Director: Ted Post
Elliott Gould, Eddie Albert, Harry Guardino

Recently, during a slow time in my schedule, I allowed my thoughts to wander all over the place. When my thoughts eventually came to the conclusion part of my brain, they signalled one unmistakable conclusion: that I have certainly come a long way in many aspects of my life. One of those aspects happens to be my web site. Sometimes it seems like yesterday when I first launched my web site all by myself, and its crude construction at the time still makes me wince a little when I think about it. But there must have been something good about it, because after a few years, a major B movie reviewing web site offered to host my web site and renovate it to a professional standard. I jumped at the chance, and my hosts carried my revitalized web site for a number of years that followed. Eventually, however, my hosts no longer had the time to do maintenance on my web site, and I had to go back on my own. I was in a panic at the time, having had long forgotten a lot of things you had to do in order to be your own web site boss. But you know what? I not only managed to go back to being my own host, I have rediscovered the pleasure of being my own boss. However, that's not to say that the years with my host were bad ones in comparison. There were definitely some advantages there. Certainly, I didn't have to pay hosting fees during my time with the big B movie web site. But I think the most important advantage was knowing that I was a part of something big and important to a number of people. It made me feel good to know that both my work and I were valued. The knowledge knowing I was accepted and valued by peers was a good one.

After typing out that last part of that previous paragraph, I paused a little to think about those feelings, and I realized that most people do need to feel that they are valued by some part of this world of ours. I'll give you an example of one thing in my life where I regularly get that feeling - the job where I earn my living. Maybe my job isn't one of the biggest at my workplace like the ones my superiors have, but all the same I do a lot of work for the organization maintaining various things that help keep the organization afloat. I feel a part of something big, and therefore I feel both good and valued. To tell the truth, I don't know what I would think if I were to be told my services were no longer needed. Well, maybe I do. Years ago when I was a teenager, I had a part time job at a fast food restaurant. I worked like a dog at that job, but no one seemed to realize it. Eventually, to add insult to injury, the manager told me my performance was essentially not up to snuff and fired me. I felt angry and humiliated at the time. Though today I consider the firing a blessing in disguise since I eventually found better work elsewhere, I can remember all those years ago that I was thinking various thoughts of revenge. Among all the things I thought about doing was going to the restaurant one night when it was closed and filling the keyholes in all the doors with super glue. I never got around to enacting any revenge against the restaurant, partially because the restaurant was too far away from my house, and partially because deep down I realized that I would almost certainly be suspect number one should any harm come to the restaurant.

Anyway, I eventually realized that my firing was a kind of education for me. It made me realize how most of us need to feel a part of something, and it made me very sympathetic towards people who are undeservedly removed from some kind of occupation that they have put their heart Whiffsand soul into. And I certainly can understand why those unfortunate people might enact some kind of revenge against their former employer. So it should come as no surprise that I have kind of a soft spot for movies that involve people seeking revenge against institutions that they were once a part of but were removed from. That's more or less what the movie Whiffs is about. But there was additional interest with its star, Elliott Gould (Busting). Five years earlier, Gould had starred in the smash hit military comedy MASH. But in the five years that followed, his popularity had diminished considerably. Possibly Gould figured that another military-themed comedy might help him make a comeback. In Whiffs, Gould plays a fellow by the name of Dudley Frapper. Frapper has been stuck as a lowly private in the United States army for the past fifteen years, and his only relief seems to come from his loyal army nurse girlfriend Scottie (Jennifer O'Neill, Summer Of '42). Frapper's grief comes from the fact that the army, lead by one Colonel Lockyer (Albert, Take This Job And Shove It) has assigned him to be the test subject for various experimental battlefield chemicals and gases. If you think that no good can come from this, you are right - eventually, Frapper is exposed to so many chemicals that not only is his breathing messed up, but also his bedroom performance with Scottie. In short notice, Frapper is discharged from the army and is given a small disability allowance that no one could possibly live off of. To make matters worse, his ailments prevent him from getting and keeping employment in the civilian world. One day in civilian life, Frapper bumps into Mulligan (Guardino, Lovers And Other Strangers), a former prisoner who was also subjected to chemical tests by the army and also given a raw deal. Eventually, Mulligan proposes an idea to Frapper: They will steal from the army the chemical that hurt Frapper, spray it over a town, and while the townspeople are rendered useless, the two men will rob the town's financial institutions.

