Finally on DVD
One of the funniest films ever made is finally available on DVD, Terrence McNally’s “The Ritz”. It is also an excellent adaptation of a Broadway play. The cast of Jack Weston, F. Murray Abraham, Treat Williams and Rita Moreno is fantastic and the laughs keep coming.
Gaetano Proclo (Jack Weston) is a fat, sloppy, quivery, middle class nobody who just happens to be married to the daughter (Kay Ballard) of a mob king. His brother-in-law, Carmine (Jerry Stiller), hates him. Gaetano feels sure that Carmine is going to kill him so he jumps into a cab and the driver to take him to the last place anyone would ever look for him and he finds himself at The Ritz, a gay bathhouse. From here on things bet hilarious. The surprise is “Amadeus”, F. Murray Abraham, as a screaming queen who quite possibly put all other screamers to rest. Rita Moreno, as a bathhouse diva ala Bette Midler, busts a gut to gain recognition as a singer among towel-clad men. Treat Williams, as a blonde, plays a private detective with a very high voice and is wonderful. Then there is Claude (Paolo Poeti) as a chubby chaser who glances at Weston and immediately falls in love.
Because this is a farce, stereotypes rule but even with that everything is good, clean fun, “The Ritz” is a comedic look at what were a New York bathhouse and the way some people lived before the AIDS epidemic. This is what makes it poignant, especially for members of the gay community. The movie, however, is geared to a straight audience. It is a look at mistaken identities, intentions that are misunderstood and a look at clueless straight society. It is an example of a movie that is well-crafted and has a wonderful cast. It almost made me wish that those days that were would return. We get a comic reflection of a time period which we will never see again that had certain melancholiness.