Friday, December 31, 2010

Jane Curtain, Susan Saint James & Jessica Lang in How to Beat the High Cost of Living 1980

It was 1980, the country was in a recession, we'd just gone though gas rationing and the mood was rebellious. All of this was finding its way into popular culture in productions like this film from American International Pictures. Jane (Susan Saint James), Elaine (Jane Curtin) and Louise (Jessica Lang) all have complicated relationships and precarious financial circumstances. In a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of spirit, they decide a little larceny at their local shopping mall will solve their problems. Hilarity ensues as they encounter one obstacle after another that they proceed to hop, scramble or trip over in the pursuit of their goal. Look for Dabney Coleman as one of the few sympathetic characters he played around then, as well as Richard Benjamin, Fred Willard and Eddie Albert all playing the men in these woman's lives. It's also notable that this film, and the chemistry between Curtin and Saint James was the impetus for the television series Kate and Allie. 
Unlike films like 9 to 5 from the same era, this one didn't become part of the popular culture and has been largely forgotten. It is available on DVD, however, and can be watched on Netflix as well. There is no video of it available anywhere else that I can find except for the television commercial for it which can be seen on YouTube. The poster above is available at

Obscurity factor: 7 (Rarely seen on TV, available on DVD)


  1. I remember loving this film way back when but — having seen it about six months ago — I'm not so sure it holds up all that well. (And it's odd seeing Jessica Lange being relatively drab; her Frances must still have been waiting to be unleashed.)

    As much as a I resist remakes of films that basically worked, I think the base material here could stand being modernized into a new version.

  2. I can see your point. The film is not without flaws. There are some very funny moments in it though, especially with Jane Curtin. It's easy to see what network executives must have seen in the chemistry between her and Susan Saint James. I think you're right, with the economy the way it is, this material is definitely ripe for a revisit.