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May 14, 1980 - Image 9

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1980-05-14

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The Michigan Daily-Wednesday, May 14, 1980-Page 9
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A strange and terrible saga

Before we examine Where the Buf-
falo Roam on a purely art-for-arts sake
basis, I would like to make reply to
David Felton, who in a recent issue of
Rolling Stone called Dr. Hunter S.
Thompson, the fictionalized subject of
the film, a "drug-crazed greedhead"
for accepting royalties from such a
"cheap piece of exploitation." First off,
I find this kind of raving comic in the
extreme, coming from the pages of a
mag which for years has lionized
Thompson as a counter-culture hero
for, among other things, his appalling
overconsumption of every drug known
to man.
Second, times are getting tougher
than they were in the relatively
carefree economic climate of the Nixon-

era, when Thompson became addic-
ted to pharmceutical thrills, high-
speed driving and generally trashing
everything in sight. It costs a lot of
money to be Hunter Thompson these
days, and selling screen rights to one's
writings, no matter how talentless and
uncool movie people might be, is a
marvelous way to raise funds for
another bout of Gonzo Journalism
(Thompson's trademark literary style
pioneered, by the way, in Rolling
Stone). Rather than. call Thompson a
sellout, one should rather admire him
for his efforts to salvage the film when
he saw it was turning into an infunny
flop (he wrote several segments for the
film and acted as creative consultant),
rather than denouncing the whole thing
a la Gore Vidal and his Caligula.

TO BE BRUTALLY frank in the
grand old Daily tradition, Buffalo sucks
the big Wazoo. Not that it had to be that
way. Thompson's pieces are wierd,
hilarious and fast-paced-Fear and
Loathing in Las Vegas, for instance, is
a perfect subject for a film comedy.
Thompson himself, with his mirror
glasses. cigarette holder and middle-
aged dignity half-masking a personality
part Bugs Bunny, part Tasmanian
Devil, is a self-made cartoon charac-
ter; he is in fact, the prototype for Uncle
Duke in Garry Trudeau's strip
It's a fact of the movie biz that, while
talented UCLA cinematography grads
bus tables or starve in the streets, in-
competent hacks like producer Art Lin-
son are allowed to direct, and ruin, big
studio films like this one. With Linson's
approval, Buffalo's screen writers
scrapped most of Thompson's gags for
their own, and the new ones just aren't
funny at all, just violent and over-
bearing. Thompson himself, while wat-
ching the filming of Buffalo, was heard
to ask, "Why am I always beating up
Negroes and midgets in this film?" Bill
Murray, who portrays Thompson, like
many other New Comedians, is rather
esoteric in his humor; to watch him

rough up a chauffeur in a hallucinatory
frenzy or wastea teletype machine with
a Luger or trash a fancy hotel room
playing football with midget Cuban
bellboys, is, well, slightly em-
The big cheat of Buffalo, aside from
the Neil Young soundtrack (i.e.,
several variations of "Home on the
Range" in minor keys), is its total lack
of a cohesive plotline. One wouldn't
mind that so much, but they promised us
one; in the opening scene,
Murray/Thompson announces that this
is the story of his lawyer friend Lazlo
(Peter Boyle), presumed dead in some
mad adventure. But it isn't really.
Lazlo just shows up for a few minor
vignettes amidst the mad whirl of
Murray's antics. Except for one
segment in which Lazlo joins a bunch of
gun-happy South American
revolutionaries, he mainly acts as
Murray's straight guy as Murray picks
up and frightens hitchhikers, spikes a
syringe of smack into a Red Cross nur-
se's arm, etc. As a result, one really
doesn't care about Lazlo, or,
ultimately, about anything the film of-
fers ... Oh, hey, hand me those
binoculars, will you? I think I see Ralph
Steadman coming out of a bakeshop.

