A GUIDE TO THE FILMAGE OF RICHARD MELTZER
A writer and novelist, a former rock critic, a singer and musician, an artist (teenaged participant in Alan Kaprow happenings!), radio personality, raconteur and toastmaster...Richard Meltzer has been all these things and more. And when I say "more" I mean MORE, since if anything Richard Meltzer is "thee" renaissance man for these times, the "new gulcher"'s very own Georgie Jessel if I must say so myself. However, how many of us know of Richard Meltzer the filmmaker??? After all, the man's done more in his sixty years than the entire blogosphere could cook up in a century true, but the mere fact that Richard Meltzer also dabbled in the once-hip world of "underground films" certainly went past the beanies of many a biographer of the man, myself included. That is, until I happened upon a copy of the FILM-MAKERS' COOPERATIVE CATALOGUE NO. 5, a huge hunkoid listing of a variety of avant-garde and/or just plain underground films that you could get directly from famed indie filmmaker Jonas Mekas for some rather stiff for the time rental fees. And amidst the usual array of well-known filmage by well-known underground directors (Kenneth Anger, Stan Brackhage...) and a variety of cinematic studies on onanism (more'n I could count on one hairy-palmed hand) comes what else but a listing of beyond-fractured flickers created by none other than Our Hero, complete with his own descriptive rundowns on what you're in store for if you'd only plunk down the $10-$100 so's you and your friends could watch 'em in the privacy of your clubhouse. But what do you get once you open the package and slap the kodachrome onto your projector?
Well, thankfully Meltzer's descriptive annotations gives you the viewer a taste of what is in store, and if you're brave enough why don't you just start off with his three-and-a-half-hour epic BOGUS BOXING TRASH (Std. 8 mm, B&W/Color. Silent, 16 FPS):
"It's silent, sure, but only until you enter the picture. It's so exciting you'll be doing the yelling yourself. All the thrills and chills of the sport of boxing, legalized human butchery as old as time itself. See one and you'll want them all, but you can sample it piece by piece."
And sample it you can, because the film is also available in seven-count-'em-SEVEN parts, each again w/their nice li'l descriptions provided by the director himself. As for a taste of what's in store, here's Meltzer's own take on PART ONE (Std. 8 mm. 36 min. B&W/Color. Silent 16 FPS):
"All the savage glory of the Olympics, including George Foreman's now famous flag ceremony; two females having at each other (we don't approve of the fairer sex fighting but its here in all its raw torrid brutality); Sandy Saddler vs. Carlos Ortiz in a battle of ex-champs; George Chuvalo's awesome knockout of Dante Cane, all-time mauler Sonny Liston KO'ing Roger Rischer; Bob Foster's crushing KO of Biafran Dick Tiger; man vs. dog (who will win?) and man vs. woman!"
At first reading, the above may seem like a quickie clip-together of various fight reels being passed off as some sort of post-Brackhage/Warhol minimalism, only as you read further and read into Meltzer's prose (a difficult task for acolytes) you kinda get the idea that there may be more written here than what possibly could have ever been captured on kodachrome. The man vs. dog clip surely seems suspicious (I dunno about man vs. woman since these were the days of the libbers who were trying to prove they were equal or even superior to men, so's maybe there was a feminist boxing match put on somewhere done in the spirit of the Billy Jean King/Bobby Riggs tennis match of the mid-seventies!)...I know that such a matchup in the wrestling arena would not have been so surprising since I once saw a card advertised featuring man vs. BEAR, though they had ol' Yogi muzzled so's as long as his claws didn't come out I couldn't see no harm done! However, was this bit of boxing esoterica (as well as the moniker Biafran Dick Tiger) part of the same fevered imagination of Meltzer that had him writing about a spurious three-part episode of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND where Thurston Howell III lectured the castaways about the workings of the lung???
