When's the last time you saw a National Lampoon movie directed by...Robert Altman? In an impassioned show of daredevil cinephilia—and in defiance of all reason—the Belcourt's James Wilson has decided to celebrate his 26th birthday tonight with a free midnight movie, open to all. The film: Altman's 1985 O.C. and Stiggs, which Wilson has secured for tonight's screening in a 35mm print.
There is no more enthusiastic supporter of this movie on the planet. And dammit, after reading Wilson's invitation, we're almost persuaded ourselves to go. To find out why, we yield the floor to James Wilson after the jump:
"Based on a special edition of National Lampoon magazine titled "The Utterly Monstrous, Mind-Roasting Summer of O.C. and Stiggs" (December 1982), Robert Altman's 1985 send-up of the status quo has earned an infamous reputation as the biggest commercial and critical failure of his career. It may also be his most criminally neglected masterpiece.
"Despite its sloppy construction, the charms of O.C. & STIGGS are plentiful. When the Lampoon fingered Altman to helm their latest teen romp for the big screen, Altman neglected to tell them he despised teen movies and all the they stood for. What he produced was more than a spoof; it was an attack on the genre itself and the entire American way of life in the 1980s. He took the often racist, homophobic undercurrents of teen cinema and turned them outwards in the characters of Oliver "O.C." Cromwell and Mark Stiggs—two hellions bent on the destruction of the Schwabs, the nemesis all-American family and icons of self-servitude.
"The film is quintessentially Altman in every way, with his trademark multi-track dialogue and always roving camera. However, as with many of his other films, that makes initial viewings overwhelming and somewhat elusive. The action and humor is dense, and staying on top of the story proves even more challenging than much of Altman's other work. Every scene is overstuffed with tidbits to see and hear. As a consequence, it's really only on repeated viewings that the movie makes any goddamn sense.
"Needless to say, National Lampoon wanted nothing to do with the film and removed their name from the production entirely. MGM didn't care for it much either, as they shelved it completely until 1987 when it was hastily released direct to video, save for only a small handful of theatrical screenings to meet contractual obligations. They never even bothered to cut a trailer.
"Today, in the wake of Altman's passing, new praise has been found for his massive body of work, including long-overdue attention to neglected works such as QUINTET, BUFFALO BILL AND THE INDIANS, and A WEDDING, all recently released on DVD. (Where is BREWSTER MCCLOUD!?) However, despite also having been released on a stripped-down DVD, O.C. & STIGGS has been unable to escape its nefarious reputation. As such, it has been shamefully omitted from almost every Altman retrospective, before or after his death.
"In celebration of my 26th birthday, I'm personally taking it upon myself to right this great wrong by renting a 35mm print of this hated picture to be shown in a FREE public screening...one time only this Friday night at midnight at Nashville's historic Belcourt Theatre, my home away from home for the last seven years.
"If the shaky reputation of this film still has you nervous about spending your Friday night with it—even for free—then consider its stellar cast, with Dennis Hopper as a piss-take of his character from APOCALYPSE NOW, Jane Curtin, Paul Dooley, Jon Cryer, Cynthia Nixon, Martin Mull (!), Melvin Van Peebles (!!), Nina Van Pallandt, Thomas Hal Phillips (returning as his "Hal Phillip Walker" character from NASHVILLE), a live performance by Afro-Beat superstar King Sunny Ade, and an appearance by motor-mouthed sportscaster Bob Uecker, playing himself in what might possibly be the most hilarious cameo in movie history.
"The price is right, a cash bar will be open, and this truly may be the only chance in your life to see a 35mm print of this wonderful, horrible movie."