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  • Everyone may know William Friedkin for "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist", but this gem from before his heyday will always come to my mind. During the movie's first few minutes, you're not exactly sure where it's going, but then we meet Rachel Schpitendavel (Britt Ekland), an Amish woman who has just arrived in 1920's New York City. Not quite sure where to go in this bustling metropolis, she goes to Billy Minsky's Burlesque House. Of course, she doesn't know that burlesque involves some stuff that is perpetually anathema to the Amish lifestyle. But performer Raymond Paine (Jason Robards Jr) sees some real potential in her. Meanwhile, there are two forces at work against Rachel's potential success: her father has arrived in town to take her back to the farm, and the police are seeking to shut down the burlesque house.

    Overall, "The Night They Raided Minsky's" is one of those nostalgia pieces that always has something coming. Interestingly, it was also a debut and farewell: Elliott Gould made his film debut playing Billy Minsky, and Bert "Cowardly Lion" Lahr plays a role too (he actually died while they were filming). Maybe this movie's not a masterpiece, but it's truly got something for everyone. Cool.
  • And I mean that most sincerely, this is one of the great films of the 1960s, charting the last days of the burlesque music-hall theatricals in America. The plot of the film is something of a mish-mash, mixing up Britt Ekland as an Amish runaway who finds herself onstage, with Denholm Elliot as a moralistic do-gooder trying to close down Minsky's theatre, but in truth, as with a large number of films of the period (see also The Pink Panther films), the plot is merely a convenience, a washing line upon which to hang a large number of characters, theatrical set-pieces and little illustrations of life in and around the theatrical world. A host of fine actors grace the screen, with Elliot Gould making an early appearance as Minsky jr, Harry Andrews as Ekland's glowering father, Joseph Wiseman as Minsky sr and most affectingly, Bert Lahr in his final screen performance. Even Ekland is OK, and it takes a lot to say that. But at the centre of it all are Jason Robards and Norman Wisdom as the theatre's chief comedy double-act. An odd pairing that works amazingly well, with Robards an effectively sleezy straight man (his seduction of Ekland is both funny and stomach churning). But if Robards is good, Wisdsom is fantastic, his comedic skills honed in England finally being given full rein (I enjoy a lot of his British films, but few of them really allow him full use of his abilities), and the song and dance routine and when he defines burlesque to Ekland rank as his finest on-screen moments. it's a bitter shame that the failure of this film and personal circumstances forced him to leave Hollywood, because with the right material he could have gone so much further. Truth is, if you have no sympathy for this sort of material, this will not change your mind. But for an utterly unique film, packed with beautiful little minutiae of theatrical life and a great mix of dark humour and bawdy comedy, this is really something to be cherished.
  • This film succeeds in both areas, comedy and nostalgia. It captures the period it portrays in wonderful fashion, with a very enthusiastic cast. I consider it one of the best cast movies I've ever seen, from the lead actors to the bit roles. Many classic burlesque routines are included, some of them done on the burlesque stage and some worked into the movie's dialogue. If you're in the mood for a comedy with a bit of feeling for another period in abundance, you can't do much better than this!
  • Why doesn't everybody just love this movie? It is one of most delightful comedies that I have ever seen. I saw it when it first came out in the cinema and watched it three times that first week and at least four times since.

    It is a very stylized movie, with an introductory narration right out of the 1920's. The style carries right through the film, with wonderful vaudeville routines. The "girls" are not particularly beautiful and are, by current standards a little overweight. Also they seem to be going through the motions with a variety of personalities. They do not have beautiful singing voices and they do not dance in perfect synchronization but nobody, especially them, seems to care. Burlesque is, after all, light entertainment. The comedy skits are very simple and unintelligent but they are performed with great panache. Sir Norman Wisdom (born 1915), the great British stage and screen clown of the Charlie Chaplin ilk, and Jason Robards Jr., the dapper Oscar-winning, American actor of the classic stage are the two central male characters and are both attracted to the beautiful Amish girl who has left home to dance stories from the Bible on stage. Wisdom is a master clown and can move in ways that are magically humorous. Burlesque has two meanings, with two spellings: - a humorous and provocative stage show featuring slapstick humour, comic skits, bawdy songs, striptease acts, and a scantily clad female chorus. (Burlesk) - an artistic composition, especially literary or dramatic, that, for the sake of laughter, vulgarizes lofty material or treats ordinary material with mock dignity. (Burlesque) The movie is a burlesque about burlesk. It also makes fun of religion, stage performances, censorship, prudery, friendship, business, fraud, crime, police, audience intelligence, class distinction, love, seduction, hypocrisy, etc. The mood is intense from start to finish, with several collages of scenes from the past and the movie's present. When I was not laughing out loud, I was laughing inside. The comedy on the stage is very elementary but the comedy in the story is often quite subtle and intelligent. Back to the initial question — I think that the movie may be too stylized for many people to enjoy, especially since the style has long been almost extinct. But if one accepts the style and allows oneself to become immersed in it and flow with it, the movie can be great.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I saw this with my family in Forest Hills in 1968, and I recall how at the time the film was advertised as Bert Lahr's last great performance because he was supposed to have a major role in this valentine to the late, great days of the Burlesque shows that Lahr came out of. It's true he appears in the film, and that he died while it was being made, but his part was cut to ribbons due to his death (obviously not enough of his role had been completed before he died, like John Candy in his last film and Spencer Tracy in his last film). But Lahr does have a final moment that always haunted me. More of that anon.

