Celebrate National Trivia Day With The Actors Who Could Have Been James Bond!


 

Today is National Trivia Day so I thought why not share some trivia?  I love film trivia.  I especially love trivia about who was considered for certain films.  Hell, one of my most popular posts on the Shattered Lens dealt with all of the actors who were considered for the Godfather!

(I even came up with an alternative cast for The Godfather, even though I consider the actual film to be the best cast film in history.)

I also happen to love the James Bond films.  (Well, not so much the recent Bond films.  I’ve made my feelings on SPECTRE clear.)  As a franchise, I absolutely love them.  So, with all that in mind, here is a look at the actors who could have been Bond.  I’ve compiled this article from many sources.  And yes, you could probably just find a lot of the information on Wikipedia but then you’d miss out on my editorial commentary.

Hoagy Carmichael

Ian Fleming himself always said that his pick for Bond would have been the musician, Hoagy Carmichael.  He even made a point, in Casino Royale, of having Vesper Lynd exclaim that Bond looked like Hoagy Carmichael.  Of course, the first actor to actually play Bond was Barry Nelson in a 1954 television adaptation of Casino Royale.  Nelson is probably best remembered for playing Mr. Ullman in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Barry Nelson, the first James Bond

When Dr. No went into production in 1961, many actors were considered for the role before Sean Connery was eventually cast.  Many of them were very well-known actors and, had they been cast, Dr. No would not have been remembered as a Bond movie.  Instead, it would be remembered as a star vehicle for … well, let’s take a look at some of the better-known possibilities:

Among the famous actors who were mentioned for Bond in 1961: Cary Grant, Richard Burton, James Mason, Trevor Howard, Stanley Baker, George Baker, Jimmy Stewart, Rex Harrison, and David Niven.  (Of that list, I think Burton would have made for an interesting Bond.  If the Bond films had been made in the 1940s, Grant would have been my first choice.  Trying to imagine Jimmy Stewart as a British secret agent is … interesting.)

Once it became obvious that a star was not going to play Bond, the role was offered to Patrick McGoohan and Rod Taylor.  McGoohan had moral objections to the character.  Rod Taylor reportedly felt that the film would flop.  Steve Reeves, the American body builder who became famous for playing Hercules in Italy, was reportedly strongly considered.  At one point, director Terrence Young wanted to offer the role to Richard Johnson, who later played Dr. Menard in Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2.

Of course, the role went to Sean Connery and made Connery a huge star.  In 1967, after Connery announced that he would no longer play the world’s most famous secret agent, there was a huge and widely publicized search for his replacement.  Some of the names that were considered are intriguing.  Others are just bizarre.

Oliver Reed

To me, perhaps the most intriguing name mentioned was that of Oliver Reed.  Reed definitely would have brought a rougher edge of the role than some of the other actors considered.  However, that’s one reason why Reed wasn’t picked.  Apparently, it was felt that he did not have the right public image to play the suave Mr. Bond.

Somewhat inevitably, Michael Caine was sought out for the role.  Caine, however, refused to consider it because he had already starred in three back-to-back spy thrillers and didn’t want to get typecast.  Caine’s former roommate, Terrence Stamp, was another possibility but wanted too much control over the future direction of the Bond films.  Future Bond Timothy Dalton was considered to be too young.  Another future Bond, Roger Moore, didn’t want to give up his television career.  Eric Braeden has the right look for Bond but was German.  Rumor has it that producer Cubby Broccoli even considered Dick Van Dyke for the role, though I find that hard to believe.  An even more surprising possibility was the nobleman Lord Lucan, who was offered a screen test in 1967 and who, ten years later, would vanish after being accused of murdering his children’s nanny.

Lord Lucan

Among the actors who auditioned before George Lazenby was cast in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Michael Billington, Jeremy Brett, Peter Purves, Robert Campbell, Patrick Mower, Daniel Pilon, John Richardson, Anthony Rogers, Hans De Vries, and Peter Snow.

After the mixed reception of both Lazenby’s performance and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Lazenby was soon out as James Bond.  Even today, there’s a lot of controversy about what led to Lazenby being dismissed from the role.  Some say Lazenby demanded too much money.  Some say that Lazenby was merely used a pawn to try to get Sean Connery to return to the role.  Regardless, Lazenby only made one film as Bond.  (Of course, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has retroactively been recognized as being one of the best of the series.)

