Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Shameless Swine Flu Cash In!

Since everyone is going Swine Flu crazy I thought it's high time I cashed in with an old ident I produced with Cyriak for use on the now defunct Sumo.tv, retitled in reference to the eponymous pandemic.

It's a barefaced, shameless and desperate attempt to drum up some hits for my neglected Poptiquepresents Youtube account, after my previously well-subscribed Poptique channel was unceremoniously ejected after some ne'erdowell dobbed me into ther powers that be for posting some obscure Bollywood clipets.

I'm confident that this woe begotten grasp at regaining a once healthy viewership will end in despondency and disappointment - so lets sit back and see the video amp up the hits!

Update - three weeks later and it's gained a grand total of 104 extra hits. Bugger.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Hoorah for Hieronymus Merkin!

If you enjoy infamous cinematic titanics, self-flagellation on a massive
scale and a good old fashioned sing-song to boot then you missed a whale of a time this April 30th when the National Film Theatre presented a very rare screening of Anthony Newley's epically titled Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?

It's the kind of film that makes you shift around in your seat with violent self-conscious embarrassment even though you had nothing whatsoever to do with it's overblown creation - even more so when screened in the presence of Newley's real-life daughter and pint-sized co-star, Tara Newley.

Nonetheless you've got to stand back and admire the self-delusion and chupatz of a man who rather than having a quiet word about his infidelities with (then) wife Joan Collins, would rather write, direct, sing and dance in an auto- biographical Felliniesque extravaganza dealing almost exclusively with his serial dicking around.

That he would then cast Collins in the picture and continue his philandering behind the back of her onscreen character only makes his outrageous gall all the more jaw-dropping...

And what a picture it is too - a labyrinthine film within a film (within a film) which stars Newley as his onscreen doppelganger Hieronymus Merkin, as well as his shadowy director and ultimately himself. Unlike many 60s phantasmagorias this is one weirdity that keeps on chugging, with one mind blowing set piece after another. Just when you think you have it sussed Newley throws another concept on the fire, topping it all off with a twisted fairy tale featuring a scantily-clad nubile young woman, a midget and a donkey.

Newley stacks the film full of odd ball characters whilst keeping the focus firmly upon himself - Milton Berle appears throughout as a wisecracking devil incarnate, chummy teatime favourite and national treasure Bruce Forsyth makes one of his welcome big-screen appearances and a shrink-wrapped George Jessel pops up
throughout as a ghostly gag-smith haunting Hieronymus.

A film as self-centered as this must have been a hard sell back in '69, and most of the advertising seems focused on general naughtiness and the film's X rating, with little or no mention of the music or even it's star.

Such a sexed up salesmanship invariably ended up alienating and disappointing experience for the average hand-shandy punter looking for a bit of LSD-tinged rumpy-pump, but what else could a confused Hollywood studio do with a self-produced piece of self-promotion starring a performer who was essentially Marmite personified?

It's a shame that the print on offer was in ropey condition, looking like it had been dragged through many a half-empty grindhouse before finding it's way to the NFT - but for a film as unloved as this it's little surprise. A new print probably hasn't been struck since Newley was packing them in down Las Vegas way, so it's hats off to the Flipside for getting hold of anything screenable in the first place. (WOW! According to Will Kane who helped organise this event the print itself was from Newley's own archive! Not only does this up the rarity stakes immeasurably in the rarity, but I love it even more now I know his own personal print was worn down by repeated exposure!)

It's unlikely that Hieronymus Merkin will ever receive any sort of critical revival or rediscovery, but it's true to say there really isn't anything else quite like it and in this day and age of homogenised characterless blandism that's certainly nothing to be sniffed at.

I'm not sure I would (or could) sit through it all again but it's certainly fascinating and somewhat frightening to see someone as immensely talented and immeasurably troubled as Newley lay himself quite literally bare and ask for some sort of twisted understanding from the people that ultimately seemed to matter to him most - his audience.