Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jason Robards, Britt Ekland, Norman Wisdom, Forrest Tucker, Harry Andrews, Joseph Wiseman, Denholm Elliott, Elliott Gould, Jack Burns, Bert Lahr, Gloria LeRoy, Eddie Lawrence, Dexter Maitland, Lillian Hayman, Richard Libertini
Written by: Arnold Schulman, Sidney Michaels, Norman Lear, based on a book by Rowland Barber
Directed by: William Friedkin
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for suggestive content and brief nudity
Running Time: 99
Date: 12/22/1968

The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Strip of Fools

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

William Friedkin directed this quasi-comedy in the early days of his feature film career, before he established his cinematic personality and made it big with the great The French Connection. Partly written by Norman Lear, The Night They Raided Minsky's is set in 1925 in the world of the old New York Burlesque shows, and depicts the first supposed strip tease. Friedkin seems to have tried to actually represent the details of this lost world, but the movie seems trapped in the world of moddish 1960s humor and frantic, aggressive cutting.

It's basically a love triangle between two male clown performers, the tall, fast-talking Raymond Paine (Jason Robards) and the short, big-hearted Chick Williams (Norman Wisdom). They both fall for Rachel (the gorgeous Britt Ekland), a naive Amish girl who comes to the big city in the hopes of dancing. And there's a race against time, trying to prevent an agitated censor (a young, mop-headed Denholm Elliott) from shutting down the theater. Elliot Gould twirls a cigar in his mouth in the role of Minksy, and Bert Lahr (the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz) plays an aging vaudevillian. Olive Films released the Blu-ray in 2015.

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