Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)


In the south of France, sophisticated Englishman (Michael Caine, Dressed to Kill) cons his way into rich ladies’ bank accounts. The arrival of an obnoxious American hustler (Steve Martin, The Jerk) makes the smooth Englishman very angry — under no circumstances will he share his turf. When a rich American woman (Glenne Headly, Dick Tracy) lands in town, the two con-artists decide to vie for the woman’s purse and underpants.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Nearly scene-for-scene remake of Universal’s Bedtime Story (1964), starring Oscar-winners Marlon Brando (The Godfather), David Niven (The Pink Panther), and Shirley Jones (Oklahoma!). I was in fact shocked to see how close it stays to the original (similar camera angles, same dialogue, Caine’s appearance suggests Niven, etc.).

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, directed by Frank Oz, does have a completely new denouement, and unlike the 1964 movie, it was shot on location. The tone is different too. The original reflects the rise of nihilism in the 1960s while the playful attitude of the remake is more representative of the optimism of the Reagan Era.

Being a huge fan of Caine and Martin, I saw Dirty Rotten Scoundrels during its original theatrical run. Although I liked it, the film’s reputation as one of the best ’80s comedies baffles me a bit. This rewatch has confirmed my initial reaction — it’s good but not great. I much prefer Martin’s The Lonely GuyThe Man with Two Brains and All of Me. However, I do think it is a delightfully funny film.

Is it better than the original? Well, let’s call it a tie. I loved the new ending and the locales (it was beautifully shot by Michael Ballhaus, Goodfellas). The three main actors are great. But, Martin as a ladies man? I think not. Brando? Yes. Martin? Hell no! Also, the original does a better job fleshing out the two main characters.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Flaws and all, I enjoyed both movies. With Barbara Harris (Family Plot) and Ian McDiarmid (Return of the Jedi). Color, 110 minutes, Rated PG.


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