|Jackie Coogan, Aldo Ray, Madeleine Kahn|
Despite this setback, the Won Ton Ton pictures continue to pack theater houses…but rumors start to run rampant in Tinsel Town that it’s Estie who’s the secret behind the dog’s success. An ill-advised decision to team Won with silver screen sensation Rudy Montague (Ron Leibman) in a feature film just may be the catalyst that kills the career of one of Hollywood’s most endearing success stories.
You can make a strong argument that a more accomplished director with a solid background in movie comedy could have made more out of Won Ton Ton—even though Michael Winner had romps like You Must Be Joking! (1965) and The Jokers (1967) on his C.V., he’s probably better known for the Charles Bronson smash Death Wish (1974) (and other Bronson hits like Chato’s Land and The Mechanic [both 1972]). Winner proves startlingly inept at staging comedic scenes, and the editing (by Bernard Gribble) in Won Ton Ton doesn’t do the laugh quotient any favors, either. But ultimately, the schizophrenic script (it can’t seem to decide if it wants to be a Hollywood spoof, a paean to the silent era, or a Disney-like family film) is responsible for doing in the finished project: make no mistake—it takes a deft hand mining laughs from touchy subjects like transvestism, prostitution, and doggie suicide. Furthermore, it adopts the “big-destruction-is-funny” gospel of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963—a movie I do like even though its reputation is obscenely inflated) to unnecessary extremes—seriously, people…you don’t always have to blow things up real good.