Myra Breckenridge

Debacle
★
☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1970
Director: 
Michael Sarne
Starring: 
Raquel Welch, Rex Reed, John Huston, Mae West
The Setup: 
Man turns into woman in order live out his fantasy of fucking a guy in the ass with a strap-on.
Discussion: 

This is a mess. It starts out by being an amusing mess, and eventually morphs into a distasteful mess. An adaptation of a novel by Gore Vidal which apparently took the form of a long sexual fantasy that satirized Hollywood and conservative American culture, the film misses the mark by a mile and just turns into a big, bizarre bunch of nastiness.

Rex Reed [the film critic and journalist, failed in-joke #1] plays Myron Breckenridge, who in the first scene is having a sex change in front of a lot of people [who, according to the director commentary, are supposed to be famous film directors, failed in-joke #2] on a set straight out of Barbarella. Rex is a Gore Vidal stand-in, and as such is a gay man turning into a woman [that's Myra] in order to "live out his fantasies and survive."

Now, if I could turn into Raquel Welch, my fantasies would involve the whole of the National Football League and/or World Wrestling Federation, but Rex's involve something about causing total sexual anarchy, which he plans to achieve by trying to force his uncle to give him half of his inheritance [by claiming to be the wife of Myron] and messing with a young actor and his girlfriend. What effect this is going to have on America's patriarchal system at large is left unexplained. So the plot, such as it is, concerns these two efforts, neither of which is interesting or goes anywhere.

There is a great deal of footage from classic movies used to comment on the action and characters. Sometimes it works. Apparently the whole movie is supposed to be a satire of Hollywood, and as Gore Vidal is obsessed with movies, naturally his fantasy as expressed in the story would revolve around movies. You can simultaneously see that this is what the movie is trying to express, and that it's not working.

Myra is a bit of a spitfire at first, and one is behind her, but as she goes on she becomes more and more of a truly horrible person, and by the end you really hate her. The climax of this is the notorious scene in which she ass-rapes a dumb young buck with a strap-on. It's just nasty and pointless by that time. She next goes on to try to seduce the buck's equally dumb girlfriend, played by a pre-Charlie's Angels Farrah Fawcett, and, we are led to believe, comes to really feel for her, but Farrah can't reciprocate for the simple reason that she's not a lesbian.

Okay, so you have this gay man's "fantasy" in which he turns into a woman, and he is going to get revenge on this macho and dumb father figure. At one point he jerks off and has a dream in which Raquel, his woman side, is blowing him, and he says "Oh yes mother. I forgive you." He next fantasizes about a blonde woman [like Farrah] feeding and mothering him. He goes on to rape this macho stud in the ass out of pure cruelty, and attempt to seduce his girlfriend for the same reason. But he falls in love with the girlfriend/mother figure, who, cruel irony, cannot love him because he is not a man... anymore.

Now, is this sending a positive image to today's gay youth? Or today's older gays? Or any gays? Or straights? Or anyone?

No, the fact is that the thing isn't sending any message to anyone because it's such an abortion in general, but when I DO think about what the thing is trying to say I just get angry. Gay boys, obsessed with their mothers, really just want their mothers, and aren't really even gay. So there ya are.

It's hard to know how much of this came from the novel [and I have no intentions of reading it], but we do know that the studio and director refused to use the script that Gore Vidal wrote, or even parts of it, and that Gore Vidal disowned the film. The director, who sounds like more than a bit of a mess, decided to write much of the script himself, so it's hard to know how much of the vaguely homophobic vibe the thing casts is due to him and his interpretation. On the parts of the commentary track I listened to he sounds like he only had a few unrelated ideas that he proceeded to glue together with pure arrogance.

It was the commentary tracks that pushed this thing to the front of my rental list, as I heard that both the director and Raquel Welch spend the whole time trashing the movie. The director's is pretty dull, as he doesn't commit himself to anything, least of all his own decisions on the movie, but Raquel's provides some tepid amusement. She says that: she thought she had a different role than the one she ended up with, she received no direction, it seemed like everyone on the set was making a different movie, Mae West was a petty bitch to her, she doesn't know why she was speaking in various ridiculous accents. etc. She sounds like kind of a fun person to hang out with, but it still doesn't make the movie worth watching.

It SEEMS like it has all the elements: over-the-top direction, screwy sexual shenanigans, wacky dialogue, a sense for the ridiculous, Rex Reed, etc. But it just doesn't work. It really, really, really doesn't work. Stay away.

Should you watch it: 

Do not heed the siren's call.

RELATED MOVIES:
THE ADULT VERSION OF JEKYLL & HYDE is another repulsive movie in which a man turns into a woman and proceeds to have sex with men.