apparently this movie, which is impossible to find unless you order it from someone who i can only assume (based on their eclectic collections) must display a type of mania for movies that you have to open a pineal gland to obtain, has re-entered the zeitgeist. thanks to random news outlets reminding people that it, at minimum, exists, people are now aware of this movie. and now, you are aware of this movie. it’s a movie you can be aware of. that’s the most i can say about it.
i was immediately brutally bait-and-switched by this movie during the first literal minute during which i assumed i was going to be treated to one of my favorite lost movie arts: the song created about the movie for the movie. but it turned out to be the start of an absolutely nothing of a gag that went on for about 40 seconds too long, which caused me to slump back in my chair and start to decompose from a combination of disappointment and the deliberate assault on my ears. the setting…da greatest city in da world: new york. the credits, which play out over “city sounds” of construction, traffic and people yelling, offers a life raft for me to cling to: a listing for a bird trainer. oh more than one life raft! costumes designed by…legendary fashion designer edith head?!
before the first 5 minutes are up, you are subjected to the hackiest series of juxtaposed images put to screen sincerely probably since 1968. this might have been the high water bar for hacks for a solid span of movie history. it’s the kind of observational humor that barely counts as an observation. check it out, women be shoppin, men be drinkin, college students be radicalizin, and beat poets be weird. all observations that were staler than a year-old crouton by the time this movie came out and by now have aged into the audio-visual equivalent of one of those maggot cheeses.
mary tyler moore is SLUMMING IT in this movie. my god. she looks and acts far too well to be forced to have the screenwriter’s trash drop out of her mouth. this has the stench of older men trying to write “youth culture” ground into it. it’s no offensive, just grating on my senses. oh thank god, the bird is here and it’s a hell of a bird.
turns out the bird is a carrier for a disease that causes euphoria and bad greek accents, if the actors are anything to go by. the bird, once caged safely on the ship it had infected, is released by the giddy crew to wreck havok on new york. meanwhile, mary tyler moore and her increasingly wacky beatnik compatriots are having a d-tier sitcom level conversation about the function of art (“to reflect misery in society”….well that explains this freakin movie!!) while the bird spreads it germs above them. sounds like this is going to be a movie where we see sad or angry people become uncharacteristically happy over and over again as the single gag the movie has to offer us. i guess we’ll find out in due time.
boy if there’s one thing i can comment on with absolute certainty about this movie it’s that the ADR stinks. ADR is tough to pull off in the best of circumstances (it’s a useful tool in editing!) and with this movie every ADR line is a total clunker that seems to have been inexplicably added after the fact to the detriment of the film. example: as one beatnik waters his weed he’s growing on the rooftop, he says, (“says”) “i’m going to put up a sign: keep off the grass!”. this is not a joke or even an observation. it’s a reference to a mundane thing irl with no apparent connection to his current thoughts or actions except through the most tenuous connections.
a health official confirms that the virus is spread through the respiratory system and infects the brain, which the mayor of new york shrugs off with a “whatever”, so at least that part is true to life. this is also the least new york mayor ive ever seen. no way is this guy an italian. he’s like a fucking protestant or something. if you look at him you’ll know exactly that i mean.
anyway mary tyler moore’s pal (george peppard) starts to feel a little better about his life instead of acting like a cartoonish and clownish caricature of a tortured artist so she raises the panic alarm among her fellow weirdoes (who are on, get this, UNEMPLOYMENT!!!!!!) before hitting the street for a doctor. on the way, she runs into a cop who clues her into the connection between the bird and her boyfriend’s newly cured depression. if only looking at a funny bird could cure you from your various brain problems instantly in real life.
apparently the virus does have one little quirk, which is that, much like cordyceps, it makes you want to spread it to everyone in a nearby vicinity. in order to achieve this and to have an excuse for blasting people’s faces with bursts of air exploding from his mouth, peppard disguises himself as a the german philosopher hero of the beatniks. the joke is german people talk loud and forcefully. lots of pop in those consonants in the german language. i am “laughing”.
as an aside, the leader of the beatniks throws out randomly that they only use first names, because when the world ends, first names will be last names. i just wanted to make a note of that.
in a scene that feels like it’s fresh from every dsa meeting ever held: mary tyler moore is sexually harassed by peppard-as-the-german and then is told she has bourgeois sexuality when she rejects him. he forces a kiss out of her, reveals himself to be peppard and then he bails as she chases him out.
