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.

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A Chat With Producer and E-Commerce Pioneer Christopher Mallick of “Middle Men”

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He’s definitely not a household name, but if you’ve ever bought anything over the Internet, Christopher Mallick has had an impact on your household. If your purchases include an occasional picture of illicit sex or gratuitously naked people, that goes double.

Mallick is the producer and inspiration for the highly fictionalized new film, “Middle Men,” which covers the early days of Internet porn as seen through the eyes of businessman Jack Harris (Luke Wilson). Harris makes millions and gets in way over his head after meeting up with a couple of drug addled fools and geniuses (Giovanni Ribisi and Gabriel Macht), who, in the process of selling dirty pictures, have developed a way to safely and securely collect credit card numbers over the Internet so they can sell dirty pictures.

In real life, the one-time chief executive of Paycom pioneered the technology that makes buying anything from a DVD to a raincoat to a monthly membership in ButtBusters.com easy, safe, and more or less confidential. He is said to have many outrageous and hilarious behind-the-scenes tales that provided background for the fictional film.

“Middle Men” is actually just the start as Mallick appears to be very serious about the film industry. He’s got more projects coming along the way including films with writer/director George Gallo and a documentary about former porn people, “Exxxit: Life After Porn,” directed by Bryce Wagoner and written and produced by “Middle Men” co-writer Andy Weiss.

Christopher MallickI met Mallick during a recent press day at the L.A. Four Seasons.┬áThere was a last minute change in the planned location of the room, from the second floor to the first floor, where we were to talk. When I arrived, I found Mallick — who is apparently slightly camera shy (that little picture to the right is it as far as available online photos are concerned) — in a wheel chair, wearing a leg brace, and, I am told, the company of a bodyguard, who apparently was so good at his job I didn’t even notice he was there.

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