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The Betsy


Do you have any film favorites that are so trashy bad they’re good?

A seventies classic of that genre for me is the gilded garbage of 1978’s THE BETSY.

Based in the cutthroat world of the automotive industry, this Harold Robbins drama is loaded with enough plot lines for a trilogy and a truck full of great actors slumming for a big paycheck.

Laurence Olivier leads the way as “Number One”, the retired but ready to re-emerge auto tycoon behind Hardemann Motors. He’s got the fever to create the world’s ultimate fuel-efficient vehicle, but the industry and most of his own company are in the way. Olivier has the worst accent of his career and some pretty embarrassing moments, including banging the maid on his son’s wedding day.

It may be a subtle reference to Sonny in “The Godfather” in its opening scene, but this is NO “Godfather”. However, Robert Duvall does turn up as Loren Jr. in some bad short shorts and high athletic socks to play handball and hardball with his father.

Tommy Lee Jones is incredibly young here as Angelo Perino, an Italian (?) race car driver that Number One picks to lead his new project.

A gorgeous Lesley-Anne Down (The Great Train Robbery, Dallas) is “Lady Bobby Ayres” whose sleeping with Loren Jr. but hot for Tommy Lee, oh excuse me, I mean Angelo….Jones isn’t even TRYING to have an accent here…..

Katherine Ross (The Graduate) is Loren Jr’s wife who ends up sleeping with….oh you get the idea.

It’s all race cars, big business boardrooms, mansions and wicked capitalist dealings in rich settings and in its own way, it's incredibly trashy fun.

Joseph Wiseman is a mafia bad guy that looks like Dr. No in a bad suit. Edward Herrmann is a sidekick that never quite gets his due and supposedly leading the way is Kathleen Beller as Number One’s granddaughter Betsy.

Beller is wooden. Or whatever surface is less talented than wood. She has a gratuitous nude scene in the pool that serves no purpose other than to make Angelo look lecherous and make sure the film was rated R. In the early 80’s she landed an ongoing role on TV’s “Dynasty” but never any leading roles after her termite bait of a performance here.

The Razzies named THE BETSY as one of the 100 most enjoyable BAD movies ever and I have to agree. Where else can you see big actors spouting really bad dialogue and sleeping with someone new every half hour, a “revolutionary” car that looks suspiciously like a Mercedes with a fake front on it, a test run of that car with the sound of an engine turbine clumsily laid over it, and Laurence Olivier hooking up with everyone from his servants to particularly awkward family members?

This is pure trash and pretty fun to watch, like some big budget TV movie in the “Dallas” or “Dynasty” vein. It made some money in theatres and still sits in my DVD collection as a memorable bad movie that I have to pull of the shelf every decade and enjoy.

Olivier’s character may be called Number One, but this movie’s definitely all Number Two. We’ll give it a C.

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