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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Why worry, be happy.

Little Murders

Plot Overview

Twenty-seven–year-old interior decorator Patsy Newquist (Marcia Rodd) awakes to the ambient sounds of New York: an altercation in the street below, her ex-boy­friend Lester bothering her on the tele­phone, and a heavy breather on the phone. She arises from bed in her taste­fully done apart­ment having an over­size game of jacks seen the fore­ground, to descend the stairs and go out to rescue what­ever man jack, Alfred Chamberlain (Elliott Gould) is getting beat up. He walks away past some sheep statuary, and she follows to pick him up.

Alfred is a commercial photographer whose work drifted from shooting people to objects to excrement. He is the epitome of apathy, ripe for the pickings as one of Patsy's projects (“I want to change you.”) Her family is physical to a fault as and his is intellectual. These opposites see fit to marry each other, Patsy hoping he'll change to be able to see, like her, any glass as half full rather than half empty. She might even succeed, in a New York kind of way, getting him to shoot people once again after he buys some new equipment (“It was on sale.”)


Alfred an atheist insists God not be mentioned at their wedding. The marrying Judge Stern (Lou Jacobi) gives a stern lecture replete with mentions of God (“Even the state of New York has God in the ceremony.”) He takes a cue from older generations (“what God was to my father”), how God helps one to endure. He's not the one Alfred wants to marry them.

Rev. Dupas (Donald Sutherland) is more up his alley. You couldn't pay him to invoke “The Deity” in the ceremony. Endurance? None of that. For him what­ever happens happens, and he's okay with it, telling them, “of the 200 marriages that I have performed, all but seven have failed. So the odds are not good.” He's the one for them. Their ceremony ends up after­wards in a melee, quite a ruckus. It reminds me of what happened when the foundation of the rebuilt temple was laid: (Ezra 3:11-13)

And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foun­dation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foun­dation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.

The progressive new people were rejoicing at what was accomplished, and the conservative old people were lamenting that it didn't measure up to the old one. Together they made a great noise that could be “heard afar off.”

This is not so much different from today's church. The young people love it that there are new modern translations of the Bible, and the old people lament that they don't measure up to the reliable King James Version (KJV.) The very fundamental of church service being the public audible reading of the Sacred Scripture, and the ear admitting to only one strain of audio at a time, this can result in confusing noise, sometimes loud as the two camps collide. “Little Murders,” though set in urban New York, can help us sort this out; it shows us the importance of taking turns.

Consider, for example, a church that has a traditional service and a contemporary service. Reading the KJV in the former and a modern version in the latter would be to placate both camps. Suppose, however, the modern version were read in the traditional service, too. Those opposed to it would simply tune it out in their minds and read for them­selves in the KJV. Their mind being used to tuning out the other version would be desensitized to it should a brother or sister see fit to quote from it some­time after the service. It's like in the movie when all the windows were shuttered against the neighbor­hood, not quite the frame of mind we want in a family of Bible believing Christians.

Put every­one together in a Bible study or fellowship meeting and with the various versions, they should be taking turns as in 1Cor. 14:29 when the prophets brought us the word of God, by twos and threes, but now we read the Bible(s). Two or three versions should be used for every verse, and since there's one contingent set on the traditional KJV, that leaves room for one or two modern ones. But I try and introduce the KJV, too, at every verse, and people freak out. They think I should wait until I find some really substantial disagreement and then bring it up privately with the teacher after class, while I think it's business as usual to compare them as we go along. I would no more accept uncritic­ally a new version than I'd let Rev. "Anything Goes" perform my wedding ceremony. “Little Murders” seems to demonstrate by analogy that the family is happier if every­body gets a shot.

Production Values

“Little Murders” (1971) was directed by Alan Arkin who helped Jules Feiffer write the screen­play adapted from the latter's own play, Little Murders. It comes across as a stage play presented on the movie screen. Since I like plays, I didn't mind, but it didn't use the full potential of the movie medium, things like changing the sets. However, the acting was all very good, so there is that. It stars Elliott Gould, Marcia Rodd, and Vincent Gardenia. It's rated PG. What little bit of obscenity was in it was instantly corrected on the spot as not being family-appropriate.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

“Little Murders” had some wry humor and long speeches, suitable to a sophisticated audience. You'll know if that's you, and it is technically well done for the right kind of audience. I'm easy to please, and I sure liked it but I had to think about it some before I let myself.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years. Special effects: Average special effects. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.