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Anthony Newly stars in this musical comedy about the life of Hieronymus
Merkin, a sex obsessed writer/singer/director/actor/ and a truly perverse
character. It seems like a drug induced dream filled with bizarre
crazy songs, erie cinematography and racy exploitations which seem
considering it was made it 1969. The whole picture is shot on an island as
it cuts between the actual film and Hieronymus screening the film while in
production along with the crew, producers, and the critics. The basic plot
is that Hieronymus a fatherless boy meets up with a manager (Milton Berie)
who turns him into a superstar. Thousands of women line up in front of his
bed waiting to make love to him. He marries a former lover of his and she
gives birth to a child defected with a huge hole in its back. The baby
after dies in hospital and Mrs. Merkin leaves Hieronymus. Hieronymus
the objections of the writers, critics and everyone else insists on
about the raciest most shocking part of his life. His immoral affair with
the child beauty Mercy Humppe. He remarries to Polly (Joan Crawford) and
switches off between Polly and Mercy and finally leaves Mercy.
The film is an absurd X rated romp though a land of sexual excess and unconventional perversion that portray women as only a 1960's film can. Although this film is not for all tastes, exceedingly fine performances, unpredictable twists, and uproarious humor make this film a true cult classic that reminds one of A Clockwork Orange at times. An R rated version also exists.
After watching this film, I wondered if Anthony Newley thought that
this would be his sole chance to direct a major film (which turned out
to be true), so he decided togo on a binge with every idea he had at
that point . It's in equal parts a mockumentary, a musical, and an
homage to Tex Avery cartoons. Newley is the ringleader, Hieronymus
Merkin, and he invites us to watch his carnal accomplishments and rise
as a singer.
This movie features some fascinating production and costume design, and the beach sets are very unique. The jokes often hit sour notes, but the enthusiasm is contagious. I mean, really, what's better than seeing Joan Collins portray a character named " Polyester Poontang"? If you ever come across this movie, give it a chance.
The music was beautiful. (I "lost" the sound track in a divorce years ago. I wish it would be reissued - the sound track, not the divorce.) True, the movie was long and dragged a bit, as most movies of that era did. But it had fabulous dry humor, and the song that began 'Once upon a time in the Land of Wonkey,..' is/was brilliant. Thirty years later, its memory makes me smile.
I saw this film during its original release at the Pearl Art Theater in Denver, Colorado. I was amazed by the film's originality (the premise... not the humor) and the convoluted script (very self-serving for Newley). Just the same, I loved the film and wanted to see it again - if for no other reason than to jot down the jokes... why not, the script writers got them the same way. So, last February, to my surprise, my wife presented me with a video copy of the film.(I had been searching for it for more than 30 years.) On second viewing, it is now very dated, but still just as delightful and wacky. As the Late George Gessel crooned... "When ya gotta go, ya gotta go. Even though you'd like to stick a round a while." - I remembered that line for 30 years.
Little seen ego-trip for the resistible talents of
writer/producer/director/composer/star Anthony Newley (featuring his
then-wife Joan Collins) which, due to its copious and gratuitous nudity
(including its creator!), is surely the most notorious production ever
to be filmed in Malta and, consequently, something of a holy grail
for local film buffs! Given its unavailability, then, I wasn't overly
disappointed in the poor (but certainly not unwatchable) quality of the
print and the film itself, possessing a certain sense of style,
wasn't as worthless as its reputation would have it!
In itself, a flashy and pretentious semi-autobiographical piece obviously inspired by Fellini's 8½ (1963), it's largely set on a beach where the protagonist is apparently mounting a film based on his own life (how self-indulgent can you get?). In fact, what plot there is resolves itself into a music-hall revue with plenty of rather quaint musical numbers (one of which is reprised ad nauseam throughout) by Newley and others. These, however, are often interrupted by the surprising presence of legendary American showmen George Jessel (as a wise-cracking, white-clad Angel Of Death figure, dubbed "The Presence") and Milton Berle as the Mephistophelean Goodtime Eddie Filth.
Newley's choice of character names is, if anything, admirably Fieldsan: indeed, here, Heironymus Merkin is torn between Collins' Polyester Poontang and Playboy playmate Connie Kreski's Mercy Humppe (hence the film's unwieldy title). Occasionally, too, Merkin is able to step out of character in order to observe his own actions enacted, in the interim, by a blank-faced dummy! Also incorporated is an irrelevant adult-oriented fairy-tale, entitled "The Princess And The Donkey", involving the intimate relationship between one Trampolena Whambang and a mule (which then turns into a dwarf!); amazingly, this infamous sequence was filmed in Malta's Presidential Palace!! The cast includes other familiar faces such as Stubby Kaye as Merkin's long-suffering scriptwriter and Victor Spinetti as a bewildered film critic who, perhaps justly, blames Fellini for Merkin's (and, by extension, Newley's) folie de grandeur.
There's a possible goof, too, in the appearance of a religious statue in the background during one of the beach sequences; this was supposedly removed for filming purposes and, consequently, has been the cause of much consternation locally to this day! I'm also confused by the film's actual running time: the X-rated version I watched, which one would assume to be uncut, ran for 107 mins. (with the trimmed R-rated version being 106 mins. long) but the BBFC gives its complete length as 117 mins.!
