Pascal Grenier for Cinetalk.net
Arthur Hiller (November 13, 1923 – August 17, 2016) passed away at the age of 92 years old. Born in Alberta, Hiller started with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) before moving to NBC and later-on becoming a pretty successful Hollywood director over a 50-year career. Best-known for Love Story, which was nominated for seven Oscars in 1971, Hiller was always considered a solid Hollywood craftsman. He also served as president of the Directors Guild of America for a few years as well as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1993 to 1997.
The Out-of-Towners (1970)
An Ohio sales executive hopes for a higher position within a company and travels to New York City with his wife for the job interview but things go wrong from the start and lead to many misadventures in Manhattan.
Written for the screen by famous playwright Neil Simon, this is one enjoyable adventure-comedy that paved the way to a successful formula that Hiller re-used in later productions (e.g. Silver Streak, Outrageous Fortune). Clever dialogues and a fine study elevate the film above the genre. Part of its success, rests on the shoulders of the screen couple (played by Sandy Dennis and Jack Lemmon). As the manic husband on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Lemmon is perfectly cast and steals the show. Not only does The Out-of-Towners generates laughs (and a few thrills) but it also mirrored many incidents that occurred in New York City during the era (the rising crime rate, the huge transit strike in NYC, etc.)
The film was remade in 1999 with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn, but the original is way better than the disappointing remake.
Silver Streak (1976)
A man finds romance (and danger) as many incidents occur inside a long-distance train on the journey from Los Angeles to Chicago.
This is a comedy-thriller that feels (at times) like an Agatha Christie’s murder-mystery. There’s a fine balance between comic elements and many twists occurring inside the train that make this a thrilling ride.
Silver Streak marked the first pairing of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, who were paired in three more films (including Hiller’s See No Evil Hear No Evil in 1989).
The In-Laws (1979)
In preparation for his daughter’s wedding, a dentist is drag by the groom’s father into a series of chases and misadventures.
Once again, Hiller uses his formula of misadventures that escalates wildly and the results are rewarding. The chemistry between Alan Arkin, as the dentist, and Peter Falk (who claims to be a government agent) works very well. Both actors have seldom been as good as in a wild ride from New York to Central America. This is probably the director’s craziest and funniest film in an otherwise fine career. Avoid the soporific 2003 remake at all costs.
The film was just released on Blu Ray by Criterion. It is worth every penny.