OUCH! by MR.E.

OUCH! by MR.E.

Friday, May 9, 2014


Another Nice Mess is a 1972 comedy film written and directed by Bob Einstein (aka Super Dave Osborn), a former writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. The film starred Rich Little as Richard Nixon and Herb Voland as Spiro Agnew. The film is presented in the style of a Laurel and Hardy comedy, with Nixon in the Oliver Hardy role, and Agnew in the Stan Laurel role. The film is out of print and hard to find. The film also stars Bruce Kirby, Diahn Williams, Stewart Bradley and Steve Martin (in his first film role).

When the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was canceled by CBS in April 1969 due to political pressure, Tom Smothers walked off with a great deal of anger - and a fair bit of show business clout.  He soon funneled much of the nest egg he'd fostered during Comedy Hour's popularity into a variety of pet projects.  He and Ken Kragen formed a management company and while Tommy, understandably, became co-manager with Kragen of people like Mason Williams and Bob Einstein, they also managed singer Kenny Rogers and the hammond-organ playing pitcher of the Detroit Tigers, Denny McLain.  Tommy's next plan was to bank-roll some politically significant cinema.  Another Nice Mess was Bob Einstein's germination.  He knew Tommy would likely finance something that took on the Nixon administration.  It was a real opportunity for Einstein to enter the production side of show business and jockey himself a spot within the New Hollywood.  Smothers signed on to produce Einstein's screenplay along with Jonathan Haze.


Haze was a member of Roger Corman's company of regular players. The Corman company nurtured squares turned counterculture luminaries like Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson. As with those frequent reefer smokers, Jonathan Haze was politicized by the cultural shift in the late nineteen sixties. No longer content to simply ham it up in innocuous films like Teenage Caveman and Little Shop of Horrors, Haze invested a good chunk of his savings in the production of Another Nice Mess. The small budget of two-hundred and fifty grand allowed them to exploit an IATSE loophole that allowed low-budget filmmakers to use non-union laborers. The film was shot in four weeks, but took nine months to edit.


The film debuted in Chicago at the start of August 1972, playing at both the Uptown and Varsity theaters.  The Hollywood Egyptian Theater and the UA Cinema Center in Westwood hosted simultaneous California debuts.  The LA Times praised Rich Little and Herb Voland for "having their Laurel and Hardy business down cold," although the reviewer complained Voland looked less like Spiro Agnew and more like Merv Griffin sidekick Arthur Treacher."  The slapstick is erratic and labored," wrote film columnist Gregg Kilday.  "The film is so harshly lit that the action looks, not entirely inappropriately, as if it takes place in a wax museum."  But the largest complaint lodged by film critics - and this is telling of the times - was that the film just wasn't political enough.


The film entered general release in September reaching a mere seven theaters.  The Brookside in Kansas City blamed its empty theater on the rain, but ticket sales remained non-existent when the weather cleared.  Its screening at the Metro II in San Francisco was dismissed as "a bomb."  The film did best at the Broadway Theater in Portland where it played for nine weeks to "warm" business. The total gross was around thirty-thousand dollars. 

Bob Einstein appeared on The Dick Cavett Show to promote the film and Rich Little did likewise with Johnny Carson, but it didn't seem to help.  The film had a short-life, playing between August and October 1972.  It was never screened again.  For years there have been rumors it was buried by the Nixon administration, but Tom Smothers admits he buried it himself because, he says, "It was a terrible film."  Co-producer Jonathan Haze concluded,"Another Nice Mess was a mess."


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