Friday, March 25, 2011
Movies lost and found: THE PYRAMID (1975)
THE PYRAMID is a lost curio of 1970s regional independent cinema. Released in 1975 in Texas before being pulled from theatres over a dispute with the distributor, the film was shelved for over 30 years until a recent DVD release via Kent's website (garywarnerkent.com) has made it available.
It's a prime example of the Me Decade and the growing interest of existentialism and self-exploration during the angry and violent sociopolitical climate in America. The dialogue certainly reflects this: "Christ was a Capricorn and so is Nixon. Now how in the hell do you figure that?" The film is an ambitious and at times meandering docudrama that explores television news and it's exploitative tactics.
The main character is Chris Lowe (Charlie Brown) a disenfranchised TV news cameraman who along with his reporter buddy known as L.A. Ray (Ira Hawkins) trek out on the street with their mic and camera and cover everything from a whiny movie actress promoting a movie to a fatal inner city shootout between young offenders. Sick and tired of cynical news, Chris defies his boss and takes his camera out to record positive human interest stories. His superior wants nothing of it and eventually fires him. This doesn't stop him from hanging onto his camera and filming documentaries of his subjects which act as a counterpoint to the strife and bloodshed that dominate the local news. He meets a sexy primal therapist (Tomi Barrett) who opens his eyes to conciousness raising and self help therapy...remember primal screaming?
THE PYRAMID was written and directed by Gary Kent, a stuntman and actor on various low budget exploitation pictures. His film wants to cover the many bases of the 1970s zeitgeist: news media, street violence, politics, depression, self help therapy. It wants to tackle so much that it seems to lose focus at times although never becoming unengaging. It's also very dated but it made me consider how this film would work if made (or re-made) today. No doubt the character of Chris would be even more outraged and resigned in the age of incendiary 24 hour cable news and internet blogging like The Huffington Post. The Pyramid does retain a certain relevance in terms of cynicism in news broadcasting and the hopelessness people feel in the face of a world going down the tubes. Comparisons can be made to films like MEDIUM COOL (1969) and NETWORK (1976). A devastating scene involving an on camera suicide conjures up thoughts of the real life televised suicide of local TV host Christine Chubbuck a year before THE PYRAMID was released. A bus crash involving young children, which Chris lingers over with his 16mm camera, is also jarring and it displays Kent's master of stunt coordinating.
With it's Age of Aquarius style new age idealism, it's a rather hippy dippy affair but as a very modest lost indie, it does paint a illuminating portrait of the turbulent 70s and it contains some genuine performances.
**Footnote: A podcast interview with Gary Kent will be streaming on this blog very soon!