Film / Foul Play

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"Beware of the Dwarf!"

A 1978 comedy/thriller directed by Colin Higgins and starring Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase.

Hawn is Gloria, a shy divorcee and librarian living in San Francisco, back during the time when a librarian could afford to live in San Francisco. One day decides to follow a friend's advice to throw caution to the wind, asking out a stranger whom she helps out when his car breaks down. When they meet at the movies that night, however, he's been shot, and manages to blurt out a cryptic warning — "beware of the dwarf!" — before dying. She goes to get help, only to find that someone has taken the body before she can get back to her seat.

Suddenly embroiled in a lethal conspiracy, Gloria finds herself being hunted by various parties who are eager to find out what she knows and make sure she doesn't tell anyone else. Various complications — including diminutive salesmen, albino assassins, a lecherous British bachelor (Dudley Moore) and Detective Tony Carlson (Chase), a handsome police officer assigned to investigate her increasingly bizarre story — ensue.

Hawn and Chase made several movies after this in the Tracy/Hepburn tradition, including Seems Like Old Times.


This Film Contains Examples Of:

  • Artistic License Biology: Albinism is usually associated with a host of eye disorders causing visual problems. In other words, an albino probably is not going to get work as a sniper.
  • At the Opera Tonight: The film climaxes with a chase for the assassin through the San Francisco Opera House during a performance of The Mikado.
  • Badass Grandpa: Mr. Hennessey, played by Burgess Meredith, is such a nice old man. With moves like Bruce Lee.
  • Bald of Evil: The Turk, one of the Mooks, is bald as a cueball.
  • Boggles the Mind
  • Casanova Wannabe: Stanley wants to be a Kavorka Man but doesn't manage to get anywhere.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: If a TV or radio is on during this movie, it will mention the Pope's visit to San Francisco.
  • Cold Sniper: The albino, whose face hardly moves even while he's shooting people.
  • Concert Climax: It takes place at a performance of The Mikado.
  • Concert Kiss: Tony and Gloria at the climax, onstage, after the albino has been killed.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The second and third meetings of Gloria and Stanley—randomly at a massage parlor, then randomly at an opera—are pretty unlikely.
  • Curtain Camouflage: Played with. Gloria enters her apartment and has a feeling that someone else is in there. She goes to the bathroom and whips open the shower curtain, only to find nothing. Then she turns around to discover the man with the scar in the doorway.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Many, many shots framed to show the Golden Gate Bridge, or the Bay Bridge, or cable cars, or Alcatraz. There's even an audio effect of a cable car's "ding ding" bell thrown into one scene for no reason.
  • Evil Albino: This one's a cold-blooded assassin.
  • Evil Laugh: Mr. Hennessey's snake somehow makes one.
  • Evil Twin: Archbishop Thorncrest has an evil, murderous brother Charlie.
  • Feng Schwing: Stanley's apartment.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Sure, San Francisco wasn't as much of a theme park for the rich in 1978 as it is in the 21st century, and sure, maybe kindly old Mr. Hennessey is giving Gloria a break on the rent. But still, it strains credulity that a librarian could afford an apartment of that size.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The two little old ladies playing Scrabble... using dirty words. We only see parts of the Scrabble board but it's pretty clear what those words are.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Gloria brings a vase down on J.J.'s head. It doesn't seem to affect him that much, although she certainly does maim him afterwards.
  • Happy Ending Massage: Gloria is held prisoner in an apartment above a massage parlor. She briefly escapes downstairs, only to find poor Stanley waiting for his happy ending.
  • Hot Librarian: Gloria is played by Goldie Hawn, after all.
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: Actually Scotty gave her the microfilm well before he was mortally injured, but he does meet her as he's dying and she is stuck with the microfilm.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: The bad guys have a nasty tendency to keep pulling this on Gloria.
  • Japanese Tourist: As Tony and Gloria race to save the day in the climax, they commandeer a car with a Japanese couple in the back. They don't understand much English, but they know what Kojak is, and when the heroes communicate that they're in a Kojak-esque situation, the tourists are thrilled to be along for the ride! ("Bang bang!")
  • Little People Are Surreal: Billy Barty as a Bible salesman.
  • MacGuffin: The microfilm that the dying man slips to Gloria. It gets burned up before anyone ever sees it, but by then she's already enmeshed in the criminal conspiracy to kill the Pope.
  • Murphy's Bed: Stanley has one that's tricked out for kinky sex, with a trumpet noise as it folds out, a mirror above, the works.
  • Oh Crap!: A minor one at the end; Stanley, who was conducting the orchestra during the climactic performance of The Mikado, noticed the Concert Kiss between Gloria and Tony, recognized that Gloria was the same blonde he ran into twice before, and then noticed that Tony was carrying a police badge. He immediately felt the need to slip on a pair of sunglasses.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations:
    • Scotty finds Gloria at the movie theater. Scotty, who is rapidly bleeding to death, says things like "There's going to be a murder" and "Call the police" to Gloria, but she thinks he's talking about the Alan Ladd movie playing on the scren.
    • Gloria is trying to persuade Stanley to escort her home because she's been attacked by a hired killer and fears for her life. Stanley thinks she's throwing herself at him. Things get increasingly misinterpreted.
    • Later, Gloria thinks a dwarf is threatening to kill her. He's actually just trying to sell her a bible.
  • One Head Taller: 5'6" Goldie Hawn paired with 6'4" Chase. She has to stand on tiptoe to kiss him at the climax.
  • Peek-A-Boo Corpse: The audience at The Mikado gets one during the climax after Tony shoots Whitey, who falls into the rigging of a fake HMS Pinafore, combined with the weight of a cop Whitey shot earlier, causes the ropes holding the fake ship above the stage to slip free, and the fake ship comes down to the stage, with the bodies in the rigging.
  • The Peeping Tom: When, at Stanley's apartment, Gloria requests a pair of binoculars (to better monitor the albino who has been pursuing her):
    Stanley: Binoculars? Are you into that as well?! I read about it in Penthouse magazine!
  • P.O.V. Cam: A spinning POV shot as Gloria collapses in a faint.
  • Professional Killer: Rupert Stiltskin, who has been hired to kill a very important figure.
  • Punny Name: Gloria Mundy and Rupert Stiltskin. As well as an Evil Albino known as "Whitey".
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Subverted; a snake appears in Gloria's landlord's apartment with sinister fanfare, but it turns out it's the landlord's pet snake Esmee, whom Gloria is fond of.
  • The '70s: Oh man, Dudley Moore's apartment...
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Gloria is wearing a revealing cocktail dress in the last act.
  • Straw Atheist: Assassinating the Pope?
  • Straw Feminist: Gloria's friend Stella has tendencies towards this, appearing to view every man Gloria mentions — or every man in general — as a potential rapist.
  • The Voiceless: The Albino doesn't say a word in this movie.
  • Western Terrorists: The radical atheists who want to kill the Pope.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Mr. Henneseey has a kung fu fight with a henchman who is an elderly woman.
  • You Have to Believe Me: Played with; although Gloria is reasonably calm and articulate when she tries to make her case (or at least as calm and articulate as a meek librarian with little experience in being plunged into a murderous conspiracy can be under such circumstances), she has difficulty in getting anyone to believe her story partly because it sounds so crazy, and partly because people keep disappearing the evidence before she can show it to anyone.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/FoulPlay