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No Way To Treat A Lady: The Tale Of Two Mama's Boy On A Collusion Course With Each Other
One of the best movies about a cat-and-mouse game between a cop and a killer has to be No Way To Treat A Lady. What makes it so good is because in a lot of ways the cop and the killer are the same person.
The movie opens with Christopher Gill donning one of his many disguises; this time he’s posing as a catholic priest. He tricks his way into a middle-aged woman’s apartment, where he strangles her and drags her to the bathroom. He sits her up on the toilet, calls her mother and paints his mother’s lips on the woman’s forehead after her kisses her in the same exact place.
The movie never addresses what happened to Christopher’s mother, but it seems obvious he must have killed her. Considering where he’s posing these woman he must have popped her while she was sitting on the toilet doing her business. We have no proof that he lived with his mother, but it seems more than likely that he did. If he was living off by himself, odds are he wouldn’t have finally cracked and popped his mother. The house he currently resides in seems filled with pictures of his mother, as is the theater he owns. It seems more than likely the house and theater belonged to his mother, hence all the photos of the woman. If he actually had his own place he wouldn’t be exposed to his mother on a daily basis and he would have distanced himself from her possibly putting him down the way Morris’ mother does.
Morris, the cop put on the case, is still living with his mother even though she constantly puts him down and henpecks him. She’s always telling him how his brother is better in every way than he is. She even approves of his non-Jewish girlfriend because she treats Morris the same way. It seems that Morris told Kate before he took her to meet his brother to treat him that way and his mother would love her, forever.
In an odd twist, it’s thanks to Christopher that Morris meets Kate. In Kate, Morris has someone who loves him and treats him decently. If the relationship leads to marriage, it may be the impetus for Morris to finally get out from under his mother’s thumb and move out of his mother’s place so he can start a life of his own.
Morris and Christopher connect because Morris sarcastically compliments the killer and that gives Christopher the approval he seems to be seeking in these killings. After the first killing, he goes through the newspaper like he’s reading the reviews of his performance and when the story is buried and just a blurb he calls up the paper to complain about it. And every time he calls up Morris he talks in a different accent wanting to impress him with his vast array of characters he dons as he kills each woman.
If Christopher’s mother was anything like Morris’, she probably put down his acting ability. That’s why he’s seeking praise in the killings. When Morris is the only one that gives him the accolades he’s looking for, he latches on to them. When Morris is taken off the case, Christopher goes out and kills another woman and leaves the message behind to put Morris back on the case. In a very real way Morris seems to almost replace Christopher’s mother. He even promises Morris he’ll be good and not kill anymore women.
Christopher completely unravels when Morris plants an item in the paper there was a sixth victim and Christopher calls up to declare he didn’t do the crime. When Morris won’t believe him, he decides to pay Morris back by going after his girlfriend. And after that it’s all over for him.
We see that Christopher is stalking Morris. He watches him out with Kate. He even calls him up at home. He knows all about his mother and she seems to fit his victim profile more than Kate does. But it’s like he doesn’t go after Morris’ mother, because he doesn’t want to set Morris free from her. Even in death, Christopher can’t get free of his mother. And by killing Kate it takes away the person that could finally set Morris free of his mother.
There’s a scene in the movie at the end, when Christopher knocks Morris out after Morris shoots him that he lays down on the floor next to Morris, seeming to try and copy Morris’ pose on the floor. It’s like Christopher knows they’re the same person. That the movie purposely wanting to set two sides of the same coin against each other.
The thing that makes Morris different from Christopher is the way he handles his domineering mother. He doesn’t seem to let it get to him to any great level her non-stop criticism about everything he does and is. Christopher wasn’t able to do it and no doubt ending up finally snapping and killing his mother. Unfortunately, by then she’d damaged his psyche so much he couldn’t be free of her even in death, so he had to go out and find women who reminded him of her and kill her over and over again.
I ended up feeling sorry for Christopher in spite of everything he did when he was laying bleeding on the stage of his theater begging God to help him. He seemed like a man trapped in a nightmare trying to find a way out but only making the nightmare worse. He even begged Morris to forgive him, but he wouldn’t. I ended up wishing Morris had, because if anyone could understand what had driven Christopher to what he did it was Morris.
Every time I watch this movie, I’m impressed all over again with Rod Steiger’s acting talent. He doesn’t just play one character brilliantly, but a multitude of characters. He even makes you feel sorry for him in the end. And that’s great acting. I don’t know if Steiger got nominated for his performance in this movie, but he should have. He was absolutely brilliant in the role.
On a closing note, you have to wonder why these grown men are still living with their mother. Once a boy becomes a man he generally wants his own place to bring home dates and have a sense of freedom. In Christopher case, especially, distance from his mother might have allowed him to break free of the hold his mother had on him and build a normal life for himself. Ironically, Morris’ brother, the one his mother holds up as everything while he’s nothing, actually did move away from her. Not only did he leave her home, he moved to another state to get away from her. Maybe Morris’ feels since she’s all alone it’s his duty to live with her. If he marries Kate, hopefully she’ll refuse to live with his mother. Or it could be a simple case of both Morris and Christopher having a co-dependent relationship with each other; one they can’t break free from.