Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Yin and the Yang of Mr. Go (1970)

          A batshit-crazy conspiracy thriller that’s also a character drama and a broad comedy and a political drama and a travelogue—and probably several other incompatible things—The Yin and the Yang of Mr. Go is about as much of a mess as you’ll ever encounter in the realm of movies involving brand-name Hollywood talent. The only theatrical feature that famed actor Burgess Meredith directed alone, this head-scratcher stars Broderick Crawford, Jack MacGowran, James Mason, and, in his first big-screen role, Jeff Bridges. Naturally, Meredith plays a part, as well. He and Mason portray Asians, complete with stereotypical makeup. Bridges plays a draft-dodger/wannabe playwright descended from James Joyce. These characters become embroiled in a wackadoodle plot about a high-tech laser cannon over which various criminals and governments seek to gain control.
          The title stems from a fantasy element, because the film suggests that Buddha, as in the actual deity, decides every 50 years to shoot humanity with a magic beam. The notion is that Buddha finds amusement by transforming one individual’s nature from his or her yin (e.g., good or bad) to his or her yang (the opposite of the preceding). As should be apparent by now, The Yin and the Yang of Mr. Go is befuddling, incoherent, and random from its first frame to the last. Whereas some WTF movies bewitch viewers by functioning as windows into other planes of consciousness, The Yin and the Yang of Mr. Go is merely a compendium of bad ideas that didn’t merit exploration. To wit, consider this monologue that Bridges delivers about two-thirds of the way through the picture: “I managed to split from the goddamned army, get shacked up good and safe with Ha Ling here—no sweat. I’m just writing, playing my music. Then you come along. My chick is thrown in jail, I start rough-trading faggots, blackmailing scientists, whipping around the air in helicopters, being chased by the CIA, super-macing Japanese bank presidents, getting slugged by a lesbian, spear-gunning a Chinese boogeyman!”
          In keeping with the film’s discombobulated style, the monologue trails off to nothing and the story moves onto the next pointless thing.
          Every aspect of The Yin and the Yang of Mr. Go is wrong. The music is upbeat, even when the accompanying images depict murder and treachery. Many scenes look as if they were shot with synchronized dialogue, but the dialogue is absent from the soundtrack. Characters break the fourth wall by saying things like, “All Chinese villains offer tea and cakes before applying torture.” Every so often someone drops a lame joke, as when a joint is offered with the suggestion, “Puff—the magic dragon!” Homophobia and racism permeate the dialogue, while grungy nude scenes present Asian bit players as the human equivalent of set dressing. Through it all, Meredith exhibits no directorial vision whatsoever, seemingly trying a different camera style in every scene.

The Yin and the Yang of Mr. Go: FREAKY


Booksteve said...

It's my understanding that Meredith's Malibu neighbor Larry Hagman had turned Burgess on to LSD around this time. That would explain a lot about this flick.

JKruppa said...

Some of the pleasure of this project is in reading these descriptions and then looking them up on youtube to delight in all there horribleness. Can't wait to watch this one!

Ystafell Gynghori said...

Sounds crazy enough to be a lot of fun.