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The Night They Raided Minsky’s

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The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968) starring Britt Ekland, Jason Robards, Forrest Tucker
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The Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968) starring Britt Ekland, Jason Robards, Forrest Tucker

The Night They Raided Minsky’s – a heavily fictionalized origin of the striptease, in the days of burlesque.


I’m sorry to say I was very disappointed by The Night They Raided Minskys. I know it was the final film of Bert Lahr, but he was only on screen for about two minutes. I can’t blame the movie for that; Burt Lahr died during the filming. Perhaps had he lived, it would’ve been a better movie. But, it’s not. It’s actually slightly depressing.

One of the problems with the film is that there are very few protagonists to root for. There’s a large cast, most of whom have conflicting desires, and ways to achieve them. Jason Robards character describes himself as a “bastard first class”. Forrest Tucker’s character is only concerned with the bedding one or more of the pretty girls from the Minsky’s burlesque show. The young Amish lady, played by Britt Eklund, is somewhere between naïve and stupid. She’s come to the big city to try and dance Biblical stories. And goes to a burlesque show. Her stern father is mean, controlling, and physically abusive.

Britt Eklund as Rachel Schpitendavel in "The Night They Raided Minsky's"

Are there any positives? Well, there are. There are some very funny comedy scenes in the movie. There’s a very funny scene with a bagel fight between Forrest Tucker’s character and Ned Glass. It’s quite funny! But there’s not enough of those moments to carry the show. There’s snippets of several vaudeville skits shown. One is “Crazy House“. I’ve actually seen that performed on The Abbott and Costello Show, and it’s quite funny. But the audience doesn’t get to see it here.

Product Description 

Directed by William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection), The Night They Raided Minsky’s is a comedy set in the exotic world of burlesque and stars Elliott Gould (M.A.S.H.), Britt Ekland (Royal Flash) and Jason Robards (Magnolia).

Bert Lahr's final role in "They Night They Raided Minsky's"

When an innocent Amish girl, Rachel Schpitendavel (Ekland) with dreams of becoming a dancer leaves her Pennsylvania home for the big city of New York, she could never have imagined where it would lead. Although her audition at the famous Minsky’s burlesque theatre is deemed too dull for their clientele, Billy Minsky (Elliott Gould making his film debut) decides to use Rachel’s inoffensive dance routine to shame the local moral crusader Vance Fowler (Denholm Elliott), a man intent on having Minsky’s shut down for good only to witness a more demure version of the regular acts. As you may have guessed, the best-laid plans don’t always turn out the way you think they will.

Minsky’s features the final film performance of Bert Lahr (the beloved Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz) – a standout among a list of supporting players that includes Norman Wisdom, Jack Burns, Joseph Wiseman, Forrest Tucker and Harry Andrews. Co-written and produced by Norman Lear (TV’s All in the Family, Maude).

Cast of characters

  • Jason Robards (Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971)) … Raymond Paine. Vain, egotistic, self-centered top banana, and star of the Minsky show. His only interest in Rachel is to bed her — initially. Afterward, for no obvious reason, he feels sorry for her and tries to send her back to her home.
  • Britt Ekland (The Wicker Man) … Rachel Schpitendavel. The very naive young woman, who leaves her Amish community to come to the big city and become a dancer. To dance Bible stories, of course. And she throws all of her morality out the window, when she thinks she’s in love with Raymond.
  • Norman Wisdom (A Stitch in Time) … Chick Williams. One of the few sympathetic characters. He becomes infatuated / falls in love with Rachel, and tries to protect her from Raymond
  • Forrest Tucker (The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas, The Strange World of Planet X) … Trim Houlihan. The man Billy want to invest to rescue the theater. But his only concern is how many of the showgirls can he bed? Then he sees Rachel, and is competing with two others to bed her.
  • Harry Andrews (Theater of Blood) … Jacob Schpitendavel. Rachel’s very stern, unbending father. He does love Rachel, but his fear of her disgracing the family overrides that.
  • Denholm Elliott (Raiders of the Lost Ark) … Vance Fowler. The self-righteous prude who wants to shuts down Minsky’s Burlesque on any pretext. Then Rachel’s striptease gives him more than a pretext!
  • Elliott Gould (M*A*S*H) … Billy Minsky. The man running Minsky’s Burlesque Show. His father’s not going to extend his lease, but he’s willing to sell Billy the building. Which he can’t afford. And Fowler’s trying to shut him down. So Raymond has the idea of putting on Rachel’s Bible dance, to make Fowler look like a fool. But the best-laid plans …

Secondary characters

  • Joseph Wiseman (The Silver Chalice) … Louis Minsky. Billy’s father, who owns the theater, and isn’t going to extend the lease, making the raid meaningless. There’s a funny scene as he and Jacob talk about their respective children, and their beliefs in God.
  • Bert Lahr (The Wizard of Oz) … Professor Spats. The former top banana.
  • Jack Burns (The Muppet Movie) … Candy Butcher. The man who sells candy and worthless trinkets during the intermission.
  • Gloria LeRoy (Days of our Lives) … Mae Harris
  • Eddie Lawrence (The Victor Borge Show) … Scratch. Stage clown doing the “Crazy House” sketch.
  • Dexter Maitland … Duffy
  • Lillian Hayman … Singer in Speakeasy
  • Richard Libertini … Pockets
  • Judith Lowry … Mother Annie
  • Will B. Able … Clyde
  • Mike Elias … Immigration Officer 1
  • Frank Shaw … Immigration Officer 2
  • Chanin Hale (The Red Skelton Hour) … Valerie
  • Rudy Vallee (Unfaithfully Yours) … Opening Narrator (voice)

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