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The Day of the Locust (1975).

September 23, 2008

The Scoop:
Nathanael West’s 1939 novel about ambition and alienation in the golden age of Hollywood makes an excellent jump to the screen, thanks to director John Schlesinger and screenwriter Waldo Salt, who imbue the glamour of Tinseltown with the weight of biblical prophecy.

William Atherton and Karen Black are two hopefuls trying to make it in the movie business while pursuing a doomed romance — Atherton’s Tod Hackett is a set painter while Black’s Faye Greener hopes to be an actress. Along the way they cross paths with the eccentric and doomed denizens who inhabit the periphery of stardom and pursue their shallow dreams. All this alienation, desperation and repression finally erupt in a harrowing, apocalyptic climax.

The performances are uniformly great, and among the supporting cast are such able veterans as Burgess Meredith, Donald Sutherland, Geraldine Page, Billy Barty, William Castle and others. The story’s deliberate pace requires close attention at times, but it is amply rewarded. A stunning film. You’ll never listen to “Jeepers Creepers” in the same way again.

Best Bit:
The final sequence at the movie premiere, still one of the most shocking and effective scenes put on film.

Side Note:
Sutherland’s unbalanced simpleton is a memorable character, in more ways than one. The character’s name is Homer Simpson, which is has become forever linked with Matt Groening’s “The Simpsons.”

Companion Viewing:
“L.A. Confidential” (1997).

Senses of Cinema.

Take a Look:
The trailer:

The final scene. (Warning, spoilers abound! Seriously, don’t watch this unless you’ve already seen the rest of the movie. I can’t stress this enough.):

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