Crackers (1984)

PG | 93 mins | Comedy | 17 February 1984

Director:

Louis Malle

Writer:

Jeffrey Fiskin

Cinematographer:

Laszlo Kovacs

Editor:

Suzanne Baron

Production Designer:

John J. Lloyd

Production Company:

Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

End credits include the following warning: “Caution: Inhaling helium from a balloon is dangerous, and can cause serious injury or death.” This refers to a scene in which Donald Sutherland’s character, “Weslake,” inhales helium to create a high-pitched voice.
       A 24 Nov 1976 DV news brief announced that Paramount Pictures planned a remake of the Italian film, Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958). A 19 Dec 1982 LAT article reported that due to complex Italian copyright law, Crackers producer Edward Lewis’s attempts to acquire domestic remake rights took twenty-five years. A 2 Sep 1982 DV news item stated that Louis Malle would direct the remake for Universal Pictures.
       HR production charts on 9 Nov 1982 announced that principal photography began 8 Nov 1982 in San Francisco, CA. According to the LAT, the $10 million production spent four weeks on location in San Francisco’s Mission District, before moving to Universal Studios in Los Angeles.
       The 17 Feb 1984 NYT review stated the film “simply proves that with the right material an intelligent director of demonstrated style and a cast of thoroughly accomplished comic actors can make as painfully witless a comedy as any knucklehead on the block.”
       The 19 Mar 1984 New Republic review reported that Who’s Minding the Mint (1967, see entry) was also loosely based on Big Deal on Madonna Street. ... More Less

End credits include the following warning: “Caution: Inhaling helium from a balloon is dangerous, and can cause serious injury or death.” This refers to a scene in which Donald Sutherland’s character, “Weslake,” inhales helium to create a high-pitched voice.
       A 24 Nov 1976 DV news brief announced that Paramount Pictures planned a remake of the Italian film, Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958). A 19 Dec 1982 LAT article reported that due to complex Italian copyright law, Crackers producer Edward Lewis’s attempts to acquire domestic remake rights took twenty-five years. A 2 Sep 1982 DV news item stated that Louis Malle would direct the remake for Universal Pictures.
       HR production charts on 9 Nov 1982 announced that principal photography began 8 Nov 1982 in San Francisco, CA. According to the LAT, the $10 million production spent four weeks on location in San Francisco’s Mission District, before moving to Universal Studios in Los Angeles.
       The 17 Feb 1984 NYT review stated the film “simply proves that with the right material an intelligent director of demonstrated style and a cast of thoroughly accomplished comic actors can make as painfully witless a comedy as any knucklehead on the block.”
       The 19 Mar 1984 New Republic review reported that Who’s Minding the Mint (1967, see entry) was also loosely based on Big Deal on Madonna Street. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
24 Nov 1976.
---
Daily Variety
2 Sep 1982.
---
Daily Variety
20 Dec 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Nov 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jan 1984
p. 3, 32.
Los Angeles Times
19 Dec 1982.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Feb 1984
p. 15.
New Republic
19 Mar 1984.
---
New York Times
17 Feb 1984
p. 19.
Variety
25 Jan 1984
p. 21.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
An Edward Lewis production
A Louis Malle film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
DGA trainee
2d asst dir, San Francisco company
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam op
Gaffer
Key grip
Still photog
VTR op
Elec best boy
Elec best boy
Elec
Grip best boy
Dolly grip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
1st asst film ed
West coast asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Negative cutter
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Leadman
Const foreman
Swing man
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Standby painter
COSTUMES
Men`s cost
Women`s cost
Costumer
MUSIC
Mus comp
Main title song performed by
Mus rec
Tech adv (guitar)
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd re-rec
Sd re-rec
Assoc sd ed
Boom op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opt eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Transportation capt
Asst to Juliet Taylor
Addl casting
Casting asst
Unit pub
Asst to Mr. Malle
Prod secy
Loc contact, San Francisco company
Community liaison, San Francisco company
Cultural liaison, San Francisco company
Transportation co-capt, San Francisco company
Asst to Edward Lewis
Asst to Robert Cortes
Transportation co-capt
Transportation
Transportation
Transportation
Transportation
Casting dir
Craft service
Animal trainer
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Suggested by the motion picture Big Deal on Madonna Street written by Suso Cecchi D'Amico, Mario Monicelli, Agenore Incrocci, and Furio Scarpelli (Cinecittà, Lux Film, and Vides Cinematografica, 1958).
SONGS
"We Got More Than We Need," words and music by Michael McDonald and Ed Sandford, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, Inc.
"Suzy Plastic," performed by Bill Summers & Summers Heat, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
"London Town," performed by Bill Summers & Summers Heat, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
+
SONGS
"We Got More Than We Need," words and music by Michael McDonald and Ed Sandford, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, Inc.
"Suzy Plastic," performed by Bill Summers & Summers Heat, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
"London Town," performed by Bill Summers & Summers Heat, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
"City Boy Lover," performed by Bill Summers & Summers Heat, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
"Berro E Sombaro," performed by Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, courtesy of Source Records.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
17 February 1984
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 17 February 1984
Production Date:
8 November--late December 1982 in San Francisco and Los Angeles, CA
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
4 May 1984
Copyright Number:
PA210445
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Panaflex® camera and lenses by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
93
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27176
SYNOPSIS

