Quote of the Week

This is an insightful piece that deserves to be quoted in its entirety.

*****

The World’s Greatest Sinner, Timothy Carey

In the spring of 2009 Vox Populi hosted a show and 3 screenings featuring the works of Timothy Carey. Timothy Carey was an actor, director, screenwriter and producer who, like his friend John Cassavetes, remains more famous for the films he made to finance his own smaller and independent pictures. The approach to the business of making films that these two men took is perhaps more relevant today than it was in the 1960s and 1970s. That is to say, through their example, shouldn’t every struggling filmmaker be capable of producing films on their own terms and far from meddling hands? Perhaps, but it is the importance of Timothy Carey to American cinema which I intend to address today, and perhaps in the process answer the question I have posed above.

After a string of bit roles, most notably in early Kubrick films (The Killing and Paths Of Glory), Timothy Carey was able to make a film of his own titled The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962).

In this film, Carey stars as a working stiff who quits his job, forms a hit rock band, then rallies his fan base around him into a Satanic religious cult financed by elderly women he’s seduced. Like Roger Corman’s early films of social commentary (The Intruder), The World’s Greatest Sinner makes heavy use of character actors and non-professionals. However, Carey distinguishes himself here better than Corman managed to. Carey, an actor himself, was better at casting non-professionals, placing them in roles closer to their own lives and thus allowing them to behave and “perform” more organically. Carey also embraces the black and white photography in his film, as opposed to heavily lighting the sets, which was customary for low budget films, assuming they would play mostly at drive-ins. Carey works with high contrast compositions, similar to the film noir genre, though not so rigorous.

This gives his film a very edgy quality that allows it to be equal parts confrontational and nightmarish as well as having a true-to-life atmosphere facilitated by his performers. Those aesthetic mechanisms are what make Carey’s satire of the music industry so impressionable and haunting. Without such skill to the formalist trappings of the film, its premise would seem ridiculous and would have been easily dismissed by audiences as campy excess. Another significant fact worth noting is that the films score was composed by a young Frank Zappa.

However, despite the then iconoclastic nature of his film, Carey was never able to procure a distributor, leaving his film on the festival circuit for years till the advent of cable. Carey, unlike Cassavetes, lacked the personal resources to self-distribute his films. Regardless, The World’s Greatest Sinner has gone on to become a high profile cult film with a large fan base and the influence accompanied by such an audience.

Sadly, The World’s Greatest Sinner is the closest Timothy Carey ever came to domestic distribution, since the rest of his films are either incomplete or have only been shown in competition a handful of times.  Despite these setbacks to his own filmmaking career, Carey has appeared in a number of films spanning a wide variety of genres during the 1960s and 1970s.  Of these films, his work with John Cassavetes is the most significant and lasting.

Timothy Carey first worked with John Cassavetes in the film Minnie & Moskowitz (1971), playing Morgan Morgan.  According to film scholar Ray Carney, the scene in which Carey appears was done as a favor by Cassavetes to help him finance one of his own films. Regardless of the motivation, Carey gives a hysterical performance, improvising almost all of his lines opposite of Seymour Cassel.  Next, Carey appeared in Cassavetes’ personal and allegorical film about a life in show business, The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie.

Carey appears more in the original cut of the film from 1976, playing a gangster out to collect money from Ben Gazzara’s character Cosmo.  Again, Cassavetes allowed Carey a comical freedom with his portrayal of the gangster, often appearing while stuffing his face with food.

Of all the films Carey acted in outside his own, the two made with Cassavetes are among his best, and certainly surpass his foray into exploitation films in regards to the quality of his performance and the film in general.  To this day, Timothy Carey is among those filmmakers cited as the “Godfathers” of American Independent films, and is therefore worth checking out.

– Robert Curry, “The World’s Greatest Sinner, Timothy Carey”; Zimbo Films, April 12, 2012

The World's Greatest Sinner

Pic of the Day: “Crime Wave” revisited

Today we observe the 93rd birthday anniversary of legendary cinematic tough guy Charles Bronson. Here he is with Timothy and Jim Hayward in a scene from Andre’ De Toth‘s noir masterpiece Crime Wave (1954).

Crime Wave

Born Charles Dennis Buchinsky to a Lithuanian coal-mining family in Pennsylvania (one of fifteen children), Bronson was the first member of his family to graduate from high school. After a stint in the coal mines himself, he flew bombers in World War II and received a Purple Heart. Odd jobs after the war brought him to a theater group in Philadelphia. He soon found himself in New York City and then Hollywood, determined to pursue an acting career. Like Timothy, he turned in many small and/or uncredited performances in film and on television throughout the 1950s. His big break came when Roger Corman cast him in the title role of Machine-Gun Kelly (1958). Shortly afterwards he won the lead in the TV series Man with a Camera (1958-1960). Important supporting turns in films such as The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1964) and The Dirty Dozen (1967) followed. He then headed to Europe and made several spaghetti Westerns, including Sergio Leone‘s incredible Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). He came back to the United States a bona fide star, and he remained one until his untimely death from pneumonia in 2003. He once said, “Someday I’d like a part where I can lean my elbow against a mantlepiece and have a cocktail.”

