Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Obscure Movie Of The Week: Let's Get Harry (1986)

What if I told you there is a lost little gem from the '80's starring Robert Duvall and Gary Busey, and to amp things up also features a then up-and-coming Mark Harmon (former UCLA starting quarterback) and Glenn Frey (yes, from the Eagles, or as Frey calls them, "Eagles") to tag along because, well, there's lots of cocaine involved and the plot involves heading to Columbia to deal with some drug lords? Oh, and the guy who played Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles in the film too?'d like to see Biff Tannen from Back to the Future??? We gots him here too! Oh, and one more thing, the director is the guy who did Cool Hand Luke. Is that something you might be interested in?

Oh yeah, and there's a dwarf. And it aint Billy Barty.
It's actually a good time. Mainly because Busey and Frey are really into character (there are some over at IMDB who openly question how Busey missed out on a Supporting Actor Oscar Nomination for his role, which is being, oh just a bit kind, and Frey playing a coke head isn't much of a stretch). Duvall is Duvall, even if he's just handing out stamps to everyone he sees because he's just mailing his role in. And shouldn't we be interested in anything the guy who did Cool Hand Luke? The movie's called Let's Get Harry, and unfortunately it's tagged with the kiss of death in terms of Hollywood lore. It became what is commonly known as "An Alan Smithee Movie." Meaning, the original director, in this case Stuart Rosenberg (who also directed The Pope of Greenwich Village), became so disenchanted with the final version of the film that he demanded his name be removed from any association with it, therefore the film is credited as being "Directed by Alan Smithee." And there is no Alan Smithee. It's just some name they tag the movie with when the real director demands no credit for his or her work. So everyone wanted to sweep this thing quietly under the rug.
Which is odd, when you consider at the time, Duvall was (like he still is) at screen legend status, Harmon was big from St. Elsewhere, Frey had distanced himself from the Eagles by doing stints on Miami Vice, and Sixteen Candles and Back to the Future had just come out. And good old Gary Busey, although not quite yet certifiable crazy, was at least an established star.

So what went wrong? For starters, everyone distanced themselves from the film after Rosenberg washed his hands of it. Frey actually got thrown in jail in Mexico on a day of shooting, and can we really see Jake Ryan and Biff as anything other than those two characters? So the film never found distribution in theaters and since it was 1986, went straight to "television." Never even got a "straight to video" shout-out. Back then it was just something the HBO's or Showtime's could choose to put on at 3 AM.

As with most of our obscure picks, it's not out on DVD (yet there's a very small group demanding this happen and include the director's cut). So it's VHS or nothing for now. But the real legacy of this film is how it was the end for everyone involved with it film-wise, save Duvall. Busey would have fun but small roles in Point Break and The Firm, and then just completely lose his mind (and now he's something of a running joke playing himself on Entourage). Harmon never really got another shot at a decent movie. Cameron Crowe threw old friend Frey a bone by putting him in a rather miscast role as the General Manager of the Arizona Cardinals in Jerry Maguire. Biff was always Biff (probably begging for more Back To The Future movies, and asking if he could be paid in Cash), and Jake was forever going to be Jake. As for Stuart Rosenberg, he'd direct one more film (1991's My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys), and he died just over a year ago. But if you can find this movie on some lower tier digital cable channel some night, dial it in. It's escapist fun if nothing else.

1 comment:

notorious DEK said...

I liked Jake Ryan better as Kuch, the wannabe indian, in the epic film... Vision Quest