The Ritz (1976)

The Ritz (1976)


When Gaetano Proclo (Jack Weston, Dirty Dancing) realizes that his brother-in-law (Jerry Stiller, Zoolander) wants him dead, he decides to hide in a place where he thinks no one will find him: a New York “gay bathhouse.” Protoclo finds out soon enough that he is ill-equipped to deal with the patrons’ insatiable desire to have a good time.

Reaction & Thoughts:

This adaptation of Terrence Macnally’s famous Broadway show is undermined by its theatricality — The Ritz never feels like a real movie. It’s a stubbornly stagy, talky “movie.”

Director Richard Lester (Superman II & III) tried to do for Macnally’s 1975 Broadway production what he did for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. It didn’t work for me. I’m sure it was considered daring back in the day, but today it looks a bit dull. It’s a farce and as such it is full of grotesqueties. I don’t really have a problem with that. I just thought this could have been much better. Lester’s addiction to extreme close-ups is particularly grating.

The actors are more strident than funny. Rita Moreno (West Side Story) reprises her Tony-winning role as Googie Gomez, a performer with more enthusiasm than talent, but she seems to still be playing to the back row in the theater.

Weston is a fine character actor, but he’s no leading man material (George Segal,  The Owl and the Pussycat, would have been my pick). Treat Williams (Prince of the City) got on my nerves. I did like F. Murray Abraham’s (Amadeus) work as the bathhouse’s unofficial “tour-guide.” He is the only actor who seems to understand the difference between stage and film.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Granted, it’s an important play/film. It dared to deal with things most people didn’t want to talk about. However, The Ritz also perpetuates awful stereotypes — it presents homosexuality as a curious oddity — so it is best described as a dated piece of canned theater. Color, 100 minutes, Rated R.


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