Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Mae West, John Huston, Raquel Welch, Rex Reed, Farrah Fawcett
Director: Michael Sarne
After heading to Europe for a sex change operation, Myron Breckinridge returns to America as Myra, a man hating woman after her uncle's fortune. — Genre: Foreign Film - Spanish/misc SA — Rating: R — Release Date: 9-MAR-2004 — ... more »
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Reviewed on 3/27/2011...
The book was better by far. Someone should remake this using it's script and direction as a guide of what not to do. Racquel is gorgeous and the film pushes the sixties boundaries of censorship. Worth a watch but read the novel first so you know what the film is trying to portray.
A Cinematic Debacle of Legendary Proportions
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 02/20/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Seldom seen since theatrical release in 1970, MYRA BRECKINRIDGE has become a byword for cinematic debacles of legendary proportions. Now at last on DVD in an unexpectedly handsome package, it will be of interest to film historians, movie buffs, and cult film fans--but it is as unlikely to win wide audiences today as it was when first released.
Gore Vidal's 1968 bestseller was a darkly satirical statement on American hypocrisy, Hollywood fantasies, and changing sexual mores. Most filmmakers felt that the novel's story, structure, and overall tone would not translate to film, and industry insiders were surprised when 20th Century Fox not only acquired the rights but also hired Vidal to adapt his novel to the screen. But studio executives soon had cold feet: Vidal's adaptations were repeatedly rejected and novice writer-director Michael Sarne was brought in to bring the film to the screen.
Studio executives hoped that Sarne would tap into the youth market they saw as a target for the film, but Sarne proved even more out of synch with the material than the executives themselves. Rewrite upon rewrite followed. The cast, sensing disaster, became increasingly combative. In her commentary, star Raquel Welch says that she seldom had any idea of what Myra's motives were from scene to scene or even within any single scene itself, and that each person involved seemed to be making an entirely different film. In the accompanying "Back Story" documentary, Rex Reed says that MYRA BRECKINRIDGE was a film made by a bunch of people who hid in their dressing rooms while waiting for their lawyers to return their calls.
The accuracy of these comments are demonstrated by the film itself, which contains a host of good ideas that work individually but never consolidate into anything that approaches a cohesive film. The basics of Vidal's story are there, but not only has the story been shorn of all broader implications, it seems to have no point in and of itself. Everything runs off in multiple directions, nothing connects, and numerous scenes undercut whatever logic previous scenes might have had. And while director Sarne repeatedly states in his commentary that he wanted to make the film as pure farce, the only laughs generated are accidental.
Chief among these accidents is Mae West. It is clear from Sarne's commentary that he idolized West; in her own commentary Welch flatly states that West had carte blanche to do what she wished, be it write her own lines or demand the inclusion of two musical numbers or not work before five in the afternoon. It is true that West is unexpectedly well preserved in appearance and that she had lost none of her way with a one-liner--but there is no getting around the fact that she is in her seventies, and her conviction that she is the still the sexiest trick in shoe leather is extremely unsettling, to say the least. But worse, really, is the fact that West is outside her era. Her efforts to translate herself into a hip and happening persona results in one of the most embarrassing self-characatures ever seen on film.
The remaining cast is largely wasted. Raquel Welch, a significantly underestimated actress, plays the title role of Myra very much like a Barbie doll on steroids; non-actor Rex Reed is unexpectedly effective in the role of Myron, but the entire role is essentially without point. Only John Huston and cameo players John Carradine, Jim Backus, William Hopper, and Andy Devine emerge relatively unscathed. Yes, it really is the debacle everyone involved in the film feared it would be: fast when it should be slow, slow when it should be fast, relentlessly unfunny from start to finish. It is true that director Sarne does have the occasional inspired idea--as in his use of film clips of everyone from Shirley Temple to Judy Garland to create counterpoint to the action--but by and large, whenever Sarne was presented with a choice of how to do something he seems to have made the wrong choice.
The how and why of that is made clear in Sarne's audio commentary. Sarne did not like the novel or, for that matter, the subject matter in general. He did not want to write the screenplay, but he needed the money; he emphatically did not want to direct the film, but he need the money. He makes it very clear that he disliked author Gore Vidal and Rex Reed (at one point he flatly states that Reed "is not a nice person"), and to this day he considers that Vidal and Reed worked in tandem to sabotage the film because he refused to play into their 'homosexual agenda'--which, when you come right down to it, seems to have been their desire that Sarne actually film Vidal's novel rather than his own weirdly imagined take-off on it.
Although he spends a fair amount of commentary time stating that the film is widely liked by the gay community, Sarne never quite seems to understand that the appeal of the film for a gay audience arises from his ridiculously inaccurate depiction of homosexual people. When taken in tandem with the film itself, Sarne emerges as more than a little homophobic--and quite frankly the single worst choice of writers and directors that could have been made for this project.
In addition to the Sarne and Welch commentaries and the making-of documentary, the DVD includes several trailers and two versions of the film: a "theatrical release" version and a "restored" version. The only difference between the two is that the final scene in the "restored" version has been printed to black and white. The edits made before the film went into general release have not been restored, but the documentary details what they were. The widescreen transfers of both are remarkably good and the sound is quite fine. But to end where I began, this is indeed a film that will most interest film historians, movie buffs, and cult movie fans. I give it three out of five stars for their sake alone, but everyone else should pass it by.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer"
Bad Taste was never so good.
