"MORE GLIB ThAN PROFOUND," is not a forum to show how smart I perceive myself to be. I stay clear of religion and politics while sparing my readership the drudgery of commercialism. However, in a rare blog, (like today's), my glibness temporarily takes a giant step...backward.
IMPOSSIBLE! Impossible but true. In 1971, a futuristic movie set and filmed on location in New York City did not include its single most significant (new) landmark, in any of the establishing shots or panoramic skyline views.
Somehow or for some odd reason, the filmmakers managed to keep the much ballyhooed World Trade Center out of their dark comedy, "LITTLE MURDERS." If my guess is right, they were the most prophetic bastards since Nostradamus.
I saw Little Murders in the theater when it came out. I not only never saw it again (till last week) or saw that it was shown on TV...BUT nobody I ever mentioned it to, heard of it. This obscure movie left a deep impression in me but after so many decades, my fuzzy memory caused me to slightly mess-up the title by calling it, "LITTLE MURDERERS." (Which I now think is a better title).
When Little Murders came out, the absurdity of humor was far-fetched. To the credit of my sixteen year-old mind, I got the sardonic, dark wittiness featuring the impending collapse of social mores that would result in functional society as we know it, to go haywire.
The theme of the movie is people getting beaten-down. Elliott Gould's character typifies the notion of "you can't fight City Hall." So when he gets swallowed up by progress, he gives up. This is proven when he allows himself to be repeatedly beaten by street toughs who think he's weird, (for taking pictures of dog crap).
He's so accustomed to being accosted that as long as they don't break his cameras, he doesn't resist. In one instant, a girl is awoken by the scuffling below her wide open, high-rise apartment building window. She phones 9-1-1, (wow, they already had 9-1-1 back then). She has trouble getting through...and is finally put on hold. With the blind optimism that would epitomize her character, she risks her well-being, confronts the attackers and saves the man. She and Gould start dating. The ever-spunky girl sees his acceptance to negativity and tries to retrieve his long-lost sense of feeling.
While her crusade to change her man gains momentum, we see the decaying world around them worsening. People are now getting regularly and arbitrarily gunned-down in the street...yet passersby can't be bothered by these atrocities.
The apathy becomes rampant and soon the citizens no longer have faith in their elected officials. We also find out that the cops who are sworn to protect, are just as psychopathic as the out-of-control crazies who are responsible for the ever-rising 457 unsolved murders, (457 unsolved murders by today's standards hardly seems exaggerated).
In a society so beaten-down, the formerly desensitized Gould, through the tutelage of his girlfriend and her family, fight back. Unfortunately, soon they get married,.whatever faith in the goodness of mankind he regained was abruptly lost when he received the ultimate slap in the face.
The rest of Little Murders plot uses a similar formula, as a good adventure story. The climax comes when the hero is backed into a corner and with all odds against him, he finds a logical, last second conduit to safety. The pleased audience relaxes until an unexpected obstacle blocks any hope for "happily ever after" finish. After the new dilemma gets ironed out, some obscure danger, bigger than anything else rises up. A tremendous fight to the death ends in a crescendo victory and the satisfied movie-goers, to upbeat exit music, are all smiles as they file out of the theater.
The formula used by Little Murders has a subtle difference. Through a thin veneer of humor, it's apparent climax splatters the viewers' face with intensely depressing visions. We are led to believe that the movie has come to an acutely sad conclusion because Gould or even the bravest super-hero...could not possibly save the day or reverse the nervousness, paranoia and rising masochistic tendencies of an entire culture. Instead, we find that the situation CAN get worse when average, otherwise innocent and insignificant people own and irrationally use guns.
Eventually,we arrive at the ultimate finale. The reality of the permanent doom and gloom of their imminent destiny is solidified when Gould uses role reversal to maneuver away from the most incredible trouble. This results in him leading the family on a fantastic, heavy-hearted, "if you can't beat them, join them," counter-attack.
Today, I (we) frequently feel beaten-down. I (we), live and work next to people with dangerous emotional problems that are so plentiful that the logistics and cost for their appropriate care are astronomically impractical...so, they are free to roam the streets, unsupervised and/or improperly medicated
The system is so overwhelmed that we have to be careful with the police too. Many of them aren't fully trained so when a routine questioning turns out to be a pissing contest, we all too often find out, (despite the presence of body cameras and social media) that a great many of our protectors, are sociopaths too.
By the time we look for intelligent government leadership, we are guaranteed to unhappily realize that the cavalry isn't coming over the hill to rescue us.
Yes, it seems IMPOSSIBLE but Little Murders was unfortunately way head of its time. In a quirky, terrible way, it should also be congratulated for envisioning the not-too-distant future New York City without the iconic World Trade Center.
Little Murders or as I have come to call it, "Little Murderers," despite fine performances is not a dark comedy. It's an all too real upper-cut to the jaw reminder that nothing matters. That whoever you are, unless you have infinite resources or are well-connected, life is merely a struggle to survive. Therefore, considering how our beaten-down society has deteriorated, the movie is too depressing to recommend.
(I managed to avoid spoiling the plot, so I won't whet your appetite or waste your time by providing the amusing youtube movie trailer here).