Insomnia File No. 54: Jud (dir by Gunther Collins)

What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable or Netflix? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If you were having trouble getting to sleep last night, you could have gone over to YouTube and you could have watched the the 1971 film, Jud.

In fact, looking the film up on YouTube might very well be the only way that you could have watched JudJud is one of those obscure, 70s indie films that has apparently never gotten a proper video release in the United States.  The version that’s been uploaded to YouTube was taken from a Chinese VHS tape.  It had Chinese subtitles and the image was pretty grainy.  There was a point where, for three minutes, the image froze and only the audio could be heard.  In other words, it’s not the ideal way to watch any movie but, with Jud, that’s probably the best that anyone could hope for.

As for what Jud is about, it’s about a man named …. well, Jud.  Played by an appealing actor named Joseph Kaufmann, Jud has just returned to the United States from serving in Vietnam.  His uncle arranges for Jud to live at a rooming house, one that is full of the usual indie film eccentrics.  Jud doesn’t want to talk about what he saw in Vietnam and no one seems to want to talk to him about it.  But perhaps someone should because Jud is still haunted by flashbacks and nightmares, making this one of the first films to attempt to sympathetically deal with PTSD.  Jud just wants to get on with his life but, after everything he’s seen, he feels out of place in the civilian world.  A one night stand with a friendly hippy (played by future B-movie queen Claudia Jennings) leads to nowhere.  A fight in a diner leads to a police chase.  The only person who is interested in Jud’s story is Bill (played, quite well, by Robert Denman), whose status as a closeted gay man in the early 70s has taught him something about alienation.

Jud is an uneven film.  There are moments of real insight but there also moments where the film itself gets a bit too heavy-handed for its own good.  A lengthy scene where the viewer is subjected to close-ups of Jud’s roommates eating seems to go on forever.  (Anti-war films of the 70s always seemed to feature close-ups of old people eating for some reason.  I guess it was meant to be a commentary on American gluttony but it always feels more like lazy symbolism.)  Especially when compared to other films of the period, Jud deserves credit for portraying Bill sympathetically but it’s still hard not to feel that the character’s ultimate fate is a cliché.

That said, Joseph Kaufmann gives a good performance as Jud and wisely underplays the scenes that would lead a lesser actor to overact.  (Sadly, Kaufmann died in a plane crash, just two years after the release of Jud, at the age of 29.)  Despite featuring a bit more folk music that I would normally listen to, the film has a great soundtrack and, even more importantly, the songs fit well with the action.  (If nothing else, the lyrics help to share what Jud is feeling but can’t quite articulate.)  Finally, for a history nerd like me, Jud is interesting because it serves as a time capsule.  This low-budget, indie film was shot on the streets of L.A. in the early 70s and it has a bit of documentary feel to it.  Until someone invents a time machine and people get the ability to visit the past in person, films like Jud will do.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed
  39. Disclosure
  40. The Spanish Prisoner
  41. Elektra
  42. Revenge
  43. Legend
  44. Cat Run
  45. The Pyramid
  46. Enter the Ninja
  47. Downhill
  48. Malice
  49. Mystery Date
  50. Zola
  51. Ira & Abby
  52. The Next Karate Kid
  53. A Nightmare on Drug Street

5 responses to “Insomnia File No. 54: Jud (dir by Gunther Collins)

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