    The story (how true it is I can't answer) is how the tradition of the strip tease was created at the Minsky Burlesque House in New York City. The film follows the arrival of Britt Eckland (Rachel Schpitendavel) in Manhattan - she is an Amish girl who is running away from her way of life (and her stiff-necked father, Harry Andrews (Jacob Schpitendavel)). She accidentally meets Lahr ("Professor Spats"), who takes her to Minsky's to see if she can get a job there. The theater is run by Elliot Gould (Billy Minsky) who is the son of the owner Louis Minsky (Joseph Wiseman). Gould gives her some work, and she soon is being pursued by the two lead comedians in the show (Jason Robards - Raymond Paine; Norman Wisdon - Chick Williams). Robards makes the biggest impression on her - getting her into bed. In the meantime Gould is being annoyed by Denholm Elliot (Vance Fowler) who is head of a moral crusade organization. He's also under pressures from his father Louis, who disapproves of the sexual content of the burlesque shows. When Andrews shows up, he is full of righteous fury towards the evil city and the evil theater as well. Eckland is now a chorus girl.


    When a furious Andrews finds his daughter on stage in a "skimpy" costume, he rips off part of it in disgust in front of the bored audience. This causes the audience to take notice. Eckland notices this too, and starts continuing to rip off her costume. It is the invention of the strip tease - and Elliot, of course, sends a signal for a raid by the police. The film ends with most of the cast under arrest, except for Robards, who leaves with deep regrets (more in a moment) and Lahr. Lahr enters the empty theater after the arrests, picks up a prop from the stage floor, and walked off stage. And the movie ended.

    You'd have to see the film fully to understand that Lahr's final appearance, silent as it was, was moving. Professor Spats (for whatever remained of Lahr's part) was a fragment of the past of burlesque - a once great clown of the show when it was a family entertainment. His last moment on stage alone, with no audience to see him, marked the end of his era.

    Robards played his role with real enthusiasm, as a second-rate comic and singer (a burlesque "Archie Rice") who is also lecherous. He has some good numbers, including the tune I quote in the Summary Line. He does deflower Eckland, but in getting to know Eckland he also realizes she is out of her depth in the atmosphere of Minsky's. She really is a decent girl. He is opposed to her staying, and becoming part of the chorus line. And then comes her final act - inventing the strip tease. Robards is thoroughly ashamed of himself at the end, in helping bring this about. He leaves looking at Eckland as at a lost innocence.

    The show also includes a proper atmosphere for the burlesque theaters of the 1910 - 1930 period. Originally a junior partner to vaudeville, it degenerated into salacious jokes and bawdy skits (and sexually alluring acts like strip tease and fan dancing). The audiences were mostly unemployed types who were more frequently asleep in the audience than watching the stage. Some great talents did arise (Lahr, Abbott & Costello, Gypsy Rose Lee, Phil Silvers, Rags Ragland), but they were exceptions. It was end of the line entertainment, and it annoyed many people who were not fanatics like Denholm Elliot in the film. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia did close down the New York burlesque theaters in the 1930s (so - they reopened in New Jersey). The film does recapture the spirit of that time, and that, with Robarts, and Lahr's farewell to the screen, is definitely worthwhile as a film to watch.
  • sstover3 January 2005
    This movie captures the time period so beautifully and is the only movie I've ever seen that does so with this genre, it must be accepted as exceptional. The cinematography is very good, the acting excellent, the story very good, and the music perfect. The final touches are real burlesque acts in their entirety, great side acts not part of the stage yet depicting burlesque, great tension (the Amish father, Minskys father, and the threat of closing the theater down for moral reasons), and most of all seeing the movie through the eyes of a titillated Amish virgin, create the kind of perfection rarely seen in cinema. I saw this movie 35 years ago and forgot about it. I just viewed it and realize it deserves to be recognized as exceptional. Not a discarded movie rarely seen on cable.
  • This can be a wonderful guilty pleasure, as it mixes a little (and I mean a little) skin, music hall numbers, traditional burlesque routines, a slightly salacious backstage story, and film-style slapstick.

