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George At 

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The Prisoner of Second Avenue


If you need an actor to dance the fine line between tragedy and comedy, Jack Lemmon is your man.

In 1975's Neil Simon effort, THE PRISONER OF SECOND AVENUE, Lemmon embodies struggling middle age ad man Mel Edison. Over the titles, we watch Mel battling against New York City just to get home to his midtown apartment. The traffic, the cabbies, the people, Mel seems to face a hurdle at every turn.

Nobody does exasperation quite like Lemmon.

Mel gets home to his wife Edna, played well by Anne Bancroft, showing off her own comic chops.

We watch as Mel's business continues to implode with less and less employees at his office everyday, until he eventually gets that call to the boss's office himself.

Mel has a complete mental breakdown, setting up a solid hour of kvetching, yelling at the neighbors from his patio and a hilarious trip to his brother's house, where decades of sibling rivalry are laid bare.

Gene Saks (an accomplished film director including 'The Odd Couple") plays Mel's brother Harry with a great mix of angst and superiority. His verbal spars with Lemmon are terrific.

Watch for Sylvester Stallone in his first film role as a would be pickpocket that serves as the tipping point for Mel.

Bancroft and Lemmon go toe-to-toe through several job losses, a robbery and some very noisy stewardesses next door. (in 1975 they were still stewardesses...)

Simon pushes the characters right to the brink of annoyance but always pulls them back to likability at the last moment.

It doesn't get much better than watching folks trying to interact with Lemmon when he's so quieted by anti-depressants that he can barely form a thought. Lemmon on a therapist's couch is also comic gold.

A classic bit of New York, capturing a seventies view of my favorite city on the planet, I really enjoyed this retro comedy, especially its irreverent ending.

I'll shackle this Prisoner with a solid B.


(but what's up with Marvin Hamlish's music score...wow its bad. A rare miss for MH.)


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