A medieval reenactment troupe find it increasingly difficult to keep their family-like group together, with pressure from local law enforcement, interest from entertainment agents and a growing sense of delusion from their leader.
Chris Bradley is a young man who returns to his home city of Pittsburgh after several years of drifting and working odd jobs around the country since his discharge from the U.S. Army. Rejecting moving back in with his father and not wanting to return to the family business of manufacturing baby food, Chris meets and shacks up with Lynn, an older woman who works as a model in local TV commercials, and whom becomes his 'sugar mama' of supporting him financially and emotionaly, which begins to put a strain on the affair especially when Lynn finds out that she's pregnant and does not feel that Chris would make a responsible father or husband. Written by
I can't really recommend it, but I was engaged enough in it as a die-hard Romero fan
Oh the days when independent films were made and sometimes barely ever seen. That still happens to this day, but at least now there's DVD (matter of fact that was the only way I could get to see There's Always Vanilla- it's next to impossible to find on bootleg). In 1970/1971, George A. Romero and the Latent Image, his production company that previously established itself big-time with Night of the Living Dead, decided to go a more romantic/dramatic route, as there seemed to be a possible small market for it. Unfortunately, the scriptwriter, Rudy Ricci, was haphazard and scatter-shot with his contributions, and the script was never finished until the end of filming (it came to the filmmakers scene by scene), so even though there are characters to get interested in as a 'character study', Chris Bradley and Lynn Harris (Ray Lane and Judith Streiner respectively), sometimes the dialog and situations become contrived. The main thrust of the story comes from Lynn's relationship to Chris, as Chris is a sort of man-child, who comes into her life suddenly one day after abandoning an older women he may or may not have fathered a kid with, and somehow through his constant sarcasm and lackadaisical charm that gets her into bed. But Chris, as we soon finds out, uses the wit and charms and occasional obnoxious means of talk to mask insecurities. He doesn't work, and when the opportunity comes he backs out. It all leads up to his father relaying a 'meaning': there's always vanilla.
It's not totally incomprehensible to see why Romero, on an interview featured on the DVD, is completely assured with his feelings that it was a low-point in his career where he tried to gain more experience as a filmmaker and fell flat on his face. There is that side to the picture that is unequivocally dated, and the lack of a better budget or a means to a better structure (particularly an ending that feels complete or make sense) is frustrating. But a filmmaker sometimes has to feel that way about certain films, as the experience making it becomes a personal struggle whereas other times it could become a personal triumph (he still considers Day of the Dead a favorite, mostly for the experience making it). Ironically though it's his own skills as a director and editor and director of photography that rises the material to a level of watchability. It's no Cassavetes- as another reviewer noted- but he treats the material with a control that wavers between late 60s early 70s exploitation film-making (of the period, of course, with some scenes with psychedelia bits and music and pot), and a more grounded tone for the actors to follow. And sometimes Romero's given by Ricci a compelling scene to shoot, like when Lynn has to deal with a certain 'problem' she may need to take care of, but decides at the last moment to run away from it.
Or, of course, when Romero cuts the scenes together, sometimes around Chris's confessions to the audience about his mistakes and own feelings at certain times, which pop in at a good rhythm. Or the way he doesn't putz around with montage- often a high-quality trademark in Romero films- even when dealing with schmaltzy scenes like the quasi courtship of Chris and Lynn in a park or on a boat (I also really liked the one liners each character traded off on one another in the park- marking the shallowness of the period). And the actors do bring qualities of believability to scenes that somehow work almost in spite of the flaws in the material; Laine is actually charming and affable, carrying over similar qualities from the next collaboration with Romero in Season of the Witch, and Streiner is even better here than she was in 'Living Dead', as a woman who has to contend with being the mature one in a relationship where a falsity to it rings true almost every day. By the time one sees those balloons fly out of the cardboard box to the cheesy singing (and usually there is cheesy music here), it's clear that this isn't Romero's finest dip into a change of pace. But even in a miscalculation there are intriguing, humorous notes touched on, and that no matter what Romero can somehow be pragmatic with his material, and chooses experimental angles in an otherwise typical low-budget effort.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?