Monday, October 03, 2011


SO FALL has fell, and it's time to start indulging in things that make good sense in cold weather. After all, this is the Lower Piedmont region of North Carolina, so it very well might be back into the mid 80s by Thanksgiving. So this little cold snap, lows in the 50's, high of 70 today, calls boldly and definitively for beef stew. (Of course I added cheese. Who the hell do you think you're talking to here?) (Wow. That was meta.) The bread roll was slightly old, not quite stale but very crusty. Just perfect, actually. The selection of the beers didn't actually seem to make any difference. The IPA and the Pale Ale went along pretty well, but I seem to think that almost anything would have done.

This, on the other hand. I gotta say I think the beer made quite a huge difference here. This is a Sam Fuller joint that, having seen and mostly enjoyed The Ninth Configuration, I knew I was going to come around to sooner or later. Having read descriptions of the basic plot, I could see where there must have been influences of this on that, and Blatty's thing was so weird and weirdly satisfying-- and Fuller's reputation as both a crackpot and a genius filmmaker-- that eventually I had to see it.

And, well, wow. Just wow. What a heap of psychological misconceptions wrapped in shredded, twisted Freudian dogma. (Oh, and do peep that poster. It's the one that Wikipedia uses in their article on the click. There are NO TITS in this movie. No exposed ones anyways, at least not that I saw. Remember, I was making stew at the time as well.) At one point, the main character undergoes electroconvulsive shock, comes out clear and cogent with, as opposed to the expected memory loss, an enhanced memory of events, and the side effedt of losing his ability to consciously speak, getting trapped in an interior monologue that gets more maddening the longer it goes on. This is a side effect of electroconvulsive shock therapy that has NEVER BEEN REPORTED IN THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE.

That about says it all right there. Just got things wrong, all the way along. Every five minutes, almost like it was planned that way.

But I could not stop watching. As rotten as it was, as much as it got wrong, as silly as the faking a dominant incestual relationship with the stripper who is his girlfriend but is pretending to be his sister so that Our Hero will be involuntarily commited to an insane asylum so he can uncover who killed one of the inmates PLOTLINE is, it's still pretty mesmerizing in its own way. Definitely some striking images, commited (HAH!) perfomances, not least by James Best, most usually known as the genius who gave us the character of Idiot Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane, and some passages alogorizing insanity that were, despite the film's rampant silliness, pretty damned harrowing.

This turned out to be the morning movie, just by virtue of there not being a whole lot else on to watch. I first caught this in high school, fortunately in the company of a romantic schlub who really liked Woody Allen-- and had never seen any of the heavy slapsticks, like Bananas or Sleeper, which, doubtless, helps in appreciating the later work-- and who thus argued sucessfully for me to see the thing despite its faults, all of which he graciously pointed out, to the point where we walked out of the screening with me arguing for the film as a rich, slice of life portrait of a certain class of modern New Yorkers, and my freind arguing that he ought to get kicked in the head for ever suggesting anyone ought to see that slice of pretentious horse shit ever under any circumstances.

And, oddly, I think we were both right. This is a film I can enjoy, so long as I can nip in and out, enjoy the music and the beautiful cityscapes and the quaintly crappy interiors and the naturalistic acting, and not try to convince myself that, in 1970s Manhattan, sophisticated people had entire cocktail party conversations about orgasms in theory and practice.

So do I recommend it? Hell, yeah. Throw on a flannel and jeans, open up the doors and windows, make yourself a hot bowl of stew, and pretend you're ready to settle in for a long, cold winter. So far, in my expereicne, the films of Sam Fuller are to be approached with skepticism and a length of lead pipe. And if you can stomach Allen in what I like to refer to as his pre-offensive period, go for it. Also, scope that gorgeous little Porsche tootling up the West Side Highway! I'd damned near sit through the whole thing for that one scene alone.


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