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Quite unlike anything you'll ever see!!!
Freak-3025 September 1999
This oddball Altman film came out in the same year as M*A*S*H, but the two movies are stylistically very different. BC employs a conventional plot structure, whereas M*A*S*H featured an episodic style. Also, the latter film is best defined by its irreverent humor and hedonistic characters. Brewster McCloud, on the other hand, is more of a zany fantasy inhabited by bizarre characters who are not as sympathetic as the M*A*S*H characters.

Differences aside, the two films do have some traits in common. Many of the same players are in both films (Bud Cort, Sally Kellerman, G. Wood, Michael Murphy, John Schuck, Rene Auberjonois, and Corey Fischer). Also of note, BC is the debut of Shelley Duvall and marks the first of her many projects with Robert Altman. Moreover, both films have a detached narrator-type device which creates a middle ground in between the viewer and the main characters. In M*A*S*H, it was the camp PA system; in BC, it's the eccentric ornithologist/lecturer character. Lastly, both films make subtle statements about certain flaws in modern America. In M*A*S*H, this can be seen in the incessant ridiculing of the US military and US foreign policy. In BC, use of civil rights era gospel music and pithy references to Spiro Agnew and Nixon poke fun at American hypocrisy and ignorant conservatism.

The Houston Astrodome is without question a major character in BC. The protagonist (played by Cort) has one ambition in life: to take flight with a pair of wings he himself constructs. He lives in the bowels of the dome and spends his time there designing and building the instrument of his dream. He's always in danger whenever he leaves his "home" and the protection of his guardian (Kellerman). Whether he goes to the zoo or to a dome tourguide's apartment, he is in danger of being harmed by bigoted, violent people. In a sense, Brewster is not a member of the human race, but rather a bird trapped in human form. He finds haven in the Astrodome, but this is temporary and confining. He ultimately wants the freedom that "real" flight will provide him.

The themes of freedom and temptation are important in this film. Brewster longs for freedom, but is hindered in his realization of his dream by various characters and personal mistakes. Brewster can potentially "fly away", but there is one important condition. He can never have sex with a woman. If he does, he won't be able to achieve flight because his female guardian (Kellerman) will no longer protect him. But in typical human fashion, he falls for a girl. This character (Duvall) is his eventual downfall - literally! In the end, the film conveys the message that humans are never truly free. We are always controlled or confined by something, be it other people or our own desires or even the roof of the Astrodome. The dream of achieving flight is a metaphor in this film for man's incessant but futile wish to be free.

If you have no interest in these plot or thematic elements, Brewster McCloud is still worth watching just because of its bizarre humor, recurring jokes, and odd characters. Listen carefully, for there are many subtle jokes and satirical remarks. The trademark Altman audio style is used consistently throughout and if you listen carefully, you're bound to hear something funny or witty. When watching this one on video, be sure to crank the volume up high so that you clearly hear all the layers of Altman's "thick" sound mix. The ending - the final ten minutes of the film - is very memorable and provides a great finish to all the previous events. Unlike so many films, this movie's ending is neither anticlimactic nor corny, but rather profound and dramatic. You won't forget it!

Robert Altman created an absorbing, humorous, zany, and profound film in BC. To succeed in all these areas is no small feat. This film is a breath of fresh air when compared to the tripe Hollywood churns out on a weekly basis in 1999. I praise the work of Robert Altman. He's one of the few American directors in the past thirty years who's made interesting, unconventional, challenging, and highly entertaining films on a consistent basis and with his own unique style. It's a shame that only a few of his films (invariably M*A*S*H, Nashville, The Player, and Short Cuts; very rarely McCabe and Mrs. Miller) can be found in video stores. The obscure gems like Brewster McCloud (Thieves Like Us and Three Women also fall into this category) are nearly impossible to see, unless you buy the videos off the internet. Considering all the garbage produced by Hollywood nowadays, I advocate a revival of all the Robert Altman films made between 1969 and 1977 ("A Wedding" (1978) marks the beginning of the decline of his work, some might say). Oh, well. It never hurts to dream. Every once in awhile, a great Altman flick is shown on premium cable. I guess that is as good as it will get.
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Bud Cort takes flight in "Brewster McCloud"
tiwannae21 May 2005
This is one of the most interesting films I have ever seen! I own a copy on VHS and had the pleasure of seeing it 4 times at the Film Forum in New York City a couple of years ago.