My wife and I saw this film in its original run at the Playboy Theater in Chicago. We fell in love with it and bought the soundtrack album. Still have it. (Remember records?) We loved Anthony Newley. Even saw him in "Stop the World" in 1963 in New York on our honeymoon. (Yes, we're still married!) This film was so innovative and provocative. It dealt with subject matter that had not been seen before. It also had a cast of oldtime comics and actors that was good to see. The music is great, especially the song "I'm All I Need". Wish there was a way to see this movie again to bring back those memories of long ago. For those who have given bad reviews, you must not have understood the meaning of this movie or of his great triumphs "Stop the World" and "Roar of the Greasepaint". A film ahead of its time.
"Can Hieronymous Merkin ever forget Merci Humppe and find true Happiness?" has to win an award for being the strangest title for a film ever. Partially semi autobiographical comedy in the vein of Fellini and Woody Allen. "Hieronymous Merkin" throws away conventional narrative to tell the story of a director making a film about his life; not to mention it's also a musical. Some parts are dated and hard to follow. Director Anthony Newly was married to Joan Collins. Collins also appears in the film. Collins has a certain expression like, how did I end up in this film? All criticism aside, "Hieronymous Merkin" is quite funny and breathtaking with it's amazing surrealist imagery. If Woody Allen, Fellini and Jodorowsky were to of collaborated on a musical with Jacques Demi, it may be something like this film. Newly can get annoying at times with his inflated ego and sex drive. He tells about marriage, infidelity, having kids, being in show business and his various sex-capades. Memorable dream like images include the Merry go round sequence, Merkin as a string puppet, his bed which lies in the ocean on the beach side and a crazy sequence with a nude girl who is a human wind up toy like object. I sure wish they would release this film on DVD. There are not many films like it. Love it or hate it, it's completely original; especially the super catchy song "Picadilly Lilly". Must be seen to be believed.
I've read some raves and some scathing reviews of this film. The
reviewers seem wildly opposed.
What one should remember when viewing this work is the era when it was made. The world was a little different in the late '60s; the war in Vietnam was beginning to be opposed vehemently, nudity and profanity were being more tolerated in films, and a new era of permissiveness was dawning. Films that came out at this time were taking more "avante garde" chances, and there were as many misses as hits.
This film was a mixture of good and bad scenes, but never-the-less an interesting work. The humor in it is somewhat crude, and the music has neither enough polish, or conversely, edge to work completely.
I do remember being entertained by the film, and isn't that the bottom line? Trying to compare it to today's standards is not a valid comparison. No one would try to compare Chaplin's films with Eddie Murphy's. This work is one that will probably stay obscure, because it was more of an experiment than an expression.
Bottom line: A mixture of good and bad comedy, music and philosophy. See it for yourself and see if you can eke out a valid point of view.
This is an extraordinary film. But it's not for everyone, and it must
be viewed in it's context.
There was a time when Anthony Newley was one of the biggest stars in the world. With two hit Broadway musicals and a slew of movies under his belt, and songs STILL being covered by today's artists ("Feeling Good" is currently enjoying a popular resurgence courtesy of Michael Buble'"), Universal Studios gave him carte blanche to make any movie he wanted. Newley had already established a proved track record of using his own life as source material. Making this kind of film was a logical next step for him.
In many respects, this film is a masterpiece. It is utterly unique; visually beautiful, it looks like a lucid dream. Newley was a master of symbolism, and the way he illustrates different levels of reality and different states of consciousness is nothing short of brilliant. Highly "Jungian", this film is meant be viewed and interpreted like a dream. Many reviewers have lambasted "Heironumus" for it's use of symbolism, but on the contrary, that is the beauty and magic of the film. Anyone familiar with the Western Hermetic Tradition will delight in the eloquence with which this movie speaks. It cannot be an accident that "Heironymus" was filmed in Malta, the home of the Knights Templar. It makes one question how deeply into the occult Newley must have been.
PLOT SUMMARY: Heironymus Merkin, a major star, is making a film about his own life, told as a fairy tale/epic myth. He is screening it for his mother and two toddler children. It is his intent that his children know the truth about who their father is, warts and all. The film-within-the-film is still in production, and Heironymus battles with the studio, writers, and critics for the integrity of his personal truth.
The film is:
about mid-life crisis
an exposition of internalized toxic shame
an examination of the repetition compulsion
a cry for help
a treatise on the unreality of life
a rare look at celebrity-hood from a celebrity's point of view
a self-portrait of a sex-addict
a dissertation on erotic mania
AND it's a musical-comedy.
The movie is many things, confusing, because Newley was himself confused. Then again, aren't we all to some degree? The greatest thing about "Heironymus" is all the questions it brings up. It inspires deep process, and that is what makes it Art, and a true gift to the world.
I am committed to helping this film finding it's audience.
Very odd ball, very sixties and in 1999 very cult! This film was Newley's 8 and a half! A very over ambitious project that even Newley admits is flawed, but for fans of the man a marathon film. The score is one of Newley's best. The highlight being "I'm All I Need" sung by Newley in a kaftan on a mountain top, when God decides not to give Merkin a reply to his questions on life. Incidently Connie Kresi who played Mercy Humppe, was the Playboy girl of the year (69) and the magazine featured over 10 pages of preview pictures and interviews. A very rare movie but definitely worth a visit!
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