Mickey One (1965) Poster


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Visually stunning Kafkaesque thriller
EThompsonUMD23 January 2001
Thanks to AMC's Film Preservation series those of us who had missed the rare previous opportunities to view this out-of-print cult classic on television were recently afforded a cinematic pleasure of the highest order.

Everything about this film impressed me enormously - its startling New Wave-influenced editing and camera angles, its atmospheric noir lighting effects, its surrealistic mise en scene, its Kafkaesque paranoia and philosophical themes, and the incredibly convincing performance given by Warren Beatty in the title role. There isn't a dull shot or moment in the entire film, and some of its images and visual conceits (the automobile junk yard as existential metaphor, for instance) are breathtaking. That this artistically ambitious and ambiguous film ever got made and theatrically released in 1965 is a small miracle. Perhaps I'll think differently after the initial glow has worn off and I have a chance for a second viewing, but right now I'd rank Arthur Penn's Mickey One with such all time great thrillers as The Third Man and Touch of Evil.
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One of the great lost 1960s movies! A dazzling mindbender
Infofreak13 February 2003
Director Arthur Penn and Star Warren Beatty were the team behind 'Bonnie And Clyde', a movie which literally exploded on to Hollywood screens in 1967, and caused some serious repercussions still being felt today. There's no argument from me that 'Bonnie And Clyde' is a milestone, and definitely a modern classic. But I have heard hardly anyone mention Penn and Beatty's previous collaboration 'Mickey One' released two years earlier. In its own way this movie is just as stunning, yet it is almost forgotten and unseen. I had been curious about the movie for some time and was ecstatic when I stumbled across an old VHS copy in my local video store (apparently it was never released on video in the US, this is certainly not the case here in Australia). I must say this was one of the most original and surprising movies I've ever seen. It reminded me in some ways of Boorman's 'Point Blank' and Seijun Suzuki's 'Tokyo Drifter' and 'Branded To Kill' ( all of which it predates by the way) in the way that it uses a genre crime film as an excuse for some mind-blowing visuals and ideas. 'Mickey One' shares a similar stylized surrealism and hip approach to the aforementioned, though they are all quite different films in other ways. Warren Beatty is an actor I have long lost interest in, but the movie reminds you of just how good he was in his heyday. The rest of the cast is eclectic and interesting and includes Canadian beauty Alexandra Stewart, veteran character actor Jeff Corey and an unforgettable appearance by Kamatari Fujiwara as an enigmatic performance artist in one of the movies most striking sequences. Beatty plays "The Comic" a wise-cracking comedian in the Lenny Bruce/Mort Sahl mold who finds himself on the run from the mob. He drifts along keeping an extremely low profile and doing odd jobs, before the lure of the stage proves to be too strong to ignore. He starts performing again under the name Mickey One, but as his reputation increases he becomes extremely paranoid wondering where/if/when his past will catch up to him with (presumably) fatal consequences. I see others who have seen this film have mentioned Kafka, others Fellini, and many have commented on the jazz influence (Sax legend Stan Getz is a featured soloist on the soundtrack). I can see what everyone is getting at, but those comparisons and the others I have made, really give you little idea of just how special and unique this movie is. If you get the opportunity to watch it please do so, as I believe you will be impressed. There are many contenders for "the great lost 1960s movie" and 'Mickey One' is as good as any. A truly remarkable movie that deserves to be rediscovered.
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Like seeing Lenny Bruce lost in a house of mirrors
mosoul16 January 2001
This gritty surreal stumble through 1965 America is uncompromisingly downbeat. Like a last visit to the now absent locales featured in Diane Arbus photographs, it repels and attracts almost like a roadside museum of oddities. Apparently Lenny Bruce and Diane Arbus shared a passion for New York's infamous Hubert's Flea Circus and a Times Square movie theater that ran Todd Browning's "Freaks". This film captures that strange lost in the fun house feel also seen in Orson Welles' "Lady from Shanghai" climax . To add contrast Director Arthur Penn also interjects dreamy Playboy magazine moments between Warren Beatty and 1966 Playmate of the Year Donna Loren at a posh hotel. Stan Getz silky saxophone on the sound track provides Mickey One's one discernible connective thread. It dramatizes the observation that, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you". Visually the film was so modern that audiences took at least 20-years to catch up to it.
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Refreshing! One of the most unique American films ever made
zetes24 January 2001
I have not watched many American films in the past few months. Even the good ones tend to be repetitive, not just in plot, but in style and technical aspects. An "art film" in this country seems simply to be a Hollywood script produced for less money. This goes for every era of American film.