After having seen Robert Altman's "M*A*S*H," his next film about the story of a young man who is building a winged contraption in the basement of the Houston Astrodome intrigued me. I had to see how the cast came together in their varied segments in this film and I wasn't too disappointed.

Robert Altman saw something in Bud Cort after seeing him in a NYC comedy revue, and then gave him a role in "M*A*S*H*, and was so impressed with him in the scenes he had in that film that he gave him is first leading film role. Altman couldn't have found a better actor to portray the lead in this film! I am a huge fan of Bud Cort's, and he kept me interested throughout in what was happening to the quiet and introverted Brewster, who dreams of flying away in a marvelously-made, flying machine. He lives a sheltered, and somewhat lonely life, other than the company of his lovesick friend Hope, who brings him food, and Louise, a strange woman who is like a mother-figure to him. Brewster doesn't say much in the film, but after a certain door is opened in his life, he becomes very talkative, and that talkativeness leads to a situation that jeopardizes his flight plans.

I thought the opening with Margaret Hamilton was funny, as well as the scenes Bud Cort had with Stacy Keach, made up as old man Abraham Wright, Brewster's former racist and mean-spirited employer.

I loved Sally Kellerman as Brewster's enigmatic and protective mother-figure, Louise, and Michael Murphy as the 'Bullit-esque' Frank Shaft, in Houston, via San Francisco, to help the police solve some suspicious bird-related murders.

The rest of the cast is fine, with the Altman touch of fine ensemble acting from the likes of John Schuck, G. Wood, and Corey Fischer. However, I found Shelly Duvall, who I've liked in other films, very annoying in this one, her film debut. She plays Suzanne, a girl who works at the Astrodome and becomes Brewster's love interest. I had rather seen Brewster become involved with Hope (Jennifer Salt), than the shallow and chirpy Suzanne. I find that most of her scenes, except for the one where she seduces Brewster, slow down the film.

Look for a delightfully strange comic turn by Rene Auberjonois, as the "Narrator" of the film.
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Classic Cult Classic: For the Birds
PorridgeBird15 September 2003
This movie is a million things at once. Some may find that as a bit of a turn-off, but then that's what a cult classic film is really about, isn't it?

Brewster McCloud is a reclusive boy who lives in the basement of the Houston Astrodome. He has a short job as chauffeur for a miserly old man. He is looked down upon for his meek appearance and his quiet manner. He dreams of building himself a set of wings and using those to fly away from all this suffering.

That's how the film starts, anyway. There are three basic stories in the movie: (1) Brewster McCloud's coming-of-age story, (2) the parallel metaphor of Brewster McCloud's dream of flying away from worldly sorrow, and (3) the murders of people who mistreat Brewster and who all die with raven droppings on their faces.

The real irony of this film is how the character of the Lecturer keeps pointing out similarities between the characters and certain birds, and yet the ending comes around, and we learn how unlike birds we are. There is so much information about birds, you wonder if this was an adult remake of an after-school special.

Overall, I'll have to use the word most of the other reviewers have used: quirky. There are things which are very different. There is the Pythonesque beginning where, as a woman sings the National Anthem and the credits roll, she stops, tells the band to try again in the right key, and the credits restart as well as the singing. There are small bits such as when a police officer holds up a lighter when his partner says there's only one way to know for sure if there's marijuana in a cigarette. And there is my favorite character, the Lecturer, who lectures the audience about the behavior of birds while he himself starts making strange noises and begins pecking at seeds...
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The best surrealist film about Houston Texas ever made
success-923 September 2010
The key to understanding this film is to realize it is unmistakably surrealist in the formal sense - directly comparable to the works of European Surrealists like for example Luis Buñuel. His film "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" came out in '72, that is after Brewster McCloud, and if you've seen both films, it is not a stretch at all to surmise that it may well have been Buñuel who was influenced by Robert Altman's Brewster McCloud (which after all came out two years before Buñuel's film.) And as in Buñuel's film, the surrealism in Brewster McCloud certainly has a humorous aspect, but is at its heart a vehicle for subversive but oblique social commentary: oblique because this movie in its ultra-hip cool sensibility would feel obliged to start mocking itself if it actually started preaching to anyone. But of course this film does actually mock itself, along with everything else in the known universe. That is what surrealism is: When you start literally mocking *everything* it ceases to be funny, and rather something much more fundamentally disturbing. And yet this film is easily one of the most accessible of the truly surrealist masterpieces. It is good-natured about everyone and everything it mocks.

