Three months after not accepting the best actor award at the Academy Awards, Marlon Brando appeared on The Dick Cavett Show with members of the Pauite, Cheyenne and Lummi tribes. Brando had refused his Oscar for The Godfather in protest of Hollywood’s depiction of Native Americans on film.
Brando radiates a shitload of charisma and looks terrific. Brilliant mind. This is the Brando era I choose to remember. The Brando of Last Tango In Paris.
After the taping of the show, Brando was confronted by papparazzo Ron Gallela outside of a restaurant in Chinatown. Brando humored the photographer for a few moments, but when Gallela asked Brando to remove his sunglasses, the actor had had enough. He responded by punching Gallela in the face, breaking the photographer’s jaw and knocking out five teeth.
Candy should, I repeat should be off the scale incredible. But it’s not.
Candy was a film that was always talked about, but no one ever saw it. The poster of Candy topless in the airplane cockpit would always be for sale in the back pages of magazines like “Famous Monsters of Filmland” next to ones of King Kong and Frankenstein and it became a familiar image of the era. But the movie you never saw. Not on any late night movie show, never on a Sunday morning “Million Dollar Movie” or anything like that, Candy was seemingly banned from TV for being too racy and for whatever reason was never released on VHS either. Nor was it ever on HBO or Showtime. It was the great lost movie in my eyes.
I became mildly obsessed with this film I could never see and went about collecting movie posters, lobby cards, publicity photos and I own several different versions of the novel by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg with different groovy covers. The mythical Candy became a cult movie Holy Grail for me. I really built it up in my mind. For years I tried to get hold of a copy in the tape trading underground, but the best I was ever able to find was still unwatchable. Then finally it came out on DVD. It was like Christmas had arrived.
But it sucked! Really sucked. It was such a let down!
I mean just LOOK at the cast: Ringo Starr (Emmanuel, the Mexican gardener), Charles Aznavour (the horny hunchback), Marlon Brando (Grindl, the horny (fake) Indian guru), Richard Burton (MacPhisto, the drunk, horny Welsh poet), James Coburn (egotistical surgeon), John Huston (dirty old man doctor) and Walter Matthau (horny military general). Sugar Ray Robinson and Anita Pallenberg make cameo appearances. How could you go wrong with a cast like that?
Let’s not forget the amazing opening space travel sequence by Douglas Trumbull who went on to make 2001 with Stanley Kubrick. And the soundtrack by The Byrds, Steppenwolf and soundtrack great Dave Grusin (it’s INCREDIBLE and easy to find on audio blogs). The script was adapted by Buck Henry. HOW could this fail?
It even featured the decade defining pulchritude of Miss Teen Sweden, Ewa Aulin, in the title role of “Candy Christian,” the ultimate All-American girl.
But despite all this Candy is a terrible film and even worse, it’s boring.
One of the things that must have mucked up things badly for the production is—and I am just theorizing here—the contracts for the lead actors. These were THE leading actors of the day, all of them top drawer A-list 60s talent. After watching Candy the thought occurred to me that Marlon Brando’s agent probably asked how much screen time Richard Burton was getting and demanded the same for his client. Then James Coburn’s manager asked the same question and demanded equal time for his client and so on and so until each actor was guaranteed “Most Favored Nations” equal screen time. How else to explain the film’s structure? It’s maddening to watch and Candy feels like it’s never going to end.
STILL, I’m not saying it’s so bad you shouldn’t watch it. Actually I think that if this sounds even remotely intriguing to you then it’s definitely worth seeing. It’s not good, no, we’ve already established that fact, but it is a super insane, trippy, campy relic of the 1960s with some of the most iconic actors of the decade behaving like total hambones, each trying to outdo the other in chewing up the scenery.
On August 28 1963, the same day Martin Luther King delivered his landmark “I have a dream” speech, at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, writer James Baldwin, director Joseph Mankiewicz, and actors Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, and Sidney Poitier, sat down in a CBS studio to discuss Civil Rights in America. It was an historic moment, one that would be difficult to imagine happening today, amongst Hollywood’s glitterai - especially when Mankiewicz let’s the cat out of the bag:
“Freedom, true freedom is not given by governments; it is taken by the people.”
There is a very good reason why you’ve probably never seen—or even heard of—a 1997 film titled The Brave that was both directed by, and starred, Johnny Depp: It’s one of the worst films ever made. I mean like as in one of the very fuckin’ worst movies ever made, okay? How else to explain why a feature directed by one of the most bankable movie stars in history, and that features a soundtrack by Iggy Pop and one of the final film roles of Marlon Brando, has never been released in the United States, either theatrically or even on DVD? Yes, it’s that bad.
