A plot to assassinate a newly-elected Pope, weird characters with names like the Albino, Scarface, Stiltskin and the Turk, flying daggers, black limousines trying to fly, chloroform pads, snakes alive, Gilbert and Sullivan opera and heaven alone knows what else, are the main ingredients of Foul Play.
Attractive young library assistant Gloria Mundy (Goldie Hawn) is finding life rather tedious after her divorce. She attends a party where she meets a personable but rather gauche young man, but after a while she feels bored and leaves, driving off towards town.
On the way, she meets a motorist with a breakdown and gives him a lift. While chatting they arrange to see a movie that evening and he confides to her that he’s trying to stop smoking and she will take charge of his remaining cigarettes until later. What Gloria doesn’t know is that the cigarette packet contains microfilm.
Her escort is late for the movie date and Gloria goes into the cinema alone. He joins her later and just manages to murmur “Beware of the dwarf!” before collapsing with a gunshot wound. Gloria screams and rushes out to find the manager, but when that functionary returns with her to the seats, there is no sign of the dead man.
After several mysterious happenings, Gloria contacts the police. The officer who interviews her – Tony Carlson (Chevy Chase) – is none other than the awkward young man she met at the party. She also confides her fears to the landlord of her apartment, Mr Hennessey (Burgess Meredith) who lives happily with his pet python, Esme.
The attacks on Gloria continue and quite apart from being scared, she is totally mystified as to why anyone would want to kill her. She talks wildly of an albino who follows her constantly and one evening, in desperation, she asks a stranger to take her home.
He is Stanley Tibbets (Dudley Moore in his American film debut), a harmless sex freak with an array of mind-blowing gadgets to help him work out his fantasies. It later transpires that Stanley is also an orchestra conductor.
Gloria is always very careful to survey anyone who calls at her apartment through the peephole in the door. One visitor seems harmless enough, but when she opens the door. he nimbly jumps off a suitcase he’s been standing on and Gloria remembers those dread words, “Beware of the dwarf!”
She is even more alarmed when the dwarf (Billy Barty) tells her he deals in the afterlife. It is only after Gloria has managed to throw him out of the window that she discovers he was nothing more than a harmless bible salesman.
Gradually the plot unfolds. A crackpot organisation called The Tax the Churches League plans to assassinate Pope Pius XIII (Cyril Magnin) who happens to be visiting San Francisco during which His Holiness has agreed to be the guest of honour at a performance of The Mikado by the New York City Opera.
The League is led by Gerda Casswell (Rachel Roberts), a fanatic who will stop at nothing to achieve her crazy ends. The Opera House has been chosen by the League as the venue for the assassination attempt.
Foul Play provides Goldie Hawn with another splendid opportunity to display her superb comedy talents. She’s dropped some of the extreme kookiness here and she’s much the better for it.
Pope Pius XIII
Enrico Di Giuseppe