Picks and Pans Review: The Black Marble

updated 04/28/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/28/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Joseph Wambaugh, the bittersweet dramatist of police life, takes a shot at romantic comedy this time, and misfires. The plot consists of two independent stories that occasionally meet but rarely fuse. In one, a professional dog trainer (Harry Dean Stanton) kidnaps a prize schnauzer for ransom money to pay off his gambling debts. In the other, a broken-down detective who has taken to drink (Robert Foxworth) is paired with a hard-boiled policewoman (Paula Prentiss). The department wants her to straighten him out, but she's not interested ("He's a candidate for the canvas blazer with wraparound arms," she snaps). Foxworth, as a Russian-American who gets misty over balalaika music and wipes his eyes with his tie, is a likable lummox, but Prentiss, with her tough veneer, is at best brittle. The boredom of watching the pair fall inevitably for each other makes the jittery appearances of Stanton, as the desperate dognapper, richly welcome. When he and Foxworth tussle in a kennel, the jostled mutts start baying in protest, which would be an appropriate response to the movie in general. (PG)

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