The Brave is an appalling and horrendous piece of shit that apparently left audiences at the Cannes FIlm Festival slack-jawed and saw Depp’s “people” swoop in to make sure that it wasn’t about to ruin their cash cow’s reputation. If The Brave had an odor, it would be lethal and take a hazmat suit with a gas mask to deal with. The film has only ever seen the light of day in ex-US territories, mostly Asia, where it was immediately bootlegged. Trust me, they did Depp a major solid by trying to bury this turd as deeply as possible. (For fun, put yourself into the shoes of the manager or agent who had to put it to one of the world’s biggest movie stars that he’d made a film that was unreleasable! Depp probably looks back on it now and thinks “Thank god I listened to them.”)
Now, be aware that I say all of this as somewhat of an enthusiast, even a connoisseur of “bad films,” myself, but they have to be of the “so bad they’re good” variety, not films that are just… shitty, misguided and boring. The Brave is all that and a lot more. It’s awfulness is special. One of a kind.
The Brave is Depp’s own The Day The Clown Cried.
I first read about the film’s existence in Jane Hamsher’s book Killer Instinct, about the insanity she experienced during the of filming of Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. There is just a paragraph or two describing the plot of The Brave in the book and after reading this, I just had to see it. However, this was approximately 1999 when I read it and sans bit torrent, it wasn’t going to be that easy to get my hands on it. A few days later. I figured out that a friend of someone I knew was a co-producer on the film and I got him to ask for a copy. The reply came in the form of a suspicious question: “Why does he want to see it?”
Why do you think?!?! Nevertheless, I got a copy with the extracted promise that I wouldn’t say where it had come from. Seemed fair.
So what is it that’s so freaking bad about this film, anyway? God, where do you start?
Okay, first the plot: Depp play a Native American guy named “Raphael” who lives with his wife and catatonic children in a shantytown near (in?) a garbage dump. He’s an alcoholic and sees no hope for ever being able to pull himself and his family out of their abject poverty. Raphael, who is illiterate, is told of a sinister man named McCarthy who is willing to offer $50,000 if Raphael will agree to be brutally tortured, dismembered and murdered for a snuff film. Raphael sees this as a last ditch way to lift his family from the life they are leading. After a scene of Brando acting as psychotic as you’ve ever seen him, delivering a ridiculous (obviously improvised) wheelchair-bound soliloquy about how the snuff movie will allow those who see it to face death more honestly, and how Christ-like Raphael’s sacrifice will be (it’s Island of Dr. Moreau-worthy stuff), Raphael is given a bag of cash as an advance and signs a bogus contract consisting of gibberish that he thinks will secure his family’s future after he’s gone. If Raphael skips out on MCarthy, he is told by one of his henchmen, he’ll find, fuck and eat his wife and kids
Raphael is supposed to return at the end of seven days to McCarthy’s seedy bunker to be killed in the snuff film. Most of the rest of The Brave shows him showering gifts on his wife children (such as hiring in a small fun fair) and dealing with the fate he’s signed up for. On the seventh day, Raphael returns to the fortress where McCarthy makes his films and The Brave ends (thank god!).
First off, I should say that on a technical level, the film is well-shot and edited. Clearly Johnny Depp would have access to the best “below the line talent” money could buy. It’s a technically competent film. The biggest problem with The Brave—the fatal problem, in fact, and precisely what makes it so incredibly bad—is Depp himself in the lead role. Casting himself as “Raphael” was a major, major miscalculation for several reasons, with Depp’s movie star looks being the primary culprit. As I understand it, the original novel/script called for the character to be brain-damaged from alcohol abuse or semi-retarded. Had the role been played by a Native-American actor who was dumpy and monosyllabic, it might have worked (or at least not turned out to be the atrocity it did). The audience just never buys pretty boy-Depp (looking like a SIlverlake hipster of 2011) in the role for even a single second and scenes that might (I said might) have otherwise been moving with a different actor in the part, were instead just fodder for loud guffaws, sideways glances, and mucho eye-rolling. It’s a mawkish mess. It tries to manipulate the audience’s emotions, but only elicits… boredom, disgust and pointing and laughing at the screen.
