out fleshploitation films by people like Joe Sarno and Russ Meyer, these received MPAA approval and played comfortably in neighborhood theaters.
Besides their mostly cheap-gag premises, these films were often marked by a near-hysterical desperation to be "with it," with leering looks at wife swapping, infidelity, birth control, women who didn't wear bras, and other then-current topicalities. Rather than tapping much into "New Hollywood"—who were off making their own films—these movies were toplined by established stars with a decidedly middle-age appeal. Thus, Deborah Kerr made Prudence and the Pill, Jackie Gleason and Bob Hope showed us How to Commit Marriage, Dean Martin shared How to Save a Marriage…and Ruin Your Life, and scads of famous folks cameoed in support of Walter Matthau in A Guide for the Married Man, one of the few that actually rose above the low-ball genre antics.
The Statue could be the boilerplate from which these smarm fests were hammered. Geared for the 'burbs, its triumvirate of stars included an Oscar-winner whose career had seen better days (David Niven, Separate Tables), a younger actor who'd gained fame on a popular TV show (Robert Vaughn, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), and an international sex symbol (Virna Lisi, How to Murder Your Wife), in which she co-starred with Jack Lemmon—the only actor to make the whole cheesy sex-com thing work at all). It featured an allegedly sexy but really just sleazy set-up, randomly topless women, and pokes at modern art, avant garde theater, infidelity, closeted homosexuality, and then-president Richard Nixon.
Code Red gives us a marginal release of this early-'70s misfire.
Facts of the Case
Alex Bolt (Niven) has developed a universal language, Unispeak. For this, he wins a Nobel Prize, and his wife, sculptress Rhonda (Virna Lisi) is commissioned by the U.S. government to create a memorial to him that will stand in Grosvenor Square, London. Instead of creating something abstract that represents the global togetherness that Unispeak will bring about, she makes an 18-foot replica of her husband naked, with a huge plaster protuberance representing his manly bits.
Rather than taking this as a compliment and basking in the glow of having one of the most beautiful women in the world sculpt him a penis the size of the Space Needle, Alex becomes convinced his wife—whom he's only seen 18 out of the last 1,000 days, so busy is he—has taken a lover, and the king-size member is someone else's club. Alex now tasks himself with finding all possible suspects and surreptitiously checking out how they measure up. Since the government commissioned this monstrosity, this turns into an international schlong search.
A long, pointless, dirty joke without a punchline, The Statue is an aggressively unfunny film. Watching an actor of Niven's stature flounder about here is almost poignant. Playing an erudite "middle-aged man"—so nice to know that Boomers weren't the first to assign that term to people over 60—the actor walks through this one with the sort of pained expression you'd see on someone passing a kidney stone.
You almost wish the guy was passing a kidney stone; at least that would be temporary, and he'd be enjoying pain killers and cranberry juice. Film, unfortunately, is forever, so that generations from now, after the apes have taken over, The Statue will still stand as a monument to the Oscar winner's unfortunate late-career slide.
Over the course of 90 minutes, Niven must endure the indignities of a penis hunt that takes him to a steam bath, a monastery, a whorehouse, and a nude musical revue, a phenomenon once considered so shocking yet amusing that The Odd Couple used it as the basis of a first-season episode. Niven must also uncomfortably discuss his own penis, and at one point goes to a "three-for-a-quarter" photo booth in an arcade to memorialize it. Women turn up topless simply because the R rating allows them to, but men are shot safely above the waist—this includes the titular artifact as well as a more famous sculpture that you might have seen in an art magazine.
Because the government is involved, the plot takes increasingly convoluted and ludicrous turns. There's a sense that Director Rod (a jokey name!) Amateau—who also gifted us with Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You, Where Does It Hurt? and Son of Hitler—was going for zany and political, but the pacing is so leaden and the jokes so obvious, that it's a chore to sit through.
The Statue comes to us courtesy of Code Red, a company I appreciate—they do trot out some cool obscurities—even if I'm not always wild about the product. While Code Red releases often feature cool extras, evidently they couldn't find anyone willing to man up and talk about The Statue, even co-star Robert Vaughn, whose turn as the ambassador who starts this mess is reason enough to be thankful for the fast-forward function.
Tech-wise, this one's a bit of a train wreck. The disc starts with a disclaimer apologizing for the poor technical quality—it seems the only print they could find was one used for theatrical release. Code Red is really not noted for their sterling technical work, the pre-show message sends up a big Code Red flag. Much of the print shows an awful lot of damage, the kind of thing you'd expect to see on an old porn film. Audio is a tinny mono track that only perks up when the dreadful cha-cha theme song blares.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The closest thing to a redeeming quality that this film offers is an early appearance by John Cleese in a fairly major role. The Python gives us sharp timing mixed with apparent disdain, and The Statue comes close to working when he's on screen. The only other plus is seeing beautiful Virna Lisi giving an almost-assured performance in a fairly one-note role.
Dreary and limp, The Statue fails to rise above its soft-core premise. Flaccid performances and slack direction, combined with a script that's not nearly as bouncy as it should be, make for an unsatisfying experience.
For the curious only.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Code Red
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