15 November 2017

ATTEN-SHUN!!! FABULOUS FILMS PRESENTS: STEVE MARTIN AS 'SGT. BILKO.' (1996) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




SGT. BILKO. (1996) BASED ON THE 1950s TELEVISION SHOW STARRING PHIL SILVERS. DIRECTED BY JONATHAN LYNN. PRODUCED BY BRIAN GRAZER. STARRING STEVE MARTIN, DAN AYKROYD, PHIL HARTMAN, MAX CASELLA, CHRIS ROCK, CATHY SILVERS (PHIL SILVERS' DAUGHTER) AND GLENNE HEADLY.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

'The film-makers gratefully acknowledge the total lack of co-operation from the United States Army.' 
Film disclaimer.

'The US Army is known for churning out lean mean fighting machines intent on blindly protecting their fucked-up nation. But at Fort Baxter, there's one unit that can't even form a straight line. Comedy god Steve Martin stars with Dan Aykroyd and Phil Hartman in this outrageous comedy from IMAGINE ENTERTAINMENT. 

IMAGINE ENTERTAINMENT was founded by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, producing films like FROST/NIXON, A BEAUTIFUL MIND, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR.'

Atten-shun...! Now listen up, you miserable maggots, you bottom-feeding scum-sucking lowlife sons-a-bitches that it's my eternal misfortune to call my readers, I have a review here for you all and you will read it and you will take it in and take it to heart and you will love it and say that it's the best damned review since sliced bread or, so help me, I will corpse you up and mail you to Momma or my name isn't Master Sergeant Sandra Harris with Special Responsibility for Being Brilliant at Everything and Devastatingly Attractive to Boot...

Oh wait, sorry, I'm not actually a Sergeant Major in the US Army although, believe me, I would've made a good one. Born to boss people around, that's me. Forgive me for getting a little carried away there with my opening remarks. Even the teensiest bit of power goes straight to my little blonde bubble head and turns me feral, haha.

Anyway, although I'm more a fan of a good miserable time film-wise (the Holocaust, the two World Wars, poverty and inequality in a small struggling nation, etc., the bleaker and more miserable it is the better I like it, men have been known to talk me into bed by merely mentioning their abusive, love-starved childhoods) than of mainstream comedies, even I loved this frantic Steve Martin quip-fest. It'd be hard not to like it, put it that way.

Steve plays the titular Sgt. Bilko, whom the higher-ups in their infinite wisdom (or lack of it!) have actually appointed to a responsible position in their precious Army, God help us all. He's Master Sergeant Bilko with Special Responsibility for the motor pool at Fort Baxter. This is a small US Army base that's supposed to be developing military technology. My arse...

All that Sgt. Bilko's really keen on developing is a healthy interest in gambling in its many forms and in avoiding responsibility in any new recruits fortunate enough to come his way. I say fortunate because the recruits are having a whale of a time under Sgt. Bilko, who lays down no laws but his own.

It's a bit like going to a new school or college and finding out that the dean or principal just wants to smoke weed and shoot the shit about the merits of the lyrics of The Doors as opposed to those of Jefferson Airplane. 

Who wouldn't enjoy the joyous sense of freedom inherent in being allowed to just coast along at your leisure, never having to do anything approximating real work or shoulder any real responsibility...? Well, that's what it's like in Sgt. Bilko's notoriously lax and easy-going do-what-you-feel-like platoon.

Trouble arrives in the form of Phil Hartman's hard-ass Major Colin Thorn, an unwelcome visitor to Fort Baxter. He's an officer of the US Army Inspector General's Office and it's his job to determine if Fort Baxter is a viable concern and should remain open and operational, rather than be shut down to save the Army a few quid like they're doing elsewhere.

He's also got a long-standing grudge against Sgt. Bilko, who was once the cause of his being forced to serve a ball-freezing stint of duty in Greenland. He'll stop at nothing to get his own back on Sgt. Bilko, who's deeply uneasy at the sudden re-appearance of his old nemesis. 

It's a bit like any time Bishop Len Brennan is obliged to come to Craggy Island to check up on the activities of Fathers Ted, Dougal and Jack and their housekeeper Mrs. Doyle in clerical sitcom FATHER TED. They fear him and he hates them, so a visit from him can only lead to one thing, namely, bad news and major inconvenience for everyone... Ditto here in SGT. BILKO.

So, Will Major Thorn-In-Sgt. Bilko's-Side (that's a good one, innit?) stick to merely trying to discredit Sgt. Bilko in his work, which in all honesty shouldn't be hard to do, as Bilko makes Homer Simpson from THE SIMPSONS look like the very model of efficiency and conscientiousness, or will he even stoop so low as to try to steal Bilko's long-suffering on-off fiancée Rita Robbins away from him?

In fairness, Bilko deserves to lose her as he treats her with an appalling lack of respect, so maybe having the sleazy Major Thorn sniffing around his bird will spur him on to finally be a decent boyfriend to her at last. I don't find his 'hilarious' no-shows at his own weddings to be funny in the slightest. How dare he treat Rita so carelessly? Honestly, men...!

Sgt. Bilko is the worst husband-to-be in the world, relying on his easy charm and clever quippery to get him out of romantic jams as well as professional ones. If the prospect of Major Thorn stealing his Sheila out from under his very nose doesn't spur him on to slap a ring on it, then maybe he doesn't deserve to be in the running for Rita's heart- and ring finger- any more.

Phil Hartman, who died tragically young in 1998, is probably best known for voicing failed lawyer Lionel Hutz and also washed-up actor Troy McClure in THE SIMPSONS. His death by shooting (the perpetrator was his wife, who committed suicide shortly afterwards) was shocking and premature.

Even today, however, his work on THE SIMPSONS has made sure that his distinctive voice is well-known to anyone in the world who's ever had access to a television. As long as THE SIMPSONS continue on the air, you can expect that to always be the case.

Dan Aykroyd (GHOSTBUSTERS, THE BLUES BROTHERS, DRIVING MISS DAISY) does a great job here as Colonel John T. Hall, the boss whom Sgt. Bilko is well used to winding around his little finger.

Max Casella, whom I knew well as Benny Fazio from THE SOPRANOS, the mother and father of all good HBO drama serials, is great fun also as Dino Paparelli, the Italian-American underling who'll even dress up in rather convincing drag to aid and abet one of Sgt. Bilko's outrageous schemes. Like Homer Simpson (again!), Bilko's antidote to a zany scheme is always an even zanier scheme. He'll out-scheme even himself one of these fine days, he will...

Well, you raggedy maggots, that's it for today's review. I'll see you all here on the parade ground for tomorrow morning's reveillé at 5am sharp. Well, I won't, because I never lift my little head off the pillow till nine, but Sgt. Bilko will be here to supervise y'all. Bilko, I'll be expecting your report on my desk at 9am sharp. Bilko...? Bilko...? Dang that slippery SOB, where'd he go...?

The marvellous news is that SGT. BILKO is now out on DVD release, both separately and as part of a Steve Martin box-set from FABULOUS FILMS in conjunction with FREMANTLE MEDIA ENTERPRISES. The other three films in the box-set are:

BOWFINGER with Eddie Murphy, the spoof film noir DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID and the hilarious true-to-life comedy PARENTHOOD. 

Buy it now and wallow freely in some really terrific comedy starring one of the best and funniest comic actors of our time, Steve Martin. I promise you that it's well worth your time and money.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com







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