The Betsy (1979) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

For me The Betsy represented one dream fulfilled, another shattered.

The fulfillment: Kathleen Beller did a frontal nude scene just a few minutes into the film, and I had such a crush on her. Didn't everyone? It's hard to find a baby boomer who didn't have a crush on Karen Allen or Kathleen Beller, or both.

The shattering: One of my idols, Lord Olivier, showed serious chinks in his previously flawless armor. When I was a young actor, I wanted to be Olivier. I don't know how many times I watched Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, studying the way he approached those roles. I thought he was the acting god. Then I saw this movie, in which he proved incapable of producing even a poor facsimile of an American accent. Of curse it is very hard for British actors to play Americans unless they play Southerners. The "R" sound kills them. On the other hand, he was supposed to be Olivier, and he was therefore supposed to come up with something better than a bad impersonation of Johnny Carson doing Aunt Blabby.


Kathleen Beller did full frontal nudity in a swimming scene, then exposed her breasts in a sex scene.

Leslie-Anne Down exposed her breasts and the top of her buns in a sex scene.

Katherine Ross showed one nipple in a breast-feeding scene.

That wasn't the worst of it. The film took place in the late 70s, but there were flashbacks to the 1930s. He looked absolutely ludicrous in the scenes where he had to play a younger man. He looked like one of those old guys who hang around the bars in the Miami Beach hotels, with their bad comb-overs and their hair soaked through with Grecian Formula 16. Olivier managed to avoid that look only because of two things (1) he was playing a rich man, so he didn't have to wear a pastel jacket with plaid pants (2) he was still Olivier - best legs in the history of acting - and was able to walk like a younger man for the short distances in which it was necessary.

I guess Olivier doesn't need me to be his apologist, but one must concede that it was difficult to deliver the dialogue they gave him. He had to  say colorful American old guy shit like, "by cracky", and "I've been hornswaggled".

DVD info from Amazon

  • very poor DVD

  • no features

  • no widescreen

  • the full screen version is a weak transfer

The film is based on a Harold Robbins novel. Harold was the ruler of the best-seller lists for years with his stories of sex and greed and sex and power and more sex. I think he sold something like 750 million books. He knew how to write 'em so they'd sell: populate 'em with beautiful, manipulative women, and powerful hunky men. This particular story is basically the TV series Dynasty, except it's about the car business instead of oil. In this case, four generations of a fictional Detroit family vie for control of the family company. Great-grandpa (Olivier) wants to build the next universal car, ala the Volkswagen and the Model T, a safe, fuel-efficient car that everyone can afford. His grandson is running the company, and doesn't want grandpa to succeed for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that gramps was making nice-nice with his mom, before and after his dad killed himself, and ...

Well, you don't really need any more to get the idea, do you?

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it a deplorable but well-deserved 4.3/10
  • It was a moderate hit, grossing $18 million. (Remember that was accumulated at 1979 prices)
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this film is a D. It has a powerhouse cast of superstars, and some good production values, but it is laughably bad and had no value beyond Kathleen Beller's nudity. I would say "C-" if it was a good DVD, because the film is bad enough to have reverse entertainment value, but the entire DVD is nothing but a very poor full-screen transfer, filled with visual artifacts, undercontrasted, and just plain ugly.

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