There was an incident last night involving a speedboat, a lot of bullets and a group of people dressed as Alice in Wonderland characters which ended with most of them dead, and the cops are stumped as to what could possibly have been going on. The area is that around Washington D.C. where detective MacArthur Stern (Gene Hackman) is employed, and having just finished work for the night - persuading an over-amorous couple to keep the noise down - he learns he is being put back on homicide, specifically that baffling case. And as for his new partner, Ellis Fielding (Dan Aykroyd)...
The career of Bob Clark was a strange one, as he could veer from making very good films (A Christmas Story) to very bad ones (Baby Geniuses) without a hint of where he was about to go next. Loose Cannons was generally accepted as one of his bad movies, and the main reason for that was as a supposed comedy it wasn't funny. The bone of contention most had was that it was poking fun at the mentally ill, for Fielding is a man who has suffered a serious breakdown after being brutally tortured for two days solid by Colombian drug lords (yeah, I know, you're laughing already, right?) which has left him with a personality disorder.
We first meet him in a monastery where he has been recuperating, but swiftly gets the word he can return to duty, and that's because of his incredible deductive skills which will be needed to crack that case. The lure of making a detective with uncanny abilities of reasoning stretches back to Sherlock Holmes, and Fielding was very much in that line, but instead of making a humorous version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's sleuth the screenwriters opted to create a whole new character who just happened to contain those marvelous skills. Thus on arriving at the crime scene, he can work out precisely what happened: Germans were responsible, and a fat man got away.
The fat man being Harry the Hippo Gutterman, played by a very large and unhealthy-looking Dom DeLuise, and the key witness Stern and Fielding must protect from not only the Germans but the F.B.I. as well. But go back to the screenwriters for a moment and you'd find Richard Matheson working with his son Richard Christian Matheson, the former being a titan of horror and science fiction in the movies and on television, and his offspring was fairly accomplished as well, so how did they get involved with this turkey? Or was it in fact a really good screenplay until the other credit was involved, a certain Mr B. Clark? Whatever, audiences stayed away, but as with many notorious movie disasters, Loose Cannons eventually found a following.
That was down to the pairing of a wry Hackman (he seems amused about something, anyway) and a wacky Aykroyd, apparently out to prove mental illness can be fun in a series of setpieces where his affliction made him spout various quotes and catchphrases from popular culture: Star Trek, The Lone Ranger, even Saturday Night Live (from the time when he was on it). It's a conceit that would have been far more palatable without the crazy angle, not least because every so often the plot would grind to a halt so the cops could have a heart to heart and get in touch with their buddy movie emotions, which kills any promise of a laugh stone dead. Elsewhere, there were signs a modern Hitchcock thriller with jokes was the intention, but that had been done better in Silver Streak, which left the film's occasional oddities to sustain the interest, the MacGuffin being a gay porn film featuring the participation of Adolf Hitler. Actually, if this had been egregiously awful it might have been more interesting, as it is it was simply limp. Music by Paul Zaza.
American born, Canadian-based writer, producer and director with a varied career, he rarely stopped working in the industry from his 1970s horror Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things onwards, with cult classics like chiller Deathdream, Black Christmas (the first of the North American slasher cycle), Murder by Decree (a Sherlock Holmes mystery), sex comedy Porky's and its sequel, and A Christmas Story (a cult comedy that has become a seasonal favourite) all winning fans. He was responsible for such derided films as Rhinestone and the Baby Geniuses movies as well. At the time of his death in a car crash he was working on a remake of ...Dead Things.