So it is rare to find an American film with true aspirations towards originality. And now I see Mickey One. I heard about it quite a while ago, not long after I saw the second pairing of director Arthur Penn and actor Warren Beatty, the absolute masterpiece Bonnie and Clyde. That was some four years ago. Mickey One is not available on video, so I never really thought I would see it, nor did I really care; I was interested, but had not heard many good things about it (it's usually categorized as "pretentious" or an "interesting failure"). But then, about a month ago, I caught a snatch of it on AMC. Then, tonight, I come home from work, turn on the television, switch to AMC, and it is just about to begin. It was only 95 minutes long, so I sat down to watch it.

What I experienced was possibly the most unique American film I'd ever seen. I would cite a few possible influences of this film to describe it: it reminded me of Fellini, mainly 8 1/2, + Kafka + a very unique and difficult to identify style of humor, very sly. Many people who do see this film will probably dismiss it because of its confusing story, and admittedly, once the story makes sense, it doesn't equal up to all that much. I didn't mind that so much. Maybe the sum is not as great as its parts, but, boy, are those parts amazing! For one thing, the cinematography is amazing. The final scene, where Mickey One (Warren Beatty) confronts his fears in the form of an unrelenting, unblinking spotlight. The dialogue is also amazing, too, as well as the screenplay (at least for individual scenes). Take, for instance, the way Mickey's love interest is introduced: to escape a possible spy, he jumps out of his bathroom window onto a trampoline. He comes back to his apartment later to find a young woman sitting in his chair. "Who the heck are you?" "Your landlady said you were evicted. I gave her all my money, and it's dark outside. I can't go now!" I haven't seen that before. It's damned clever. Also, I've never in my life, in American film or elsewhere, seen such a clever use of speeding up the film. Sure, plenty of filmmakers use slow-motion as a filmic tool, but fast-motion, I've just never seen that before (possibly in silent film, but it is not the same).

The best part of the film happens to be almost completely separated from the rest of the film. A Japanese fellow who has appeared from time to time in the picture, who always sees Mickey and waves at him, reveals his magnum opus of modern art made from parts found it the junkyard. He calls it "Yes," and it is this profoundly weird and comical machine that smashes together trash can lids and pounds on piano keys. There are fireworks attached to it, which eventually make Yes burst into flames, which leads the fire department to put it out in a glorious blanket of what seems to be bubbles from bubble bath or dish soap. It's quite surreal, and quite amazing.

Seriously, if you are a fan of unique cinema, see Mickey One. 9/10. And Warren Beatty's great, too, as ought to be expected.
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Kafka meets Algren
screaminmimi28 April 2007
This is a movie where the landscape is a major character. Arthur Penn made the most of his Chicago locale. Much of what he used is no longer standing, but it is deeply ingrained in true Chicago-influenced art: not just the works of Nelson Algren, but Richard Wright, Theodore Dreiser and James T. Farrell, blues artists from Maxwell Street, Ivan Allbright's grotesque paintings, the non-fiction of Studs Terkel and Upton Sinclair, Gwendolyn Brooks' poems all drew a kind of grimy vitality from this landscape, as well.

There are bits and pieces of that Chicago still standing. I know them when I see them, because--even in person--they leave me with the impression of being in black and white monochrome rather than color. If you get to see this black and white part of Chicago or some other big city (older parts of Tokyo are like this too), you will see how a place can exert such a powerful influence on the people in it. If you accept that premise in this movie, the actions of the characters become more understandable. What may at first glance seem absurd becomes reasonable (if not rational), given the influence of the environment.
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A well-made drama
xtonybueno31 May 2000
I saw this movie for the first time in a film appreciation class and at first I was put off by its style and opaque content. But I felt compelled to seek out and purchase the laserdisc, and subsequently I enjoy it very much. Basically, Warren Beatty is a nightclub comic on the run from the mob. Along the way there is much symbolism, events which may or may not be hallucinations, and spoken words with double meanings which may or may not be significant. What makes this movie successful is that very little is 100% clear, and I am actually in the minority who believe that Mickey One's paranoia is indeed justified. An underground film which deserves its cult status, see it if you get the chance.
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One Too Many
sol121828 June 2005
(Spoilers) Strange motion picture out of the 1960's about a comic on the run from the mob who in the end gives up running and finally faces what fate, or the syndicate, has in store for him.

Polish/American stand-up comic Mickey One(Warren Beatty),a name that he took later in the film while on the lamb, feels he's lived beyond his means and now has to pay up to keep himself from being done in by the Detroit mobsters who he's deeply in debt to.

We see at the beginning of the movie a montage of Micky One's lifestyle with money, that the mob advanced him, going up in smoke with his gambling drinking and women women women with no end in sight. Now Mickey realizes that he's got to pay up to keep from getting his arms and legs broken and goes to see his manager Rudy Lopp, Franchot Tone, to see what he owes.

Micky finds out that he's squandered well over $20,000.00 of the mobs money and has no way of paying it back. Terrified and fearing that he's on the mobsters hit-list Mickey makes a run for it out of Detroit and during the next four years drifts all throughout the USA finally ending up in Chicago.