    Jason Robards and Norman Wisdom are a very convincing comedy team, although Robards is a bit dark. Give the actor and the filmmakers credit for maintaining the character as a ruthless SOB and not trying to make this guy cute and lovable.

    You'll also see Bert Lahr (the Cowardly Lion) in his last film performance, which had to be truncated as he died during production (his role would have been more important and added a touch of surrealism). Also on hand is Elliott Gould, in pre-"Bob, Carol, Ted & Alice" days as a sweet schnook (and the title character), as well as Forrest Tucker as a gangster, Jack Burns as a candy butcher (that's the guy who sells the crummy boxes of candy that MIGHT have a watch in them--and if you believe that...,) Denholm Elliott (Indiana Jones' friend) as the guy who conducts the raid, as well as some real burlesque dancers and comics from the old days.

    Adams and Strouse, who wrote BYE BYE BIRDIE contribute a small group of peppy songs, including "From Head To Toe You're A Gentleman" a duet for Robards and Wisdom (the latter a beloved variety star in Britain) and the immortal production number, "Take Ten Terrific Girls But Only Nine Costumes And You're Cooking Up Something Grand."

    Britt Ekland inadvertently invents the striptease (it's complicated, read the plot synopsis), but reliable rumor and legend is that the breasts on display belong to a double. Incidentally, the nudity here is about as extensive as in Titanic, so if your kids have already seen that, this will not corrupt them.

    The fact is the whole thing is a curiously innocent Mulligan stew of comedy and music, given its subject matter.

    Norman Lear wrote and produced in his pre-ALL IN THE FAMILY DAYS, and William Friedkin directed in his pre-FRENCH CONNECTION days. According to the book "WHEN THE SHOOTING'S DONE THE CUTTING BEGINS" by Ralph Rosenblum, the film's editor, Friedkin shot the film indifferently and left immediately. Rosenblum spent the best part of a year recutting the film with the blessing of United Artists production chief David Picker. Rosenblum uses a technique of editing in hokey old silent footage to indicate to the audience that no one is taking the story too seriously, which lifts the curse over some purple writing and acting. Also Rosenblum seems to have invented a trick of mixing authentic B&W archive footage with new footage printed in black and white, which suddenly switches to color. This is an exciting and startling effect the first couple of times, but it is a bit overplayed.

    Anyway, this film is better than you probably think it is, and better than it needs to be. Give it a look, it couldn't hurt.
  • Following the 12 Norman Wisdom vehicles I watched during the course of the last 2 weeks, I decided to add to them his only American film. A nostalgic piece about vaudeville in New York's lower East Side in the 1920s, perhaps the film's single greatest asset is its remarkable recreation of that era; amazingly, the inspired transition from black-and-white photos of the period to the film itself seems to have been a happy accident which occurred during the editing process!

    The IMDb also noted that the film's preview was a disaster and that editor Ralph Rosenblum employed more than a year of his life to try and save it!; I have no idea how Friedkin's 'original' version looked like but the finished product is a very enjoyable film indeed, if somewhat shapeless (featuring too many 'girlie' shows, for instance, though the music by Charles Strouse is admirably 'of the period'): the plot concerns the goings-on in a second-rate (self-proclaimed "The Poor Man's Follies") burlesque theater whose lease is about to expire and the manager (Elliott Gould) - with the help of his two star comedians (Jason Robards and Wisdom) - has to devise a plan to hold on to his venue; the solution arrives in the shapely form of a naïve Midwestern girl (Britt Ekland), an aspiring dancer but whose debut performance is turned via a series of incidents into the first-ever striptease act!

    Friedkin managed to come up with a splendid cast: while Robards may be too stern for the 'leading man' figure (who falls for Ekland's ingénue), he's got some of the film's best lines; Ekland herself is delightful, particularly during the literally show-stopping climax; Wisdom's moving but unsentimental performance makes the most of his 'comic sidekick' role, emphasizing the character's humanity (realizing Ekland's inaptness at performing on stage, he patiently schools her) and feelings (he secretly loves her too but since Ekland prefers Robards herself, he's happy to leave her to his pal).

    The supporting cast, then, is a pure delight: Forrest Tucker (as a gangster with a share in the theater), Elliott Gould (playing, as already mentioned, the flustered but inexperienced manager who's entirely dependant on his star attractions), Joseph Wiseman (as Gould's bemused Jewish father, the owner of the theater who's intent on its foreclosure because he disapproves of the style of his son's shows!), Harry Andrews (sporting a wicked beard and exaggerated eye-brows to match as Ekland's Amish father, who arrives in New York in order to claim back his wayward daughter), Denholm Elliott (hilarious as a Vice Squad official whose presence at the theater is recurrent so as to fervently jot down all form of lewdness and general unwholesomeness he happens to notice going on, in preparation for an eventual Police raid...which, naturally happens on "The Night They Invented Striptease", as the film was alternately called!) and Bert Lahr (as, more or less, the Chorus to the narrative but whose role was considerably diminished because, sadly, he passed away in mid-production!). Perhaps the film's funniest moment is the confrontation scene between Wiseman and Andrews (with the former telling the latter that "The only God who could tolerate me is the only one who could tolerate you!"), after which their joint prayer for their children's souls is interrupted by the perpetually awkward Elliott, who's forced to accompany them but is clearly lost!

