CANNON MONTH 2: Mannequin (1987)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mannequin was not produced by Cannon but was theatrically distributed by w ild Cerebus-like triple headed bease known as Columbia-Cannon-Warner.

Michael Gottlieb directed and wrote Playboy Mid Summer Night’s Dream Party 1985 before this and one imagines being part of that star-filled TV special — Timothy Leary! Sarah Douglas! Buck Henry! Robert Culp! Ed Begley Jr.! Fred Dryer! Hef’s coming out party after his stroke! — informed his ability to write two movies about unliving life-sized models, this one and the absolutely deranged Mannequin 2: On the Move. He also wrote and directed Mr. Nanny, as well as The Shrimp On the Barbie (he got an Alan Smithee credit to cover his name on that one) and A Kid in King Arthur’s Court. After that? Video game producer — lots of Mortal Kombat titles — and working as professor of film at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena before sadly dying in a motorcycle accident.

Regardless, he left us with two movies about mannequins coming to life. He claimed he got the idea walking down Fifth Avenue and thinking he saw one move in the window of Bergdorf Goodman. Or maybe he saw One Touch of Venus, read the myth of Pygmalion or watched the Twilight Zone episode “After Hours.”

Yet credit where due — Gottlieb got his idea on the screen twice.

Shot in John Wanamaker Department Store in Philadelphia, PA (the rival store Illustra is a Boscov’s in Camp Hill), Mannequin starts with Ema “Emmy” Hesire (Kim Cattrall) hiding in a pyramid, begging the gods to let her find true love. She disappears and reappears thousands of years later as the mannequin work of art made by Jonathan Switcher (Andrew McCarthy). He’s continually attacked for trying to make the mannequins look too good and is fired for putting too much work into something that should be a simple task.

Dumped by his girlfriend Roxie Shield (Carole Davis), he drives to Prince & Company where he saves the life of its owner Claire Timkin (Estelle Getty) from a falling sign and is given the job of making the store’s windows look artistic alongside Hollywood Montrose (Meshach Taylor; with Getty and Taylor in the same movie, this is as close as we might get to a Golden Girls/Designing Women crossover), all under the watching and suspicious eyes of security guard Captain Felix Maxwell (G.W. Bailey, forever an authority figure with bluster ever since Police Academy) and secret spy trying to ruin the company yet for now the manager Mr. Richards (James Spader).

Emmy comes to life while he’s working one night. She’s a muse, often living in the work of the artists that she inspires. Now, she’s here to do the same for Jonathan. Hijinks ensure, Starship sings “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” and no one wonders if it’s weird that this is a movie about having sex with an inanimate object.

Leonard Maltin said that this was “absolute rock-bottom fare, dispiriting for anyone who remembers what movie comedy should be.” But hey — did he watch HBO all day?

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