31 March 2002 | dtb
Bogartmania: Not Bogart, But An Affectionate (If Imperfect) Simulation
We meet Sam Marlow (professional Bogart impersonator Robert Sacchi), a freshly-minted private eye, just as he's having the bandages removed from the plastic surgery he's undergone to make himself resemble his idol Bogie. No sooner has Marlow (yes, that's how he spells it, without the "-e") opened his p.i. office in Hollywood than he's up to his fedora in a search for rare sapphires with heiress and Gene Tierney manque Gena Anastas (Michelle Phillips in an engaging performance and a makeup job worthy of Kevyn Aucoin) and other classic movie star lookalikes. Andrew Fenady wrote the script based on his own delightful tongue-in-cheek mystery novel, but the movie's never more than a cute little time-passer (not that a cute little time-passer isn't welcome now and then, mind you!). They could've had fun with it and tried to capture the look and style of Bogart's classic movies, but this modestly-budgeted affair is for the most part shot and staged like a 1970s TV movie, complete with a cheesy soft-rock title song! Sacchi, though amiable enough, is a better impersonator than actor. True, he's got Bogart's mannerisms and appearance down, and he sports a wry streak at times, but he becomes disappointingly wooden in love scenes and other parts of the story that require him to show emotion. (No, being wooden in a love scene is not the same as having a woody in a love scene! :-) Having said all that, BOGART'S FACE is still pleasant light entertainment if you just want some good-natured mind candy to while away a rainy afternoon at home. The interestingly eclectic cast also includes Franco Nero as a Zachary Scott wannabe, Herbert Lom as a Joel Cairo type, Victor Buono as Phillips's Sydney Greenstreet-esque father, Misty Rowe as Marlow's ditsy blonde secretary ("...she looked like Marilyn Monroe and made as much sense as Gracie Allen..."), and Olivia Hussey and Sybil Danning as damsels in various forms of distress. And don't blink during the opening credits, or you'll miss venerable character actor Philip Baker Hall as Marlow's plastic surgeon!