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I finally got to see ‘The Oscar’ (1966) last night

It’s been called “the greatest terrible movie of all time,” but that’s a stretch.

Valley of the Dolls is a much “better” “bad” film, and on a similar theme, too.

The Oscar has its moments, but much of the dialogue “sounds” worse on paper, which is where most of us have been forced to “hear” it.

(The film has famously never been released on DVD, I suspect because the Academy regrets giving the movie a licensing imprimatur; the Oscars — now with that obligatory ® — are now one of the most protective brands on earth. That’s why today’s presenters are ordered to say “And the Oscar goes to…” instead of the old “And the winner is…”)

Decades of anticipation are bound to end in disappointment, but I’m glad I can finally say I saw it.

The Oscar features one of the movies’ few all-out psychopaths, but most of those characters are gangsters; this one is an actor, played by Stephen Boyd. It’s one of those “brilliant or lousy?” performances we used to getting from Nicholas Cage, if Nicholas Cage was a wooden robot.

Or, as someone else put it:

 One anonymous commentator wrote on “The Oscar’s” IMDb site that Boyd’s performance is what would happen “if one of the ‘Thunderbirds’ marionettes had been cast in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’

Yes, Tony Bennett is as awful as you’ve heard, but he’s trying SO damn hard, you pity him.

Harlan Ellison is only one of the three screenwriters listed, btw. (It’s been his moaning about it that’s kept the movie on cultists’ radar.)

However, I’d bet way more people had a hand in this script, given how flaky it is.

The All About Eve/The Bad and the Beautiful “older and wiser former friend” narration simply reminds you of those far superior films.

Ellison fans can amuse themselves trying to decide which lines and premises were his. Listen for some truly tortured similes about dead moths and other offbeat nouns — and as a friend of mine pointed out, there’s a lot of “glass” imagery, signifying nothing.

Worth watching just to see Jill St. John strip tease out of a tiger outfit, complete with opera gloves with claws on the fingertips.

Oh, and future game show regular Elke Sommer wears a Marriage Italian Style type negligee and still can’t get her husband to sleep with her.

And watching people get old never gets old: it remains staggering to watch old movies in which the “42-year-old” woman looks like a 60 year old of today. What were you ladies doing and thinking back then?

The interiors are hideous — Douglas Sirk with jaundice. Forgettable music (by Percy Faith!). Lots of door slamming in lieu of real drama.

Should you watch it? Yeah.

This is the kind of movie that made Easy Rider necessary, the way Emerson, Lake and Palmer did with punk.

But’s it’s no Valley of the Dolls.

“Take one from column A and two from column B, you get an egg roll either way…”

 


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