Man With Bogart’s Face, The (1980)

“Does anyone ever tell you you look like…”

Synopsis:
An aspiring private detective (Robert Sacchi) has surgery to look just like Humphrey Bogart, and quickly acquires a host of clients — including a young woman (Olivia Hussey) who fears for her father’s life; Sacchi’s larger-than-life landlady (A’leisha Brevard), whose boyfriend (Buck Kartalian) has gone missing; and a beautiful heiress (Michelle Phillips) being blackmailed.

Genres:

Review:
Film fanatics are sure to get a kick out of this affectionate homage to Humphrey Bogart and the Golden Age of Hollywood, based on a novel by Andrew J. Fenady (who also produced the film). Sacchi (playing “Sam Marlow”) is not only a spot-on Bogart-impersonator, but a decent actor to boot, making one feel eerily at times as though Bogart himself has been resurrected to make one final film. (Such a vision rings especially possible in light of Tupac Shakur’s recent “appearance” via hologram at the Coachella Music Festival.) The storyline is, perhaps predictably, overly complex at times (just like Bogart’s own private eye flicks often were), with seemingly countless clients entering Marlow’s office asking for assistance — though eventually their requests all coalesce into one interwoven tale, a la The Maltese Falcon (1941), of a search for valuable jewels known as the Eyes of Alexander. (An exception is a hilarious subplot involving Marlow’s aggressive landlady, played by female impersonator A’leisha Brevard).

Excellent use is made of iconic L.A. locales, with Marlow frequenting the Hollywood Bowl, the Ambassador Hotel, and the Hollywood Wax Museum, among other choice locations. Meanwhile, the screenplay is simply littered with fun references to a variety of Hollywood films and actors — most notably in the character played by Phillips, who’s made up to look remarkably like Gene Tierney. (And who won’t get a kick out of Marlow’s enormous crush on Tierney-in-Laura, with a replica of Laura’s famous portrait hanging in his office, and the film’s memorable theme music emerging at key moments?) Other real-life Golden-Era Hollywood actors (including Victor Buono, Herbert Lom, and Richard Bakalyan) are smartly given a host of supporting roles — and any film fanatic will be tickled to notice TCM host Robert Osborne (!) showing up early on as a reporter; he gets just one line, but you’ll instantly recognize his distinctive voice. (See still below for evidence.)

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Robert Sacchi as Sam Marlow
  • Michelle Phillips as Gena
  • A host of fondly familiar supporting faces
  • Robert Osborne in a one-line role (watch and listen closely!)
  • Nice use of diverse L.A. locales

Must See?
Yes; film fanatics will surely have fun with this one. Listed as a Sleeper, a Cult Movie, and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book — all of which makes sense to me.

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One Response to “Man With Bogart’s Face, The (1980)”

  1. Not a must – but it’s possible that, due to its countless film references, hardcore ffs will at least find it mildly amusing.

    It’s true that the film is largely salvaged by Sacchi and Phillips as Bogart and Tierney. (Buono deserves special mention for sheer professionalism.) But, overall, I find it about 30 minutes too long and, for a comedy, not all that funny – much of the humor is strained.

    Filmed rather like a tv movie, ‘The Man…’ seems to have served as a kind of inspiration for the short-lived ‘Police Squad’ which, of course, grew into the very popular ‘Naked Gun’ series.

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