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c o N T E N T s
I Nos. 60-61: February 5,1979
Richard T. Jameson
Kathleen Murphy
"A privilege to work in films": 0
Sam Peckinpah among Friends
The Seattle Film Society in conversation with the director, plus:
The Ballad of Cable Hogue reviewed
By Samel Fuller
Days of Purgatory 0 12
An attempt to forget 1978
By Richard T. Jameson
plus Ten Best Lists and remarks by other Contributing Writers
The title "Movietone News" You Only Live Once
is the property of
Twentieth Century-Fox Movietonews, Inc. Quickies
1345 Avenue of the Americas .'
New York New York 10019 Halloween, Days of Heaven, Amencan Hot Wax, FM, Intenors
a subsidia;y of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Who'll Stop the Rain?
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, The End, Hooper, Lord of the Rings, Brass Target
and is used with permission. Coming Home, Pretty Baby, Capricorn One
The King of Kings, Death on the Nile
The Boys from Brazil
Rober! C. Cumbow, Pierre Greenfield,
Rick Hermann, Peter Hogue,
Kathleen Murphy, Alan Williams
Carol D. Boyd
Entire contents
copyright 1979by
The Seattle Film Society
3002 N.E. 92nd Street
Seattle, Washington 98115
Moments out of Time
Even bad film years must have something to redeem them
-some images, gestures, lines, stances, pauses, and good moves
"I had to risk not being liked in that scene"
Michael Murphy interviewed
By Judith M. Kass
In Black & White
Joan Mellen's Big Bad Wolves snarled at
By Pierre Greenfield
o 20
o 27
o 36
o :\H
o 110
Sam Peckinpah
(photographed by Ray Pierre, July 20, 1978)
Elainc Bcrgstrom, Stcvc Caldwcll (Vicc Prcsidcnt}, Toby Corbctt (Prcsidcnt), Jamcs Grccnbcrg
Judith Hcnllcs (Trcasurcr), Lisa Ifcllncs, Dick Jamcson, Tom Kcogh, Hugh Murphy
Kalhlccn Murphy, Stcphunic Oglc, Susanl'cskura (Sccrciary), Ellcnl'inkham, Janis Willctt
"a pr~vilegeto work in films"
among friends
Sam Peckinpah visited Seattle for several days in July,
1978, under thejoint auspices of the Seaflle Film Society
and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
On the evening of July 19 he appear~ at the Seattle
Concert Theatre to talk with an audience that had just
seen, and warmly responded to, his comedy-western
The Ballad of Cable Hogue. The following is a slightly
edited transcript (from a tape made by Ray Pierre) of
that dialogue. For fluency of reading .we have kept the
{Laughter] notations to a minimum, but the fact is that
laughter punctuated the discussion .with considerable
frequency. -Ed.
Cable Hogue, even though Cable died at the end, was a
very upbeat film, which is different from all the other
{Peckinpah] films that I've seen. Was there a reason
that in 1970 or '69 you made a movie that does not - to
me, at any rate-fit very easily with all the rest of your
I think it fits very well. I should mention one thing that
seems to confuse people: I've made three, or maybe I
could say four, films that were my own projects; the rest
I have done because that was the job that was offered.
I don't really pick and choose. On Cable, Warren
[Oates] had given me the property to read, I liked it,
I bought it on time, I tried to get together with Van
Heflin to make for around $700,000, could not do it.
And Ken Hyman was the president of Warner Brothers
at that time, loved The Wild Bunch, and I conned him
into tying Cable Hogue into it because I wanted to make
the film. And that's it.
I have a question about The Wild Bunch. The first print
that was shown in Seattle lasted about seven days. Then
it was changed, another print was substituted. Some
things were cut, deleted, mainly to conform with some
criticisms that Time had about the movie. Who was re-
sponsiblefor the cuts?
Well, Time magazine was not responsible. It was ...
I was cutting Cable at the time. I got a call from [pro-
ducer Phil] Feldman; he said they wanted to try it out
in one theatre-a shorter version. I said "Fine- in one
theatre." Next thing I knew, it had been cut to pieces
all over the country. So you can thank Mr. Feldman for
doing it. And a man named Weintraub, who also was
very active at Warner Brothers at the time.
Does an intact print still exist?
Vh-not as much as I would like. But the European
version does exist, and I think that's shown in l6-milli-
Yes, weshowed it here.
I think it's two hours and 27 minutes, something like
that. I think right now it's down to a three-minute
Is there an intact print of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid?
{Question followed by conspiratorial laughter in the
Oho! Rumors! {Pause] Somebody said there was a
print stolen. {Pause] Let you know next year. {General
laughter] Something about redubbing it.
I have a question about One Eyed Jacks, which this
filmography says you worked on. I understand the
movie ran about four hours and then was cut. Does
a print of the four-hour-long version still exist?
It was written for. [producer] Frank Rosenberg who
gave me a book called The Authentic Death of Hendry
Jones [by Charles Neider]. And I did the script, and
we had some problems. It was a damn good script.
Which I threw at him, by the way; and it was not bound,
so it was all over his livingroom-it was really one of my
last great moves. I told him to send it to Brando. And
damned if he didn't, and Brando bought it. I worked
with Marlon for three and a half weeks before he fired
me. I was asked to come back on the show, but I was
directing at that time, and passed. There's very little
of Mr. Neider's work or mine. There's two scenes of
mine in the picture and I did not receive credit for it.
You also did not receive credit herefor at least two films
on that sheet we handed out, which to my shame I no-
ticed earlier today. I don't know exactly when you wrote
the scripts but in the mid-Sixties there were two films
you had a screenplay credit on that you did not direct,
. The Glory Guys [Arnold Laven] about 1965-
A real winner! [Laughter] Good script!
Should I mention Villa Rides [Buzz Ku~ik, 1968]?
Well, Villa Rides and The Glory Guys were interesting
because ... Again, grist-for-the-mill for any writer or
director or would-be director is that they all became part
of The Wild Bunch. On Major Dundee all the slow-
motion, special effects, dealing with time, etc., etc., etc.
had a chance, thanks to Ken Hyman, to come to some
kind of fruition with The Wild Bunch. So if you do lose,
you don't really lose: you use it for the next picture. It's
a learning process. If you stop learning, you're dead.
I've seen almost all of your pictures and I particularly
like the secondary characters- Warren Oates, L.Q.
Jones, Strother Martin ... Do you cast those roles?
Yes. I did, until it became impossible to cast some of
the people I wanted because of their salaries. On the
last picture [Convoy] I was working with a producer
named Robert Sherman, and no matter who I cast, he
managed to fuck up the deal so"l couldn't get them in
the picture-Mort Sahl and ... ad nauseam on Con-
voy. But I usually cast every shigle role, do the ward-
robe, etc.
How do you contact you if you're an actor if you want
to work with you, because you do such great things with
heavies. How do you get to you? Do you need an agent
orcan, uh- [General laughter]
Send money! No, the whole thing is looking, is first
looking at film. And if you don't have film, get some.
Video camera-you can do it with all kinds of things.
I like to look at film first. I saw Bo Hopkins in some
sort of l6mm number and yeah. And Warren just hap-
pened to show up one day, and was dumb enough to
like working with me and I liked working with him.
Ben Johnson knows how to ride pretty good-he can
hold the horses. I got lucky. I can't afford any of them
Since the movie moguls and producers seem to like to
chop your movies up, is there something in a personal
philosophy of yours that you could characterize that
leads to this?
Sam Peckinpah photographed by Michael Peskura
Well ... I suffer fools badly and they take it personally.
I'd like to know what you think of Sergio Leone's mov-
ies, like Once upon a Time in the West. And also, what
western movies do you personally like?
I like Leone's movies and I like him. They're always too
long but they're fun to watch. A marvelous man to talk
to, and I think he does really interesting things. Western
movies? I, uh-what was the last Hoot Gibson I saw?
No, I really loved Red River until the ending - the
phony arrow in the chest, and the chick. Ford did a
great western with Fonda and Victor Mature, My Dar-
ling Clementine. I recall, uh ... a lot of good films.
The best western I've ever seen is- I think it was a serial
I saw one Saturday morning on TV in Fresno, Cali-
fornia, when I was eleven; forget the name of it.
For a while it seemed that you were going to form a
stock company of actors much the way John Ford did,
and maybe just make your own projects. Was that a
dream and are you unhappy that it didn't materialize
that way?
Yes, or yes yes?
Yes yesyes! As I said, they got too expensive.
If somebody were to give you a production company
and say "OK, go back to that desire, " would you now,
at ten years' remove from when that was happening, go
back and do it that way?
Nnnnnnoooooooo, ya don't know, because you change.
I never consciously evaluate the style per se, only the
people who are working. What happened-that's inter-
esting, because what happened on Convoy, people I'd
worked for for years, and with, back of the camera and
in front of it, turned out to be interested in ... retire-
ment plans. I talked to- I went to Rome to do a one-
day bit in an Italian western with Warren (had a marvel-
ous time doing it-was an actor). But during that time I
had the privilege of spending a great deal of time with
FeIIini. And the problems I'm talking about now are the
same things we talked about; he felt the same way. Peo-
ple don't want to work anymore. And to me, it's aprivi-
lege to work in films; it always has been, it always will
be. And I'm sick to death of the Hollywood attitude
and that's why I don't live there or work there anymore.
When you're looking at afilm you made ten years ago,
and now your perspective has changed, do you ever wish
you could go back and-
[Sharp bark of laughter from Peckinpah] I want to re-
shoot, recut, rescore, redub everything. No, not really.
I like- There's about two or three things in Cable I'd
like to change, but that's my picture and I'll let it stand.
The marvelous thing about film as opposed to theatre is
"I can't afford any of them anymore": 'L.Q. Jones, John Anderson, Warren Oates and
a horizontal John Davis Chandler in Ride the High Country.
that it doesn't lie. You see it a year later (this is my year
of reseeing all my films and a lot of other films) ...
[Interruption as the would-be Peckinpah heavy rushes
down from the balcony to offer his Coke can as an ash-
tray; subject irrevocably changed]
Do you think you'd ever do another warfilm?
I hope not.
When you made Cross of Iron what were some of the
things you encountered as problems?
Germans. [Laughter] Gerrrrmannnsssss!
The actors?
No, groovy actors. The German producer was a mini-
Nazi. Which I could talk about for years-the porno
king of Munich. Kept asking why I didn't get a closeup
when his wife bit the joint off Art Brauss. Well, I think
that speaks for itself. Then we had two great entrepre-
neurs, Arlene Sellers and Alex Winitsky, who were
financing or sub-financing the picture, and that became
a disaster. There was one person who made the picture
finally get finished and done right, and that's Nat Cohen
from England. I missed him on my last picture, very
What kind of stories do you like? What do you look for
when looking at a script and thinking about whether to
make it?
What you see. I turned down King Kong to do Cross of
Iron because I didn't feel I was competent enough to
dea\with ... puppets. And actually Cross of Iron was
based-more than anything else it was based on the
Willi Heinrich book, but it was also based on James
Jones' sensational book-I
think it was actually a pic-
torial history, but it was
some of his best work. I
stole outrageously from
tha t.
One of the main criticisms
I've heard leveled at your
work had to do with your
portrayals of women. Do
you have any comments on
I like 'em. I 'try to portray
them as they are. They're
like everybody else: they're
human beings. I try to get
,em off a pedestal- not too
successfully, but ...
Are there any reruns of The
Gonna have one tomorrow.
["Jeff," the most-discussed
episode of Peckinpah's
short-lived TV series The
Westerner, was shown in a
University of Washington
film class along with the hour-long ABC Stage 67 pro-
duction of Noon Wine.] I've got four. The rest-the
negatives were burnt up because they didn't want to
store them any longer ....
I was wondering if you'd thought of toning down the
violence in your films.
What violence? ... I just try to portray what I've expe-
rienced and what I've seen. I'm concerned with violence
because I see so much of it in myself and in people that I
know. I'd like to know why and I'd like to channel the
positive effects. I suppose I feel that the basic thing is
that I feel Robert"Ardrey should be required reading for
I don't understand. Are you saying you do that kind of
No [emphatically]. No, I deny that, I'm not guilty. On
occasion. I usually don't make a film about something
I don't know about firs~hand.
What is the next film you're going to do?
It's a very difficult assignment. Deep Throat Comes
Back. Getting the rights is tough ....
I'm going to do a Max Evans story,
I believe. About a kid, some horses,
an old-timer, and growing up in the
What do you think about Max
Evans's book on this film, or built
around you? [Sam Peckinpah:
Master of Violence, an account
of the filming of Cable Hogue.]
Very simply, it was done without my
knowledge or consent. I think it's an .
outrageous piece of shit. But Max .
said he needed the money and his
wife put a pistol to his head, so ...
Do you have any advice for a new
writer with a new script who has no
contact with the industry and doesn't
know what to do with it?
I think right now it's a writer's mar-
ket. It depends on what form and
who it's for. Look at what is being
sold and who is selling and who is
buying and what kind of script, and
then get the names of who those peo-
ple are, and lie, cheat, steal, bribe
and get in to meet them - and con.
Thank you!
That's the only way I could do it.
I was a dialogue director and a prop-
man; I became a writer because it was
a way to become a director.
In the documentary we saw on the
making of Cable Hogue there was
a sequence where everybody talked
about their childhood and daydream-
ing and how this led into their acting.
I was curious, was this true of you as
well? Do you think your childhood,
what you daydreamed, what you
saw, did you extend childhood day-
dreaming intofilmmaking?
I was being interviewed for that film
which is strictly the responsibility of
Gary Weiss and Gil Dennis. Yes, we
restaged and reenacted the Charge of
the Light Brigade many times. I was
very much a loner, very much into
what I read and imagined as a kid.
Do you see the whole film in your
mind before you make it, or are
there parts you're not sure of?
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid: Kris Kristofferson, Matt Clark.
The Ballad of Cable Hogue: Jason Robards, Stella Stevens.
No, it's- A film can change, it becomes an adventure,
it becomes an entity unto itself. You must know enough
to let it work along in its own terms, but yet within a cer-
tain framework.
You talk about films changing and the fact that only
three of your movies were your own projects. I think it
sometimes seems to us out here, it sounds like a contra-
diction in terms. You're given a movie to do and yet you
essentially have to make it up as you're going along. I
guess this question adds up (0: how do you go about
making one of those assignedprojects your own?
Well, it's like Straw Dogs. We had a very bad book. I
wrote the script with David Goodman and then [Daniel]
Melnick and David went off by themselves without my
knowledge and wrote a completely different script, and
Marty Baum blew his top about that and took it to Lon-
don and said "Did you know anything about this?"
I said No. He said "Write the script." So I wrote the
script. I had to sign a paper with Mr. Baum stating that
I would have a happy ending. But once I'd cast Susan
George I knew that was impossible. I played it down to
the end until Dustin Hoffman came up to me and said
"We can't make this ending" and I said "Well how
about this one, Dustin?" ... So it's always a gamble
and it's always a fight and-it's adventure!"
Have you ever thought of returning to television?
Was it difficult doing television?
It was great. At Four Star, Dick Powell was in charge of
production; working with Mr. Powell unfortunately left
a mark on me. We had the best crews, the best staff,
and nobody who worked there has ever been able to find
people like that since. It was a delight. That's where I
learned, thanks to Mr. Powell.
- who unfortunately passed away just when things were
getting going.
Just before "The Losers" came out, yeah.
Partly this question has been asked already, but I'm still
wondering how much you chart and plan on a film be-
fore you start.
We chart"and plan everything, knowing that everything
is going to go wrong. Then you adapt. Within a frame-
work, you adapt.
How about reviewers and film critics? Do you read
them, and how do you think they stand in relation to
your work?
I think the enormous importance of the reviewer is
underestimated because we have so many really bad
people reviewing films. They're very important to me,
and to other directors I know and respect. Not many
of them are ... I really don't break my heart over Rex
Reed anymore. Penelope Gilliat and her boyfriend that
writes for The New York Times had a big thing to do
about Cross of Iron, saying "My god, it was so awful
because the uniforms, they could hardly tell the differ-
ence ... " What thefuck! that was what it was all about!
So it's important to you what they say?
Very. Very. Anything anybody says. I'm part of the
audience and that's my job. I'm not doing closet drama.
About the time of The Killer Elite most of the negative
reviews admitted that you know how to make a movie,
to keep things moving, but they can't stand it if you try
to put any content in them. They hate it when people
talk to one another.
Well, actually The Killer Elite was interesting because
that was kind of a delightful satire, just kind of a fun-
and-games film, and everybody took it so seriously - I
couldn't figure that out. How would you believe Ninjas
attacking the mothball fleet?! I had a ball making it.
I enjoyed it; I don't know why people took it so grim.
About Junior Bonner, what debts do you owe to Nicho-
las Ray and The Lusty Men?
Ray .... The Lusty Men ....
Nothing. This was Jeb Rosebrook, who lived and worked
rodeo, and got the script to Steve [McQueen]; I got the
call from Steve and went in and we did two back to back,
Junior Bonner and Getaway. None. He's a good direc-
tor but that was Jeb Rosebrook-a damn fine writer.
I don't know what debt he owes to Nicholas Ray, but I
. don't really know the picture you're talking about.
Back to violence: Do you like violence because it en-
ables you to do the sort of action and editing you go
in for?
I don't like violence - I think that any conflict in drama
is necessary. Sometimes it's violence, sometimes it's in
words; sometimes the worst thing in the world - in
Noon Wine-is the failure of love, the lack of commu-
nication. But conflict in one form or another is drama.
I've seen Stella Stevens do some good acting and I've
seen Stella Stevens do bad acting, and I think you drew a
very good performance out of her in this movie we saw
tonight. I was wondering, how do you deal with your
actors, how much do you control them, how much re-
hearsal do you use?
The key thing in making a film is the amount of rehear-
sal time you can spend, because the actors get to know
you and you get to know them. Once I did a TV show
with Jean Simmons ["That Lady Is My Wife," Bob
Hope Chrysler Theatre, -1967] and she said "You lied to
continued on page 8
Sam Peckinpah by Sam Fuller
. When he was in Koln, Germany scouting locations for
his 1972film Dead Pigeonon Beethovenstrasse,lifelong
newsman Samuel Fuller was invited by a localjournal to
review any recent picture that had caught hisfancy. We
are delighted to reprint the result of that invitation here,
with the auteur's permission.
"Water is where you find it, and you won't find it
there! "
With that simple springboard, Sam Peckinpah's
superb film of man versus men (in this case the
contradictory strands of weakness and determina-
tion within Cable Hogue) is a must-see movie
from WB now playing at the EI Dorado, a new
moviehouse in Koln named after Howard Hawks'
sagebrush success. Unlike the lusty Hawks film
or any other Western, Peckinpah's Ballad of
Cable Hogue is a sensitive, emotional, surgical
job on an American desert hermit without familiar
sagebrush stuffing. At times Cable Hogue's story
gnaws at one's memory from Von Stroheim's
Greed to Huston's Treasure of Sierra Madre-
but the gnawing is short-lived because of Peck-
inpah's reconstruction of the West with fiendish
Cable Hogue is a classic because in his passion
for the counter-make believe West, its humans and
inhumans, Peckinpah never varies from his ob-
sessive desire to show you how it really was and
yet never lose that cinematic touch that makes a
movie a really entertaining movie. The animal
behavior of Cable Hogue, brought to primate
heights by Jason Robards, is quiet claw and un-
bared teeth-a difficult role sensitively conquered
by one of the finest actors around these days.
Hildy, the blonde plaintively brought to life by
Stella Stevens, segues from independent whore to
simpleminded sex thorn in Robards' isolated des-
ert bed. With authoritative and extravagant brush
Peckinpah paints the comedic, fatal love story of
Cable and Hildy, accentuated by Lucien Ballard's
always exciting photography. Peckinpah's camera
is spiced with Cable Hogue's bizarre accomplish-
ment of life and bizarre accomplishment of death.
The strange mournful sound of the changing
West and of the lone desert rat's fist of sand fight-
ing against all odds, is mirrored in dry tears of
humor: bearded, body broken but spirit still soar-
ing, the bedridden Hogue under an open sky lis-
tening to his own funeral sermon coming from the
cracked lips of gaunt Joshua, a scabrous, libertine
preacher brilliantly played by David Warner. The
character of this hypocritical preacher is right out
of Moliere's Tartuffe but Peckinpah evades the
familiar and guides his preacher to originality. In
one of the best and funniest scenes in the film, the
preacher's macabre gift of using God as a pro-
curer to lure to bed the grief-stricken young lady
explodes with captivating honesty. Peckinpah
strikes home to the heart the falsity of God's rov-
ing cactus messenger with reversible collar. In this
scene the preacher's determination to mount the
girl, mournfully and gently played by Susan O'-
Connell, is as meaningful as Cable Hogue's deter-
mination to make his watery El Dorado a grim
The plot, on its barren face, is simple: Cable
Hogue, abandoned in the desert by two friends
because of lack of water, is plagued by an idea
that is physically impossible and that is to operate
a nonexistent waterhole as a stagecoach way sta-
tion. His lunatic dream pays off, even to the ex-
tent that he kills a thirst-crazed man for refusing
to pay ten cents for a drink of water ... and with
the payoff the ballad of Cable Hogue ends, for he
was put on earth for the unchronicled fact of find-
ing water "where it wasn't."
An eagerness for profit and love for the whore
become his heroin, but when he discovers the emp-
tiness of his accomplishment, it is too late and he
is ungloriously run down by a four-footed spectre
of the changing West-a damned automobile!
The EI Dorado cinema promises more movies
of the calibre of Cable Hogue.
A worthy thing to look forward to.
Samuel Fuller
me!?' -and I did. But it kinda works out. Once she got
her makeup off, she was fine.
Sam, the first day that Cable Hogue played in a theatre,
I saw it quite by accident, and two weeks later it wasn't
playing in any theatre anywhere. And I got angry about
that and I called you on the phone and I said, "I'm
starting a Cable Hogue society"-
[Delighted] Oh I remember that!
-and my idea was tofind and gather films that got lost,
and get them out, and get the word out to audiences and
theatreowners and get them to book them. And I still
wish that fine fiims like that coUldfind an audience. I
saw Walkabout and White Dawn and a number of other
films that fall inside that Cable Hogue Society cate-
gory ...
Glad to agree with you about Walkabout because I saw
it and loved the picture, and I just got done acting with
Jenny [Agutter]. The thing is that Weintraub and War-
ner Brothers wrote off Cable Hogue after one weekend
as a tax loss and that was the end. That's corporate deal-
ings in Hollywood and there's no way, unless you buy a
print or steal it, and maybe seven thousand bucks and
you can dupe it and you're set. ... Grand theft felony.
I'd like to go to the subject of your films that have been
cut. I'd like to know why they do it. Is it that you have a
conflict or - ?
Yeah, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid was strictly a con-
flict with Melnick. Dundee was strictly Jerry Bresler. ...
Are their motivations commercial or are they going to
pu t you inyour place?
It's a whole big ego trip. Agents and executives like to
be creators and filmmakers-and they're not: But
sometimes the damnedest thing happens: they're right.
Usually it's trying to get a picture down to two hours or
less so they can have another chance to sell popcorn.
You all watch TV, so you're' as guilty as ... I am.
I'd like to ask a question about the images you use-for
instance, the animals in the film. They're really an ex-
cellent counterpoint to the conflict that the people have.
Do you feel these types of images by instinct or do you
have an idea about the images you use to make up a
Most of the work I do is instinctive, right or wrong. I do
ha~e a background in theory, but mostly it's guts poker.
I'm a shitkicker from 'way back.
I was impressed on this list of credits with all the shows
you worked on in television, and I remember the shows
as being worthwhile, and I don't see their quality on TV
anymore. What do you think has happened? Why is
something like Have Gun- Will Travel only history?
I didn't work on Have Gun; I worked on Gunsmoke,
Trackdown, Zane Grey Theatre, a couple of others, and
Rifleman I created. What's happening is very simple:
you're buying a product-therefore you're the mean
average and you ought to be ashamed. You're buying
the product. That's the way these things work. It's the
indifference of the people which is responsible for the
level of television.
Do you own a TV? Do you watch TV?
Of course. I watch it about five straight days two or
three times a year. That's not talking about the World
Cup or football season, but ... Otherwise I avoid it.
I don't even know what shows are on. I really don't
like it too much: I really fucking hate advertising. I
think that if somebody can get together and stop the
amount of brainwashing that's going on, stop buying
the products, it'd be kinda keen.
Who is your favorite cameraman?
If I answered that, I'd have my head blown off by some-
body else. It is not the cinematographer on the first part
of Convoy-I really can't remember his name! [Harry
Stradling Jr.] - It was really nice and really interesting
That sequence that he just talked about was essentially
ripped off-I don't mean they used the same footage
but they used the same setups, the same music score by
the same musician, even had Warren Oates in the scene
too-in a movie called Mail Order Bride Burt Kennedy
made a year or so later. Did you ever see that and what
did it do to you?
No, I never saw it. I know Burt very well. He gave me
an option to try and get Evans' book [The Rounders]
made, which he eventually made, so I can't say anything
about Burt. But I've been ripped off so many times I
feel like I was a garment industry.
Jerry Fielding used the Wild Bunch scorefor The Deadly
Track~rs ...
No, he didn't, Warner Brothers did, and he sued them
- and collected. That's Warner Brothers.
There's apiece of that score in John Milius's recentfilm
Big Wednesday; infact, he's got your General Mapache
scene in The Wind and the Lion-
[Laughing} I heard about that!
-and in the new film he turns his surfers into the Wild
Bunch in Mexico. Do you know his work?
Only through my own, evidently.
How did you work with Richard Gillis who wrote the
songs in Cable Hogue?
I was about three days away from going to Las Vegas to
be with Jason [Robards] and start rehearsal and look at
the Valley of Fire, and Gordon Dawson said I better go
to the Olive Branch and listen to Mr. Gillis, and I did,
and started rewriting the picture to fit his songs. We're
still working together and-he's one fine, fine writer.
photos by Michael Peskura The Peter Pan of Burbank.
gun freak that would really appreciate the accuracy of
that touch ... ?
Well, I'd done a good deal of research, and I had a mar-
velous editor, Frank Santillo, and I spent a good deal of
time with Frank Kowalski's father-a great first-assis-
tant director. And we finally got it down to using three-
frame and two-frame cuts, and it ended up running
about 19 seconds.
