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A Movie A Day: Quint on MAN, WOMAN & CHILD (1983)
I bet you a dollar I can make you laugh before they can count to 10.

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] I’m going to have do a quickie on this one. I’ve been up 23 hours at this point, but I had to get today’s column written and posted or else it wouldn’t hit until tomorrow morning. It’s all well and good since I don’t have much to say about today’s title anyway. That’s not to say MAN, WOMAN & CHILD is a bad movie. I actually found it quite touching, if a little on the straightforward melodrama side of things. We jump from yesterday’s Hammer Thriller THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY to today’s radically different movie via screenwriter David Z. Goodman, also responsible for the scripts to Sam Peckinpah’s awesome STRAW DOGS and ‘70s sci-fi kitsch masterpiece LOGAN’S RUN. With MAN, WOMAN & CHILD, Goodman shares screenwriting credit with Erich Segal, author of the book upon which the film is based. Basically the film is about how a family unit is shaken when the loving husband gets a phone call telling him the wild affair he had 10 years previously in France is about to come crashing home. His lover was killed in an accident and he learns for the first time that he had a son with her. Martin Sheen plays Bob Beckwith, the adulterer who has to now confess to his wife, Sheila (Blythe Danner), that he was unfaithful. He feels the need to be there for his unknown son, even it means straining his marriage to the breaking point, forcing his wife to not only deal with the news of his affair, but also see the results of it in her own house, playing with their daughters.

Oh, and I swear to god Martin Sheen and his family live in Nancy’s house from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Sorry, had to make mention of that somewhere. The acting is high quality throughout, obviously a passion project for Danner and Sheen. The direction by Dick Richards (MARCH OR DIE) isn’t anything to write home about, but it works. There is some very pretty imagery, but the movie falls into a weird period of cinema, some dead zone between the harsh grittiness of ‘70s cinema and the glam grainy neon of the ‘80s so on the whole it’s kind a bland looking movie. But the strength of the story is on the actors and their characters. One particular favorite of mine pops up as Sheen’s best friend and lawyer, Bernie… Mr. Craig T. Nelson. I love the dude and his work, especially of this era. In fact, his small role in this film came just after his leading role in POLTERGEIST, one of my alltime favorites. The two key relationships are Sheen and Danner and Sheen and his new son, Jean-Claude, played by Sebastian Dungan and I bought into both of those relationships, especially the father/son one. Looking him up, Sebastian only has a few other credits… he went from the centerpiece of this movie to be the Paperboy in BETTER OFF DEAD (“I want my two dollars! TWO DOLLARS!!!”) to being a producer on TRANSAMERICA. What an odd career. But I’m surprised he didn’t act more. His work in this movie is very subtle. He’s a 10 year old that speaks with eyes more than his mouth… not very common. Danner could easily have made her character completely unsympathetic and comes dangerously close when she starts hating on the adorable and innocent new addition to the family, but Danner plays Sheila as an incredibly hurt person, seemingly hanging off the edge of a great abyss that will destroy her whole family. And you can’t feel mad at her. It was her husband, afterall, who fucked around. Final Thoughts: I’m not surprised this film has been forgotten for the most part, but it’s better than a lost film should be. It might not blow anyone’s socks off, but the story is raw and the performances make the melodrama tolerable, even affecting. My one point of contention… the youngest daughter is played by a girl who looks like a young Jake Gyllenhaal in drag and that disturbed me greatly. Just had to get that off my chest…

The schedule for the next 7 days is: Friday, August 22nd: THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (1976) Saturday, August 23rd: THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS (1959) Sunday, August 24th: THE RACK (1956) Monday, August 25th: UNTIL THEY SAIL (1957) Tuesday, August 26th: SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (1956) Wednesday, August 27th: THE SET-UP (1949) Thursday, August 28th: THE DEVIL & DANIEL WEBSTER (1941) Tomorrow we jump back to 1976 suspense film THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE via Martin Sheen. See you folk then! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay

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