I Didn't Think You Didn't Know I Was Dead

  • 1998
  • 1 HR 51 MIN
  • NR
  • Comedy

From Columbus, Ohio, came this overlong, low-budget absurdist farce populated by loopy characters. Gretta Haberdash (Carol Ankenman) en route from New Jersey to Colorado to sort out the finances that her brother Hansel (Steve Borders) tied up in a defunct okra farm, breaks down in the Midwest. In a diner she finds Sean (Lee Hervey), an ex-boyfriend she...read more

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From Columbus, Ohio, came this overlong, low-budget absurdist farce populated by loopy characters.

Gretta Haberdash (Carol Ankenman) en route from New Jersey to Colorado to sort out the finances that her brother Hansel (Steve Borders) tied up in a defunct okra farm, breaks down in the Midwest. In a diner she finds Sean (Lee Hervey), an ex-boyfriend she mistakenly believed was killed three years

ago by a cement truck. Any romantic feelings Gretta still has are considerably muted by his lowly job--maintaining gypsy moth traps on trees. As Gretta waits for her car to be fixed, the estranged lovers are under surveillance by animal-rights activist Zephie (Julie Gregory) and hired detective

Zak (Mike Husman), who both suspect the diner fronts for illegal cockfighting. They're half right; Henry (Mark Wheeler) and Mavis (Margie Farrell), Sean's coworkers, are involved in the sport, and Sean has been duped into retrieving their gambling profits hidden in the moth traps. But the big

score involves not cockfights but drug money, for the "okra" Hansel grew was in fact a marijuana field, another Henry-and-Mavis enterprise that didn't work out. Despite his DEA house arrest, Hansel arrives in town to clear up his share of the profits, just as Zephie and Zak confront a bewildered

Gretta and Sean. All the addled protagonists, however, are waylaid together and robbed of the various ill-gotten money by Frank Travis (Vince Vohnout), corrupt owner of Zak's detective agency. He speeds away leaving Gretta and Sean hardly less puzzled than usual, but at least they've got each

other.

This 16mm production was the feature debut of Jim Bihari, an Ohio State University physics student with a $25,000 budget and an assortment of odd compulsions and quirky friends willing to act them out. There's more than a little resemblance to Richard Linklater's cult hit SLACKER (1990) due to the

leisurely pace, no-name cast, college-town atmosphere, and strange, oblique dialogue and philosophies on display (Sean wears a cap emblazoned with the motto "Protect me from what I want"). But even SLACKER's cool antinarrative started flagging at 97 minutes; I DIDN'T THINK... feels as excessively

lengthy as its title (a phrase taken directly from the script, of course), a verbose 111-minute eccentricity marathon not made any easier by Bihari's own goofy, near-continuous keyboard musical score. It's not a great film at all, but still has its endearing qualities as a piece of regional

folk-art cinema that sets its own rules and doesn't attempt to mimic the kitsch coming out of Hollywood. Financed through Bihari's family and credit cards, cut on a homebrew editing setup, and self-distributed to film festivals, the feature was finally picked up for modest home-video release in

1998. By then Bihari had completed MY NEW ADVISOR, a more accomplished comedy that reunited much of the cast. (Adult situations.)

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