THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS. Universal, 1971. George C Scott, Joanne Woodward, Jack Gilford, Lester Rawlins, Al Lewis, Rue McClanahan, Oliver Clark, F. Murray Abraham, Paul Benedict and M. Emmet Walsh. Written by James Goldman. Directed by Anthony Harvey. Currently streaming on YouTube (see below).

   A promising misfire.

   I use the word “promising” advisedly. Well, that is to say, no one actually advised me to call it “promising, “ but I couldn’t help thinking how aptly it applied to a film with an intriguing premise and a story-line strewn with clues that seem to be leading up to something that turns out to…..

   For starters, Giants centers around George C Scott as a paranoid psychotic who believes he is Sherlock Holmes, and sees the hand of Moriarty at work in everything that happens his way. He is also a man of considerable personal charm — distressingly rare in actual paranoids — and persuasiveness — distressingly common in paranoids who run nations, but I digress.

   As the film opens, Scott’s brother is trying to get him committed for venal reasons of his own, and Psychiatrist Mildred Watson (Joanne Woodward) is called in to evaluate him and sign the papers. When her boss at the Mental Hospital pressures Dr Watson (get it?) to skip over the evaluation, she digs her heels in and takes time to really get to know a clearly delusional man who refuses to act like a patient. And as the film progresses, she gets drawn further into his fantasy… or is it fantasy?

   Okay I better post a (WARNING!!) because I’m gonna hint at some plot developments here. And the problem is, there are plenty of developments, but they only lead to other developments. The story seems to be going somewhere, but it never actually gets there — or much of anywhere. Every clue leads to another clue instead of a solution, every action runs to a dead end, and every climax turns to anticlimax, leaving the film meandering and irresolute.

   Perhaps it’s all the more frustrating because there are some clever ideas and good lines here: a pithy comment on Westerns, “There are no masses in Dodge City, only individuals taking responsibility for their own actions.” Scott’s assessment of Woodward’s usefulness, “Just keep saying to yourself, ‘I’m adequate. ‘ “ or “I think if God is dead he laughed himself to death.”

   I could go on. The movie itself sure does. But basically all that cleverness is just elegant gift-wrapping on an empty package.