Pic of the Day: “Cold Target” revisited

Oops, I forgot to post yesterday! Sorry about that. Let’s end the week by revisiting “Cold Target,” the second of two episodes of The New Mike Hammer in which Timothy portrays reformed criminal Kenny the Knife. It first aired on December 1, 1984. Hammer (Stacy Keach) discovers Kenny leading the hymn singing (yes, Tim sings in this episode, however briefly) at the local gospel mission and enlists his aid as his “man on the street.”

Cold Target - 1984

The first episode featuring Kenny was “Satan, Cyanide and Murder” (4.14.84). It’s unfortunate that he didn’t become more of a recurring character; he’s pretty darn funny. Directing this episode was Jon C. Andersen, assistant director of many television shows and feature films, including the MonkeesHead (1968), also featuring Tim.

Quote of the Week

HEAD

Those ingrates The Monkees bite the hand that feeds them in this ninety minute psychedelic romp that attacks the pop dominated music industry with the odd tune thrown in. Carey pops up from time to time as Lord High ‘N’ Low, to represent all things evil and malicious in the rock stars’ world. Why wouldn’t every director in Hollywood be clambering for Carey’s services after seeing him hand-crank himself into a room in a mechanical wheelchair with a noose around his neck and say “Atta boy Mike!” in a hundred different demented ways. I think that is genuine fear on the Monkees’ faces as Carey shuffles towards them while apparently having a rage-induced stroke. Good comedy cloak work also in a performance that never dips under ‘11’.

Dale Shaw, “Five Reasons to Love Timothy Carey”; Sabotage Times, 5 June 2012

Head

Quote of the Week

Timothy Agoglia Carey was born Timothy William Carey in 1924 [sic; actually 1929]. And it was all uphill from there. A hulk at 6-foot-4, the man was born to play every weird, menacing background figure any movie ever needed. Often, he was called upon to do just that. Carey’s anarchistic and sometimes violent sense of whimsy wouldn’t allow him to just stand there behind the big names and glower. Too much kinetic energy bound up; it got released. […]

A polarizing figure both onscreen and off, Carey could be intimidating by just saying “Hello.” His reputation for unpredictability kept him from being cast in big movies (Spartacus, The Grifters, Reservoir DogsTarantino dedicated the script to him) and got him into trouble with others – he and Elia Kazan almost came to blows on East of Eden (the actual fight is apocryphal); Richard Widmark and Karl Malden both did their own improvising during fight scenes with Carey in The Last Wagon and One-Eyed Jacks respectively, making sure that punches and kicks were not pulled. Also on One-Eyed Jacks, Brando got his revenge for the beer gag [in The Wild One] by stabbing Carey with a pen.

But those who were friends with him, good friends, were friends until the end. Longtime buddy John Cassavetes, who cast Carey in Minnie and Moskowitz and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, considered him to be a genius on a par with Sergei Eisenstein. Carey’s loyalty to Cassavetes led him to turn down the role of Luca Brazzi in The Godfather. […]

In Head, he played Lord High ‘n’ Low, the representation of everything evil in marketing, who tried to get the Monkees to sell their sweat and nail clippings. In Fast-Walking, he played the towering lunatic inmate Bullet. And in Beach Blanket Bingo, he played South Dakota Slim, who straps Linda Evans to a buzzsaw. Maybe you don’t know the name (even I have to confess that for years I confused him with both Timothy Leary and Professor Irwin Corey), but you know who he is. The face’ll get ya every time.

Mike Watt, “The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962)”, Fervid Filmmaking: 66 Cult Pictures of Vision, Verve and No Self-Restraint (McFarland and Company, 2013; Kindle Edition)

Fast-Walking

 

Quote of the Week

THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER (1963)

Music like the worst nightmare the Cramps ever had.

Timothy Carey – the charismatically malevolent “heavy” of The Killing, The Wild One, Paths of Glory, and East of Eden – single-handedly made this film between 1960 and 1963 in and around the town of El Monte, outside Los Angeles. Its plot centers on forty-year-old Clarence, who quits his job at an insurance company so that he can don the mantle of a rock star and run for public office as God. Carey’s portrayal of a rock star in a gold suit backed by a ragtag Mexican band is so fantastically bizarre that it puts Salvador Dali (Carey’s idol) to shame. During his main performance, which is sour and atonal, Carey falls to his knees and screams, “Please! Please! Please!” (Without ever having seen or heard of James Brown!)

The World’s Greatest Sinner isn’t a music movie per se, but its soundtrack stands out. For the background music, Carey hired a young, unproven local odd-ball, Frank Zappa, to compose a full orchestral score. Their association was short-lived, however. Appearing on the Steve Allen show playing a bicycle, Zappa made disparaging remarks about the film that earned Carey’s lifelong enmity.  (Still, they both made cameo appearances in the MonkeesHead.) Although this crude but uniquely imaginative undertaking was ignored by major distributors when it first came out, history has heaped kudos on The World’s Greatest Sinner – and on Carey for his bravery, wit, and vision. Fans, take note: Still alive, Carey makes occasional film and TV appearances. He also pops up at showings of his films at revival houses around L.A. In early 1991, he was completing a stage play, The Insect Trainer, about a postal worker killed by a fart.

Art Fein, from Hollywood Rock: A Guide to Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Movies by Marshall Crenshaw (HarperPerennial, 1994)

The World's Greatest Sinner

Pic of the Day: “Head” revisited

Today we’re revisiting Head (1968), directed by Bob Rafelson, written by Rafelson, Jack Nicholson, and The Monkees, and starring the Pre-Fab Four themselves. Timothy is in full froth during the inexplicable “Atta boy Mike” scene.

