Wilder - Buddy, Buddy (1981) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Wilder – Buddy, Buddy (1981)

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Walter Matthau plays a professional killer going by the name of Trabucco, who is on his way to rub out gangster Rudy "Disco" Gambola, set to testify against the mob. As Trabucco heads off to a hotel across the street from the courthouse where he plans to set his hit, he runs into the depressed Victor Clooney (Jack Lemmon), who laments the fact that his wife has left him for the head of a weird Californian sex clinic. Soon, Trabucco is stuck trying to stop Victor from killing himself all while completing his hit.

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So that was it, the end of the Billy Wilder filmography and it ends on a less than stellar note. I will start out by being positive and mention that Wilder seems to be a head of the curve with the hitman black comedy by about 15 years because the middle to late 90's was chock full of this genre. To this day you still can't go a month without a new hitman movie coming out. Some of the movies include In Bruges, Grosse Pointe Blank, Lucky Number Slevin, The Matador, Romeo is Bleeding, The Whole Nine Yards, and Killers and those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head. Was Buddy, Buddy the reason all these movies were made? Not a chance, I think for most of them the big influence was Pulp Fiction, but it does show the man was before his time at the end.

Another thing that I enjoyed was Walter Matthau cursing up a storm. Usually a character dropping a random f-bomb does nothing for me in a movie but watching Matthau and his hangdog face angrily telling Lemmon to "Fuck off" really tickles me. Actually, Matthau was by far the best thing in the movie. His low key acting in this movie was amusing to me and I still can't think of a Matthau performance I didn't enjoy.

With that said, he was the ONLY thing I enjoyed in this film. Jack Lemmon tried his best but he could not make his character of Victor Clooney anything but annoying. When Matthau's Trabucco was going to shoot him behind the rock, I was 100% rooting for him. Lemmon was great at being high strung but this movie amplified it way too much.

Lemmon made it out a lot better than anyone involved with the awful sex clinic b-plot. Wilder had the wonderfully weird Klaus Kinski in the movie as a quackish sex doctor and didnt do anything interesting with him. He gave him a funny name and called it a day in one of the most unfortunate casting strike outs of his career. Even worse was Paula Prentiss as Lemmon's estranged wife. I can honestly not think of a worse performance than she gives in this film. She is wooded and over the top at the same time and any moment with her in the film was pure torture. I couldn't understand why Victor would want her back, I don't even understand why he would want to be in the same room as her.

I know that you were not a fan of this film either, but did you enjoy Matthau as much as I did in this film?

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com


Matthau is easily the best part of the picture, though your 'low key' is my 'desperately wishing he was anywhere else in the world'. So many of his bits of exasperation actually transcend acting and become quite palpable.

Mind you, his annoyance is totally understandable. Lemmon's character is a complete loon, and Wilder's pace in this one is simply merciless. It's a dirge instead of a comedy, watching these two go through the motions that needs a light touch which Wilder just can't provide. I think if any of his movies have shown his age (outside of Kiss Me Stupid and Fedora), this one is it.

Let's go back to that sex clinic, which for comedic purposes could have gone one of two ways; either very dirty, or not dirty at all. Wilder tries to go both ways, making the sex clinic filled with grandmas and grandpas who look miffed by Lemmon's schtick, and then a bevy of beautiful young nudes hang out in a pool out back. Either have the out of touch grannies go swinging or make the young ones more studious than horny-- splitting the difference as he did was the smallest source of humor possible.

Worse is Prentiss, who is stunningly awful here. I've rarely seen a lead female actress this bad, and matched up against the surprisingly dialed-down Klaus Kinski, they add nothing. It's a non-starter of a story, and it just drifts away in the last half an hour.

Let's touch on the film's ending which is also drawn out and sad. What did you think of it? Drawn out and sad? And what do you think Wilder was trying to say with this movie... besides that things these day sure are crazy?

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I don't find the ending of the movie sad, the whole film is kind of drawn out so that doesn't apply to just the ending but I am curious on why you found it sad. Trabucco gets his island getaway and seems quite content. Clooney, who as I said, is just a depressingly awful character finally gets his revenge on his wife and her lover and gets to live the life of an outlaw and annoy his "best friend" until the end of their days.

For your question on what Wilder was trying to say with this film, I have no idea. The movie is light as air and I don't know if it has any deeper meaning than the hook of making the Odd Couple hitmen. I would love to hear your thoughts on the message of the movie because I got nothing.
Well, the problem is Lemmon's character-- ol' what's his face-- gets revenge in the most facetious way. He burns down the clinic after it's been abandoned, and now he's retreated to Matthau's care... only to be certainly killed. It's a whimper of an ending that, to me at least, dragged on and on.

And for the moral... well, I was kind of hoping that you had a clue. Billy Wilder, the writer and director who held up a dirty mirror to the motion picture industry, who started a national conversation on alcoholism, who showed the press for what it really could be... ran out of steam. But we can go into that more next week, when we wrap this sucker up.

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Next Time: Our Closing Words

The Films of Billy Wilder

Posted by Danny

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