Denizens of the Mission District in San Francisco, California, go about their daily business. Maxine, a meter reader, and “Slam Dunk,” a prostitute, discuss their respective quotas. Two young men, Dillard and Ramon, break into a BMW automobile, while Maxine gives Slam Dunk’s pimp, “Boardwalk,” a ticket for his non-operating convertible parked outside a pawn shop. Inside, the pawnbroker, Lou Garvey, plays chess with Weslake, as Weslake’s friend, Turtle, watches. Weslake claims he is only working as a security guard in the store temporarily until he is hired back at his previous job, from which he was laid off six months earlier. Later, Boardwalk pawns a baby carriage for $10, nearly forgetting his infant son, Tyrone, is still in it. Garvey gives Dillard and Ramon $20 for the radio they stole from the BMW, but when Dillard attempts to reclaim the electric guitar he pawned for $25, Garvey informs him the price is now $150. However, Garvey offers the guitar in trade, if Dillard will install a burglar alarm in the store. After the young man refuses, Ramon convinces Dillard to do the installation and insists he rig the alarm so they can burglarize the store later. Ramon threatens Boardwalk, who overhears their plan. Weslake’s former boss, Jack Kurnitz, arrives to pawn an adding machine, and Weslake is crushed to realize the man is not there to rehire him. Meanwhile, Slam Dunk fires Boardwalk as her pimp because he does not look intimidating enough carrying the baby. Ramon looks for work while dodging immigration officers, and warns his younger sister, Maria, to stay inside their home or be deported like their mother. At the local saloon, Boardwalk informs Weslake ... +


