Wusa

  • 1970
  • Movie
  • GP
  • Drama

Lest you mistake the title for a word in an obscure Serbo-Croatian dialect, be aware that it refers to the call letters of a fascistic southern radio station. Newman is a roamer with a background in radio. He comes to New Orleans with barely beer money in his jeans, contacts Harvey, a former con man turned phony fundamentalist minister, and prevails upon...read more

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Lest you mistake the title for a word in an obscure Serbo-Croatian dialect, be aware that it refers to the call letters of a fascistic southern radio station. Newman is a roamer with a background in radio. He comes to New Orleans with barely beer money in his jeans, contacts Harvey, a

former con man turned phony fundamentalist minister, and prevails upon Harvey to repay an old debt. Harvey tells Newman that there's an announcing job open at WUSA, a local radio station owned by Hingle. Newman talks his way into a job at the station and later finds that he has to spout right-wing

propaganda. Quarry is the manager of the station, which is devoted to exposing welfare fraud and other actions that Hingle thinks are all inspired by godless Communists. Just prior to getting the job, Newman is in a sleazy bar down near the docks and meets Woodward, a semi-pro who is attempting to

talk a sailor into buying her a meal. Newman buys Woodward her first decent meal in some time, and the two end up at her tacky rooming house, where they spend a passionate night. Once he begins work at the station, Newman encounters Perkins, a naive bleeding-heart social worker who is being used

by Hingle to create a white riot. Newman moves in with Woodward and continues his job at the station; then, when he finds out what a heel Hingle is, he gets drunk, battles with Perkins, and leaves Woodward. Ultimately, local newman Mason brings Perkins to his senses. The station backs a big

concert that is actually a hate rally cloaked in music. Outside the arena, there's a full demonstration taking place by a group of militant blacks. Perkins, who has been mild-mannered up until now, tries to assassinate Hingle but misses and hits Quarry, one of Hingle's sycophants. The crowd panics

upon hearing the gunshots and begins running helter-skelter, crushing Perkins to death in the melee. The gospel singers that are performing in the show are all neighbors of Woodward; worried that they will be caught with marijuana, they plant their pot on Woodward, who is arrested and taken to

jail, where she becomes despondent and commits suicide in her cell. Leachman is Woodward's best friend, a cripple who lives on the edge of reality. When Leachman tells Newman what's happened to Woodward, he decides to leave the Crescent City--the same way he arrived, with little money and no

future.

Although plenty of money was spent on this film (almost $9 million), it doesn't have any characters that are likable enough to win audience sympathy. Newman sells out right away, as does Harvey. Perkins is half-mad, and the only character with a modicum of sincerity is Woodward's partime hooker;

when she dies, the movie becomes a vacuum. The dialog is often unintentionally funny and Rosenberg's pacing is snail-like. WUSA might have made an important statement, but because of its heavyhanded presentation it becomes self-concious rather than socially conscious. Nevertheless, Jazz fans will

appreciate the inclusion of the venerable Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the score by Lalo Schifrin which also used a bit of Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag." by Scott Joplin.

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  • Rating: GP
  • Review: Lest you mistake the title for a word in an obscure Serbo-Croatian dialect, be aware that it refers to the call letters of a fascistic southern radio station. Newman is a roamer with a background in radio. He comes to New Orleans with barely beer money in… (more)

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