    Unfortunately, the film was recorded off what has to be the sloppiest channel on Cable TV; in fact, the screening froze at one point and the reception was subsequently lost for a brief instance!
  • The lights dim. The curtain goes up. The girls are on stage. The spot hits the tux-wearing tenor, silver haired and a little plump.

    "I have a secret recipe / Concocted with much skill / And once you've tried my special dish / You'll never get your fill...

    "Take ten terrific girls, but only nine costumes, and you're cooking up something grand..."

    The Night They Raided Minsky's is a valentine to the long-gone burlesque houses of the Twenties. Naughty, bawdy and surprisingly innocent, filled with chorus girls who might generously be called a little past their prime, with plenty of belly work, with comedians and their second bananas, with pratfalls, seltzer bottles and song and dance acts. This Norman Lear/William Friedkin/Ralph Rosenblum movie has it all. It even has a story. Most of all, it has some great songs by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, wonderful performances by Jason Robards and Norman Wisdom, and a collection of pungent characters played by the likes of Elliot Gould, Forrest Tucker, Bert Lahr, Harry Andrews, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Burns, Denholm Elliot and Dexter Maitland. And we're there when history is made, as Britt Ekland playing an innocent Amish girl from Smoketown, Pennsylvania, who longs to perform her Bible dances on stage, inadvertently invents the strip tease.

    Billy Minsky runs Minsky's Burlesque. Vance Fowler, secretary of New York's Society for the Suppression of Vice, is determined to close it down. Then Rachel Elizabeth Schpitendavel shows up. She's young. She's innocent. She's built. She catches the eye of headliner Raymond Paine (Jason Robards), a song, dance and straight man who works with his second banana, the small, mild and fall-down physical Chick Williams (Norman Wisdom). Paine wants Rachel to fall into his bed. Chick just falls for Rachel. Minsky's, however, is on the verge of closing. Then Raymond has an idea. They'll advertise a midnight show featuring Mademoiselle Fifi, "the hottest little cooch artist in the world." When Fowler shows up with the cops, Fifi will be Rachel doing her Bible dances. Fowler will be a laughing stock and Minsky's will be saved.

    Now forget all that. What's important is the sweet nature of this burlesque gift. Most of the movie takes place backstage, on stage and in a near-by deli. It's a great, true deli, where we have bowls of half sours on the table and plenty of chunks of rye bread. (In that deli we'll watch Raymond nearly sweet talk a good looking woman at the next table into his bed, and then sweet talk her husband, who suddenly appears, into agreeing Raymond just gave them both a great compliment. Robards is as smooth as warm chicken fat.)

    Backstage is packed with sets, lights and half dressed chorus girls, but it's on stage where the goods are delivered...chorus girls who can barely dance but can jiggle with vigor and bump with oomph. Jason Robards and Norman Wisdom do wonderful work together. Robards is the wise-guy straight man to Wisdom's eternally innocent optimist. Their song and dance numbers really work. We'd expect this of Wisdom, who got started in English music halls and became one of Britain's great clowns. Robards, who was one of America's great stage actors, is almost as skilled. Their "Perfect Gentleman" number by rights should be a remembered classic. I don't know how Friedkin managed it, but the people in the audience look authentic, right down to their delighted reactions.

    The Night They Raided Minsky's also has a clever script. Says Raymond to Chick when the little guy wants some reassurance after meeting Rachel. "You met a girl!" says Raymond with a big smile. "Ah, Chick, my boy, when it comes to girls you have three qualities that are far worse than being short and funny looking. You have the curse of the three D's. You are decent, devoted and dependable...good qualities in a dog, disastrous in a man!"

    Charles Strouse scored the movie and, with Lee Adams, provided great songs. "The Night They Raided Minsky's," "Take Ten Terrific Girls" and "Perfect Gentleman" establish more than anything else the good-natured, fast, harmlessly bawdy style of the movie. The Night They Raided Minsky's had a troubled parentage, with director William Friedkin disliking it and film editor Ralph Rosenblum claiming credit for everything good about it. There's more jump cutting than we need and perhaps a few too many historical clips. Still, we have potent nostalgia for things past that no one now is alive to remember. The movie carries Norman Lear's imprint at his best, and if Rosenblum and Friedkin want to arm wrestle over the movie, that's all right with me. Who cares who cut the paper lace for the valentine? I'm just happy we've got it.

