The Night They Raided Minsky's (The Night They Invented Striptease) Reviews
Instrumental in the commercial transformation of Hollywood in only a few short years, Friedkin's films often display a cold cynicism which belies the popular appeal of his future short-lived commercial success. The Night They Raided Minsky's is of a completely different spirit. It is a star-studded ensemble farce, fueled not so much by the breathtaking nature of any scene or story point but by the archetypal bearings of its performers. We have Elliott Gould delightfully playing up his deeply recognized Jewish identity, Denholm Elliott lovingly drawing from his always readily apparent English manners, Jason Robards working his all-American common-man staple. But whether stand-alone scenes work in and of themselves or not, the movie altogether truly appears to grasp this most-American art form.
Supposedly, burlesque surged in an era when America was at the onset of the modern moral uprising, when the rural Puritan standards and the makeshift culture of the cities came across one another. Burlesque was basically vaudeville and sex, and in the early days the sex was straightforward, guileless and practically inoffensive. This is the charm of this film, not the pratfalls, the jokes or the farce, even when they work well, which is where Friedkin's stamp really shows itself: Like a Friedkin picture, it is about more than it acts like it is. Friedkin recounts that very period, when there was an exhilaration and flourishing, boisterous burlesque that later vanished. His characters live a talkative, communal life, occupying cafeterias and eating outlandish, hysterically filmed meals. They view burlesque not so much as a profession, more a lifestyle.
The plot involves a young Amish girl played by Swedish future Bond doll Britt Ekland, who comes to the big city and is overwhelmed by the flashing marquees. The film opens with Rudy Vallee telling us in a vaudeville style that what we're about to see is based on "really true incidents that actually happened," that "in 1925 there was this real religious girlâ¦this real religious girl." Black-and-white images of Model A's on hectic streets, a dancing horse, acrobats, and numerous other impressions whip by, ultimately beholding a lively market street teeming with peddlers and pushcarts that bursts into color. There's a close-up on Ekland riding in bright-eyed on an el train. Her point-of-view peering out at the tenement-lined street erupts from black-and-white to color, as does her making her way down that street. She imbibes the zest and ambiance of a novel world, swarming but exhilarating. Austere gray skies but a vividm multihued event interspersed by more color swings visually signifying her inexperience.
Friedkin captures her coming in his naturalistic style of pursuing and exposing action. Her discovery of countless faces, vendors, merchants and ultimately the Minky's Burlesque Theater, is our discovery, too. We become partakers rather than just watchers. And the awareness to minutiae webs with our point-of-view on the marquee dropping to show Bert Lahr chomping a cigar, about to befriend the virginal greenhorn whose perspective we've shared.
She longs to dance at Minsky's. She is fought over by two comics (Norman Wisdom and Jason Robards), bird-dogged by her bearded, religious zealot father, and she suddenly, unwittingly and yet glamorously pioneers the striptease. And that moment when she finally invents the strip dance mostly to defy her father and other possessive male figures speaks so many volumes about the futility of utter conservatism and fundamentalism, how the more it pushes and the more it engulfs, the more shocking and extreme each explosion of rebellion and revolution will be, which of course is not to say that the scene itself threatens anything over PG-13 material, but the subtext is there.
Friedkin has intentionally employed stereotypes in casting. Ekland is as dovelike and guileless as Joan of Arc and her father is an emigrant from an Early Renaissance allegorical drama. So the story itself takes on some of the reduction and directness of the burlesque skits which freely exposes the action, which tends to compensate for the film's weakness since the editing often becomes a bit too unnecessarily frenzied rather than gazing decisively on the impact of a given image or scene.
Comedy directed by no less than The Exorcist director William Friedkin.
This film is purely all about vaudeville as it shows scene after scene of the old acts on stage. It goes back once and a while to normal dialog and people, but its all about stage acts.
Obviously from the title these folks are doing something that the police do not like. They raid Minskys sooner or later don't they? Has lots of veteran, and I do mean old veteran actors like Bert Lahr (the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz).
Cinematography is very well done. This is one crazy film and I mean that in the worst, uncomplimentary way.
Jason Robards as Raymond Paine
Britt Ekland as Rachel Elizabeth Schpitendavel
Norman Wisdom as Chick Williams
Forrest Tucker as Trim Houlihan
Harry Andrews as Jacob Schpitendavel
Joseph Wiseman as Louis Minsky
Denholm Elliott as Vance Fowler
Elliott Gould as Billy Minsky
Jack Burns as Candy Butcher
Bert Lahr as Professor Spats
Not overly glamorized into the typical slapsticky chuckle-fest that you might expect. While there is some of THAT...there is also a bit of the seedy and slightly dark underbelly of "the business" thrown into the mis, but done so in a way that doesn't make it feel gratuitous.
The acting is good, especially Britt Ekland who gives a GREAT performance.
Some of the cinematograpy and editing are genious and the costumes and set designs are SPOT ON.
All of these things REALLY serve to convey the look and feel of the era and make what could easily have been just another rambunctious romp through the "Roaring 20's" look and feel (at times) more like archival footage brought to life.