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Film / S.O.B.

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S.O.B. is a 1981 American comedy film written and directed by Blake Edwards, starring Julie Andrews, Richard Mulligan, Stuart Margolin, Larry Hagman, Robert Vaughn, Marisa Berenson, Robert Webber, Shelley Winters, Robert Preston, Loretta Swit, and William Holden in his final screen role. It is perhaps best remembered as "the film where Julie Andrews appears topless".

The story is a satire of the motion picture industry and Hollywood society. The main character, Felix Farmer (Mulligan), is a phenomenally successful producer who's just made the first flop of his career, to the dismay of the studio and the loss of his own sanity. Felix attempts suicide several times:

First, he attempts to die of carbon monoxide poisoning in his car, only to have it slip into gear and drive through the side of his garage, down a sand dune and ending up in the Pacific Ocean.

Next, he turns on the gas in the kitchen oven, but is prevented from carrying out his intent by two house guests with other things on their mind.

Thirdly, he attempts to hang himself from a rafter in an upstairs bedroom, only to fall through the floor, landing on a poisonous Hollywood gossip columnist standing in the living room below.

Thereafter he spends most of the time heavily sedated while his friends and hangers-on occupy his beach house. The occupation leads to a party which degenerates into an orgy.

Finally, he tries to shoot himself with a police officer's gun but is prevented from doing so by the ministrations of a sweet young thing in a pair of panties, and experiences a revelation of what was missing from his movie - Free Love!

Newly energized, Felix resolves to save both the film and his reputation. With great difficulty he persuades the studio and his wife Sally Miles (Andrews), an Oscar-winning movie star with a goody-goody image, to allow him to revise the film into a soft-core pornographic musical in which she must appear topless. He liquidates most of his wealth to buy the existing footage and to bankroll further production. If he fails, both he and Sally will be impoverished, at least by Hollywood standards.

At first the studio is keen to unload the film onto Felix and move on, but as it becomes apparent that it will be a success, they plot to regain control. Using California's community property laws, they get the distribution and final-cut rights by persuading Sally to sign them over. Felix then tries to get the movie negatives from the studio's color lab vault, armed with a water pistol, and is shot by police who think it is a real pistol.

Felix's untimely and violent death creates yet another crisis, particularly for his cronies Culley, Coogan and Dr. Finegarten, who plan to give him a burial at sea. They kidnap his corpse, substituting the body of a well-known but underrated character actor who died in the first scene of the movie, having a heart attack while jogging on the beach in front of Felix's home. Felix gets a Viking funeral, being sent out to sea in a burning dinghy, while the actor finally gets the Hollywood burial many thought he deserved.

The epilogue later reveals that the revamped film was a huge success, and Sally won another Academy Award for her performance. "And everyone lived happily ever after..."

S.O.B. contains examples of:

  • Black Comedy: The tone is set in the opening scenes, when a neighbor jogging on the beach collapses and dies just yards away from the Farmer mansion. He lies there for a couple of days before anyone notices.
  • Brutal Honesty: Tim Culley asks Felix Farmer "Have I ever lied to you?" and Felix replies "No". Tim goes on to say "Well I have, repeatedly. But the fact that I just admitted I have lied to you in the past means you can believe me now".
  • Bungled Suicide: Felix makes multiple attempts to kill himself only to have each of them unintentionally thwarted.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Dr. Irving Finegarten.
  • Conversation Cut: The conversation about Felix falling through the ceiling and landing on gossip columnist Polly Reed cycles through the whole cast this way, with each character getting a line or two over several conversations.
  • Creator In-Joke: The funeral home in the movie is called "O'Ryan's". Orion Pictures were meant to finance this and another Blake Edwards film, but budget disputes led to both being dropped - and SOB ended up at Lorimar (with Paramount distributing theatrically)
  • Dark Reprise: The movie opens with a musical sequence of the "all-audiences" version of Night Wind. The only scene that we get to see filmed of Felix's soft-core porn version of the film is a copy of that same sequence with the cute animals replaced with Chippendales Dancers, with the whole set painted in red, with a more "sleazy" version of the song that played over (with Sexophone a-plenty) and the "climax" being Sally baring her breasts.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: Felix goes from being a Hollywood pariah to having practically the whole town show up for his funeral.
  • Dr. Feelgood: Dr. Finegarten doles out prescription drugs like candy. He supplies Sally with the sedatives to relax her enough to do her topless scene.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Coogan, Finegarten, and Culley sit around drinking heavily after Felix's death.
  • Due to the Dead: The central characters decide Felix deserves better than a Hollywood funeral full of phonies, so they steal his body from the funeral home and give him a Viking Funeral (put on a burning boat and sent out to sea).
  • Fan Disservice: Robert Vaughn's studio exec is briefly seen dressed in...women's lingerie.
  • Fanservice: Rosanna Arquette topless. And in-universe, Felix wants Sally to do this in the movie. (It's hardly a spoiler to say that she does.)
    Sally: I'm gonna show my boobies!
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": The Viking funeral scene at the end.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Nope, not what you think. See below.
  • Hideous Hangover Cure: Dr. Finegarten has one that he takes intravenously:
    "Come to think of it, why should I give you a vitamin shot? I'm the one with the hangover. B-12, B-Complex, Crude Liver, and a generous jolt of adrenal cortex. Chased by a Bloody Mary. L'chaim!"
  • Horrible Hollywood: The title is an abbreviation of the term one character uses to describe how Hollywood operates: Standard Operational Bullshit.
  • Hotter and Sexier:
    • Felix's plan is to reboot Night Wind as this, and invoke it with Sally herself. ("We sold them schmaltz! They prefer sadomasochism!")
    • The party sequence plays like a raunchier version of the earlier Blake Edwards film The Party.
  • If It Bleeds, It Leads: Felix's last words after being shot by the police is that his death will probably give the film some necessary publicity on the news.
  • In the Style of: Edwards very obviously was inspired by Paddy Chayefsky's scripts for Network and The Hospital, even getting Network star William Holden to appear here.
  • Ironic Nursery Rhyme: In the Film Within a Film Night Wind, Sally performs a bizarre striptease on a set full of sexual imagery that represents her subconscious to a Sexophone-infused version of "Polly Wolly Doodle".
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Julie Andrews is basically playing an Expy of herself. Everything said in the movie about Sally Miles being a former star of family-friendly musicals who was changing her image also applied to Andrews at the time.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: David Blackman is clearly supposed to represent Robert Evans, who was Blake Edwards' chief adversary at Paramount when Darling Lili flopped.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: In-Universe Felix's last words after being shot by the police is that his death will probably give the film some necessary publicity on the news.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: What happens at the beach house, eventually.
  • Porn Stache: Dr. Finegarten.
  • Porn with Plot: The Show Within a Show is a softcore version. We don't get to see much of the actual sex (since S.O.B. is rated R), but we do (briefly) get to see Julie Andrews' boobiesnote . In-universe, she's doing the show in an attempt to break from her wholesome-girl typecasting; apparently she's basically playing herself.
  • Potty Failure: Coogan, while helping to move Felix's corpse, soils himself in the process. And this is in addition to pissing himself.
    Dr. Irving Finegarten: Ben, do you realize that in a matter of a few hours you have demonstrated most of your excremental bodily functions?
  • Real Award, Fictional Character: At the end of the film, Sally Miles wins an Oscar for her performance in Night Wind.
  • Scary Jack-in-the-Box: Played with. There is both a giant "toy" jack in the box and a man as a "jack" (or is it "jock"?) Both play major roles in the featured scene in the Show Within a Show, appearing in both G- and R-rated versions.
  • Show Within a Show: Night Wind, the family-friendly musical that Felix wants to Re-Cut into a sex movie.
  • Something Else Also Rises: Felix firing the gun into the air when he climaxes at his blowjob. And the giant jack-in-the-box on the film set, with its pink head, which pops up out of its box as Felix is telling the studio execs about his plan to make Night Wind Hotter and Sexier.
  • Subverted Kids' Show: The children's musical Night Wind and the usual Julie Andrews family-friendly image getting the Hotter and Sexier adult treatment (and Self-Deprecation on Andrews' part).
  • Suicide by Cop: Felix holds a film lab director hostage using a water pistol and forces him to have all the negatives of the film he wants brought out of storage. Confronted by the police, he points the pistol at them, and he is shot and killed.
  • Title Drop: It is explained in the movie that S.O.B. stands for "standard operational bullshit".
  • Two Decades Behind: Despite being filmed (and theoretically set) in the early 80's, the movie's depictions of sex, drugs, and the counter-culture feel more like The '60s.note 
  • Vanity Project: What Night Wind becomes for Felix after he purchases the material of the failed studio project with his own money. The conflict then becomes that Executive Meddling still tries to hamper his vision, even buying the movie back so they can lock him out of the editing process.
  • Video Credits: Clips of all the players at the end.
  • Viking Funeral: Felix's body is sent out to sea on a burning dinghy.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Ben Coogan's last act in the film is to throw up over the side of the boat.
  • Wrong Insult Offence:
    Polly Reed: You're gonna let that SHYSTER in?!!!
    Dr. Irving Finegarten: I could sue you for calling me that, Polly! A shyster is a disreputable lawyer. I'M a QUACK!
  • You Can Leave Your Hat On: In Night Wind, the Film Within a Film, Sally's character does a bizarre striptease to the tune of "Polly Wolly Doodle".

"...until the next movie!"