Usonian33 | United States | 02/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"WHAT?! The uncut version?! And in widescreen?! With Raquel's commentary and that fantastic AMC documentary?!The DVD gods have truly delivered. The only thing left to hope for is the lost reels of "The Magnificent Ambersons."So many "bad movies" fail to really live up to their reputations. This movie delivers. Originally rated "X", it is in excruciatingly poor taste (two words: Mae West), and would be offensive if it weren't oh so very, very terrible. Twentieth Century Fox actually made and distributed this film, which has since been very difficult to find. Watch the documentary first, to fully appreciate what you are witnessing.I have only seen the cut version on the Fox Movie Channel, and even that version has the scene with Raquel strapping on the...well, I'll let you found out that detail for yourself. Gather your friends around, and enjoy one of the great cinema bombs. (then hold a candlelight vigil that Fox will release that OTHER X-rated studio classic in their vaults: "Beyond The Valley of The Dolls")."
Confusing But Fun Camp Classic
James Morris | Jackson Heights, NY United States | 10/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Gore Vidal's hilariously funny satiric novel was more or less transferred to the silver screen with a good deal of the story intact, but thanks to the hopeless mess made of the screenplay by the director, Michael Sarne, none of it makes a great deal of sense. Still, the film has lots going for it. I believe it was unmercifully and unfairly savaged by the critics as much for its revolutionary queer message as for its failures as a narrative. Myra is not only a transsexual (Myra was filmed only a few years after the world's first sex-change operations made headlines) but her self-proclaimed mission is to "realign the sexes" by turning macho heterosexual boys into homosexuals - her way of saving the world from over-population. No wonder the critics ran from the theatres, covering their crotches as they fled! Myra is shrewd, witty, beautiful, talented, intelligent AND she is a woman who used to be a man - in short, she was everything that queer / transgender people were NOT supposed to be in 1970. I happen to think that Raquel Welch gave the comic performance of her (early) career in this movie. Sarne had the presence of mind to insert old film clips as a running commentary on the plot (signifying Myra's obsession with classic films) and that portion of his vision was sheer genius. The film clips work just fine, providing many of the laughs. Each time a perfectly innocent film clip was used as a commentary to the high jinks in this movie, it usually yielded an extremely funny but admittedly tasteless moment. For instance, then President Richard Nixon reportedly had the studio delete a clip showing Shirley Temple milking a goat and getting sprayed in the face with milk. What's so bad about that? Well, it's inserted in a scene where Myron is having a masturbatory fantasy that Myra is performing fellatio on him (in the movie, Myron frequently substitutes for or has conversations with Myra - to remind us that they are the same person). But so what? The tasteless sexual jokes are half the fun, and they are generally a little classier than say, Pink Flamingos.
Gore Vidal reportedly sued to have his name removed from the credits, but a good deal of his dialogue and lots of his satire is still intact. Despite all the bad things you can say about this picture, I felt that the spirit of Vidal's book runs through every frame. Farrah Fawcett is young enough to be practically unrecognizable, and the young manly hunk who plays Rusty (what ever happened to Roger Herren, anyway?) is dreamy enough to justify sitting through this curiosity. Myra / Myron is such a queer revolutionary that the film seems way before its time, and in some ways, still does. A 77 year-old Mae West had lost none of her famous timing, but the director reportedly cut about 20 minutes of her scenes. I recall reading a rumor at the time that Sarne was incensed when he overheard a studio boss's remark that Fox was banking on Mae West's name to bring in the audience, and who the hell ever heard of Michael Sarne anyway? I vividly recall a television reviewer remarking that Mae West had the only really funny lines in the picture, and that it was worth seeing for her appearance alone (she reportedly wrote her own portion of the screenplay). Her quip to the cowboy after he answers her question, "How tall are you without your horse?" is not only the funniest moment in the whole film, it's classic Mae at her best. The reported feud between Mae West and Raquel Welch made interesting items in the gossip columns of 1970, with Welch accusing West of making her own mini-movie within a movie (which is exactly what she did) and Mae retorting, "Rachel? She's a sweet thing - she has a scene or two in my picture, I believe". Mae got top billing, despite Raquel playing the lead character, which couldn't have made Raquel very happy, I'm sure.
Some of the cameos are funny in themselves just for their casting -Myron's surgeon is played by John Carradine, who counsels Myron, "Are you sure you wouldn't like circumcision? It'd be cheaper..." and Mae West's first conquest in the picture is a practically pubescent Tom Selleck. She plays an actor's agent - for men only - who auditions all of her clients on the four-poster bed in her office. Mae and Tom trade a few very funny lines - she dismisses him from her office / boudoir with the comment, "You've impressed me immensely - I'll keep you in mind as a summer replacement. NEXT!" I was a 16 year-old gay man when this movie opened, and I not only appreciated her conquest, I envied her attitude.
And Rex Reed, a leading film critic of the sixties and seventies, proved (as Myron) that no matter what kind of critic you are, it doesn't mean you can act. As far as I know, he never did another picture, unless you count his one line, two-second cameo in Superman: The Movie, eight years later. Myra Breckinridge is pure camp - wait until you see Raquel decked out as Marlene Dietrich, or Mae West singing Otis Redding's HARD TO HANDLE, flanked by a chorus line of handsome African American studs in tuxedos. Why is a talent agent singing in a nightclub? Who cares - trust me, it's pure camp. John Huston as Uncle Buck is absolutely perfect casting, and if you bother to spend a few hours reading the novel before you screen the film, the movie will make much more sense and be far more enjoyable. The scene where Myra rapes Rusty in the infirmary was, in the novel, one of the most erotic passages I have ever read in a non-pornographic novel. I loved this movie when it came out - despite its shortcomings - and I love it all the more on DVD.