Everyone I watched it with HATED IT, just fucking hated it, and unless you’re a weirdo with shitty taste in films, you will probably hate it, too. When it’s (finally) over, you just want to take about twenty showers and try to scrub it out of your mind. Which. Is. Not. Possible.
Of course, I realize that to some of you reading this, that even this negative review sounds like an endorsement of some sort—perhaps of the “this smells like shit, take a whiff” variety. After all, when I secured my own copy of this gargantuan awfulness eleven years ago, it was certainly my firm expectation that I would be seeing a colossally bad film (and I did). This is not to say, however, that having had that experience, that I’m now recommending watching The Brave to others (to be clear, I am not). If you don’t care and want to see it anyway (it’s all over the web now, just search for it on Google) do yourself a favor and do what I didn’t do and turn it off after Marlon Brando’s scene near the beginning of the film. It’s the only, uh, “good” part of it and as I wrote above, truly one of his single most most berserk onscreen moments.
The rest of it, trust me (no really!) you really, really, really don’t want to see. Not only is it a complete waste of 90 minutes of your life that you will never, ever get back, it’ll just make you feel icky. For days.
This letter from Jack Kerouac to Marlon Brando in which Kerouac pitches the idea of a movie version for On The Road starring Brando was auctioned by Christies for $36,000 a few years ago. A check Jack can’t cash.
I’m praying that you’ll buy ON THE ROAD and make a movie of it. Don’t worry about the structure, I know to compress and re-arrange the plot a bit to give a perfectly acceptable movie-type structure: making it into one all-inclusive trip instead of the several voyages coast-to-coast in the book, one vast round trip from New York to Denver to Frisco to Mexico to New Orleans to New York again. I visualize the beautiful shots could be made with the camera on the front seat of the car showing the road (day and night) unwinding into the windshield, as Sal and Dean yak. I wanted you to play the part because Dean (as you know) is no dopey hotrodder but a real intelligent (in fact Jesuit) Irishman. You play Dean and I’ll play Sal (Warner Bros. mentioned I play Sal) and I’ll show you how Dean acts in real life…we can go visit him in Frisco, or have him come down to L.A. still a real frantic cat. All I want out of this is to able to establish myself and my Mother a trust fund for life, so I can really go around roaming around the world…to write what comes out of my head and free to feed my buddies when they’re hungry. What I wanta do is re-do the theater and the cinema in America, give it a spontaneous dash, remove pre-conceptions of “situation” and let people rave on as they do in real life…The French movies of the 30’s are still far superior to ours because the French really let their actors come on and the writers didn’t quibble with some preconceived notion of how intelligent the movie audience is…American theater & Cinema at present is an outmoded dinosaur that ain’t mutated along with the best in American Literature.
Come on now Marlon, put up your dukes and write! ...signed in blue ink Jack Kerouac
“Hey, Johnny, What are you rebelling against?”
“What’ve you got?”
It’s the famous riposte from Marlon Brando in The Wild One, a line that sent a tremor of fear through the British establishment. Strange to think now, but back in 1954, The Wild One was considered such a serious threat to British society it was banned by the Board of Film Censors for 14 years.
You see, those thin-lipped, blue-pencil censors believed Marlon Brando and his band of slovenly bikers would give youngsters “ideas on how to brutalize the public.” This was hyped response to the fact the film was loosely based on a real event, when a band of bikers took over the town of Holister in California in July 1947, during the Gypsy Tour Motorcycle Rally. Around 50 people were arrested, mainly for drunkeness, fighting, reckless driving, and disturbing the peace. Sixty people were injured, 3 seriously. Even so, it’s hard to see how the chubby Brando and his non-sensical mumblings could have inspired anyone into revolt.
Afterall, austere 1950s Britain, with its food rationing and shell-shocked, ruined cities, wasn’t Technicolor America, something John Lennon found out when he visited his local cinema to see Bill Haley and his Comets in Rock Around the Clock. Lennon had heard how riots and revolution were taking place at the film’s screenings. However, instead of seat slashing and fighting in the aisles, the nascent Beatle was dumbstruck to find his generation watching the film in silence.
If it did cause any rebellion, then it was a revolution in the head of a young English poet called Thom Gunn.
On motorcycles, up the road, they come:
Small, black, as flies hanging in heat, the Boy,
Until the distance throws them forth, their hum
Bulges to thunder held by calf and thigh.
In goggles, donned impersonality,
In gleaming jackets trophied with the dust,
They strap in doubt–by hiding it, robust–
And almost hear a meaning in their noise.