Quote of the Week

“A bad actor is rich, unique, idiosyncratic, revealing of himself,” Jack Smith once wrote. Timothy Agoglia Carey (1929–1994), subject of a 10-day retrospective at Anthology Film Archives, was surely all of those things, but he was not exactly a bad actor—this Brooklyn-born, apparently self-taught Method man was more like a way of life.

A scary presence onscreen, Carey was an imposing palooka prone to upstaging fellow cast members by artfully flinging his body around the set. He had a shambling, sleepy-eyed stance and the grinning volatility of a barroom brawler, playing tough guys, lunatics, and chortling combinations of the two—although his career role was as a whimpering coward. As a performer, Carey was unafraid to make a spectacle of himself. His earliest claim to fame was as a member of Lee Marvin’s motorcycle gang in The Wild One (1953), spontaneously opening a beer bottle and surprising Marlon Brando, the grand master of on-camera improvisation, with a shower of suds.

However pissed, Brando did employ Carey again in his sole directorial effort, One-Eyed Jacks (1961)—or maybe it was Stanley Kubrick, the project’s original director. Kubrick had used Carey twice before to tremendous effect—as the racetrack hit man in The Killing (1956), enthusiastically primed to assassinate a horse and, even more memorably, as one of the condemned soldiers in Paths of Glory (1957). Unfairly sentenced to death, Carey steals the movie with his smirky drawl, inappropriate giggles, cud-chewing line reading, and sobbing cri de coeur: “I don’t wanna die!!!!!!” This embodiment of pure, hysterical fear made Carey an underground hero and, seven years later, inspired Esquire to run his picture opposite John Wayne’s as a paradigm of the so-called New Sentimentality: “A minor character actor who manages to excite us in a personal way is a real celebrity.”

Carey’s subsequent movie career was spotty but choice—a sadistic Union sergeant in Phil Karlson’s A Time for Killing (1967), a version of himself in Bob Rafelson’s Monkees musical Head (1968), and a fastidious, Marx-quoting mobster in John Cassavetes’s The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976). Anthology is showing these, as well as Carey’s two most alarming vehicles, the indie cheapster Bayou (1957), re-released five years later as Poor White Trash with an added rape scene (starring guess-who), and The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962), a movie that Carey wrote, directed, and produced over a three-year period—while appearing in nearly every shot.

The high point of Poor White Trash is Carey’s Cajun love dance, knees knocking and mouth agape. This agonized mambo is reprised in The World’s Greatest Sinner, in which Carey’s bored insurance salesman becomes first a leather-lunged, immortality-promising street preacher, then a frantic rock-’n’-roller who bills himself as God, and, finally, dignified with a paste-on goatee and campaigning against death, the presidential candidate of the Eternal Man Party. Blasphemy aside, his sins include sex with female followers from 14 to 83, gratuitously smacking his little daughter and stabbing a sacramental wafer to see if it bleeds.

Fabulously scored by then unknown 20-year-old Frank Zappa, The World’s Greatest Sinner is far from incompetent filmmaking—it’s as idiotic, crafty, and unpredictable as Carey’s performance. Placing his satire at the intersection of politics, celebrity, and the media, Sinner is thematically the missing link between A Face in the Crowd and Wild in the Streets. It’s also a skid-row psychodrama to double-bill with Ed Wood’s plea for transvestite acceptance Glen or Glenda or Spencer Williams’s stark morality play The Blood of Jesus. Perhaps someday, someone will do Clint Eastwood a favor and show Sinner with Hereafter.

Pic of the Day: “A Time for Killing” revisited

Ending the week and kicking off the Fourth of July weekend here in the US is another look at Billy Cat, the “Yankee from Missourah” of Phil Karlson‘s Civil War melodrama A Time for Killing (1967). Compare this to the iconic shot of Nikki Arano aiming at the racehorse from The Killing (1956).

A Time for Killing

As we just passed the 107th anniversary of Karlson’s birth, I thought it appropriate. Have a safe and sane holiday weekend, my fellow state-siders!

Pic of the Day: “A Time for Killing” revisited

Ending the week is another look at Phil Karlson‘s A Time for Killing (1967), the Civil War melodrama starring Glenn Ford. Billy Cat, “the Yankee from Missourah,” barks out some orders while Lt. Shaffer (Harrison Ford in his first credited screen role) looks confused and Col. Harries (Emile Meyer) watches in the background from the safety of his horse.

A Time for Killing

Meyer enjoyed a long career as one of Hollywood’s most dependable tough guys. Occasionally he did step out of the tough guy role, most memorably in Stanley Kubrick‘s Paths of Glory (1957), as the priest who accompanies Timothy to the firing squad. Tim told Grover Lewis in the Film Comment interview, “Emile Meyer, the guy playing the priest when we are being executed, also didn’t like me. He wanted to punch me because in my death scene I was biting his arm, saying, “I don’t wanna die, I don’t wanna die” [laughs].”

Pic of the Day: “Speedtrap” revisited

For mindless summer drive-in fare, you could hardly do better than Earl Bellamy‘s Speedtrap (1977). Here Larry Loomis, Italian gangster (??), has been sucker-punched by private eye Pete Novick (Joe Don Baker) and is none too happy about it.

Speedtrap

Baker, from Groesbeck, Texas, has been a solid presence in films and on television for nearly fifty years. He hit the big time with Phil Karlson‘s Walking Tall (1973). Rough-and-tumble good guys like cops, cowboys and g-men are his specialty. He previously appeared with Timothy in John Flynn‘s The Outfit (1973).

Video of the Week: “A Time for Killing”

This week’s video is another clip (it says trailer, but it isn’t) from A Time for Killing (1967), the gritty Civil War drama directed by Phil Karlson and an uncredited Roger Corman. This one pretty much picks up where the previous clip I’ve posted here ends. Timothy actually has some lines in this one!

Featuring Tim’s Paths of Glory co-star Emile Meyer, Glenn Ford, Kenneth Tobey, George Hamilton, Harry Dean Stanton, Inger Stevens, and young Harrison Ford in his first credited screen appearance. This one is definitely worth your time.

Pic of the Day: “A Time for Killing”

Our pic today revisits Billy Cat, the “Yankee from Missourah” of Phil Karlson‘s Civil War drama A Time for Killing (1967). Billy has hit his mark, and he’s pretty happy about it.

A Time for Killing

If you have the Encore Westerns channel, you can catch this entertaining potboiler there tomorrow. It’s got a stellar cast – Glenn Ford, George Hamilton, Inger Stevens, Kenneth Tobey, Dick Miller, and early performances from Harrison Ford and Harry Dean Stanton.

Pic of the Day: “A Time for Killing” revisited

Our pic today revisits A Time for Killing (1967), the Civil War drama directed by Phil Karlson (taking over for Roger Corman). Timothy’s Union soldier Billy Cat awaits orders from a slightly nervous Lt. Shaffer, played by some youngster named Harrison Ford. Whatever happened to him anyway?

A Time for Killing

I had to snag this screen shot from the YouTube video of this scene, as the non-commercial DVD I have of the film must have been panned-and-scanned; Tim is not visible in this shot on the DVD. For shame and forsooth!