Denizens of the Mission District in San Francisco, California, go about their daily business. Maxine, a meter reader, and “Slam Dunk,” a prostitute, discuss their respective quotas. Two young men, Dillard and Ramon, break into a BMW automobile, while Maxine gives Slam Dunk’s pimp, “Boardwalk,” a ticket for his non-operating convertible parked outside a pawn shop. Inside, the pawnbroker, Lou Garvey, plays chess with Weslake, as Weslake’s friend, Turtle, watches. Weslake claims he is only working as a security guard in the store temporarily until he is hired back at his previous job, from which he was laid off six months earlier. Later, Boardwalk pawns a baby carriage for $10, nearly forgetting his infant son, Tyrone, is still in it. Garvey gives Dillard and Ramon $20 for the radio they stole from the BMW, but when Dillard attempts to reclaim the electric guitar he pawned for $25, Garvey informs him the price is now $150. However, Garvey offers the guitar in trade, if Dillard will install a burglar alarm in the store. After the young man refuses, Ramon convinces Dillard to do the installation and insists he rig the alarm so they can burglarize the store later. Ramon threatens Boardwalk, who overhears their plan. Weslake’s former boss, Jack Kurnitz, arrives to pawn an adding machine, and Weslake is crushed to realize the man is not there to rehire him. Meanwhile, Slam Dunk fires Boardwalk as her pimp because he does not look intimidating enough carrying the baby. Ramon looks for work while dodging immigration officers, and warns his younger sister, Maria, to stay inside their home or be deported like their mother. At the local saloon, Boardwalk informs Weslake and Turtle of Dillard and Ramon’s plans to burglarize the pawn shop. Weslake responds that getting inside the store is easy, but breaking into the safe is impossible. Boardwalk had merely been thinking of tipping Garvey off for a reward, but now sees the potential of a full-scale heist. Later, Weslake and Maxine, who moonlights as a prostitute, role-play a Penthouse magazine scenario about a librarian and a cowboy, and Maxine reveals that she will be free Saturday night because Garvey is visiting his mother. The following day, the cable man repossesses Weslake’s converter box. Later, as Dillard installs the burglar alarm at the pawn shop, Weslake shows his father’s antique watch to Garvey, who values it at $6. Insulted, Weslake make plans for his own heist and scopes out a second-floor apartment in the building next door. He instructs Boardwalk to get inside, make a floor plan, and find out the schedule of the occupants, an upscale gay couple and their housekeeper, Jasmine. Boardwalk plans to enter the apartment by pretending to be from the gas company, but Jasmine smells Tyrone’s diaper and offers to change it. She puts Boardwalk to work rearranging furniture, and he invites her to dinner the following evening. Meanwhile, Weslake tells Dillard that Ramon’s plan is foolish because they will be the first suspects after a break-in. When Dillard later visits Ramon, he finds Maria alone and they flirt, but she warns him that Ramon must not catch them together. Ramon returns with the saloon bartender, Don Fernando, hoping to introduce him to Maria. Dillard hides and then pretends to show up unexpectedly and informs Ramon of the meeting with Weslake. Later, Weslake shares his plan for a heist with Boardwalk, Dillard, and Ramon. The new partners visit an old friend named Lazzarelli, a locksmith with a talent for safecracking. Fearing his probation will be revoked, Lazzarelli refuses to participate, but gives the men a lesson in opening a safe using a nitroglycerine compound and a battery. As they practice, Dillard is injured and Ramon takes him home to have Maria dress his wound. Ramon is uneasy about the obvious attraction between his friend and his sister. On Saturday, the gay couple informs Boardwalk that Jasmine no longer works for them and they do not know how to contact her. Later, Weslake, Turtle, Boardwalk, Dillard, and Ramon see Garvey off as he leaves to visit his mother. Weslake reviews his calibrated plan for the break-in and the men gather the necessary materials. Dillard claims he needs to collect a special wire, but sneaks off to see Maria, and they are surprised when her mother unexpectedly returns from Mexico. Boardwalk sees Jasmine streetwalking, and pulls her aside to explain that she is too smart and too pretty to be a prostitute. She realizes she still has the keys to the gay couple’s apartment and Boardwalk offers to return them for her. Jasmine confesses that her real name is Betty, and Boardwalk asks her to babysit Tyrone that night. Displeased when Weslake breaks their appointment for Saturday night, Maxine finds a replacement in a man to whom she gave a parking ticket. Ramon is angry with Don Fernando after he sees him with Maxine, but the bartender claims he meant no disrespect to Maria and offers a fancy doll as a gift. When Ramon returns home, he discovers a party celebrating Mama’s arrival. Meanwhile, Weslake makes an elaborate tape recording of party sounds to create an alibi. At two in the morning, Weslake, Turtle, Boardwalk, Ramon, and Dillard convene to carry out the heist. Turtle enters a coal chute, but finds the door stuck, so they move to plan B and access the fire escape to the roof of the apartment building. Ramon is afraid of heights and remains on the ground. Once up, the men pause and observe Maxine seduce a reluctant client through a skylight. The men break into the gay couple’s apartment, and find Ramon entered the building by sneaking in behind Maxine and her friend. All of Weslake’s calculations are off, and after a series of mishaps, the would-be criminals fall more than four hours behind schedule. They finally reach the pawn shop as day breaks. However, just as they are about to blow the safe, Garvey, the pawnbroker, returns. He is drunk and reports that his mother has died. He mistakenly believes the men are in the shop to greet him and is touched to be surrounded by friends. A cat inadvertently triggers the explosive on the safe, which sets off the alarm. When the police arrive, Garvey realizes what Weslake was up to, but tells the officers that his “friends” are heroes and chased off the criminals. After the police leave, Garvey reveals that the safe is just for show, and has been empty for years. It was not even locked. He confides to the thieves that the important thing is having friends, but they will do for now. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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