For the time being Kino Lorber is keeping mum about their forthcoming Bluray of Carl Reiner‘s Where’s Poppa (’70), which will pop on 7.19. I haven’t seen this bizarre, occasionally hilarious Jewish-guilt comedy in eons, and I know it hasn’t had any kind of upgrade since it appeared as an MGM/UA DVD 14 years ago. As it’s out of print, a new copy of the DVD will set you back $60 so the cheaper Bluray will make sense.
Nervy for its time, Where’s Poppa? is coarse and extreme and way beyond the current limits of politically acceptable humor.
Robert Klane‘s screenplay is about a 30ish Manhattan-residing attorney (George Segal) who wants to put his highly eccentric, bordering-on-senile mother (Ruth Gordon) in an old-folks home but feels hamstrung by a pledge made to his dying dad that he’d never do that. His married brother Sid (a non-toupee’d Ron Leibman) made the same pledge and guilt-trips Segal along these lines. The issue is forced when Segal falls in love with a nurse (Trish Van Devere) whom he hires to take care of Gordon.
There’s a running gag about a trio of black Central Park muggers (one of them played by SNL‘s Garrett Morris) accosting Leibman and stealing his clothes and later forcing him into taking part in a half-rape. I remember one of the muggers saying to Leibman, “Lookie, man…everybody’s gotta make a buck, right? So how’re we supposed to make a buck when you walk across Central Park but you don’t bring any bread?”
I also seem to recall Van Devere telling Segal about some guy she’d gone out with who “went ca-ca” on the bed.
Segal to Gordon: “She’s not just another nurse, ma. She means a whole lot to me, ma. And I want you to know that if you mess this one up for me, I’m gonna punch your fuckin’ heart out. Got it?”
From Roger Greenspun‘s N.Y. Times review, dated 11.11.70:
“Like most New York comedy, Where’s Poppa? means to score points in its incidental treatment of how we live. But unlike most such comedy, it actually scores a few — as when on Central Park West a Negro lady hails a cab, which almost stops but then drives on to pick up instead a wildly gesticulating giant gorilla.”
George Segal, Trish Van Devere.