Cassavetes' films can be annoying and enigmatic, but they are usually creative and interesting. Not so with this one. Gazzara (Cassavetes' real-life pal), in hock to local loan sharks, proudly runs a two-bit Sunset Strip night spot. It's an odd club in that it features pageants rather
than floor shows with the usual singer, ventriloquist, dancers, et al. Gazzara writes and directs the shows, which include things like "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral." His girlfriend is Johari, one of the performers in the Crazy Horse West (a nod to the Parisian landmark). Gazzara makes his last
payment to Ruban, the former owner of the club (and producer of this picture), and then goes off to gamble at a private club run by Cassel, where he loses more than $20,000 he doesn't have. When he can't come up with the money, they make him an offer: Gazzara can clear the debt by killing a
Chinese bookie, Hugh, who is causing the club owners some woes. Gazzara agrees (he can't stand the thought of remortgaging the club). What he doesn't know is that Hugh is not just your average Asian bookmaker; he is actually a heavyweight mob boss. On his way to make the hit, Gazzara's tire goes
flat, and he has to get a cab. He murders Hugh as well as the tough bodyguards but botches ithe job; the media are filled with the case. Cassel is angered at the brouhaha and sends two hoods, Carey and Phillips, to kill Gazzara. They succeed only in wounding him. Bleeding badly, Gazzara lurches
around, trying to find someone to help him, but he is avoided by everyone, including Johari's mother. Eventually he returns to the only place where he feels safe, his club. He walks in, introduces one of the acts, and then walks outside--to bleed to death or to be finally dispatched by the
criminals, we don't know which. Only a few scenes in this picture that seems to go on forever are worth watching--the totally improbable nightclub act, the bookie and his girlfriend frolicking in the swimming pool before the shooting, and the brief stop for hamburgers to feed Hugh's vicious dogs.
Carey, who was so wonderful in Kubrick's PATHS OF GLORY, is allowed to roll his eyes and ludicrously overplay the villain. TVhe audience is never sure where the script ends and the improvisation begins, and the result is a flat, endless series of scenes. Points are made, remade, and made again.
Perhaps Cassavetes studied how to be boring with Robert Altman. In a small role look for Kathalina Veniero, who later starred in BIGFOOT and TO KILL THE GOLDEN GOOSE. Hollywood denizens will recognize her from somewhere else, though. She and her husband, Red, run one of the town's brightest jazz
clubs and restaurants on trendy Melrose Avenue, "The Nucleus Nuance." It's hard to believe Cassavetes is so spotty in his work. This, after all, is the same man who made GLORIA and A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE. Included in the ranks of extras pressed into service by Cassavetes was the renowned
painter-author, Donato Rico, whose work is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and whose 60 novels were often filched by producers who stole his original stories. If you know Hollywood people, you'll have a laugh at the other famous faces that can be seen for snippets of time in the
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