Today felt like a day to recommend some papal pop culture…
Pope Benedict has announced his retirement–a rare event. 1978 marked another rare moment in Vatican history: the Catholic Church had three popes in one year. Popes were dropping like flies. After the death of Pope Paul VI on August 6, the newly elected Pope John Paul I served a mere 33 days before suffering a fatal heart attack on September 29.
Which brings me to Foul Play. Released in July of 1978–just a month before the popes started dying–the film follows a hapless librarian (Goldie Hawn) and a San Francisco cop (Chase) who become the last line of defense against a plot to assassinate the Pope. How odd is that?
No odder than the film itself. A comically alchemical festival of absurdities complete with a Barry Manillow soundtrack, Foul Play works something like one part mystery, one part hairy dog tale, and one part romantic comedy. This whodunnit (or whoisplanningtodunnit) movie incorporates a classic San Francisco car chase, an albino hitman, a dwarf Bible salesman, and a striptease by Dudley Moore into its quest to save the Pope.
So she got jilted at the alter before catching the eye of a mad woman’s husband. I’m still pretty astounded at the Jane Eyre rip-off of last night’s Downton Abbey episode.
Hasn’t Edith already suffered enough embarrassment without also being cast in a previously-used British plot line? The series seems satisfied to set up the middle Crawley sister for much of Miss Eyre’s tragedy with little of her pathos. And yet, I find myself increasingly rooting for Lady Edith. I’m hoping that the screenwriters or her family–either would do–will relent in their now rather too predictable view of her as the family ne’er-do-well. How much longer will Edith be made to do a kind of storyline penance for her part in the nasty sibling rivalry of season one? Meanwhile, Mary increasingly plays the heroine (quite literally) despite her just as egregious moral failings and her jaw-droppingly consistent bitchiness. (To paraphrase: “Gee, Mary, now that Cybil is dead, do you think we might be better to one another?” “I think not, Edith. I still don’t imagine I could find a way to like you, so let’s just lower the bar to my being nice to you for the funeral.” Um… what?!)
So I’m hoping for something more for our near-spinster, editorialist. Perhaps even legally legitimate, requited love. Though Matthew’s words of caution to the Crawley’s jazz-club-hopping trollop of a cousin ring with foreboding beyond last night’s episode: “Married men who wish to seduce young women always have horrid wives.”