But as you'd guess things do get even fishier as you continue reading the descriptive passages. By PART 4 Std. 8mm 33 min. B&W/Color Silent 16 FPS) we get to see this stellar array:
"Featuring Keenan Wynn, Shelly Winters, Cagney, and Keye Luke. Boxing is lots of punches, film is lots of frames, here's a fragmentation of both you won't wanna miss. If you thought Brackhage was something, you'll laugh up your sleeve at the old gopher when you see this one. There's one patch in full color, it's quick and you'll have to catch it (starring David Roter), and a boxing sequences with Janis Joplin."
As you may guess, things are now getting into the thick of lovable Meltzerian absurdity! As on more than one occasion throughout his career, Meltzer drop-names one of his close friends and confidants (David Roter, a person whom one analyst mused to me didn't even exist despite the wide-ranging accounts of live performances either as a solo or w/band, recorded output and even a letter to me from the man in question!), and as for the Joplin thing, where did they get footage of her engaged in fisticuffs? On the steps of the Fillmore battling Bill Graham???? (Doubt it, because he woulda been billed as well!)
The weirdness continues; PART 5 (Std. 8 mm. 36 min. B&W/Color Silent 16 FPS):
"See boxing robots knock each other's heads off! Also, violent premarital combat in a suburban cage between spouses to be, animals trained to fight other animals to the finish, and a pair of boxers actually taking over the stage at the Cafe Au Go-Go! As an added treat, a girl just out of the hospital (hair ball removed from her uterus) boxes her life away."
And PART 6 (Std. 8mm. 39 min. B&W/Color Silent 16 FPS):
"Slambang action as the one and only Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) throws his wits and fists against William Buckley in Ali's first film since REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT. And, for the theatrically inclined, there's James Earl Jones too, in his gutsy portrayal of the late great Jack Johnson, all-time heavyweight great. Your projectionist may be in for a surprise with this one!"
I think more people'n the projectionist will be surprised with these flickers, and I'll forego listing Meltzer's annotation for the final installment of this pugilistic romp because it ain't as whacked out as the others, and probably would ruin any sorta filmic continuity I'm trying to lay down on you. Still, BOGUS BOXING TRASH did garner one interesting remark from a Marcus Thil (who may or may not be yet another Meltzer nom-de-plume), who said it was "a spatio-temporal bonanza, rectangles and rectangles, and clocks and time, motion and stoppage, and life and death." Whew, who needs Tarantino with that???
But if you're still hankering for more of Meltzer's cinematic wonder, there's another film available from the Coop that might have helped quench your dadaist thirst, mainly AGES 9 TO 12 (Std. 8mm. 18 min. B&W/Color Silent 16 fps.):
"That's the reading age, it's a reading film of film credits from moves shown on TV (there hasn't been a movie in 65 yrs which lived up to the credits which preceded it). Such names are featured as George Raft, Joan Bennett, Lew Ayers (in HOLD 'EM NAVY), Anna Magnani (that Italian hot potato), W.C. Fields (in the one with the talking dog), Robert Young, Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Dick Powell and Rhonda Fleming. Bela Lugosi is in there somewhere too."
STILL looking for more Meltzer? Well, this film by Lar Tusb (pseud.) entitled JOE COCKER LIVE (Std. 8mm. 4 min. Silent 16 FPS) may be helpful:
"An exhibition baseball game featuring Joe and Les, the first major singer in the Soft White Underbelly after Jeff Richards and Jack Sprat; Les's sister is one great broad and she's wearing her lipstick in this one."-L.T.
That one's a relative cheapie which could have been rented for a mere four smackers!
By the way, in case you're interested in the whys and wherefores of the above snap of Meltzer (taken by onetime galpal of quite a spell in fact, Roni Hoffman), he is seen here kissing none other than "Betty," Nick Tosches' rubber face named so because of its resemblance to Tosches' first wife who as you'd guess had the same name. Strangely enough, after Betty's face became cracked (we're not talking about the ex-wife here!), her reservoir was filled with ball bearings or nuts or something like that and she was converted into a blackjack for those walks through tough neighborhoods. The above pic comes courtesy of Eddie Flowers at Slippytown, who urges you to go to his sight and buybuyBUY up as many things as you can, including some must-have items you can read about even on this very blog! Do as Eddie says since he needs your money more than you do, and so do I for that matter!