As you’re probably aware, Roger Ebert passed away on April 4, 2013 after a long bout with cancer. Because The Back Row was under construction at that time, we have been unable to pay tribute to him until this week, but needless to say, the man was huge influence on our lives. Hell, a good portion of the films I’ve covered in “Robin’s Underrated Gems” were discovered because I read Roger Ebert’s review of them. We recently did a Shouts From the Back Row podcast about his life, and I would now like to share some clips of the most entertaining segments he did with the late Gene Siskel on their legendary TV show.
But before we do that, I would like to share my own personal anecdote about Roger Ebert. In the mid-1990s, during the early days of the Internet, I frequently spent a lot of time on CompuServe, where Roger Ebert hosted his own discussion forum for film buffs. At the time, it was a pretty thrilling experience for me to go on-line and discuss cinema with fellow movie geeks and Ebert himself would stop by to participate in the discussions and answer questions for his weekly “Movie Answer Man” column. Anyway, in early 1997, someone started a thread in the forum by asking Ebert a question about something he saw during the end credits of Scream, and I participated in the discussion and offered up some extra insight about the situation. A couple days later, the answer to the question was posted in Ebert’s “Answer Man” column and you can imagine my shock when I discovered that he had used my name and quoted me as a source! Nowadays, it’s fairly easy to be able to communicate with a celebrity on the Internet, but back in 1997, getting the chance to speak with Roger Ebert and being quoted by him was a pretty huge friggin’ deal, so I was thrilled beyond words! For this reason alone, Roger Ebert will always be one of the coolest guys who ever lived.
Anyway, here are ten random segments from Siskel & Ebert, a show I used to watch religiously. As you can probably imagine, many of these segments feature the duo getting into heated disagreements or trashing a terrible movie with gusto. They will both be missed.
Full Metal Jacket/Benji the Hunted:
One of the all-time classic episodes of Siskel & Ebert started off with the two of them reviewing Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam War classic, Full Metal Jacket. Siskel gave it a big “thumbs up”, but Ebert thought the film had too many flaws and gave it a “thumbs down”. I definitely had to agree with Siskel on this one, but I still respected Ebert’s opinion.
However, later on in the show, the two men split on their opinion of Benji the Hunted with Ebert giving it a “thumbs up”. Yes, Ebert had somehow given Benji the Hunted a better review than Full Metal Jacket and you knew Siskel was not going to let this slide. At the end of the show, when they did a video review segment on some other Stanley Kubrick films, Siskel brought up the whole Full Metal Jacket/Benji the Hunted comparison and Ebert got legitimately pissed!
The whole “Full Metal Jacket vs. Benji the Hunted” feud would become a running gag for Siskel & Ebert and they made reference to it while making guest appearances on the criminally underappreciated animated series, The Critic.
Cop and a Half/Carnosaur:
As much as I love Ebert, he could sometimes be WAY too nice on certain movies, with one of his most infamous examples being the notoriously bad Burt Reynolds comedy, Cop and a Half. For their year-end “Worst of” show, Siskel picked Cop and a Half as his worst movie of the year and joyously mocked Ebert for being the only major critic to give it a “thumbs up”. But not to worry, Ebert returns the favour by picking Carnosaur as his worst movie of the year, a movie which Siskel inexplicably gave a “thumbs up” to.
It was a very rare and special occasion when either one of these guys changed their minds about a film in the middle of a segment, but after giving a “thumbs up” to John Woo’s Broken Arrow, Siskel actually conceded that a lot of Ebert’s points about the film were legitimate, so he decided to turn his thumb downward. Of course, even though this is three years after the fact, Siskel takes a moment to try and convince Ebert to change his mind about Cop and a Half.
While Ebert missed the mark on Full Metal Jacket, it was Siskel’s turn to miss the mark when he gave a “thumbs down” to Martin Scorsese’s gangster classic, Casino, leading to a heated argument. Ebert’s reaction of “Thumbs down?! I’m astonished!” is priceless.
Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy:
I’ve never actually seen an episode of Kids in the Hall or their 1996 film, Brain Candy, and I’m guessing that Ebert has never seen an episode either. Siskel praises the film and gives it a “thumbs up”, drawing a stunned reaction from Ebert, who uses every possible adjective to describe how much he hated it. This leads to a lot of accusations from Siskel that Ebert has lost his sense of humour.
Leonard Part 6:
In 1987, Bill Cosby produced, co-wrote and starred in a comedy called Leonard Part 6, a movie so bad that Cosby actually went public and told his fans not to go see it. However, Cosby’s honesty didn’t mean that Siskel & Ebert were going to cut him any slack, as they absolutely tear apart the film and its obnoxious use of product placements.
Baby’s Day Out:
As much as I respect both these guys, sometimes they would give a “thumbs up” which left you flabbergasted. In this case, Siskel gave a “thumbs up” to Baby’s Day Out, which actually prompted Ebert to say: “You should be ashamed of yourself”.
Home Alone 3:
However, Ebert would have to eat his words a couple years later when he explicably gave a “thumbs up” to Home Alone 3 and said it was a better movie than the first two. Really, Roger?!
Jaws the Revenge:
Nothing much to say here except that Jaws the Revenge is one of the worst films of all time and both men do an absolutely glorious job at trashing it.
And last but not least, here’s their review of the infamously bad comedy, North. This is the one where Ebert literally wrote in his review: “I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie.”
They both pick it their as their worst film of the year and once again, Ebert verbally expresses just how much he hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie!
And as a bonus, we conclude things with some hilarious outtakes from Siskel & Ebert after they’ve clearly had a few…