It seemed longer. I mean that as a compliment!
Frank turned me on - Frank Santillo, who cut this pic-
ture [Cable Hogue] with Lou Lombardo-he was and is
one of the great cutters of all time. He worked with Vor-
kapich and he knows montage, and he taught me a great
deal. I just took it and ran with it. The first time I was
conscious of slowmotion was the film Friedkin just re-
made, Wages of Fear; saw the original of that and was
astonished by the effectiveness of slowmotion. I started
in television using it.
to find your slowmotion cameras tipped upsidedown;
and if you mark a camera to run at 64 and it's running at
16 [frames per second], it's really interesting. Bobby
Hauser came in and did three weeks, seven weeks, eight
weeks of work. He's one hell 9f a guy, and a great crew;
I can't say that for Stradling or any of his people.
You had a very surprising and distinguished second-unit
director on that movie [James Coburn]. Maybe you
could talk to people about what second-unit directors do
and how you work with them, make your thing happen
through asecond-unit director.
Walter Kelley was very successful during the last part of
Cross of Iron and he was very unsuccessful doing this
picture. Jimmy came in-working to get his director's
card-and he came through with a couple really key
shots. He was as wild and crazy as he should have been.
How much did Convoy cost and what do you think
about it?
I don't really think too much about it. I saw probably-
We ran eight reels of supposedly the director's cut, my
first cut, and that's all I've ever seen. The other four
reels I've seen but they weren't shown. My time ran out
and the film was taken over by the company [EMI]. I
think by the time it's finished with prints and advertising
it'll go thirteen-three-and will make money. In Japan
already it's done seven-point-eight in distributor's gross
-that's a fifth of the cost in one country alone. I'm
selling my interest to the University of Washington so
they can do the audit. ... I'm serious!
I saw Ride the High Country as a second feature to
something like The Tartars. I only saw the last ten min-
utes and I couldn't see the movie again for three years.
The fight didn't end after one shot like Matt Dillon, but
looked as if, with these inaccurate guns they had at the
time, they had to keep shooting. It was riveting! Did
you think when you made it that somewhere there was a
photo courtesy of Susan Peskura
The Wild Bunch: WilliamHolden, Ernest Borgnine, Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, Jaime Sanchez.
In your pictures over the years you've worked with an
array of the most potent actors America has-Coburn
and Oates and those guys. How would you visualize, or
how would you like to put Clint Eastwood in a movie?
Is there aparticular way you'd like to portray him?
I've got a script I wrote about two years ago; it's called
Dirty John-about a San Francisco cop ... No, really,
he's damn good and I'd love to work with him. But he's
been busy; so have I. He's been busy with Don Siegel,
who was my patron, got me started in the business.
Do you plan to work again in Hollywood?
I will work with anybody anyplace, but I will not work
in Hollywood, in that town.
So you will work with a studio?
I'll work with anything-as long as I don't have to go
there anymore. I spent too many nights in Goldwyn's.
Convoy stands out to me quite atypical of your movies
that I've. seen-
Well I haven't seen it so I can't discuss it. Word-of-
honor truth: I have not seen it since I ran those reels.
Well, I'm asking basically about your motivations be-
cause it seems so different.
In preparing Cro.ss of Iron I kept hearing on Armed
Forces radio this song about "We'll hit the gate goin'
98, Let them truckers roll, Ten-Four!" and I said "By
God, I'd like to be out on that highway!" And so I got
out there, but I ended up not being there at all.
In spite of all the cuts I think Major Dundee is one of
your most powerful and entertaining films. How do you
feel about thatfilm?
I wanta kill.
Is there any chance of the cut footage being put back?
They called me back about four years afterward to come
in and recut and rescore and redub, and I said No. That
really hurt me, that one, because it was a fine film, really
a fine film, and I was very proud of it. It was a very per-
sonal vendetta with Jerry Bresler.
How do you feel about thefootage that remains?
Like a maimed child.
Have you ever considered going underground and mak-
ing films with less resources, but you can keep your
hands on them?
That's what I'm dojng now.
This tension between producers and directors fascinates
me. The right to final cut-is that decided before the
picture's begun, is it negotiated, or ... ? You men-
tioned about The Wild Bunch, the call to you about
trying out a cut version in one theatre? Was that a cour-
tesy call or did you have some appeal?
They did exactly what I said don't do. It was Phil Feld-
man. He could say "Well, I called you." But they
changed every print in the United States.
Did you know when that picture began that the end
product would be out of your hands?
You usually have a preview cut. I had two preview cuts
on the last picture, which I lost because I took too much
time. I've never had final cut unless it was given to me
or unless I stole it. Judge Learned Hand said that com-
promise is the soul of integrity. Sometimes I doubt it.
You've been talking a lot about things you made that
nobody got a chance to see. I'm a writer and editors do
this to me, and I've always figured the solution would be
to get big enough so that nobody'd dare screw around
with what I wrote. But you're big and you still talk
about people messing around with your creations. Is
there no solution to that?
Arm yourself. I don't know what the solution is, except
that - Try and get definitely in the contract in money in
the bank, penalty money, so that it will cost them money.
Otherwise they'll just tear up the contract, do what they
want, and say "Sue." So you spend five years suing and
they have all the money and all the lawyers, and you're
dead. There is no guarantee whatsoever. Lie, cheat,
steal, hold film out, steal it ...
Does the producer of afilm own thefilm?
No, the producer's hired. In the case of Convoy, Bobby
Sherman put the package together, EMI picked it up,
and so EMI owns the film. Michael Deely of EMI had
the final say. Robert Sherman really had nothing to say
except get in the way of everybody.
Is it legallypossible to have aprint for yourself?
It's legally possible but it takes a lot of doing. As I say,
you must have certain penalty clauses and money in the
bank that they must pay. That hurts them. And pub-
licity hurts them, too. But I have nothing to say against
Convoy because I completed my job and ...
Are you able at this time to command any kind of finan-
cial backing that would give you more freedom?
None at all?
If I could command it, I would be doing it. I'm trying
to, but ... I have had money offered to me, but on such
terms that I couldn't accept.
I heard afew years back that you were suing to preven t
the release of Pat Garrett. What is happening about that
Nothing. I was trying to beat 'em down and I failed.
They took 17minutes out and destroyed the film. I sued
them with everything I had, which was very little, and it
dribbled away and ... lost. Failed.
Have you got something now you'd like to do?
Yeah, I've got about five pictures I'd like to make-
about five major pictures and about three smaller pic-
tures I'd like to do before I hang it up.
Would you tell us what you're really about?
About what you see on the screen. It's all up there.
Whatever's left ... That was the best I could do.
What did you do to get unoffically blacklisted?
I kicked [Martin] Ransohoff off the set [of The Cincin-
nati Kid]. I refused to cast Sharon Tate. She bad mouthed
Katharine Hepburn and we had a little tusseI. Right now
I'd be delighted to work with Marty. He always resented
that Bresler had first place on my blacklist. But-people
change, ya know?
With its linking of the Mafia and Richard Nixon, Bring
Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia seemed more overtly
political thanyour other work. Do you think so?
Politically, possibly. Spiritually, I'd say. We had some-
thing going and it was pretty exciting, but-it got cut
off at the pass.
On the next one, The Killer Elite, we had a great line
at the end of the picture. It was from Lord Buckley, an
old Lord Buckley record: "I don't know where we're
goin' and I don't know where we been, but I know that
where we is isn't it.
Thank you very much.
Days of Purgatory
By Richard T. JaDleson
You know and I know, and each knows that the other
knows, that 1978 was the worst year for movies since
sound came in, so let's not belabor the subject. Living
through it was labor enough.
Apart from the superfluousness of such a gesture,
one reason I don't choose to mount a blistering that-
was-the-year-that-wasn't retrospective is that I was less
than diligent about keeping up with the films passing
through the Jet City and environs. I missed a few here-
and-gone pictures I particularly wanted to see, such as
Robert Mulligan's Bloodbrothers (which lasted less than
a week and reportedly has been pulled from distribu-
tion), James Bridges' 9/30/55 (shown as a first-run
second feature in very farflung nabes), Ted Post's Go
Tell the Spartans (a short-term top feature in the same
farflung nabes), Paul Schrader's Blue Collar, Sidney J.
Furie's The Boys in Company C, and Jack Gold's The
Medusa Touch. Nothing but sloth, an aversion to hype,
a low sense of priority, and a careless susceptibility to
predisposition - in various combinations - can account
for missing longer-run items like Interiors, House Calls,
Paradise Alley, FIST, Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of
Europe?, Grease, The Wiz and Midnight Express, not
to mention Lord of the Rings and Watership Down
(I have never been able to get excited about feature-
length animation). I intend to catch up with all of them
eventually, but if anyone chooses to see my Besting and
Worsting of 1978 compromised by any of these over-
sights, I can hardly protest. The one film I feel seriously
delinquent in having missed was Kenji Mizoguchi's
A Geisha; it was shown one time only in Dana Benelli's
ASUW Major Films Series, and I was on my way to see
it until a Seattle Film Society emergency obliged the
then-President to change his plans.
'Seventyeight was the year a large number of local
film buffs developed a pronounced resistance to frothy
French comedies. Blue Country, Cat and Mouse, Dear
Inspector, The Toy and We Will All Meet in Paradise
may not have been such bad things in isolation, but seen
in close order (and crossplugged among the operative
theatres) they had the power to clog sinks. It seemed
as if we'd never get to see any other kind of foreign film
hereabouts-an effect reinforced by Ettore Scola's
A Special Day, in which a director who had heretofore
drawn a lot of his strength and interest from the unpre-
dictable intersections of gritty-grubby realismo and
flamboyant stylization (The Pizza Triangle, We All
Loved Each Other So Much) inclined dangerously
toward high gloss. Against such competition, Franco
Brusati's Bread and Chocolate got credit for being a
richer film than it was; but I was still glad to have it
Still, it would be unfair to heap all the blame o~ un-
adventurous exhibitors. Those French comedies did a
lot more business than Bread and Chocolate, and the
SFS was all but driven out of the Northwest Premiere
business by the dismal turn-outs for Ichikawa's An
Actor's Revenge, Oshima's The Ceremony, and Alain
Tanner's Retour d'Afrique. The Moore Egyptian The-
atre performed heroically and made their Third Seattle
International Film Festival the biggest yet; that it wasn't
the best says as much about the enervation of the inter-
national film scene as it does about the festival program-
ming, but even at that, the Moore served up more of
the year's most satisfying and/or provocative films than
anyone else. During the festival alone there were: Gun-
nel Lindblom's Summer Paradise / Paradise Place (later
given a theatrical run at the revamped Ridgemont),
Wenders's The American Friend, Fassbinder's Effi
Briest, Herzog's Heart of Glass and La Soufriere, Ray's
The Chess Players, David Lynch's Eraserhead, Martin
Brest's Hot Tomorrows, the Mariposa Film Group's
Word Is Out, and two sort-of-premieres, the uncut Saga
of Anatahan by Josef von Sternberg (which, disconcert-
ingly, featured real gunshots and not metaphorical
drumbeats on the soundtrack) and Kaneto Shindo's
Onibaba. The Finley-renovated Crest 70 deserves credit
for two authentic high points of any film year, the belat-
ed opportunities to see Dersu Uzala and Close Encoun-
ters of the Third Kind in 70mm.
It was the sort of year in which I was most grateful for
unexpected pleasures like Steve Rash's The Buddy Holly
Story, Floyd Mutrux's American Hot Wax, Burt Rey-
nolds' The End, Hal Needham's Hooper, Jack Nichol-
son's Goin' South, and Blake Edwards' Revenge of the
Pink Panther- the lastnamed among the unexpected
simply because the Clouseau formula and Edwards'
elegant eye had seemed terminally tired the previous
time out (The Pink Panther Strikes Again, 1976). Most
of the other American directors I rely on stumbled,
in keeping with the season. I thought Robert Altman
took a worse drubbing from critics and fans than he
deserved for A Wedding. His cardinal sin seemed to be
that he had merely made a movie according to a method
devised and proven by him on previous occasions; he
didn't expand the frontiers of cinema this round. Never-
theless, he created a film full of the sorts of recognition-
shocks and unsentimental grace notes that are possible
only within his brand of artful clutter. In Convoy Sam
Peckinpah seemed to be laboring with an only half-good
idea in intolerable circumstances. At the time it came
out, Brian De Palma's The Fury struck me as a serious
misstep, with the director so caught up engineering his
(often splendid) tours-de-force that he never got the
logic of his own syntax straight, let alone that of the
scenario; it seemed then as if everyone else was ready
to climb on the De Palma bandwagon I was temporarily
deserting, but The Fury was curiously absent from most
year-end accountings. I remain passionately pro on the
career of John Milius, but Big Wednesday consists
almost entirely of unimpeachably Personal gestures
without a convincing context. Walter Hill's The Driver
was similarly suspended in the auteurist ozone where
breathers of normal air simply cannot, and shouldn't
be expected to, follow. Among the pleasantly-promising
minor figures, Lamont Johnson was left hopelessly
stranded by the vacuousness of Furble Feeble-Dreedle
and the stifling predictability of Reginald Rose's script
for Somebody Killed Her Husband.
As a last gesture toward record-clearing, the following
films had not been publicly exhibited in Seattle as of the
end of '78: Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter, Rainer
Werner Fassbinder's Despair, Michel Deville's Dossier
51, Bertrand Blier's Get Out Your Handkerchiefs, John
Carpenter's Halloween, Peter Weir's The Last Wave,
Stanley Donen's Movie Movie, Eric Rohmer's Perceval,
Robert Mulligan's Same Time, Next Year, Claude Cha-
brol's Violette Noziere, and Wim Wenders' Wrong
My somewhat reluctant Ten Best List for 1978:
West Germany, 1977). In naming Wenders' Kings of
the Road number one on my List for 1977, 1 acknowl-
edged that I was also tipping my hat to The American
Friend, seen at a trade screening late in the year. That
makes it seem a bit hand-me-down as this year's top
film, but I can't talk myself out of beginning my list
with it. It had more pizazz than anything else that seems
like a Best Film of the season, it managed to be explicitly
about movies without violating its trajectories as a first-
rate genre film (thriller), it was rife with the best, least
slavish sort of hommages, and it tapped into the moods
and mannerisms of other cineastes like Nick Ray, Hitch-
cock, and Hopper without for a moment ceasing to be
Ein Film von Wim Wenders. (First shown by the Moore
Egyptian Theatre)
Bunuel: France, 1977). That a (then) 77-year-old movie-
maker who has had at least four separate careers can go
on generating such young, high-spirited, cleanly-con-
ceived and -realized cinema would be cause for wonder
in the best of circumstances. With most of his colleagues
apparently cocooned off from life, it's nothing less than
miraculous. That Obscure Object of Desire is a tonic,
and a rebuke. (Moore-Egyptian)
3. THE DUELLISTS (Ridley Scott: Great Britain,
1977). The year's most dazzling debut. That Ridley
Scott learned his trade directing TV commercials has
disqualified him from serious consideration in some
circles; well, it took them a long time to get serious
about Richard Lester, too. The extraordinary beauty
and energy of Scott's film (he not only directed but
also served as camera operator) is never gratuitous,
but rather keeps stylistic faith with the enigmatic Joseph
Conrad novella on which it is based. Scott also got
fascinating results playing the ultra-contemporary pres-
ences of Keith Carradine, Harvey Keitel, and Cristina
Raines off against such classical actor's-actors as Robert
Stephens, Albert Finney, Tom Conti, and Alan Webb.
(Harvard Exit)
4. AN UNMARRIED WOMAN (Paul Mazursky:
U.S.A., 1978). If I say that Jill Clayburgh is 800/0of the
reason An Unmarried Woman places so high among the
year's film experiences, that does no disservice to Paul
Mazursky, who is surely responsible for eliciting the
performance we've been expecting from Clayburgh for
several years now. Mazursky also keeps getting more
cinematically fluid, as opposed to sociologically hung
up, as he goes along. A responsibly joyous film of self-
discovery that has more compassion for its flawed males
-especially Michael Murphy's beautifully-acted way-
ward husband-than a lot of other movies 1 can imag-
ine sporting the title An Unmarried Woman. (VA70)
cois Truffaut: France, 1977)
Pierre Greenfield is right on
the mark when he suggests
that The Man Who Liked
Women might be a more
pointed translation of this
film's title. Truffaut does-
n't push any of the trendy
buttons in his chronicle of a
connoisseur des femmes:
Charles Denner approaches
each stage of each conquest
as though it were a matter
of life and death, and by the
time the title of the movie,
and Denner's memoir-in-
progress, has been fulfilled,
we see. that those are the
stakes precisely. (Varsity
6. EFFI BRIEST (Rainer
Werner Fassbinder: West
Germany, 1976). One of the
best-attended and least-
liked entries in the Third
Seattle International Film
Festival, Fassbinder's treat-
ment of the Fontane classic
is a major achievement, its
apparent coldness and emo-
tional reticence containing
a passionate spirituality.
Hanna Schygulla's Effi'
joins the ranks of the cine-
matic saints. (Moore-Egyp-
(Terrence Malick: U.S.A.,
. 1978). I've yet to be con-
vinced that Malick's "screen-
play" needed to be as rigor-
ously nonverbal as it is, or
his characters as elusive.
(How many boosters of the
film's modernity realize it's
consciously based on not
only the silent-film poems
of Murnau and Griffith but
also the narrative codes of
turn-of-the-century Ameri-
can literature?) Still, the
photos courtesy New Yorker Films
The American Friend: Dennis Hopper (top); Bruno Ganz, Gerard Blain.
-""._ f .&.
'''' .. ''\i ~~;ic-<w'
photos by Edie BasKin; Paramount
Days of Heaven: Brooke Adams and Richard Gere (top),
Linda Manz(center), Robert J. Wilke and Sam Shepard
the grandeur of the imagery, the movements, and the
tragic tone cannot be denied. Why does space look big-
ger on a 70mm screen than it would if you were standing
on the actual location? (SRO's Music Box Theatre)
8. COCKFIGHTER (Monte Hellman: U.S.A., 1974)
and STROSZEK: A BALLAD (Werner Herzog:
West Germany/U.S.A., 1977). As I watched a big-
hatted Warren Oates cross a Southern field cradling
a fighting-cock, my mind's-eye overlapped Bruno S.
and his frozen turkey on their fatal trajectory from
the Great Lakes country to the Carolinas. These two
unglamorous peeks into our native :folkways-some
bizarre, some banal- are mysterious and disturbing,
their seedy, documentarylike casualness heightening
a sense of unanswerable terror. (Cockfighter shown by
The Seattle Film Society; Stroszek, Moore-Egyptian)
10. COMES A HORSEMAN (Alan J. Pakula:
U.S.A., 1978). I was tempted to repeat last year's tactic
of leaving the tenth spot in limbo, but decided to en-
dorse a failed but sympathetic film too perfunctorily
shrugged off in most critical quarters. Pakula's name
belongs on my earlier list of redoubtable directors who
stumbled in '78: a sense of urgency is missing from this
enterprise, and the movement 'into solemn mythologiz-
ing is too academic, too uncomplicated by the sorts of
existential miscellany the Hellman and Herzog films are
chockfull of. (In both respects much of the fault lies
with Dennis Lynton Clark's undernourished script
which, 1 suspect, Pakula's fondness for archetype led
him to accept prematurely.) But James Caan is good
in a new and unexpectedly tender way, Jane Fonda and
Richard Farnsworth are magnificent, and Pakula (in-
valuably assisted by cinematographer Gordon Willis)
remains one of the few contemporary filmmakers who
know that it matters how films look. (General Cinema
Rivals for the last spot, in no special order: The
Buddy Holly Story, Summer Paradise, Martin Scor-
sese's The Last Waltz, The Chess Players, Word Is
Out, Jonathan Demme's Citizens Band, and maybe
even Richard Donner's Superman. I took more plea-
sure than usual in two films made for or at least show-
cased on TV, John Carpenter's Somebody Is Watching
Me (formerly High Rise) and Joseph McGrath's The
End of Civilisation As We Know It.
The following will each receive a goldplated plug of
Richard Farnsworth's tobacco wrapped in a paper
enscribed "I think I gotcha figgered."
Best Direction: An equitable nod toward both the
passionate imperturbability of Luis Bunuel, Tliat Ob-
scure Object of Desire, and the vaulting enthusiasm
of Ridley Scott, The Duellists.
Best Screenplays: Original-Paul Mazursky, An Un-
married Woman. Adaptation-W.D. Richter, The
Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Both for their shrewd
and sensitive distillations of contemporary lifestyle.
Best Cinematography: Nestor Almendros (and Haskell
Wexler), Days of Heaven, and Frank Tidy (and Ridley
Scott), The Duellists. Closest runners-up: Robby Mul-
ler, The American Friend, and Gordon Willis, Comes
a Horseman. Heroic also-rans: Nestor Almendros also
represented by the very dissimilar Goin' South, The
Man Who Loved Women and 1974's Cockfighter;
Michael Chapman, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers;
Michael Chapman et distinguished al., The Last Waltz;
Philip Lathrop, The Driver; Sven Nykvist, The Ser-
pent's Egg, Pretty Baby and Autumn Sonata; the late
Geoffrey Unsworth, Superman.
Best Music Score: Jurgen Knieper for The American
Friend, closely followed by Ennio Morricone, Days of
Heaven and Denny Zeitlin, a first-timer at film scoring,
on The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Gary Busey, The Buddy
Holly Story. Also deserving of particular notice: Bruno
Ganz and Dennis Hopper, The A merican Friend; Dustin
Hoffman, Straight Time; Nino Manfredi, Bread and
Chocolate; Tim McIntire, American Hot Wax; Nick
Nolte, Who'll Stop the Rain?; Fernimdo Rey, That
Obscure Object of Desire; Craig Russell, Outrageous;
Bruno S., Stroszek; Sam Shepard, Days of Heaven;
Jon Voight, Coming Home.
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Jill Clayburgh, An
Unmarried Woman; pressed closest by Jane Fonda
in (in order of distinction) Comes a Horseman, Coming
Home and California Suite. Also, a huskily appreciative
acknowledgement of the first convincing manifestations
of star quality in Lauren Hutton, in the telemovie Some-
body Is Watching Me (yes they are!).
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Richard Farnsworth,
Comes a Horseman. Also very worthy: Michael Caine,
California Suite; Howard Duff, A Wedding; Jeff Gold-
blum, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers; Richard
Masur, Who'll Stop the Rain?; Michael Murphy, An
Unmarried Woman; Alan Webb, The Duellists.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role: An ensemble award
to Nathalie Baye, Nelly Bourgeaud and Genevieve Fon-
tanel, The Man Who Loved Women. Also memorable:
Kelly Bishop, An Unmarried Woman; Veronica Cart-
wright, Invasion of the Body Snatchers; Agneta Ek-
manner, Summer Paradise; Margot Kidder, Superman;
Lisa Lucas, An Unmarried Woman; Diana Quick, The
Duellists; Maggie Smith, California Suite.
Most Exciting New presence: Robby Robertson, The
Last Waltz.
Most Ingratiating New Presence: Christopher Reeve,
Best Short Subject: Steve De Jarnatt's superb film noir
takeoff Tarzana had more moxie than most of the new
features I saw last year, and was informed enough about
the subject of its parody to be fascinating in the same
ways the classic straight jobs are.
In some ways the most exciting encounter of the year
for me was a long-deferred look at George Cukor's 1954
A Star Is Born: I waited to see it in CinemaScope and
Dana Benelli's ASUW series gave me the chance-in
35mm, yet. Others I'm especially glad to have caught up
with: three early Frank Capra movies featuring dyna-
mite performances by Barbara Stanwyck, Ladies of
Leisure, The Miracle Woman and Forbidden; G.W.
Pabst's Kameradschaft; Hitchcock's Rich and Strange
and Number Seventeen; Rouben Mamoulian's Love Me
Tonight; Carol Reed's The Way Ahead; Andre De
Toth's Dark Waters; Roberto Rossellini's The Miracle;
David Lean's Hobson's Choice; Michael Reeves's The
Sorcerers; Gordon Hessler's Scream and Scream Again;
Roy Ward Baker's (and Brian Clemens's) Doctor Jekyll
and Sister Hyde. Most notable vintage short films: Ivor
Montagu's Day Dreams, Orson Welles's (and William
Vance's) Hearts of Age. '
Seen-before films that looked markedly better and/or
more important in '78 included Anthony Mann's Men
in War, Edward L. Cahn's Law and Order, Robert
Aldrich's The Grissom Gang, George Sidney's Scara-
mouche (with thanks for a nudge from Douglas McVay,
MTN 56), and William A. Wellman's Nothing Sacred.
It was a revelation to see Nicholas Ray's Bitter Victory
and Budd Boetticher's Ride Lonesome in Scope for the
first time; for the availability of these and other Colum-
bia titles in their proper formats, we owe a profound
debt to the enterprising Kit Parker Films of Carmel
Valley, Calif.
Other MTN Contributing Writers have their own
accounts of film year '78.
continued on page 18
Facing page: Hanna Schygulla as Effi Briest.
photo courtesy Moore-Egyptian Theatre
Good Things about 1978 ."
Seattle Premieres: Pretty Baby (Louis Malle), Who'll
Stop the Rain? (Karel Reisz), Days of Heaven (Terrence
Malick), Eraserhead (David Lynch), Interiors (Woody
Allen), The Buddy Holly Story (Steve Rash), A Wed-
ding (Robert Altman), Salo (Pier Paolo Pasolini), An
Unmarried Woman (Paul Mazursky).
Personal Premieres: The Conversation (Francis Ford
Coppola, 1974); Dersu Uzala (Akira Kurosawa, 1975);
Aguirre the Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1972);Mad-
igan (Donald Siegel, 1968); The Harder They Come
(Perry Henzell, 1972); The Private Life- of Sherlock
Holmes (Billy Wilder, 1970); Out of the Past (Jacques
Tourneur, 1947); Walkabout (Nicolas Roeg, 1970).
Seen Again for the First Time: The Searchers (John
Ford, 1956); U:'rittenon the .Wind (Douglas Sirk,1957).
Actors: Anthony Hopkins, Magic; Jon Voight, Coming
Home; Gary Busey, The Buddy Holly Story; Sam Shep-
ard, Days of Heaven.
Actresses: Geraldine Page, Interiors; Jane Fonda,
Coming Home; Annie Giradot, Dear Inspector.
