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Myron Breckinridge is waiting for her sex-change operation while a stoned surgeon stumbles into the operating room. Before the drugged doctor begins Myron's operation, he counsels her. Myron persists and the doctor goes through with it. An enthusiastic audience observing the operation applauds the medical achievement and rises in a standing ovation. After the operation, Myron arrives in Hollywood as Myra while in the rest of the film Myron pops up from time to time as Myra's alter ego. Myra goes to an acting academy owned by her uncle, Buck Loner, a former cowboy star. The real reason for Myra's arrival is to claim her half of Uncle Buck's estate, which she says she's entitled to. Buck Loner stalls by giving her a job teaching the history of motion pictures. Buck Loner has several friends. One of them is Letitia Van Allen, an ancient Hollywood talent scout. The sex-starved septuagenarian runs an acting agency "for leading men only." Written by
Apparently pieced together from different takes, Myra's blouse collar alternately appears fully outside, partially inside/outside and fully outside her jacket during the scene in which she "depantses" Rusty in her office. See more »
[sings to himself]
A secret place known to none but me. And in my secret place, you can beg and torture me. I wouldn't tell you where to go. 'Cause in my secret place, secret place, a secret you know. Secret place, a secret you know.
[Surgeon enters to applause]
You realize, once we cut it off, it won't grow back. I mean, it isn't like hair, or fingernails, or toenails, you know.
What do you think I am, some kind of idiot? I know that!
Eh - how about circumcision? It'd be ...
[...] See more »
Somebody once said that Gore Vidal's novel "Myra Breckinridge" was un-filmable to begin with. That's probably true. One scene in the book--- a female-on-male rape, described in nauseating, horrific detail--- would have sent most movie directors scurrying in the opposite direction. There's no way that this story could have ever become a classic mainstream movie. But it's not all that bad, thanks mostly to some really clever casting (bringing Mae West into the film was a stroke of genius) and a wonderful, bitingly funny and dead-on performance by a young Raquel Welch.
The basic story is a *really* bizarre dark comedy involving a guy, Myron Breckinridge (Rex Reed), who has sex-change surgery--- or does he, really?--- to become his alter-ego Myra (Raquel Welch). As a female, Myra tries to shake down her uncle Buck Loner (John Huston) into giving her at least half of his popular acting school. There are a few side stories along the way, involving Mae West as a sex-mad Hollywood agent, Farrah Fawcett as a sunny-smiling dumb blonde, and Roger Herron as handsome young Rusty-the-Stud, who ends up being nothing much more than a boy-toy (both in the film and in real life. Was he *ever* heard from again after appearing in this movie?)
The theme of this movie is "Hollywood" in great big letters. A fascination with the movie industry runs through it. It's about everything we imagine Hollywood to be: actors, agents, Southern California, limousines, wild sex, drugs, nudity, the whole bit. There are references to, film clips of, and appearances by, classic Hollywood movies and stars. If you aren't interested in Hollywood and what it represents--- or used to represent--- forget this movie. You won't like it. That's what it's about.
The fun (and there is some) lies in the cynical mechanisms of nearly all the leading players. Well, all except Farrah Fawcett, that is; her wide smile and big teeth, years before "Charlie's Angels", is all happy sincerity; this girl doesn't have a cynical bone in her body. You can't help but like her).
Plopped directly into the middle of various scenes, often with no purpose whatsoever but to add "mood", are dozens of film clips from old 20th-Century-Fox movies. The inclusion of these off-the-wall clips give the whole movie a slightly off-center, psychedelic feel that must have felt self-knowingly hip in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Two big highlights in this movie: the performances of Raquel Welch and Mae West. West got top billing, but is actually seen in a *very* small role; maybe 10 minutes of total screen time. Her scenes are completely self-contained; they don't have much to do with the rest of the movie (except in mood and style), but they are great fun to watch. I'm really shocked by all of the negative comments about her by other reviewers. They aren't giving her enough credit, because West was *hilariously* funny at the mind-boggling age of 77 when she made this movie. Most of the time, she seems easily 30 years younger. (Only for one brief scene in the back seat of a limo--- where she looks quite weary--- does it seem even possible this woman might be on the far side of elderly).
West may have been in her late 70s here, but her character was definitely not. She's playing a hip, powerful, horny, dynamic, middle-aged foxy chick, and damn if she doesn't pull it off with aplomb and style. It would be an impossible role for any other woman of her age, but she did it so successfully that you don't realize what an accomplishment it was until you think about it. West alone is worth the price of admission--- or the price of the DVD, anyway.
Raquel Welch was also at the very top of her form here. An absolute knockout to look at, Welch was drop-dead gorgeous, and she gives a biting, sarcastic, and also hilariously funny performance as Myra. She, by the way, *is* the leading role, despite Mae West getting top billing. The two women did not get at all along during filming, by the way, and in their one scene together, it's obvious that they were never filmed at the same time; their dialogue consists entirely of close-ups of each lady separately.
This movie tried, maybe a little too hard, to be hip and "adult" at the time, and so it's got some needlessly raunchy language and situations in it (including the afore-mentioned female-on-male rape which, unfortunately, did make it into the movie. It's almost as horrific as reading about it in the book was, and you have to feel sorry for Roger Herron as Rusty, the object of Myra's ugly power fantasy.) It was awfully hard to even put a story like this on film in the first place, but Michael Sarne did try, and he succeeded more than failed. I think it's worth it. But know what you're in for when you watch it!
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