Die Laughing (1980)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Black Comedy  |   Run Time - 108 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Donald Guarisco

Clearly, Die Laughing was a bit of a vanity project for Robby Benson -- he co-wrote and co-produced the film in addition to starring and writing and performing several songs on its soundtrack. That said, it must go down in history as one of the strangest and most misguided vanity projects ever unleashed by a major studio. The script is a bizarre mix of thriller elements, airheaded political "satire," mushy romance and lowbrow humor (one setpiece involves Benson getting hit in the groin, accidentally shoving his face into a lady's behind and later diving face first into a huge pile of horse manure). It has imagination, to say the least, but it's got no sense of proportion when it comes to blending these elements and a surprising amount of bad taste. Jeff Werner's direction is competent as it can be under the circumstances, bringing a slickness to the story and some nice visuals, but it fights a losing battle against the out-of-control storyline. Die Laughing also has a serious problem in the acting department -- Benson himself. He is capable of turning in fine performances in the proper setting but he's jaw-droppingly bad here, mugging wildly for the camera at every opportunity and creating a character who is such a buffoon that he keeps the audience at a distance. There's also a seriously bizarre performance from Bud Cort as the film's villain but he actually adds a shot of life when the film gets bogged down with his anything-goes improvisational antics. Elsewhere, old pros like Charles Durning and Elsa Lanchester provide solid support but they can't save the misguided goings-on. To sum up, Die Laughing is so far off the mark that it provides some entertainment value in a perverse, unintentional way but the members of the audience likely to take it that way are few and far between. This one is best left to the hardcore Benson fans.