    I'm ready for Dexter Maitland as the tenor to see us home...

    "I have a secret recipe / Concocted with much skill / And once you've tried my special dish / You'll never get your fill...

    "Take ten terrific girls, but only nine costumes, and you're cooking up something grand.

    "Then add some funny men / And pepper with laughter./ It's hot and tasty I know.

    "Then serve it piping hot and what have you got... A burlesque show!"
  • Although the story line of The Night They Raided Minsky's was more silly than funny, quite a few laughs can still be had from this salute to the good old days of burlesque. It even has Bert Lahr in the cast who was a veteran of that venue of entertainment.

    Amish girl fresh off the farm Britt Eklund has been given a calling to dance a practice forbidden by her sect. But even with father Harry Andrews in pursuit from the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Britt is pursuing her dream of interpretive religious dance. Why she didn't seek out Martha Graham instead of Minsky's is beyond me.

    Her innocence is so beguiling she has comedy team Jason Robards, Jr., and Norman Wisdom panting after her in heat. Gangster Forrest Tucker is looking and even Elliott Gould who is the Minsky who runs the burlesque theater on property his father owns hasn't missed her at all.

    I did love Jason Robards who apparently has a line for just about every occasion and whose gift of gab gets him out of some tight spots. And Denholm Elliott the pompous moralizing professional do-gooder also has some noticeable moments.

    This film was Bert Lahr's farewell performance. Lahr was terminally ill when he did the film and didn't finish his role and it was edited around. He doesn't look very good and is remarkably subdued from the Bert Lahr were used to seeing.

    Weakest part of the film was the musical score by Strouse and Adams. They've done far better on Broadway, still it's serviceable enough and Eklund's alleged invention of the striptease worth the wait.

    Fans of the cast members will like The Night They Raided Minsky's.
  • An affectionate look at early burlesque, "The Night They Raided Minsky's" is at once nostalgic and funny. Grainy black-and-white footage of street life on New York's Lower East Side fades into color; a dapper Bert Lahr, an authentic vaudevillian from the period, strides past pushcarts laden with produce; a chorus line of over-painted, over-ripe ladies kick their legs in unison to the applause of a motley male audience. The atmosphere reeks of authenticity and the producer's love of the subject. The script by Arnold Shulman and Norman Lear revolves around a scheme to embarrass the local morals guardian into raiding the performance of a mythical Madame Fifi, who reputedly drove a million Frenchmen wild. When Madame Fifi appears, she would be an innocent Amish girl dancing scenes from the Bible. Combine some romantic entanglements and an expiring theatrical lease, stir with lots of slapstick and corny jokes, and serve with excellent performances: presto, the recipe for a breezy entertaining movie.

    The lovable and endearing Norman Wisdom is the primary scene-stealer, whether mooning over a girl, doing pratfalls on stage, or trading barbs with Jason Robards. Unfortunately, many of Wisdom's scenes with Bert Lahr were cut when the Cowardly Lion died during production. If the lost footage were found, Wisdom fans would welcome its restoration as a supplement to a future DVD release. Another scene-stealer is Joseph Wiseman, who, as the elder Minsky, delivers some of the movie's best lines with pitch-perfect precision. Lovely Britt Eklund is naive perfection as the talent-less Amish girl, Denholm Elliott makes an excellent puckered prude, Harry Andrews fumes as the stern Amish father, and Elliott Gould as the younger Minsky and Forrest Tucker as a smooth gangster fill out the capable cast. Only the caddish Jason Robards seems out of place; while his comic delivery is good, his mistreatment of the likable Wisdom comes across as harsh, and he has an unconvincing character shift that has necks snapping in disbelief.

    William Friedkin directs with a fast pace and uses rapid-editing techniques that keep the movie moving at a good clip. The fine photography by Andrew Laszlo captures the period, and the memorable music by Charles Strouse is engaging. "The Night They Raided Minsky's" seems to have been undeservedly forgotten. If the film had been a hit and Lahr had not passed away, Norman Wisdom would have gone on to a successful career in the United States. Unfortunately, events worked against the multi-talented Wisdom and, except for his Broadway role in "Walking Happy," his major work was done in Britain, where his legacy is a national treasure. Perhaps those who appreciate Norman's comic genius in this film will locate his British films from the 1950's and 60's and discover a talent unfairly overlooked in this country.
  • I hesitated briefly before giving this maximum score but then could see no reason why I shouldn't. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked the period clips and the beautifully restaged 'period' clips at the start and felt that this progressed from it's surprisingly innovative start to it's moving and sensational finale without missing a beat. Jason Robards is as good as I've ever seen him, both in his straight part and in his stage antics with Norman Wisdom. Wisdom himself is great throughout and it is when you see him as good as this, that it seems such a shame he was not always given more demanding material. His comic timing is second to none but he was also a very fine actor who unfortunately had a tendency to maudlin in which direction he was often mistakenly led. Good as these two are and, it has to be said, all the rest of the cast, it is such a showpiece performance from Britt Ekland, that one is tempted to get up from the sofa and applaud. Oh, what if she had not spent most of those late 60s looking after Peter Sellers and graced our cinema screens in full sexy mode instead? Great film.
  • ... Just saw this on Flix Movie Channel earlier today & brought back great memories of going-to-college in New Mexico & Utah in 1968! I must have seen "Minsky's" several times in just one week, it was so mesmerizing.