e A bad day for horror

Friday the 13th, which recently
opened at the Briarwood and Univer-
sityNDrive-in theaters, depicts what its
advertisements call "a 24 hour night-
mare of terror" in what turns out to be
a ninety-minute nightmare of boredom.
This horror-suspense piece-which
deals with a group of counselors who
get sliced up, one by one, while
preparing to reopen a summer
camp-has no real chills and is so slow
moving that one is truly concerned not
about who the murderer is, but about
when thefilm will end.
In the picture's opening sequence,
two young counselors have an intimate
conversation, marred because the
sound is horrible and because the ac-
tors seem too embarrassed to recite
their lines clearly, and as they start
sexual intercourse, we get to experien-
ce the thrill of their brutal murder. The
optimistic viewer supposes that this
may be the beginning of a campy
horror-film parody, but the possibility
soon proves all too slight. The story
quickly takes the shape of a typical
murder mystery, and the actors con-
tinue to appear as though they ob-
viously wish they were elsewhere.
AND ONE can hardly blame them.
Both Victor Miller's dialog and plot are
shallow, contrived, and wrought with
cliches. The first part of the film is
filled with minor events unsuccessfully
aimed at tensing up the audience; for
example, one counselor feigns
drowning for a laugh, while the town
crazy, perhaps played by some retired
vaudeville performer, continually
shows up at inoportune times and places
shouting, "You're all doomed." The
writer attempts to create an empathy
with his simpl:e, stereotyped charac-
ters by showing them as friendly, sex-
and marijuana-loving youths, always
ready with witty remarks. For exam-
ple, a young man chops a snake in half,
and when asked if it is dead, he quips,
"Either that or it's got a very small.
Much of the film's technical work is
also absurd. When we see a reflection of
lightning against a character's skin, it is
yellow rather than white, and the en-
suing rainy is audible long before it is
visible. Tbsdialpg in spletimT just

enough out of synchronization to be
irritating, and now and then a bright
light within the frame causes a distor-
tion or washes out part of the picture.
To save money, Friday the 13th was
shot on location at a camp in New Jer-
sey, and it looks like it. There are a few
nice nature shots-dark clouds moving
slowly over the camp's lake, for exam-
ple-but for a good deal of the time, the
cinematographer seems at a loss for
what to do with his camera; framing is
occasionally awkward, and some
camera movements are unnecessarily
repeated. To make matters worse,
many poor shots are held interminably.
Director Sean Cunningham and
editor Bill Freda lack a faculty essen-
tial for all good horror filmmakers: a
sense of rhythm and timing. Because of
this, all of the supposedly scary sur-
prised in the early part of the film fall
flat. When the ostensibly drowned
counselor surfaces from under the lake,
we aren't jarred because it doesn't
happen suddenly. The local madman's
appearance in a pantry is not startling
because the cutting is not quick enough
and because he is too far back inside the
pantry when the door is opened. The ac-
tion scenes involving the murderer also
suffer from clumsy or non-existent
editing. The only effective means Cun-
ningham has of disturbing the audience
at all are the presentation of extreme
gore, or the use of a removed hand-held
camera toimply the propinquity of an
evil observer and the use of foreboding
music, the latter two means implemen-
ted to the point of tedium.
Indeed, the special make-up effects in
the graphicly violent scenes, created by
Tom Santini (known for his work on
Dawn of the Dead), is the sole outstan-
ding feature of the entire film. We see
slow and vivid decapitation, throat-
slitting, knifing, and assorted other
maulings. The murderer's presence
scares us only because we are afraid of
how disgusting each successive attack
will get.
Friday the 13th, then, thrives on
blood; it is the only horror here. Our
real fear should be that this execrable
waste of celluloid, totally void of in-
tellectual or artistic merit, may do bet-
ter at the box office than other more-
deserving films of its genre.

Continuous performances from
(Also ser ved Monday through Fridat.)
ThAnn Arbr Flm Coopratie Presents at Aud. A $1.50
(Roman Polonskijl1967) -7:00-AUD A
A tale -of a middle-aged, whimpering asexual whose gorgeous
wife loves him enough to dress him in her nighties. Interrupting
this strange form of bliss is a gangster needing a hideout. Mean
and sadistic or slapstick comedy, depending on how you look at
it. One of Polanski's best, it won awards at the Berlinand Venice
(Roman Pal onski, 1968) 9:00-AUD A
Forerunner of the whole devil worship genre, ROSEMARY'S
BABY, in the hands of the master of the macabre, Roman Polan-
ski, remains one of ;the most horrifying documents of justified
paranoia ever filmed. Did Mia Farrow really become pregnant
at a Satanic orgy or was it a gruesome nightmare? In Polanski's
cinema of mood, one answer is as frightening as the other, JOHN
DANCE (10:04). Mr. Josi will given t between ihe iwo shows. FREE.
fr81t !ef 4t : 'rih §k a g . - -& .' w"+b~

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