The Series Project: Leonard
Leonard III (dir. Ulu Grosbard, 1975)
You may know Grosbard as the director of The Deep End of the Ocean, Georgia, and Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying All Those Terrible Things About Me? In a late interview, Grosbard denied having directed Leonard III, but then he was likely under orders. Grosbard died in 2012, and rumors immediately began to fly about the release of a director's cut of Leonard III. Indeed, a Turkish-shot version of Leonard III did surface online, but I can assure you that whatever version you may have seen, it is not the genuine version. Indeed, at last count, there were four or five false versions of Leonard III (if you include Harlan Ellison's unproduced teleplay). I have my connections, though, and I am one of the chosen few to have seen the genuine Grosbard cut.
The genuine version did indeed star Bill Cosby, Tom Courtenay was back as Frayn, and Nurse Carvalho is back, only this time she's played by June Lockhart. This is a baffling change, and Carvalho is now essentially an entirely new character. In the previous film, she was a mysterious gypsy type. In this one, she's more of a down-home country doctor. Whatever. It was a pleasure to see Lockhart working.
While we still have the twisted spy plot (this one is about an evil Phil Silvers trying to poison California's water supply), and all the elements are back – including those now-famous monogrammed slippers – Leonard III is more keenly interested in Leonard's personal life. It introduced his love interest Allison (Pat Colbert), and even allowed she and Leonard to have a baby. There is a groundbreaking sex scene between Leonard and Allison which is very much in the vein of the food scene in 9 ½ Weeks, only beating it by about a decade.
This is also the introduction of Snyderburn, Leonard's hard-nosed boss. Snyderburn will appear in two other of the future Leonard films, but will be played by a different actor in each one. For now, he's played by Jackie Gleason.
But we all know that this film, and the next one, really belong to Francie (Anna Gunn), Leonard's badass Gal Friday. I still love Frayn, and his role in these films has not diminished, but he has a formidable ally in Francie, a black half-vampire babe with a badass car, and who moonlights as a stripper with crossbow skills. I don't think I have to relate the details of the infamous drinking contest scene.
Leonard III is expansive and fun – indeed it was pretty much this film that the failed 1984 show “Leonard: The Further Animated Adventures” was based on – but it feels more trifling for some reason. A lot of the grit is gone. Although the scene of Noriega slaughtering a pig are pretty edgy. There was also a scene wherein XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXX. And it was pretty cool.
Some of the grit will return for the exceptionally rare and exceptionally incriminating…