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  Get to Know Your Rabbit Tricks Of The Trade
Year: 1972
Director: Brian De Palma
Stars: Tom Smothers, John Astin, Katharine Ross, Orson Welles, Susanne Zenor, Samantha Jones, Allen Garfield, Hope Summers, Jack Collins, George Ives, Robert Ball, M. Emmet Walsh, Helen Page Camp, Pearl Shear, Timothy Carey, Charles Lane, Beverly Powers
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Donald Beeman (Tom Smothers) works as a high powered executive in an office block, but lately he feels his job has been getting on top of him so one day, when the paperwork is piling up and the telephone won't stop ringing and his secretary has message upon message for him, he decides enough is enough. It's a hugely liberating feeling as he walks to the elevator, mildly takes in what is said to him by his fellow executives, then goes to the ground floor and strolls right out of the door. But now he's free, what can he possibly do?

Get to Know Your Rabbit was director Brian De Palma's big break in the movie industry, or that was the idea anyway. He was to helm a project starring one of television's big names in comedy, with featured roles from established actors, and it was to be the kind of counterculture wackiness with which he had made a splash earlier in his career, only with a proper budget behind it. At this time the studios were flinging money at the new generation of moviemakers with the hope that something would stick with the public and they'd have the next Easy Rider or Midnight Cowboy on their hands, but De Palma wasn't quite that kind of artist.

Therefore this film ended up with nobody much having anything good to say about it thanks to a lot of arguments behind the scenes, and the director taken off the project before he had completed it to his satisfaction, or anybody's satisfaction really. The best thing about this was it set De Palma on a different path as he decided humour was not what he wanted to be concentrating on for the rest of his career, and thrillers were where his heart truly lay, so after the debacle he made a low budget chiller called Sisters, and finally found his forte. But there are those who genuinely like his out there comedies, so what of this?

The main problem was that as a story, it was featherlight whimsy to the point of blowing away in a stiff breeze, and the flimsiness of the concept - a tapdancing magician craze - was not enough to sustain a full ninety minutes of movie. That's what happens to Donald, he leaves his job to enrol in a tiny school for teaching the dancing conjurors, led by Orson Welles no less; the idea of him tapdancing with his by now massive girth was one of the least likely concepts this came up with, although he was more hired for his magic skills. He's not in it for very long, however, and when he is onscreen he looks drunk or at the end of his tether - no wonder De Palma doesn't include Welles homages often in his work, as they reputedly did not get on.

By the time Donald has hit the road with his act (which includes a white rabbit, hence the title) he feels happier about the course of his life, having left his boss (John Astin) and fiancée (Susanne Zenor) behind, or we're meant to see him in that light as for a legendary humourist on the small screen, Smothers conveys surprisingly little charisma in what to be fair was a blank role overall. But nobody in this has much of a personality, merely a collection of quirks designed to relay the message of leaving the rat race - although as Donald discovers, the rat race is reluctant to leave him for Astin, now a wreck, builds on the whole tapdancing magician act to create a businessmen's self-actualisation cult that Donald is dragged back into. Also appearing were Allen Garfield as a brassiere salesman and Katharine Ross as Donald's fan turned ideal woman who doesn't even get a name, but while there was the odd laugh, it was tone deaf as far as tuning into the anti-establishment theme it was aiming for. Music by Jack Elliott and Allyn Ferguson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Brian De Palma  (1940 - )

Controversial American director and Alfred Hitchcock fan, strong on style, but weak on emotion. His early, political films like Greetings and Hi, Mom! gained some acclaim, but it was with Sisters that he emerged as a major talent of the 1970s and settled into his cycle of thrillers and horrors: The Phantom of the Paradise, Carrie, Obsession, The Fury, Dressed to Kill, Blow Out, Body Double, Carlito's Way, Raising Cain, Snake Eyes and Femme Fatale being good examples.

He's not aversed to directing blockbusters such as Scarface, The Untouchables and Mission Impossible, but Bonfire of the Vanities was a famous flop and The Black Dahlia fared little better as his profile dipped in its later years, with Passion barely seeing the inside of cinemas. Even in his poorest films, his way with the camera is undeniably impressive. Was once married to Nancy Allen.

 
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