Supporting Actors: Michael 'Murphy, An Unmarried"
Woman; Burgess Meredith, Magic; Bruce Dern, Com-
ing Home; Gary Busey, Straight Time; M. Emmet
Walsh, Straight"" Time.
Supporting 'Actresses: Frances Faye, Pretty Baby;
Maureen Stapleton, Interiors; DyanCannon, Heaven
Can Wait; Margot Kidder, Superman.
Cinematography: Nestor Almendros, Days of Heaven;
Sven Nykvist, Pretty Baby; Charles Rosher, A Wed-
ding; Geoffrey Unsworth, Superman; Victor J. Kemper,
Magic; Michael Chapman, Invasion of the Body Snatch-
Editing: John Bloom, Who'll Stop the Rain?; Billy
Weber, Days of Heaven; Stuart H. Pappe, An Unmar-
ried Woman.
Sound: Superman, Capricorn One, Days of Heaven.
Music (Original): Ennio Morricone, Days of Heaven;
Jerry Goldsmith, Magic.
Music (Adaptation): Jerome Wexler, Pretty Baby.
Special Effects: David Lynch, Eraserhead; Ben Burtt
et a!., Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Screenplay: Louis Malle and Polly Platt, Pretty Baby;
Terrence Malick, Days of Heaven; Paul Mazursky, An
Unmarried Woman; Woody Allen, Interiors.
Directors: Louis Malle, Pretty Baby; David Lynch,
Eraserhead; Terrence Malick, Days of Heaven; Karel
Reisz, Who'll Stop the Rain?; Woody Allen, Interiors.
Best Preview Trailer: Superman (Warners).
Pleasant Surprises: Capricorn One (Peter Hyams),
American Hot Wax (Floyd Mutrux), Hooper (Hal
Needham); Death on the Nile (John Guillermin.)
Disappointments: High Anxiety (Mel Brooks), Heaven
Can Wait (Buck Henry and Warren Beatty), Lord of the
-Rings (Ralph Bakshi).
Most Unnecessary Sequel: Jaws 2 (Jean not Szwarc;
Most Obnoxious Remake: The Big Sleep (Michael Win-
ner; Sir LewGrade).
Least Deserved" Box: Office Success: Animal House
".(John Landis/National Lampoon).
'Most Overrated Film: Coming Home (Hal Ashby)
Worst Film: The Boys from Brazil (Franklin Schaff-
ner; Sir Lew Grade"and 20th c;entury-Fox).
Life can be very weird for any British film buff who
doesn't live in or near Londori. It's getting weirder
by the minute for those who do. As the very notion
of a British film industry sinks slowly in the West, it's
"also getting. harder and harder to see films made any-
where else. Thus, my list of the Ten Best of '78, or
whatever, is going to read oddly to anybody in North
America, for it includes several films that should more
properly be dated1977, or even 1976. But they didn't
make it to Britain till this year, or they didn't make it
till the tailend of '77 and 1 didn't see them till 1978.
OK? OK. I've deliberately left out all the numerous
oldies-but-goodies I saw for the first time in 1978. The
very best film I saw for time number one in '78 was the
40-year-old La RegIe du jeu; other not-new films I
finally caught up with included Truffaut's Les Deux
Anglaises et Ie Continent and L 'Histoire d'Adele H.,
Scorsese's Mean Streets and Alice Doesn't Live Here
Anymore, Chaplin's A King in New York, Carne's Le
Jour se leve, Lester's How I Won the War and Reed's
Follow Me (aka The Public Eye), the last of which no
one in the world seems to like very much except me.
Anyhow, here's the ten-best of new, or not-quite-new
films. The order is entirely alphabetical, and not in any
way order-of-descending-merit: "
Wim Wenders's Der Amerikanische Freund-not the
masterpiece some have claimed, but a first-rate thriller
nonetheless, full of super-bmoments and boasting a daz-
zling performance by Bruno Ganz.
Woody Allen's Annie Hall-I found the film enor-
mously funny and touching, but it worries the hell out
of me: I suspect Allen doesn't dislike Alvy Singer, the
character he plays (is?), as much as I do. I also suspect
he shares Alvy's snobbism'-about New York and-hor-
ror of horrors! -there were even times when I thought
he might be trying to make a film to please Pauline Kael.
But Diane Keaton is marvellous, and the scene in the
movie queue made me wish life was like that, too.
Federico Fellini's Casanova-according to MTN's
distinguished Editor, an "art-house atrocity"; accord-
ing to Francois Truffaut, a "visual masterpiece". Sorry,
Dick, I'm with Francois. It's a bit of a mess, and I fancy
more than 20 ininutes got cut out of it, but, all in all, I
was duly dazzled. Sutherland's performance was the
most estimable in a Fellini film for a very long time.
Unlike most other people, I found Casanova quite sym-
pathetic. !
Francois Truffaut's La Chambre verte-the blackest
of Truffaut's films, but a very distinguished one, stun-
ningly well acted by the director himself and by Nathalie
Baye, moving into big roles after excellent supporting
work in La Nuit americaine and L 'Homme qui aimait
Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind
- marvellous stuff, for reasons outlined by me in MTN
58-59. Makes Star Wars look like, well, Star Trek.
Another nice performance from F. Truffaut.
Sam Peckinpah's Convoy-Though the recutting
shows, this is still an absolutely seminal Peckinpah
movie, and I loved every minute of it. Kris Kristofferson
makes an elegant onscreen substitute for the director
who, in turn, turns up behind an onscreen camera at
one point.
Heaven Can Wait-simply the year's nicest comedy,
full of sweetness about life and the need for loving atti-
tudes. If Bonnie and Clyde "put the sting back into
death," as Auntie Pauline once, or more than once,
put it, then Heaven Can Wait just as surely takes it right
back out again.
Francois Truffaut's L 'Homme qui aimait les femmes
- It's that man again. Most people seem to think the
title means The Man Who Loved Women, but I think
it means The Man Who Liked Women. Not many men
do like women, in my experience, but Truffaut certainly
does, and this film offers more intelligent females than
any other of the past year.
Bernardo Bertolucci's Novocento (1900)- This one
squeaked in. In some ways I was disappointed, because
it wasn't by any means a masterpiece as the two preced-
ing Bertolucci films certainly were. In other ways, I was
exhilarated, because bits and pieces of it - the long,
long wedding sequence, for instance-were splendid.
Vittorio Storaro's mobile camera was astonishing, and
Donald Sutherland, Dominique Sanda, Laura Betti and
Sterling Hayden more than made up for the wet leads,
De Niro and Depardieu, both hamstrung by having to
play political caricatures.
Joseph Losey's Les Routes du Sud-a moving ac-
count of a weary vieux gauchiste being gradually forced
out of the protective cocoon of the past. Excessively
arch in a few places, but superbly acted by Yves Mon-
tand and, for a couple of brief scenes, the hauntingly
enigmatic France Lambiotte.
I might add that, while I recently missed both Provi-
dence and That Obscure Object of Desire, I have had
no chance at all at, for instance, Julia or The Duellists
or An Unmarried Woman or The Serpent's Egg or De-
spair or even something like House Calls or The Turning
Point. Life gets goddamn hard in the tight little island.
Ten Best of 1978
In approximate, not strict, order: Wenders's The Amer-
ican Friend, Scorsese's The Last Waltz, Pakula's Comes
a Horseman, ,Malick's Days of Heaven, Bunuel's That
Obscure Object of Desire, Truffaut's The Man Who
Loved Women, Altman's A Wedding, Herzog's Heart
of Glass, Kurosawa's Dersu Uzala repeating in 70mm,
Richard Donner's Superman.
[Pete Hogue is based in Chico, California, where he
beguiles local film buffs as the distinguished columnist
Juan-Carlos Selznick. Cited films marked * had not
been shown publicly in the greater Seattle area by the
end of 1978.]
New Films
1. Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's Padre Padrone
2. Jacques Rivette's Celine and Julie Go Boating*
3. Joseph Losey's Mr. Klein
4. Georgi Shengeleya's Pirosmani*
5. Wim Wenders's Wrong Move* '
6. Paul Mazursky's An Unmarried Woman
7. Robert Altman's A Wedding
8. Claude Goretta's The Lacemaker
9. Franco Brusati's Bread and Chocolate
10. Claude Lelouch's Cat and Mouse
1. Jacques Rivette's L 'Amour fou*
2. Kaneto Shindo's Onibaba
3. Joseph Losey's The Criminal (The Concrete Jungle)
4. Claude Chabrol's Just Before NightJall
5. Max Ophuls's Le Plaisir
6. Jean Cocteau's Les Parents Terribles
7. Brian DePalma's Sisters
8. Roberto Rossellini's L 'Amore
9. Marcel Hanoun's Une Simple Histoire*
10. R.W. Fassbinder'sEffiBriest
11. Jean Cocteau's Testament of Orpheus
12. Rossellini" Godard, Pasolini, and Gregoretti's
RoGoPaG* 0
Moments out of Time,
- The American Friend: Jonathan Zimmerman (Bruno Ganz) removes a sheet of
gold leaf from its packing, lets it fall shivering onto-his hand, blows it snug like a sec-
ond skin, then uses that hand to seize the telephone receiver and make the call that will
commit him to Ripley's game ...
- Standing in the middle of the prairie listening to the wheat lean with the breeze,
as the call of a blackbird draws near, then passes by-Days of Heaven ...
-Full shots of the Basin in Comes a Horseman: Ewing (Jason Robards) left alone
by his only son's grave; dynamiting and horsefall; quelling the stampede; the tiny glow
of an evening dance, while a light plane drones over the mountains ...
I-The Duellists, D'Hube,t (Keith Carradine), having been wounded by his hnplaca-
ble adversary, lies in a steaming tub discussing matters of high import with his mistress
(Diana Quick). His voice grows more and more pinched. "Don't sneeze!" the lady im-
plores; then, desperately, "Describe honor!" "Honor is .. 0 indescribable!" d'Hu-
bert all but weeps, and the sneeze comes, rending his wounded side....
- The littlest ship in the world, and a fart lit fondly in farewell-Stroszek ...
-An Unmarried Woman: Erica's friend (Kelly Bishop) manages to stop weeping
and resumes their conversation about favorite actresses; smiling, "I liked Rita Hay-
worth - she was pretty" ...
-For Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom), the impossible, inexplicable, intolerable,
inevitable split-second glimpse of Clouseau the Godfather (Peter Sellers) as the doors
of a Hong Kong elevator close- The Revenge of the Pink Panther. 0
- Can Roberts Blossom be ... that is, would he ... is he really eating his dog for
supper? - Citizens Band. 0
- The Buddy Holly Story: Buddy (Gary Busey), Jesse (Don Stroud), and Ray Bob
(Charlie Martin Smith), in a car on their way to Nashville, browsing toward the realiza-
tion of "Peggy Sue" ...
-Pushups in the empyrean-Heaven Can Wait .. 0
-And an echo of the real Heaven Can Wait in The Man Who Loved Women: Ber~
trand Morane (Charles Denner) dies reaching from his bed for the redheaded vision of
feminine beauty ...
- The American Friend: Jonathan sitting on the commode, his feet drawn up to
avoid crowding the corpse on the floor, takes Ripley's (Dennis Hopper) hint and bor-
rows the dead thug's railway ticket, slipping it under the door for the conductor 0
- The End: Sonny (Burt Reynolds) in mid-death sentence from his doctor, trying to
look tragic but having his eye caught by an absurd tropical fish ...
- California Suite: anyone of a dozen moments when the smiling bitchery of Mi-
chael Caine and Maggie Smith transmutes into luminous compassion and fellow feel-
ing ...
- "Name?" demands a prison officer, in Stroszek, in an hilariously hopeless at-
tempt to make Bruno's release a matter of controllable routine. Bruno (Bruno So)
shakes his head as if confronted by the antics of an exasperating but lovable child.
"You've known my name for two and a half years!" . 0 0
- The sweeping, Murnavian tracking shot to the departing train, as the narrator
(Linda Manz) is bid farewell by an interesting girl who will cross her path again-Days
of Heaven 0
- The Serpent's Egg: the hero stomps in off the duly dim Strasse, lingers in the
lobby of his roominghouse watching through a doorway as a ruby~cheeked German
family sits down to a celebratory feast, then mounts the stairs to open another door
and gaze upon his brother-in bed, back against headboard, mouth open in perma-
nent astonished greeting, and brains spread in a rusty stain upon the wall 0
-Comes a Horseman: two vets who survived World War II lying by a campfire on
their newly-bought land, jocosely imitating singing cowboys: a jeering voice rings out
from the hillside, and within a moment two men are dead and all is stillness ...
-Erstwhile high-school cheerleader Sally Hyde (Jane Fonda) trying to retain her
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 2 1
smiling equanimity as, doing volunteer work on the paraplegic ward, she hears herself
frankly appraised as a sexual commodity, in Coming Home ...
- Family breakfast in An Unmarried Woman ...
-Amateur sleuth Jean Rochefort sitting in his car, in We Will All Meet in Paradise,
as it is systematically hand-demolished by the man he has been tailing ...
-A Wedding: the family doctor (Howard Duff) heard offscreen accepting the refill
of his drink: "Just to the brim" ...
- National Lampoon's Animal House: amid the general dross, a moment of sublime
grossness, John Belushi's entrance: Bluto. discovered in the shrubs, swivels dreamily
to acknowledge the beckoning_frosh, and audibly spl_ashestheir shoes ...
-A hand covers the sleeping Ingrid Bergman's mouth, Autumn Sonata ...
-Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Facing the probability of alien takeover, Veron-
ica Cartwright asks rhetorically, "Why do people always look for them to come in
metal ships?" and husband Jeff Goldblum replies, "I don't look for them to come
in metal ships!" ...
'--Girl reporter (Margot Kidder) interviews hunk from Krypton (Christopher Reeve).
"How big are you-tall are you?" -Superman ...
-A frozen turkey and a dancing chicken, Stroszek ...
- Exquisite-hommage Dept.: the visit to Derwatt's loft
that begins with a tilt-down from a blood-red light bulb
and culminates in the image of the great man himself-
which in this context means Nicholas Ray-lolling on a
chair in the middle-distance while an ignored TV beyond
flashes inchoate signals of distress- The American Friend
- That Obscure Object of Desire: the nice-looking gen-
tleman in our train compartment gets up and dumps a
bucket of water on that pretty girl with the bruises ...
- The Man Who Loved Women: the middleaged wo-
man from the fashion shop (Genevieve Fontanel) explains
to Bertrand that once she was young and desired older
men, now she is older and desires young men, and the two
of them have hence irrevocably missed each other. She
pauses in her explanation to watch a man (offscreen) pass
by, the sound of his footsteps echoing in the night. ...
- Convoy: the moment when all the anonymous follow-
ers in Rubber Duck's wake begin to tell the camera crew
what this convoy is really about-the first time Convoy
looks as if it's going somewhere and, tellingly, the last
scene to be filmed ...
- Rivers of cloud: Heart of Glass ...
-Summer Paradise-Grandmother Katha (Birgitta Valberg) wakens to find grand-
daughter Eva wandering about their room all sleep-dazed. She rises to keep her com-
pany and for an instant the midsummer midnight sun tenderly reveals the contrasting
silhouettes of youth and age....
-Eyes of Laura Mars: Laura's man~ger (Rene Auberjonois) bridling as a police
detective presses for gossipy info abo\1t the photographer's circle of acquaintances
-i. "I don't do Rona Barr.ett!" - whereupon he offers to do, and does superbly, Lloyd
Bridges .... 0"'"
- The horseback duel in the avenue
of trees, The Duellists: Ridley Scott's
rocketing camera (and cutting) captures
the obsessive motion - amidst a static,
picturesque, uncomprehending world-
that will sustain this existential madness
for decades ...
- Who'll Stop the Rain?: "Did you
see her walk out? You dig her walking
to her fate thataway? Nothing but class.
She's the love of my life, no shit." She
(Tuesday Weld) 's a stoned-out loser,
but Ray Hicks (Nick Nolte) is able to
will something true, and die for it. ...
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers:
Kevin McCarthy throws himself across
a windshield and 22 years to repeat his
warning "They're here already!", and taxi driver Don Siegel picks up a couple of
"Type H" fares .... ~
- The American Friend: Sam Fuller walks the length of a German dining car scowl-
ing with bewildered malevolence ....
- When the curtains part at the Apollo Theatre and the Crickets aren't black- The
Buddy Holly Story ...
- In Heaven Can Wait, Buck Henry as a harried soul-processor sneers at resistive
jock Warren Beatty, "Does the phrase 'being a good sport' mean anything to you?"
-Mr. Scheitz engages two Wisconsin hunters in a discussion of "animal magnet-
ism" -Stroszek ...
-The complete lack of expected mockery in Henry Moon's (Jack Nicholson) reac-
tion to his withered benefactress and (almost) wife-to-be-Goin' South ...
- The Fury: Kirk Douglas climbs through the window in his underpants, but this
presents no obstacle to forming immediate rapport with the little old lady on the prem-
ises, who helps him bind and gag her daughter and son-in-law: the funkiest but by no
means least-pointed manifestation of De Palma's subversive attitude toward families
in his latest thriller ...
-Ella (Jane Fonda) and Frank (James Caan) each wondering whether the other
knows what he's doing as they dicker with the cattle-buyer (Clifford A. Pellow), in
Comes a Horseman. (The cattle-buyer's verdict: "She was bad enough in the old days
but the two of ya's plumb awful!") ...
-A Wedding: the first sight of Lillian Gish, nightgowned and sockfooted, bending
out the window calling to the birds: they came to her in Way Down East and they still
do and they always will....
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 23
- The crumbling stone steps to the surfers' beach in Big Wednesday-like the glad-
iators' entrance to some ancient arena, with the most crucial of the film's Searchers-
inspired portals looming above ...
- The Duellists: Feraud (Harvey Keitel), a historical and political anachronism,
stalks the streets of a provincial town with Napoleonic dignity-and exchanges glances
with a dog ....
-An Unmarried Woman: Erica (Jill Clayburgh), still seething over her wrestling
match in the taxi, returns to her apartment. Unlocking the door she hears furtive noises
within. She advances with head lowered, shoulders locked, and gloves held before her
like a gun ....
- Toulouse-Clouseau breaking into "Thank Heav-
en for Little Girls" - The Revenge of the Pink Pan-
ther ...
- In the emergency frat meeting, Blutarsky an-
.. nouncing "I know what we gotta do!" and then going
\J" blank-Animal House ...
- The Man Who Loved Women: Bertrand lying in
bed trying to imagine what face and body go with the
' voice of his wake-up callee; oe sitting in a cafe wondec-
,. ing which of the many women on the scene is the one
he's contracted by phone to meet. The intensity of
Denner and Truffaut translates sexist opportunism
into metaphysical discovery: All things are mysterious.
All things are possible .... '
-Ella, in Comes a Horseman, compelled for the
first time to call Frank Frank: "Jesus!" ...
- Champagne and Dr. Peppers in the record pro-
ducer's office- The Buddy Holly Story ...
-A camera that just won't quit, in The American
Friend: it watches newly-made assassin Jonathan de-
part from the scene of his crime, tilts to look down at
him, descends to his level, and rushes off, committed,
in his wake ....
- Phantom streetcleaners behind the credits of
Stroszek: eventually we learn it is the outside world
as seen from prison, inverted and refracted in a water
bottle ....
- Smallville Cemetery and the country around it-
Superman ...
-Summer Paradise: Katha's studiedly casual,
nothing-special-just-happened-here sigh afte. a gentle
kiss from Kiss ...
- "My wife's read everyone of your books. They've changed her life!" -Invasion
of the Body Snatchers ...
-A compartment's-worth of passengers in a Seville railway station discover they're
all from the same block in Paris. Fancy that! - That Obscure Object of Desire ...
- The trestle against more clouds and sky than could ever be behind a trestle-Days
of Heaven ...
-A Wedding: Tulip (~arol Burnett) nearly throwing up after her mountainous
dancing partner (Pat McCormick) tells her he loves her ...
-An eternity of tenderness and guilt in mother Ingrid Bergman's face as she watch-
es daughter Liv Ullmann play the piano-Autumn Sonata ...
- The damaged sunlight over the ice and snow during the Russian campaign - The
Duellists ...
- Red sky over Paris- The American Friend ...
- "Leo Farnsworth" turns a corporate board meeting into a lockerroom at halftime
Heaven Can Wait ...
- Four men facing front in an elevator; the sound of air seeping from Godfather
Clouseau's costume bladder; appalled looks as each wonders which of the others has
committed such an indiscretion - The Revenge of the Pink Panther ...
-Midnight coffee at the mortuary-Hot Tomorrows ...
-Comes a Horseman: the visual memory of a big-sky funeral in Shane, and the
tilted riding shots from Red River done right ...
- The silhouettes of the boys
and girls winking by in the fore-
ground as, in a Lubbock, Texas
rollerama, a new sound is born:
The Buddy Holly Story ...
- The nasty doctor (Harvey
Korman) and the wicked nurse
(Cloris Leachman) having diffi-
culty plotting and staying visi-
ble: the camera keeps moving
under saucers and sugarbowls-
High Anxiety ...
-"Bruno, listen to me!"
pleads a patient, agreeable
warden who sincerely wants
to proffer some good advice,
but Bruno slips away from
him just standing there: his
eyes roam in every direction, -
an irrepressibly ironical com-
mentary on himself, this interview, and the nature of existence in general spills from
his lips, and every once in a while he just ... drops out of sight on some reconnaissance
mission all his own, while the warden goes on talking. -Stroszek ...
-A telephone booth designed according to the dictates of progress, not legend:
Superman ...
- Trucker and traveling cathouse both brake against a hillside, in an unexpectedly
lovely shot characteristic of the small, surprising pleasures of Citizens Band ...
-Mork's Mindy saying "Shit!": Pam Dawber inA Wedding ...
-Moonlight on riverwater rushing over a lost champagne glass-Days of Heav-
en ...
-Sounds of something growing in the mud-baths room, as the cubicle curtains
breathe-Invasion of the Body Snatchers, , .
- The American Friend: Jonathan runs down tunnels, sprawls in air terminals,
sits cramped and apprehensive in the back of a car-cinematic spaces conveying him
to a Paris hotelroom where a shift of camera angle turns the window into purest movie
screen , ..
- The Fury: a telepathic memory on the stairs, as Amy Irving turns amid the whirl-
ing phantasmagoria of Brian De Palma ...
- Bruno and Mr. Scheitz ',.>J
hold up a barbershop (the bank
upstairs was closed), then cross
the street to grocery-shop; their
car is still running at the curb-
Stroszek . , ,
- The miraculous forbear-
ance with which Nathalie Baye
explains to Bertrand that he has
traced the wrong woman - The
Man Who Loved Women, , .
-Ella running off Ewing's
cattle and then glaring at him
from horseback, her spine as
stiff as her Winchester-Comes
a Horseman ...
- A pair of spooning horses
supplying commentary on a
courtly proposal scene, with
very un-19th-century actor and actress (Keith Carradine, Cristina Raines) breaking
into giggles-an Altmanian moment midst the Kubrickian splendors of Ridley Scott's
The Duellists? ...
- Beg pardon, Monsieur has forgotten his ordure: Fernando Rey's various burdens
in That Obscure Object of Desire .. , .
- The old doctor and the incubator baby and Bruno S. /Kaspar Hauser-Stro-
szek. , .
- R~bert Wilke against a weathered plank wall- D~ys of Heaven ...
- A pair of ancient bystanders, included with apparent. irrelevance in an earlier
montage, turn and give each other a big smacking kiss: the utterly enchanting last
shot of Convoy and a joyous indicator, for those who still require one, of where Sam
Peckinpah stands in the sordid scheme of things , ..
-An Unmarried Woman: Saul's giant painting for Erica being lowered from his
loft-like a private sunrise, no matter that it's descending. ','
-Buddy soaring into freeze frame as he salutes his final concert audience: "See ya
next year!" - The Buddy Holly Story ...
- The American Friend: Ripley-but more, Dennis Hopper-doing an arch imita-
tion of Jonathan-and Bruno Ganz-after he has presented him with the miniature
porno viewer: "I'm only giving you this because the last time we met your behavior
was so disgusting-" . '.'
-Zod, Ursa, and Non banished to the furthest reaches of the universe, Superman:
trapped forever on a piece of celluloid ...
-Ewing and henchmen seen through the stained-glass (hex sign?) window of the
attic as Ella and Frank watch from the burning interior; the ogre father and compan-
ions reappearing a moment later, materializing from the smoke-Comes a Horse-
man ...
- An ancient runaway tractor clattering through the end of the world - Days of
Heaven ...
- In an impossible rehearsal-hall space above an old folks' home, the shattering,
Busby Berkeleyan "42nd Street" finale of Hot Tomorrows ...
- A furtive, frustrating camera that refuses to let either Brooke Adams or us get
a clear look at Art Hindle the morning after: he carrying a bag of linty grey debris
down to the garbage truck ... Invasion of the Body Snatchers ...
-Heaven Can Wait: the butler's reaction as "Leo Farnsworth" takes the tray of
drinks from him and indicates he should have one himself ...
- "Aarld sea-darg" with rubber parrot- The Revenge of the Pink Panther ...
-Autumn Sonata: the instant that the unaccountably abstract amber light of the
city at night is allowed to glow in the hospital-room windows, before some nurse turns
on the lights (the almost subliminal coups in Bergman movies that are worth more than
most of the talk) ...
'-Early-morning America as Linda Manz flees the institution, Days of Heaven:
in such a place one might meet ... who knows? ... "a character" ...
-A Wedding: the aged child of Italian neorealism (Vittorio Gassman) come quietly
in the night to stand at the deathbed of Lillian Gish ...
- The last encounter of Veronica Cartwright and Donald Sutherland-Invasion of
the Body Snatchers ...
- Repairing the windmill in Comes a Horseman: A line of dynamite charges go off
at the property line. Ella screams "Goddam you, Ewing!" Frank leans over and kisses
the nape of her neck. Ella immediately seizes a wrench and tries to resume work, but
the wrench slips. Finally she gives it up and accepts Frank's embrace. Cut to long-
shot ...
- The American Friend: Jonathan in his red VW humming "Baby you can drive
my car"; and the bizarre wink and nod he gives his wife (Lisa Kreuzer) when she bends
down to look in at him ...
