Sometimes we have to relearn the lessons of our youth. Lately I've been relearning that Roger Corman is a terrible filmmaker. It was something impressed on me well in my youth by Professors Robinson, Servo, and T. Robot with the use of It Conquered the World and Swamp Diamonds as examples. But the past few weeks I've sought out Corman movies and I've paid the price for my short memory. Last night it was a film he didn't direct, only produced, a movie called The Cry Baby Killer. With a running time of sixty minutes, it consists entirely of interminable padding.
If only the movie had borne some resemblance to its sensational poster;
Jack Nicholson in his first role, playing a guy called the Cry Baby Killer, one imagines a wild tale of an emotionally unstable psychopath's bizarre killing spree. Maybe a wonderfully trashy punch up of Rebel Without a Cause. I mean, that's fair, right? Instead we get a guy who not only never kills anyone, who not only never cries, or is noted for crying, but is barely in the movie and is in fact portrayed as a dull, typical 1950s idea of an average teenager who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The teenage gang stuff in the first five minutes is sort of entertaining. They beat up Nicholson because he's hung up on the gang leader's, Manny's, girl Carole, who used to be the girlfriend of Nicholson's character. There's a pretty funny, transparently misogynist angle in the movie's almost catatonic plot as everyone, from the waitress, the cops, and Nicholson's parents holds her responsible for the fact that Nicholson accidentally wounded two boys who were trying to beat him up and now he's holed up in an outdoor kitchen storeroom with a cook and a woman carrying a child. All because she broke up with him and had started going out with Manny. How dare she! Obviously she's, "gone bad," as more than one character observes.
Manny and his gang, who were the ones who actually beat up Nicholson and brought the gun, are quickly taken out of sight after the start of the film and are barely mentioned again. Most of the movie consists of the police lieutenant and bystanders commenting on how kids to-day (1958) have an undeserved sense of entitlement, lawyers are crooked, and reporters obstruct police in the process of seeing justice done and ensuring the public safety.
Maybe the movie really is directed by Joe Addis, and he's just Corman's apt pupil, but the tendency to frame actors' faces always directly in the centre of the screen and the downright bizarrely prodigious pace sure feel like Corman.
There are things like a cop asking another cop if he still has his megaphone, then a cut to a new shot of this other cop saying, "Yes," then back to the lieutenant saying, "Okay, go get it." It's almost Lynchian but without the magic.
Then there's weird uses of time that make three minutes seem like three hours, like when Nicholson's mother says she's going to talk to Nicholson through the megaphone to try to get him to release the hostages, then we cut to some conversation in the watching crowd, then the waitress telling off Carole inside the diner, and two other conversations before finally cutting back to the mother actually taking up the megaphone and talking to her son. The scenes in this movie almost feel randomised and it creates a sensation of stasis.
At one point a cop remarks that the standoff has been going on for three hours. It was only around a half hour into the film, but I felt like he had to be low balling the estimate.
Twitter Sonnet #422
Ink ankle neutrons stitch stale black velcro.
Shots of tar trail towards tottering autumn.
Two colour stains tangle cancer macro.
Pez palace iPads drain the wit alum.
Armadillo lactations shroud the court.
Gradual annual quarters halve hands.
Hiltons hover in the airplane export.
Thinning white locks conceal Julian Sands.
Gangrenous granola gourmets know much.
Multitudes of tissue tulips change hue.
Foggy submarines make a nuke sandwich.
Rebellious hair buns are bad to subdue.
Celebratory tarantulas break
The discretionary shame coffin wake.