6.0/10
971
20 user 24 critic

Rhinoceros (1974)

A boozing young man in love with his co-worker finds that everyone around him, even his pompous and condescending best friend, is changing into a rhinoceros.

Director:

Tom O'Horgan

Writers:

Eugène Ionesco (play) (as Eugene Ionesco), Julian Barry (screenplay)
Reviews

Photos

Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
Zero Mostel ... John
Gene Wilder ... Stanley
Karen Black ... Daisy
Joe Silver ... Norman
Robert Weil ... Carl
Marilyn Chris ... Mrs. Bingham
Percy Rodrigues ... Mr. Nicholson
Robert Fields Robert Fields ... Young Man
Melody Santangello Melody Santangello ... Young Woman (as Melody Santangelo)
Don Calfa ... Waiter
Lou Cutell ... Cashier
Howard Morton Howard Morton ... Doctor
Manuel Aviles Manuel Aviles ... Busboy
Anne Ramsey ... Lady with Cat
Lorna Thayer ... Restaurant Owner
Edit

Storyline

Originally an absurdist play by Eugene Ionesco, Rhinoceros tells the story of a French town plagued by rhinoceroses. These are not ordinary rhinoceroses, but people who have been victims of "rhinoceritis." Or is it something else entirely? But, why are they turning into rhinoceroses and what is Ionesco trying to tell us about society? Written by Jeff Schoner <zek@primenet.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The comedy that proves people are still the funniest animals. See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Using a real rhinoceros was considered, but it was deemed to be too difficult to manage, so the effect was achieved through shadows, camerawork, and props. See more »

Quotes

Mr. Nicholson: Stanley, what are you doing out there holding a purse?
Stanley: Well... Mrs. Bingham jumped on her husband's back and rode away.
See more »

Connections

Featured in No Small Parts: Anne Ramsey (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

What Did You Do To Yourself
Music by Galt MacDermot
Lyrics by Bill Dumaresq
Sung by David Lasley
See more »

User Reviews

 
An absurd film from a "Theatre-Of-The-Absurd" play.
19 April 2005 | by barnabyrudgeSee all my reviews

The Theatre-Of-The-Absurd was a style of experimental play-scripting that was practised in the '50s and '60s by playwrights like Samuel Beckett, Arthur Adamov, Jean Genet and Eugene Ionesco. When first devised, the Theatre-Of-The-Absurd movement was rather unpopular because audiences were left bewildered by the intentionally illogical and plot less story lines. A particular rule of absurdist plays is that they have no dramatic conflict, instead dealing with logically impossible situations and having the characters speak about irrational things as if they are perfectly rational. Also, the main character in an absurdist play is usually significantly out of key with everyone and everything around him. Eugene Ionesco's "Rhinoceros" is one of the most famous of all the absurd plays. This film version is set in urban America and is a deliberately subversive, surreal experience with strong comic performances. It is not, however, as multi-layered as the original play (which was set in France and had strong political and historical connotations about the Nazi occupation). This presentation of Rhinoceros is mainly a story about conformity and, in particular, those rare few who refuse to conform.

Depressed, bored accountant Stanley (Gene Wilder) spends his week-days crunching numbers and his weekends drinking himself into a haze. His friend John (Zero Mostel) disapproves, but still meets Stanley every Sunday lunchtime to talk to him about the error of his ways. One particular Sunday, their lunch is interrupted when a stampeding rhinoceros charges down the street outside the restaurant. Soon, more and more rhinoceroses are sighted in town and Stanley gradually begins to realise that the entire population is turning into these huge pachyderms. More alarming still is that everyone that Stanley counts on to "remain" human seems to be switching to rhinoceros form too - his work colleagues (Joe Silver, Robert Weil, Percy Rodriguez), his dream girl Daisy (Karen Black), and even his best friend John. Stanley is determined not to conform, but as the human numbers dwindle and the rhinoceros population soars, will he be able to resist?

One of the main problems with this film version of Rhinoceros is that it doesn't use the possibilities of film to "open-up" the constraints of its stage-bound play origins. For instance, during the scene where Mostel's character transforms into a rhinoceros, Wilder keeps commenting on the bump appearing on his forehead and the greyness of his skin, but there's no bump or greyness visible. Here was an opportunity to use the visual advantages that film has over the theatre stage, but it remains an unused opportunity. In fact, at all points the film refuses to become cinematic and constantly has a feel of "filmed theatre" about it. However, in other ways Rhinoceros is quite well done and credit needs to be given where it is due (Maltin rated this film BOMB, which shows how wide of the mark Maltin is prone to be). Wilder and Mostel interact brilliantly, relishing the play's enigmatic and often self-contradictory dialogue. Mostel's transformation sequence - done without make-up or visual effects, as noted earlier - is almost compensated by the sheer outrageous energy that Mostel invests in it. And, by removing the historical and political subtext of the original play, I think they've actually made it more timeless by focusing more on the themes of conformity (after all, don't we all relate to how it feels to spend our lives conforming, losing more and more of the animal-like freedom that was a characteristic of primitive man?) Transforming into a rhinoceros could be viewed as a metaphor for any type of conformity - doing drugs because all your peers do them; being promiscuous because it's the norm; voting for a particular political party because everyone else on your street is in favour of that party; etc.

Not a complete success, then, but definitely a worthwhile and thought-provoking piece of cinema.


22 of 25 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 20 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.
Edit

Details

Country:

UK | Canada | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

21 January 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page



Recently Viewed