Hanky Panky 1982 ***

Post The Producers, Willy Wonka and Young Frankenstein, there seemed to be something of a crisis in terms of finding vehicles for Gene Wilder. For some reason, there seems to have been a determination to cast him as an innocent Joe Schmoe caught in in a crime-chase storyline, with North by Northwest a clear template. Silver Streak hit big in 1976, and Wilder’s teaming with Richard Pryor brought big laughs on Stir Crazy, although Pryor chose to sit this one out. Gilda Radner replaced him and became Wilder’s partner in real life. This reteaming of Wilder with Stir Crazy’s Sidney Poitier has the same issue with the laughs being front-loaded in the first half of the film, with not much more than convention to offer in the second. Still, the first half of Hanky Panky, a terrible title for a script previously known as Trace, is a decent showcase for Wilder at a high level of manic- ness, contrasted by a workday thriller scenario involving missing tapes, secret agents, and an ‘in the wrong movie’ 50’s hood in the shape of Richard Widmark hunting Wilder from New York to the Grand Canyon.  A flop of the time, Hanky Panky feels like a programmer now, but should redeem a certain lack of reputation as undemanding fare on Prime.


Leave a Reply