One of the pleasant surprises I had upon discovering this film was how realistically it portrays Texans and Houstonians. There is no hackneyed accents or cowboy hats - it really does depict Texans (and specifically Houstonians) as they are - at least as they were in 1970. I'll give one example: The undercover cop is at the zoo with his wife and kid, and his wife says, "Johnny wants to go see the monkeys", and the dad responds, "Well, let him go to N*gger Town then." Now, as a matter of fact, I have scores of relatives from Houston, and I remember as a child how people from Houston talked around 1970, and I know that that was a common but offensive colloquialism for the black part of town in Houston back then. So the period detail is just spot on. And there's no judgment when the character says this. It could be he dies mysteriously later in the film with bird poop on him, but so do a dozen other characters - not all of them bad. And also, they must have had real Houston cops playing some of the cops in the film, or they might as well have. But beyond the negative attributes of the period, this film is in many ways a heartfelt homage to the city of Houston - there are plenty of just plain normal folks who must have been local extras plunked down into this phantasmagoria of a film.

When I say "surrealist" one big aspect of that is the disjointed, disengaged banal "conversations" between various characters, where they seem to be saying stuff at random, and not even paying attention to each other. And yet its still simply fascinating for some odd reason to listen to them - you are literally hanging on every meaningless word. Sally Kellerman is some sort of angel, but for no apparent reason decides to shop-lift a huge amount of film while at the camera store. When the employee who was previously lusting after her chases her down to confront her about the theft, she start pulling bottles of shampoo out of her purse and giving some convoluted explanation why she has so much shampoo, which has nothing to do with any action that has transpired previously in the film. But even banal bits of conversation that are superficially "normal" come off as highly ironic. Shelly Duvall throws up over the railing at the Astrodome, her boyfriend walks up right then and they passionately kiss right after she throws up. Then they notice his dad who is cop is dead nearby, And Shelly says, "What should we do". And her boyfriend says, "Call the cops." And he reaches down and starts pulling something out of the dead guy's shirt pocket, and Shelly Duvall says, "What are you doing?" And he responds, "Getting the phone number." Oh well, its interesting in the film for some reason.

And then there are an unending series of clever and surprising visual gags throughout the film that seem to have occurred by accident somehow. At other times there is visual lyricism and poetry. But this film never ever stops surprising you - by the end it is wowing us with technological wizardry because the depiction of the main character's flying machine is truly amazing. And as I indicated it is somehow, above all of this, a film about an actual real place -Houston Texas - and it has plenty of elements that would undeniably appeal to a lot of real good old boys from Texas - things like great sounding cars like Camaro Z28's and Roadrunners and car chases.

It is without question in the top five of Robert Altman's films and I never heard about it till last night. BIll Hader from Saturday Night Live was a guest on Turner Classic Movies and Brewster McCloud was one of four films he had selected as personal favorites of his that were shown. (The others were Rashomon, This is Spinal Tap, and something else. I had never seen all of Rashomon before either - its overrated.) But that old guy who is the standard host on TCM seemed mystified or something by Hader's choice of Brewster McCloud, but regardless, its a really, really memorable film.
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Obscure wonder! Wonderful film.
joyce-e23 January 2001
This film, televised in Denmark in the mid-seventies, made a great impact on me. The story of Brewster and his dream of flying was wildly funny and poignant. And why it has become so obscure makes me wonder. I have been hoping for an opportunity to see it again. It is truly a great film as is the instructor Robert Altman!
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Ultimate "lunatic" comedy from Robert Altman
IlyaMauter13 May 2003
Brewster McCloud is a delightful early comic `trip' of one of the best living American directors – Robert Altman. It was made the same year as Altman's masterpiece MASH and got somehow overshadowed by it and probably deservedly so, though Brewster McCloud undoubtedly is one of the most `lunatic' or weird, but at the same time most original Altman's films.

The film's story is centred on a very peculiar young boy Brewster McCloud (Bud Cort) who lives in a fallout shelter of a Huston's Astrodome and whose main passion in life are birds, an obsession that came so far that Brewster dedicates most of his time to developing of wings that will allow him to fly like a bird. He is regularly visited by a pretty young girl, who is in love with him, but because of Brewster's obsession with his dream project, she gets much less attention from him than she deserves, the fact that makes her go on her own sticking to imaginary sexual intercourse every time she visits him.

