Brewster McCloud

Warner Archives’ long-awaited DVD of Robert Altman’s rarely seen 1971 follow-up to his “MASH” breakthrough is an example of some of the best, but a lot more of the worst, of the great director’s filmmaking approach. Bespectacled Bud Cort (“Harold and Maude”) stars in the title role as a geeky but confident youth building a human-powered flying machine in a fallout shelter at the then new Houston Astrodome, looked over by a mysterious goddess-like earth mother/protector (Sally Kellerman). Meanwhile, assorted right-wingers in Brewster’s sphere are dying under never fully described or explained circumstances, including witchy Margaret Hamilton (“The Wizard of Oz”), complete with ruby slippers, and unrecognizable Stacey Keach under an enormous amount of age make-up as a greed-obsessed millionaire. A tough, plays-by-his-own rules San Francisco cop named Frank Shaft (Altman favorite Michael Murphy) is working the case, but the only thing connecting the deaths is the presence of bird feces on the corpses — which is, I guess, supposed to be hilarious and also meaningful. Meanwhile, the seemingly sex-negative Brewster bumps into a girl with a talent for wacky black comedy car chases (Houston-bred Shelley Duvall in her first film role). Altman discarded the original screenplay by Doran William Cannon, who wrote the infamous “Skidoo,” and so the writer can’t be blamed for the narration featuring Rene Auberjonois as a possibly half-bird ornithologist. It’s not all torture. The final few minutes find their way to a bit of actual movie poetry beneath the skylight of the Astrodome, but this bird doesn’t stay airborne for long.

Click to buy “Brewster McCloud”

  

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Cinephile blogs don’t care if I ignore them

But it’s still high time I take a look around the online petri dish that has nurtured me for so long…

* Jesus of film geek cool Dennis Cozzalio has a nifty conversation with director Joe Dante (“Gremlins,” “Piranha,” “Rock ‘n Roll High School,” “The Howling,” etc.) whose doing some ultra film-geek stuff in L.A. while finishing up his lowish budget 3-D horror film, “The Hole.”

* Kimberly Lindbergs reviews the new biography of Hal Ashby (“Harold and Maude,” “Being There”) whose fandom is definitely growing.

* There’ll be more posts like this to come, but I’ll wrap up with the amazing Self Styled Siren‘s discovery a couple of week’s back of a truly great YouTube clip featuring Fred Astaire dancing and singing a song now practically owned by Frank Sinatra. If Frank was the ultimate saloon singer, Fred was the ultimate urbane hoofer. And he was an underrated singer and actor as well.

Though the Siren has problems embedding, I can present it to you directly here. Even if you think you hate or have no interest in musicals, check this one out, by the time Fred starts dancing at 2:45, I promise you won’t be sorry. (The video, by the way, runs a bit long. Feel free to click away after Fred finally ambles out of the bar. Also, note that he tells humorist-turned-actor Robert Benchley that he plans to walk, not drive, home — which is not the way the song’s usually interpreted. That’s Astaire: class through and through.)

  

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