Weekend Weirdness: An Intimate Doc on Nick Nolte; Who Killed Teddy Bear? in NYC; The House of the Devil on VHS
Posted on Sunday, January 24th, 2010 by Hunter Stephenson
It’s a crazy, mixed up world and we are thankful for movies, sans The Tooth Fairy, that offer proof. /Film’s Weekend Weirdness examines such flicks, whether in the form of a new trailer for a provocative indie, a mini review, or an interview. In this installment: the perverse and obscure ’60s thriller, Who Killed Teddy Bear?, being shown tonight at NYC’s Anthology Film Archives; the doc, Nick Nolte: No Exit, which finds good ol’ Nick candidly Q&Aing himself on topics ranging from god to drugs. For a special Weekend Weirdness posted yesterday about the imaginative skateboarder fantasy Machotaildrop, click here.
Photographed above is a real deal, shrink-wrapped, limited-edition VHS for The House of the Devil, promoting its release on DVD/Blu-Ray early next month. It’s one of the coolest pieces of swag I’ve received for this column thus far; to my knowledge only a few peeps were sent one, including Devil-supporter Drew McWeeny at HitFix. And even fewer peers have watched the tape. Some are scared, others are sans VCR. I’ve seen last year’s best horror flick at least thirteen times now, so I’d rather keep it sealed. Similar to the wizard-bong approved THotD poster design by Kellerhouse last year, the VHS packaging has faux rental scruffs, in addition to a retro “new release” starburst. A disclaimer on the back reads, “Caution: This film contains Satanic references and graphic violence.” Haters would add: “…and so much pointless walking.”
Who Killed Teddy Bear? A dizzying stalker movie that documents Times Square when it was ruled by Disney skin and sin
This weekend, the 1965 cult flick, Who Killed Teddy Bear?, enjoyed a rare run at the Anthology Film Archives in New York City. I can’t say it’s the weirdest film I’ve seen since arriving here two weeks ago—that would be a sold-out showing of House days ago at the IFC Center—but it is the skeeziest. In fact, going in I underestimated the film’s ambient depravity simply because it was black-and-white; those who hold a special place for Times Square before it became a family-consumerist lazer arena seem to particularly value the film as a time-capsule of lewder commerce.
The late actor, Sal Mineo, best known for his babyfaced role in Rebel Without a Cause, stars as a buff-and-disturbed disco busboy who can’t shake his interest in the city’s sex shops and porn supply. A shirtless and foreboding work-out scene with Mineo in the film is one I’m sure Martin Scorsese studied before making Taxi Driver—the films’ grimy outlooks are similar as well. Simeo’s character drifts through the plot while an obsessive (fetishistic?) police detective investigates deranged phone calls being made to a dancer (the bedroom eyed Juliet Prowse). The film ends quickly in rape, chase, and death. All of the dream-ripple edits, nightclub dancing, and a hypnotic titular song placed throughout add up to a fun little slice of exploitation. Random tidbit: The film’s director is Joseph Cates, the late father of actress Phoebe Cates. Nice contributions, I’d say. Here is Teddy Bear‘s trailer…
Ladies and Drunks, the man, the legend, (the mug shot?)…
Nick Nolte: No Exit, a documentary on one of the greatest man’s-man actors of all time
The recent doc, Nick Nolte: No Exit, features Nick Nolte interviewing himself about himself. On one end of the conversation—the questions were pre-taped—Nolte is dressed semi-formally in a giant sun hat. On the other, Nolte is dressed in whatever the hell Nolte throws on to go the bathroom in the middle of a mostly-casual night. Now most actors, given the opportunity to interview their biggest fan (themselves), would feel an urgent responsibility to answer each serious, softball question with in-depth preparation. There are times here when Nick Nolte seems mildly bothered and amused by his own questions. In a few instances he grimaces and dodges an answer (e.g. one about several divorces). If it’s really such a concern, maybe an gossipy god can sort that shit out later (Nolte says, “Why not?” regarding a higher power, with the careful but brief, redfaced consideration of a sports bet.)
Directed by Tom Thurman, who previously made a decent doc on Nolte’s late pal Hunter S. Thompson, the film has Nolte think back on most of his filmography. It’s great to hear he still believes wholeheartedly in the idealist message of his classic football film North Dallas Forty. We get a nice grin when he pictures co-star Jacqueline Bisset and her iconic tits in The Deep. Does Terrence Malick prefer filming insects to A-list actors? Oh, that’s just “Terry” being Terry. Nolte doesn’t shy away from his own inquiries about the wild man reputation. Back then, cocaine was accepted. He’d put a line on a line in a script, snort, and recite. He later laughs and says he did GHB for four years and “never got raped.”
His favorite Nolte film? Paul Schrader’s dark, paternal 1997 drama Affliction. His biggest regret? Sure, he still regrets making the flop I Love Trouble with Julia Roberts (he needed, or at least wanted, the money), but his life is incomplete because he didn’t fight in VietNam. He believed in the war at the time. In hindsight, it was all bullshit; and he enjoyed skewering the hell out of it in Tropic Thunder. Of course, you can’t say that movie’s title without Ben Stiller popping up to crack weak jokes.
No Exit is flawed in its unneeded reliance on Nolte’s friends, Stiller double-fold, to explain and endorse his brilliance and madness. There are fans who might say that Nolte’s infamous mug shot—he spends several minutes here denying that it’s a mug shot—says everything you need to know about those two qualities. And it’s sort of true. Like the doc, the mugshot, real or not, ditches the soft lense and favors a characteristic portrait of an Aquarian actor who has spent a charmed life winning and losing at the same time.
The doc is currently available via On Demand/Sundance Selects. More info, here.