James Caan is cool. He's Santino Corleone. That's basically the only reason I checked out 1973's Slither during a recent Caan marathon on Turner Classic Movies. I should have steered clear of this one because Caan-cool factor aside, this is one bad movie.
Fresh out of prison having served part of a sentence for grand theft auto, Dick Kanipsia (Caan)
is dealt a strange hand when an old friend is killed after picking him
up. Before he dies though, the friend mysteriously tells him two names,
and that he should seek them out. With no other options or opportunities
in front of him, Dick seeks out one of the names, Barry Fenaka (Peter Boyle),
who lets him in on a plan. Years prior, Barry and the since-dead friend
embezzled some $312,000 and now know where they can get it. Dick signs
on as Barry's partner, traveling all over California in hopes of finally
getting their hands on the money. Who knows what kooky, crazy antics
await them on the open road.
In previous reviews of 1970s films, I've mentioned that there is a
distinct quality of watching a movie from that decade. It was a major
turning point in the darkness/reality of how films were portrayed, and
much of the time it was for the better. There's a different pacing to so
many 1970s movies with more of a focus on the people and stories rather
than the scope and scale. From director Howard Zieff,
'Slither' unfortunately tries to do just that. It aims to be a quirky,
off-beat story with quirky, off-beat characters, but never ultimately
gets to that point. At 97 minutes, it drifts aimlessly without even a
semblance of even a drifting story. Characters come along, disappear and
then return as necessary.
This flick is listed at IMDB as a comedy-crime thriller, and I'm
thinking "That was a comedy?" I must have missed all those really funny
parts. It is neither a comedy nor a thriller, and any drama seems to be
an accident more than anything. Caan's ex-con is an amiable enough guy,
sort of drifting along with a plan that could net him some easy money.
He meets all sorts of eccentrics along the road, but none of them are
truly funny. The twist is that Dick and Barry are being followed by a
menacing black van (Alex Rocco, Len Lesser, Allen Garfield, and Alex Henteloff
are the "baddies" inside) with some sinister objective. The actual
twist? Incredibly disappointing, and actually, mindlessly stupid that
doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But then again, that's kind of the
Even as a fan, I can admit Caan looks like he's sleepwalking. He
doesn't look too interested in any of the proceedings going on, maybe
realizing what a mess he got caught up in. I think there's some jokes
meant with his name (13-year old's giggle), but even that is mishandled.
Boyle is a little better as Barry, but his background is kept so much
in the dark that he's wasted. The character even disappears midway
through the movie, apparently that's the thriller aspect, but another
twist there falls short. Sally Kellerman starts off as the sexy chick Dick meets on the road, Kitty Kopetzky, then degenerates into a complete nut-bag. Louise Lasser plays Mary, Barry's wife who spends much of the movie being worried in the couple's RV motorhome.
I struggle with what else to rip about this mess. The end turns into
a big chase scene with the intimidating black van gunning it after a
station wagon hauling an RV. I don't even know. It's bad, and the more I
think about it, the badder it gets.
Slither <---TCM trailer/clips (1973): */****