    • Didn't remember Director William "The Exorcist" Friedkin & Norman Lear on the screenplay credits. No wonder this was such a fun, fast-paced movie! The editing caught the spirit of show biz then in Manhattan.

    ...Especially the great Burlesque bits, black & white clips of-the-times in New York City & Bert "The Cowardly Lion" Lahr. "Minsky's" stands the test-of-time! You have to have no heart or be dead & buried not to cherish this Hollywood gem!
  • ptb-824 February 2004
    I will make this prediction NOW....that within 5 years we see THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKYS turned into a $100 per seat Broadway stage smash.......all the elements are there and like APPLAUSE or THE PRODUCERS one adds reworked or new songs and gives this bawdy burlesque treat a re tread. What this film is about, and the tawdry bump and grind style is a sitter for another go. Have another look at the film.......I'm right about this. Not a big success on first release, it eventually found an audience with THE PARTY, but somehow it is MINSKYS that is actually a better film and a more rewarding film. It was also Bert Lahr's final performance as he died during filming.
  • I only saw this once and it was okay. The real interesting thing about this is the story around its editing, which is told in Ralph Rosenblum's book WHEN THE SHOOTING STOPS... He and Norman Lear had to dig up tons of old stock footage to insert into the cut in order to make it palatable.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "The Night They Raided Minsky's" is a sheer delight to watch. It is definitely a timepiece in so many ways. On one level, it is a tribute to the Burlesque of the 1920s (it's set in 1925). Here, we get stellar performances from Bert Lahr, who died during shooting; Jason Robards; Norman Wisdom; and Joseph Wiseman, among others.

    But on another level, it's also a timepiece of late 1967, and we see that in the sense of wonder that Britt Ekland's character experiences. It runs like a sort of "Alice In Wonderland" for the Jazz Age. You can also see that in the photography from '67 as well. It is also a timepiece in that it was a film that no longer obeyed the Hays Code, which was ending around this time.

    And it's also a timepiece in that some of the New York exteriors used for filming were torn down after shooting ended. As stated earlier, it was Bert Lahr's final performance, and it is a memorable one. Had he lasted to the end of the shoot, his character would have loomed larger, but that was not meant to be.

