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‘…SOB lives up to its title, and like the central character it describes, it’s a hot, sticky mess that’s hard to scrape off your shoe….’

Something of a headache at the time, although a sizable hit, Blake Edwards presents a dog’s dinner of a film, yet something to behold for cineastes; a scabrous, bitter, no-hold-barred dissection of the idiocy of Hollywood as a boy’s club, realised via a lavish all-star Hollywood production. It’s a two-faced, broken-backed, chaotic, undisciplined film with a slew of memorable moments; I didn’t like it in 1981, I don’t like it now, and yet I keep coming back for one more celebration of male egotism and excess, unwisely positioned as a satire on male egotism and excess.

The title here is an acronym for Standard Order Bullsh*t or Son of a Bitch; either way, something that the film’s central character, director Felix Farmer (Robert Mulligan, frantic), is a walking embodiment of. Edwards lived high on the hog of Hollywood for several decades, and by 1981, couldn’t really see much of interest in terms of any subject other than himself. So, a director in need of a hit makes a film about a director in need of a hit; both men, fictional and real, are married to Julie Andrews. Farmer decides to reshoot his costly flop Night Wind, starring his wife, as a pornographic movie, losing his sanity and eventually his life in the process; the last twenty minutes of this lengthy film feature two funerals, one Hollywood style vapid, the other a maudlin Viking affair organised by his friends, played by Edwards’ friends William Holden, Robert Preston and Robert Webber.

This is utter self-indulgence; the death of his regular star Peter Sellers left Edwards spinning like a top, pulling in stars and spitting them out in all directions. Robert Vaughn turns up in a bra and suspenders, Loretta Swit from MASH appears in traction, Larry Hagman in Dallas mode and Rosanna Arquette as a hitchhiking sunbather. At the film’s centre is Andrews performing a lavish musical number to the children’s song Polly Wolly Doodle, the first time straight, the second time drugged and exposing herself for the camera. Edwards seems to imagine that this degrading of his own real-life wife is the absolute height of wit; bystanders look as stunned as if aliens have just parted the red sea when she bares her breasts. As if unsure how to top this, Edwards follows up with a Smokey and the Bandit car chase, executed with grand-standing skill like a circus show and utterly irrelevant to whatever SOB’s theme was ever meant to be.

SOB was part of a run of venal self-indulgence from Edwards, with films like That’s Life which also features Jack Lemmon as a self-indulgent film director married to Julie Andrews. SOB does land a few good punches at Hollywood amongst all the screaming, cursing and vulgarity, and it’s never boring to watch; Preston is particular is in good form as an immoral, loquacious doctor. But it’s also a sloppy, careless mess; it’s remarkable that in Edwards’ utter distain for everyone and everything, and specifically the cash cow he fed upon, the director has no sense of how ridiculous such this wildly self-regarding project might seem. SOB lives up to its title, and like the central character it describes, it’s a hot, sticky mess that’s hard to scrape off your shoe.




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    • It’s a little bit frustrating as a Holden picture, I’d say he looks a little off the pace of this. He clearly had a good relationship with Edwards, but this isn’t the swan song that Holden deserved.

  1. I ALSO remember watching this long ago and not feeling particularly fond of it, but after reading this review I’m intrigued. It sounds, altogether, like something i should love, like a Hollywood variation of 81/2 or something. I may need to dig in.

    • I’ve been correctly pulled up for negating/ignoring Edwards’ better work, but this is quite a folly to behold, and there are gags and performances worth seeing….

  2. I haven’t seen S.O.B. since 1981 but I don’t think I had a particularly negative reaction then. Victor/Victoria was the next Edwards film in 1982 and for my money his best film. I think I like some of his films because they do seem to be about Hollywood and he used some of my favourite players such as Bill Holden, Jack Lemmon and Robert Preston.

    Edwards was successful for a long time and I would suggest that of his earlier work, Operation Petticoat (1959) with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis and Days of Wine and Roses (1962) with Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick are still well thought of.

    • Thanks for this; Victor/Victoria has escaped me, so I’ll remedy that. As a teenager, I was somewhat astounded by the high regard that MFB had for Edwards’ work, and am happy to stand corrected regarding Petticoat and Roses. And your comment helps me understand my love/hate feeling for his work. He knew the Hollywood scene inside and out, and pulled in great talents to realise his vision. So I’d narrow my focus in terms of talking a wrecking ball to his career and say that his 70’s and 80’s work is rather patchy and self indulgent. You’re right to suggest that I’m neglecting his studio work to make my point.

  3. I bought the Pink Panther box set a while ago but not watched them yet. I’m afraid they won’t make me laugh like they used too and I laughed a lot. I’ve never heard of this though and it might get me back into it. Great review

    • I still enjoy the best Pink Panther movies, Strikes Again is the best one for me, although A Shot in The Dark is great too. And the gorilla car chase…

    • This is something I’ve been afraid of doing as well. I’m certain the fun of them will be lost on my now much more wry and worldly adult self. The Roberto Bernini variation I saw about 4 minutes of was dreadful despite his clear talents.

      • Or the ones made up of outtakes or starring Ted Wass. Quite fascinating that Edwards was so determined to prove that the Pink Panther magic was his rather than Sellers’…

  4. I haven’t seen many of his movies, a couple of the Pink Panther series but preferred the cartoon series. I did like Breakfast at Tiffany’s a lot though. Having watched the trailer you put up I’m very glad I missed this one too. A nope then.

    • You get a pass for this one, it’s a massive vanity project that will just seem mean-spirited now. Some of the sub-Pink Panther slapstick gags are amusing, but NOPE is probably the correct answer….

    • Right.But I think it would be surprising to 70’s and 80’s cinema fans that aside from his Pink Panther films, there’s little of his work post -Tiffanys that’s remembered…but fair enough, comedy, and sex comedy, rarely ages well….

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