A Change of Seasons (1980) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna


Scoop's notes in white

A Change of Seasons is a bittersweet romantic comedy - sorta, kinda. Hannibal Lecter is an English Professor who is married to 40ish Shirley Maclaine and having an affair with 20ish Bo Derek to reaffirm his continuing sexual appeal during his midlife crisis. (You go, Doctor Lecter!) Ol' Shirley comes to the conclusion that she may as well make the best of the situation, so she finds her own young lover and reaffirms her own attractiveness. Once everybody is reaffirmed, the four of them decide to go on a skiing weekend together for some reason or another. While they are embarrassing the crap out of each other, their daughter shows up to announce that she's lost the love of her life. Then Bo Derek's father shows up. Then the daughter's boyfriend shows up. Hilarity ... doesn't ensue. It isn't really a comedy at all, but a sort of meditation on getting older without getting wiser. It's not very good as a drama either. The plot unfolds like a talky two-act play with two sets and a small cast, the dialogue is artificial (especially the daughter's boyfriend, who makes speeches rather than statements), the direction is pedestrian, and the whole thing gets resolved sadly and ambiguously.

The author, or at least one of the authors, is Erich Segal. If you are under 40 that name probably doesn't mean a thing to you. If you are a baby boomer, you probably have the feeling that you should know who he is, but can't quite bring him up to the top of your consciousness. You'll remember when I tell you, because ten years before this film came out, he had his full fifteen minutes of fame. He's the Ivy League classics professor who went slumming long enough to write "Love Story," the incredibly successful script-turned-novel-turned-film. It was actress Ali MacGraw who found the script and took it to her husband, Robert Evans, the executive vice-president of Paramount. Although the script had already been widely shopped and rejected, Evans chose to back it as a starring vehicle for his wife because, "I thought it might be a good, small, profitable, trend-bucker away from all those 'now' movies I hated." While the script was being made into a movie, Segal turned it into what he called a "one-sitting" quickie novel. The book was a runaway best seller, thus building up anticipation for the movie. The film itself was virtually a license for Paramount to print money. It was produced for two million bucks and grossed more than the GDP of Western Europe, finishing as the top-grossing film of 1970. Why? There are many theories, and I suppose the most prevalent is that the simple, apolitical, old-fashioned and conventional Love Story seemed to be an anodyne for the divided nation's suffering during the darkest days of the Vietnam era.

Whatever, dude. There's more than a whiff of bullshit in that theory, but there's probably some truth to it as well. Evans obviously was not the only one sick of "now movies," and he made exactly the right call.

Whatever the explanation, there is no denying that in 1970 the book and the film were ubiquitous, as was Segal, who seemed to be on Johnny Carson or Merv Griffin constantly, first that summer when he promoted his book, then again in December when the film came out. He was younger (33) and hipper than our stereotyped image of a classics professor, so he seemed pretty cool at first, but by the end of that year he was over-exposed and it seemed that pretty much everyone was sick of Segal and his made-for-Hallmark catch phrase, "Love means never having to say you're sorry," which adorned about 103% of the girl's t-shirts in the world.

For reasons which have never been very clear to me, the film version of Love Story was honored by the Academy, which nominated it for seven Oscars, including five major ones (best ... adapted screenplay, actor, actress, director, picture). Its nomination for the best picture Oscar and the nomination of Ali MacGraw as the best actress remain two of the most embarrassing moments in Academy history. Pauline Kael, the New Yorker's legendary film critic, said that "... its venality and infantilism make us reach for the barf bag instead of the Kleenex." Whatever lightning had sparked the success of Love Story, Segal could never really capture it in a bottle. The sequel, Oliver's Story, bombed with both the critics and the public, as did A Change of Seasons, the movie I'm supposed to be writing about here. A subsequent screenplay called Man, Woman and Child earned him some respect, but not many simoleans, although it had been a successful book. His fifteen minutes having expired in the film world, Segal departed from the top of the public consciousness, but has continued to this day to write both popular books and scholarly ones.

As for A Change of Season. Well, you already know that it features Hannibal Lecter in love with Bo Derek, as scripted by the author of Love Story. What more do you need to know?

Actually there is one more interesting tidbit. This film was already "in the can" when Bo Derek was transformed from an obscure pretty girl into the sex goddess of a generation. Bo's career-making 10 came out in October of 1979. When that happened, the director of this film called Dr. Lecter and Bo back to film some more footage of them making nice-nice in the altogether. The result of that re-shoot was the opening credits, in which Bo frolics wordlessly and toplessly in a hot tub - in slow motion!! My kind of exploitation. Of course, Doctor Lecter keeps making those Freudian slips and calling the hot tub a "stew pot," and recommends to Bo that she turn the temperature up to about 212 degrees.

Unfortunately, the opening sequence is the highlight of the film, and the end of the clear nudity. Once the film actually begins, Bo keeps her clothes on except for a brief peek-a-boo tease behind a frosted shower door. Although this film opened at the height of Bo's popularity and during the lucrative period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it could muster no better than $16 million at the box office, and was soon forgotten.

I did love the theme song:

Oh, you don't wanna be a rejecter

When your suitor is Hannibal Lecter ...

I-in love


Lecter in Love, Lecter in Love

He's gonna eat her below and above

You're gonna need a protector

If your boyfriend is Hannibal Lecter ...

I-in love


Lecter in Love, Lovin' so Much

He's so "hungry" for her touch

Is he the Federal meat inspector?

No, he's just Hannibal Lecter ...

Yes, he's just Hannibal Lecter ...

I-in lo-o-ove



  • the widescreen transfer is anamorphically enhanced (16x9)
  • no meaningful features


Bo Derek is topless in a hot tub while she takes a slow-motion romantic soak with Dr Lecter in the opening credits

Bo is also naked behind a shower curtain in a later scene.

Tuna's notes in yellow

A Change of Seasons (1980) is a very 70s story of a university professor (Anthony Hopkins) who is sleeping with one of his students (Bo Derek). His wife (Shirley MacLaine) is not initially thrilled with the situation, but finds her own outlet in the person of a drifter who has been hired to do some carpentry work for them. She suggests that all four spend the winter break at their ski lodge in Vermont. Life there is complicated by the arrival of their daughter, who has left Holyoke with her own relationship crisis, and the appearance of Bo Derek's philandering father.

The premise is rather dated, and talks about a pre-AIDS and pre-herpes morality  Bo Derek was hired for eye candy, but gave her usual  performance. Anthony Hopkins either played a total jerk brilliantly, or gave a terrible performance, you make the call. The film also features some of the worst music Henry Mancini ever composed.

However, I found it a complete delight, mostly due to Shirley MacLaine. The film worked for me every moment she was on screen, and she is the only reason to watch this film. For me, that was enough.

The Critics Vote ...

  • TV Guide: one star (out of four)


he People Vote ...


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, or a C- from our system. 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 a D on our scale. (Possibly 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, Scoop says. "It's a D. I can't think of a single reason why anyone would want to see this movie other than to see Bo Derek naked. Not that there's anything wrong with that." Tuna did think of another reason. He awarded a C- based on Shirley MacLaine.

Return to the Movie House home page