I Saw A Film!
I probably watched this thing too seriously. I had heard it was a satire about Southern California culture, but its cannons are aimed at a time sort of just before the real Cali culture would erupt (Vietnam protests, Civil Rights, Black Panthers, student university take-overs etc) a bit of which would be nicely portrayed in Zabriski Point a few years later. There are no hippies or rockers in this film. What we have is the incomparable Tuesday Weld as a high school kid obsessed, like so many, with being a center of attention. She meets Roddy McDowell who gives himself a spooky-ass name and being that he’s meant to be the most clever and pathological kid alive takes it upon himself to arrange horrific means to Weld’s ends. There’s a terrific role by Ruth Gordon who has always been a personal favorite and Harvey Korman is the principal of the high school.
There are a few sequences that are so lopsided and hard to enjoy (caterwauling laughter and over the top reverb effects) that you might find yourself lowering the volume. It’s a strange little black and white film that has the feel of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarite, namely in all the sequences the Devil arranges to ruin the lives of otherwise honestly simple people (as opposed to cynically ignorant). I feel bad for these victims, I can’t help it. It’s hard not to feel for the mother of the Weld character working herself raw as a cocktail waitress but being assumed a hooker. When it’s pointed out to the rich kid she’s a waitress the response is, what’s the difference. Indeed. Any of us slobs working for a living knows, whatever for the buck!
The film takes place as a long flashback into an old style cassette recorder after McDowell is captured running from authorities. His presence is very like a shorter Tony Perkins and of course it’s hard not to think of Psycho as we watch.
However, instead of a spoof of a particular cultural regime what we modern folk are mostly going to get is a strange-ass series of oddball vignettes finally ending in a front end loader used as a weapon. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to assume murders have taken place, but it hardly seems to matter, this is one unusual old flick.
This is running free on Prime, and while I don’t expect you’ll be laughing much, you may need to iron some of the forehead creases out after.