No Way to Treat a Lady
Maybe NYPD Det. Morris "Moe" Brummel (George Segal) would be better off if he was Irish. Or Greek. Or anything other than Jewish. Because not only has he chosen law-enforcement as a profession, he's also unmarried, not getting any younger, lives with his overbearing mother (Eileen Heckart), and will never match his brother's career as a doctor. It's a quiet, routine life for Moe that is, until two things turn it upside-down. First, a serial killer nicknamed "The Strangler" (Rod Steiger) is on the loose, and the sophisticated fellow has taken to calling Moe on the telephone to make sure the inspector doesn't lose the scent of his prey. Secondly, Moe falls for one of the few folks who actually saw The Strangler (in one of his many disguises) the attractive Kate Palmer (Lee Remick), who's smart and sweet, but about as shiksa as blonde New York babes come. Will Moe identify and collar the slippery killer? And even more importantly, will Mom ever accept his dating a goyim gal? Adapted by John Gay from the novel by William Goldman, No Way To Treat a Lady (1968) is a lighthearted picture virtually from beginning to end, even with its insidious, deviant murderer. Rod Steiger anchors the film with his headlining performance, although his clever disguises and puzzling phone calls have a humorous quality to them. Still, Steiger plays it all straight, and thankfully George Segal doesn't try to keep pace instead, he's normally bemused by his conversations with The Strangler, as if he has no clue why the killer would even call him. It's a nice juxtaposition that allows the light-comic Segal to counter Steiger's notable intensity. The budding romance between Segal and Remick may be contrived (obviously, the cop's girlfriend is there to become another intended strangling victim), but the banter between the actors is witty and fresh, and there are a few graceful moments (such as when the low-paid Moe takes Kate for a ride on his "yacht," which turns out to be an NYPD harbor patrol boat). And even a bizarre bit involving a midget (Michael Dunn) making a false confession didn't wind up on the cutting-room floor, presumably because it's just goofy enough to belong in this movie. But all of these elements really exist in counterpoint to Steiger, who serves as the picture's calling-card it appears he's given free reign by director Jack Smight to play his role to the rafters, and the final ten minutes are something approaching brilliance on the Steiger-scale. This may be a kooky murder movie, but as far as Steiger's concerned he might as well be doing Shakespeare at the Old Vic, and maybe making up his own lines in the process. Some directors considered Steiger too hard to handle on the set here's one opportunity to see the hound when he's not on the leash. Paramount's DVD release of No Way to Treat a Lady features a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) from an attractive source-print that's held up well over time. Audio is in the original mono (DD 2.0). No extras, keep-case.