Doing some pre-viewing research on Whiffs, I uncovered some things about its background that both intrigued me and filled me with dread. I found out that the movie was an effort by Brut Productions. Yes, the same company that made Brut cologne and other cosmetic products while under the control of George Barrie. And Barrie put a personal touch on Whiffs, writing with Sammy Cahn a song for the movie - "Now That We're In Love" - that got an Oscar nomination for Best Song. All that sounds intriguing, but what filled me with dread was knowing that Barrie and Brut Productions were also responsible for the insane family movie Hugo The Hippo. So deep down I was expecting the worst with Whiffs. Well, after watching the movie, while I can't say that it is as gruelling an experience as Hugo The Hippo, it is all the same a very, very bad movie. First I'll get out of the way the only thing that I found positive about the entire experience, that being that director Ted Post (The Baby) does manage to use the Panavision photography to compose some pretty impressive-looking shots, most of them being outdoor sequences. These shots are even more impressive when you consider how most of the rest of the movie clearly shows how low budget the entire enterprise was. The opening credits state proudly that the movie was made without the cooperation of the United States army, and it shows. We don't get to see much of the army base from the outside, and when we do, it's clearly a warehouse storage site that has been hastily decorated with army vehicles and a few other army-related props. It gets worse from there, and if the movie hadn't been photographed in that Panavision process, you might swear that it had been a made for television production instead of a feature film.

As I have made clear several times over the years, I am more often than not able to forgive a movie for a cheap look if it manages to compensate in other areas. Eye candy does help, but it only goes so far. But the problems in Whiffs go far beyond a shabby appearance. One of the biggest problems I had with the movie were the so-called heroes. I didn't care about them in the very least for two reasons. The first reason was that they were stupid. If you remember what I said about the Dudley Frapper character, it's that he had been a willing test subject for various chemicals for fifteen years. Anyone with a lick of sense would know that no good could eventually come of this, but apparently not Frapper. I was angry at Frapper for being so utterly stupid. Maybe if he had been of reasonable intelligence and was conned by a sneaky Colonel Lockyer to volunteer for one chemical test - and getting sick from this one test alone - then I could sympathize with this character's dismay about getting discharged from the army. But even then, there would be something else about this character that would make me dislike him greatly, and that would be his scheme to spray chemicals over the town in order to rob its banks. As it turns out, he uses the same chemicals that made him sick, so he is risking innocent civilians (including children and babies) to get the same health problems that he himself now has. Even if the chemicals he uses didn't have any long lasting health risks, he would still be risking the lives of many civilians. What if, for example, someone in the town got gassed while driving a car at a high speed?

It isn't just the characters of Frapper and Mulligan that are totally lacking in sympathy, but everyone else in the movie. Colonel Lockyer is a heartless leader, though that is expected. What you may not expect is that the supporting protagonist characters also fail to win us over, namely because they aren't given much to do. Frapper's girlfriend Scottie is forgotten for large chunks of time, and other characters like an investigating policeman (played by Alan Manson) and a pilot (Godfrey Cambridge, Five On The Black Hand Side) don't even get proper exits from the narrative. With the characters so badly written on more than one level, it probably comes as no surprise that none of the actors seem to be trying hard. That is, except for Elliott Gould, who apparently had such contempt that he seems to be trying to give the worst performance he possibly can. Needless to say, like the rest of the cast, he isn't the least bit funny. But even if Gould and the rest of the cast had been ready, willing, and able, they would have found it extremely hard to wring just a single laugh from what director Post and screenwriter Malcolm Marmorstein apparently though was funny. See Gould walk into a closed door! See Gould wear a funny wig! See Gould wear a funny hat! See Gould and Guardino in their underwear! See Gould numerous times get attacked by a wheezing spell! See innocent civilians en masse lying on the ground and having seizures! See a soldier's helmet fall off while he's been transported in the back of an army truck, causing him to express dismay! All of which is staged and executed with the heaviest hand you can think of, and having not one drop of comic energy to it. I'm in no mood to laugh after sitting through the dismal Whiffs, so I won't end this review with the expected gag of saying that this "whiffs" stinks. I'll just say that unless you have the interest of tracking down the worst movies made that have managed to receive an Oscar nomination, don't even try to sniff this obscurity out.

(Posted December 11, 2018)

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See also: Private Popsicle, Weekend Warriors, Whoops Apocalypse