- The ending of The Duellists: Feraud climbs a wooded hill. As he reaches the top,
the camera rises and, pivoting on him, watches the world turn between darkness and
light ...
"I had to risk not being liked in that scene"
Michael Murphy
Interviewed by Judith M. Kass
May 9,1978 New York City
Judith M. Kass: Vincent Canby of The New York
Times called your acting in An Unmarried Woman
"an exceptionally complex performance as the husband
whose emotional problems set in motion the events that
make possible the Clayburgh character's eventual libera-
tion." I'm specifically interested in the crying scene.
Was that intended to get her sympathy or was that Mar-
tin's genuine reaction to the situation?
Michael Murphy: I think that was a very complex scene.
There were a lot of things going on there. I think he
feels very badly about what he's doing, but at the same
time I think, yes, it is aimed at her. He feels so bad,
he wants her to feel as badly for him as he feels for him-
self. I think her reaction to him when she gets mad is
something he doesn't expect. And so it had a sort of
little twist to it. But people take it lots of different ways.
I always felt that the scene needed to be sort of self-
serving. I don't mean that he was literally faking it;
it was a very emotional moment, but at the same time
it had that sort of semi-shallow feeling. I had to risk
not being liked in that scene.
JMK: And in the whole film, because when he comes
back to her and says 'Take me back" ...
MM: But there were ways to play that scene. I could
have gotten more tearful and it would have been more
sympathy-provoking. Paul [Mazursky] and I talked about
it a lot. And you have the sense of the guy having kind
of a seizure more than a tearful, sad quality.
JMK: And you wonder why he didn't say something in
the restaurant before when they're making plans for the
MM: Yeah. He's leading up to it .
JMK: Well, it is kind of hard to sympathize with the
problems of a woman whose husband makes around
Facing page: Michael Murphy and Jill Clayburgh in Paul
Mazursky'sAn Unmarried Woman.
photo MOMA Film Stills Archive
$70,000 a year. Mazursky did say in an interview he
didn't want this to be the story of a real "victim. "
MM: Well, I've heard those complaints. I don't know:
I think that the people who are in that sort of upwardly
mobile situation, middle-class people, their problems
are just as genuine as people who have economic prob-
lems or whatever.
JMK: Their emotional problems are every bit as real.
MM: I feel it's a very valid subject to explore. I think a
lot of people lead very empty lives in that strata and they
don't know why.
JMK: They have everything and what's the matter?
MM: I don't think that this guy, Martin, didn't love his
wife. I think he had lots of other pressures and it's very
easy to come home and take it out on your mate when
you're dissatisfied, when things are not right in your life.
It's the American Dream. Here's a guy who spends his
life selling stocks and bonds and trying to make money
and trying to climb, and having, I don't think, a terribly
satisfactory life. It seems to happen to a lot of people.
You get to a certain point in your life and you think,
"Jesus, it's half over now and I'm not having a great
time." It's very easy to get involved with someone sex-
ually or get a little 'Ummph!' going somewhere from
some other direction. I think it's a very common prob-
lem for American men ... and women, too.

JMK: You described Robert Altman and Martin Ritt-

to go on to The Front-as being completely different
in terms of their directing styles, and I'd like to ask you
to compare those two with Paul Mazursky.
MM: It's kind of interesting in that Marty's approach
. . . he gets on the script and he was a former actor, as
was Paul, and they get with it a great deal and they know
what works in their own minds. On the other hand, the
script is not terribly important to Bob. It's important in
terms of the storyline, but the actors always wind up im-
provising scenes and so forth. I think Paul kind of falls
photo Columbia pictures
Martin Ritt's The Front: Michael Murphy and Woody Allen.
somewhere in the middle because he gives you a great
deal of freedom and yet he's very interested in the writ-
ing because-certainly in this film-he spent two years
writing it. He would push to make those scenes the way
he wanted them and then, as we progressed, he relaxed
a lot about it.
JMK: He knew it was going to work.
MM: Any of these pictures that are, I think, good,
usually kind of wind up taking on a life of their own
and Paul allowed that to happen a great deal. I felt that
I would have liked to have more to do
with my daughter in this picture, and
Paul kept saying, "Well, you know,
we're telling a certain kind of story
here." But we expanded that little
scene at the breakfast table which
originally was nothing in the script.
With Altman, he really goes all the
way; just change the whole story to
do something like that if it were
working right. And it's just a way
of working.
JMK: Do you have any preferences?
MM: Not at all. I'm crazy about all
those guys. It all comes down to a re-
lationship and how you trust one an-
other and the same with Bob. And
they're all three wonderful guys.
Marty Ritt pushes you into a mold
more than the other two guys, but I
respect that.
JMK: How was working with Woody
MM: It was just great and we had a
terrific relationship from the begin-
ning and I think it shows in the pic-
ture. We weren't faking it. We're going to do a picture
together this summer. I've never worked in a picture of
his that was directed by him.
JMK: And it's going to be called Woody Allen Film
until it gets a title?
MM: No titles, right. He's writing it now.
JMK: How about Elia Kazan in The Arrangement when
you played the priest?
MM: Working with him was interesting. That was one
of those roles that was years ago [1969] when I was really
just starting. It was a big picture. Brando was going to
do it and then Kirk Douglas came in and Faye Dunaway
came in. It was a couple of pictures after Bonnie and
Clyde for her so she,was very hot. And it had that aura
around it of a hot picture, and he [Kazan] was such a big
JMK: And everything kind offell apart.
MM: Yeah, it didn't seem to work too well, but it was
one of those interesting pictures for me because I was
hanging around a lot. I only had three or four scenes to
play in the picture and I had an opportunity to hang
around and watch for six weeks. Kazan encouraged it.
It was one of the few pictures that I've made, that I had
a kind of ominous feeling about while we were shooting
it. It was very strange.
JMK: You didn't have that feeling about shooting
Brewster McCloud?
MM: Bob is so enthusiastic it kind of rubs off on you.
See, the stuff I was involved with with Kazan was very
tough. It was semi-autobiographical. I was playing in
scenes where his father was dying in the hospital, and he
gets himself into those moods. So that it was very tough
for him. Bob, on the other hand, no matter what he's
shooting, it's "This is the best picture I've ever been
in." You have to remember that this was in the Sixties
and everyone was doing their 'groovy movies.'
JMK: And Haskell Wexler was making Medium Cool
and all that kind of thing.
MM: Yeah. And we thought this [Brewster McCloud]
was going to be really terrific. And some of it I thought
was very good and some of it was pretty silly.
JMK: And then MGM went and dumped on it.
MM: Bob described it that way. It was during that pe-
riod when Jim Aubrey came in and was selling the back
lot. Bob had made the deal just before Aubrey came in,
and he was very hot, having just done M*A *S*H, so
they gave him total freedom. And then the picture
bombed and then Aubrey and those guys decided from
then on there was going to be a lot of studio/producer
control and no more of this auteur business. The pic-
ture kind of went in the groove there before Aubrey got
very powerful at MOM, for his short tenure there. But
on the other hand, I don't know if that picture would
have ever caught on with the public. But it was very
badly released. It was put in a theatre in Los Angeles,
for instance, that. no one ever goes to. It was terrible.
There's a theory about movies. Mazursky says, "Look,
if a picture's good, people are going to find it." But
I think it can be helped.
JMK: Well, the Museum of Modern Art does a show
every so often called Re-view where these films can get
seen or re-seen: Or some critic says, "Hey you gotta see
Pretty Poison." I don't think the fans necessarily ferret
thesefilms out.
MM: The other night I went to see Winter Light down
in the Village. I met Sven Nykvist and he was telling me
lots of stuff about it and he said the picture was made
for $100,000, has never seen a profit, and the theatre
was packed with people. I think in New York and places
like that, there's a real interested moviegoing public.
JMK: I also wanted to ask about working with Peter
Bogdanovich in What's Up, Doc? How was that?
MM: Well, I was one of the suitcases. It was a very
funny script. A lot of people liked that movie and it was
a really big hit. I knew that picture was going to be a
hit. I went to a screening at Warner Brothers and the
place was full of the executives' kids; and it had been so
long since I'd seen children with adults in a theatre dur-
ing that period, I said "Oh this'll be really a big one."
If adults and children can both sit through it, it's not
one of those Disney things. There's a big market for
this and, sure enough, it just went through the roof.
I read that script and it was very funny.
JMK: [Robert] Benton and [David] Newman.
MM: And Buck Henry doesn't hurt. I think I worked
on that picture for over four months and all I did were
sight gags. There was no dialogue.
JMK: Did you come and go?
MM: No, I was there all the time. 'Cause that character
kept popping up. We did two long locations in San
Francisco, one of which was only for that chase sequence,
which was shot after we did all the other stuff. We went
up there at the beginning of the picture and did the
exteriors, then we came back to Burbank and did the
interiors, and then we went back there a second time
and did that chase sequence; so it was very involved.
But with some working situations, I'm not always crazy
about the way the picture comes out, I'm not always
crazy about a lot of things that happen during the film-
ing. But by and large, I've been fortunate in that I've
worked with interesting and generally good directors,
and the experience is always pretty interesting. Bob
Aldrich [The Legend of Lylah Clare] is a wonderful guy.
JMK: It had some interesting people in it, too-Peter
Finch, Ernest Borgnine ...
MM: Peter Finch and I became lifelong friends on that
film, and when I heard he was going to be in it, I was
thrilled. And then when he turned out to be as terrific
a person as he was an actor ... I would have walked
through the lobby to be in a picture with him, and I
learned a great deal from him. He was a wonderful
man; he's one of my favorite people .... Very few days
go by that I don't think about him.

JMK: You mentioned once that Montgomery Clift was

one of the people who turned you on to acting.
MM: I first saw A Place in the Sun, I believe, when I
was a kid in grammar school ... junior high ... I don't
know. But something kind of visceral happens when
you look at these movies ...
I grew up in Hollywood and I'd been around actors.
There was nothing very interesting to me about all of
that. I used to love to go to the movies. It was in the
pre-heavy-television days. So I'd go to the movies every
weekend and kind of think about that stuff all week.
They used to have these theatres out there called The
Hitching Post and they ran these westerns. I used to get
on the Wilshire bus every Saturday in full cowboy outfit
and everything-caps, gun and stuff-as did 300 other
kids. We'd all go down to The Hitching Post and watch
the latest Wild Bill Elliott western, and then these guys
would come over from Republic Studios, or wherever,
and they'd have a raffle. When I was a Cub Scout we'd
go on trips to the studios.
I had a lot of exposure to movies and movie people,
but I remember seeing that film [A Place in the Sun],
and I'm not sure I was even sophisticated enough or old
enough to really get all the ramifications of what was
happening. But I was so touched by that guy's dilemma,
and then, in retrospect, I was so touched by him. And
then the same thing happened with Dean and Brando.
I was always as a kid moved by the performances be-
cause I believed, and that doesn't happen too often.
Then you go through periods of your life when you try
to do what those guys did, which is a big mistake; but
I certainly have been influenced by those. guys. And
then I look at guys today, like Nicholson today is a ter-
rific actor, and he does very large things on the screen
and gets away with them because, like these other actors,
he's very believable. He's always honest. He's never
lying to you up there.
JMK: Getting back to your Hollywood childhood ...
Tell me what strange thing your father did for a living.
MM: After the war, years ago, my father was in a big
army surplus operation in Los Angeles. He was a vice
president of a big company called Western War Surplus
Stores. (1 think they still have them out there.) It was
the late Forties and in those days it was an enormous
business. Actors and directors in those days were having
those big dos out on their lawns, and so my father start-
ed out by supplying these enormous tents, or cover the
lawn, or the swimmingpool. And he's one of these ec-
centric guys who, if you want a pink swan for the pool,
knows where to get it. And the result can be lots of
friends in the movie business. He and Ralph Bellamy
were very close, and when Ralph started the Racquet
Club, my dad found him a big army stove. So as a re-
sult 1got to meet Cooper and Bogart and all those guys.
1 was a little kid but their faces were always around.
Went to Edward G. Robinson's house and he'd turn the
sprinklers on the roof if 1wanted to hear the rain on the
roof. It was really fun; eccentric behaviour. It seems to
me a better time in Hollywood. It's gotten vulgar, sort
of, now. There was always a sense of humor about it
when I was a kid. It was a nice place to live out there.
And it was cheap compared to New York. You could go
out there and live in. some kind of chateau for not a
whole lot of money. The living was easy, but nowadays
you hear these stories about people going out to Holly-
wood and taking a flight in some real estate agent's heli-
copter and looking at the grounds. I got a kick out of a
recent story in The New York Times where an Arab
family moved into Beverly Hills and painted their place
lime green and put a bunch of statues around-and it's
great, let's be up front with it, you know. The neighbors
are up in arms.

JMK: You were a high school teacher for a while.

Where and why?
MM: When I first w_entback to Los Angeles after I got
out of school, I substituted for a couple of years and
then I taught drama and English, really to keep body
and soul together. I've always been very lucky in that
I'v,e been able to keep body and soul together, but I kind
of supplemented my income in those early days. And
it was good for me because in this business it's very easy
to sit around and another year goes by.
JMK: There was an interview by Ann Guarino in a Feb-
ruary Daily News from which I'm going to quote: HI
know how to be a star and I'm not going to do it. "
MM: I said that?
JMK: She says you said it, and that you prefer being a
character actor. So why won't you try to go the star
MM: Well, I'm in the business to act and interpret be-
havior. I'm not terribly interested in the glamour side
of it. That's all I was getting at. I think it's sad to get
trapped in that thing of having to be gorgeous. You put
too much pressure on yourself and that's not really what
the business is about ... worrying about whether you're
in People magazine or not. I know people in Hollywood
who pay their publicists $1300 a month to have their
names plastered all over. I'd rather have a kind of low
profile. All I want from the Mazursky picture is a little
leverage so that I can work. It's the job.
JMK: I understand there are two of those coming up:
The Class of Miss MacMichael with Glenda Jackson and
Oliver Reed, and Shenanigans with Ned Beatty and Bur-
gess Meredith. Who directed thefirst?
MM: Silvio Narizzano, who did Georgy Girl. It was
made by Brut Productions, although it's an English
film. A lot of it had been finished when I got there, so
it's hard to say what 1think of it. We did it in like seven
weeks and I did, I guess, the last two weeks of it. The
stuff I was involved in was OK, I think.
JMK: What about Shenanigans?
MM: That was a big cast-Paul Sand, Richard Base-
hart, Arthur Godfrey. It's a very eccentric picture. I
sawall the dailies; how it hangs together 1 don't know.
It's a picture I made a couple of years ago. It's a funny
script and the guy who did it-Joe Jacobi, a young New
York filmmakers produced and directed it-did it inde-
pendently. He's had offers from the studios to release it,
but he hasn't liked the deals and he's sitting on it; going
to release it himself the way Joan Silver does.
JMK: That's good if he can bring it off.
MM: I'd like to see him take on that system, so it's
taken him some time. Joan Silver's terrific; I like her
a lot. I got attracted to it because of Ned, actually. He
and I have worked together-Nashville, The Thief Who
Came to Dinner. I've known him a long time and 1 ad-
mire him a great deal; he's terrific to work with. 1do a
lot of things with him and with Paul. It's a sort of Water-
gatesque thing. It~skind of a morality fable. *

JMK: I'd like to talk a little more about Robert Altman

because I know you connected with him early in tele-
MM: I started with him on those Combat shows when
Ultimately the film was released through Warner Brothers.
Six minutes were cut and the title changed to The Great Geor-
gia Bank Hoax.
.JMK: I wanted to ask you about The
Rat's Nest, the play you directed off-
MM: That was a new experience for me.
When I first came to New York, I met a
couple of writers. They were nice young
guys and we used to talk a lot, kick around
ideas; and then I went back to California.
One day a script arrived in the mail and I
read it and thought it was terrific - very
New York. It takes place in a bar at five
o'clock in the morning. A lot of eccentric people are
hanging around. When I came back to do An Unmar-
ried Woman, I got involved in that and stayed on to do
the play. We took it around and took it down to The
Film Forum. They have a theatre wing there, so we did
it down there and it was very successful. I really directed
it by default because there was nothing in it I could play.
They knew me down there, and I had to participate in it
in some way. I got talking to Woody [Allen] about this
and he said, "Well, you should do this. You should be
directing and you should take these chances. Even if the
thing is an enormous disaster, you'll at least learn some-
thing about yourself." And I had worked with so many
he was really finishing his career in TV.
He was always a maverick; they were al-
ways firing him. Bob and TV was hilar-
ious. He was really doing some of the best
work. They could go out and shoot an
hour Combat episode with a lot of shoot-
ing and running around on the back lot at
Metro and they would do it for $100,000,
and today they're paying $300,000 for the
episode. It's just terrible, now. And then
I did a pilot with him, Carroll O'Connor
and I, called Nightwatch. At that time
Bob was experimenting with fast film. It
had a great look to it, a lot of handheld
stuff. It was in that era ['64] and CBS in
its wisdom took a look at it and said,
"Whhhaa, what's this?" so that didn't go
on aqd that was the last thing he ever did.
I think they spun it off.
.JMK: There is afilm called Nightmare in
Chicago (1964) that is on TV.
MM: That was a Kraft Suspense Theatre
episode that he did, and the network saw
it and said they would like to base some-
thing upon that, and so he did this Night-
watch pilot. That was a very interesting
project and would have been very, very
good television. TV is so difficult ...

photo MOMA Film Stills Archive

Robert Aldrich's The Legend of Lylah Clare: KimNovak, Michael
really good directors that there's no mystery to that as
far as I'm concerned. I rcally know how to direct. The
problem with directing today is there's so many terrible
directors. It's not a very complex thing to do. The most
important thing is to create an atmosphere in which
everybody feels good. I don't mean to diminish the job,
but so many people are very destructive. They want to
get out there and throw the weight around. I've seen
such destructive behavior dn sets and I've been at it long
enough to know, so it was interesting for me to apply
that knowledge ....
JMK: Does it make you want to direct more?
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 3 3
photo MOMA Film Stills Archive
Murphy in Altmanland: as the strong man in the circus finale to Brewster McCloud, between Sally Kellerman and
William Windom. _
MM: I loved it. It's a very exhilarating position. It's a
very powerful position and you have to be very careful,
'cause you have to sit it out and let people come up with
ideas and not try to jam all of your ideas down their
throats. It should be a good time, it should be fun, and
unfortunately we are still faced with that work ethic
thing. So sometimes people will make nervous wrecks
out of people so that if the play's a failure they can jus-
tify it. They can say, "Well, I worked hard." Really,
the idea behind it is to relax and take it easy. I've been
on sets with Altman-and Mazursky (they're both very
similar)-where there's so much fun going on.... Both
these men have definite control of what they're doing.
They're not just messing around, but it's such an easy
situation. I remember doing a picture called Countdown
with Bob and everybody was having such a good time
that Jack Warner turned up on the set, and the camera-
man said, "I've been working here 30 years and I've
never seen him." He just came down to see what the
hell was going on.
34 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
JMK: But then he changed the picture.
MM: Yeah, they sure did. What they succeeded in
doing was cutting Bob out of the picture. He had read
that book [The Pilgrim Project by Hank Searls] and he
was very enamored of ... not the space thing at all-
what he was enamored of was that sense of competition,
that military mind ...
JMK: The only eccentric element I was able to find in
that film was the little boy with the rubber mouse around
his neck.
MM: That's an interesting story actually because Bob
... Jimmy Caan said, "Let me take, this mouse when
I'm going on the moon shot," and Bob said, "OK," so
he sticks it in and he said, "I knew that mouse was going
to come back to haunt me." Because what happened
was that after he finished the picture they'd fired him,
and they were cutting it and Warner wanted the ending
reshot. The original ending in Bob's mind ... They
send him up to the moon because the Russians have
landed and they send him in a rocket that cannot make
the return trip. So he has to get to the moon and find a
shelter and they're going to send another rocket after
him when he finishes. So Bob's point was that it's all
so silly. The point of the picture was ... so he lands on
the moon and you pull back and you see ten miles away
this shelter that he's supposed to find, and you see him
walk in the wrong direction. He's going to be marooned
up there. So Warner said that's anti-American and
we're not going to do it, and what he did was, Bill Con-
rad [the television actor and star of Cannon, who was
executive producer], he went out and reshot the ending
without Altman, and you see the rubber mouse come
out of the package, and Jimmy spins the rubber mouse
and heads in the direction that the mouse's head is point-
ing and finds the shelter, which had absolutely nothing to
do with.' .. As Bob said, "I knew that mouse was going
to come back and nail me."

JMK: Just to change the subject, how do you feel you've

been treated by interviewers?
MM: By and large I've been sort of disappointed by a lot
of the writing, because a lot of interviewers can't write.
First of all, it's not monumental stuff to be writing about,
so don't imagine they have the best writers in the world
doing it. They have to capture you, sort of. So it has less
to do with what you have to say and more to do with how
good a writer the person is, as to what's conveted. All of
it's sort of a tempest in a teapot 'cause we're just making
movies. I'd like to see the whole thing reduced way down.
I'd like to see us going to theatres for $1.50. I'd like to see
pictures costing a third as much as they do. I'd like to see
it not be such a big deal.
JMK: It's quoting a cliche to say that people need gods,
but it's still true.
MM: That can still happen. I see the mentality of it spiral-
ing in a downward way. We take it all so seriously ...
the archivists say "What is the meaning of the pink hat?"
It's silly, and as a result I think you very often get the
wrong people in the business.
JMK: Because they're attracted by the nutty, glamourous
side ...
MM: Exactly. The fame of it, and I don't just mean
actors, I'm talking about interviewers and critics, and
everyone wants to be "a star. I suppose when I started
I was interested in that, but fortunately I met some bright
people along the way, and I grew up about it. But it's
amazing the ego you run into on the periphery of the busi-
ness. I'm not talking about the heavy stuff.
JMK: You're talking about those real estate agents with
MM: Sure, they all have press people. I saw a thing on
60 Minutes with Mike Wallace, where he's talking to Mike
Silverman, a famous realtor in BeverlyHills, and he'has a
press agent to get his name in the papers. It's atrocious.
Judith M. Kass is a freelance interviewer and writer
based in New York. One of her recent books focuses
on Robert Altman.
BIG BAD WOLVES: Masculinity in the
American Film. By Joan Mellen. Pantheon.
368 pages. $12.95.
If memory serves, Professor Joan Mellen is not a fan
of Pauline Kael's, but the. two ladies have things in
common. Both have the (fortunately) rare gift of being
simultaneously very readable and wildly wrongheaded,
so that the reader is forever being placed in the bizarre
situation of flinging their books down in rage and then
hastily picking them up and reading on. Neither simply
puts forward an idea or argument; instead, the reader
is subjected to a nonstop harangue, with no quarter
given anyone who might occasion their dislike. This is
profoundly annoying.
Big Bad Wolves has a good and timely subject.
"Manhood" has, after all, been one of Hollywood's
permanent themes, and with sexual roles being the sub-
ject of much debate over the last decade or so, it is inter-
esting to consider how far and in what ways the movie
industry has contributed either to understanding sexual
mores or to distorting concepts of what "being a true
man" is all about. Leslie Fiedler's books have occasion-
ally touched on the movies, and no one can have failed
to notice the buddies syndrome which has been the most
obvious preoccupation of American movies over the last
ten years (not that it was exactly absent from them be-
fore that), so a study of "masculinity in the American
film," especially from a woman's viewpoint, should
have been pretty interesting. Alas, Professor Mellen's
tome has set the cause of commonsense about sexual
roles back by about 20 centuries. In attacking the male
grossness and sexual fascism that she regards as typify-
ing the Hollywood product, she is as inaccurate and
underhand as the films she despises most.
Roughly, her idea is that the masculinity of character-
istic male superstars like Wayne, Eastwood, Redford,
Gable et al. in fact epitomises "a violence and brutality
that pervade American culture." Such heroes as these,
she argues, justify "male domination and the perception
of women as fickle, shallow, flighty creatures who lack
real identity and intelligence." They are also deeply con-
formist and reactionary, they secretly dread impotence
and disguise this fear with macho narcissism, and very
often their putting-down of women goes so far as to be-
come hatred of the sex, which in turn makes their ideal-
ising of male friendship latent or not-so-latent homo-
sexuality. Not that the Profis against gays-far from it.
But she feels that this hidden form of homosexuality is
dishonest and hypocritical, especially as it goes hand-in-
hand with a loathing of overtly homosexual people. The
virtues of tolerance, gentleness, generosity and kindness
give way to acts of brutality that corrupt and stunt ful-
fillment. In short, she says, "in seeking to entertain us,
movies in a very real sense have exacerbated our pain."
Well, yes. I can't say that movies have ever exacerbat-
ed my pain in any detrimental sense, but I do see what
she means. Unfortunately, every valid point that might
be made along these lines is murdered in an orgy of over-
statement. Mellen doesn't even stick to her self-prescribed
limits. Amongst the "Hollywood" movies she castigates
are the James Bond films, the Sergio Leone spaghetti
westerns, and Robin and Marian, all of which, as she
well knows, were made in Europe and with a specifically
European sensibility. Not content with razing the per-
formances of her big bad wolves, she implies at every
opportunity that these dubious males are obviously pretty
shifty in real life, too. And she doesn't do anything as
obvious as reminding us of, say, John Wayne's habitual
glorifying of the likes of Nixon and (Joe) McCarthy.
She's much more underhand. Charles Bronson, she tells
us with glee, doesn't like to talk much. Aha! What is he
repressing? (The thought that he might not like prying
journalists is not considered.) And with what joy does
she quote Joanne Woodward: "Someday, Paul and Bob
will run off together. And I'll be left behind with Lola
Redford." Just a pair of fags, see? Even their wives say
so, and don't you dare think Mrs. Newman was joking.