Working all kinds off odd jobs one in which he disposed the garbage at a local flop-house Mickey slowly goes back to what he does best stand-up comedy. By doing that Mickey's exposing himself to the mobsters who have been out looking for him in all the major nightclubs from Detroit to Denver trying to find and even murder him.

Like a man on a tightrope Mickey has to be good on the stage in order to support himself as a stand-up comic but at the same time not that good in order not to draw attention on himself and thus have himself beaten or rubbed out for his compulsive gambling and womanizing. That lead to him sticking the Detroit Mobsters with a +$20,000.00 tab.

Trusting no one Mickey lives in this run down apartment building in the Chicago slums and one day a young women Jenny, Alexandra Stewart, mistakenly end up in his apartment thinking that it was vacant by paying the landlady the rent. Reluctantly letting Jenny stay with him turns out to be at first the worst and later on the best thing that happened to Mickey One in the movie.

Stark and brooding "Mickey One" is one of the best example of surrealistic American cinema to come out of the 1960's or 70's. Watching the film you get the impression that your seeing a Salvador Dali painting come to life.

A lot of the scenes in the film don't seem to make any sense even for a movie as surrealistic like "Mickey One". But they somehow or another make the film move towards it's somewhat freaked-out conclusion without interfering with the movies basic plot: a man on the run for his life.

The ending of the movie, with Mickey driven to the point of not caring if he lived or died anymore, is really something to watch. Beaten and battered, from a bar fight that spilled into the street the night before, Mickey goes on the stage of a swanky Chicago nightclub, the Xanadu, to do what may very well be his last performance in show business and possibly his life.

Besides the aforementioned cast the movie also has veteran actors Hurd Hatfield and Jeff Corey as the Xanadu's owner and manager Castle & Fryer as well as Teddy Heart as Mickey's sad and tragic booking agent Georgie Berson.
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Paranoia on the run in mid-60's!
shepardjessica10 July 2004
This under-appreciated early film of Arthur Penn has been called a rip-off of European films, but it's much better than that. Penn and Beatty obviously formed a love/hate relationship before they made Bonnie and Clyde two years later, and this film is great! The perfect role for Beatty and a host of strange characters (who is that little guy?) and an offbeat performance by Francot Tone and a creepy one by Hurd Hatfield.

This film's reputation will rise in value over the years since Mickey is no longer alone on the American streets. Wonderful b/w cinematography and true American sensibility permeates every scene. Try to find this gem and you may be in for a surprise. A 9 out of 10! Best performance in film Beatty.
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An existential paranoid thriller
Alonso Duralde25 July 1999
I'd heard for years that this was a cult film, but I wasn't prepared for how haunting, disturbing, riveting and utterly brilliant this Arthur Penn concoction would be. Warren Beatty stars as a stand-up comic on the run from the mob; years later, when he may once again rise to fame, he must decide if he has been in hiding because of a genuine threat, or his own paranoia.

The high-contrast b&w cinematography is gorgeous, the score (featuring improvisations by Stan Getz) jarringly matches the new wave-style editing, and Penn keeps the audience on its toes with jump cuts, odd character touches and a general permeating sense of unease and distrust.

Seek this one out if you get the chance to see it on the big screen. And Columbia/Tri-Star, please, release this gem on video!
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Oh, man!
lionel-libson-125 October 2010
Like I knew this was gonna be a long night when I heard the west coast jazz opening. Penn obviously confused film making with Calvin Klein commercials. So, like Warren's in a tough spot--tough because he doesn't know what he did wrong--shades of Huntz hall being smacked in the head by Leo Gorcey--"Wha'd I do? Wha'd I do?" This causes the music to get louder and the camera to move jerkily, like my uncle's home movies. The puppet actors are forced to give us slabs of bad Brando, letting us know that ultimately the whole film is a waste of time. If I wanted to show angst and psychosis, I'd have taken camera and crew to the Motor Vehicle Bureau in Yonkers, and just alternated between the waiting dead, the agonizing number change on the electronic board and the sleepy indifference of the clerks. I wouldn't need no stinking music to scare or confuse. A half hour would be enough to send the audience screaming into the streets.

