But so what? Mix me a redhead and tell me what you got that’s any better?
A few updates on yesterday’s post, helping spread the word about THE WOMAN CHASER (1999) going online starting May 1st. As you may know, I’m a huge fan of Charles Willeford, whose novels redefined noir fiction starting in the late fifties and early sixties. The Robinson Devor-directed adaptation of Willeford’s 1960 novel, “The Woman Chaser,” starring Patrick Warburton, goes online soon for your streaming pleasure, first to I-Tunes and Amazon May 1st, following with Netflix and Hulu in June 2014.
Here’s the official blurb:
Ex-used car salesman and filmmaker Richard Hudson burned down Mammoth Studios for butchering his masterpiece, “The Man Who Got Away.” Paroled after 14 years in prison, Hudson is still unrepentant
Watch the interview here:
The website is now live, with a team of busy digital ex-used car salesman elves working on tuneups, new additions and unbelievable deals: Visit: WomanChasertheMovie.com .
I know I mentioned writing about Willeford and The Woman Chaser for New York Times in 2000. In case you missed that little self-promoting item, here’s a blown-up version of the article, but it’s much easier to read online.
Brent Simon, at shareddarkness.com wrote of The Woman Chaser’s “cool, offbeat elegy for old school noir… a time warp Get Shorty with the experimental ethos of a student film and the studied composition of a [loving] homage.”
Jeffrey M. Anderson, writing at combustiblecelluloid.com, wrote that “The Woman Chaser is a very off-kilter picture, and it’s bound to throw viewers for a loop.” Now, the uninitiated might see a line like that and assume it’s a negative assessment, but if your reading experiences include, for example, The Shark Infested Custard, The Way We Die Now, or maybe Kiss Your Ass Good-Bye, … and let’s throw in The Black Mass of Brother Springer, you’ll probably have a knowing smile on your face.
Michael Dequina at themoviereport.com wrote that Devor’s film version was “cool, offbeat elegy for old school noir… a time warp Get Shorty with the experimental ethos of a student film and the studied composition of a [loving] homage.” Dig it. Michael must be feeling vindicated at the news that Scott Frank, who adapted Elmore Leonard’s Get Shorty as well as Out of Sight, is the screenwriter for the FX pilot Hoke, based on Charles Willeford’s great Miami homicide detective series, which was last brilliantly adapted in Miami Blues, and three other fine sequels will be source material if the series is picked up.
Mere Bertrand at filmthreat.com wasn’t totally blown away by The Woman Chaser, but despite the caveats, he gave a rating of 4 out of 5, which ain’t bad. Would Richard Hudson would burn down their website for not giving it a 5? Probably not. Again, from the context of the review, I don’t think Bertrand is familiar with the Willeford oeuvre. He compares Richard Hudson to Puddy, the role trademarked by Patrick Warburton on Seinfeld… as if Warburton had written Willeford’s novel. If you’re steeped in Seinfeld but haven’t read many Willeford novels, I suppose this short sightedness is understandable. Bertrand does, however, recommend the film, as we see in his conclusion:
By essentially reprising his TV role in a nastier form here, Warburton runs the risk of being permanently known for this one character. Lucky for him and, in the case of “The Woman Chaser,” lucky for us as well that he plays this humorously loathsome character so well.
Interestingly, the best reviews for The Woman Chaser seem to have been from California bloggers. Check out ex-San Diego writer Scott Renshaw, whose main gig is writing for the Salt Lake City Weekly, and he gave TWC an 8 out of 10 in a fab review. Sample quote:
THE WOMAN CHASER is different in all the right ways. It’s energetic and imaginative where other parodies are too often limp and witless. It skewers the ego of film-makers, but never loses its love for film-making. It even pokes fun at film noir without resorting to predictable gags. THE WOMAN CHASER is a surprise in every positive sense of the word, because really, it shouldn’t work.
Peter Stack at the San Francisco Chronicle also loved TWC. “THE WOMAN CHASER – A SWING AND A HIT–SWANK HOLLYWOOD SPOOF HAS A PULP FEEL” opens by calling it a “black comedy” and
“The Woman Chaser” is a teasy, cogent and funny noir spoof of dime novels and 1960s Hollywood. The title role is played with inspired swagger by Patrick Warburton, the handsome lug famed as Elaine’s thick boyfriend, Puddy, on “Seinfeld.”
Indie writer-director Robinson Devor, in his feature debut, creates a retro Hollywood of cocktail lounges, gimlet glasses and finned Caddies with confident style, capturing L.A. in a crisp mix of surreal and real. The landmark Capitol Records building — designed to look like a stack of vinyl records on a turntable — is a well-used part of the backdrop.
Based on a pulp novel by Charles Willeford (“Miami Blues”), Devor’s script is a clever satire that tells the mean story of a used-car salesman driven by mad inspiration to become a moviemaker, a character whose pimpish savvy is powered by a hopelessly dangerous blend of ego and cluelessness.
A standout scene — maybe a classic — features the bearish Warburton, half naked, dancing balletically with his ex-dancer mother (Lynette Bennett). “The Woman Chaser” is funny but edgy, too. Warburton’s obsessed salesman, Richard Hudson, is perversely charming. His main gig in life is self-aggrandizement. Trysts with a secretary, his virginal stepsister and a Salvation Army worker have no emotional impact on him — he’s fired up only by his quest to become an artist.
The car salesman’s bravado, deadpan delivery and bordering-on-psycho emotional makeup make for a strangely compelling character. Hudson turns over his business to oddball flunkies in order to chase his dream of making a film titled “The Man That Got Away,” about a trucker who runs over a little girl and her dog.
In a world strewn with the sort of amusing misfits who were staples of precorporate Hollywood, the salesman enlists the backing of his mother’s husband — a failed movie director — and lands a deal with a steely studio mogul. Ultimately, there’s a showdown over artistic freedom that costs “The Woman Chaser” some of its edge. But that’s a mere quibble with a film that’s so much fun.– Advisory: This film contains strong language and graphic sex.
At Village Voice, Amy Taubin really hits the film critic mainline (as in the Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray”), referring to Willeford’s style as “psychopulp” and stating that, “At various times, The Woman Chaser suggests Ben Hecht’s The Spectre of the Rose, a Curtis Harrington mood piece, and various underground flicks from Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detourto Irving Lerner’s Murder by Contract…” I like Taubin’s style, and recommend reading the entirety of her fine review.
The Woman Chaser has a Get Shorty-like bemusement at the silliness of the entertainment industry. It’s also bolstered by a remarkably effective film noir-ish atmosphere. In addition to being presented in black-and-white, the movie features an eclectic selection of 50’s-era music that’s both eclectic and refreshing. None of these fascinating tunes (played by everybody from Dave Brubeck to Tito Puente) ever plays on oldies radio stations, and they fit the eerie visuals perfectly. The supporting cast also look right at home in the Eisenhower Era surroundings. The actors, some of whom are non-professionals, look nothing like the ones who usually populate Hollywood flicks. Most have a 50s-style paunch that most contemporary filmmakers seem to ignore.