Meanwhile a chain of strange murders occurs in the city with all victims found with birds' droppings on them. In order to investigate it a police officer (Michael Murphy) who seems to be very obsessed with his looks, arrives from San Francisco, joining the group of peculiars that is already there. The scene is set for the most bizarre, hilarious and very entertaining black comedy. 8/10
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Not for everybody
preppy-322 September 2003
Bud Cort plays Brewster McCloud. He's a very strange young man who lives in the Houston Astrodome and is building a huge set of wings so he can fly. The movie is about him and his VERY odd assortment of friends and family. And how about the killer running around Houston strangling people and leaving bird droppings on them?

As you can see this is a very strange film. It's unlike anything director Robert Altman has ever done. The film isn't perfect--it's too long, the weirdness wears you down at times, some of the humor is real sick and there are characters that are just disgusting (Stacy Keach) or too flat out weird, even for this movie (Jennifer Salt)! And what's with the circus ending (entertaining as it is)? Still I love this film.

The story rambles all over the place but I was able to keep track of it. Altman packs the movie with plenty of bird imagery and references. He also pays homage to other films also--most notably "The Wizard of Oz" (right up to having Margaret Hamilton in the cast and check out how Salt is dressed at times). This really doesn't pull together in any way but it IS fascinating to watch. Also the cast is great--with one exception--Michael Murphy. He's miscast and looks miserable. But everybody else is perfect. Particular standouts are Cort (very good in a difficult role), Shelley Duvall (who usually annoys me to no end) and Sally Kirkland (looking absolutely stunning). Also there's a very cute injoke--there's a quick shot of the poster for "MASH" in Duvall's apartment!

This film was overshadowed by Altman's "MASH" in 1970. Also, the studio hated it and threw it away. Now, however, it is rightfully considered one of the best films of its decade. I highly recommend this--but not for everybody. If you like a linear plot and easily defined characters, stay away.
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The Falls
tedg30 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Oh how I miss the late sixties. The world was coming undone in a frayed sort of way. Logic was becoming unwoven, opening up possibilities for magical realities and thence new narrative tricks.

The ones who got there first were not as polished as those who came later, working in a society that swallowed the frays. In 1969, the notion that you could buy new faded, frayed and patched jeans at a superstore of 180,000 square feet — operated by the world's largest corporation — would have been literally unimaginable.

Altman was deep in the pack of new artists willing to escape. If this merely seems incoherent now, it is because we have lost something wonderful, the ability to cheaply visit the unknown. Oh, it all seemed risky at the time, and part of the thrill in watching this was knowing the naughtiness of it all.

There are spoofs in here, but that's the smallest interest. There are quirky and comic characters, but that is beside the way, as incidental conversation while climbing the mountain. You have sex approached from several different directions, but that came with the very notion of risk and always will.

Here is the main story: A defrocked angel, Louise, chooses a boy (perhaps even bears him) to replace her lost dream. He can only build mechanical wings though. He trains and studies flight. Our first incidental story is of him taking a job with the lost brother of Orville and Wilbur Wright so he can steal their private notebook on flight.

That employer dies, as do many others that who have pieces relevant to the puzzle, and incidentally a threatening cop. This is all done by a sort of avian magic controlled by Louise.

Sex intervenes. Our hero inexplicably is not charmed by the girl from the health food store who comes to his den to masturbate. Instead he is captured by an amazingly appealing Suzanne, played by Shelly Duvall. (Altman found her behind a store counter and recruited her for this role. Presumably she was in real life what she "plays" here.) Her Suzanne is the free love icon of the time. Our hero falls in love so knows he is ready for flight.

Louise drops her protection because of the loss of virginity. Our boy discovers that Suzanne has moved on to another guy. He flies and dies. That's the main thread. I mention it here because this film is hard to find, not on DVD as I write this.

The form of the movie follows the gist of the story. Things are bent, threads are borrowed, conventions are broken. Altman tweaks with the beginning and end in the most intelligent ways.

We have three false beginnings, one of which opens a parallel narrative of a perfesser telling us about birds in roughly the same manner we get from Greenaway's "The Falls" of a decade later. He pops up throughout. The end is from "8 1/2" the film that for all intents started the sixties revolution in cinema. (Not the French.)

The setting is the astrodome, which was novel for the time. I count this as a film that stars a building. But that novelty is imperceptible today. The focus on the building helped with financing the thing too. The ending transformed the dome into a Fellini circus, in which we are introduced to the actors.

