Friday, December 19, 2014

Flap (1970)



It’s hard to imagine how or why the venerable British director Carol Reed became involved with this tone-deaf project, which on the one hand espouses a progressive political platform regarding the mistreatment of Native Americans, but on the other hand insults the very people it’s about by casting most of the principal roles with non-Indians. Reed was a versatile talent whose filmography spans the film-noir classic The Third Man (1949) to the Oscar-winning Dickensian musical Oliver! (1968), so it’s a gross understatement to say this picture exists outside his comfort zone. Similarly, the three main actors (Anthony Quinn, Tony Bill, and Claude Akins) are wildly, even offensively, miscast. The serviceable story concerns modern-day reservation Indians living in the American southwest and protesting the endless encroachment of the U.S. government onto tribal lands. Quinn stars as Flapping Eagle (“Flap” for short), de facto leader of a group of drunken misfits that also includes Eleven Snowflake (Bill) and Lobo Jackson (Akins). After being hassled by a local sheriff, the latest in a long series of racially charged incidents, Flap gets pissed (in both the American and British senses of the word) and starts a fight with construction workers that climaxes with an industrial vehicle getting driven off a cliff. Whereas Flap’s peers are inclined to take the heat for the demolished vehicle, even straining tribal funds to pay for damages, Flap transforms the event into the first spark of a revolution. He leads his borderline-inept accomplices through a series of crimes including the theft of an entire train. Had the picture stuck to the main storyline of Flap’s political activism, it might have been tolerable, even with the ridiculous casting. Alas, the filmmakers fumble with a subplot about Flap’s romance with a blowsy prostitute (Shelley Winters); the screechiness of the Quinn-Winters scenes, some of which include goofy hallucinations, is painful to endure. Adding to the film’s dissonance is a grating score by Marvin Hamlisch, which tries to be comical and folksy but also integrates pointless electronic beeps and whoops. Worst of all, the makers of Flap strive for a Big Statement with the tragic finale, thereby adding undeserved grandiosity to the list of the picture’s unseemly attributes.

Flap: LAME

1 comment:

Surge Cess said...

I love this film and that review was painful to read.