Monday, July 28, 2008

The Happening (1967)

This one is mostly for the benefit of a few old friends who may have an interest in vintage Floridiana. I basically took the first 30 minutes of this film and put it up on YouTube in 5 little chunks. It's a wacky hippy comedy that turns more poignant as it goes on, but my primary interest in it is the location footage of 1967 Miami.

After the colorful credit sequence, the film opens on a camp of young vagrants living in the pine woods (I can't tell if this is actual location footage or if it's shot on a backlot, but it looks pretty authentic). When the police raid the camp, a small group escape on a stolen boat, giving us a glimpse of the Florida waterways and beachside condominiums. The group includes Sureshot (Michael Parks, the actor that plays the Texas lawman who keeps showing up in Tarantino and Rodriguez's movies), Sandy (a smokin' young Faye Dunaway in possibly her first film role), the quiet Herby (Robert Walker, Jr.), and Taurus (George Maharis), a character who seems to have watched Breathless a few times two many.

EDIT: Jason adds: "I think the hippie forest scene was probably filmed in Pine Tree Park. The main characters run out to the boat, which is moored in Indian Creek that runs through Miami Beach, and you can see the Fontainebleu hotel on the other side of the creek when they take off."

OK, this second part has a really great scene: cruising down a canal, the boat is attacked by kids playing war games. These kids have an amazing set up! In the description of the video, I joked that Coppola had ripped this scene off for Apocalypse Now, and I'm not sure that I'm joking. Anyway, somehow the hippies end up kidnapping gangster Roc Delmonico (Anthony Quinn).

In part 3, they get into a traffic jam and an altercation with a cop. Michael Parks really goes off the leash here, and seems to be auditioning to replace Mickey Dolenz.

In part 4, they end up in an abandoned, old mansion surrounded by palmetto bushes and Florida pines. More wackiness from the gang.

In the final part, they lead the police on a high-speed chase, and you get a good glimpse of old bridges, fishing spots and a lighthouse.


I do hope this film eventually finds its way to DVD. As silly as the tone is, Anthony Quinn actually gives a good performance as the film goes on. The twist is that nobody will put up the money for his ransome, so he ends up taking over the operation from the kids, blackmailing everyone he knows to come up with the money. It's a surprisingly dark and resonant comedy for something with such silliness going on.


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