#131 – Howard Schlong

(1973, US, 79 min) Dir Art Blitzen. Cast Harry Pork, Jemma Mitz, Orla Capp.

So, who’s to blame for the truly dire cinematic career of ‘Artless’ Art Blitzen? How about Ernest Lehman? How, you might ask, is the distinguished screen author (or co-author) of such film classics as Sabrina, North by Northwest and The Sound of Music responsible for the tin-eyed cultural crimes of as shameless and inept a smut merchant as Blitzen? Well, I’ll tell you. In 1972, for reasons best know to Lehman, he made his one and only directorial effort with an adaptation of Philip Roth’s classic novel of sex and Judaism Portnoy’s Complaint which was about as well received with the critics as a firebomb in a Kurosawa retrospective. Not only did the critics turn their nose up at the film but it so enraged one viewer in the shape of Art Blitzen (then known as a publisher of Z grade pornography) that he scraped together about a buck and a half and shot his own version which equalled more sex, less Judaism. The fact that it’s lead character (as personified by the sweaty Harry Pork) has been renamed Howard Schlong should clue you in to how much of Roth’s wit survived the process. It’s dire from top to bottom – it looks like it was shot through the bottom of a milk bottle, Jemma Mitz (as ‘The Chimp’) looks as though she’s dropped acid before each take and the boom mike is visible in so many scenes it should, by rights, have been given a co-lead credit. As Roth himself said, “I would have sued but it might have meant watching it.”

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

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