all the beatniks awaken the next morning, ready to become wackier than ever. my stomach hurts a little from anticipation because i know what’s coming is certainly going to be, as they say, “cringe”.
the mayor is recommending people wear masks when they go outside. im starting to feel exhausted watching this on a base level i haven’t experienced with a movie before. i feel like i’m listening to a waiter explain what the specials are tonight at a restaurant that only ever has meatloaf every night. the uncomfortably featureless mayor is downplaying the amount of infections in order to prevent public panic and to maintain the illusion of control. the low–grade fever i’ve been nursing all day is starting to bubble over into something more severe as a immunization response to what i’m seeing and hearing
mary tyler moore and peppard show up to the crowded media event revolving around the mayor’s cowardly flight from the city in a fruitless attempt to encourage everyone to catch the virus and breath all over everyone they can. she describes how she and the art collective secretly spread the virus all over new york by deception, infiltrating distribution programs intended to provide sanitary masks to people and hosting crowded events so they could attend them. i’m starting to feel a little ill from retrospective whiplash.
unlike the novel coronavirus, all this disease has done is benefit society. very lucky for all of these absolute freaks. the least believable part of this movie is that no one has shot the bird yet. but he did just do a funny trick where he flipped a grape into his mouth, so i’m glad this movie is not a 1:1 re-creation of real life.
i’m upset realizing that there’s still somehow 50 minutes left in this movie. after 20 minutes dedicated to a long, boring, absolutely nothing of a scene where they try to sneak the bird out by disguising it as mary tyler moore’s pregnant stomach (for reasons unclear to me, the audience, and likely the screenwriters as well since we aren’t given one), i realized that what i had been subjecting myself to this entire time was a movie that had spun out of ideas immediately after the conception of the premise. this movie has meat, no bones, absolutely no substance. it could be a 7 min SNL sketch in a low tier episode at best. i’m shocked this script got financing. my god there’s still 25 minutes. just let the bird fly out the window or something. what the hell.
the latter half of this movie really drives it home but this is an impressively ugly movie even for the time. the set direction is particularly wretched; the mopey beatniks/art crowd live in an apartment completely lacking in any semblance of aesthetic sensibilities or any sense of how to use a space to establish characters. the space is supposed to be both messy and artsy but it just looks like there was a sale at the used grandma furniture warehouse and the artists pooled together to spend a reasonable amount of money on things they needed instead of slowly accumulating a hoarder’s house worth of assorted weird crap they either find or make.
the only exception to this is this dresser:
like what the fuck is that! lmfao! i love to see him!
the final third of this movie takes place in a concrete bunker marking the lowest point of the movie visually. the scenery is grey, the clothing of the government suits are dull, and a solid 10 minutes is dedicated to looking at a black and white tv set of mary tyler moore and peppard about to go to slam town.
the virus is cured because the u.s. government has a vested interest in keeping people from uniting or treating each other well. the end. no moral. the movie literally ends with the threat of restarting the pregnancy bird gag. what a nightmare.
unlike “hudson hawk”, i don’t think i can bring myself to re-bore myself by pushing play on this movie more than once. it was a struggle to get through after the 20 minute mark passed and i realized i had seen everything this movie had to offer me and was staring down the barrel of 70 minutes of mirthless comedic sleepwalking. is there any despair more uniquely agonizing than having to outlast the run-time of a boring movie? the last time i watched a clock this closely i was still working a desk job. i could feel the precious moments of my young life slip away from me and thought about all the stuff i could be doing instead of watching this movie. like uhh. ah shit right, pandemic. well, i could have been playing videogames and smelting virtual iron or whatever. or trying to prevent my royal son from fucking his mother and throwing my kingdom into chaos.
i suppose the question that every movie raises by the nature of existing is “why was this made”? for movies that are entertaining or informative to watch, the answer is quickly evident. but this movie is neither of those things. why was this movie made? there’s an air of aloof certainty wafting over this movie like a bad odor that makes it seem like everyone involved was thinking about a pandemic in america in the abstract. i can’t read people’s minds, obviously. i don’t know what they were thinking when they made this movie. but i would put money down on at least once facet of the creation process involving a smug assertion that this would NEVER happen here.
having to exist in the current reality we have today while watching this movie is a deflating experience. the attempt to sugar up and dress up the fun of a pandemic has been retroactively spoiled both because real life is a bitch and because this movie sucked ass to begin with.
holy shit i just went back to edit this and completely forgot edith head was the costume designer. what a fucking waste.
don’t watch this movie. it has nothing for anyone.