    As it is, the movie could have turned into a disaster, but skillful editing turned what might have been a sow's ear into a gem of a film. Highly recommended.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Nostalgic, tuneful and delightfully funny, this splendid evocation of mid-twenties burlesque is brilliantly acted and most attractively staged. My only qualm is that the story itself is rendered somewhat less engaging by the director's over-use of close-ups. He has even gone to the trouble of persistently blowing them up in the lab, and thus ruining the texture of the color photography. Also, the edited-in clips from newsreels and old features were not, to my mind, always effective. True, an attempt has been made – not altogether successfully – to overcome the problem of color co-ordination, but the lack of step- printing is an obvious irritation. However, these quibbles should not be allowed to spoil the enjoyment of the burlesque itself, plus some spirited action scenes, plus such glorious dialogue as Paine's variations on being found in the closet.
  • This movie, honest, has something in common with the comedy interludes in many of John Ford's movies. Both describe a milieu in which no emotions, desires, or thoughts are hidden. Even the fake emotions, desires, and thoughts are very openly fake. How can you be a phony when everyone around you automatically assumes you're lying? Jason Robards, caught hiding in Britt Ekland's bedroom by her father, coolly explains how he was checking the plumbing when the wind blew the door closed. Victor McLaughlin guzzles booze and throws everyone out the door of the saloon in "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," and when an authoritarian elderly woman demands to know if he's been drinking, he explains, "Well, I had a cold, so I just had a little nip." But the movie embodies a cultural clash which lends this comedy a darker underside: that between the flamboyantly exposed and highly charming Jewish community behind Minsky's burlesque and the stultifying Old Order Amish religious community of Smoketown, Pennsylvania. The Jewish community comes off by far the best in this portrayal, providing as it does a laugh a minute, at the expense of the Amish, who keep their clothing secured with straight pins instead of buttons. I laughed pretty much all the way through "The Night They Raided Minsky's" and don't want to be a spoilsport, but that's pretty unfair to the Amish. The Amish are one cohesive and highly principled community. Only the oppressive religious aspect is presented here -- and it exists -- but what is left out of the picture is the part that's valuable. And there must be something of value in Amish culture, right? Or it wouldn't exist. This is the story of a rebellious Amish girl who has learned how to dance stories from the Bible. She comes to the Big Apple and winds up in Minsky's, where she is deflowered by a lying, shallow Jason Robards, and humiliates her stern father (a demonically made-up Harry Andrews with eyebrows like Lawrence Talbot's) by doing bumps and grinds onstage in front of a lewd hysterical audience and finally drops her bodice. It isn't easy being Amish. They build things to last, including their society, while our stuff tends to be disposable, from diapers to spouses. You could take a sledge hammer to their furniture and not bust it up. They ride around in buggies instead of cars, they discourage their kids from formal schooling, they cover their bodies and their heads with garments, they are incredibly industrious, they don't buy insurance because they insure each other through voluntary help, they worship in plainsong, they don't use tractors although they are successful farmers, they don't seduce their women, they don't go around babbling about their feelings, they don't take photos of themselves. Yeah, a demanding life style. But I don't know why it's so easy in our culture to admire the army or the marine corps, almost as disciplined, and so easy to make fun of Old Order Amish values. Enough crabbing. I enjoyed this movie. The story is nothing much, but there are grand moments in it. Jason Robards in the deli trying to smooth talk a young woman into a roll in the hay; trying to hide the Murphy bed before Ekland's father bursts through the door, while raucous burlesque music alternates with the Halleluia chorus on the sound track. (The score deserves special mention; the lyrics are sometimes extremely amusing.) Gould ordering a rye sandwich, half pastrami, half corned beef, with mustard, pickles, and cole slaw -- no saurkraut, his stomach's been acting up. The nostalgia theme hovers constantly in the background. It's a funny movie, with the kind of lightning fast editing that was popular in the late 1960s. But I do wish the seduction of the innocent virgin, Britt Ekland, subject to what one imagines to have been seventeen minutes of rather rough road, hadn't been handled as if it were just another joke.
  • If - like those who patronized burlesque during its heyday - you ask nothing more than a good time for the price of admission, you are likely to enjoy this colorful, clever valentine. There is much to admire in the direction, camera effects and editing. The musical numbers are sprightly and nostalgic. Enough of a story exists to tie all the strands together and keep things moving at a lively clip. The chorus girls are delicious.

    Where does the picture fall short? Ironically, in its bland recreations of the comic sketches that were a staple of burlesque both before and after the strippers took center stage. The lack of sparkle can be attributed most of all to the casting. Jason Robards and Norman Wisdom do not succeed as a comedy team: between the latter's conspicuous and inappropriate British accent and the former's total absence of comic skills, their onstage moments are labored ones. Since they were not exactly box office "names," it is difficult to rationalize why the filmmakers selected them to play roles for which there were many who were better qualified and more experienced with this type of material.
  • blanche-23 September 2014
    A gorgeous Amish girl, Rachel (Britt Ekland) leaves the sect and comes to New York to dance, and winds up at Minsky's Burlesque House in "The Night They Raided Minsky's." Wide-eyed and innocent, she explains that she dances to portions of the Bible. When she shows what she can do, well, it's not burlesque.

    But this gives Raymond (Jason Robards), one of the comics, an idea. A group wants to close down the burlesque house because they think the numbers are indecent. If they announce a star from Paris, Madame Fifi, and send Rachel out with her Bible dances right as the place is being raided, it should put an end to the raids.

    Meanwhile, Rachel's father (Harry Andrews) is looking for her.

    This is a wonderful cast that includes, besides those mentioned, Elliot Gould, Forrest Tucker, Bert Lahr, and Denholm Elliot I guess I thought there would be a little more story to this film, instead of so many burlesque numbers. It's just a matter of taste. I've just never been that fond of burlesque.

    Sadly Bert Lahr died during this film, so his part was shortened and he was replaced.

    The end is very good, with the invention of the striptease. If you're a fan of burlesque, you will love this film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Released in 1968 this flick could have been made today as a relevant retrospective to burlesque.

    The naughty nature of burlesque versus the rude routines that pass as suggestive stage entertainment today are in stark contrast when you compare today's crude crotch cranking with the clumsy bumps and grinds of yesteryear.

    Produced by Norman Lear and directed by William Friedkin, it is based on a book by Rowland Barber which paints a fictional account of the invention of the striptease.

    This story opens in 1925 when a young Amish girl, Rachel (a very young Britt Ekland) arrives in New York City with misguided dreams of being a dancer.

    Of course her strict, overly religious father would have nothing to do with her dancing aspirations so she runs away from her home in Pennsylvania. For some strange reason she runs off to join the Minsky Burlesque show, obviously lacking a dictionary at home with which to look up the word "burlesque".

