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Townsend Takes Credit for 'Shuffle'; 'The Manchurian Candidate' Is Delayed

December 11, 1987|DENNIS HUNT | Times Staff Writer

"Hollywood Shuffle" is called the credit-card comedy. But that's not because it has anything to do with plastic money.

Robert Townsend--its star, director, producer and co-writer--partly financed the movie, which is due for release on home video next week, through credit cards.

He may have had trouble paying the bills while it was being filmed, but his finances have taken a turn for the better since then. The $400,000 movie has grossed $5.3 million, and Townsend went on to direct "Eddie Murphy Raw," which coincidentally is due for theatrical release next week.

In honor of the home video debut of "Hollywood Shuffle," Virgin Vision Video gave a party at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. Despite the swanky surroundings, the entree was hot dogs. That wasn't a cost-cutting measure. It was just a cutesy reference to the fact that the hero in "Hollywood Shuffle" works at a hot-dog stand.

At the party, Townsend, at his clownish best, was wearing an apron and a hat with half a hot dog sticking out of each side. One of the by-products of the movie's success, he noted, is that some other black film makers with no track records are getting a chance.

"I couldn't get money when I needed it to make this movie," he said. "They wouldn't trust me because they didn't know what I could do. But now the money men are thinking maybe some other black film makers might be able do what I did with just a small investment. Maybe some of them won't have to go through what I went through."

Some black film makers have come to him seeking help. But, Townsend insisted, he's not into being a benefactor. "Some of them want to work but some of them are lazy," he explained."I can't be sure who's who. The people who are really dedicated will find a way--just like I did. You have to do anything you can to get your movie made. You have to improvise."

Townsend's next movie, which he's nearly finished writing, won't be made with improvisational financing. "It will be done on a decent budget," he said proudly. "No credit cards this time."

NO WINTER CANDIDATE: According to industry rumors,"The Manchurian Candidate," the 1962 political thriller, will make its home video debut this winter, possibly in February or March. Actually, it won't be out until much later--April at the earliest, said a source at MGM/UA, which has the home video rights.

Before its home video debut, the movie, out of circulation for many years, will be released in theaters. Starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Janet Leigh, it's about a soldier (Harvey) who's hypnotized by Communists to perform an assassination. Fans have been eagerly awaiting this one, which many historians rank with the best thrillers of the post-war era.

NEW RELEASES: RCA/Columbia's ultra-charming romantic comedy, "Roxanne," is based on Edmund Rostand's "Cyrano de Bergerac," which makes the point that it's what is in your heart--not the size of your nose--that really counts. Steve Martin gives his finest performance as a fire chief in a ski-resort town in Washington. Though eloquent, dashing and heroic, he has a nose that looks like a minature ski slope. He's in love with a beautiful astronomer named Roxanne (Daryl Hannah) but is afraid to approach her, fearing his nose would stand in the way. So he lives vicariously through his good-looking but cloddish buddy (Rick Rossovich), coaching him through the seduction of Roxanne. Fred Shepisi directed Martin's script.

MCA's "The Secret of My Success," directed by Herbert Ross, is an far-fetched yuppie farce set in Manhattan--in the glitzy circles of high finance. It's about an ambitious mailroom worker (Michael J. Fox) in a conglomerate who creates another identity as an executive. He's also romancing both the boss's wife (Margaret Whitton) and his mistress (Helen Slater). His manic efforts to keep all these secrets is the basis for most of the comedy. The plot isn't believable for a moment but the movie floats along on its cheerful nuttiness and the energy of Fox's expert comic performance. The movie also gets considerable charge from Whitton's high-voltage performance as the sex-starved wife.

Paramount's "Summer School," directed by Carl Reiner, is teen-oriented silliness that's better than most teen-oriented silliness. It was a hit with teens because it cleverly panders to their fantasies. The hero (Mark Harmon) is a dream teacher--outrageously permissive, friendly, funny, indifferent to homework and fond of fun field trips. This teacher--a beach bum at heart--is the kind of character who dines with his dog, eating peanut butter and jelly straight out of the jar. The plot, about the footloose teacher trying to gear his rowdy students to pass a summer school test, is neglible, but some of the anti-authoritarian shenanigans are amusing.

Nelson Entertainment's "Burke & Wills," about a gruelling expedition across the hot, un-hartered wilderness of Australia in the 1860s, isn't as exciting as it could be. The chief explorers are Burke (Jack Thompson), an impetuous roughneck, and Wills (Nigel Havers), a scholarly gentleman. The clashes between these two opposites aren't all that dramatic. All the flashbacks and the switching back and forth to Melbourne, to keep up with a lumbering subplot, slow down the action considerably. The most absorbing part of the movie--the harrowing trek home--comes in the second half. But Russell Boyd's magnificent cinematography makes the slow stretches easier to endure.

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