Friday, November 15, 2013

"Leonard Part 6", what could have been.

As many of you well know, unless your new to me, I am a tremendous fan of comedian and actor, Bill Cosby. About a month ago I had the pleasure of sitting down to view Leonard Part 6 a film he made in 1987 for Columbia Pictures. By now many of you are asking, "Part SIX what about the first five parts?", well if you see the film you will know that the first five were "Confiscated by National Security". The film was made at a big time in his career, his hit sitcom The Cosby Show was breaking all new records and scoring ratings, and Mr. Cosby was at the top of his game. In the summer of 1986 or so, Cosby was vacationing in France when an idea for a movie popped into his head, he consulted Columbia Pictures and they green lit the picture. The film was not only written by Cosby (and Jonathon Reynolds), but he was the producer as well. The movie is basically a spy film, a genre Cosby was familiar with being in the hit 60's series I Spy as well as a 1978 made for TV film Top Secret, only this time Cosby chose to spoof the genre (Albeit with more finesse than Mike Myers' annoying Austin Powers films). In this film, Cosby,  plays Leonard Parker, a retired secret agent turned bon-vivant restaurateur who is called back to the spy game to defeat the evil vegetarian, Medusa Johnson (played by Cosby favorite and voice of the Oracle from the Matrix films, Gloria Foster), who is set to take over the world with her vast army of killer animals and muscular henchman.
David Maier (Left) Gloria Foster (Center) and Bill Cosby (Right)

Her motive is not clear and what she intends to do is not thoroughly explained. On the other side of the spectrum, Cosby must also deal with domestic difficulties, like his daughter (Victoria Rowell, in her film debut years before her role as Drucilla Winters in the soap opera The Young and the Restless) dating a 66 year old theatre director (Moses Gunn) and patching things up with his estranged wife Allison (Pat Colbert). I personally felt that this film didn't need the two subplots but I guess they were capitalizing on him being America's #1 dad at the time. This film also tries to capitalize on Cosby's being an ad-man (for years and to this day ridiculed for Jell-O pudding pops), by having Cosby use or walk by a product that was paying for the film's production. The products shown are Lava soap, Alka-Seltzer and most notoriously, Coca-Cola (since Columbia was owned by Coke at the time). This film also provides the viewer the only chance to see Mr. Cosby dance in ballet slippers and ride out of the movie on the back of an ostrich. The film, sad to say,

turned out to be a total disaster. Cosby, himself, went on talk shows telling potential moviegoers to keep away from the film like the plague. They did and Columbia, to this day, has never made back the film's reported $24,000,000 budget. The film was released on VHS and LaserDisc, but nobody bought it. They just sat on store shelves collecting dust. The movie earned five Golden Raspberry awards, which Cosby had made out of real gold and marble, which set the Fox network back about $20k. Cosby brought the awards with him on The Tonight Show and stated that he "Swept the Awards". He laughed off his failure, but that didn't (and hasn't) changed his opinions on the film. The film, however, had an impressive ad campaign with three TV spots, one of which is presented below:
There were other ads for the film, like an ad from Ponderosa Steakhouse for a mini spy camera that you could have gotten with your meal, take a look at the kid wearing the spy getup from the movie. I feel if the
film had been done properly, without the studio interference, it could've been successful. I could imagine there being prequels like the Star Wars films like Leonard Part 1: The First Adventure, it could have been a huge franchise for Cosby and Columbia, spawning more films and loads of merchandise like a Leonard action figure with accessories such as ballet slippers and an ostrich. Also Leonard lunchboxes and a die-cast model of the armored Porsche used in the film. For kids uninterested in The Cosby Show, this could've brought Cosby a bigger fan base, and fortune (not that The Cosby Show wasn't raking in the dough). This film could have taken Cosby places and would've made him more than just a sitcom dad. I think the only reason Leonard flopped was because of the fact that, Cosby had no creative control and also maybe the world wasn't ready for a film like Leonard Part 6. I think now, since the Austin Powers films have come and gone, that Cosby's effort should come back to the spotlight. It definitely does not deserve to be in IMDB's bottom 100 list (at #63), I think that if watched with an open mind, it is not half bad. I screened the film for my older sister and she enjoyed it so much, that she wanted to see it again. I'm not saying that Leonard Part 6 is the greatest film ever, but it is not the worst either. And unlike the aforementioned Mike Myers in  Austin Powers, Bill Cosby has actual talent. He is a very underrated actor, as far as I am concerned, if you see him in Disney's 1981 The Devil & Max Devlin, he gives a great dramatic showing as the embodiment of Satan. More on that film on a later post. Well, I must be going, gotta get in another viewing of Leonard, before the day is out. Cheers to all of you, and give Leonard Part 6 a chance, you won't be disappointed. Catch you later. - Geno C.

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