I very much doubt that the Prof ever makes jokes her-
It's very easy, of course, to argue a case if you deliber-
ately fail to consider any contrary information and shy
away from citing examples of films that are diametrically
opposed to your central thesis. Mellen's misinterpreta-
tions of individual movies are often so extreme that I
can only conclude she was doing it on purpose. "All the
President's Men," we read, "chronicles how two bright
young men, working as buddies side by side without any
women in their lives, restore the Horatio Alger myth ... "
Yes, er, but as a matter of fact, the real Woodward and
Bernstein didn't have wives-was Alan Pakula supposed
to invent a couple? Also, of course, Wand B didn't like
each other much and they did have a good bit of help
from women, as the film shows. Moving right along,
we find Mellen describing the hero of Straw Dogs: "Ef-
feminate in appearance, he wears glasses." Gosh! a dead
giveaway. She claims that the heroes of M*A *S*H are
,"never sexually lacking" when, in the very sequence she
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concentrates on (Painless Pole's suicide at-
lempt) Hawkeye Pierce admits to having been
impotent several times. ,
She analyses Robin and Marian, predictably
enough, in terms of Robin's relationship with
.John, taking quite literally Robin's claim-
obviously a bit of macho bravado-that he t
hasn't thought of Marian "for years." She
investigates the characterisation of Richard
Ihe Lionheart and concludes that, yes, the king
was yet another fruit-ignoring the fact that
he actually was, as screenwriter James Goldman
also made clear in his earlier The Lion in Winter.
The rivalry between John and Marian for Rob-
in's affection-which is how Mellen sees their
relationship - is in fact rather more complex
than that. Mellen cites Marian's despairing line
"You've had years and I'll lose him" but care-
fully ignores the crucial rejoinder from John:
"You're Rob's lady. If you'd been mine, I'd
never have gone away." In short, it's Marian
John loves. When Robin says, "I doubt I'll
have a day like this again ... ," he is already
dying from his wounds and in mortal agony,
and Marian poisons him (and herself) not for
(he sake of any sexual victory over John but
simply to spare Robin pain. John's cry of "No!
No!" seems understandable in the circumstanc-
es and hardly a sign of closet homosexuality.
(Emotionalism is OK for homosexuals, Mellen
seems to be arguing, but not for heterosexuals:
Paul Newman's relief when Redford is saved
from death in The Sting is interpreted by Mellen'
as another certain sign of secret faggot cravings,
for all the world as if a heterosexual man should-
f/'t be relieved when a friend and partner is, at
(he last moment, saved from being brutally mur-
Indeed, as her pseudo-liberal fags-are-OK-as-
long-as-they're-not-too-butch attitude suggests,
Mellen is keen to have things all ways. She
attacks establishment stars like Wayne and
Gable for maintaining the status quo, but
when M*A *S*H shows disrespect for the Army
and its regulations, she calls it "nihilist." In
order for Dog Day Afternoon to serve as an ex-
ample .of a film tolerant of homosexuality
(which it is), Mellen has to pretend that its
hero is a model of adjustment, when it is quite
plain that, whilst likable and sympathetic,
Sonny (AI Pacino) is, to say the least, a very
confused young man. Three Days of the Con-
dor, by virtue of the presence in the cast of the
,hated Robert Redford, is seen, astoundingly,
as a pro-CIA propaganda movie. The gentleness
shown by, say, Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy
towards Dustin Hoffman is said to be admirable male
behavior (so it is), but the similar acts of kindness shown
by the Clint Eastwood character in The Outlaw Josey
Wales to the dying boy (Sam Bottoms) are seen merely
as corrupt attempts by the horrible Eastwood to gain
sympathy for the title character, who, since Eastwood
plays him, has to be regarded as a fascist.
And so it goes on. Movies that fit in, or can be twisted
to seem to fit in, with Mellen's vague theories are seen as
good, no matter what their shortcomings as movie art,
and vice versa. In fact, it's very hard to work out what
Mellen's aesthetic criteria are. She describes The Man
Who Shot Liberty Valance as "one of [Ford's] finest
films" (right enough) and then spends three full pages
savaging it into oblivion (ditto for "one of Hawks's
most brilliant films," Only Angels Have Wings). Among
the films she ignores are the Eastwood-starred-and-
directed Play Misty for Me, with its attack on sexism,
and the Eastwood-starred The Beguiled; McCabe and
Mrs. Miller; Harold and Maude; or any of Hitchcock's
films. Her selfrighteous, self-serving wrath gets so naus-
eating that I was even offended by her misreading of
Marathon Man, a film I despised. In her earlier book,
Women and Their Sexuality in the New Cinema, Mellen
deduced (fraudulently) that Ingmar Bergman was an
anti-Semite from the fact that the Jewish archaeologist
who is the male protagonist of The Touch is unpleasant
(she ignored the compassion Bergman displayed towards
him). With regard to Marathon Man, she claims the
film is anti-German, her reason being that the film's
villains are principally a trio of Germans. Well, yes,
except that they are all Nazi war criminals. How can you
Pierre Greenfield
The University of Washington Lectures & Concerts Film
Series, currently running a program of vintage German
masterworks, will advance to the present generation of
German filmmakers for their Spring lineup - in particular
the new Big Three, Herzog, Fassbinder, and Wenders.
The eight films selected are: Herzog's Kaspar Hauser,
Aguirre the Wrath of God and Stroszek; Fassbinder's The
Bitter Tears of Petra van Kant, Ali-Fear Eat Soul and
Fox and His Friends; and Wenders's Alice in the Cities
and The American Friend. It's unfortunate that the series
won't be serving up anything new to the area (there are a
raft of Fassbinders, especially, awaiting Seattle premieres)
but the experience of re-encountering these major stylists
ensemble is tantalizing enough. Phone Lectures & Concerts,
543-4880, for additional info.
On the repertory front the outlook is brighter than usual.
The Neptune (N.E. 45th & Brooklyn N.E., 633-5545) is looking
toward a John Waters triple-bill (Pink Flamingos, Female
Trouble, Desperate Living), a pairing of Tod Browning's
Freaksand Werner Herzog's Even Dwarfs Started Small, and
a 35mm Scope revival of the Cukor-Garland-Mason A Star Is
Born. The Rose Bud Movie Palace (3rd S. & S. Washington,
682-1887) has Alan Ladd in his star-making This Gun for Hire,
costarring Veronica Lake and Laird Cregar, adapted from a
Graham Greene "entertainment" and directed by Frank Tuttle
(February 15-18, 22-25)"and William A. Wellman's rarely-seen
Roxie Hart (March 1-4, 8-11). After that, the little theatre in
Pioneer Square will switch to a changing-every-weekend sched-
ule, stressing mini- fest programming a la the recent Joan Craw-
ford festival: "Oscars at the Rose Bud" (the rare Wings and
Cavalcade, plus the not-so-rare All Quiet on the Western
Front), "Stars Do the Unexpected" (The Story of Vernon and
Irene Castle, Night Must Fall, Two-Faced Woman), "Risque
and Naughty" (Torrid Zone, Red Headed Woman). The Mc-
Rae Roxy in Renton has been emphasizing 70mm engagements
and hopes to offer revivals of Ben Hur, Lawrence of Arabia
and Tommy in that format; the Roxy (255-5656) and the Ren-
ton (255-4302), both located on S. 3rd in Renton, offer the SFS
discount, same as the McRaes' Bay (22nd & Market, Ballard;
782-7100) and Cinemond (in Redmond, 885-1994).
The Harvard Exit (802 E. Roy, 325-4647) will follow its
Kubrick festival with the Chinese The Opium War, beginning
March 8. Probably around mid-April they expect to hold the
U.S. premiere of the new Jerzy Skolimowski film The Shout,
with Alan Bates and Susannah York.
And the Curtises of the Rose Bud are looking to open their
new Pike Place Cinema at the end of April. The house seats
250 and, unlike the Rose Bud, has dual 35mm and 16mm ca-
Pacity. Their opening bill will be the acclaimed Soviet film
A Slave of Love. (Whether the Curtises will also continue to
operate the Rose Bud, or sell it, or lease it, or what, remains
undecided at this time.) 0
* * * NEW RELEASES * * *
TIREZ SUR LE PIANISTE 1960 84 mins. Francois Truffaut
(Shoot the Piano Player) with Charles Aznavour and Marie Dubois
LES DIABOLIQUES 1955 107 mins. Henri-Georges Clouzot
with Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot, Paul Meurisse
UNE PARTIE DE CAMPAGNE (A Day in the Country) 1936 39 mins. Jean Renoir
(All films have French dialogue with English subtitles)
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The Rose Bud Movie Palace remains the only
theatre in Seattle to showcase the finest movies
from Hollywood's glorious past. We are open
Thursday through Sunday, and change our
program every two weeks.
202 Third Avenue South 682-1887
Pioneer Square
Direction: John Carpenter. Screen-
play: John Carpenter and Debra Hill.
Camera operating: Ray Stella. Mu-
sic: Carpenter. Production: Hill.
The players: Jaimie Lee Curtis, Don-
ald Please nee, Anne Loomis, PJ
A thing that bugs me about the vast
majority of contemporary films is, they
rarely give the feeling anyone cared
much about framing them. The move-
ment away from studio (i.e. factory)
filmmaking has had a lot to do with
this. Advancements in film speed,
equipment mobility, and other such
factors that ought to have been un-
qualifiedly liberating have had the
counterproductive effect of encouraging
slovenliness rather than responsible
flexibility: a movie can get made any-
where now, one place is as good (i.e.
workable) as another-and somehow
that extends to framespace as a "place"
too. Throw in careless labwork (we
waved byebye to real Technicolor sev-
eral years ago) and you've got smeary
colors and big, fuzzy grain to help re-
duce definition, and definitiveness of
vision. It's hard to maintain faith that
a given movie had to look the way it
does, because it could just as well have
looked, well, a little different. People
won't be talking about this as they leave
their naborhood moviehouse, but one
reason John Carpenter's Halloween is
so successful a marrow-freezer is that
this dude appears to have set out to
reinstate scrupulous, meaningful fram-
ing all by himself. In fact, except for its
shamelessly (and irresistibly) zingy
music score (by the director lui-meme),
Halloween achieves its considerable
power almost entirely through visual
means. There's not a lot of scenario
-make that screenplay-to deal with;
indeed, the least satisfying thing about
Halloween is its attempt to arrive at
some script oral accounting for its ultra-
weird dispenser of mayhem, an Omen-
era, cosmic-evil reading- "He" really
can't be stopped-that rings too famil-
iar. At the same time, the non-ending
ending Halloween arrives at has a valid-
ity missing from more flagrantly copout
conclusions where the filmmakers more
or less simultaneously ran out of run-
ning time and ideas of what to do next.
For Carpenter's direction has undercut:
the idea of a world with any secure
breathing-room, let alone a sanctum
for salvation. From the moment a
white-hospital-gowned figure, red-tinted
by the taillights of a car, seems to sail up
from the bottom of the screen in preter-
natural flight, passing the rear-window
frame of the automobile and landing
out of sight on its roof, we feel a des-
perate need to keep an eye on every
sector of screenspace. No matter how
fluidly Ray Stella's Panaglide camera
slips around the residential streets,
sideyards, and cozy homes of the Mid-
west community where most of the
movie is laid, no periphery is accidentally
arrived at; the directorial eye never loses
control. Virtually every shot contains
corners, apertures, fillable black holes
fraught with ghastly potentiality. And
that ever-drifting camera eye - is it just
that of a camera recording the scene for
our voyeuristic convenience, or an in-
habited point of view, an indicator of
the one direction the vulnerable charac-
ters ought not proceed in? The answer is
that sometimes it's one, sometimes the
other, but before much of the film has
elapsed, it scarcely matters, because this
movie itself is what's, almost lethally,
trying to scare the shit out of us. Let's
have no clucks of disapproval: if that's
why Carpenter is there, it's certainly
why we're there, too. Halloween may
be an exercise in cinematic sadism, but
it's sadistic in precisely the same time-
honored, wholesome manner of cheer-
ful adolescents telling ghost stories to
their younger companions round camp-
fires. It's as if Carpenter were pitching,
"You've heard of Hallowe'en, good old
smaiItown Hallowe'en, full of crisp Ray
Bradbury autumn wind and the clean/
musty smell of cornshocks and exhila-
rating scares instead of gnawing urban
paranoia. Now, we're not going to bob
for apples but we are going to have an
old fashioned Hallowe'en party' here.
And just for starters - have you ever
heard of The Bogey Man? ... " The
hogeyman here is a former resident of
Ihis small prairieland town come home
10 the scene of a pre-pubescent crime,
IInd some of his atrocities are tokenly
51 imulated by accidental recurrences of
action-patterns that preceded (though
didn't necessarily cause) his previous
rampage. His depradations make an
elusive, almost traditionally moralistic
kind of sense: the people who get it in
Ihe neck, or wherever, are the naughty
kids, the ones enrolled in extracurricular
sexual experimentation (for whom the
20-second orgasm is the ne plus ultra).
At the same time he seems particularly
fascinated with a little boy who might be
his own childhood counterpart, and a
rather seriousminded high-school girl
who's quietly opted out of the randy
social scene around her. As the autumn
suulight shifts from golden to bronze
and then gives way to blue-black night,
Carpenter and his eerily faceless ma-
rander close in on a couple of houses
where children and their teenage sitters
- among them the aforementioned boy
and girl-have settled in for a mara-
thon evening of horror and sci-fi classics
on TV. The most prominently featured
items are The Thing (Carpenter has tes-
lified to a deep reverence for Howard
Hawks, and his penchant for lean,
tanned, gutsy leading ladies is one mani-
festation of Hawks's influepce) and
Forbidden Planet. Both choices are
appropriate. "He" strikes poses remi-
niscent of James Arness's supercarrot
and apparently shares his resiliency.
And it's not hard to connect him, and
his suggested- but- not- run- into- the-
ground aptness as a response to the,
petty dynamics of the junior social
~cene, with the Monster from the Id
10" the latter film. The present picture
toys with the possibility that "His"
mania might be catching, if only in that
Ihe experiences of this night may so
traumatize the survivors that they could
rehearse the mayhem forever, weird
without end. This is less a serious threat
-or serious point-than simply anoth-
er angle from which to terrorize and
tantalize us. John Carpenter doesn't
want this kind of cinematically invigor-
ating evil to end; it's intrinsic to a clas-
sical order he believes in. And he believes
in it enough to imagine something really
far out: a local TV station that would
project Forbidden Planet in a wide-
screen format ...
Screenplay and direction: Terrence
Malick. Cinematography: Nestor AI
mendros; additional cinematogra-
phy: Haskell Wexler; timelapse
cinematography: Ken Middleham.
Art direction: Jack Fisk. Costumes:
Patricia Norris. Editing: Billy Weber.
Second-unit direction: Jacob Brack
man. Music: Ennio Morricone; addi-
tional music: Leo Kottke, Doug Ker
shaw. Production: Bert and Harold
The players: Brooke Adams, Linda
Manz, Richard Gere, Sam Shepard,
Robert J. Wilke, Jackie Shultis, Stu
art Margolin.
Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven
seems made for Dolby stereo, in the way
that certain films were made for Cine-
rama and not just in Cinerama. I was
immediately struck by the film's showy,
deliberately .unrealistic use of sound:
left and right speakers cutting in and
out, sound associated with an onscreen
image coming noticeably from an off-
screen location, bigger-thanclife sound
disembodied from its source in the
frame. Indeed, Malick and Nestor AI-
mendros have so tightly composed the
frames of Days of Heaven that this use
of sound is the only clue that a world
exists beyond the frame; and that suits
the purposes of this big, stark movie,
separating its private worlds from the
larger world in which its characters
dwell. The crisp, sharp photography,
and Jack Fisk's meticulous art direc-
tion, offer us a very tidy world, with the
same keen-edged precision seen in the
worlds of, for example, Jan Troell's
The Emigrants, Werner Herzog's Herz
aus Glas, or Alan Rudolph's Welcome
to L.A. Undiffused light seems not
merely to illuminate the images but
actually to define them. And the result
is a world so precise as to seem frozen,
as if in an album, or in a memory-
which is, of course, what Days of Heav-
en is, and why its tidiness bespeaks a
deceptive simplicity. The frame is filled
with what the girl-narrator remembers,
not with realistic re-creations of an era.
No one actually seems to 'live and work
in the rooms and fields of Days of
Heaven; rather, people and the environ-
ment seem to coexist as elements of a
studied harmonic composition-a com-
position we must see as the apprehen-
sion and re-ordering of reality' by the
girl's remembering mind. The fact that
the film depicts many scenes that the girl
could not have witnessed only further
justifies the stylized simplicity with
which Malick portrays events..that are
necessarily more of the imagination
than of history. Not that history is not
an important element in the film. In a
way, Days of Heaven is a celebration of
an epoch; and that, not the wheat, is
why it kept reminding me of Dovzhen-
ko's Earth. Permanence, more than
change, is stressed by Dovzhenko's static
poetry, in which only the slightest move-
ment betrays the fact that a shot is a
shot and not a still photograph, and in
which images are deliberately more im-
portant and memorable than events.
Both Dovzhenko and Malick intercut
people and nature with a curious kind of
disjunctive montage that is mo're im-
pressionistic than Eisensteinian. Indeed,
Eisenstein and Pudovkin seem recon-
ciled here: we get both collision and
linkage, as in the sequence where,
wading in the stream, Bill tells Abby she
should stay behind after the harvest, as
the farmer has asked. Seeing parts of
each other they've not seen before, the
two young lovers keep trying to reco)]-
cile their divergent feelings spatially, by
moving toward each other; but Malick's
montage diabolically and revealingly
keeps them from ever occupying the
frame together during 'the course of this
brief, tense conversation. Or the econ-
omy with which the rich farmer is iden-
tified with his holdings: After we learn
he has noticed Abby, we see a transi-
tional shot of his house dominating the
horizon and humbling the small figures
moving on his land; then, without any
further establishing shot, Malick cuts
directly to a low-angle close shot of the
continued on page 43
Direction: Floyd Mutrux. Screenplay: John Kaye, after a
story by John Kaye and Art Linson. Cinematography:
William A. Fraker. Art direction: Elayne Barbara Ceder;
set decoration: George Gaines. Editing: Danford B.
Greene (supervision), Melvin Shapiro, Ronald J. Fagan;
montages: Frank Mazzola. Music supervision: Kenny
Vance. Production: Art Linson.
The players: Tim Mcintire, Fran Drescher, Jay Leno,
Laraine Newman; Carl Earl Weaver, AI Chalk, Sam Hark-
ness, Arnold McCuller (The Chesterfields); Jeff Altman,
Moosie Drier, John Lehne, Nora Denney, Garry Goodrow,
Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Screamin' Jay Hawkins.
Direction: John A. Alonzo. Screenplay: EzraSacks. Cine-
matography: David Myers. Production design: Lawrence
G. Paull. Editing: Jeff Gourson. Production: Rand Hol
ston, Robert Larson.
The players: Michael Brandon, Eileen Brennan, Alex
Karras, Cleavon Little, Martin Mull, Cassie Yates, Tom
Tarpey, James Keach, Norman Lloyd, Jimmy Buffet,
Linda Ronstadt.
For a while there it seemed as if the post-mortems on the
summer's rock-oriented pictures like American Hot Wax and
FM were being written before the films' release, let alone box-
office decease. But even if the backers will get to file their tax
writeoffs, it's almost certain that many more patrons got to see
these films as second features to Saturday Night Fever and
Grease as the big winners moved out to the nabes. Co features
don't earn their parent companies more than token rentals
that way; but if they didn't make money, at least one of these
pictures went on to make a few friends.
American Hot Wax celebrates the last few days of Brooklyn
disc jockey Alan Freed's reign as the king of rock'n'roll and
the onset of his martyrdom as r&r's patron saint. It boasts a
solid stellar performance by Tim McIntire (previously seen as
the -least lovable of Robert Aldrich's Choirboys), and if he
doesn't manage to save the film, he gives it a much-needed
center of gravity. More than that, he strikes such a satisfying
behavioral tone that, like the platter-playing paterfamilias him-
self, he tends to validate the enthusiasm for the music he spon-
sors and win our indulgence of his co-players' excesses and
director Floyd Mutrux's miscalculations. William A. Fraker
contributes his usual admirably controlled camerawork-a
nice blend of impressionism and ersatz naturalism that evokes
Freed's not-at-all-glamorous milieu with quiet persuasiveness
- but too many of McIntire's fellow performers skittering
through the multi-planar compositions fail to convince us they
represent a gregarious humanity doing their thing: they're just
a bunch of actors trying on period poses. Still, thanks to Mc-
Intire/Freed's heroic presence, they are at least carelessly
acceptable as denizens of a formative rock culture passionately
pledged to keep a faith whose scriptures are being written right
on the spot. '
Such conviction of cause and/ o~ community is mostly spe-
cious in FM. Indeed, the various fictional deejay personalities

working to sustain the best little rock station in Southern Cali-

fornia barely seem part of the same movie-and this even
though they are played by such agreeable stalwarts as Eileen
Brennan, Alex Karras, Cassie Yates, and Cleavon Little (whose
very funny nighttime deejay, The Prince of Darkness, appears
to have been markedly reduced in screentime in the last stages
of editing). Despite its alphabetical, egalitarian cast listing,
FM does have a star. That's Martin Mull and he's the star
because he turns his every scene into a near-standup-comedy
routine played to the audience and not his fellow performers.
Whether he does so out of vaulting egocentricity or a sensible
showbiz rationalization that the people might as well get some-
thing for their money is anybody's guess.
Both movies are built around as black-and-white a good-
guys-and-bad-guys opposition as we've seen since Gene Autry
rode to the rescue of Radio Ranch. In American Hot Wax
Freed and his uniformly cleancut, music- and life-foree-loving
kids and colleagues vs. a few venal promoters of (presumably)
no-talent imitators and a dyspeptic-looking bunch of D.A.s,
cops, narcs, and IRS agents who just can't stand to see people
having a good time. In FM the freely affectionate, music-
loving, comrnercial-break-hating deejays and their loyal, clean-
cut public are up against advertising managers, megacorpora-
tion execs and spies, and hypocritical military recruiters who
smoke grass ostentatiously and hope to use the mystique of
FM to dragoon folks into the Armed Services. FM proposes
the most preposterous crisis to force the departure of the nice
station manager (Michael Brandon), a still more preposterous
occupation of the place by the loyal staff, and the utterly pre-
posterous last-minute change of heart on the part of the big
bad tycoon (Norman Lloyd) that was probably supposed to
play like a Frank Capra finale. American Hot Wax focuses
on the actual travails of Alan Freed in 1959 in bringing off a
first-anniversary-of-rock'n'roll concert at the Brooklyn Para-
mount-a triumphant event despite its eventual shutting-down
by the forces of repression. (Freed's subsequent downfall over
payola is alluded to, but the nature and degree of his culpabil-
ity is shiftily euphemized; indeed, this little failing is all but
reinterpreted as a virtue at one point.) If Hot Wax comes
closer to getting away with its pop-rock populism, it's because
we make allowances for the soft-focus effect of nostalgia even
as we note its calculated inclusion in the mix, and because-
surprise surprise- they really didn't manage to kill rock'n'roll
just like Alan kept saying they wouldn't.
It's also, in just about every department, a much better-
made movie than FM. FM marks the directorial debut of ace
cinematographer John A. Alonzo, and I am powerless to
account for why there should not be a shot worth remembering
in the whole film. The nadir of narrative organization is
reached during a Linda Ronstadt concert sequence wherein,
although our heroes are supposed to be merrily stealing the
event as if their little station and not a highpowered competitor
were sponsoring it, "host" announcer Eric Swan (Mull) is shot
in such abstract space that we can't begin to guess how the ruse
is intended to work. Hot Wax's editing also goes belly-up
during its concert finaler where time-sense is completely lost
and Mutrux's grab-bag endeavor to cut together the energy
of the performers onstage, the gathering police storm outside
(he theatre, in the aisles, and backstage, and Freed's own in-
creasing discomfiture just doesn't work. But overall coherence
is never lost. In fact, the A-B-C clarity of the narrative se-
quence tends to underscore the simplistic nature of the film
concept. (Between records, Freed places a longdistanc~ call
(0 his father to ask why he refuses to accept his son's gift
checks : songwriter Teenage Louise sings her concerned but
uncomprehending father one of her lyrics about the way musi-
cal hopes and dreams fail to make up for the lack of "you" :
Freed is visited by the juvenile president of the Buddy Holly
Fan Club and they share a sniffy, perfectly-timed-for-interval
reminiscence of the kid's father's behavior the day the music
died.) But though simplistic and all but styleless once you get
past Tim McIntire and the music, American Hot Wax is quite
pleasant entertainment, worth sticking around for after the
main feature. FM, for all its ingratiating players, is an un-
reedemable mess that can't even make it to simplistic.
continued from page 41
farmer asking an offscreen foreman
about Abby's background. No other
preparation for the farmer's' sudden
appearance in the frame has been neces-
sary, since the shot of the house is alone
enough to put us in mind of his power
and presence. This identification of
people with their milieu is what enables
Malick to extend his film's implications
without being ponderous about it. A
dying capitalist; oppressed workers
seeking to profit by, and ultimately to
hasten, his death; Abby as young Amer-
ica, walking the narrow path between an
impulsive immigrant worker class and a
complacent, powerful ruling class,
finally finding her way out of the con-
niet by boarding a train filled with sol-
diers off to fight the First World War.
This is the stuff of which heavyhanded
allegory is made, and it is to Malick's
lasting credit that he has gently indulged
the allegory while altogether avoiding
the heavyhandedness. The swarm of
locusts, bringing about the farmer's
ruin, is associated in the farmer's mind
with Bill's jealousy; the good harvest,
with Abby's tender beauty; the fire,
with his own avenging rage against Bill;
but these things are also, to us, locusts,
wheat, and fire, never merely symbols.
In Malick's world, both in Badlands
and in Days oj Heaven, we have a mid-
dle ground between naturalism (in which
environment determines behavior) and
expressionism (in which behavior is re-
flected symbolically in environment):
a world in which the destinies of char-
acters and environment are so inextrica-
bly interwoven that they cannot help but
turn inward upon themselves.
Robert C. Cumbow
Screenplay and direction: Woody
Allen. Cinematography: Gordon WiI
lis. Production design: Mel Bourne.
Editing: Ralph Rosenblum. Produc-
tion: Charles H. Joffe.