With Connery still claiming that he would never return to the role, the film’s producers went through the motions of looking for a new Bond.  Once again, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton were considered.  Connery suggested that a talk show host named Simon Dee should play the role.  An actor named Roger Green auditioned.  So did Michael Gambon, though he later said he was turned down because, in his own words, he “had tits like a woman.”  Interestingly, several Americans were mentioned.  Clint Eastwood as James Bond?  Burt Reynolds?  Adam “Batman” West? The mind boggles but their names were mentioned.

John Gavin

And interestingly enough, an American was cast.  John Gavin is best known for playing Sam Loomis in Psycho but he was also, briefly, James Bond.  After Gavin accepted he role and signed a contract, Sean Connery announced that he would be willing to return to the role.  Gavin was paid off and Connery went on to star in Diamonds are Forever.

After Diamonds, Connery left the role for a second time and, once again, Bond was recast.  This time, Roger Moore would finally accept the role.  However, before Moore was cast, several other actors were considered.  Some of the regular possibilities were mentioned again: John Gavin, Simon Oates, Timothy Dalton, and Michael Billington.  Others considered included Jon Finch, Ranulph Fiennes, Peter Laughton, and Guy Peters.  Some of those names are probably as unknown to you as they are to me but it’s intriguing to think that Guy Peters may not be a well-known name but, at one time, there was a possibility that he could suddenly become one of the biggest stars in the world.

Looking over the history of the Bond franchise, it’s interesting to see the number of times that Moore tried to leave the role, just to be talked into returning.  Every time that Moore considered quitting, a new group of actors would be considered for the role of Bond.  In 1979, when Moore said he might not return after Moonraker, Timothy Dalton, Michael Jayston, Patrick Mower (who was also considered for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), and Michael Billington were all considered as replacements.  So was Julian Glover.  Ironically, when Moore did agree to return to the role, Glover was cast as the villain in For Your Eyes Only.

David Warbeck

To me, the most intriguing actor mentioned as a replacement for Roger Moore was David Warbeck.  Warbeck was a television actor and model who subsequently had a nearly legendary film career in Italy.  Not only did he play a key role in Sergio Leone’s Duck You Sucker!, but he also starred in Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat and The Beyond.  He also appeared in the best of Italian Apocalypse Now rip-offs, The Last Hunter.  In interviews, Warbeck claimed that he was under contract to Cubby Broccoli to step into the role in case Roger Moore ever walked off the set.  The likable and rugged Warbeck would have been an interesting Bond.

In 1983, when Moore again said he might not return to the role, Michael Billington (who actually did appear in a Bond film when he played a KGB agent killed at the start of The Spy Who Loved Me) would be once more considered as a replacement.  British TV actors Lewis Collins and Ian Ogilvy were also considered for the role.  In a repeat of what happened with John Gavin in Diamonds are Forever, American actor James Brolin was actually put under contract until Moore agreed to play the role in Octopussy.

James Brolin, in a screen test for Octopussy

After A View To A Kill, Moore left the role for the final time.  Famously, future Bond Pierce Brosnan was actually cast as his replacement until the surge of interest created by his casting led to the renewal of Remington Steele, the American television show in which Brosnan was starring.  Once the show was renewed, Brosnan could no longer work the Bond films into his schedule.

Among the other names mentioned: Sean Bean, Simon MacCorkindale, Andrew Clarke, Finlay Light, Mark Greenstreet, Neil Dickson, Christopher Lambert, Mel Gibson, and Antony Hamilton.  Sam Neill was another possibility and reportedly came very close to getting the role.  Watch any of the films that Neill made when he was younger and you can definitely see hints of Bond.

Sam Neill

In the end, Timothy Dalton finally accepted the role.  Ironically, for an actor who spent 20 years being courted for the role, Dalton turned out to be a bit of a flop as Bond.  He made two movies (both of which were considered to be disappointing when compared to the previous Bond films) and then left the role.

Looking over the contemporary reviews of Dalton as Bond, one thing that comes through clearly is that a lot of people resented him for taking a role that they felt should have gone to Pierce Brosnan.  When the Bond films resumed production with Goldeneye in 1994, Brosnan finally stepped into the role.  Reportedly, if Brosnan had turned down the role, the second choice was Sean Bean.  Much like Julian Glover, Bean may have lost out on 007 but he did end up playing the villain.

