a/perture cinema, the Official Movie Sponsor of The Less Desirables, presents The Less Desirables Movie of the Week, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), starring Michael Caine, Steve Martin and Glenne Headley.
Per IMDb: “Two con men try to settle their rivalry by betting on who can swindle a young American heiress out of $50,000 first.”
Lawrence Jamieson (Caine) is a top shelf British con man living in the fictional French Riviera town of Beaumont-sur-Mer. He’s rich because he only swindles the upper class under the guise of a prince of some country that needs help to feed its citizens. He also has the chief inspector on his payroll to aid him. Freddie Benson (Martin) is a low-rent con artist that dupes anyone he can, claiming to need money to get his grandmother some life-saving surgery. He’s moderately successful.
They’re rivals and Lawrence takes Freddie in to teach him how to get higher paying dupes out of the rich. He does this without paying Freddie. Freddie quits but returns aiming to put Lawrence under. They make a bet to see who can get $50k out of an unsuspecting female tourist first; loser-leaves-town. They find their target: an American socialite named Janet Colgate (Headly) that is dubbed “Soap Queen” because she was on a tour representing an American soap company, sort of like Miss America but with soap.
Lawrence prepares to set up shop as the prince, once more but at a casino, as he’s about to make a move, Freddie shows up in a naval uniform and in a wheelchair. He plays and loses at roulette. She takes pity and he tells her he needs to see a specialist to help him get back on his feet, because his handicap is all mental after his ex-girlfriend ran off with Danny Terrio of Dance U.S.A. That specialists name is Dr. Emil Shaffhausen. Lawrence gets wind of this and becomes Dr. Shaffhausen. The two play game after game of “oneupmanship” for a while. Does it work? Do either get $50k from Janet? You’ll have to watch to find out.
The film was directed by Yoda. That’s not exactly true, but kind of. It was directed by Frank Oz (who played Yoda). There are some silly comedy parts in this film and the back and forth between Caine and Martin is fantastic. Martin is especially funny as the prince’s brother, mentally challenged and socially inept Ruprecht. That is absolutely some of the funniest pieces of film I’ve seen. I was belly laughing at times. The scenes of the French Riviera were breathtaking. Ian McDiarmid, who plays Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars prequels was Lawrences manservant, Arthur. He was funny. It was just weird watching him play that kind of role. He was much younger, then, too. All in all, this was a very funny film and the plot twist at the end, I never saw it coming.
Rotten Tomatoes has it rated as 88% Fresh with an Audience Score of 84%. IMDb has it at 7.3 stars out of 10. I had to “rent” it for 48 hours from Amazon as it wasn’t available anywhere else, streaming. I watched it with The BCPF and 3B and I rate it 4 out of 5 stars. Have you seen it? What did you think? What would you like to read/hear me review?
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Oh, Lawrence! This is the happiest day of my life! I think my testicles are dropping!” – Freddie Benson