Vault: 'See No Evil, Hear No Evil' (1989) Dir. Arthur Hiller
Updated: Aug 31, 2020
Comedy superstars Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder unite again for a comedy that proves disability doesn't mean you can't fight crime!
Wally Karew (Pryor) is blind. Dave Lyons (Wilder) is deaf. They try to ignore the fact they have a disability that impedes them. When Wally comes to Dave for a job in his newsstand they form a unique friendship – just.
When Wally’s corrupt accountant hides a gold sovereign in the newspaper collection box, he is murdered by a beautiful woman, Eve (Severance) – Wally hears the shot and smells the woman’s perfume, and Dave sees her leaving the area. Wally and Dave are arrested on suspicion of murder.
Wally and Dave stage a daring break-out and go on the run from the police and the killers. With Wally as the ears and Dave as the eyes, the two must race to clear their names and stop Eve and Kirgo from getting the coin...
n my opinion this is this best film from Richard Pryor and the recently deceased Gene Wilder, also their last, but it’s also one of the best of the 1980s. It didn’t cause a great shockwave in the genre and is very simple in terms of narrative ideas, but it’s the pairing of Pryor and Wilder that makes this comedy genius – one is blind and the other is deaf – leading to no end of comedic ups and downs that have you laughing at them both as a couple, rather than laughing at the disability, which is important.
They both use their disability to their advantage over the film and the story doesn’t shy away from the problems they face and the prejudice that comes with their ailment, but more time is spent laughing at the way both men get along with confusion, annoyance and overall respect for each other.
Comic timing, perception and delivery is priceless from these two comedy legends who know each other so well.
Pryor does a stellar job of acting blind, and his foul-mouthed outbursts at society when passing judgment on his condition really make you chuckle at the serious, deadpan delivery. Wilder too, doing well not to respond to anything being deaf, helps keeps things grounded and moves the story on, acting as the one who can get them places and using his brains to get them out again. Improvisation is key to most of their scenes together, and it shows in their opening interaction.
The beautiful Joan Severance and sly Kevin Spacey help out with the bad-guy duties and mange it very well as their screen time together is very witty and also well timed alongside Pryor and Wilder. While the story is very thin, it’s the events between the characters that make the bulk of the story, with the irate police captain on their trail as the hunt for the real killers carries on in the background, AND the reason for the murder as well.
Most of the comedy comes from seeing how a deaf and blind man can possibly outwit the police and track down the killers by impersonating foreign doctors, stealing a police car and breaking into a Doberman guarded estate. It’s daft and very tongue-in-cheek, but it works because of the unique pairing we are given.
You’ve never laughed so much at a blind and deaf man working together as much as you have here, and the joke never wears thin thanks to the number of different situations and scrapes they get into – car chases, shoot outs and fist fights to name a few.
It’s simple, crude but great fun, and it simply wouldn’t be a comedic Pryor and Wilder vehicle if it wasn't.
'See No Evil, Hear No Evil' is a Tri-Star Pictures production