Friday, February 14, 2014

Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me (1971, Ulu Grosbard)

Unfortunately, a mostly terrible film with an equally terrible title, I'd wanted to see this initial film collaboration between Ulu Grosbard and Dustin Hoffman for years.  I was finally able to scratch this itch with the surprising DVD release of the film by CBS (by way of Paramount Home Media). Hoffman's folk music hero (a la Dylan) Georgie Soloway is just about his least convincing screen performance.  Where Grosbard and Hoffman effectively combined their talents years later on Straight Time, transforming Hoffman into hardened criminal Max Dembo, they fail spectacularly with Harry Kellerman.  The movie mostly takes place in the frazzled mind of suicidal Georgie, as he encounters family, friends, employees, and his mostly useless Austrian shrink (Jack Warden) and employs some arty, non-linear editing techniques, which will be familiar to students of both New Waves, European and American.  It is, of course, not entirely clear which meetings are actually occurring and which occur only in Georgie's head.  

The lone bright spots are the early '70s footage of New York City, which includes early morning aerial footage of the skyline, with the World Trade Center under construction (in the film, we see 1 tower partially constructed, with no sign of the other), and Barbara Harris' Oscar-nominated role, which amounts to 2 scenes.

The goofy DVD cover, which appears to be trying to evoke Napolean Dynamite's marketing campaign, includes an image that does not appear in the film.  I initially thought it was a photoshop job, but then considered that it might have come from a publicity still.  Sure enough...

Now that CBS and Paramount have released Harry Kellerman, The April Fools, and The War Between Men and Women, please, please give us The Challenge and Darker Than Amber, both titles in the CBS library, which remain unavailable on DVD in any region.

In another sign of our increasing prudishness when it comes to all things sex, the film which features a couple scenes of brief nudity, has been re-rated for the new DVD from GP (pre-cursor to PG) to R.

A final note: my mother met and spoke with Rose Gregorio (Mrs. Ulu Grosbard) at the hair salon a few months ago.  Rose told her a great anecdote about The Swimmer (which the actress appears in) after Mom related to her that I was a big fan of that film.  Here, she appears in a few scenes as the former Mrs. Kellerman.  Rose was quite good in Frank Perry's Dummy, which I wrote about earlier.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Trailer on the MOD DVD: Busting (1974, Peter Hyams)

This looks to be an original American theatrical trailer that someone pulled from an old UK pre-cert VHS tape.  We even get a glimpse of the beautiful British Warner Bros. big box artwork for Busting; the trailer is on this MGM MOD DVD, but I'm quite sure that disc does not include the spinning, rotating VHS cover graphic that this version does.  It seems that UA titles were distributed on home video by WB in Europe in the early days of the medium.  If I haven't already mentioned it, this site is a goldmine for information about this particular corner of British home video history.  Freebie and the Bean gets a lot of love from my fellow '70s cult movie cultists, but I prefer Busting to it, as my favorite "cop buddy" picture of that year, 1974.  Both are as freewheeling, nasty, and politically incorrect as you'd expect from '74 and you can't go wrong with either if that's your bag.  My friend Mr. Peel has written quite a bit more eloquently on both films here and here.

Here's a trailer that actually does right by the film, one of the more underrated--and, in fact, one of the original--cop buddy (or, is that "buddy cop"?) films.  It's high time that director Peter Hyams was given his due for well-crafted and intelligent genre films like this one and Outland.  If Hyams' Running Scared is the most unsung cop buddy movie of the '80s, Busting gets that moniker for the '70s.  The extended chase sequence that centers around a large, urban outdoor food market is rightfully often cited as a highlight of the film and Hyams' directorial career.  And, the man is still at the action game (now collaborating with his son, John) and talking about it!

Something I noticed watching this trailer, after not seeing the film for awhile, is that Blake, fresh off of his starring role in Electra Glide in Blue, is seen standing in front of a nightspot called the Electra Club. That...and the original score by Billy Goldenberg is killer, and it's available on CD from the great Kritzerland label!