Maidstone and Other Films by Norman Mailer [Criterion Collection] [2 Discs] [DVD]

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, literary enfant terrible Norman Mailer shocked the film world when he decided to step behind the camera for three experimental motion pictures, with technical assistance from cinema vérité pioneers Richard Leacock and D.A. Pennebaker. Though long commercially unreleased on video, all three of the Mailer features appear back-to-back in this box set from The Criterion Collection's Eclipse series. Wild 90 (1967) stars Mailer himself, Mickey Knox and Buzz Farber as a cadre of gangsters holed up in a New York City apartment, where they spend the entire movie boozing, brawling, and arguing. Beyond the Law (1968) is a far more conventional cop drama starring Mailer, Rip Torn and others as Irish cops and set in a New York police station and a nearby bar. Finally, Maidstone (1970) stars the
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Overview

Synopsis

Maidstone
The third (and last) of author Norman Mailer's experiments in cinéma vérité filmmaking created between 1968 and 1970, Maidstone stars Mailer as Norman T. Kingsley, a celebrated filmmaker who is often described as "the American Buñuel." Kingsley and a large retinue of friends, actors, and colleagues have descended on his estate in Upstate New York to work on his latest project, a sexually provocative drama. At the same time, Kingsley is planning to launch a campaign for president, and he's visited by a large number of guests eager to discuss his political perspectives, including journalists, academics, and a handful of African-American radicals. Also on hand is Kingsley's ever-present posse of hangers-on nicknamed "the cash box," led by his half-brother Raoul (Rip Torn). As a British television reporter records the proceedings for an upcoming profile, a shadowy group of American intelligence agents questions if the nation might be better off without the possibility of a Kingsley candidacy. In the film's final reels, Mailer and his cast and crew drop their collective improvisation and discuss their work so far before the camera, but Torn takes it upon himself to give the film the ending he feels it needs by attacking Mailer with a hammer. Fascinating if only for its remarkable portrait of Mailer's legendary ego in full flight, Maidstone would be the writer's last stab at filmmaking until he was hired to direct a film adaptation of his novel Tough Guys Don't Dance in 1987. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Wild 90
This improvisational film is the first effort by author Norman Mailer. Wild 90 refers to the length of this talkative exposé wherein three mobsters are the only remnants of a once-powerful gang of crooks. The Prince (Mailer) and his two cohorts Cameo (Buzz Farber) and 20 Years (Mickey Knox) are holed up in a Brooklyn warehouse hiding out from the police. They are visited by Kid Cha Cha (ex-prize fighter Jose Torres) and a police Lieutenant (magazine publisher Dick Adler). Mailer does an excellent job of acting, adding non-acting friends from real life to give the film an art-house flavor. In between the inactivity are some genuinely comedic passages and dialogue. Mailer, as do many independent filmmakers, owes a debt of gratitude to John Cassavetes who pioneered this style of film. Mailer, Farber and Knox would often spend time in local New York coffee shops where they would pretend to be gangsters, hence the idea for the story and film. ~ Dan Pavlides, Rovi

Beyond the Law
Author Norman Mailer's sporadic ventures into filmmaking are usually pretty bad, but never without interest. Beyond the Law co-stars Mailer and several of his cronies, including fellow-author George Plimpton and actor Rip Torn. Also in the cast is Beverly Bentley, the onetime Mrs. Mailer. Set in a New York police precinct house, the improvised plotline concerns illicit gambling, motorcycle bums and corrupt city officials. The stilted, self-conscious performances of the cast indicate that Mailer might have been better off with a real script. Only Rip Torn looks as though he's playing a character rather than playing an actor playing a character. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Norman Mailer
    Norman Mailer - Kingsley
  • Rip Torn
    Rip Torn - Raoul Rey O'Houlihan
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    Beverly Bentley - Chula Mae
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    Leo Garen - Producer
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    Ultra Violet - Herself
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