For “God” Hilliard, rock music is the spark that wakes a slumbering, egotistical fascist within his sleepy-eyed insurance salesman facade. After his everyday existence as an unfulfilled white-collar dreamer is established, Hilliard is lightning-struck entranced and inspired by a flaxen-haired manchild rockabilly whatsit convulsing and strumming and shaking onstage at a predawn club gig while the frenzied teenie bop audience screams and lunges and wilts at his every hip thrust. But Carey’s obvious disdain for actually learning how to play an instrument results in Hilliard’s discordant abuse of guitars and pianos throughout the film. Hilliard is prone to frothy-mouthed soapbox rants full of delirious declarations, as when he seduces a rich widow with what will become his political faction’s central conceit: “When I become president, I’m gonna demand a medical science (that) makes every human being that’s in distress about living and dying just a fantasy. Age won’t exist anymore.” While spouting his Nietzsche-lite campaign rhetoric to evolve his followers into “superhuman beings” (the details of this process are conveniently detailed in his ubiquitous pamphlets that are, not surprisingly, kept off-screen for the duration), Hilliard throttles his tiny, cheap guitar without any effort to form recognizable chords or ignite pleasant melodies. The instrument is simply a punctuation mark. In a later, heated scene, Hilliard, bursting with emotion but unable to unleash it in words, slams his open hand onto a half dozen piano keys. The resulting mish-mash of musical notes eerily blurt out in sustained discord, the physical action of the scene supplying the soundtrack to the character’s emotional state. This action is paired with a Scorsese-worthy dolly in, floating closer and closer until Hilliard’s hand, forming the mangled chord, fills the entire world of the frame. In 1962, this image, projected onto the musty screen of some under-attended movie house, would have been a barn-sized slab of anti-music. And very punk rock.
– Christopher J. Ewing, “The Lonely Soul Rock Messiahs of Un-Music Cinema: The World’s Greatest Sinner and Christmas on Mars,” Paracinema magazine, February 2009, Issue 5
In the above pic, I like how the band members are made to look so plain and almost pygmy-like compared with Hilliard’s sparkling, dynamic presence. It shows up better when you watch the whole scene.
It does. Of course, at around 6’5″, Tim made almost everybody look like a pygmy! And the gal sax player is completely in love… ❤