THE BIG FIX ( Twilight Time Blu-Ray) 1978. Color. 108 min .PG . Region Free. $29.95 Limited to a print run of 3,000 only.
Richard Dreyfuss was at the height of his popularity in 1978. He had been a major force behind such mega successes as JAWS (Universal,1975) and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (Columbia,1975), and had just won the Academy Award for Best Actor for THE GOODBYE GIRL (MGM,1977).
There was therefore great anticipation for his next film , which was THE BIG FIX. The television commercials seemed to promise us another whacky comedy, following his popular turn in THE GOODBYE GIRL. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-O0zOa41kos
The film got positive reviews , but it never seemed to click as expected with audiences (though it was profitable ), and so the film came and went quickly.
It was released on VHS and on cable, but never seemed to find an audience it deserved .
The problem is that the marketing sold it as a comedy, which is wrong as it is a clever updating of the detective drama (there was a 1947 crime drama with the same name ,which was the final film from Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) ) ,with a quirky title character.
Jeremy Paul Kagan was a successful television director, who had helmed an episode of the successful COLUMBO (Universal,1971-2003) as well as the marvelous telefilm mystery JUDGE DEE AND THE MONASTERY MURDERS (ABC CIRCLE FILMS ,1974).
THE BIG FIX was his second theatrical feature (the first being HEROES , Universal,1977).
Private Investigator Moses Wine (Richard Dreyfuss) is a former radical now struggling within the system , struggling on catching up on late child support and losing on sports betting . His right hand is in a cast, and one wonders if it was a warning from a bookie, from a case, or simply clumsiness. He doesn’t make it clearer ,when he himself gives various reasons for his injury (Dreyfuss supposedly actually injured himself ,and so they worked it into the film).
Moses is contacted by Lila (Susan Anspach,BLUME IN LOVE, WB 1973) to see if he can help Milles Hawthorne (John Cunningham ). Cunningham is running for Governor of California, but there is a smear campaign against him .Fliers are being distributed that have doctored photos that show Hawthorne with radical Howard Eppis (F Murray Abraham , 6 years before his international fame as Salieri in AMADEUS , Orion ,1984 ),who is also supposedly also endorsing him. This could be the kiss of death to Hawthorne’s campaign ,and Lila wants Moses to find out who is doing it.
The problem for Moses is that he has contempt for Hawthorne’s policies and intelligence ,but for Lila (with him Moses was involved with back in HIS radical younger days) , he takes the case , even though he has to deal with Hawthorne’s buttoned down campaign manager,Sam Sebastian (John Lithgow , the same year appearing in Bob Fosse’s ALL THAT JAZZ (Fox,1979)).
They start checking with old radical sources and friends (some of whom are in prison due to their activities with Eppis )to try and uncover the truth of the smear campaign , which results in death along the way. Moses needs to find Eppis and finds many of his old associates now regard Eppis with hatred and contempt .
The FBI becomes involved and question Moses about Eppis . Moses also encounters wealthy Industrialist Oscar Procari (Dennis Weaver, so memorable in many classic TWILIGHT ZONE episodes) who feels Eppis radicalized his son and got him involved with the California Four (sort of a variant to the Weather Underground).
Along the way, Moses comes in contact with many of those who were involved with the turbulent sixties, and he questions when did things start to change for him and the rest ?
My favorite scene in the film is where Moses watches old news footage of the California Four and their passion that they could bring about change, bringing tears to Moses’ eyes.
Other wonderful supporting actors in the film include Bonnie Bedelia (before she played Holly McClane in DIE HARD I & II (Fox ,88,90) as Suzanne ,Moses’ ex-wife, Ron Rifkin ( L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, WB,1991) as her sleazy current boyfriend , as well as a watch or you’ll miss him Mandy Patinkin (YENTL ,UA, 1983) bit as a stoner pool man.
The score is by Bill Conti (ROCKY,UA,1976) ,and the cinematography is by Frank Stanley ( Blake Edwards ‘10”,WB ,1979) . Bill Conti’s score is available to listen to on an isolated music & sound effects track as the disc’s only extra , besides an original theatrical trailer.
The film has been given a 1080p High Definition upgrade (1.85:1 screen ratio) and is a big step up from the Universal DVD-On Demand that was available prior.
Here the image and colors are sharper and not as flat as that transfer and the framing seems less cramped.
The sound is only in English (1.0 DTS- HD MA) but again the original film was mono sound and TWILIGHT TIME has cleaned up the track as much as possible, It is hiss and pop free ,with dialogue and soundtrack both easy to enjoy .
A good updating of the detective thriller, with a superb cast in a clever film looking at the failings and ideals of the counter culture movement, as well as what people are willing to “sell out “ for on both sides of the political spectrum .
Recommended for RICHARD DREYFUSS fans, detective fans, political junkies, and those who like counter culture movies (this being almost a counter-counter-culture film!).
–Kevin G Shinnick