I had graduated Art School five years before this film was made, and agonized over predictable, gritty shots of litter and urban decay. It was "deja vu all over again!" There's a Ray Bradbury short story about a tourist in Mexico who sees an "interesting" crack in a wall of a house and asks the dweller to pose for a shot beside the crack...which he does by urinating.! "Mickey One" had a similar effect on me.
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Try to stick with it...or don't...
JasparLamarCrabb29 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Some movies you stick with hoping they'll get better --- this one doesn't. Arthur Penn's surrealistic film has Warren Beatty as a stand-up comic convinced the mob has put out a contract on him. He flees to Detroit and almost goes to work for weirdo Hurd Hatfield. He meets the gorgeous Alexandra Stewart as well. Beatty's paranoia gets the best of him as he flees from one bad situation after another, all the while pursued by a silent pipe playing rag man. Maybe this makes sense, maybe not. By abandoning a narrative, Penn makes a unique film but not necessarily a watchable one. Beatty is enigmatic enough, with barely any dialog and Hatfield is well suited for his creepy role. The jazzy music score (by Eddie Sauter with an assist by Stan Getz) helps move this along. The B&W cinematography is by Ghislain Cloquet.
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Rewards Repeat Viewings
tarmcgator31 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I have seen MICKEY ONE three times now, over a period of perhaps twenty years, and I think I'm finally beginning to get it. Obviously, it's an unconventional Hollywood film that seems to provoke either great praise (perhaps excessive) or intense damnation (unwarranted!). As the first collaboration between director Arthur Penn and actor-cum-producer Warren Beatty, MICKEY ONE could be considered important as the predecessor of BONNIE AND CLYDE, but it's such a different film that it should be judged on its own merits, which are considerable.

Upon recent viewing on TCM (thank you, TCM), I was struck by the emphasis on visual storytelling, typified by the opening title montage, a little masterpiece in itself. (In case you missed it, the woman in the sequence is Donna Michelle, the 1964 Playmate of the Year and a frequent fantasy of my adolescence.) Throughout the movie, though we get some crucial stretches of dialogue, Penn and screenwriter Alan M. Surgal (his only screenplay? really?) let the gorgeous B&W camera-work (by Ghislain Cloquet) do most of the talking. In that factor alone, MICKEY ONE runs counter to most American films of its time, or any time after 1929.

The sparse and sometimes cryptic dialogue frustrates many first-time viewers of MICKEY ONE -- which is why a second viewing, at least, is recommended to those who find the film initially baffling. What IS the point, anyway?

MICKEY ONE (Beatty) is a young nightclub comic who gets in some unspecified trouble with The Mob. The evil power and vengeful character of Organized Crime -- a myth which no one in this film seems to question or doubt -- prompts the comic (whose real/original stage name we never learn) to escape into greater anonymity. But he can't resist the lure of the spotlight, and, adopting the new stage name of "Mickey One," he eventually falls into a promising gig in Chicago, as well as the love of the normal, down-to-earth Jenny (Alexandra Stewart, about whom I shall fantasize in the future). But Mickey still believes The Mob is out to get him, and he frantically tries to make amends for whatever offense he's committed.

MICKEY ONE is more a character work than a plot-driven movie, and that sort of film is, no doubt, problematic for many viewers, especially since Beatty's character is not especially likable or sympathetic. In fact, he's a rather self-absorbed jerk whose edges are softened only by Jenny, whose love forces him to come to terms with his fear of The Mob. While his job depends on making other people laugh, Mickey is essentially a loner and all the more pathetic for that in his fear of a violent death. The climax of the film may make some viewers scream, "Is that all there is?" But, in a sense, that IS the point.

The pleasures of this film are many. Those who aren't looking for a predictable, well-telegraphed plot can enjoy MICKEY ONE for the vivid imagery -- the auto graveyard scenes, the self-destructing "YES" machine, and the atmospheric depiction of Chicago that is by turns gritty and elegant. The savory jazz score, by Eddie Sauter and Stan Getz, is listenable in its own right and gives strong support to the visuals. And the acting is superb. Beatty is not a favorite of mine, but this role fits him well and he gives a credible performance. Stewart is convincing in her crucial role. Hurd Hatfield and Jeff Corey stand out as nightclub managers, and veteran Franchot Tone has a small but compelling part as a mobbed-up club owner. Most of the smaller parts are convincingly played by little-known character actors, some apparently non-professional. Kamatari Fujiwara, veteran of many roles in Akira Kurosawa's films, is featured as a Harpo Marx-like artist who pops up frequently as a sort of silent but cheerful commentator on Mickey's plight.

MICKEY ONE requires close attention. Some of Penn's efforts to ape the new conventions of the French Nouvelle Vague don't work especially well but, again, they foreshadow the somewhat more Hollywoodish BONNIE AND CLYDE. Those seeking a plot-heavy film with a predictable ending are going to be frustrated. But for those with the eyes to see, and a little patience, MICKEY ONE grows on you. It's worth seeing twice, at least.
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buzzerbill3 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
TCM has been showing a number of Arthur Penn's films in the wake of his recent death. I have never been much of a fan of his work--Bonnie and Clyde has always seemed to be a one trick pony with one good idea that does not stand up to repeated viewing. Little Big Man--another one trick pony, but a good trick--and the underrated Four Friends, striking elegy for the 60s, are the two films of Penn's that really work for me.

Penn was a quintessentially 60s director--with some of the good and much of the bad that that would imply. One of the bad things about the 60s was trendiness for its own sake--something that has unfortunately become embedded in our zeitgeist. Mickey One is a perfect example. Just about every element is trendy. And the result is predictable.

