Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Yes, Don Knott’s “The Love God?”! A recommendation by the National Film Board of Ivanlandia

The Love God? (1969)
Written & directed by Nat Hiken
Cast: Don Knotts, B.S. Pully, Edmund O’Brien, Anne Francis, James Gregory

One film that I think is truly deserving of a cult following is 1969’s The Love God? —and yes, the question mark is part of the title.

This flick is an unholy mess that’s worth renting for weirdness value alone:
Released by Universal in 1969 (snicker!),
and a brightly-colored mutant love child of Walt Disney and Russ Meyer,
The Love God? is squaresville trying to make sense of the sexual revolution—
and becoming extremely schizophrenic for its efforts.

And then there’s bizarre musical montages! You get to see Don Knotts, as one blogger put it, “prancing and mincing and mugging
his way through a big production number called ‘Mr. Peacock.’ "
Oh yeah…

Holy Moly, The Love God? is something else! I may only have “liked” this film, but there are several scenes I love. It’s a 2/5 star movie with many 5/5 star comedic scenes.

So if you’re a comedy fan who’s happy if you get six or seven really hilarious scenes in a flick as long as the comedy is stitched together with at least a semblance of intelligence or flair (like in Anchorman or Old School or Harold and Kumar Go to the White Castle), then by all means rent The Love God?!
I was happy I did.

Don Knotts
and his brand of goofball-loser comedy is The Love God?’s greatest asset and liability: in some scenes, Knott’s comedic acting is transcendent, absolutely brilliant and spontaneous.

But in others, he pulls out the now-stale Barney Fife routine.
(Was that shtick ever funny? I find it extremely uncomfortable to watch. Sometimes Knotts acts so incomprehensibly in The Love God? that the only way I could rationalize his actions in any sort of logical way was to assume that his character was mentally challenged.)

But The Love God? is hardly a dumb movie: lots of topical issues are satirized, some better than others. In addition to sex, student unrest, First Amendment rights, women’s lib, the ACLU, media manipulation of public opinion, and the corporatization of the mob are all poked fun of.
(Speaking of the mob, B.S. Pully’s performance as J. Charles Twilight is fantastic! Gee-whiz, rent the movie just to watch him.)

The Love God? could easily be on a double bill with either Otto Preminger’s outrageous Skidoo which it shares part of the “Squares Failing at Making Sense of the Counterculture” subgenre, or
Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd (which stars Knotts’ pal Andy Griffith, and takes a much darker look at media manipulation and the erosion of civil rights).

From Stuart Galbraith IV 's nifty review at DVD Talk:
The film has [writer-director Nat] Hiken's style all over it. Pulley had appeared regularly on Hiken's "Car 54, Where Are You?" and Billy Sands, Pvt. Dino Paparelli in Bilko's platoon (on "The Phil Silvers Show"), was an associate producer and appears unbilled.
More obviously though, is that at least two of the main characters in The Love God?, Edmund O'Brien's nudie publisher and James Gregory's defense attorney, play as if each part had been written with Phil Silvers in mind.
Sadly, what might have been a nostalgic reunion of great talent was not to be, and the film was Hiken's last -- he died in December 1968, almost a full year before The Love God? went into release.

The Love God? was a box office flop, and had director Hiken lived, he may have come up with a different promotional angle for the flick.

The Love God?
is a flick that’s perfect for a remake—in the right hands, though:
How about a “reimaging” of The Love God? written and directed by John Waters, starring Steve Buscemi?
Or vica versa?

Better yet, let’s one-up Luis Buñuel and remake The Love God? in the style of That Obscure Object of Desire (1977), where the film is written and directed and acted by Waters and Buscemi, both playing Don Knotts character, the two switching off the role between scenes, hopefully with no rhyme or reason.

“Look at his body - thin, wasted away by the dissipation and debauchery of a life of unspeakable orgies and depravity!”
The DA about Don Knotts character in The Love God?

