Monday, September 18, 2017

The Thorn (1971)

Of historical interest exclusively because it contains Bette Midler’s first screen performance, The Thorn is a cheaply made and rather vulgar religious satire created at a moment when the world was rotten with counterculture takes on Biblical lore. In fact, one lame joke in The Thorn involves the narrator explaining that characters are singing “Jesus Christ Superstar” but the sound has been muted for legal reasons. Anyway, The Thorn comprises lots of quick-hit sketches presented with period dress and modern settings, so the material would have been more effective as a stage revue. On film, the nonexistent production values, point-and-shoot cinematography, and undisciplined narrative feel amateurish. Although some of the performances are enthusiastic and a handful of jokes are mildly amusing, the sum effect is dull and episodic. In the movie’s first act, Midler plays the Virgin Mary as a sexually curious young woman. A rabbi mounts her, and when she refers to his phallus as “grace,” he moans, “Hail Mary, full of grace.” You get the idea. Not every joke is raunchy, but all are designed to take the piss out of organized religion and/or other institutions. For instance, during a prologue God is played by a Harpo Marx lookalike, and at the end of the prologue, he pops his head into an MGM-style logo bearing the text “Metro-Golda-Meir.” Random gags of that sort permeate the film, but not in the fun hellzapoppin manner of a Mel Brooks comedy—the vibe is much more “Here’s some shit we thought was funny while he were toking.” The very first thing onscreen in The Thorn is a disclaimer warning those who are easily offended by jokes about the New Testament to leave the theater. A more conscientious version of the disclaimer would also have warned those who are annoyed by jokes that aren’t funny to leave. FYI, once Midler achieved fame as a recording star, this picture was reissued as The Divine Mr. J to play off the title of her debut album, The Divine Miss M (1972). Hopefully not many were snookered.

The Thorn: LAME


top_cat_james said...

So, its not a prequel to Midler's The Rose?

By Peter Hanson said...

Good one. As Chris Hardwick would say, "Points!"

Marc Edward Heuck said...

I actually own a 35mm trailer for the DIVINE MR. J reissue, where it plays up supposed legal attempts by Midler to suppress the film.