Rage Against The VHS Machine

  • videoarchives
  • December 20, 2022

Don’t get mad, get even on the Video Archives Podcast! George C. Scott declares war on a corrupt system in 1972’s accurately named Rage, and Quentin Tarantino & Roger Avary are right there with him, before boarding a casket to space for the death-obsessed comedy The Loved One. Then, they return to earth to sing a song for a little sparrow with the Western rarity Cry For Me Billy. I’ve got VHS covers (and LaserDisc covers!) in today’s Counter Talk, so let’s get into it…

Rage, a devastating Revengeamatic inspired by a true government catastrophe and cover-up, is the great actor George C. Scott’s theatrical directorial debut. (He would go on to direct one more film, The Savage Is Loose, before folding up his director’s chair.) The movie establishes Scott as a unique visual stylist, but he also gives himself a perfect showcase for his emotional range as an actor, here channeled into expressive, simmering…well, rage.

It got me thinking: what is the best directorial debut by an established actor? (Other than Citizen Kane, of course.) As I dug into this question, I realized this category includes plenty of all-time classics, from Night Of The Hunter to Get Out. While it’s not in that lofty echelon, I’ll shout out Throw Momma From The Train as a personal fave that kicked off the underrated directorial career of Danny DeVito. What’s your favorite?

The cover of the Rage VHS box is a high-contrast, fiery image of George C. Scott, screaming as he prepares to bludgeon you with his gun. It lives up to the title!

Rage turned out to be a perfect “Roger” movie (as Quentin predicted), but Tony Richardson’s The Loved One has long been one of Roger’s favorites, from a filmmaker with simpatico sensibilities. Richardson worked in a wide variety of styles, from kitchen sink realism to broad comedy; he preferred to shoot on location in real environments instead of on a soundstage. He wasn’t a meticulous planner, but lived to capture lightning in a bottle, and the spontaneous serendipitous moments that arise in the filmmaking process. The Loved One, the freewheeling follow-up to his hit Tom Jones, has plenty of these.

Roger brought his LaserDisc of The Loved One to the taping, signed by none other than Paul Williams! (The singer-songwriter, not the director.)

An under-appreciated aspect of LaserDisc packaging: gorgeous gatefold spreads like these. (I also miss the ability to skip through films by chapters.)

RIP to the brilliant Robert Morse, who I discovered as Bert on Mad Men, but stars here fresh off his legendary Broadway run in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. He passed away shortly after recording this episode. Here he is looking very naughty!

Both the VHS and LaserDisc take care to remind you Leonard Maltin called this film “howlingly funny”:

Roger even brought in his Evelyn Waugh paperbacks and his Loved One DVD, which features my favorite out of all of these covers. It includes not only the coffin rocket, but the detail that the rocket has been lit by Anjanette Comer’s torch, who in turn is being tattooed with the word ‘Mother’ by Rod Steiger’s whimsical Mr. Joyboy.

This week’s final film, Cry For Me Billy (also known as “Count Your Bullets”), is quite hard to track down. The first film ever made for the short lived Brut Productions (yes, like the cologne – both were owned by Fabergé cosmetics), it barely registered at the box office, and never got a US DVD release or found a streaming home. If you’re lucky enough to live near the New Beverly, you owe it to yourself to catch the rare screening of this classically cynical 70s Western later this month.

The Video Archives collection includes a Media Home Video release of Cry For Me Billy, featuring a stark close up of Cliff Potts and his wife, Maria ‘Xochitl’ Potts.

This was Maria Potts’ only film role. The name Xochitl was a stage name, meant to give her an air of intrigue, and disguise her relationship to Cliff. The original press kit for Cry For Me Billy described her as "One part Aztec, three parts mystery” - the first half of that is questionable, but she’s certainly a mystery as far as the Internet is concerned, where there’s almost no information about her career after this film.

I’ll have more to say about Cry For Me Billy in next week’s newsletter, because it’s getting a special focus in the After Show…for now, I’ll sign off with a Video Archives merch spotlight. Here’s listener Julia outside a bagel shop in Manhattan Beach - wait a second, that’s no ordinary bagel shop, that’s the former location of the Video Archives store!

She writes “Julia Lipkin is a local to the South Bay Area and is an independent filmmaker and actress. Julia just recently got to film an episode of her comedy series that’s coming out soon, “Very Short. shorts” here at Manhattan Bread & Bagel (what used to be Video Archives) Small world! Feel free to check out clips to the pilot episode on YouTube!”

That wraps it up for this week – until next time, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, rate and review us on Apple and Amazon, and I’ll be back next week for the After Show!