You won't be as thrilled now as we all were when this was in its context. You have to imagine the risk and the sense of unsupported flight and hell's angels.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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This is an Altman classic!
jdlarsen-16 March 2006
Folks must have been very stoned when they made this .... It is such a "playful" film with so many great characters (and actors) riding on a very wild and surreal mixed up mythology. The film should be re-released (maybe since Altman got an Oscar they will).

I don't know how he got away with making this... but thank God he did!

In many ways Robert Altman except for his hands off approach to his actors has created many films that are at the equal to Fredrico Fellini in satire and whimsically profound sequences that baffle the audience -= but ain't it nice to home from a movie and remember it because you just can't get the ideas and images out of your head.

This is a very funny film. It has the Star Spangle Banner, Ruby Slippers, Bird Do-Do, Mustard pumps, un-principled law enforcers, and wings that try very hard to fly away.
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Bizarre, Unique, wonderful
metaphor-222 September 1999
It's hard to talk about a film as unparalleled as Brewster McCloud. It creates its own world out of element from the world we know so well. It plays with everything, including its self-consciousness about being a movie. It weaves together many threads into a lovely, heart-breaking snapshot of a moment in America.

The situation: The world has gone mad. The wicked witch is wearing the Ruby slippers, and has become a beloved social icon. Who wouldn't want to fly away?

Enter Brewster McCloud, a young man who plans to do just that. He is hiding out in the basement of the Astrodome in Houston, working on building his wings. The kind you wear. Like Icarus did. His plan is all feeling, very focused, but doesn't take him past the immediate "How?" He is under the tutelage and protection of a sort of Bird-Goddess/Angel (played by Sally Kellerman) who walks around wearing absolutely nothing but a red plastic raincoat. When she takes it off, you can see the long, curving scars where her wings were removed. She also drives around in a small red car whose license-plate reads "BRDSHT".

Lest you think I've given away too much, let me assure you this barely scratches the surface. Who is responsible for the wave of mysterious murders? What of the presidential candidate who's all over town, is he an assassination target? What is the connection with the horny young girl (Shelly Duvall, in her first movie role - I believe she was discovered by Altman when he attended a party at her house during the location shoot in Houston) who comes to visit Brewster but can't ever really get his attention?

A wonderful, under-rated film worth seeing.
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This! Is! So! Great!
tcarnahan7519 June 2001
For some reason people have a hard time accepting how great this movie really is. It contains one of the best car-chase sequences ever. It features a boy who lives in the Astrodome. It has a hipster San Fran cop out to break the rules. It has shoplifting. It has diarrhoea jokes. It has Sally Kellerman splashing naked in a fountain. It has Stacey Keach in an outstanding cameo as the meanest man in the world. It has gallons of peanut butter, hundreds of pull-ups, bird-poop, a BEAUTIFUL Shelley Duvall, Bud Cort, great film editing, lots of imagination, tons of style, smack-in-the-face symbolism, and the best closing credits sequence ever! What's not to like?!
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Bird-Boy trapped with Duvall and Altman!
shepardjessica8 July 2004
Released in December of 1970, after M.A.S.H. came out in January, this off-beat (for then even), unpretentious, little film flew in from nowhere. Get the soundtrack if you like the film! Black comedy about nothingness! Perfect 11 months AFTER M.A.S.H. (a better film). This was the part Bud Cort was born for, not Harold and Maude (another wonderful black comedy), Stacy Keach is unbelievably TOO real as Mr. Wright (at the age of 28), Sally Kellerman as Brewster's mentor is graceful and anguished, Jennifer Salt is the all-American girlfriend (just like she was in Midnight Cowboy), Michael Murphy was born to play Frank Shaft, Bert Remsen steals the show as the narc-agent, and it goes on and on as a SPOOF about a lot of American things that nobody used to lose their mind about (politically and otherwise).