The players: Kristin Griffith, Mary-
beth Hurt, Richard Jordan, Diane
Keaton, E.G. Marshall, Geraldine
Page, Maureen Stapleton, Sam Wat
As if to avoid distracting mumbles of
"Oh, guess where he got that!" in the
middle of his unashamedly imitative
first non-comedy, Woody Allen gets his
most Bergmanesque shot out of the way
right up front. It's a soft, dreamy, quiet
interior of a woman running her hand
inquiringly across a windowpane; and it
establishes straightaway the film's in-
side/outside polarity, with the woman
seemingly trying to comprehend the
shell that separates one existence from
another. The glass of the window, like
the wall of the eye, or the lens of the
camera, is the transparent, impenetra-
ble, inexorable demarcation between the
in-here and the out-there. Nothing new;
but from here Allen goes on to build a
distinctly American Bergman film, ac-
cessible, even downright obvious in con-
trast with the Swedish master's arcane
musings. And what is it about? Well,
nothing new here either. The neurotic
Jewish kid, the King of Compensation,
has made his first "serious" film about
a Mother and her domination of her
children's lives. That in itself is a joke,
making a brooding, delicate chamber
film out of an idea that has so often
been the source of Jewish comedy, both
high and low. Eve - the archetypal
Mother, magnificently portrayed by
Geraldine Page-is made to loom large,
through makeup, costuming, and cam-
era angles, and it is a largeness that
overwhelms, in one way or another, the
lives of all three of her daughters, as
revealed in the sparse dialogue and in
the eloquent silence the film so often
insists on. It's odd, this silence, in a
chamber film made by a seft-styled jazz
musician. The absence of music makes
us assign musical values to the charac-
ters, shots, and scenes; and, in fact,
music may be missing just so we will see
the film as a series of set-pieces-often
improvisational- for small instrumen-
tal combos. The only scene in the film
that calls for more than a quintet is also
the only one in which music is actually
heard, and it's big band jazz, to which
is set the wedding night dance of Eve's
estranged husband Arthur (E.G. Mar-
shall) and his second wife Pearl (Mau-
reen Stapleton is splendid). Pearl is
anti-intellectual, Arthur's second chance,
the three girls' would-be replacement
mother, who both figuratively and - in
the film's most obvious moment-liter-
ally breathes fresh air back into the stale
world of these neurotic intellectual im-
potents. But if the symbolism is often
heavyhanded, it's partly because the
film is about structure and its domina-
tion of the life-force. When Joey (Mary-
beth Hurt) talks quietly to her mother
on her father's second wedding night,
we don't see Eve for a long time because
we are really supposed to doubt that she
is there, to feel the extent to which the
daughter is literally haunted by the
mother. The mother is carefully placed
outside, the daughter just inside. The
same kind of structural obviousness is
employed to greater effect in an earlier
scene, when Allen juxtaposes family
with non-family (anti-family?): Pearl
chats, jokes, and plays card tricks with
Arthur's two sons-in-law in the living
room; cut to Arthur and two daughters
in the bedroom, having a tense discus-
sion about Arthur's intent to marry
Pearl. Throughout the film, life is
pressed into the service of structure,
never the other way around. Gordon
Willis's cinematography is his most con-
fined yet, emphasizing portraiture:
faces, poses, and backgrounds that reveal
character and emotion without words.
The dominion of structure reveals itself,
too, in the montage and the juxtaposition
of sound and image. After a quiet scene
with Arthur and Eve, her hopes of patch-
ing things up between them stalemated by
his gentle insistence on independence,
Allen cuts suddenly to the noise of tape
being peeled off a roll, amplified beyond
realism: the sound is one of violent tear-
ing apart, while the image (tape rolled
and pressed over the spaces around win-
dows) is one of patching or mending.
The contrast between sight and sound
reflects the contrast between Eve's and
Arthur's desires, and their tempera-
ments. And, of course, the taping of
window-leaks is prologue to a suicide
attempt by Eve. Allen's devotion to
Form makes the film's visual dynamics
increasingly predictable near the end,
and especially in the final shot; but at
times, particularly early on, it leads to
wonderful invention, as in the shot
where Eve is moving around her room
alone, arranging things. As she leaves
the frame, the camera stubbornly re-
fuses to pan or track her; but her next
move, to put something down on an
offscreen table, is neatly picked up as a
reflection in an onscreen picture-frame:
a clever visual pun, and a statement
about the precision of her life as well as
that of Allen's film. Allen's Bergmania,
however, seems to replace any real heart
in his film; its formalism tends to in-
hibit the very emotional response it
wants to reach out for. Joey criticizes
her mother's approach to life: "Beauti-
ful furniture, carefully designed interiors,
everything so controlled." It might just
as well be a description of the film; and,
of course, it is. Joey is the character in
the film who, in appearance and tem-
perament, is most like the absent Woody;
and this film, like every other Woody
Allen film, is an exercise in self-criticism.
Robert C. Cumbow
Direction: Philip Kaufman. Screen
play: W.D. Richter, after the novel by
Jack Finney (and the 1956 film Inva
sian of the Body Snatchers, direct
ed by Donald Siegel and adapted for
the screen by Daniel Mainwaring).
Cinematography: Michael Chapman.
Production design: Charles Rosen.
Special makeup effects: Tom Bur
man, Edouard Henriques. Special
sound effects: Ben Burtt. Music:
Denny Zeitlin. Production: Robert
The players: Donald Sutherland,
Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum,
Veronica Cartwright, Leonard Ni
moy, Art Hindle, Garry Goodrow,
Lelia Goldoni, Tom Luddy, Kevin
McCarthy, Donald Siegel, Robert
Duvall (unbilled).
Let's get the suspense out of the way
first. I've been taken over: I came to the
remake of Invasion of the Body Snatch-
ers with a purist's proper disdain for
anyone who presumes to redo a classic
movie, but as I sat b.rooding in the dark-
ness, Phil Kaufman's ]978 version put
out its tendrils and pretty soon every-
thing seemed just fine and why should I
go around getting upset over little things?
Not that the new Invasion is going to
displace the old for me. No way. I think
the Don Siegel version is the better movie
- more seamlessly, "artlessly" accom-
plished than the present model, and the
more inspired work. But after a tacky
special-effects opening (where Siegel
needed nothing but a subjective descent
through roiling clouds), Kaufman's
. version persuasively asserts its right to
life as ~'\ imaginative reflection of our
time, just as Siegel's insidious "sleeper"
stands as a quintessential Fifties experi-
ence. The makers of the '56 film were
reeling under the twin impacts of Dwight
Eisenhower and Joe McCarthy. Their
movie played on both the cozy lure of
middle-class conformity and the nag-
ging suspicion that that bastard in the
next yard or at the next desk or in the
next writing cubicle at the studio-
indeed, all those bastards - had in mind
to do you dirt in a manner you hadn't
quite figured out yet. Jack Finney's
story about pod-grown organisms usurp-
ing the identities of everyone in a small
California town and reducing them to
all-alike, emotionless neuters yielded a
powerful metaphor for a more mundane
loss of humanity. Cold War buffs were
perfectly free to read in a paranoid alle-
gory of Communist takeover: they were
said to be everywhere, and wouldn't
they look like any normal, healthy,
right-thinking Amurkan, same as you or
me, and I'm not so sure about you ... ?
In the Seventies the Commie threat
more or less universally is spoken of
within quotation marks, and at any rate
has undergone too many mutations to
have much relevance for pop myth-
makers. A smear campaign in con-
temporary Hollywood (unlike that of
HUAC, name-naming days) would
more likely be predicated on the revela-
tion that you'd failed to give your bed
partner multiple orgasms. Accordingly,
Phil Kaufman's Invasion of the Body
Snatchers posits a new way for people
to lose their souls: through the pursuit
of Me-Generation fetishism. The best
parts of his movie-better even than
the many smashingly good scares the
picture delivers - have to do with a very
witty detailing of how gratification-
seekers in the supertrendy city of San
Francisco (as opposed to the brilliantly
banal Santa Mira of Siegel's film) keep
bouncing off each other's lives like mis-
spent spermatozoa while pursuing in-
sular notions of contentment. Indeed,
some of those un-special effects' at the
beginning of the film make the heavenly
body of Earth look like an egg awaiting
fertilization by the gloppy life form
from Planet X. Kaufman works hard
to extend this line of imagistic innuendo.
The fungoid fluorescence of the light in
a chic restaurant kitchen that health
inspector Donald Sutherland examines
(he finds rat turds where the manager
sees only capers) seems a facile way of
making the world and everybody else in
it look monstrous; after Sutherland has
cited the establishment and climbed
back into his compact car, the star-
shattered windshield he discovers (surely
but not indictably the doing of one of
the sullen kitchen'staffers lurking nearby)
practically screams its availability as an
ambiguity-lending symbol: is the altered-
looking world we and Sutherland look
at through this frame really changed, or
continued on page 46
Out of the Past
Direction: Perry Henzel!. Screenplay: Henzel! and Trevor
D. Rhone. Music: Jimmy Cliff, Derrick Harriot, Scotty,
The Melodians, The Maytals, The Slickers, Desmond
Dekker. Production: Henzel!.
The players: Jimmy Cliff, Carl Bradshaw, Janet Bartley,
Ras Daniel Hartman, Winston Stona, Basil Keane, Bobby
Perry Henzell's Jamaican film The Harder They Come
invites comparison with Marcel Camus's Black Orpheus in
its stylistic reliance upon pulsating rhythms to carry it along
with a sense of inevitability, and in its literary use of the music
and lifestyle of New World blacks as the milieu for a story of
mythic heroism. But The Harder They Come, though never
as selfconsciously poetic as the Camus film, is much more
fatalistic-as close to naturalism as such a stylized film can
come. Black Orpheus increasingly restricts its meaning to
the restaged Attic resurrection myth, while The Harder They
Come consistently delimits its range of meaning to become
not just a rehearsal of a mythic pattern but also a story of
music, of crime and pursuit, of the uses and abuses of religion,
IInd most importantly, of political impact. This may sound
like a grab-bag of stylistic and thematic implication; but The
/larder They Come is no pastiche-it's a true Third World
film in which every element relates to its central concern for
the futile struggle of a people doomed to exploitation by their
own kind, in both crime and business.
The populist spirit of the film is reflected in its opening
credits, which list numerous cinematographers and editors.
Thc direction credit alone has only one name, and the emphasis
from the very beginning is upon the collaborative aspect of
Third World filmmaking. That collaboration has its disadvan-
lages, chiefly in the limited and unbalanced range of the film's
cinematography. Lighting styles and focus ranges clash might-
ily from one sequence to the next, as do approaches to montage.
The editing is generally contained by the driving rhythms of the
captivating reggae score; but the photography has no such
//,uideline to contain it, and Henzell does not seem to have
worked under conditions permitting much of a controlled
plan of camera technique. Over- and underexposures abound,
10 no specific stylistic purpose. The graininess might be ex-
plained as a naturalistic effect, but is surely equally due to
the film's low budget. Shallow depth of field and an often
garish color process make the film anything but easy on the
eye; frequent rack-focusing likewise seems the result of limited
rilmstock and equipment used, not an intended stylistic device.
One can sense the change of cinematographers as the visual
modes range from the brittle realism of a knife-vs.-broken-
hottle fight to the soft, backlighted mood of a largely irrelevant
sex scene to the dimness of the palpably sweaty crowd scenes
in Kingston discos.
But this stylistic discontinuity serves its own purpose in cele-
hrating the populism of the film's creators as an alternative to
Ihe self-serving oppression that drives most of the movie's plot.
Capitalist exploitation is the order of the day, police corruption
nn accepted fact of life, oppression of the uneducated and dis-
advantaged an open national practice. This is not the Jamaica
of the travelogues. An ambience of slum, junkyard and squalor
contrasts sharply with the natural beauty of beach and country-
side, the elegance of hotels and discos, which serve only to am-
plify the hopelessness of the dreams of Ivan Martin.
Ivan's aspirations and efforts to become a successful pro-
fessional reggae singer-an occupation that plays much the
same role here as prizefighting does in many American street-
kid crime films-are confounded when he learns that the Mr.
Hilton who runs the business pays composer-singers exactly
$20 per song for all rights, and that, without dealing with
Hilton, no one can produce or distribute a record. Lured by
Jose (the kind of friend who makes enemies superfluous) into
the lucrative mfrijuana "export business," Ivan quickly learns
it's the same $tory there: protection rackets, controllers, and
corrupt officj~ls take the heavy cuts, while the people who do
the work and take the risks get pittance, live in poverty, and
are victimized unrelentingly by the kind of hopelessness for
which the little boy Rupert's chronic disease is a tossoff meta-
There is a fine line between the film's world and the Jamaican
real world. Since The Harder They Come was completed,
according to the soundtrack album notes, two of its actors
have been shot to death; and when the Slickers' tune "Johnny
Too Bad" was being copyrighted, one member of the group
was a fugitive from the law, another on death row. Not that
someone has it in for the people involved in making the film
-it's just that these things are so utterly commonplace among
the oppressed Jamaican people, a fact that is inescapable from
the look and spirit of the film. This system of exploitation and
corruption is what Ivan tries to buck - and he succeeds, if only
temporarily. His wits help him elude the police while his noth-
ing-to-Iose boldness makes him a national hero. Finally the
corrupt police official who heads the "export business" orders
a complete halt on the trade, knowing that the marijuana grow-
ers and transporters will go penniless, until Ivan is captured.
It is not clear from the film who ultimately betrays Ivan's
hiding place on his island Limbo, though there is a strong sug-
gestion that his close friend Pedro and his former sweetheart
Elsa need the reward money to secure treatment for Pedro's
brother Rupert's deteriorating condition.
But if the two alternatives to poverty - reggae-singing and
crime-prove finally to offer no financial relief, they do at
least offer Ivan an alternative to anonymity. Having his record
played in a disco doesn't make him any more known to his
acquaintances, but his flamboyant activities underground
make him a pop-cult hero in the manner of "Johnny Too
Bad," whose ballad is sung by the Slickers on Ivan's radio
as he works ignominiously at menial labor in the yard of a
Kingston preacher; or like "007 at Ocean's Eleven," a refer-
ence in Desmond Dekker's song "Shantytown"; or like the
gunman played by Terrence Hill in a spaghetti western Ivan
and some friends go to see early on. A small army of gunmen
closes in on Hill, while members of the audience express some
fear for his safety. "Don't worry," someone reassures them:
"De hero can't dead till de last reel" - and Hill produces a
machine gun with which he wipes out the gunfighters.
Pistol-packing Ivan, on the island Limbo where he waits,
having missed a boat to Cuba for want of swimming fast
enough, is destined to face a showdown like the one in the
western he has seen-and he wouldn't have it any other way.
The missed boat is an emblem of the failed revolutionary
-though it's important that Ivan never sees himself as a
revolutionary. His motive is personal acquisition, not idealistic
liberation; and this is another tendency in oppressed Jamaican
youth that Henzell attacks, tracing it, too, to the corrupt and
exploitive regime. "I'm gonna get my share now, what's
mine," sings Ivan in the title. tune; and he counters Elsa's
fundamentalist pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die resignation by
passionately insisting "I want mine now." He thereby sets
himself squarely against his former boss, the preacher, who
has raised Elsa; and the whole religious issue of the film as-
sumes an intensity in relation to Ivan's personal story. The
preacher haughtily disapproves of reggae music and severely
punishes Ivan when he catches him rehearsing his own com-
positions in the church. But the music he attacks is not sub-
stantially different in its effect from the bump-and-grind
gospelsinging that brings people off in his own services. Reli-
gion as practiced by the preacher is overtly sexual: preaching
as music, music as sexual expression, religion as substitute for
. sexuality. The distinctions are further blurred when the Melo-
dians sing "By the Rivers of Babylon," pressing the 137th
Psalm into service as a haunting reggae polemic against the
oppressors who would exploit music and musicmakers. Sig-
nificantly, they sing it in an impromptu audition for Hilton,
as the music mogul leaves the driveway of his palatial estate.
The songs, clearly, are crucial to the film, providing far
more than mere "atmosphere." If the film is not always easy
on the eye: it's enormously appealing to the ear, in both the
rhythms of reggae and the inherent musicality of Jamaican
One oft-repeated number refrains "You can get it if you
really want," promising achievement but suggesting broadly
that huge sacrifices may be exacted in repayment. Ivan scores
a partial victory: he finally gets a hit record that even Hilton
can't suppress. Ivan's own notoriety makes the public clamor
for his song-which is emblematic of his rebellion against
the system - and the clamor is one that profit-minded Hilton
can't ignore. Even so, Ivan's own profits are measured in
personal satisfaction, while it lasts. His fleeting enjoyment
of luxury, in a stolen car, recalls a convention of the American
gangster film: the crooks, socially rebellious as their intentions
might be, discover that the fruits of their crimes are unspend-
able, that as fugitives they cannot enjoy the wealth they have
broken the law to acquire, and that, finally, only fame itself
has any realistic value. Ivan is reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde
-mentioned conspicuously in the lyrics of Desmond Dekker's
"Israelites," which a few years back became the first reggae
tune to achieve international success-in his concern for
getting his photo in the papers and his unspoken championship
of the little people.
At the climax, Ivan with his pistols faces an army of Jamai-
can policemen armed with submachine guns, a grim inversion
of the Terrence Hill scene cheered in the first reel and now
intercut with the squalid rubbing-out of Ivan Martin. The
reversal of weaponry indicates the hopelessness of Ivan's brand
of defiant heroism, and the tragicomic haplessness of his
discovery that, in spite of himself, he is a martyr.
Robert C. Cumbow
continued from page 44
, simply the same neutral environment
'''viewed by a distorted sensibility? Kauf-
man's games with reflections and re-
fractions are often ingenious, but there's
too much straining for them; by con-
trast, Siegel and his cinematographer,
Ellsworth Fredericks, could get the most
disturbing suggestiveness into the black-
and-white blankness of functional day-
light shooting, the eerie halation of nor-
mal sunlit scenes glimpsed from plain
interiors, the tentative otherworldliness
of safety-assuring streetlights fogging
up the corners of the screen. But about
the time these comparisons killingly
suggest themselves, Kaufman (now an
entrenched San Franciscan) and W.D.
Richter's exact sense of behavior saves
the day. Case in point: Brooke Adams,
Dana Wynter's counterpart in the new
film, is not a freshly-divorced childhood
sweetheart of hero Sutherland but his
fondly regarded coworker who's living
with, but not married to, a jocky dentist
(Art Hindle) who spends his evenings
bracketed between headphones and
zeroed in on some televised sports spec-
tacle; Kevin McCarthy's having to
carry Dana Wynter out of cellar-haunt-
ing ogre-father's house in the middle of
the night was not without quirky psy-
chological overtones, but Sutherland's
campaign to entice Adams away from
Hindle even before the official ques-
tion of podhood arises (for him, not the
wised-up audience) affords a glossary:
of variations on the themes of love and
trust and jealousy in the Permissive
Society. In the King Donovan role of
the unsuccessful writer friend (whose
career was played on in the original
mainly through the intriguing book-
cover blowups in the dim background
of his rec room), Jeff Goldblum creates
a zany, maddening, touching portrait of
a just-not-gifted-enough narcissist com-
pensating for neglect. And in the Larry
Gates psychiatrist part, Leonard Nimoy
is so smoothly successful at laying down
pop-psychiatric placebos, it's a severe
letdown when the film finally answers
the is-he-one-of-them-or-not? question
explicitly. (A wonderful line: the police
detective answering a pod-scare call
recognizes the celebrity psych - he's a
surefire bestselling author, which rank-
les Goldblum horribly-and pumps his
hand, saying, "My wife's read all your
books - they've changed her life!")
So legitimately ambiguous are the mo-
tives and movements of all the key char-
acters that Kaufman's film doesn't
manage to convince us, as even the
rather bland lovers in Siegel's did, that
the love of one person for another is
worth staying human to hold onto.
But if the new Invasion of the Body
Snatchers lacks the positive anger of
Siegel's, it makes frighteningly clear
how hostile the world can look to a dis-
lurbed soul who just wants to reach out
a hand and say, "Hey, I'm human and
J'II) scared." It is in this connection
Ihat the final scene-entirely original
with this version, and a twist 1 wouldn't
give away on promise of immuriity-
qllalifies as one of the few certified
lIightmare-givers in recent film, for all
Ihe multifarious atrocities we've become
hahituated to. That the ending works
~o powerfully well depends a lot on a
<:arcfully varied point-of-view ploy
Kallfman works from the moment a
familiar, but teasinglY unidentified and
illst-not-clearly-seen extra observes
llrooke Adams pausing to pick an inter-
esting flower ... You'd better watch
Philip Kaufman's Invasion of the Body
Snatchers carefully-because it's watch-
illg us.
Direction: Karel Reisz. Screenplay:
.Judith Rascoe and Robert Stone,
nfler Stone's novel Dog Soldiers.
Cinematography: Richard H. Kline.
I!ditlng: John Bloom. Music: Lau-
ronce Rosenthal.
'Ille players: Nick Nolte, Tuesday
Weld, Michael Moriarty, Anthony
Zerbe, Richard Masur, Ray Sharkey,
Oail Strickland, Charles Haid, David
Opatoshu. "
"I've been waiting all my life to fuck
lip like this." That's the closest we ever
~ct to the motivation of Vietnam War
correspondent John (Michael Moriar-
ty), who suddenly, unaccountably de-
cides to buy two kilos of uncut heroin to
smuggle from Saigon back to Califor-
Ilia, there to sell it at enormous profit.
By the time his old Marine Corps buddy
Ray (Nick Nolte, who with a perform-
ance like this under his belt is to be
completely and unconditionally for-
f\iven for The Deep) and his own wife
Marge (Tuesday Weld), are menaced
very nearly to death by the mob (or are
Ihey cops? or are they the mob after
nil'!), it's too late for John to change
what he has got them all into. "I can't
helieve I've done this," he tells his
hookseller father-in-law, who jejunely
Icplies, "A sense of unreality is no de-
fense." A sense of unreality threads
Itself through this entire gem of a
movie, the most enthralling film I've
ever seen about drug traffic, precisely
because it is about so much more than
drug traffic. Who'll Stop the Rain? is
distinctly a mixed-genre film, combin-
ing action-suspense-drama with mystery,
chase, and moral allegory: a film at
once wildly violent and rigidly moral,
owing as much to The Wild Bunch as
to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
As a study of the impact of the Vietnam
War on the American consciousness,
this film is so much more honest in its
treatment of character and milieu than
Coming Home that the two films might
be about completely different subjects.
They aren't, though Reisz's eye-and
conscience-are far less compromising
than those of Ashby. In his first film
since The Gambler, and possibly the
best film of his career, Reisz discovers a
grasping, dog-eat-dog world in post-
Vietnam America. His cynical, jaun-
diced eye records in oppressive, brown
exteriots, closet-dark interiors, and real
night-for-night photography a nether-
world in which everyone gets high on
something, just to keep going, no
matter how absurd the goal. Heroin,
speed, cigarettes, candy, violence, coke,
anti-asthma inhalers - everyone in
Who'll Stop the Rain has some kind of
monkey on his back, the crutches of a
morally crippled world. One man-as
unlikely an idealist as any I've seen on-
screen, even in a Reisz film-stands
against the universe. Where John has
been waiting all his life for one monu-
mental fuckup, his buddy Ray (the prin-
cipal fuckee in the case) says, "All my
life I been takin' shit from inferior peo-
ple" (the legacy of a hitch in the Marine
Corps and a devotion to the philosophy
of Nietzsche), and seizes the absurdity
of the situation to make a dramatic, if
anachronistic, stand against the Bad
Guys (who still just might be the cops,
so don't think right-and-wrong and
strong-and-weak are so clearcut in this
film). When Ray disorients the enemy
with a barrage of lights how and heavy-
metal sound, effects in the film's climac-
tic gun battle, it is a marshaling of the
-trappings of the Sixties against the en-
croaching apathetic amoral corruption
of the post-Watergate Seventies. Near
the end, when Ray trudges along a rail-
road track toward an important rendez-
vous, and begins singing the songs of
basic training with what looks like real
pride and satisfaction, it's an important
moment: the duty ethic, held in such
contempt while it was invoked to justify
wholesale slaughter in Vietnam, is vin-
dicated in the courage and skill Ray
deploys in order to do something for
his buddy. Military training,( put to
good use, gives him a resurgence of that
legendary esprit de corps understood
best by the successful, victorious man of
action. And if that's not enough, he has
asserted his ultimate superiority over the'
givers-of-shit and come out the winner
in a battle over not high ideals nor polit-
ical power, but simply personal profit.
Victory, dignity, and two kilos of dope:
"I got it at!!" The celebration of his
own person-ness balances handily with a
little sequence up near the other end of
the film, in which, with the sun low on
the Pacific and a fortune in smack in the
hold, Ray practices his self-defense
moves on the deck of a California-
bound merchant ship: a workout for
what is to come, a glorying in his own
body, and as exciting a piece of film
poetry as I've seen all year.
Robert C. Cumbow
Direction: Burt Reynolds. Screen-
play: Jerry Belson. Cinematogra-
phy: Bobby Byrne. Production de~
sign: Jan Scott. Editing: Donn
Cambern. Music: Paul Williams.
Production: Lawrence Gordon; ex-
ecutive: Hank Moonjean.
The players: Burt Reynolds, Dom
DeLuise, Sally Field, Joanne Wood
ward, Kristy McNichol, Robby Ben-
son, Carl Reiner, David Steinberg,
Strother Martin, Norman Fell, Pat
O'Brien, Myrna Loy, James Best,
Alfie Wise.
Direction: Hal Needham. Screen-
play: Bill Kerby and Thomas Rick-
man, after a story by Walt Green and
Walter Herndon. Cinematography:
Bobby Byrne. Art direction: Hilyard
Brown. Stunt coordination: Bobby
Bass. Editing: Donn Cambern. Mu-
sic: Bill Justis. Production: Hank
Moonjean; executive: Lawrence
~. ~!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!~~!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 47
The players: Burt Reynolds,Sally
Field, Jan-Michael Vincent, James
Best, Brian Keith, Robert Klein,
John Marley, Alfie Wise, Adam
From the tone of the "Emergence of
Burt Reynolds" ballyhoo that heralded
its arrival, I expected The End to be the
bigger hit of the past summer's two
Reynolds films. But despite his com-
petent bid for respect as a serious direc-
torial talent in The End, Reynolds-on
either side of the camera-is more
engaging in the midst of the humble
good-timeyness of Hooper. Hal Need-
ham directed the latter, a stuntman's
paean to stuntmen; but one glance at the
credit and cast lists for the two films
makes a case for regarding both as the
product of the Burt Reynolds stock
company that has been slowly a-building
through White Lightning, Gator and
Smokey and the Bandit. These folks
enjoy one another so darn much it's
pretty hard for us not to enjoy them,
too. That kind of relationship lends
itself not only to "fun" filmmaking
but also to some inspired improvisation-
al playing, like the Gabby Hayes and
Jimmy Stewart imitations of real-life
bosom buddies James Best and Burt
Reynolds in an early scene in Hooper.