This is one of the worst, and most pretentious, films I have ever seen.

With its sumptuous black and white photography, it is like a turd in a silver and jet setting.

I've read quite a number of the comments on here, and it appears that many of the commentators have a pretty shaky grasp of what the following terms for trendy elements mean: Felliniesque, French New Wave, paranoid,existential, Kafkaesque, surrealistic. They are neither interchangeable nor synonymous. Let's try to apply things with some degree of precision.

French New Wave and Fellini: these two black and white styles are not identical, although they have similarities. New Wave is often characterized with rapid cutting and hand-held camera-work--Breathless, for example. Fellini's characteristic technique involves striking and unexpected images, as in the opening of La Dolce Vita with a large status of Christ dangling from a helicopter over the city of Rome.

OK, apply to Mickey One. Black and white, check. More Fellini or New Wave? Less like Breathless, more like La Dolce Vita--the end, for instance, echoes La Dolce Vita. And certainly the whole junkyard / horse drawn junk wagon sequence is very reminiscent of Fellini.

The problem? The best directors have a style. And when a good director does an homage, he picks a single style. Woody Allen stuck to Fellini in Stardust Memories, for instance; Truffaut stuck to Hitchcock in The Bride Wore Black. And beware of your sources. Fellini's use of symbolism verges on, and often crosses into, the painfully pretentious rub-the-audience's-nose-in-the-meaning. Most Fellini imitations are bad. This one is.

Now--can we call this paranoid? I think not. Great paranoid thrillers are few and far between--the Manchurian Candidate (original only), Winter Kills, The Prisoner, Twin Peaks. The paranoid thriller, for a good part of its duration, must make it seem that the threat felt by the protagonist may be part of his imagination, and that, ideally, there be no clear motivation for the threat. This is not a paranoid thriller. Mickey knows that he owns the mob $20,000. Good reason to be chased. Hyping around this is just an embellishment to add a bit of mystery to a pedestrian plot--one that could as well be worked as a comedy.

Kafkaesque implies a particular degree of paranoid in which the reason for the threat is never really made clear--as in The Trial. Do we have that here? Not really.

Existential or existential angst. Very popular in the 60s, particularly among undergraduates at selective colleges who wore black and worried about authenticity. Any work where the protagonist questions the ground of his being can be called existential, and so may this. The problem, of course, is that existentialism can be staggeringly pretentious. In my view, it generally is. And so it is here. (I suspect the core audience for this film is people who dress in black and worry about authenticity.) Finally, surrealism. From the French, meaning "above the real" or "heightened reality". Characterized by striking images associated with dream or unconscious states. Fellini is often called surreal, but incorrectly, I think; there is just not enough of the subconscious there to justify the label. (Luis Bunuel is the master of surrealist cinema.) Mickey One is not surreal.

There is one other element that has to be mentioned because it is of a piece with the rest of the film. That is the score. In my experience, a jazz score on a film is usually the sign of a producer or director who is trying desperately to show how hit they are. Boy is that the case here.

So: we can agree that Mickey One, stylistically, echoes Fellini (at his most garish and pretentious) and to a lesser degree the French New Wave, not particularly well, inasmuch as these are not compatible styles; and that, thematically, Penn has embellished a simple guy on the run from the mob plot with lashings of existential angst and pseudo-paranoia. All this to a cacophonous, hipper-than-thou, score.

The cinematography is quite good.

Shake until addled and you have a preposterous and pretentious mess.

This film might be taken as a perfect example of how not to create something new. When your clear list of influences are all trendy and of the moment; and when the influences remain distinct and unblended; the result, inevitably, will stink.

It does not help that Warren Beatty's performance, to be charitable, make his turn in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone as rent boy Paolo look like Oscar material.

A long journey to a short sentence.

Don't bother.

Avoid this dreadful mess.

Gregory, the infallible movie cat, started howling piteously and ran from the room as fast as he could within the first five minutes. He was able to tolerate more of Richard Burton in Exorcist II.

Better yet, burn the negative.
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Running up a tab
bkoganbing22 May 2014
Mickey One is a strange film about a man on the run and living on the edge. Warren Beatty takes this new name after his business manager Franchot Tone tells him the mob has a contract on his life. At first Beatty can't figure it out. But it gradually dawns on him that he's been living it up high on the hog with the mob's money, $20,000.00 dollars of it. When Tone informs him of the tab, Beatty decides to run.

He lives for years in obscurity, but he's a performer with a compulsive need for an audience. Soon he's working at a swank joint in Chicago owned by Hurd Hatfield and Jeff Corey. But too much attention could bring him to the attention of people who don't forget.

Mickey One is a strange almost Kafkaesque type movie. It comes considerably short of being a classic. Still it's an interesting work and it has its following.

