Friday, February 10, 2012


Whores, racist midgets, creepy little children, sexually repressed bible thumpers and apocalyptic riots. Hollywood was a pretty odd place according to Nathanael West whose book, 'The Day Of The Locust', was adapted in to a film directed by John Schlesinger which went on to influence people & films like the Coen Brothers (specifically; 'Barton Fink' and 'Millers Crossing'), Alejandro Jodorowsky ('Sante Sangre'), Nicolas Winding Refn (he included 'The Day Of The Locust' as one of his influences for 'Drive') and even Matt Groening (for those that don't know, "Homer Simpson" is a character from 'The Day Of The Locust'). Whats also interesting is that this film and 'Chinatown' (another film with a similar vibe that shows the ugly side of southern California during the 1930's) were released within a year of each other. But of all the directors and films I just mentioned, 'Barton Fink' is probably the biggest homage to 'The Day Of The Locust' in that both films are essentially about "real artists" who get caught up working behind the scenes in a somewhat surreal/dark vision of Hollywood in the late 30's/early 40's (a playwright turned b-movie script writer in Barton Fink and a painter turned movie set designer in Day Of The Locust). Both films feature quite a few scene of random and somewhat dark/creepy humor that kinda make you go "...Huh??", unexpected spurts of violence and both films feature explosive endings (literally). Like 'Straw Dogs' and 'A Clockwork Orange', 'The Day Of The Locust' definitely had an effect on me as a child. Until the other night I hadn't watched this since I was a kid but the scene where Donald Sutherland stomps the little kid to death (played by a pre-bad news bears Jackie Earle Haley) is a scene that always stuck with me (i guess that scene influenced the elevator scene in 'Drive'?). The world of 'The Day Of The Locust' is an interesting one. Its the kinda world where our protagonist can essentially try to rape someone, and we're STILL supposed to consider him the "good guy". The kinda world where a dopey, pathetic sap that we cant help but feel sorry for can murder a child in a fit of rage and we still kinda sympathize for him as he's being torn to pieces by an angry mob (although with all due respect, that evil little kid had it coming).

'The Day Of The Locust' focuses on four primary characters and shows us how Hollywood and/or the entertainment industry will  chew them up and spit them out (or in some cases already has):

"Tod Hackett" - The main character. A painter who becomes a Hollywood set designer played by underrated character actor; William Atherton (most known for playing prick-ish assholes in films like; 'Ghostbusters', 'Real Genius' and the 'Die Hard' movies. This performances is quite different from his other roles). Hackett's unique artwork and figures that he draws play a major role at the very end of the film...

"Homer Simpson" - A shy, timid, and sexually repressed accountant, played by Donald Sutherland in one of his finest performances. I guess because he hasn't done anything memorable in recent years outside of his cameo in 'Beerfest' (lol), its easy to forget all the great things Sutherland has done in his career. From fucked up & sadistic ('1900') to comic relief ('Dirty Dozen') to a gentle giant on the verge of exploding ('The Day Of The Locust')

"Faye Greener" - An aspiring actress who's "look" and delivery in the film are clearly based off of Marilyn Monroe even though she wasn't around around during the 1930's. Faye is interesting in that she starts off as somewhat naive & childlike, but as the film goes on you see she actually has a dark side and her ditsy vibe my be an act. Tod & Homer are both in love with her but she decides to be with Homer because she knows she can take advantage of him on her rise to stardom.

"Harry Greener" - Faye's father. A former vaudevillian turned alcoholic door-to-door salesman who drives Faye crazy. He's already been chewed up and spit out by the entertainment industry before the Hollywood days.

Things come to a bloody boiling point in the final 10 minutes of the film when a riot breaks out at a movie premier when the body of a dead child is discovered. Then all of Los Angeles proceeds to tear itself apart. Most people who have seen 'The Day Of Locust' consider the finale to be the most memorable aspect of the film not just because of the unexpected violence or how it symbolizes the coming of the apocalypse, but because as Tod Hackett watches Los Angeles burn to the ground during the riot, people in the crowd start to look like the characters in his paintings (see below). I guess the main comparison that this films has with 'Drive' is that it focuses on main characters that work behind the scenes in the movie business and they get caught up in Hollywood life and don't know how to shut it off. In 'Drive' its almost as if "The Driver", Gosling, seriously thinks he's in an action movie probably due to the lines of reality being fuzzy for him after working on so many movie sets (fantasy) as well as being a getaway car driver for criminals (reality). I know i may get a lot of hate for this, but I honestly wouldn't mind a LOOSE adaption of this film done today as long as the right director is chosen...

'The Day Of The Locust' is just one of many great cynical, darkly comical, horrific, "off", sometimes violent films from the 70's that's kept alive only by their cult audiences like 'The Ninth Configuration' (1979), 'Wise Blood' (1979), The Ruling Class (1972), '99 & 44/11% Dead' (1974) and so many more.


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