The Ritz (1976)

[7.5]

Jack Weston stars in this gay-themed screwball comedy based on a stage play by Terrence McNally (Love! Valour! Compassion!). Weston plays a frumpy, middle-aged man hiding out in a New York bath house from a brother (Jerry Stiller) who plans to kill him so he won’t inherit the family business. At the bath house, Weston meets a handful of bizarre characters who end up getting serendipitously wrapped up in the murder plot.

The Ritz is a madcap comedy brought to life by a terrific cast. The supporting players include Oscar-winners F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus) as a sexually adventurous bath house attendee and Rita Moreno (West Side Story) as a brass, confrontational lounge singer whose frequently mistaken for a man. Paul B. Price is hilarious as a short ‘cubby chaser’ who tries to win Weston’s heart with promises of huge meals and a suitcase full of candy. And Treat Williams is a treat indeed as a young, disturbingly high-voiced detective sent to smoke Weston out. Williams, wearing only a towel around his waist for most of the movie, provides plenty of eye candy — as do two go-go boy characters named Duff and Tiger.

In addition to McNally’s inspired scenario and the wonderfully fun cast, The Ritz also features some surprisingly impressive production design from Philip Harrison. The multi-story bath house hotel lobby and the sprawling indoor pool room are stand-outs. Look for Cheers star John Ratzenberger in a small role. Directed by Richard Lester (A Hard Day’s Night, Superman III).

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