Foul Play (1978) – A Review

Chevy Chase Goldie Hawn Foul Play 1978
Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn in Foul Play

With a Barry Manilow tune stuck in her head, mild-mannered San Franciscan librarian Gloria Mundy (Goldie Hawn) is ready to spread her wings and take a risk with a new fella she meets. Unbeknownst to her this guy is an undercover cop who is about to spill the beans on a murder plot.

Before he’s killed he slips a key piece of evidence to the unwitting Gloria. This item is important enough that these pack of criminals are willing to kill her to get it back.

Now Gloria is being chased through the streets of San Francisco and forced to make narrow escapes from creepy albinos, bald chauffeurs and a sexually charged up Dudley Moore.

Fortunately, Gloria befriends Lt. Tony Carlson (Chevy Chase) who is trying to help her get to the bottom of what is going on, while also doing some serious flirting with each other.

Foul Play is a breezy crowd-pleaser comedy/thriller of a movie. It was quite a decent sized hit when it first came out and continues to have a loyal fanbase of moviegoers who continue to enjoy going back to it.

Foul Play Chevy Chase Goldie Hawn comedy thriller

It was also the movie that first paired the onscreen duo of Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn and made them favorites to audiences. I always thought the impact the two left on moviegoers and the association they had as an onscreen couple was somewhat odd. Chase and Hawn only did two movies together (this and Seems Like Old Times), but somehow for the rest of their careers they are still considered a favorite onscreen pair.

Chase spent more time with Beverly D’Angelo in all those Vacation movies, but there was something about the chemistry between him and Hawn that clicked with audiences and people just liked seeing them together. They really should have teamed up for more flicks and gotten more mileage from each other.

Hot off his writing success with Silver Streak writer/director Colin Higgins had the clout to make Foul Play. It’s something of a thriller/mystery/comedy/Hitchcockian homage with plenty of references to the master of suspense sprinkled throughout. Everything from a glass of milk to a climax at a concert hall. Along with a ‘macguffin’ that sets the story in motion and puts Hawn in danger.

Dudley Moore Foul Play 1978

There are quite a few recognizable faces in the cast, Brian Dennehy, Billy Barty, Marc Lawrence, Burgess Meredith and of course Dudley Moore who really provides the biggest laughs in the movie.  

Foul Play leans more into thriller territory than comedy. I’d say it’s like 70/30 and most of laughs come from Moore who willingly acts like a sexual deviant in his short scenes. He is very funny and his supporting part here was his star-making role, which subsequently would lead to him headlining 10 a year later.

The movie really is a showcase for Hawn who is front and center being in practically every scene. She’s very cute and likable. She spends most of the movie running away from the bad guys. The albino freaked me out when I watched this when I was little and rewatching it today he’s still a very creepy looking guy.

Chase plays things as a much more straight-laced leading man than you might think. He gets to toss off a few jokes here and there and naturally does some clumsy pratfalls which he was famous for from Saturday Night Live at the time, but for the most part he’s much more of a standard leading man and not the full wiseass famous ‘Chevy’ his screen persona would become.

Foul Play albino bad guy 1978

It’s also an extremely 70s-ish movie. It really shines as a time capsule of the decade. Wicker furniture, the Bee Gees, Kojack, alka seltzer commercials and Barry Manilow on the soundtrack. Watching it today there’s no mistaking what time period it’s taking place in.

It also doesn’t feel like a movie we would see today. I somehow envision if this were made today it would either be really pushing the wacky comedy and romance or it would be a straight-laced thriller with just a bunch of suspenseful scenes stacked up one after another. It wouldn’t even bother trying to balance the comedy/thriller aspects very well.

It’s not a bad film. It’s fluffy entertainment. I can see how it became such a hit back when it was released. Even rewatching it I wasn’t bored at any point and still enjoyed it. And it’s certainly better than what is defined as most comedy/thrillers nowadays.


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1 Response

  1. Capt. Nemo says:

    Ah, the memories.

    You are so right about the loyal fan base. This movie was a favorite of my father. He insisted that we tape it from HBO in 1981. And we watched it over and over till it came out on DVD.

    This movie introduced me to Marc "Tommy Torpedo" Lawrence. Ever since seeing this movie, I was doomed to a life of pointing at the television and saying 'Hey, its that guy from Foul Play." He doesn't say much in this film but he has such a striking face its hard to forget him.

    Is it me? Or did this movie start a trend were albinos would be forever associated with thrillers associated with the Catholic Church? Movies like "The Name of the Rose" and "The Da Vinci Code" come to mind. Both had their creepy albinos and I could never figure out what they brought to the table. The only explanation is that it worked in this film and other film makers are trying to imitate that success.

    This movie also got me interested in the musical, "The Mikado." I have seen five stage performances of this play. And when the first act ends, I can't help thinking about this movie. If you ever get a chance to see this play, go see it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IA1GgPrC0vk

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVp54EvxirI

    In the end, the movie is remembered for its parts instead of its whole. There are so many great scenes. Some funny. Some pretty thrilling. The fact she is being chased by hoods with chloroform rags one minute and trying to get the attention of old ladies playing scrabble the next doesn't seem to destroy the rhythm or tone the makers were going for.

    I think the movie ends up being "One of those films you can kill and evening with." If you need a pleasant film to end an evening with this is definitely a good one.

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