Head

“You really can’t describe the picture,” Tim told Dick Strout for The Hollywood Report (listen here!). “I read the script and actually it’s the most bizarre film story I ever read before. Each page is another movie. It’s quite unique. I’ve never really been involved – I’ve worked in films before but never any quite as unique as this one. It’s a very hard film to describe… In this picture I played about four different characters. And I didn’t know what I was doing most of the time.”

Video of the Week: “Head”

Hang on for this week’s video! It’s Head (1968), starring The Monkees,  produced and directed by Bob Rafelson, and written by The Monkees (uncredited), Rafelson and Jack Nicholson. This is the film in its entirety. As I’ve said many times previously, please don’t try to make any sense out of it (except perhaps as some kind of meditation on the insanity of fame, or something). Just let its weirdness wash over you.

Also keep an eye out for a cameo by the fellow to whom Timothy gave his first big break, Frank Zappa. This movie contains three of my favorite things – mermaids, belly dancers, and Timothy Carey. How could you go wrong?

Quote of the Week

Consider Timothy Agoglia Carey, a rough-hewn, riveting beastie who, starting in the heyday of noir, slouched his way toward some backlot Bethlehem. He first hit a public nerve as a slurry-voiced gunsel in Andre’ de Toth’s B-grade sleeper Crime Wave (54) and was last seen in a trifling part in the trifle Echo Park (86). In between he appeared in nearly four dozen films, ranging from the sublime – a pair of Stanley Kubrick’s earlier and arguably best features – to such artsy turkeys as John Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (76).

Usually restricted to playing loathsome genre heavies, Carey’s strongest performances offer the kind of mixed signals associated not so much with art or craft as with pathology or the twisted mysteries of DNA. Paralleling his psycho roles, Carey’s dark personal legend encompasses 40 years of dedicated, or perhaps just helpless, eccentricity – zany behavior shading off into the macabre. Since the era of The Killing (56), Paths of Glory (57), Kazan’s East of Eden (55), and Brando’s One-Eyed Jacks (61), he’d hung in my mind as one of the first Method character actors, embodying all the follies and fevers of that holy-roller theatrical regimen. Even in throwaway parts – opposite The Monkees in Head (68), for Chrissake – you could look into his hooded, jittery eyes and sense real danger. Prankster or madman? Crusader or wise guy? The choice was hard to make when, in the dog days of August 1992, Carey materialized after almost a decade off-screen for an evening of manic schtick and pitiless self-revelation at the Nuart Theatre in West L.A.

A program highlight was a screening of The World’s Greatest Sinner, possibly the most bizarre vanity-cum-auteur vehicle on record. the 77-minute black-and-white feature credits Carey as star, writer, producer, director, and distributor. He plays a bored insurance salesman who changes his name to God, develops a youth following and a nasty lust for power, and winds up believing his own con. In the end, he blasphemously challenges the heavenly powers and, I think, realizes the enormity of his hubris. (Make that His hubris).

Finally released in 1964, the picture never found its rightful place in the grind houses and drive-ins of the period, where Carey was at the time being hissed by millions in the exploitation hits Mermaids of Tiburon (a.k.a. Aqua Sex)(62) and Poor White Trash (61). This one-night-only screening was the fifth commercial play date for Carey’s brainchild. At the intermission, the long-legged Carey, wearing his sparkly Sinner getup, loped onto the stage, his big-time weirdo persona ingrained and ageless. His voice was like a meat grinder full of nails. He began speaking about the joys of public farting. In a sort of jive disquisition, he cited Salvador Dali on the benefits of breaking wind as a social activity. “Me, I fart loud – I can’t be a hypocrite. I get these parts, but I never get to play ’em because I fart out loud. Why can’t we all fart together? Let thy arse make wind!” […]

Applause at the end faded quickly. Carey took up a position in the lobby, wearing a fixed smile, ready to sign autographs. But the audience filed silently past him. I walked by close enough to see that he believed his own blather. You could tell he was somewhat twisted in the melon, but not plain gaga – a primitive artist and a primitive human.

Back in the Fifties and Sixties, I’d gone to movies because Jack Elam was in them, or Neville Brand – or Timothy Carey. Perhaps only the camera truly loved these kinds of mavericks and marginals, but I’d always regarded the skull-faced Carey as one of the quintessential hard-boiled actors, and I now found myself savoring his mix of gaucherie and ballsiness in taking on, among others, the sensitivity police of the Nineties. As he held his smile and we made passing eye contact, I thought I’d like to pick his lock. For hours afterward, I wondered at Carey’s cockeyed grace in handling the crowd’s rejection, and I dreamed about him that night in his matchless performances – the condemned soldier who kills a cockroach in Paths of Glory, the feral assassin who fondles a puppy and talks mayhem with Sterling Hayden in The Killing.

– Grover Lewis, “Cracked Actor”, Film Comment Jan/Feb 2004; interview conducted in 1992

Video of the Week: “Most inexplicable line reading of all time”

This week’s video is Timothy’s infamous “Atta boy Mike” scene from Bob Rafelson‘s Head (1968), the very strange first – and last – feature film from the Monkees.

As I’ve said before with regards to this film – for God’s sake, don’t try to make any sense out of it! Just enjoy Tim at his craziest.