Films

Barefoot in the mire

THIEVES Directed by John Berry

KASPARS DZEGUZE March 7 1977
Films

Barefoot in the mire

THIEVES Directed by John Berry

KASPARS DZEGUZE March 7 1977

Barefoot in the mire

Films

THIEVES Directed by John Berry

When a producer’s first film goes through the roof with success, it’s not surprising that he should look for a sequel. That’s one way of explaining why George Barrie, who made the witty and urbane A Touch Of Class, would bother with something as hand-me-down and derivative as Thieves.

The appeal to a packager is undeniable, Thieves had a decent 10-month Broadway run in 1974 starring That Girl Mario Thomas and, given the easy familiarity of its New York location, its comfortable middle-class concerns and zany minor players, it seems ripe not only for filming but also for a TV spin-off.

But Thieves has no distinct voice or character of its own. Writer Herb Gardner feebly asserts that time is the thief who’s taken the love from the marriage of Sally (Thomas) and Martin Cramer (Charles Grodin). The two teachers have just moved into a highrise to get away from the indifference of both the poor and the rich, whom they see daily at their respective schools. By mistake Sally sends their $55,000 worth of antiques to the cold-water flat that was their first home. What develops is nothing more than a maudlin, indulgent search for their roots.

While the characters parade their neuroses like refugees from Schisgal’s Luv. or ambush each other verbally like rejects from Albee’s Virginia Woolf, they are in fact closer kin to the lovers of Neil Simon’s Barefoot In The Park. 12 married years after the delights of that first apartment. Martin, like Barefoot's Paul, finds salvation through osmosis—by putting his bare feet down on the cold, real streets of the city.

As Martin, Charles Grodin is as stilted and mechanical as the ape he played opposite in King Kong. Mario Thomas, always a sympathetic performer, fares better, though her badly aging face destroys the credibility of youthful Sally. Several of the minor characters are excellent, though Irwin Corey as Sally’s philosophical cabdriver father (“Howja know ya not an ashtray?”) runs hysterically amok, quite beyond the director’s control.

Producer Barrie makes perfumes in addition to films: Thieves, alas, is a real stinker.

KASPARS DZEGUZE