Sean Bean

Among the other actors who were reportedly considered before Brosnan accepted the role: Mark Frankel, Paul McGann, Liam Neeson, Russell Crowe, and Lambert Wilson.  Ralph Fiennes, who has been M since Skyfall, was also considered.

As opposed to his predecessors, Brosnan seemed to be very comfortable with the idea of playing Bond and never threatened to leave the role.  Looking over the Bond-related articles that were published from 1995 to 2004, I found the occasional speculation about whether Rupert Everett would be the first gay James Bond or if Sharon Stone would be the first female James Bond but I found very little speculation about Brosnan actually leaving the role.  Indeed, when Brosnan officially retired as Bond in 2004, it was less his decision and more at the prodding of the franchise’s producers, who felt that the series needed to be rejuvenated with a new (and younger) actor.  After Brosnan left, the series was rebooted and Daniel Craig played the role in Casino Royale.

In the past, I’ve made it clear that Daniel Craig is hardly my favorite Bond.  I loved Skyfall (and I consider it to the 2nd best Bond film, after From Russia With Love) but, even in that case, I felt that the film succeeded despite Craig instead of because of him.  With Casino Royale, we were supposed to be seeing a young and inexperienced Bond.  That’s never come through to me, probably because Craig looked like he was nearly 50 years old when he made Casino Royale.

Among the actors who were mentioned for the role before Craig received the role: Ralph Fiennes (again), Colin Salmon, Ewan McGregor, Henry Cavill, Rupert Friend, Julian McMahon, Alex O’Laughlin, Clive Owen, Dougray Scott, and Goran Visjnic.  Dominic West, who I think would have been great in the role, reportedly ruled himself out because he heard a rumor that Brosnan would be returning to the role.

Dominic West

Daniel Craig, of course, has been talking about leaving the role ever since he was first cast.  I think Skyfall would have been a perfect movie for him to leave on.  (It would have saved the world from SPECTRE.)  However, Craig has apparently agreed to do at least one more Bond film.  Maybe two.

When Craig does leave, who will replace him?  Idris Elba, of course, is probably the most widely discussed possibility.  James Norton has also been named as a possibility.  Others that I’ve seen mentioned: Tom Hardy, Jack Huston, Aidan Turner, Tom Hiddleston, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, and Henry Cavill (again).

My personal choice?  Dominic Cooper.  He’d be an off-center Bond but I think it would still be an intriguing pick.

Dominic Cooper

Who knows what the future may hold for 007?  All I know is that I look forward to the speculation.

Happy National Trivia Day, everyone!

Halloween Havoc!: Alfred Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS (Universal 1963)


cracked rear viewer

Many years ago, back in the 80’s I believe, I spent a week on Martha’s Vineyard. It was early in the morning on a gorgeous summer day, and as my friend was still crashed from the previous evening’s debauchery, I decided to walk down to the beach and catch some rays. I strolled past a particularly marshy stretch when, out of nowhere, a seagull buzzed by my head. Then another. And another. And soon there were about ten of the nasty flying rats swooping down at me, screeching and dive-bombing toward my long-haired dome (this was back when I actually had hair!). I ducked and dodged, yelling and snapping my beach towel at the airborne devils, and ran as fast as I could away from the area, scared to death one of these buzzards was going to peck my eyeballs out! It was like something straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s 

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Lisa Watches An Oscar Nominee: Separate Tables (dir by Delbert Mann)


As some of you may know, I have been on a mission for a while now.  My goal is to see and review every single film that has been nominated for best picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  (Of course, with the 1928 nominee, The Patriot, being a lost film, that may seem like an impossible mission.  No matter!  For me, nothing is impossible.  What Lisa wants, Lisa gets.)  For that reason, I spent part of last night watching the 1958 best picture nominee, Separate Tables, on TCM.

Separate Tables is one of the more forgotten of the best picture nominees but then again, the 50s were not the greatest decade as far as the Academy was concerned.  Consider some of the other films released in 1958: Big Deal on Madonna Street, High School Confidential, Indiscreet, The Last Hurrah, Machine-Gun Kelly, The Fly, The Blob, The Horror of Dracula, The Revenge of Frankenstein, Some Came Running, Thunder Road, A Touch Of Evil, and Vertigo!  The thing they all have in common is that none of them were nominated for best picture but Separate Tables was.

