Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rare Flix: The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald

Ah, the price of being 'topical.'  Well, it is that and the price of being a boring piece of exploitation.  Today's film is The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald.  Before I begin, I shake my head in shame at anyone who reads this and checks Wikipedia to see how the real Trial went.  Shame shame shame.  Anyhow, this is based on the idea that the world's most famous assassin (thanks alot, Oliver Stone!) actually went to Trial.  Let's get this out of the way: there's nothing necessarily wrong with looking at alternate history.  In fact, this idea has been done a few more times in the ensuing years- both in the 1970s and 1980s.  However, as they say, timing is everything.  In this case, the film was released in March 1964.  Yes, less than six months after the actual death of a U.S. President and 'the end of Camelot,' we got a film about his killer's supposed trial.  Too soon?  Yes, me, too soon.  Leave it to the man who would bring us Zontar: The Thing From Venus and The Naked Witch to not be subtle or caring.  The opening Credits actually mention the film 'being pulled,' but I kind of question that fact.  I also wonder how they got in the Credits so fast!  If these weren't added for the Home Video Release, it feels like a big lie.  The thing about the film is that, well, it is a Court Room Drama.  It is not a good one- it is just a so-so one.  Is there more to it?  To find out, read on...
The film begins with long, slow-moving text.  Suck it, George Lucas!
Here comes the infamous bit of text.

Immediately following this, we see the Producers back-pedaling to avoid you complaining.  Joy.
The film is shown in a very simple manner.  There are pretty much three static Camera Angles and 'we' often see things from the perspective of the Jury.  You decide- literally!

That's a lie, of course.  We play no part in this dramatization of a fictitious event.  At all.
Want to know why people found this film to be tacky and tasteless?  I'll give you a hint.
Pretty much the majority of the film is these Witnesses giving information about the day Kennedy was shot.

I should note that The Warren Commission would not release its Report until November of the same year.
More dry Trial footage?  Yea!
The film ends with the Prosecutor turning to 'us' and asking for us to make up our minds based on the evidence.
Oh wait- it ACTUALLY ends with the Movie's Consulting Producer asking us to decide- again.  The End.
It is the worst of both worlds.  The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald was going to offend people for coming out four months after the nation's biggest tragedy that Decade.  If you went to see it as a legitimate Courtroom Drama, it proved (and still does prove) to be kind of boring.  It is not Acted or Shot that well, but also not bad enough to be that funny.  If you went to see it as some kind of crass bit of silly Exploitation, it disappointed as well.  If you are looking at it today, it just feels like a silly cash grab with none of the 'teeth' that it may have had in its day.  It is just kind of sad.  Like a kid yelling to get attention for doing some stupid dance or telling a joke, Larry Buchanan's film is one you can go 'That's nice, dear' & just smile politely.  When it is done, you can just move on.  The most interesting part for me was how one Witness kind of looked like the lead from Blood Feast...
Next up, the other Film on the Something Weird Disc.  If you want even less substance than this film, check out what the Director made just four years later!

1 comment:

  1. I immediately recognized Fuad Ramses... and I only saw Blood Feast once, over a decade ago.