This flick is an easy 8 out of 10, with gems that keep popping up, for fun. Don't write off seeing this one (even if you're anti-Altman). You'd be wasting your own time doing that. It's dark, it's fun, it's easy, and most people I've met since 1970 never even saw it! Check it out. I forgot to mention Shelley Duvall in her first film walks with the second half (Great eyes, Great Shirt, Great hair, Great car, Great attitude; mostly).
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Murder mystery, comedy, love story...
JasparLamarCrabb20 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Robert Altman's absurd satire is so over-the-top it will surely be an acquired taste. Bud Cort lives in the fallout shelter beneath the Houston Astrodome. He's making wings so he can fly. His bird-mentor is the enigmatic Sally Kellerman and his girlfriends include oddball Jennifer Salt and the even odder Shelley Duvall (in her film debut). They're all priceless as is most of the large cast, including John Schuck, Stacy Keach, Bert Remsen and William Windom. Rene Auberjonois appears as some sort of lecturer, informing the audience of various bird species. Michael Murphy is very funny as a San Francisco "super cop," who manages to speak all his lines without moving his lips. Altman pays tribute to a lot of other films, ranging from THE WIZARD OF OZ to BULLITT to his own M*A*S*H. It's part murder mystery, part romance, but mostly comic. There are some forgettable songs on the soundtrack courtesy of John Phillips. The screenplay is credited to Doran William Cannon, who also penned Otto Premingers equally bizarre SKIDOO.
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Peculiar, small-cult misfire from Robert Altman...
moonspinner5512 March 2006
Admirably odd, though mean-spirited comedy-drama about a strange young man who hopes to fly like a bird through the Houston Astrodome. Robert Altman-directed quasi-comedy with eccentric characters is so overloaded with weirdos that it starts to creak early on from the weight. Some of the cinematography is evocative, Shelley Duvall is a stitch in her debut as a tour guide, and Sally Kellerman looks every inch the glamourpuss as Bud Cort's vision of a "mother bird" (imagine Altman and producer Lou Adler explaining that role to her!). In the lead, Bud Cort is--once again, after "Harold & Maude"--a true original; not off-putting like, say, Michael J. Pollard, Cort manages to be geeky, wacky and inoffensive, a tough act to pull off. Unfortunately, this is one of Altman's misfires. He can put together a cast and a showpiece like no one else, but let him get fired up with some misguided inspiration and he spirals downward. ** from ****
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Oddball Altman outing
tieman6418 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Robert Altman directs "Brewster McCloud". The plot? Brewster is an eccentric inventor who lives beneath the Houston Astrodome. He spends his days working on a pair of man-powered wings which he hopes will enable him to fly. But while he is busy collecting materials to build his contraption, mysterious deaths occur throughout his city.

Altman's running joke is that "Brewster McCloud" is essentially a giant birdwatching film. Indeed, the film is narrated by Rene Auberjonois, who treats the picture as a grand safari, Altman planting bird references everywhere in the form of food, signs, clothes, license plates, characters, costumes, dialogue etc etc.

Why Brewster wishes to fly is given a neat twist. Rather than some kind of Icarus complex, Brewster seems to be acting upon suppressed memories. He was born to fly. His entire race was born to fly. He belongs in the skies. It's all in his DNA!

Brewster is aided in his quest by Louise, a sort of guardian angel. She has scars down her back, which suggests she once had wings herself. She's like a God or guardian angel, who descends to teach Brewster the mysteries of man's ancient wings. It's all pretty odd, particularly when Altman likens flying to sex, and Brewster's avian urges to psychosexual lusts.

Later in the film, Louise is dismayed to learn that Brewster slept with a girl he barely knew (Shelly Duvall). The once pure and naive Brewster thus becomes tainted by the "sins of the flesh". He's contaminated, his earthly sins affixing him to the ground. They seal his mortality and prevent him from entering the angel world up above.

To redeem himself, Brewster must therefore seek forgiveness from Louise, who now appears in the guise of Dorothy from "Wizard of Oz". From here on, Altman swathes the film in "Oz" references. Flying monkeys, red slippers, golden roads, they're all subtly woven into the crazy plot. This being Altman, chunks of the film then become covert commentaries on major aspects of American life (sexuality, class-struggle, race, ambition, bigotry, success, economics, crime, politics, religion). These themes are then bound to a plot which is really about the loss of virginity, or rather, idealism. During its climax, Brewster's broken wings and crumpled, twisted body, point toward the climax of Altman's "Nashville", in which characters sing "It Don't Worry Me" after an assassination. Both films take place in cities yearning for economic power, both use large structures as metaphors for America (The Astrodome, the Parthenon), and both posit the creative spirit and personal conscience as being overrun by corporate American, capitalism and commercialism in general.

8.5/10 - Worth two viewings.
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This ain't no Maltese Falcon. It's the stuff stinking nightmares are made of.
mark.waltz24 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
It's obvious that director Robert Altman was out to make something different, but the mystery of the bird poop killer is an odd experience. Bud Cort, of "Harold and Maude" fame, plays an eccentric young man desperate to grow wings like a bird, being stalked by the sultry Sally Kellerman (barely saying a word) and all of a sudden involved with the zany Shelley Duvall as evil people all over Houston are mysteriously killed after getting a faceful of bird doo doo. There's stupid cops, car chases and an assortment of weird characters including Rene Auberjonois as a creepy bird expert.