That’s not to say that Separate Tables was, in any way, a bad film.  Actually, it’s a pretty good film and I’m glad that I watched it.  It’s not bad at all.  However, it is … what’s the right term to use here?  Stately perhaps?  Maybe stagey.  Separate Tables is based on two one-act plays and, though it’s obvious that some effort was made to open up the material, it still feels undeniably stage-bound.  Separate Tables was directed by Delbert Mann, who had previously won an Oscar for his lively direction of Marty.  With Separate Tables, his direction is far less lively.  Watching it, you get the feeling that he was not only straight-jacketed by the theatrical origins of the material but also by the fact that the film was clearly made to win Academy Awards.

So, ignore the direction and pay attention to the performances.  Separate Tables works best as a tribute to good acting.  The film follows the lives of several guests at an English seaside hotel.  Some people are just staying for a few days.  Some people live at the hotel.  John Malcolm (Burt Lancaster) is a moody writer, a recovering alcoholic who is planning on asking the hotel’s manager, the level-headed Pat Cooper (Wendy Hiller), to marry him.  Of course, then his ex-wife, Anne (Rita Hayworth), shows up.  As quickly becomes obvious, John and Anne may hate each other but they also love each other.  Neither one is particularly sympathetic but, in their scenes together, Lancaster and Hayworth do create a fascinating portrait of mutual self-destruction.  Ultimately, you’re left with the impression that both of them are so self-destructive that they belong together, if just to keep from drawing anyone else into their messed up orbit.

And then there’s Major Pollock (David Niven).  David Niven won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role as Major Pollock and he does give an excellent performance.  Major Pollock is one of those roles that often seems to attract comedic actors looking for a chance to prove their dramatic abilities.  When he first appears, he seems to be a bit of a joke but then, as the film progresses, we learn that he’s actually struggling with his own demons.  In the case of Major Pollock, those demons are more hinted at than defined.  As we learn at the start of the film, Pollock was convicted of “harassing” several “young women” at a movie theater.  Separate Tables does not make clear how young or, for that matter, the exact details of the harassment.  Some residents of the hotel want Major Pollock to be kicked out of the hotel.  Some residents say that it is none of their business and that everyone deserves a second chance.  John Malcolm is in the latter group, though he’s more concerned with his ex-wife than with the scandalous Major (who, to no one’s great surprise, isn’t actually a major and whose war stories have all largely been lies).  Also seeking to defend Major Pollock is the shy Sibyl (Deborah Kerr, playing against type).  Sibyl’s mother (Gladys Cooper) is among those most determined to exile Pollock.

And really, the only reason this plotline works is because of the performances of Niven and Kerr.  As written, it’s way too vague about the exact details of what it was that Pollock did.  We’re just told that he was caught “behaving immorally.”  (According to Wikipedia, Pollock was originally written as being gay but, apparently, that was considered to be too controversial for 1958, hence the mention that Pollock’s crime involved “young women.”)  But Niven gives such a soulful and wounded performance that, much like Sibyl, you want to believe the best about him.  You want to give him a second chance, even though you know he’s going to let you down.  As Major Pollock, David Niven uses his trademark charm to paint a portrait of a man who is painfully aware that he has little to offer beyond charm.

At the same time, I was surprised by how little screen time Niven actually had in Separate Tables.  The majority of the film is taken up with Lancaster and Hayworth.  Niven definitely deserved some consideration for best supporting actor but best actor?  Not in the year that saw Orson Welles in Touch of Evil and James Stewart in Vertigo.

Separate Tables is not a great film, at least not in the way that we might wish that a film nominated for best picture would be.  It’s way too stagey and vague.  But, with all that in mind, it’s still wonderfully acted and always watchable.  It may not be great but it is very, very good.

Separate Tables was nominated for best picture but lost to Gigi.

Embracing The Melodrama #12: Giant (dir by George Stevens)


Giant

Let’s continue to embrace the melodrama by taking a look at the 1956 best picture nominee, Giant.

Giant is a film about my home state of Texas.  Texas rancher Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) goes to Maryland to buy a horse and ends up returning to Texas with a bride, socialite Lesley Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor).  At first, Lesley struggles to adapt to the harsh and hot Texas landscape.  Bick’s sister, Luz (Mercedes McCambridge) takes an instant dislike to Lesley and Bick is annoyed by Lesley’s concern over the living conditions of the Mexicans that work on Bick’s ranch.  It sometimes seems like the only person who appreciates Lesley is Jett Rink (James Dean), an ambitious ranch hand who secretly loves her and who is planning on becoming a rich man.  That’s exactly what happens when oil is found on the land around Bick’s ranch.  While Bick stubbornly clings to the past, oilman Jett represents both the future of Texas and the nation.  Meanwhile, Bick and Lesley’s son (played by a very young Dennis Hopper) challenges his father’s casual bigotry when he falls in love with a Mexican girl.