One other role of note is that of comedian Teddy Hart who plays Beatty's new found agent in Chicago. Hart was the brother of lyricist Larry Hart had a good career as a second banana comic. He's the short fellow with the rubbery expressive face.

Mickey One doesn't make it to the top tier, still it's an interesting work.
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Surrealistic psychedelia before hippiedom
mike dewey9 August 2010
Took a couple of viewings to feel comfortable about this mid 60's predecessor to the days ahead of psychedelic imagery. But alas, it finally sunk in. Penn & Co. used a ton of artistic metaphors and graphic symbolism to buttress this supposedly straightforward plot theme. Basically, it's about a paranoid comedian (Beatty) on the run from the mob in Detroit who ends up several stops later in the heart of Chi-town. Probably the accent is on paranoid rather than comedian because he's not terribly funny, especially by today's standards. Regardless, he goes to a few bars to check out other comics and the bug bites him again and he is subsequently coaxed into doing his stand-up routine again. Beatty's erratic, hyped-up demeanor grated on me from time to time, but I have to assume that Mr. Penn had intended his lead character to exhibit these manic symptoms to blend in with the madcap sequences of events that were taking place during the course of the film.

But his journey is fraught with fear of getting discovered by the mob boys. When he first arrives in Chicago, he wanders into a scrap yard where heavy machinery smash up and compact old autos, apparently a metaphor by Penn to parallel Beatty's fear of getting smashed up and compacted by the mob! He then wanders into a salvation type mission where he encounters a stuttering evangelist who quotes Scripture, sounding like a vocal fusion of Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd. This minute or so sequence is far funnier than Beatty's "Mort Sahl-ish" dry-witted one-liners.

He meets up with a loving and sympathetic female (A. Stewart) who tries her best to keep him from teetering into the brink. On one of their walks through the city, they encounter a "mute" madcap character (K.Fujiwara) who has put together a surrealistic concoction of a Spike Jones type amalgamation of horns, pianos, drums noises, et al. It eventually blows up on him, whereupon the Fire Dept. comes to extinguish the resulting conflagration. All his work seems lost at that point except for one small gadget which still manages to work. The "mute" is delighted in saving that last gadget and is applauded by Beatty and his girl. I interpreted that to be a metaphor for Beatty's condition and how he should react to it: Whatever can happen will happen and not to worry because you never know what the end result may be, especially if you keep plugging away! Beatty then tries to find the mob guys who want him, gets his butt whooped in the process, and then finally goes on stage, bandages and all, and basically says, "I ain't scared any more, so if you want me here I am!", the final redemptive moment in the film. The ensuing fadeout is appropriately poignant.

To omit praising the likes of Hurd Hatfield, Jeff Corey, Franchot Tone, Teddy Hart, and the aforementioned Alexandra Stewart would be remiss. Their contributions were very interesting, at minimum. However, the main kudos go to Beatty, Penn and, last but not least, to Stan Getz for his masterful tenor sax interpretations. Someone needs to DVD (new verb?) this important period piece. Should be required viewing for young film makers, even if they don't like the movie!
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Guess Who's Coming For Mickey
olly_x27 November 2006
The story begins as follows: Mickey (Warren Beatty) is on the run from the mafia. There's not much more to it than that. Mickey One is a bizarre send up of film noir tropes and a top notch paranoid film in the vein of Polanski's "The Tenant". It has a beatnik vibe, a hyperactive jazz score and an intimate verbosity reminiscent of early Cassavetes with more gloss. Mickey One borders on the experimental at times, and as such the form and content do not always align in a way that is effective or familiar with regard to the things we expect from a mob film. What Mickey finds menacing is menacing only to Mickey. It's never clear whether the most critical cause of his fear is experience, guilt or predisposition. But as in Antonioni's "The Passenger" one thing is clear: if someone comes to kill Beatty's character, it won't be an overdetermined killing, but a senseless act that comes of a strange deliberateness intruding on a disordered universe and one man's attempt to escape into a separate chaos.

Clearly, Penn was riffing on ideas he saw in contemporary French film, ("Bande a part" came out the previous year) but this derivation does not diminish the originality of his achievement.

