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No Way to Treat a Lady (1968) – DVD Review

No Way to Treat a Lady DVD box set


Written by: John Gay, based on the novel by William Goldman
Directed by: Jack Smight
Starring: Rod Steiger, Lee Remick, George Segal, Eileen Heckart, Murray Hamilton

Features:Released by: Paramount
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Rent it.

Christopher Gill (Steiger), while a successful theater manager, has never achieved much success as an actor, especially when compared to his famous mother. But he’s going to show them all. With accents and disguises, he will perform to lonely, middle-age women with roles that imply trust and safety: a priest, a plumber, and a cop among others. These women will never suspect his performance until he gets his hands around their throats, choking the life out of them. As an actor, Gill always likes good reviews and when he gets an unintentional one from Det. Morris Brummel (Segal), he makes the cop his confidante. Brummel would rather be spending time with his new girlfriend Kate Palmer (Remick), but Gill has already made plans for one hell of a curtain call.

Again, I review an unconventional serial killer movie. I hope this isn’t the start of a trend. Unlike Dahmer, No Way To Treat a Lady is far less serious and far more broad in its acting. Rod Steiger gets to chew scenery to his heart’s content, knowing he isn’t making grand cinema so he can relax and have some fun. This release from acting reflects on the character he plays. When he is around people, Gill is calm and reserved. But going outside his public identity and the law gives him the freedom to play other roles and let his emotions out. Unfortunately, the major emotion he finds is homicidal rage. Segal plays the down to earth straight man to Steiger’s outrageous behavior. Like most cops, the character has no relish for a whodunit or a chatty murderer. Remick is very charming, but as the Love Interest, especially in this period, she doesn’t have much to do.

The tone of the film is radically different from your standard slasher film. There is very hardly any blood (Gill strangles his victims) and there’s no dystopian gloom you associate with movies like Insomnia or Murder By Numbers. It’s hard to say if it was the director’s decision or the time in which the movie was made. Director Smight uses the scenery of New York and the permanent crowds to give the audience a sense of isolation when surrounds by strangers.

It’s a shame, but there are no special features on this at all. Rod Steiger passed before he could record a commentary, but is still available. So are the writer and director. While this film isn’t as well known, No Way To Treat A Lady is an interesting film and should have gotten some treatment–even a ten minute featurette would have done wonders for the disc. Even so, it’s still a rental to give it a viewing.

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