“Semi-Tough” was on TV last night. I saw it in a theater back in 1977. Unfortunately it wasn’t in the TV guide, I didn’t know it was coming on, and I didn’t set a tape. Then my sweet Claire insisted on watching “Dead Like Me”. Damn. (Double damn – I really don’t like the lead actress although it’s fun to watch Mandy Patinkin in a solid role). I hope it’s on again soon.
Burt Reynolds, Kris Kristofferson, Jill Clayburgh, Robert Preston, Lotte Lenya, Bert Convy, Brian Dennehy, Ron Silver, Carl Weathers – a good cast. Reynolds was good actor in earlier stuff like Deliverance and always a fine comic presence. Kristofferson was more of a trendy pretty face, and Clayburgh was not as much as good as popular in a Diane Keaton kind of way, but the supporting cast was superb. There is a little Canadian sports trivia attached to this one. Remember Joe Kapp, the BC Lions quarterback who moved to the NFL and played a few seasons with Minnesota? He’s in it. So are Ed “Too Tall” Jones. Paul Hornung plays himself as a sportcaster – it’s set after his glory days with the Packers. Deadwood fans take not – Jim Beaver who plays Ellsworth in Deadwood is an uncredited extra.
It’s a great ribald satire. It was memorable, not so much for the football, as for the satire on popular psychology and self-improvement gurus. There’s scene with Robert Preston, playing the demented millionaire owner of the football team crawling on hands and knees in his office, where all the furniture has had the legs removed so he can learn to crawl again (rebirth and inner child therapies). There is another scene where Reynolds gets Pelfed – a sadistic massage by a therapist who demands Freudian insights as she tortures her patients. Pelf was played by Lotte Lenya, the great singer-actress who premiered Mahagonia with Brecht and Weil. I remember a scene in which Reynolds, having strapped a catheter on his member and a bottle to his leg sits through a seminar in which the guru refuses to let anyone leave the room to urinate, blithely sits through everyone else’s absurdly self-inflicted discomfort.
It’s ironic to remember watching this movie 5 years before I met Jan, laughing my guts out at the pathetically gullible people who bought into that horseshit, and then realizing I married one of them. That’s one of the things she didn’t tell me about herself and her family, one of things I couldn’t stand. The fact that I couldn’t stand it when it was out in open makes me the intolerant, insensitive, sarcastic, narcissistic bad guy. But as Elvis said in Bubba Ho Tep “I’ve still got my soul”.