To me, this is Penn's best film.
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Mickey One...Audience Zero
moonspinner5531 March 2009
At its core, this heavily symbolic and somewhat hypothetical drama from Arthur Penn concerns a nightclub entertainer escaping his own existence after its been implied his gambling debts have put him in hot water with crime bosses; believing himself to be "guilty of not being innocent", he changes his identity to Mickey One, finds a different agent, and attempts a new start (of sorts). Although it isn't imperative to the film that Warren Beatty be convincing as a piano-playing singer-comedian (the underbelly of downtown club life being only artistic window-dressing for the filmmakers), Beatty doesn't have the rumpled panache needed to bring out the background of this character. Beatty's vacant, pretty stare, his nervous and shy mannerisms, and his imploding bad temperament may indeed be good equipment for the role of a new-fangled rebel escaping the unseen, but we are never given the chance to connect with this man. With overtures to Kafka, of all things, Penn and screenwriter Alan M. Surgal probably wanted their film to be very edgy and modern, yet the script does little but regurgitate all the same stuff: glamorous narcissism, apathy, urban decay. Ostensibly a good-looking picture, with its mazes of entrances and exits, it is one which fails to capture the seedy world of low-life show-biz (imagine this thing ten years later, with Bob Fosse directing). Of course, the club milieu is strictly circumstantial, and the highs and lows therein are completely irrelevant, but an absorbing scenario might have been a good place to start. Beatty, ducking the camera and peering out at us over his shoulder, does suggest a complicated young artist whose been flailing away, yet he's been made too shallow here, too much a handsome blank. The complications of Mickey One, alas, are all manufactured. ** from ****
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1 star for Mickey One
trochesset27 November 2007
I saw this film today, on a copy that a friend had made from AMC back when they still had commercial free programing. I must rank this film among the worst films ever made, and to qualify that on the grounds that it was directed by a major director, stars a major actor, and was produced by a major studio.

Warren Beatty is absolutely terrible in this, though he was never a great actor; but the blame for this failure rests squarely on the shoulders of Penn. Not only did Penn cast Beaty, he shot the movie as well. The only redeeming quality that the film has is its visuals. There is some wonderful photography in this film, though I have to wonder how those craftsmen were able to continue to do good work when the stuff they were lighting and shooting was such utter rubbish, and it makes me wonder how the editor was ever able to finish cutting the film.

The movie begins with a completely ludicrous montage that seems to be mocking Fellini's 8 1/2 and la Dolce Vita. In fact the whole movie seems to be a poor imitation or jealous mockery of Fellini's superior films. But other than that there is no point to anything that happens in "Mickey One", and hardly any of the ludicrous events or characters represent anything of any substance. Its too long and dull to be a dream sequence, and its the only time you laugh is at how silly and bad this film is, so I don't think it can qualify as a satire either.

Also, the sound in the film is mixed terribly. Worst sound mix ever. The music is nice, but the sound mix is horrible and the characters speak their dialog without caring whether or not the audience hears it, not that the dialog needs to be heard either, because its as bad as the rest of the movie.

And Warren Beatty. Beatty is bad in this. his facial expressions are something that you would expect from an amateur and his imitation of Brando is less than admirable.

Its as if everyone working on the film-except the photographers-were actively trying to make the worst, most asinine film possible. The film is terrible and pretentious in every way, right down to the choice of using black and white, as if it were superior to color, when America had access to color film stock freely and cheaply for at least 15 years prior(it was expensive oversees, that is why it was not used in Europe and Japan).

A nominee for worst film ever, in competition with some of Tarantino's low-lights.
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tz85411 September 2004
Arthur Penn's New Wave Noir direction,Ghislain Cloquet's brilliant cinematography,Stan Getz's expressive score and Warren Beatty's unusually naturalistic acting performance combine to create the best movie of 1965.This movie is virtually the epitome of what was possible in black and white.The door was now open for John Boorman to revolutionize the color film with POINT BLANK one year later. It's pathetic and speaks volumes about the incompetence of the American film studios that both of these still modern seminal fillms are unavailable in full blown out DVD versions.
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Psycho-Noir suspenser trying to catch the (New) Wave
bobvend25 May 2013
There's a lot of interesting things going on in this gritty urban psychological misfire, and it's inky black-and-white surreal ambiguity will draw in the viewer who is game for what's often considered the first major Hollywood film to embrace the French New Wave aesthetic. By the same token, it might also come off as tedious, pretentious and hopelessly convoluted to others.

Both Warren Beatty and the ensemble cast are extremely watchable, if not often sympathetic; and director Arthur Penn's edgy, claustrophobic vision of the grimy, crime-strewn, bottom-rung existence the main character operates in is on par with the best of classic Noir.

Even those elements that are otherwise normally genial or reassuring instead come off as menacing and sinister. Aside from its deliberate New Wave influences, much of the film echos with the wonderfully-crafted paranoia of an Orson Wells effort, especially "The Trial", which, at least thematically, shares the same premise of unspecified guilt for having committed a crime which is never named.

