Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"The Happening" Is Slick and Fun

Cleveland Press May 9, 1967

A way-out swinging comedy, wild and satiric is a movie called "The Happening." Elliot Silverstein, who directed that great spoof of western movies "Cat Ballou" is responsible for this motion picture. What "Cat Ballou" did to westerns, "The Happening" does to gangster films.

If the effect is not as pointed it is because it hits at more targets. There are more satiric elements going for "Happening" as it aims its thrusts not only at gangster films but beach party pictures, beatniks, crooks, policemen, public officials, momism and businessmen.

If the movie has any flaw it is one of trying to do too much. But in an age when some movies accomplish too little the flaw is minor one.

THE MOVIE IS LOADED with slapstick, throw-away lines, and sight gags but occasionally pulls up sharply on a note of pathos.

As with "Cat Ballou," the plot is one that could almost be played straight. The spoofing is in the bending of familiar elements, a little like looking at life through the bottom of a Coke bottle.

Three young men and a girl, bored after an all-night party, are looking for kicks. Scrambling over the lawns of suburban homes and playing with kids, they chase one into a house.

The owner, Anthony Quinn, is a businessman with a gangster background and figures the syndicate is out to kidnap either his wife or son. He offers to go with them if they leave his family alone and in the spirit of a lark they take him away at gun point.

With the chance of picking up a fat ransom they decide to make their fun profitable. And the movie takes its first big twist. No one -- wife, business partner, old syndicate friends, even his mother -- is willing to pay $200,000 to save Quinn's life although he has provided them with plenty of money over the years.

"You're always thinking of yourself," his wife screams Into the phone when he suggests she sell her jewels.

THE PATHOS IS ONE of a man who's world has shattered. He has discovered that he has a cheating wife, a two-timing partner and phony friends.

Enraged, he turns on his captors, takes over the operation and decides to show these young punks how an old time hood runs a caper.

There's a little learning on both sides as he gets into the beat spirit while showing them how a real crook operates. He heads his own kidnaping, frames his wife and partner for his supposed murder and bilks the syndicate out of millions.

Frank De Vol's background music has a driving, modern sound and the action and photography match it beat for beat.

Quinn is ideally cast as the ex-hood with a respectable front. George Maharis turns in a good performance as a phony tough guy who is all bluster.

Some great character actors score in small roles. Jack Kruschen is the public official who laments that this should happen at the height of the tourist season.

Oscar Homolka is a paunchy menace grown old as the one-time syndicate boss. Milton Berle is still a master comic, even in the small role of a swindling partner.

In spite of the slapstick this is not a family movie, however, since some of the dialog gets a little rough.