Big Trouble is the last movie that John Cassavetes would direct and it reunites Peter Falk and Alan Arkin, who starred in writer Andrew Bergman’s The In-Laws, but the wild thing is that without this movie, Back to the Future may not have come out from Universal.
That’s because it was so similar to Double Indemnity that Columbia Pictures requested that Universal Pictures give them the license to reuse the plot. Universal executive Frank Price used to be at Columbia and remembered the time travel script, so if they made the deal for Big Trouble, he would make the deal for the movie he wanted.
Bergman has been in some other strange studio deals in his career, like Blazing Saddles. His screenplay Tex X was what Mel Brooks started with and he’s listed as a co-writer. When Warner Bros. decided they wanted to keep the movie rights to make sequels, they did a sitcom pilot called Black Bart starring Louis Gossett Jr. It only aired one contractually obligated time in 1975. Bergman is the only creative listed.
Los Angeles-based insurance man Leonard Hoffman (Arkin) has a ticking timebomb of triplets all graduating at the same time and all going to Yale instead of a cheaper state school, as demanded by his wife Arlene (Valerie Curtin, who is Jane’s cousin). The solution might come from one of his clients, Steve Rickey (Falk), who has a week to live but according to his wife Blanche (Beverly D’Angelo), has let his insurance policy slip. If he were to die unexpectantly, the double indemnity clause would make her rich and could possibly pay for Leonard’s problems.
As for Cassavetes, as you can expect, he had issues with the studio bosses and didn’t have final cut. Bergman was originally directed and left a third through shooting. Falk asked Cassavetes to come on and he wasn’t used to making a movie from a script he didn’t write.
Bergman took some of the blame when he said, “That was a mess. I never fixed the ending and that was the problem. You’ve got to have it when you get it on the floor. You can’t say, “Later, we’ll get it straight.” It’s true in every medium. You’ve got to hit the ground running and we didn’t. I never had the ending straight.”
Bergman was able to get his name removed, which is why Warren Bogle is in the credits as the writer. There’s no producer credit as Bergman’s long-time producing partner Mike Lobell took his name off this.
That said, at least it has a good cast, including Robert Stack (and his wife Rosemarie, playing his wife), Richard Libertini, Paul Dooley and Charles Durning. It also turns out that the stories of how it was made and the movie that was made somewhere else because of it are more interesting than the film that it is, which doesn’t feel like a script by Bergman or a movie by Cassavetes.
Luv is part of the Peter Falk 4-Film Comedy Collection from Mill Creek Entertainment, along with The Cheap Detective, Luv and Happy New Year. You can get it from Deep Discount.