From IMDB: commenter Curtis Martin (from Bothell, Washington) wrote a heartfelt essay about The Love God?
As a part of film history, "The Love God?" is uniformly dismissed as just another goofy, formulaic Don Knotts romp--and in many ways it does follow the Knotts formula pretty closely. But this time the Knotts formula was turned in on itself.

In actuality "The Love God?" is one of the best mainstream American social satires of the 1960s, just behind recognized classics such as "Dr. Strangelove" and "The President's Analyst." Knotts plays his usual character, this time named Abner Audubon Peacock IV.

Abner is the editor of a bird-watching magazine in financial trouble. His dying magazine, The Peacock, is taken over by a pornographer while Abner is in South America looking for a rare bird.

Abner returns from his safari to find that the Peacock has been turned into a cross between Playboy and Hustler. He also finds himself arrested and a defendant in a constitutional battle over "his right" to publish "dirty pictures" in The Peacock.

Abner only wants to have the truth be known--that he had his magazine shanghaied without his knowledge. But instead his case comes to the attention of a self-serving Civil Liberties attorney who wants to use his case as a free-speech landmark. Abner wins his case, but is not satisfied that he is represented as a "filthy degenerate sex fiend" (in a hilarious courtroom sequence).

After his victory Abner wants the truth to come out, but he is convinced by the interest groups and his own money-sniffing relatives that it is his patriotic duty to keep publishing pornography as a freedom of speech issue.

The attention draws big money to The Peacock, and Abner is further convinced that, in order for the magazine to be a success, he must play the part of the Sex God libertine.

In true Knotts style, Abner gets totally carried away with the role of pseudo Hugh Hefner. But of course, the truth eventually comes out and Abner/Don eventually comes to his senses and of course triumphs over the bad guys.

From Interesting Ideas, written by William Swislow:
In The Love God?,
“incomprehension gives Knotts what virility provides others. It ultimately allows this painfully thin hayseed to stand up for himself in the face of odds that would send any sensible person scurrying. His weakness lets him triumph.

That makes Knotts one of the few leading men of his time who truly deserved to be called anti-hero.

Nicholson, Hopper, Eastwood and the others may have abandoned the moral virtue once de rigueur in Hollywood protagonists, but they were cut from the same sexual cloth as Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda and the rest.

Don Knotts, though, was everything these guys weren't.
Terminally wimpy, ridiculously stupid and sexually repulsive, he was the true negation of the Hollywood he-man ethos.

The Donaldian Knotts—get it? From Gordonian Knot!
And knots, like links, you know, URLs!
It was, but it wasn't!
Ohhhhh, never mind!

Go to Music for Maniacs to catch a really groovy tune called “Don Knotts” that sounds like it’s the theme song to a TV variety show that never got made—in this dimension, anyway.

Here’s a link to an excellent article looking at the political differences between Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife, how one is a negotiating Libertarian and the other a big-government proto-fascist? You won’t be surprised!

And how to get along with real life Barneys...
[image from The Onion]

Give it a chance; The Love God? is worth a rent.
And the DVD is a double feature!
But you don’t have to look at the DVD’s companion feature, The Shakiest Gun in the West. The flick’s opening credits are cool (because awesome special effects expert Albert Whitlock probably worked on them), with a goofy C&W song that’s catchy, but after that, The Shakiest Gun in the West is strictly snoozeville.


  1. Mohammad Atta MannixJuly 3, 2009 at 2:39 PM

    In the director's cut of "The Love God?" there is a blowjob scene where you see Don Knotts' schlong. It's huge. Who knew?

    I like the bespectacled girl. "no honey, don't take 'em off, leave 'em on... please..."

    i'm scratching my head on the advertisement pic. is there a connection that i'm missing. or is the DES MOINES IOWA factor in the fine print at the bottom. is this a clue to something greater?

  2. Everything is a clue to something greater....

  3. Actually, it wasn't Tricia who made that comment, it was me. I was trying to use her computer--and failing....