    Watching the scene of her entering the burlesque theater, I couldn't help but hum The Eagles "Those Shoes" over the resident soundtrack.

    When she arrives, she initially meets Professor Spats (a very old Bert "The Cowardly Lion" Lahr), a retired stage performer. Try making that long walk through New York City today without meeting characters a lot shadier than this nice old man. He was certainly a lot less menacing than the Cowardly Lion was to Dorothy.

    Wearing her naiveté on her homemade dress like a wino's spittle from a subway ride, the kindly Professor agrees to introduce her to the cast. All this in spite of her desire to perform dances from the Bible on stage. Really? Meanwhile, the theater owner Louis Minsky (Joseph "Dr. No" Wiseman) and his son, Billy (a very young Elliot Gould) are being hounded by a man named Fowler (Denholm Elliot), the Secretary for the Society for Decency, obviously a defunct office in these modern times. Believe it or not, he actually thinks the costumes are too skimpy, the humor too suggestive and the dancing a little too dirty. This guy would die of heart failure and a terminal erection just watching a Super Bowl halftime show these days, but I digress. Receiving letters from the Secretary of Decency, Billy's dad, Louis, wisely refuses to renew his son's lease. But he will sell the theater to him for a tidy sum. Billy tries to get Trim, a small time gangster and burlesque lover, to invest (a same-o-same-o looking Forrest Tucker) but he refuses. He's just there to enjoy the scenery.

    Cue classic funny man Chick Williams (Sir Norman Wisdom in an excellent vaudeville performance) and his "straight man" partner Raymond Paine (Jason Robards as a cad first class). When the Professor introduces the young runaway to the both of them, hilarity ensues, of course, but not before the foreshadowing of conflict. For Chick, it's love at first sight, whereas Raymond is less than impressed with all this Bible stuff. But, Britt IS hot, so will he just momentarily convert for a piece of the action? Not a chance.

    Read more here:
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Based on a true story, this movie brings off some very unusual things. For example, Jason Robards is not a person you'd expect to bring off the role of a straight man in Vaudeville. While you can tell he is not comfortable in the role, he does more than a walk through in this one. Britt Ekland is in no way an Amish Woman. Who decided to cast her as one is strange. The thing is because she is good looking she fits the story.

    Elliot Gould is young here without much script so it is one of his lesser roles. He does OK with it. Forrest Tucker is a nice surprise though another limited role. Bert Lahr has a role as Professor Spats which resembles the emcee in Cabaret and considering he looks ill in most of his scenes he is better here than it is reasonable to expect.

    I think if this had been released in the 1950's it would have sold a lot of tickets. The trouble with 1968 is this type of film was DOA in that era. Even Julie Andrews expensive production "Star" did nothing in this time period. In a way Minsky's actually is better. It does a decent job giving a feel of what Vaudeville was really like.
  • Britt Ekland stars as an Amish girl in early 1900s New York City who gets a job dancing at a vaudeville theater and inadvertently creates the striptease one night on stage. Revue-styled hodgepodge isn't very compelling on an emotional level, and the solid cast (Jason Robards, Elliott Gould, Bert Lahr in his final film) has next to nothing to work from, but what a presentation! The director, a green but hungry William Friedkin, attacks the nostalgia inherent in the project and grabs the audience by the eyeballs. Everything flies passed Friedkin's camera: comedy, drama, sentiment, loss, pain, triumph. It's the giddy work of a kid in a candy store. As a character study, the movie does fall short--the screenplay is too thin to flesh out any of the people involved--however it is certainly a handsome attempt. ** from ****
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Asinine film where an Amish girl comes to New York to do biblical dancing and winds up at Minsky's Burlesque instead. She is put to the test so that her bible dancing will not lead to a raid; yet, her father shows up and has it out with her causing her to literally bare all.

    This is a very inane production with a ridiculous plot. Unfortunately, Bert Lahr's part had to be cut as he died suddenly during the production of the film.

    Jason Robards tries real hard as a king-pin of burlesque, but he is no leading man and his routines are quite stale at best.

    Britt Ekland is that Amish girl, Elliot Gould runs the club, but is at odds with his orthodox Jewish father, Joseph Wiseman.

    What's really the point of this total farce?
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This movie is most significant in that the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) had died during the making of the film, and he gave a good performance. The burlesque dances and slapstick comedy sketches were well done too. Unfortunately the movie overall was rather disappointing.

    For one thing, the outdoor sequences went from black and white to color, then back to black and white and to color and back. This was purposeless and annoying. Instead of setting the old-time atmosphere, it worked to spoil it. Also, the film was choppily edited, which served to make the story confusing. Third, Britt Ekland was unconvincing as a religious Amish girl-and we never see any of the Biblical dances she was supposed to be able to perform.

    You might enjoy the movie for the reconstructed burlesque shows, but the story behind the scenes falls flat.
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