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After incurring the wrath of the mob, a comic flees Detroit for Chicago taking the name "Mickey One" from a stolen Social Security card from a homeless bum he witnesses being beaten up and robbed. As he returns to the stage and becomes successful, he fears that the mob will track him down. He wishes to square himself with the mob, but doesn't know what he did to anger them or what his debt is.Written by
Studio publicity claimed actor Kamatari Fujiwara created the large kinetic sculpture, called "Yes" in the film, but the work was actually done by Robert Fields, a industrial design student at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. The sculpture was set up on the ice rink of the Marina Towers apartment complex. See more »
I'm the king of the silent pictures. I'm hiding out till the talkies blow over. Will you leave me alone?
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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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