Quote of the Week

That long face, those droopy eyes – Timothy Carey is unmistakable, unpredictable, and electrifying with those lizard features that became both a blessing and a curse. […]

A true maverick known for improvising and getting fired, he’s worked with Roger Corman, Coppola, and Cassavetes, including a memorable turn as a mafia heavy in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (we know just from the look in Carey’s eyes that Ben Gazzara is in deep, deep shit).

Carey is an actor to get excited about; like Bruce Dern, there’s a manic energy inside him, a screw loose combined with a fearless realism. He often didn’t seem like an actor at all, more like a wonderfully intuitive amateur dragged out of a skid row bar and slid in front of the camera.

Nic Cage wishes he was Timothy Carey, but Carey didn’t have things easy…

“I can’t even take a stroll through a park. As soon as women see my face they start gathering up their children and running for home.” – Timothy Carey

Rob Munday, “A Face in the Crowd: Timothy Carey”; Video City London (12.13.13)

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

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.

Quote of the Week

“Somewhere around there I was kicked out of six films in a row. Then I did BAYOU and they wanted me to play the heavy, so I went down to Louisiana and played a Cajun, Ulysses. ‘What I want I gonna get and no dirty Yonkee from swell country is gonna take it away from me!’ Peter Graves takes away my woman and we have a big fight scene in the cemetery and I fall on an axe.” Carey’s Cajun bully was memorable (other characters refer to him as a shark and a snake), but his standout bit was doing an incredible uninhibited dance to accordion music. He hops in the air, does rubberleg moves, caresses himself and scratches like he has fleas, while a storm brews. The Ulysses dance is so good that it’s edited in several times. BAYOU was made at about the same time as Roger Corman‘s SWAMP WOMAN. Both featured Corman regulars Jonathan Haze and Ed Nelson. BAYOU was directed by Harold Daniels who had co-directed the famous roadshow hit, THE PRINCE OF PEACE with William Beaudine.

– Psychotronic Video magazine #6, Summer 1990; interview by Michael Murphy andJohnny Legend, research by Michael J. Weldon

Bayou

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!

Quote of the Week

Of course we’re here to see Carey shake and rattle like a Santeria shaman, and that’s what he does. He’s also sweet and fatherly at times–nervously maniacal at others. His truck with deviltry has the same desperate ring as it does for Harvey Keitel in BAD LIEUTENANT or Captain Cutshaw in THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, men who rant and rage against God the way I rage at the stupidity of car commercials.

A weird-talking method maniac in general, Carey here has the weary look of someone who’s not only starring in but directing a low budget film, and that’s much more difficult than you would think (you’re basically the whole crew). He appears exhausted in some scenes and exhausted to the point of elation in others; the rest of the time he’s… just perfect, gamboling into brilliant oration ala Willie Stark in ALL THE KING’S MEN. Joy aboundeth, as does surprise bits of tenderness: he loves his horse and regards all humans with a sleepy naturalistic affection. I especially like how he calls everybody “deah”–as in “No, my deah, you don’t need insurance”–and there’s plenty of time for him to nuzzle with his wife and menagerie (he also has a snake and a big Marmaduke of a dog).

His new religion is never quite fleshed out (just how is he going to make everyone immortal?) but it’s worth playing along, humoring his conceits, just to watch him make out with old rich ladies for their money and– most of all–to shake his flabby frame on stage during his frenzied rock orations: half in a voodoo trance, half Corman-esque beatnik (his assistant urges him to glue on a fake goatee because it makes him look “better”) channeling ELMER GANTRY, he’s dynamite.

Hmmm, come to think of it – Robert Duvall produced THE APOSTLE and there’s some similarity. I totally support actors who want to get their megalomaniacal desire to be adored and adulated out onscreen and have the balls to go for it all the way, rather than sublimating and subtextualizing and cuddling it down like Kevins Spacey and Costner and of course Robin Williams.

That’s the difference between the real nuts and those who just pursue nuttiness the way a man with no mouth pursues a glass of water. If it all boils down to love, it’s the difference between those who love you and those who want you to love them. Tim Carey wants to love you through this film, if he had his way he’d pull you into the celluloid and start making out with you. I think he French kisses just about everyone and everything in this movie, but he does it out of love and so it’s pure. Do you hear me, Kevins?? PURE!!!!! Those who want to live forever must do so through othehs.  As Carey puts it in the film “you are all Gods, and ya gonna live foreva…”

 I can’t watch the whole mess in one sitting, but I believe he means it.

Erich Kuersten, “As a Sinner He’s a Winner: The CITIZEN KANE of Timothy Carey,” Acidemic, October 27, 2008

SINNER ad

Timothy makes out with his wife Doris in the famous Sinner ad