Thursday, 10 March 2011

Good-Bye Cruel World (1983)

...a ‘Sex in the City’ for LA bottom-feeders...

Good-bye Cruel World (1983, David Irving)

Starring: Dick Shawn, Cynthia Sikes, Pierre Jalbert, Chuck Mitchell, Angelique Pettyjohn, Marius Mazmanian, Richard M. Nixon.

Box Markings:
‘Lightning Video’

Tagline: “If this was your family, you'd also say "Good-bye Cruel World!"”

Timeclock, Saddle Tramps, Something About The Way You… Die!

Cherrypick: “There’s 250 million Americans out there just waiting to get their minds all twisted and bent.”

A man’s hand defiantly reaches up out of a filthy toilet bowl only to pull down on the flush mechanism that will whisk him away to the golden fretted sewers of his own personal Asgard. It could be argued that no film featured on this blog is as perfectly summed up by its box cover etch-a-sketchings as David Irving’s 1983 inquiry into suburban ennui and millennial angst, Good-bye Cruel World – a film which esteemed New Yorker critic Rex Reed - in conversation with academic and McDonalds franchisee, Susan Sontag - has described as being a “‘Sex in the City’ for LA bottom-feeders".
Dick Shawn: The 'Preppy Santa' Years
With its dime store trappings, a comic finesse that makes Fletch Lives look like Duck Soup and a leading man who seems to have been freshly sprung from the local drunk tank, this foolhardy tartrazine-enema of a film was rightly sentenced upon release to be screened solely in the disused squash courts and exposed brick open-mic nights of deepest, darkest hell, and subsequently rented on video only by jerks, foreigners and mental defectives.

It stars Dick Shawn, a rinky-dink clip joint gagman who, from 1973 to his untimely death in ‘87, was permanently ensconced on the ‘Letterman’ subs bench of life on the off chance that Joey from ‘Blossom’ couldn’t find his pomade. Shawn assumes the role of Rodney Pointsetter, a woebegone local newsreader who hits boiling point live on air when the futility of existence suddenly dawns on him while idly fiddling with his co-anchor’s tie. Borrowing one of the station’s cameras, as well as the svelte camera operator and Huguenot rapist attached to it, Pierre (Jalbert), Rodney decides to document a last ditch road trip in which he will attempt to muster some lingering humanity from his extended family of feckless freaks.
A toilet, yesterday
The first* feature to be made in ‘Choice-o-Rama’, Good-bye Cruel World employs a revolutionary technique whereby during any of the films few semi-decent moments we jump-cut to some curly haired teaboy in a powder-blue monkey suit standing on a ratty, dimly lit stage who proceeds to give us the world’s first truly interactive movie experience… ever! This, in essence, involves him taking his own sweet, seemingly unscripted, decidedly joke-free time to inquire whether, for example, we, the audience, would prefer to have Rodney’s elderly mother play us the ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ on her glockenspiel or perhaps rather hear some homosexual dinner party guests singing snippets of light opera.

Naturally, due to the then-untested technology involved, we always get to see both outcomes - the editing opportunities of which give the producers a feeble but unmissable excuse to bash together some would-be zany adverts in order to pad out Rodney’s core narrative arc which, unadorned, would have clocked in at a cool 18 minutes.
Chuck Mitchell (left) with 'Roger Womack'
The movie is also blessed with the considerable acting chops of the late, great Chuck Mitchell - the national treasure who brought everybody’s favourite irate Southern whoremaster so memorably to life in the Porky's films. Seen here as Rodney’s jobless brother-in-law, he sits glued to his couch like a vacuum-packed Christmas ham, proudly spouting sexually-inflected Reaganisms to his peroxided corpse of a wife while their ballerina daughter strikes for oil on the front lawn.

Rodney’s search, it is clear, must continue…

Essentially a Kentucky Fried Movie for the ‘Murphy Brown’ generation, Good-bye Cruel World is that most peculiar of things: a film so staggeringly inept in it’s comic stylings that it still isn’t funny. Shawn and his cohorts - high on speedballs of lighter fluid and Gloy - simply breeze through a haze of gay Nazi fart jokes without a hint of desperation. Indeed, it is rumoured that their distributors actively demanded the film be tailored to achieve a mediocrity of such untainted purity that the sun-blistered drive-in yahoos watching wouldn’t accidentally puke up their meds.

In conclusion: Good-bye Cruel World , for all it’s moments of nimble raillery, remains a musty storage barrel of laughs stowed deep within the hold of a damned, crewless schooner forever condemned to blindly sail the malarial waters of the endless River Bullshit.

And we loved it.


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