Taylor and Hudson

Giant is appropriately named because it is a huge film.  Clocking in at 201 minutes, Giant tells a story that spans several decades and features a big cast that is full of familiar faces, all struggling for their chance to somehow stand out from everyone else around them.  Even the film’s wonderful panoramic shots of the empty Texas landscape only serve to remind us of how big the entire film is.  To a certain extent, the size of Giant‘s production is to be understood.  In the 1950s, Hollywood was having to compete with television and they did this by trying to make every film into a major event.  You watch a movie like Giant and you practically hear the old Hollywood moguls shouting at America, “See!?  You can’t get that on your precious TV, can you!?”

For those of us watching Giant today, the length is both a blessing and a curse.  It’s a curse because the movie really is too damn long.  The opening scenes drag and many of them really do feel superfluous.  It’s hard not to feel that the real story doesn’t really start until about 90 minutes into the movie.  And once the story really does get started,  there’s still way too much of it for it all to be crammed into one sitting.  Oddly enough, you end up feeling as if this extremely long film is still not telling you everything that you need to know.  If Giant were made today, it would probably be a two-part movie on either HBO or Lifetime and it would definitely feature a lot more sex.

However, to be honest, one of the reasons that I did enjoy Giant was because it was as big as it was.  I mean, the film is about Texas so of course it should be a little excessive!  Everything’s bigger in Texas and that includes our movies.  Add to that, Giant may be too long but it uses that length to deals with issues that are still relevant today — oil, immigration, and racial prejudice.  Rock Hudson may not have been a great actor but he is at least convincing as he transitions from bigotry to tolerance.

But really, when it comes to Giant, most people are only interested in James Dean.  And they definitely should be because Dean gives a great and compelling performance here.  Dean brings all of the emotional intensity of the method to material that one would not naturally associate with method acting and the end result is amazing to watch.  Giant was released after Dean had been killed in that infamous car wreck.  I can only imagine what it must have been like to be sitting in a theater in 1956 and to see this compelling and charismatic actor towering above the world on the big screen while aware, all the time, that his life had already been cut short and he would never been seen in another film.

James Dean

Even better, Dean’s new style of acting clashes perfectly with Hudson’s old style of acting, making the conflict between Bick and Jett feel all the more real and intense.  Much as Bick represents old Texas and Jett represents the new Texas, Hudon and Dean represented the two sides of Hollywood: the celebrity and the artist.  Needless to say, Dean wins the battle but, surprisingly, Hudson occasionally manages to hold his own.

I can’t necessarily say that Giant is an essential film.  A lot of people are going to be bored by the excessive length.  But if you’re a fan of James Dean or if you’re from Texas, Giant is a film that you need to see at least once.

elizabeth_taylor_giant_swedish_movie_poster_2a

Lisa Goes Back To College: Zabriskie Point (dir by Michelangelo Antonioni)


1970_Zabriskie Point_03

After watching Getting Straight, I decided to watch another student protest film from 1970, Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point.  Much like Otto Preminger’s Hurry Sundown, Zabriskie Point is a film that frequently gets mentioned when film bloggers are trying to list the worst films of all time.  Unlike Hurry Sundown, Zabriskie Point is not quite as terrible as some reviewers seem to think.

It’s probably a mistake to describe Zabriskie Point as being as a college film.  Only one of the main characters — Mark (played by Mark Frechette) — is a college student and he drops out early in the film.  The film’s other main character — Daria (played by Daria Halperin) — is a secretary who may (or may not) be the mistress of venal real estate developer Lee Allen (played by Rod Taylor, the sole professional actor out of the starring cast).  However, the film does start on a college campus, it deals with political protest (which was apparently the only thing happening on campuses back in 1970), and the movie’s message and style was obviously meant to appeal to campus radicals.