It's hard to imagine that those connected to Mickey One would have considered the film- at that time- capable of anything more than art-house success. Shot in early 1964 and not released until late the following year, it was already late for the New Wave party and thus was probably considered somewhat derivative. Had it been filmed and released 2-3 years earlier, it might have gained far more acclaim. On the other end, 1965 was probably still too early to allow it to be considered a homage to the cinematic movement that it so effectively emulated. Too bad. Mickey One deserves a far better fate.
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Underground World
Surfing in wave of french Nouvelle vague Arthur Penn made one's most intriguing movie on the 60' and the second movie of new star Warren Beatty who wants to do a right move in the beginning of your career,but this independent movie didn't have any impact in that time taking years to became a cult status...even today isn't for all taste,telling story of young guy who is a comic stand up and after make some excesses is running from the mob...end up in Chicago living on underground and a paranoid life...a mix of styles given to this picture some weirdo reading....ain't conventional movie!!!
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Flashy Failure
dougdoepke17 March 2016
As I recall, the movie got a lot of buzz on first release. After all, 1965 was decades into Hollywood's fixation on the commercially conventional, with linear narratives, explicit story lines, and happy endings with no loose threads. In short, just the kind of traditional story-telling that sent audiences home happy, reassured, and ready for more. So it's not surprising that many folks, of perhaps a more imaginative bent, were ready for something different. After all, art-house theatres were taking off with the likes of Ingmar Bergmann and the French New Wave. So along comes a movie like Mickey One with a very different Hollywood slant, and, by golly, it gets talked about, maybe more than it should have.

Seeing the concoction today, it strikes me as mainly a mess, perhaps more self-indulgent than honorable, but a mess in either case. Of course, it's harder to specify standards to judge arty films by than it is conventional films. After all, a critic's misgiving may amount more to critical oversight than to an absence of subtle profundity. I'll take that risk in saying that whatever the symbolism of Mickey's predicament, it's hard to care. And that's mainly because whatever the intended symbolism, it's too unstructured to invite interpretive inquiry. To me the movie's more a series of occasionally jarring visual effects than anything invitingly profound. It certainly doesn't help that actor Beatty is simply too callow to give Mickey's complex character a persuasive purchase. And since he's in about every scene, we're continually burdened with seeing the actor instead of the character.

Some folks look for an existential reading of whatever subtext there is (my impression is something about mysteries of original sin and freeing oneself from the overhang). So for those interested in existential themes, let me recommend Monte Hellman's 1965 Western, The Shooting. In my book, Hellman shows how a profound subtext can be combined with conventional story-telling, and in a way that may not be flashy, but is at least involving. All in all, it's no mystery to me why Mickey One, Two. or whatever has since drifted into obscurity, and in all likelihood, will stay there.
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The New Wave Gets Old
amosduncan_200018 April 2007
This flashily photographed and edited film sort of sounds good when you talk about it: the ultimate French New Wave rip off with a comic book existential "plot" and a heaping helping of self indulgence all around.

Enduring the film, which I saw today with a mint print, is alas another story. Beatty, a sometimes underrated and effective actor, is utterly at a loss trying to carry this charmless and senseless film. Penn and Beatty learned a few things here, but in Bonnie and Clyde they were applying them to the service of a story.

Film fans may want to seek out "Mickey One" for it's general weirdness, but don't expect to like it much. Just because the basic idea is vague, doesn't mean every scene has to meander. Any episode of "The Prisoner" did the Kafka thing, but with humor and cleverness to keep your interest in the ideas.

Some interesting location work in a very different looking Chicago that might be interest to locals, too bad you have to watch the movie.
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Feverishly surreal movie suspends disbelief on derricks
There's a scene in the movie Cool Hand Luke, where Paul Newman's Luke busts fifty eggs down himself as a challenge, to the rapture of his fellow prisoners. He then wails at them, "Stop feedin' off me!". Comic Mickey One has an aversion to being fed off and pushes people away, including attractive women, escaping from their grasp as he were covered in oil.

He goes on the lam from the club he works at, either because he's on the hook to the mafia or because his paranoias slither up the bed each night. Be it flight or fugue it leads to Chicago's skid row.

Will a hot-pants lady interest lead him towards facing his fears? This is a challenging film and I felt annoyed enough at the half way point to consider turning off, perhaps because of a total lack of likable characters, and Warren Beatty being as awkward as Dürer's Solid. The film plays a lot better on a second viewing and you see all sorts of oddities, just as an example that among Ruby's news cut-outs on his pin board, is simply the, "The Detroit News" header with no news story attached. There are two scenes in the movie that absolutely behove anyone to give the movie a second go, a kinetic sculpture called "yes", which comes about as close to encapsulating American bull-brained optimism as anything I've seen. Then a simply awesome hallucination during a sex scene of people trampolining.

It's a movie that you could interpret in many ways, it definitely works as a psychological piece getting inside the mind of a comic, but there's also lots of commentary about society and religion. Even if you couldn't care less about subtext Ghislain Cloquet is on the ball with the photography, in Maradonna élan.

I attended an "alternative" stand-up session not too long ago by an American comic who drank a tall glass of neat vodka during his performance and was crooning for more from a more resolute offstage colleague. He talked about how sex was very important to him, because he had so many issues plaguing him, and during sex he entered into an eclipsed zone for the duration. The trampolining scene is the perfect expression of this for me.

Highly recommended.
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