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Blind camel
by Asa Butcher
Issue 16
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Elaine May
Next year is the twentieth anniversary of Ishtar, one of the biggest box office failures of all time. The film earned a mere $12.7 million upon its release in 1987, which eventually equalled a loss of over $42m, and its director shared the Razzie Award for Worst Director that year. I am here now to defend this box office flop because it is not as bad as that.

My expectations of Ishtar were not high after hearing so many derogatory opinions about it, but it was a very funny entertaining film, which made both my friend and I laugh. There is a Naked Gun/Police Squad quality about its quirkiness and you can see that none of the actors are taking it seriously.

Lyle Rogers (Warren Beatty) and Chuck Clarke (Dustin Hoffman) are two terrible singer/songwriters that are booked to play the Ishtar Hilton. They become involved in the political games of the CIA, the Emir of Ishtar and the rebels upon their arrival in Morocco and they learn that everybody is searching for a map that could upset the balance of power in the region.

The two stars were each paid $5m and I think they were worth every cent. There is a great chemistry between the two leads, especially during their painfully funny song writing moments. I was surprised at how funny Warren Beatty can be after seeing his stiffness in Dick Tracy and style in Bonnie and Clyde, but he manages to steal some of the scenes from under the nose of Hoffman, "Smuck!"

The majority of the songs were written by Paul Williams, with additional help from Hoffman and writer/director Elaine May. They are in the 'so-bad-they-are-funny' category, with lyrics such as, "She said come look there's a wardrobe of love in my eyes...Take your time, look around and see if there's something your size..." At the conclusion of the film it shows Rogers and Clarke's CD drastically reduced, which is ironic when you think that the soundtrack to the film was available to buy.

A mention must go to Charles Grodin as Jim Harrison, the CIA man in Ishtar, who appears to thoroughly relish every minute he on-screen. He has the advantage of delivering some great dialogue and interacting with the legendary blind camel. The film is very light on actresses, with the only one being Isabelle Adjani who spends most of the movie dressed as a man…we do get a flash of her left breast though.

This great little story with the awful songs, tongue-in-cheek humour and an added bonus of a blind camel was enough to damage the reputation of Elaine May. She has not directed another film since Ishtar, but has returned to Hollywood as a screenwriter responsible for the La Cage aux Folles remake The Birdcage and Primary Colors.

Ishtar does not deserve the reputation it has and should not appear on any 'Worst Movie Ever' list, but that is just my humble opinion. Elaine May should feel proud at her achievement at creating a very funny and unique film; it is so unique that it even has, yes, a blind camel.

Chuck Clarke: You mean you bought a camel?
Lyle Rogers: No, I didn't really buy it. They SOLD it to me!
Lyle Rogers: Oh no. I think that something went wrong and now I own a blind camel. A blind camel!

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Ishtar The Movie Webmaste2007-08-01 23:27:58
You are NOT alone...


Asa2007-08-02 10:21:06
Perhaps you can add this review to your reviews or links page.

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