At 25: “See No Evil, Hear No Evil”

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May 12, 2014 by billysparrow

posterSee No Evil, Hear No Evil

Released: May 12, 1989

Starring: Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder, Joan Severance, Alan North, Kevin Spacey

So, I settled down in front of the computer prepared to rent “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” for a reasonable fee from a reputable download service (no illegal downloads for me…well, it’s probably not legal to have “Speed Zone” available for free on YouTube, but that seems the most reasonable price anyway). And what do I discover?

It will cost me $9.99 to rent “See No Evil, Hear No Evil.”

Now, ten dollars is not, in the grand scheme of things, a lot of money. I recognize that. And “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” certainly has far more than ten bucks of laughs in it. But it’s the principle of the thing. And the principle (this might not be an actual principle as much as it is a Declaration of Frugality) says that ten bucks is too much money to spend on rewatching “See No Evil, Hear No Evil,” a movie I’ve probably seen a half-dozen or so times in my life already.

So, this “At 25” installment is likely going to be briefer than usual.

“Thank God!” you exclaim? Well, that was unnecessary. Maybe I just won’t write anything at all.

“Fine with me,” you declare? OK, now I’m gonna keep writing just to spite you, Imaginary Voice in My Head That Tells Me Not to Do Things. I might even make it just as long as the others.

“See No Evil, Hear No Evil” is the last on-screen pairing of Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder (and the only one I’ve seen), and it features Pryor as the blind Wally Karue (that spelling of his last name seems wrong, but it’s what IMDB tells me) and Wilder as the deaf David Lyons. They are brought together when Wally comes to David’s newsstand to reply to his want ad, and we get to see just how great Pryor and Wilder are together. I still get a little excited very time I pass by the building in Union Square where this scene was filmed. (I should warn you that there’s NSFW language here and in the other clips, in case you forgot this is a Richard Pryor movie.)

That scene’s followed soon after by a fight scene in a bar that taught me the concept of using a clock to point out where things are directionally.

Wally and David then find themselves in the middle of a murder at the newsstand (David’s back is turned during the murder, so he only sees the murderer walk away, and Wally only hears the shot while he’s outside, so he doesn’t see anything) and are arrested on suspicion of committing the murder. And that leads to another example of the comic genius of this pair (volume’s low on this one).

While at the police station, Wally and David are interrogated by the increasingly frustrated Braddock played by the fantastic character actor Alan North, aka the Mayor in “Lean on Me,” or, more importantly, Capt. Ed Hocken from the “Police Squad!” TV show, which I had either just discovered or was about to discover when I first saw this movie (and, as such, he was part of what might be my all-time favorite TV joke). Watching the three of them in this scene should be required viewing for the entire world at least once a year, though preferably for less than $9.99.

I should note that all the scenes above are in the first half-hour of the movie (I did find a “legal” version online that’s dubbed in a language I don’t quite recognize). And I should also point out that I find them all just as funny as I did the first time I saw them (particularly Wilder’s “Mens rea” outburst and his confusion between “Khomeini” and “comedy” as seen in the trailer, either of which I might quote on any given day). And though the movie does occasionally get a little bogged down with the more dramatic stuff (though if you’re gonna bog down something, you might as well bog it down with Joan Severance, who is briefly topless, if, you know, you’re into that sort of thing; Kevin Spacey’s also good, though I can’t recall if he was topless), there’s still plenty of good, funny stuff outside of those first 30 minutes. For instance, though I find it almost impossible to believe that the scene of Pryor driving a stolen police car through the streets of New York City is not somewhere on the Internet, the scene that directly follows it is a good one, too.

Well, it appears I’ve run through the good clips from the movie on the Internet, so I suppose that means I should wrap this up. But let me reiterate that you should not take my unwillingness to pay $9.99 to see “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” as a sign that I think this is a terrible movie. Far from it. I think this is a fantastic movie that still makes me laugh every time I see it, and if you’re the type of person who lives such an extravagant lifestyle that you’re dropping $9.99 to rent movies on the Internet every day, you’d be a fool not to invest in a viewing of this movie. Hell, you should even spring for the extra $3 and buy the digital copy.

After all, a good “comedy,” as you call it, is worth its weight in gold.

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