DEMME: Speaking of you as a character, I’ve heard about Joe Dante’s new picture, and it thrills me. Is he really making a picture about you called The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes?
CORMAN: Yes. It’s a picture about me when I made The Trip, and about The Trip. That movie had all kinds of psychedelic shots in it, and we used some old kaleidoscope lenses for certain sequences, thus the title.
DEMME: It’s a brilliant title. I know that Joe is going to make an extraordinary film. Who can play you, though?
CORMAN: His first choice was Colin Firth, which I thought was a great choice, and Colin seemed to be interested, but after he won the Academy Award, his price probably went up. I don’t know who he’s going to go with now.
DEMME: My hope for this film would be that it contains a good degree of sex, some violence, a bit of nudity, and perhaps a subtle social statement.
CORMAN: I have never objected to that formula.
(Demme goes on to call The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967) “one of the best gangster movies every made,” which is just bizarre. I talked about how bad it is here.)
Anyhow, The Trip (1967).
I’ve never taken psychedelics because I’ve never needed to. What goes on “naturally” inside my head is, er, colorful enough.
And I hate hippies. So I’ve never watched this movie and can only imagine doing so to make fun of it.
I’ll probably still watch this new Joe Dante one though, out of curiosity.
Speaking of Roger Corman, TCM is airing The Terror (1963) tonight at 3:45 am ET, another of Corman’s collaborations with Jack Nicholson:
Yet take away its Gothic blandishments and Freudian curlicues and The Terror is very much a detective story, with Duvalier knocking down doors like a born gumshoe as he trails the elusive Helene through a grapevine of interested but less than candid parties. “I’ll ask the questions,” Duvalier informs shifty family retainer Stefan (Corman regular Dick Miller), who of course knows more than he lets on about past events that have shaped the present mystery.
With his insatiable curiosity and disdain for liars, Duvalier is an obvious predecessor to Jake Gittes, the shady but resolute private dick Nicholson played so indelibly in Chinatown and somewhat less indelibly in its belated follow-up, The Two Jakes (1990).
As the mendacious Baron von Leppe, Boris Karloff could be seen as a pencil study for the hateful Noah Cross character played by John Huston in Chinatown; both films have protagonist and antagonist locking antlers over a table of food.
Chinatown’s incest-driven “She’s my sister/She’s my daughter” dialectic is anticipated here by Sandra Knight’s dual-natured Helene/Ilsa; both films share a water motif as well as a downbeat ending that finds their detective heroes unable, for all their savvy, to save the women they have come to love.
That the much-lauded Chinatown might possibly have been informed in some small way by Corman’s “super quickie” (to quote British critic Alan Frank) is not so far fetched. Chinatown scenarist Robert Towne had written (and appeared) in Corman’s The Last Woman on Earth (1960) and provided the script for Corman’s masterful The Tomb of Ligeia (1964) a decade earlier.
Finally, it’s worth noting that, when producer Robert Evans and director Roman Polanski read Towne’s first draft for Chinatown, they both considered the script — you guessed it — incomprehensible.