The loyal friendship of these two stunt-
men is an important motif in Hooper,
and works all the better for its reflection
of a real-and touching-relationship
between Best and Reynolds. That spirit
informs both films, and gives them a
life and warmth beyond their modest
means. In each, Reynolds plays a guy
named Sonny who finds meaning in the
face of absurdity through a love-hate
relationship with a man whose character
complements his own. The End is less
conventionally plotted, a series of skits
around a central theme-not so much
the theme of death but the theme of
Sonny Lawson's relationship with God,
always treated comically but reflecting
a serious recognition of a basic human
need. In that regard, Sonny in the last
reel of The End has much in common
with Cable in the first reel of The Ballad
of Cable Hogue. Someone has pointed
out already that The End is like a com-
bination Woody Allen - Mel Brooks film
with the pain-based humor of the early
scenes giving way to hysterical slapstick
and comedy of a more biological bent
following the mid-film entrance of Dom
DeLuise. Reynolds's style here is spare,
and at its most telling when it runs to
cut-in personal touches like Sonny's
nostalgic little smile as he glances at
Marlin Perkins doing a Wild Kingdom
show on kinkajous-a dying man's
last impression of his parents' homelife,
as he leaves their apartment with a
superdose of borrowed sleeping pills;
or coming out of the hospital to face
a changed world in which he must ac-
cept the fact that he is dying, stopping
and bending to sniff the sweetness of
a hitherto-unappreciated flower, and
then violently retching. Yet for all its
personalism, and comedic seriousness,
I'm not convinced that The End is a
more personal expression of Reynolds
and his world than Hooper. The action
of Hooper is set in motion by the arrival
in Hollywood of "Ski" (Jan-Michael
Vincent), a new young stunt man whose
agility and daring threatens to supplant
reigning stunt king Sonny Hooper (Rey-
nolds), just as Sonny had superseded
the great Jocko Doyle (Brian Keith).
Doyle nostalgically recalls the good
times of stunting in the early days, and
the idealistic Ski asks, "Is that all it is
for you, good times?" - suggesting that
there are more meaningful reasons for
taking a stuntman's risks, including "to
prove something to yourself, or to show
that a man can do just about anything
he puts his mind to." Jocko laughs it
off -' 'That's too deep for me!"-
stressing the gap in viewpoint among
the film's principals. Between the
purely physical approach of Jocko, in it
for the good times, and the metaphysi-
cal approach of Ski, who wants to
demonstrate something about the
human condition, is Hooper, represent-
ing that middle ground of proving
something to himself. His recognition
of the essentially self-destructive instinct
that makes him live with danger does
little to deter him from the stuntman's
way of life. When he finally decides to
step down, it is as much out of loyalty
to those who love him as for fear of
doing himself permanent injury. By
film's end we feel closer than ever to
the Jocko side of Sonny, arid Ski has
been moved from his seriousmindedness
to the what-the-hell, beer-drinking, cop-
baiting good times that, after all, are
the most meaningful thing in the world
of Burt Reynolds and Company.
Robert C. Cum bow
(Part One)
Direction: Ralph Bakshi. Screen
play: Chris Conkling and Peter S.
Beagle, after the novels by J.R.R.
Tolkien. Cinematography: Tim Gal-
fos. Editing: Donald W. Erst. Music:
Laurence Rosenthal. Production:
Saul Zaentz.
Looking at the photograph of Saul
Zaentz and Ralph Bakshi in the October
issue of Millimeter, I am struck by how
much these men, after more than two
years' involvement with The Lord of the
Rings, look like two hobbits themselves.
It works: Bakshi's Frodo to Zaentz's
Bilbo ... but this Ring they've got hold
of may prove just as ambiguous in its
anticipated effects as the one in this
two-hour first-of-two animated films,
or the one in Tolkien's celebrated fan-
tasy series. Although Bakshi's Lord of
the Rings has a presold audience, it is an
audience that will be hard to please. One
thing that is almost sure to disappoint
both the skeptic and the rabid fan of the
film is the indefinite feeling that accom-
panies the end of this first part, and the
knowledge that one must wait another
year or two to make up one's mind fully.
Unlike Lester's The Three Musketeers,
Bakshi's Part One is not of a piece, but
ends on a deliberately to-be-continued
note which makes one wish he had opted
for either a four-hour feature with inter-
mission or a two-night, two-feature ex-
travaganza all at once, if only to achieve
the kind of unity that both cinema and
myth demand. Indeed, unity is the main
thing missing from The Lord of the
Rings, Part One. Bakshi wants on the
one hand to drive the film by sheer force
of plot, and on the other to have the
story serve as a basis for the virtuoso
animation style he experimented with in
Wizards. As Part One turns out, how-
ever, we have a maze of plot with little
clarity of motivation, a jungle of char-
acters whose strange-sounding names
we can't keep straight and .whose even
stranger relationships aren't made clear
in dialogue or in image, and a tangle of
mixed animation styles more often in
collision than in harmony. The stylistic
tension between the Disneyish main
characters and their Frank Frazetta-like
environment at first provides a kind of
starkness appropriate to fantasy, with
its avoidance of moral ambiguity, its re-
liance on character-type, and its insis-
Icnce upon c1earcut distinctions between
lI,o~dand evil. But soon, with the first
appearance of the Orcs, we have a mix-
lure of cartoon figures, storybook illus-
Iration background, and tinted live-
action figures-a stylistic chaos that,
whatever Bakshi's intentions may 'have
hecn, simply doesn't work. In the c1i-
IIHlctic battle the cartoon characters
come up against the live-action silhou-
etlcs, a concept more than a little frivo-
lous to the eye, considering the thematic
wcight Bakshi and scenarists place upon
Ihc conflict. Perhaps recognizing the
ahsurdity of the collision, Bakshi strives
lIot to show cartoon figures and live-
action figures in the same frame if he
can possibly avoid it. But the result is a
montage that never succeeds in estab-
lishing spatial relationships between its
charact\:rs and character-groups. And
Ihe cartoon figures, who are the protag-
ollists of the tale, actually seem the
IllOre alien to us, intercut as they are
with more recognizably "real" people-
shapes. The fact that the cartoon heroes
wcre animated in over pre-shot live-
act ion footage with real actors playing
Ihc characters to be animated gives the
rcsulting cartoons a realism of move-
IIlcnt- and especially of facial nuance
_ that is a major achievement in anima-
!ion; but it does not resolve the stylistic
illcongruity of the film, which I suspect
tllrned out to be greater than Bakshi
IIl1ticipated. Not having read the Tol-
kicn books, I can't say whether this
film will please a Tolkien devotee, or
cvcn make sense to him. But for me,
hoth stylistically and narratively, the
i'iImis a jumble. All too often I see Bak-
shi falling back on a visual (or sound)
cffect, rather than giving the viewer the
word of explanation he wants to make
Ilim more comfortable with the story.
In the words of the immortal Rufus T.
Firefly, "Run out and find me a four-
ycar-oM child. I can't make head or tail
out of it."
Robert C. Cumbow
Direction: John Hough. Screenplay:
Alvin Boretz, after the novel The
Algonquin Project by Frederick
Nolan. Cinematography: Tony Imi.
Production design: Rolf Zehetbauer.
Editing: David Lane. Music: Lau
rence Rosenthal.
The players: John Cassavetes, Max
Von Sydow, Sophia Loren, George
Kennedy, Patrick McGoohan, Rob
ert Vaughn, Edward Herrman, Ed
Bishop, Lee Montague.
Scrapers of cinematic barrel bottoms,
stand advised: John Hough has laid
incontestable claim to his long-sought
title, the new James Goldstone. This
department confesses to having been
remiss in not calling your attention to
the first change in the wind, the old
James Goldstone's 1977 realization of
Rollercoaster, a Sensurround disaster
pic so inoffensive, even moderately
competent in execution that it alienated
the taken-for-granted audience for such
fare and failed at the box office. At this
time we can only conjecture whether
Goldstone's unanticipated lurch toward
respectability will continue unchecked
or prove an aberration in an otherwise
execrable track record. Meanwhile
Hough, the most flagrantly conscience-
less hack to appear in the past decade
(Sudden Terror, Treasure Island and
above all the loathsome Dirty Mary
Crazy Larry), has seized the day. In a
year of generally insipid commercial
cinema, Brass Target manages to be
actively disgusting, and just possibly
degrading. Name a hypothetical offense
against history, genre, scenario logic,
continuity, characters, performers, or
viewers, and Hough commits it-
drooling. I am advised that Frederick
Nolan's The Algonquin Project makes
only teasing pretensions toward being
historical roman a clef; Hough's film is
quite willing to be taken for fact. It gets
underway with the theft, in the declining
days of the Second World War, of an
astronomical fortune in Reichsbank
gold, not to mention the mass murder of
'its U.S. Army escort. The perpetrators
are three officers highly placed on Gen.
'George S. Patton's staff. When the
Commies drop leaden hints about the
Army's connivance in the theft, old
Blood 'n' Guts makes it his personal
business to smoke the culprits out, and
,the culprits in turn enlist the most lethal
hitman in Europe to arrange an appar-
ently accidental four-star demise. A
hot-under-the-collar OSS man with
trendy ethnic background (Italian) be-
gins to pick up signals that even less
than normal is well around HQ and that
Patton may be in danger, and that sets
in motion an utterly incoherent investi-
gation, a scarcely more coherent set of
doublecrosses and assassinations, and
an all-out war of attrition that does in
most of the dramatis personae in vari-
ous pointless ways-as if the program-
matic script and especially Hough's
label-affixing direction hadn't effec-
tively robbed them of life and interest
from the word go. George Ke~nedy
blusters boringly as Patton (who wasn't
Patton in the book), Patrick McGoo-
han uses up his leftover Rafferty man-
nerisms as a terminally whacked-out
OSS big shot, John Cassavetes looks
pissed as the investigator and hopes it
passes for bitterness, and Robert Vaughn
and Ed Herrman are forced to play the
key traitors as menopausal faggots.
The unintentional-howler department is
well served by Sophia Loren as a poor,
worldweary, unblemished and chicly
garbed lady who has a deep and true
feeling for Cassavetes but has spent the
war making ficky-fick with sundry vil-
lains in order to avoid the fate~worse-
than-fate-worse-than-death of having to
wear rags. The only class act is Max
Von Sydow's as the master-of-disguise
hitman who doubles as director of an
international war refugee program.
Even if we exonerate Hough of guilt
for the scenario or the performances
(it must be hard to hold mannerists like
McGoohan and Vaughn in line, es-
pecially when they may be' acting in.
self-defense), there's no getting past
the' constant visual straining, the lu-
.gubrious portentousness and anything-
for-an-angle-shot ugliness- and, again,
pointlessness - of the directorial style.
Hough also manages one trick Gold-
stone never mastered: he makes a multi-
million-dollar production look cheap-
Direction: Hal Ashby. Screenplay:
Waldo Salt and Robert C. Jones,
after a story by. Nancy Dowd (and,
uncredited, Jane Fonda and Bruce
Gilbert). Cinematography: Haskell
Wexler. Production design: Michael
Haller. Editing: Don Zimmerman.
Production: Jerome Hellman.
The players: Jane Fonda, Jon
Voight, Bruce Dern, Penelope
Milford, Robert Carradine, Robert
Like Bound for Glory, Hal Ashby's
latest attempt at chronicling the moods
of an era is an honest if hamhanded
effort. As in Shampoo, a love triangle
becomes emblematic of the political and
social polarities of a nation at the cross-
roads (an idea that was old before Doc-
tor Zhivago). Coming Home also shares
with Shampoo a self-deluding sense of
its own importance and originality; it
says nothing about Vietnam and the
Sixties that hasn't been said for the past
ten years, and speaks only to those who
already know, and feel, more than
Ashby's film ever manages to express.
Nevertheless, the powerfully acted love
story between officer's wife Sally Hyde
(Fonda) and wounded vet Luke Martin
(Voight) is tenderly felt, a welling-up of
joy tinged with the guilt of infidelity
that reflects the larger, less overt guilt of
rebellion against Uncle Sam and all that
he stands for. There's an important
truth here: Sally changes her whole life-
style, and her convictions, not out of a
moral or political commitment, but
because she falls in love-just as oppo-
sition to the Vietnam War was initially
grounded in personal attachment to the
people 'whose lives were wasted there,
while the sense of moral outrage came
later, an extension and justification of
the more concrete personal resistance.
It's something Ashby and scenarists
seem to recognize in making Luke Mar-
tin someone Sally knows from high
school; and the Felliniesque airport
sequence of the dead and wounded
coming home together (Haskell Wex-
ler's finest moment in an uncharacter-
istically pedestrian job of cinematogra-
phy) recognizes the basis of American
opposition to the war in the searing
intimacy of the suffering of friends and
neighbors, lovers, husbands, sons. But
the writers, alas, have opted for the
melodrama of suicide, mutilation, pub-
lic protest, noisy hysterics, violence and
threat, instead of the subtler, more
honest, and infinitely more terrifying
quiet desperation of most Vietnam vet-
erans. There are no scenes in Coming
Home to compare with Dana Andrews
sitting in the shell of a junked B-17 in
The Best Years of Our Lives (a film with
which, in many ways, Coming Home in-
.vites comparison, to its own disadvan-
tage.) The film is almost never as under-
standing of Marine Captain Bob Hyde
(Dern) as it is of Sally and Luke, though
his emotional paralysis is much more
symptomatic of the war's true legacy
than Luke's physical injury. Even
Hyde's most sympathetic scenes-his
fumbling efforts to come to terms with
what the war really is, as he limps
through R&R in Hong Kong-are
undercut by the soundtrack: the Rolling
Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil." In
fact, Ashby's use of a pop-song music
track becomes a tiresome reminder of
the movie's essential lack of integrity.
Gathered from as early as 1965 and as
late as 1970 (the film is set in '68), the
songs, with few exceptions, are used
arbitrarily, usually without any onscreen
source, and rarely make any contribu-
tion to our understanding of the film's
characters and their world. To be sure,
the music works rhythmically, and
draws out a nostalgic response from us
that was certainly intended by Ashby.
But the response is the same that the
song would evoke without Ashby's
quote-marks, or his film, wrapped
around. It is to Coming Home's credit
that it stirs memories and emotions
deep in the consciences of its viewers.
But it does so by a button-pushing
system of easy referrents, rather than by
creating memorable, affecting images
of its own.
Robert C. Cum bow
Direction: Louis Malle. Screenplay:
Polly Platt and Louis Malle, after a
story by Platt. Cinematography:
Sven Nykvist. Production design:
Trevor Williams. Editing: Suzanne
Baron (supervision), Suzanne Fenn.
Music supervision: Jerome Wexler.
Production: Malle.
The players: Brooke Shields, Keith
Carradine, Susan Sarandon, Fran:
ces Faye, Antonio Fargas, Diana
Scarwid, Barbara Steele.
As much as anything else, Pretty'
Baby is about the end of an era-the
ragtime era. Music is so much a part of
the film's atmosphere and texture that
it seems an aspect of the production de-
sign; and the music reflects that delicate
transitional period in popular music
when the formal, classical ragtime of
Scott Joplin and Louis Chauvin began
to give way to the freer-flowing "walk-
ing" sound of New Orleans blues-a
step in the long process whereby African
tribal chant and slavery-days work songs
developed into the liberated, improvisa-
tional swing of the Jazz Age. The piv-
otal figure in the transition from the
Sedalia sound of Joplin to the New
Orleans sound that became Dixieland
was Jelly Roll Morton, who for all prac-
tical purposes appears in the film as
"the Professor," a lean cathouse piano
player portrayed by Antonio Fargas,
who even looks a little like the old Jelly
Roll. Morton did much of his best work
playing nights in Storyville; and the
closing-down of New Orleans's fabled
red-light district by the U.S. Navy in
1917 was both the end of an era and the
reason why many suddenly unemployed
musicians - playing something they
then called "jass" - fanned out across
the country, bringing a new sound with
them. In Pretty Baby, when Madame
Nell's closes up and,the furniture is being
carted off, the Professor still sits, play-
ing a last few bars on his piano as the
movers pick it up; he turns quickly away
with a tossed-off "Lousy old piano any-
way ... "to cut the pain of being sepa-
rated from a part of himself. Fargas has
another great moment, earlier in the
film, in the close, long take of the Pro-
fessor's face, with God-knows-what-all
passing through his mind, as the brothel
patrons bid for the privilege of taking
the virginity of the girl Violet: flesh-
peddling of two different kinds meet at
that moment in the pained awareness of
one face that has seen too much. But
for all that, Malle's Pretty Baby is more
tender than painful, its world more gen-
tle than shocking. This is made clear at
the outset, when whatever predisposi-
tions we may have about the film's sub-
ject matter and tone are demolished
with a neat one-two. First, the moans
and groans we think are sexual prove
instead - as the camera pulls back to
show us what Violet is watching-to be
the birth pains of her mother, Hattie.
Then, when Violet runs away from the
scene, we again. make an assumption:
that she retreats because she can't bear
the pain. The next cut turns back on us
again, for Violet is in fact running into
the'sittingroom to announce excitedly
the birth of her baby brother William .
Malle makes us accept Violet's accep-
lance of her world-in which a rat in
Ihe bedroom is a plaything, not an ob-
ject of horror-and the most unlikely
things in the film become gentle and
pleasing. Malle's, Platt's, and Nykvist's
loving approach to the film's characters
mirrors the love that Bellocq, the pho-
lographer, has for his models as real
people. The camera,is for him, like the
piano for the Professor, the true instru-
ment of love. But the passing of time
hrings with it the cheapening of such
instruments, and the loss of innocence
altogether. The Professor's piano is
loted off like so much junk, and Bel-
locq's genius is reduced to the box cam-
era of Mr. Fuller, who comes to force
the deliciously ambiguous childwoman
of Bellocq's art and dreams into the un--
comfortable mold of child. Violet
(played with haunting beauty and pre-
cocious understanding by Brooke
Shields-and thank God for one
worldly-wise child actress who doesn't
come off like a smartass!) goes willingly,
seems to embrace the new role. Perhaps
in a world where children play at being
adults, an adolescent needs a chance to
play at being a child. But she looks
wrong to us with Mr. Fuller and her
mother. Is her acceptance of the child
role a knowing shrinking-away from
adulthood, a desperate last grasp at
already-lost innocence Uust as Baby
William, whose birth begins the film,
is always seen crying-shouting, it
seems, his reluctance to be in the world)?
Whatever the feelings and thoughts of
Violet may be as the film ends, she has
seen and known too much. Her return
to innocence is doomed to fail. The jazz
age is about to begin.
Robert C. Cumbow
Screenplay and direction: Peter
Hyams. Cinematography: Bill But
ler. Production design: Albert Bren
nero Editing: James Mitchell. Music:
Jerry Goldsmith. Production: Paul
N. Lazarus III.
The players: James Brolin, Elliott
Gould, Brenda Vaccaro, Sam Water
ston, O.J. Simpson, Hal Holbrook,
Karen Black, David Huddleston,
Robert Walden, Telly Savalas, David
Doyle, Denise Nichols, Alan Fudge.
Out of the Past
"What if the greatest event in recent
history never really happened?" ask the
ads, above a shot of astronauts exiting
a space module onto an alien surface,
surrounded by the lights and cameras
of a Hollywood TV soundstage. But
Capricorn One is at pains early on to
establish that John Glenn did orbit the
earth, Neil Armstrong did walk on the
moon; it's this trip, to Mars, that's
going to be faked, and all because some
nasty politicians threaten to discontinue
the space program altogether unless the
mission comes off without a hitch.
The surprise is that, despite this initial
shillyshallying with our expectations
and its own intentions, Peter Hyams's
film comes off as a competent, interest-
ing, often nail-biting thriller. The focus
of the film is a trio of astronauts forced
to compromise themselves by participat-
ing in a fake Mars landing - actually
staged in an abandoned hanga'r not far
from Houston and televised worldwide
-calculated to save the space program
(no waffling here: the films actually
calls it NASA) by simulating success in
a mission that actually could not have
continued on page 53
Direction: Nicholas Ray. Screenplay: Philip Yordan. Cine-
matography: Franz F. Planer, Manuel Berenguer, Milton
Krasner. Sets and costumes: Georges Wakhevitch. Edit-
ing: Harold F. Kress. Music: Miklos Rozsa. Production:
Samuel Bronston.
The players: Jeffrey Hunter, Robert Ryan, Siobhan Me
Kenna, Viveca Lindfors, Ron Randell, Hurd Hatfield, Harry
Guardino, Royal Dano, Frank Thring, Guy Rolfe, Rita
Gam, Brigid Bazlen, Carmen Sevilla, Rip Torn, Gregoire
Asian, George Coulouris, Orson Welles (uncredited nar-
Seek and thou shalt find ... or not, as the case may be.
There is by now a good deal of useful critical writing available
in English on the work of every film buff's favourite genius
maudit, Nick Ray. But Ray experts fall curiously taciturn on
the topic of King of Kings, the longest of the director's films,
his second-most-costly, and arguably his worst-received. The
Time reviewer even accused the film of blasphemy; in Europe,
critics were content to suggest that any film casting a drippy
jeune premier like Jeff Hunter as Jesus Christ would have to be
at best risible. Time revealed that the film's trade nickname
was I Was a Teenage Jesus, something Leslie Halliwell's dread-
ful reference book (I use the term lightly) The Filmgoer's
Companion reminds us of with each new edition.
Well, one expects this sort of thing from the journalistic
bourgeoisie; costume epics might as well have their reviews
written sight-unseen, so hardened are reviewers' attitudes.
But if one looks to, say, V.F. Perkins's book, Film as Film,
full of adulation for Ray, the comments on King of Kings
amount to no more than a tabulation of cuts and alterations
and impositions made by others, gleaned from the interview
with the director conducted by Perkins and others for Movie 9.
Look, in that issue of the magazine, to Perkins's article "The
Cinema of Nicholas Ray" and you will find one sentence in
seven pages. There are two brief references to the film- one
a redundant and silly comparison with Norman Jewison's
hideous and then-current Jesus Christ Superstar-in Jonathan
Rosenbaum's article "Circle of Pain" in the Autumn 1973
Sight and Sound. The would-be-comprehensive (and certainly
very interesting) interview-cum-career-summary presented by
Michael Goodwin and Naomi Wise in Take One V, 6 (January
1977) doesn't mention the film once.
Obviously, the general reader with an interest in Ray is going
to come to one conclusion: those scathing reviews (" ... the
corniest, phoniest, ickiest, and most monstrously vulgar super-
spectacle since ... "- you guessed it, that nameless Time man
again) were right. Surely, even the director's devotees were
embarrassed by the movie? Then again, it's in a very un-
fashionable genre, and the Christian faith presents lots of
problems for critics who wish to appear hip. In Europe the
film did terrible business and is very rarely shown. Anyway,
it was the first Nicholas Ray film I ever saw, and I saw it again
recently, after an interval of nearly 17 years. My memories
of it were not very encouraging, but I was interested to see
whether Ray's normally very strong authorial presence was
as submerged as all the heretofore suggests.
It was and it wasn't. There is a lot wrong with King of Kings,
but I was more impressed than I thought I would be, and it
certainly bears Ray's signature. It suffers in all manner of
obvious ways: the special-effects work is mainly crude, par-
ticularly when Christ is tempted of the Devil; some of the
acting is inadequate or at least overly variable; and above all,
Philip Yordan (the screenwriter of one of Ray's best films,
Johnny Guitar) provides some highly cringeworthy verbiage.
This is more true of the narration than the dialogue; despite
some heroic vocal efforts by Orson Welles, the pseudo-poetic,
pseudo- Biblical flourishes of the commentary are often hard to
bear. Then again, the front-office boys were on Ray's back at
all times, and so, one may guess, were hordes of religious
advisers. There were not only endless difficulties in the editing
of the film- there were lots of up-front compromises. I would
suggest that the only way to make a good film on the life of
Christ is to make a personal movie, and to hell with the possi-
bility of offending someone; this, one may deduce from the
aforementioned Movie interview, was Ray's view, too, but it
wasn't MGM's or, I'm sure, Samuel Bronston's. But could a
multimillion-dollar epic be sold on universal brotherhood?
Hardly. Hence, King of Kings sports a couple of battle scenes
not referred to by the Bible, and the Prince of Peace takes a
back number to some good-old fashioned gore-letting.
The irony is that these two interjectins of commercialism
also tie in with the film's most interesting aspect, which is the
way in which Christianity is presented as an utterly revolution-
ary movement, so completely innovative, and thus daunting,
that it proves not a little baffling and frightening to the com-
mon people as well as to its obvious opponents. The politics of
Christianity is at least an interesting - or perhaps more so?-
to Ray as its philosophy, and the emphasis in the film is toward
the social and personal relevance of Christian doctrine rather
than to any kind of intellectual exposition. The Jesus of Ray's
film bears little resemblance to the Victorian bible-art that
influences most other Biblical epics one can think of; this
Christ is mainly clad in apostrophic red than the miraculously
dust-free white of, say, The Robe or Cecil B. DeMille's silent
King of Kings. Similarly, the Last Supper is served at a Y-
shaped table rather than Leonardo's model, and the Jerusalem
streets contain enough dirt for a pathway of palm leaves to
be sensible as well as symbolic.
The political situation in Judea is fraught enough even
before Jesus comes on the scene. The major structural inno-
vation of the film is its depiction of that mysterious fellow
Barabbas. There exists a legend to the effect that Barabbas
the robber, so summarily described in the Bible, was in fact
Christ's brother. The plot of Par Lagerqvist's short novel
Barabbas and also of Richard Fleischer's rather long 1962
movie version presents us with a series of events that oddly
parallel, in worldly terms, the metaphysical events of Christ's
Passion (though the film version is, let us say, less than ideally
rigorous here). Ray, more straightforwardly, gives us a Ba-
rabbus who is a committed revolutionary of the conventional
sort; his idea of freedom is the sort gained by much wielding
of the sword. Thus, the choice between Christ and Barabbas
is a real one; the spiritual salvation offered by Jesus, hard to
understand and harder to gain, is in many ways less appealing
-certainly less seductive-than what Barabbas offers, which
is, in a phrase, "We want our revolution now!"