Don't expect a knee slapper here. The comic moments are more ironic than funny. John Schuck, preparing to play Rock Hudson's sidekick on "McMillan and Wife", puts on his cops uniform for the first time, and veteran character actress Margaret Hamilton sings a delightfully off-key rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" with a particularly amusing wardrobe reference to a famous prop from her most famous movie. In fact, this film has several references to that classic, references that may be funny to some but forced to others. I did get a few laughs out of this, but overall, it's way too forced to completely work, even as a black comedy.
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Looking at Americana with a twinkle in the eye
JuguAbraham15 November 2004
Altman is very good at looking at Americana with a twinkle in the eye. He dished out black comedies and social satires of varying dimensions: "MASH" was a spoof on Americans at war, "Nashville" poked fun at both politics and music, "A wedding" was a mature yet comic perspective of marriage as a social event. "Brewster McCloud" belongs to this group but lacks the finesse of the other four.

Altman's "Brewster McCloud" alternates from the mature comedy to low comedy. 'Mature' is his portrayal of the character Abraham Wright (Stacy Keach), a wheelchair borne landlord who fleeces the poor. 'Low' is the behavior of Wright towards his nurses at his old-age home. Altman swings from looking at what is interesting--shoplifting--to the bizarre--a widow getting married to her husband's colleague--something that "Nashville" and "A wedding" rarely did.

Look at the film closely and little is real. The black comedy almost borders on satire--a lecturer who looks and behaves like the birds he describes, an exaggerated masturbation scene, a wheelchair moving faster than cars on the road, the "blue eyes" of the blue-eyed crack detective who analyses bird droppings, etc. The only thing real is that Altman was not at his best and seemed to be uncomfortable cobbling this story together--a far cry from the director of "McCabe and Mrs Miller," "Nashville" or "A wedding."
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a wacky one from Robert Altman
ksf-220 May 2018
Good gawd, that's Margaret Hamilton, trying to sing the Star Spangled Banner at the opening... she keeps stopping and starting, and changing octave, and key. doesn't end well for her here, but they do give her a Wizard of Oz salute. Brewster (Bud Cort, from Harold and Maude) lives under the Astrodome, and just wants to fly. He had been a driver for a wacky old crazy rich guy. its silly, its fun. so irreverant. Sally Kellerman driving a red Gremlin. Rene Auberjonois, Shelley Duvall, John Schuck, probably best known for MacMillan and Wife. Michael Murphy is Detective Shaft, but he doesn't really play much of a part in this. The story is all over the place, but we follow Brewster around when he meets up with Suzanne (Duvall). and Louise (Kellerman). Zany. Fun. a caper. will Brewster ever get to fly? and what an ending. took a minute to figure out what was going on. Directed by Robert Altman (M*A*S*H). If you like zany, offbeat films, then this one is for you!
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Perfect role for Bud Cort!
ClassicFilmEra11 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Being a passionate Bud Cort fan, I recommend this film not only for those who love him, but also for those who enjoy quirky, psychedelic films. "Brewster McCloud" was Bud's sixth, but first starring role. He was discovered by Robert Altman when he was doing a stand-up comedy show alongside Judy Engles, and others, at Upstairs At The Downstairs. He could not have chosen a better actor to play the bizarre, complicated, anomaly-of-a-man, Brewster.

The symbolism in this is always overlooked. I love the concept that Brewster wants to fly, so that he can free himself of his fallen-angel protector (Sally Kellerman), the murders, and everyone else that gets in his way. It seems that Brewster was also determined to lose his virginity to thwart Kellerman, and more importantly, to liberate the love that he had inside of him. The most amazing scene, however, is the simultaneously happy/sad ending. Brewster's death is a celebration, as though when he died, he set everyone else free. Even the WAY in which Brewster died was symbolic. At first the cops tried to shoot him (society trying to impede him), but he ran out of breathe- as if freeing himself was not a possibility.

