Castor’s Underrated Gems – Deal of the Century (1983)

The commercial parody for the Peacemaker military jet (with “Someone to Watch Over Me” in the background) is intelligently acrid view of the American desire for orbiting safeguards against their enemies. Maybe I’m predisposed to unsung satires from SNL alumni but Deal of the Century is stratified alongside 1981’s Neighbors and The Distinguished Gentleman as an olive-black send-up of the swap meet for WMD’s.

Chevy Chase doesn’t pratfall his way through this and his cigar-suckling cynicism is a snidely blithe, enjoyably daft facsimile of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca (according to his voiceover- “She checked in with a guy half her size and twice her age.”). The most transparent sample of physical comedy is Chase’s right foot as a target. His hardware is also listed in his business card and a catalog. I do wonder if it has a Hallmark holiday edition for yuletide coup d’etats?

William Friedkin doesn’t eviscerate the film with tonally inconsistent tomfoolery. Wallace Shawn’s suicide and a bullet to Eddie’s foot don’t surrender the film to fulsome sentimentality or sacrifice the film’s savage witticisms. However, a scene between Eddie and his brother underlines the futility of his intermediary profession. Likewise, Gregory Hines is the conscience of the picture as he baptizes himself before the air show. While she is usually a force of nature in science-fiction and action films, Sigourney Weaver wilts as the femme-fatale and widow of Shawn.

The finale in which Hines is whirligiging in a dogfight against the soon-to-be-auctioned plane is hampered by some of the era’s horrid rear-screen projection. Yet it doesn’t conclude on a note of false patriotism and Eddie recalculates his salesmanship into another snake-oil position.

One wishes Friedkin would diversify again for another poisonously funny antidote to today’s unmanned warfare. Paul Brickman’s arsenic contributions cannot be diminished though. The man who catapulted coming-of-age yarns and Tom Cruise in his undergarments into a sensation also vaults Chase to a noirish antihero.

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