The ideological opposition of Jesus and Barabbas is present-
ed by Ray in an elaborate series of visual and verbal patterns.
"I am fire and He is water!" says Barabbas at one point;
Barabbas is seen forging weapons in an underground furnace
whilst Christ is, of course, a man associated with waterways,
a fisher of souls. It is pointed out that they have the same first
name. The commentary refers to them as being "the right and
left hand of the same body." Both are involved in pointed
dialogue expressing personal philosophy with the Roman
officer Lucius. Though the two men vaguely look alike, Barab-
bas is dark, Jesus fair, whilst Jeffrey Hunter's Midwest WASP
face contrasts with Harry Guardino's urban-Italian-Catholic-
proletarian appearance. Each is linked to the other by a couple
of go-between characters who are, in turn, opposed to each
other, the Roman who seems to embody a good deal of Chris-
tianity, Lucius, and the apostle who is unable to shake off the
philosophy of Barabbas, Judas.
In a sense, this conflict is a very American one. Barabbas
has plenty of machismo; one can envision him on the frontier.
Ray is very careful to suggest, though, that Christ's eschewing
of violence even in the face of death is both a moral and intel-
lectual strength; if we remember Martin Pawley of The Search-
ers, the casting of Jeffrey Hunter seems shrewder than one
might earlier have thought. Thus, Ray's Christ, by virtue of
his individualistic toughness, is a more subversive figure than
the predictable Barabbas; his one-man ride through Jerusalem
at the same time as Barabbas's bloody and utterly unsuccessful
attempt to seize the city by force is the shrewder, more politic-
ally effective act, and thus infinitely more dangerous. A WPA
veteran like Ray would understand this pretty clearly; let us not
forget that one of his unrealised projects in recent years was a
movie about the Chicago Conspiracy Trial.
The political thinker has not vanquished the poet, though.
The visual quality of King of Kings is very uneven, but a famil-
iar signature is discernible in the multi-textured iconography
of the film, its network of shields and coins and weaponry and
breastplates (for Rome) balancing and offsetting the represen-
tation of the Jews via cloth and stone and wood and natural
phenomena. And Jesus Christ is, like every other Nicholas Ray
hero, a stranger here Himself. Christ:s last appearance on
earth in this version is not to an assembled multitude but to
His surviving disciples only, who set off in several different
directions to carry out His work j,\nd leave Him alone on a
deserted beach, a corporeal being srill, for all that His shadow
lengthens unceasingly.
Pierre Greenfield
continued from page 51
worked because of equipment discov-
ered (too late) to be defective. The real
twist comes when the ulltmanned .rocket
genuinely sent into space loses its heat
shield and burns up on re-entry: with
Ihe world mourning their deaths, the
Ihree astronauts reaiize that, alive, they
arc worse than an embarrassment to
NASA and the politicos who support it,
and so flee their isolated prison in a
slolen jet, only to crash-land a short
Iime later in the west Texas desert.
They struggle for survival in an environ-
ment as forbiddingly alien as any Mar-
tian landscape, and the film becomes a _
space adventure without going into
space. There are monsters (a snake, a
scorpion, and two helicopters that stalk
Ihe fleeing astronauts like birds of prey,
Iheir presence as menacingly animate as
Ihe snake-headed spacecraft of the Mar-
lians in Pal and Haskin's The War of
the Worlds) and even alien-looking vil-
lains in the form of two helmeted heli-
copter pilots who hunt the last astronaut
in a tumbledown gas station. There are
other conceits as well: the ~hrouded
video console that tells us with chilling
economy not only that Elliott Witter
- the NASA man who knows too much
- is gone, but that he is dead; oblique
and direct references to Call Northside
77, Dr. Strangelove and a fistful of
Hitchcock films; some clever visual
puns (a news reporter's sabotaged car
crashes into the drink, followed by a cut
10 the day of the rocket's scheduled
splashdown; one astronaut, to keep
himself sane, tells himself an elaborate
joke in which being "on the roof" be-
comes a euphemism for being near
death, and finishes the joke as he reach-
es the top of a high mesa to find the
helicopters of his executioners already
waiting); and a lot of interesting juxta-
positions of speed with slowness (crawl-
ing through the desert vs. flying through
the air, a harrowing air chase vs. a
funeral procession, two men running
in a cemetery). In fact, there are so
many go,?d and half-good ideas in it
Ihat Capricorn One would quickly go
l'Iying off in all directions if it weren't
held together by several strong ele-
ments: Hyams's taut script and direc-
tion, Jerry Goldsmith's score (true
slIspense music in the Herrmann tra-
dition), and three or four commanding
performances, most notably David
Huddleston's as a coolly calculating
Congressman and Hal Holbrook's as
Calloway, the NASA scientist-adminis-
trator who masterminds the fakery.
Holbrook has a particularly good mo-
ment-and I'm not finally sure whether
it's his or Hyams's-when, issuing a
statement to the press after the burn-up
of the rocket, he makes a Freudian slip:
"We maintain contract, er, contact with
the spacecraft ... " It's a telling detail
in his baroque world of deals and ar-
rangements, the more effective for com-
ing at just the point when we've begun
to wonder if that heat-shield separation
and burn-up was an accident after all,
or part of the plan the astronauts were
not let in on. For what seems Callo-
way's individual crusade quickly be-
comes more: "It's not just me," he
says; "there are Forces who have a lot
to lose if this program is cancelled."
There are those who have a lot to gain,
too: two camps of politicians each using
the space program toward their own
economic ends. Hyams conspires with
Bill Butler's arresting (if not always
inventive) cinematography to keep us
aware of the narrowing breadth of that
middle ground between two opposing
villainies. Shallow focus is a key device:
most of the time most of what we are
looking at is out of the focal plane. A
typical composition has the astronauts
debating the morality of their actions on
the "set" of their fake landing, while
the words UNITED STATES and the
American flag on the module are blurred
into ambiguity. Butler takes advantage
of the sprawling wide screen to employ
a number of symmetrical compositions
that underscore the odd duality of the
film's moral limbo; but more often the
edges of the frame are less formally
established, far more vulnerable. A lot
of the film's frissons are telegraphed by
Hyams's and Butler's studied holding
of a shot in which little of interest is
going on, long enough for us to realize
that our attention ought to be elsewhere
(Brubaker backing into a cave, far
enough and long enough for us to know
there's something waiting for him in
there; newsman Caulfield detained long
enough with a pointless phonecall that
we know it's a decoy to effect the ab-
duction of his friend Witter). The grim
vision of Capricorn One is that the
real nastiness of the world just beyond
the frame's edge is always a foregone
Robert C. Cumbow
Direction: John Guillermin. Screen
play: Anthony Shaffer, after. the
novel by Agatha Christie. Cinema-
tography: Jack Cardiff. Production
design: Peter Murton. Costumes:
Anthony Powell. Editing: Malcolm
Cooke. Music: Nino Rota. Produc
tion: Richard Goodwin, John Bra
The players: Peter Ustinov, Jane
Birkin, Lois Chiles, Bette Davis, Mia
Farrow, Jon Finch, Olivia Hussey,
George Kennedy, Angela Lansbury,
Simon MacCorkindale, David Niven,
Maggie Smith, Jack Warden, Harry
Andrews, I.S. Johar, Sam Wana
If your friendly neighbourhood TV
station or Film Society is showing an
uncut print of Touch of Evil or Vertigo
- or, for that matter, And Then There
Were None or Witness for the Prosecu-
tion - you need not miss such delights
in favour of Death on the Nile. But if
not, you could do worse than attend.
Made by the same producers as Murder
on the Orient Express, it has, however,
a different adaptor, a different director
and a different Hercule Poirot; and the
difference shows. Although Jack Car-
diff - who seems finally to have rea-
lized that it's better to be a good cam-
eraman than a bad director - gives us
plenty of tourist-spot imagery up and
down the banks of the Nile, with ro-
mance at the Sphinx, romantic torment
at Abu Simbel and derring-do elsewhere,
the film as a whole doesn't slam gloss
into the viewer's eye the way Orient
Express did, and if ihe star-power on
display is of a lower voltage than pre-
viously, the leading lights give off
enough energy, by and large, to keep me
bright, at least. Above all, Peter Usti-
novas Hercule P. blandly floats along
in the Agatha Christie, mystery soup,
where Albert Finney, padd~d and bees-
waxed to the nines, felt obliged to attack
his material with a funambulistic gusto.
This Poirot is a kindly, avuncular sort
of sleuth, fully capable of solving the
mystery of Who Killed The Superbitch
Heiress, but rather perturbed about it,
perpetually saddened by the unhappy
byroads of human nature, and fully
aware of his own detecting weaknesses.
Two other people get bumped off be-
fore the solution is presented, and Poi-
rot has a near-fatal encounter with a
hungry cobra; Finney's Poirot would
not have been so fallible, nor, one sus-
pects, so concerned at his failure to trap
the killer before two more victims were
added to the tally. In fact, the about-
face that Death on the Nile does in its
final stages genuinely took me by sur-
prise; the jokes stop and the unhappi-
ness of the world takes over. We find
ourselves not only feeling sorry for the
guilty, but also realising that the appall-
ing bitch-heiress (Lois Chiles) was some-
thing of a victim, too, even before she
was murdered. Screenwriter Anthony
Shaffer can't resist some parodying of
detective-yarn conventions ("Did it
fall," Poirot asks of a lethal bit of stone
which has just missed crushing a couple
of people, "or ... was it pushed?"), but
has the nerve to twist his script from its
more or less humourous shape into the
sad finale right in the middle of just
such a piece of parody. A passenger
who's witnessed the second murder pre-
pares to reveal all to Poirot, gets as far
as saying, " ... and it was-", and then
drops dead, a bullet between the eyes.
Funny, yes? No. For the character has
been up to this point funny and touch-
ing enough to gain our sympathy; also,
her death is decidedly gruesome, blood
spouting from the bullethole in a man-
ner such as will freeze any grin. Though
most of the film has a light tone, its
deaths have a sting, and Hercule Poi-
rot's pain at the loss of human life is
something we can share. There is one
wholly deplorable element in the film,
however: I.S. Johar as the harassed
manager of the luxury steamer Karnak,
on which most of the action takes place,
is compelled to turn in a funny-wog act,
that seediest of British low-comedy con-
ventions, and is reduced by same to
appearing little more than a bad white
comic in brownface. Elsewhere, the act-
ing ranges from the absolutely spiffing
(Maggie Smith as a ravingly butch trav-
elling-companion) through the spirited
(Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury) and the
outre (Jack Warden as a bogus Freudian)
to the one-dimensional (Olivia Hussey
being able to do nothing with an insipid
English-rose role). David Niven, as the
Watson in the story, looks his age, but
wields a swords tick with finesse, whilst
Jon Finch, as a cynical Marxist, comes
on so much like the young Peter O'Toole
it must be deliberate. As a piece of truly
lunatic extravagance, the producers
hired Harry Andrews and Sam Wana-
maker for a couple of near-irrelevant bit
parts such as anyone could have played;
the two celebrated thesps have, I would
guess, fewer than ten lines and three
minutes of screentime between them.
John Guillermin has no Lumetesque
pretensions to making a statement
about glossy Thirties romances, Star
Quality or anything like that; he just
gets on with the story, managing some
very eye-taking craning, bending, pan-
ning and zooming of the camera in a
longish sequence in a ruined temple,
where menace intermingles with the dust
and the exact placement of everyone at
any given moment is, teasingly, shown
us only to make us more confused.
Pierre Greenfield
Direction: Franklin J. Schaffner.
Screenplay: Heywood Gould, after
the novel by Ira Levin. Cinematogra-
phy: Henri Decae. Production de
sign: Gil Parrando. Editing: Robert
E. Swink. Music: Jerry Goldsmith.
The players: Gregory Peck, Laurence
Olivier, James Mason, Jeremy Black,
Jon Rubinstein, Uta Hagen, Steven
Guttenberg, Anne Meara, Bruno
Ganz, Rosemary Harris, Lilli Palmer,
Walter Gotell, Wolfgang Preiss,
Denholm Elliott, Michael Gough,
John Dehner.
"Budt ze prroject vill be ruindt,"
complains Gregory Peck, in the worst
possible screen-German accent, when
James Mason's SS Colonel suggests that
Peck's mad geneticist recall his squad of
assassins, sent out to bump off 94 civil
servants throughout the world. it's a
clever way to evoke audience sympathy
for the bad guys, because at this point in
the film we don't want Dr. Josef Men-
gele's project to be cancelled - not till
we can at least find out precisely what it
is. How can the killing of 94 low-grade
civil servants, aged 65, possibly bring
about "ze Fourss Reich"? That our
curiosity should be used to ally us with
Mengele, even though we already know
him to be a heinous villain, is indicative
of Franklin Schaffner's offbeat taste in
heroes. Schaffner has wavered between
celebrations of mavericks who defy con-
vention (The War Lord, Planet of the
Apes, Patton, Islands in the Stream)
and confrontations or alliances of two
strong-but-flawed characters (The Best
Man, Papil/on, and the special case of
The Double Man in which Yul Brynner
played both a CIA agent and a Commu-
nist spy). The Boysfrom Brazil seems to
unite the "two interests, with Schaffner
unable to conceal his fascination for
Mengele, quite despite the intentions of
novelist Levin and scenarist Gould.
That Schaffner's camera and montage
tend always to shift interest from the
self-martyring Nazi-hunter Ezra lieber-
mann (Olivier) to the conscienceless ex-
perimenter in human mutation Josef
Mengele is a credit to Schaffner's inter-
est in doing something different, taking
a daring slant. That he is inconsistent
and uncommitted in his approach to
Mengele, however, is the central weak-
ness of the film. He is finally just not
daring enough to make Mengele the
cen.ter of interest, to make him anything
more than a straw villain. Much might
have been made of this modern-day Dr.
Moreau, in his jungle laboratory, sur-
rounded with mutants of his own
making. Instead, Schaffner's fascina-
tion with Mengele is continually under-
cut by his sense of duty to the plot and
to its outraged postwar morality. And
so the mad doctor is finally chewed into
bits of gratuitous gore by a quartet of
identical Dobermans - who mirror the
cold ruthlessness of the four Hitler-
clones played with obnoxiousness_but
never any real terror by Jeremy Black-
and Liebermann becomes the hero after
all, refusing to disclose the addresses of
the 90 other little Hitlers to the fanatical
American Jew who would kill them all.
This final gambit gives us the same frus-
tration as did the premature abortion of
Mengele's sacred mission by the SS axe-
man: a sense of incompleteness. What is
to become of these little boys? Or is this
just one more ending like that of The
Omen, calculated to fill us with terror at
the suggestion that our future leaders
are, one way or another, hell-born?
And wJlat else is new?
Robert C. Cumbow
Direction: Richard Donner. Screenplay: Mario PUlO,
David Newman, Leslie Newman and Robert Benton,
after a story by PUlO, based on characters created by
Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster; ~reative consultant:
Tom Mankiewicz; additional script material: Norman
Enfield. Cinematography: Geoffrey Unsworth. Pro-
duction design: John Barry. Editing: Stuart Baird. Crea-
tive supervision and direction of special effects: Colin
Chilvers; creative supervision and direction of optical
effects: Roy Field; creative supervision and direction
of mattes and composites: Les Bowie. Creative direction
of process photography: Denys Coop. Direction and
creation of model sets: Derek Meddings. Music: John
Williams. Production: Pierre Spengler; executive: lIya
The players: Christopher Reeve; (hereafter in order of
appearance) Marlon Brando, Terence Stamp, Jack 0'
Halloran, Sarah Douglas, Trevor Howard, Harry Andrews,
Maria Schell, Susannah York, Lee Quigley, Aaron Smo-
linski, Glenn Ford, Phyllis Thaxter, Jeff East, Margot
Kidder, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Ned Beatty,
Valerie Perrine, Gene Hackman.
People come up and they ask, "Is Superman any good?"
The unspoken question seems to be: "Could they spend all
that money and generate all that hype and fail to make any-
thing but a dog?" The answer to both is Yes: the movie is a
lot of fun, and the lot of talented people involved have man-
aged to get a lot of their talent very enjoyably on view.
How satisfied you feel about Superman will depend in part
on how readily you accommodate the idea of its partaking of
three different, but provocatively counterpointed, styles. The
first segment, a reel-or-so's worth of film, deals with the last
days of the Mighty Man's native planet Krypton, an ice-mirror
environment where the electric whiteness of Marlon Brando's
hair-he's Jor-EI, father of Kal-EI, the as-yet-unrenamed
baby Superman-and the solarized, lucent whiteness of the
costumes suggest both the abstract superiority (though not
necessarily superior abstractness) of the race and the immi-
nence of their burning themselves out. From Brando's opening
peroration before the grim, grey, titanic floating physogs of
the other ruling elders, while three unspeakably depraved
Kryptonians stand trapped within a shaft of light and a sort
of perpetually-self-balancing Mobius strip, this episode is
stunningly visualized in audacious sci-fi terms, and a note of
high sentence is convincingly sustained in the face of inspired
preposterousness. (It is only after leaving the theatre that one
realizes the three monstrous villains, exiled to the blackest
reaches of the universe via a genuinely disturbing special effect,
have never been referred to again. As with the earlier Salkind
superproduction, The Three/Four Musketeers, there is an-
other part to Superman mostly in the can already; tune in
next Christmas for the terrible vengeance of Non, Ursa, and
the satanic General Zod! ... ) As a solar storm predicted
by the all-wise Jor-EI shatters the crystalline splendor of Kryp-
ton civilization, the elder dispatches his only begotten son in
his own personal starship, complete with memory bank of
instructive aphorisms to prepare the infant for life on Earth
- a backward planet, but a not-inhospitable destination for
a healthy boy with such a dense molecular structure.
After a bit of Kubrick / Lucas lightshow, film-phase two
gets underway: the Kid from Krypton ploughs into a rich
green field smack dab in the middle of George Stevens/ Nor-
man Rockwell country, a mythical motherlode of rural Ameri-
cana with Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter on hand to serve as
ideal salt-of-the-Earth foster parents. (Ford's slow but de-
pendably comprehending look, from the gash in the field to
the grinning three-year-old holding the rear end of his pickup
truck off the road, and his ensuing sigh of acceptance distill
the shambling iconography of his career into one resistance-
melting moment.) Imagistically, this part of the film-about
as long as the Krypton episode-is among the most satisfying
in years. The attempts of the teenage Clark Kent (beautifully
personified by the chunky-faced, slightly bewildered-looking
Jeff East) to behave like a normal adolescent and keep his
special powers under wraps-even as he suspects they might
help him avoid some normal adolescent frustration-make for
good fun. But more, one responds to the way this segment fills
a 70mm hunger for size and purity and clarity. A dusty country
road is not just an incidental location, but a zone of the imagi-
nation we recognize, and gratifyingly realize we'd always
hoped to visit. When the young man, by now bereft of a
second father, climbs o'ilt of his snug farmhouse bed in the
crisp gold light of first sun and looks out at the horizon,
that horizon is as vast and auspicious and waiting-to-be-filled
as horizons are supposed to be.
Clark's subsequent wandering in the Arctic wilderness and
real-or-visionary encounter with the legacy of his past and his
identity seem a special-effects anticlimax after the pristine
re-creation of a vanished, or only-dreamt-of, American inno-
cence. And the recapitulation of his star journey, to cover
twelve years of spiritual instruction by the shade of an increas-
ingly Jehovahlike Jor-EI, produces the first major stumbling
block to satisfying viewer involvement. But then phase three,
the main body of the film, commences, and we are in the pres-
ence of a new, excitingly original mode. _
Everything changes. A point-of-view shot from a taxicab
glides us along a street. It is recognizably a contemporary
American big-city street, yet just stylized enough, in the
selectiveness of detail and the orchestrated busyness of the
pedestrians, to forestall us from assuming a shift into everyday
realism. This is confirmed by our first landmark: an office
building purporting to house ... The Daily Planet. A 30-year-
old Clark Kent (now Christopher Reeve) is arriving for his first
day on the job.
"Comic book" has been invoked in the adjectival form to
describe the style of other artifacts in the last decade or so.
Such usage has mostly been careless, though not necessarily
more careless than the "comic book" aspects of the artifacts
themselves. The Fox TV series Batman in the Sixties was
realized-"on cheaply-dressed soundstages with a minimum of
texture in the decor, a maximum of improbable costumes in
garish pastels, and periodic BAMs, BIFFs, and POWs to spike
the concussionless skirmishes. Star Wars has also been de-
scribed as "comic book" in style, although George Lucas
didn't so much seek to re-create comic-book ambience as
impose the visual energy of comic-book frames on a narrative
progression and sequential action patterns more immediately
derived from movie archetypes. It is only when Superman
comes close to our own world of modern Metropolises that
we can fully appreciate what the filmmakers have been setting
up through the preceding stylized- but more explicitly other-
worldly~segments. The most subtly inventive passage in the
film may be the (in itself minor) sequence introducing Otis
(Ned Beatty), the heroically cretinous lieutenant of archvillain
Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), as he moves through the busy
streets and subway stations of Metropolis under the watchful
eyes of two unidentified plainclothesmen. The fluidly visual-
ized yet jaggedly edited shots of Otis in his outre sharpie's-
duds, and diligent cop heads bobbing up against accidental!
abstract color backgrounds in the midst of the urban bustle,
fairly pulsate with a kind of cinematic energy not quite like any
I've encountered before. (The only approximation I can come
up with is some of the early street and home business in Les-
ter's Help!.)
Comic-book stylization makes itself felt in other ways in this
section of the film. I'm not thinking so much of the acknowl-
edgement, made explicitly for the first time, that there's some-
thing to kid about in the Superman legend, or in the notion of
building a 'movie around it in these presumably wised-up
modern times. Rather, there's the breezy compression of
information, the casual throwing-away of character exposition
and streamlining of plot progression that seems directly pro-
portional to the kinds, and duration, of input one encounters
in comic book narrative. Phases one and two didn't really take
any longer about their business, but we didn't think of it that
way because all that part of the Superman story was new; all of
us have grown up used to having Superman around, and we
knew about his background, but only comic-book collectors
and senior citizens over 40 have ever seen those stages of his
story portrayed. This part of the movie gets us up to what
we're all familiar with: The Daily Planet, Lois Lane, Jimmy
Olson, Perry White (though, curiously, not "Great Caesar's
ghost!"). Belabor any of this and the movie would turn either
absurdly solemn or insufferably cute, or both. As it ,happens,
the filmmakers' judgment is exhilaratingly nice.
At least, iUeels that way for another reel or two. It's possi-
ble that the availability of Superman, Part Two will compen-
sate for this problem, but meanwhile one begins to wish for
more time to honor the right of time-honored characters just
to be. Perry White (chirpily played by Jackie Cooper) and
Jimmy Olson (Marc McClure) don't have much to do'here,
and since one aspect of the climactic multiple-catastrophe is
to be focussed through Jimmy, this is particularly irritating.
More crucially, once Superman really goes into action as
Superman, we're left with a vague but increasingly insistent
question: Why now? Why this particular night in the history
of an encyclopedically threatened city/world? Superman's
various exploits around Metropolis are drolly conceived and/
or spectacularly visualized (the rescue of Lois Lane from a
crippled helicopter teetering on the edge of a skyscraper tower
is especially well-angled in terms of "comic-book cutting"),
but rather than accumulating forcefulness, they leave one
feeling more and more adrift. We have good reason to believe
that the film proper is now underway, 'but in terms of an over-'
all narrative shape, the film proper seems not quite to have its
kryptonite together.
This may be a minor, even ungrateful cavil since the movie
abou'nds in delightful detail and cinematic invention. Still, the
dissatisfaction is real, and may have a lot to do with the fact
that Superman never remotely seems a "one man, one film"
movie. I had done a fair job of guessing the various writers'
contributions before reading Newsweek's handy charting of
which among them did what; no problem there as long as
someone was ultimately in charge. But none of the producers
seems to have attempted, or been equal to doing, a David O.
Selznick on the picture (I'm thinking, of course, of Gone with
the Wind, the exemplary committee movie that nevertheless
unmistakably had an auteur). Superman is billed-as even the
most meretricious hack jobs tend to be billed these days,
foreign-auteur style-as "A Richard Donner Film," but Don-
ner wasn't the first director engaged: Guy (James Bond) Ham-
ilton was, and writers David Newman and Robert Benton have
testified how much influence he had over their own creative
input. (Richard Lester was once announced as a sort of un-
official producer, with the responsibility of coordinating the
many second units on the film; whether or not he performed
this function, his name does not appear on the longest end-
credits roll in motion picture history.)
As for Donner, who did a creditable job of realizing The
Omen, I was reminded even as I sat watching his new film that
he'd made his feature debut with a 1961 aviation curio called
X-I5, wherein the refusal of the people parts and the flying
parts to add up to a whole movie was vividly symbolized by
a photographic anomaly: the dramatic scenes had been shot
in an anamorphic process even though the X-15 footage, the
obvious raison-d'etre for the film. had been shot straight-
with the result that the flying shots appeared grotesquely
splayed in the release prints. Superman suffers from a similar,
if much less extreIl'e, disjuncture in that the expensive, some-
times impressive" but always recognizably, artificial special
effects don't seem nearly as special as the sweeping, merely-
photographed panoramas of phase two, or the many tender,
witty, or tender/witty behavioral strokes punctuating the
whole film. In rebuttal of the ads' promise "You'll Believe A
Man Can Fly," one must insist No, I still don't, much as I'd
like to; for Superman in the air is just too stiff; even the occa-
sional nice-try efforts to plug us into his swooping trajectory
by shooting over his shoulder conspicuously miss their hoped-
for effectiveness. Yet just as that disjointed X-I5 provided
the first look at an idiosyncratically attractive unknown named
Mary Tyler Moore, so Donner surely deserves a fair share of
praise for the self-aware but uncondescending performances
of most of the cas(here (Gene Hackman's too-broadly-played
Luthor being the most serious, but still enjoyable, exception).
Christopher Reeve's thoroughly charming portrayal of Super-
man and Clark Kent notwithstanding, the performance of the
film is Margot Kidder's Lois Lane, a characterization canny
enough to accommodate both anachronistic, neverneverland
conceits like a garden penthouse for a girl reporter to live in
and a delicious yen forthe randier choses de la vie. Yes, I do
believe that a girl can fly!
5 6 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!~!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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