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Identical twins, a covered-up murder, an impersonation, an insurance seam, a disappearing body: such materials have, in the past, been made into lively farce-thrillers and black comedies--usually on stage and screen. Here, however, Lehman (The French Atlantic Affair) pads out his contrived suspense-plot with pretentious overwriting, pornosex, and vile Hollywood characters--to mostly unpleasant effect. Howard Bluestern, 39, is newly-chosen top executive at a film studio. His unloving twin-brother Teddy is a ne'er-do-well actor who occasionally fills in for kidney-troubled Howard at insurance-company medical exams, But this time the switcheroo leads to major complications: Howard, posing as Teddy, is murdered by Teddy's jealous girlfriend Diane. . . just as Teddy (as Howard) is taking out a $10 million policy, with Teddy as beneficiary. For obvious reasons, then, Teddy keeps the murder a secret, puts Howard's corpse on ice, appears as both brothers--and tries to figure out how to produce an accidentally dead Howard without the twin/switch coming to light. Meanwhile, however, two interested parties are sleuthing around suspiciously: Diane, who wants to destroy the corpus delicti (she thinks it's Teddy) but can't figure out what ""Howard"" is up to; and the worried insurance salesman. So back-and-forth maneuvers ensue--with elaborate lies, thefts of the frozen body, and an airplane-chase finale, Unfortunately, however, this perhaps-promising scenario isn't given the bright, frisky treatment that could make it a breezy diversion (or a likely film/TV property). Instead, Lehman loads on pseudo-psychology, artsy-trashy prose (imitation-Joycean run-ons), and ludicrous, purple/porn sequences--featuring Teddy and his secretary/girlfriend, with occasional appearances by Howard's homosexual butler and Diane's fat-homosexual sidekick. Sleazy drear, without the fun of gloss-garbage (despite much inside-Hollywood ugliness) or the suspense-comedy touch you might expect from the North by Northwest screenwriter.

Pub Date: March 7th, 1982
Publisher: McGraw-Hill