Dyan Cannon’s Shagging Palace

Dyan Cannon’s Shagging Palace from David Cairns on Vimeo.

You need to see this. The film is Henri Verneuil’s LE CASSE, starring Belmondo, Sharif and Cannon (Dyan, not Tommy) — and cutie Nicole Calfan, Faye Dunaway’s maid in THE FOUR MUSKETEERS. It’s a very stupid but very exuberant sort-of heist movie. Belmondo and his gang (including Robert Hossein, still playing his dour, charmless stooge role from RIFIFI) steal a million in emeralds but their ride out of town doesn’t materialize, so they’re stuck in Athens with the loot and nasty copper Omar Sharif on their asses.

Belmondo takes up with Dyan to pass the time — the first thing in the clip is Dyan Cannon’s Sexy Sex Club, which is a truly happening joint, with a rotating stage that alternates red-hot lesbionic action with listless tap dance, according to whether the authorities are checking. Then you get to see the amazing split level pad (the upper level is little more than a perspex closet, but THAT TOTALLY COUNTS) with shag carpet growing out of every surface. Sinking into her Leisure Depression, with the flip of a switch, Dyan causes a purple-fuzzed drinks cabinet to RISE FROM THE FLOOR, wobbling pathetically, presumably forced upwards by a sweating prop man balancing it on his bald head. She sticks some Morricone lounge sleaze on the hi-fi, then oops, she drops her the lid of her ice bucket (but we don’t do re-takes for that kind of thing) and then Belmondo turns up and things get Adult.

Hey, Dyan can turn the lights on and off just by clapping! If Belmondo spanks her he could get temporal lobe epilepsy.

And the filmmakers have thought of that gag too.

Photocube! Erotic flip-book! Ms Cannon’s entire environment consists of stuff that would vanish within a decade (I seem to recall the same was true in SHAMUS). I picture her now revolving helplessly in a white void, the world around her gone the way of the trimphone.

How stupid is this film? In the opening heist, Belmondo produces a spectacular piece of kit — a sort of computer thing in a briefcase. One attachment resembles a hand drill, but is actually a powerful miniature X-ray video camera of the kind that doesn’t exist. JPB uses this to x-ray the safe and obtain the registration number from the inside of the door. I don’t think this would work, at all, but at any rate any normal man would be horribly irradiated by doing this for a living. But not Belmondo, who has balls like cantaloupes and sperm like tadpoles. Radiation just makes them more powerful.

Having gotten a mirror-image of the registration number on his vidscreen (because he’s filming it from the wrong side of the safe door) and lacking elementary screen-grab technology, Belmondo places a small perspex square on the screen and traces the numbers. Reversing it, he can make sense of the confusing digits and looks them up in his guide to safe registration numbers and the kind of keys that fit them. Then it transpires that his little computer-x-ray-camera-briefcase is also a key-cutting machine, and it manufactures a key for him right there.

Of course I was hooked — if the movie was willing to start off in this ridiculous fashion, where would it go next? You can insult your audience’s intelligence only so far before you find yourself making JAWS: THE REVENGE. Or you look in the mirror and see Michael Bay looking back at you with cold, dead, empty eyes.

In fact, what we get next is some shoddy plot construction, a suspense sequence in which naughty Omar practices just missing his prisoners with a pistol while drinking a series of whisky shots to make things more interesting, and some truly impressive action sequences, in which Belmondo’s willingness to risk life, limb, torso and head are exploited to spectacular effect ~

And then there’s the shagging palace.

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12 Responses to “Dyan Cannon’s Shagging Palace”

  1. Saw this film as a kid and loved it, but certainly don’t remember any ‘red-hot lesbionic action’. That must have fallen foul of the moral guardians of Canadian TV…back in the day when k d lang was just a big-boned farm gal from Alberta!

  2. The most charmless thing about Robert Hossein in RIFIFI isn’t his being a dope fiend, razor slasher. or even kidnapper; it’s that his surname is Grutter. I remember Dyan Cannon’s sex den in THE ANDERSON TAPES, but in SHAMUS I just remember Burt Reynolds sleeping on a pool table and falling out of a tree. Must have been some movie.

  3. Dyan Cannon is always about sex. Are you familiar with Doctor’s Wives ? It’s hilarious. Sadly in recent years she’s turned her attention to the flesh-eating zombie who “died for our sins.”

    In the U.S. “The clapper” is a device sold widely on television for many years to older people who have trouble getting to a light switch. No idea it was invented by that great French hack Henri Verneuil.

  4. I like the computer briefcase! IBM had a briefcase terminal with acoustic modem sometime in the ’70s. It may have even been an early microcomputer. I saw it being used by an army recruiter at my high school. No handheld x-ray attachment, though.

  5. I’ve always felt sorry for Dyan Cannon! Ever since Pauline Kael wrote that she gave a good performance in BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE because “we don’t think she’s just PLAYING a bitch!”

    For God’s sake, what an obnoxious thing to write! As if it doesn’t take one…

  6. I saw Dyan Cannon interviewed on Wogan back in the day, and she was dissolving into hysterical laughter every time he attempted a wry quip. At first her hilarity was cute, then sort of weird (he’s never been THAT funny), then frankly terrifying and finally tiring. But she in no way seemed a bitch. She just seemed high.

    The red-hot lesbicism was really more “listless faux-fondling” but I’m prone to hyperbole.

    Grutter seems an ideal name for Hossein.

  7. Whatever it was, it was WAY too hot for Canadian TV in the 70s!

  8. I guess most things probably were.

  9. Slap on! Slap off! It’s the Slapper!

  10. David, your Wogan anecdaote reminds me of the time when I saw Karen Black, “live” (*comme on dit*), in a one-woman stage show where she sang and talked about herself. Black being, then as now, the sort of performer who holds nothing back, my primary reaction was … embarrassment.

    I kept flashing on Madeleine Sherwood in SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH, the discarded mistress of Ed Begley’s politico, and that bit where she tells drunken Geraldine Page “”Honey, let me take you upstairs. You mustn’t be seen down here in this condition …”

  11. Now that I think of it, was it Valerie Perrine I saw in hysterics? Or both of them?

  12. Karen Black was the first quasi-major celebrity to be ‘saved’ by Scientology. At least they began as they meant to go on!

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