I believe the message of this movie was to show that humans are never really "free," in literal terms. We can only free ourselves mentally and emotionally of whatever haunts us, but it seems that Brewster wanted to attain the impossible, and liberate himself physically, overthrowing society and natural obstacles. Also enjoyable are the comparisons between birds and humans, shown throughout the film, which are hilarious, and symbolic in that birds are physically free.
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Definitely for the Birds
BaronBl00d27 December 2006
A strange youth wants nothing more than to take wing in the Astrodome. He is hampered by a host of eccentric, weird characters that are avenged by his "real" guardian angel and her raven. While this film makes virtually no sense at all on a literal level, Brewster McCloud is a fairly inventive, wholly original, gigantic misfire from acclaimed director Robert Altman. Altman even said that of all his pictures this was his favorite. Why? I have to assume it is partly due to his complete control of the film. That, unfortunately, does not necessarily make for a good or even great film, and while I admire much of the inventiveness of this film - I do not crave to see the film over and over again. It made me laugh a few times, but subsequent viewings would lessen that laughter. Altman has a unique body of work to absorb, but he has never been one of my favorite directors. His stories always seem to blend to the point of mild confusion. His characters seem to be so unique as to be unrealistic. Brewster McCloud has all that. I rather enjoyed the narration by Rene Auberjonois as he intimated each character being akin to some species of bird. I also liked the formidable acting talents of Stacy Keach in a bizarre, hilarious role as a rich moneylender, Margaret Hamilton in an all too brief role(though Altman DOES cash in on her Wizard of Oz fame), Michael Murphy as a policeman, John Schuck as a beat cop, William Windom as some creepy political guy, and the beautiful talents of Sally Kellerman and Shelley Duvall. Bud Cort has a strange, almost fascinating screen presence. He also knows a bit about acting. Yet, with all this obvious talent in acting, directing, writing, etc..., Brewster McCloud for me was just too unique, too eccentric, too avant-garde if you like(or don't). It is Altman's movie all the way, and I resolutely commend him for making it his way and doing it his way, and being the only moving force - the will - of the film. Again, none of those things necessarily make this a great film.
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*SPLAT* Bird doo-doo! Bird doo-doo!
Puck-2030 June 2000
I saw this film long ago, when it first came out in the theaters. One of the things you have to remember is that Altman's style (now copied so much it has become a cliché.. of the odd camera angles, the everyone-talking-at-once dialogue and such) was, at the time, quite new and much different than anything else out there. Thirty years later, this film is still amazing to watch. Brewter McCloud is more like a cartoon, something to be viewed for pure entertainment value, even the dark parts (and there are many of those). Bud Cort (Harold and Maude) is delightful, and the supporting cast (many of whom are Altman regulars) is great......I think that people with little or no sense of humor will not like this movie, but those raised in the post-South Park era will enjoy its wonderful portrayal of neurotic only Altman can deliver 'em.
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"Brewster McCloud": Robert @ his most Altmany
jtncsmistad20 December 2018
The late, first-rate filmmaker Robert Altman delighted in the skewering of all things authoritative, pompous or staid. With a white hot machete. NEVER is this particular predilection more prominent than in the completely unhinged and unfathomable Boy Becomes Bird farce "Brewster McCloud".

I'm not even gonna try to break it down for ya, guys. I couldn't possibly do it justice.

So a couple things here if you'll indulge me.

Growing up in Houston, Texas at the time this movie was made inherently makes the use of The Astrodome and adjacent AstroWorld as primary settings even more dear among the treasured memories of my childhood, especially now that they are each defunct.

And the ending. Oh, this glorious Altmanesque ending. You, like me, will be hard pressed to recall any cinematic conclusion more zealously zany, chaotically cacophonous, deliciously dark or brazenly bizarro.

It is Bob at his best.
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A 1970s Dark Comedy Fantasy
torrascotia12 December 2018
This is a very peculiar little film about a young man who is obsessed with flying and lives a spartan existence within a sports stadium. He has limited contact with other humans and the roles they play in his life only unfold as the story moves on. He has one constant companion who is an older woman who seems to offer advice and protection and seems supportive of his project to build a self powered flying machine. Add to this are a number of unsolved murders which all seem to follow the main protagonist but its not clear whether he has any role in their demise. The whole tone of the movie is quite bizarre and hilarious in equal measure and is certainly of its time, if you enjoyed Harold and Maude then this may be for you. Some of the dialogue is fantastic and the humour is quite dark but this has plenty of laughs throughout. The only thing I didn't enjoy was the college professor who gave narration about birds during the movie while making odd bird like noises throughout. That was a bit too much for me however overall its worth tracking down.
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