No Way to Treat a Lady (1968)

Genres - Comedy, Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Black Comedy, Comedy Thriller, Police Detective Film  |   Release Date - Mar 20, 1968 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 108 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Dan Friedman

Nowadays, when it seems that a successful film has to be either a big holiday or summer special-effects blockbuster, or a cheap independent circuit success, it makes one long for the days when good films with good stories were made for modest budgets and provided a decent piece of entertainment without overloading the senses. This dying breed of the movies is still around, however, and although often under appreciated, should be sought out. One case in point is No Way to Treat a Lady, a black comedy that combines a crime drama with the often humorous relationships men have with their mothers. In spite of the film being a thriller, we know from the beginning who the bad guy is. It's Rod Steiger, who gets to really stretch and ham it up as a theater manager/serial killer who murders each of his victims in some outlandish disguise to win their trust. George Segal is the cop who must crack the case and, at the same time, fend off his wonderfully annoying mother, Eileen Heckart (whose running gag line, "Who ever heard of a Jewish cop?" gets repeated over and over again throughout). Steiger's character is one of those vain killers who checks the newspaper for reports of his exploits and who takes to calling Segal when the facts are reported wrong or when he wants to taunt the authorities. Segal is rather bland, although it's not really his fault since the role doesn't give him much to do other than to react to the other characters, particularly his mother, Steiger, and Lee Remick, as his love interest and would-be victim of the murderer. Steiger goes way, way over the top, but it works because the film has set him up to be not only flamboyant, but overreactive to mother issues of his own. His various disguises get odder and odder as the film moves along, and when it shifts from comedy into resolution of the crime mode, his character becomes that much more menacing, not because he's funny but because we learn, as Segal puts the pieces together, that he is honestly and truly deranged. Remick serves as the breath of fresh air, only because her character is the only one who isn't dealing with some sort of emotional crisis. The scene where she meets and charms Heckart is an overlooked comedic gem.