Tuesday, January 27, 2015
cinema obscura: Peter Ustinov's "Hammersmith Is Out" (1972)
One rarely encounters a cinematic calamity as uncouth, outragous and gleefully offensive (and hilarious) as 1972 "Hammersmith Is Out," Peter Ustinov's willfully unhinged take on the "Faust" legend.
Beau Bridges plays a greasy sleaze wittily named Billy Breedlove who falls in thrall of both Hammersmith, a patient at the facility for the criminally insane where Billy works as an orderly, and Jimmie Jean Jackson, a hashslinger with pretentions. These roles are played by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, clearly cast against type when they were at the height of their reign as the film industry's "It" couple.
As the creepily unemotional Hammersmith goes on a killing spree, Billy and Jimmy Jean continually consummate their relationship in a variety of ill-advised locations - until Hammersmith ultimately comes between them.
Ustinov is on hand as the asylum director trying to keep an eye on Hammersmith and, as the film's auteur, he's surrouned his stars with some top character actors - Leon Ames, John Schuck, George Raft, Leon Askin and the wonderful Anthony Holland who, as another orderly, earns laughs almost effortlessly, without the strenuous mugging employed by Taylor and Bridges. (Burton is aptly stoic throughout.)
The film includes such howlers as Taylor referring to Bridges' member as a "monkey dick" and Bridges bending over to flatulate in Ustinov's face.
Why on earth didn't this film ever make the midnight circuit?
Posted by joe baltake at 1:22 PM