Mark Frechette, star of Zabriskie Point

Mark Frechette, star of Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point opens with the type of lengthy scene that will be familiar to anyone familiar with counter-culture filmmaking.  A bunch of very serious college students sit in a conference room and have a very long conversation about how to best bring about the revolution.  All of the white, middle class students argue for petitions, manifestos, and civil disobedience.  A black woman with a gigantic afro replies that all of the white students are phonies who aren’t truly committed to the revolution.  Some of the students cheer.  Some of the students boo.  The meeting goes on for an eternity and, for the most part, it served to remind me of why I could never stand hanging out with any of the student activists back at the University of North Texas.

Yet, at the same time, it’s an effective scene because it’s one of the rare moments in the film that feels authentic.  For the most part, Antonioni cast this film with nonactors.  (Though apparently — just like in Getting Straight — a young Harrison Ford can be seen in the background of some of the scenes.)  Watching the opening, I got the feeling that I was experiencing what a political gathering in the 70s was truly like.  And, by the end of it, I was happy to have been born long after the 70s were over.

The scene ends when a student named Mark announces that he’s prepared to die for the revolution and then walks out of the meeting.  Mark proceeds to drop out of school, buy a lot of guns, and set up an apartment safe house.  When he gets arrested at a protest, Mark gives his name as “Karl Marx,” which the booking officer proceeds to spell as “Carl Marx.”  Eventually, Mark ends up shooting a police officer.  (Or maybe he didn’t — the film is deliberately vague about whether Mark actually fired his gun or if the officer was shot by somebody else.)  He then steals an airplane, flies out to the desert, and meets Daria.

Mark and Daria

Mark and Daria

In the film’s most famous scene, Daria and Mark walk around the desert and talk about — well, nothing in particular.  One of the most frequent criticisms of Zabriskie Point is that neither Mark nor Daria were particularly good actors and that’s certainly true.  However, that’s only a problem if you assume that Antonioni means for you to view these characters as individuals.  As becomes clear during their desert walk, Mark and Daria are meant to be archetypes.  Mark Frechette and Daria Halperin may have been terrible actors but they had the right look and they had the right attitude.  You may not care about them as individuals but Mark and Daria work perfectly as symbols for alienation.  Mark and Daria stand in for everyone who has reached the point where they have to decide whether to join the establishment (represented by Lee Allen and the university) or whether to overthrow it.  In the scenes in the desert, Antonioni presents Mark and Daria less as being people and more as being parts of the American landscape, as permanent as the mountains that surround them.

Mark and Daria end up making love in the middle of the desert and, as they have sex, they are suddenly surrounded by hundreds of other hippie couples having sex and it all becomes one big orgy in the middle of Death Valley.  And yes, this scene is totally over-the-top, pretentious, and ludicrous but yet, how can you condemn something so gloriously silly?

Orgy in the desert

Orgy in the desert

Anyway, after the orgy, Mark and Daria paint his plane and then go their separate ways.  Mark tries to return the plane.  Daria stares at a house in the mountains and imagines it exploding over and over again.

Zabriskie Point is an interesting misfire.  Michelangelo Antonioni (who is best known for directing the classic Blow-Up) originally intended for the film to end with an airplane skywriting “Fuck you, America.”  However, MGM made him cut that from the film.  That Antonioni meant for this film to be an attack on America is pretty obvious.  Antonioni, after all, was a committed Marxist and the film goes out of its way to try to present businessman Lee Allen as being the epitome of capitalist evil.  (Unfortunately, Rod Taylor is such a likable actor that I know, if I had to make a choice between the two, I’d rather spend a day with Lee Allen than Mark Frechette).

Rod Taylor as Lee Allen

Rod Taylor as Lee Allen

However, at the same time, Antonioni appears to have been fascinated and confused by the material excesses of America as well.  In the first half of the film, as Mark walks through the small town setting, the camera lingers on the billboards that dot the landscape and, as a result, those billboards take on a beauty of their very own.  Even when Daria is walking through Lee Allen’s mansion, the camera can’t help but linger over every opulent detail, almost as if it can’t decide whether it is seeking to condemn or celebrate.  In many ways, Zabriskie Point reminded me of Lars Von Trier’s Dogville.  Both films attempts to condemn America just to end up accidentally celebrating it.

Celebrating America While Condemning It

Celebrating America While Condemning It

Zabriskie Point may not be a good film but it’s an endlessly fascinating and visually beautiful one.  If nothing else, it serves as a record of the time when it was made.  And, as such, it deserves better than to be dismissed as one of the worst.

Boom

Boom