Jim Walsh's Big Hairy Weblog Thingy

Friday, May 13, 2005

Faces In The Crowd

Out this week on DVD: A Face In The Crowd, the Elia Kazan sleeper that lampooned the television industry with an effectiveness that Paddy Chayefsky could only dream of.

My mother, of all people, turned me on to this flick when I was a teenager. The Budd Schulberg-written parable of abused media power is a real eye opener that holds up as well as it did in 1957, when TV was still a novelty. Now, no less than in the not-so-Fabulous Fifties, the flick confirms your worst fears about the disasterous potentials in the great glowing glass teat.
If you've never seen it, trust me - you'll never think of Andy Griffith in the same way again. He infuses the character of Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes with an certain irresistible malevolence; imagine a cross between Elvis, Will Rogers, Ross Perot, Bill O'Reilly and Joseph Goebbels, and you begin to get the picture. The evolution of Griffith's character, from white-trash jailbird to country boy TV idol to populist philosopher to neo-fascist kingmaker will suck the breath out of you; betcha never though ol' Matlock had it in him.

Griffith is the centerpiece, but costars Walter Matthau, Lee Remick and Patricia Neal hold their own. Neal is especially effective as Rhodes's promoter/lover/crying towel, eventually forced to deal with her own dark impulses as her creation turns into a monster.

For folks who like bells and whistles, the DVD features recent interviews with Griffith, Neal and Schulberg. If you're looking for a movie that will rock your world, I give A Face In The Crowd the highest possible recommendation.

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