Myra Breckinridge

The Queer Precursor to Southland Tales

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Myra Breckinridge
Directed by Michael Sarne
March 7 through 9, Anthology Film Archives

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It's one of the most notorious commercial, critical, and production debacles in history: Michael Sarne's high-camp, originally X-rated 1970 adaptation of Gore Vidal's omnisexual showbiz lampoon. Though its musings on the kitschy ridiculousness of both Old Hollywood glamour and free-love culture are too inane, coarse, and unfunny to register as more than a cult curiosity, one might appreciate Anthology's all-new print—with its epic sets and costumes, slumming icons, and unfocused meta-ambitions—as the queer precursor to Southland Tales. Myron Breckinridge (film critic Rex Reed) gets the chop from stoned surgeon John Carradine and becomes untamable bisexual vixen Myra (Raquel Welch, in her finest performance, for whatever that's worth). Interrupted by punchline clips of Laurel and Hardy, Shirley Temple, and Fellini's Toby Dammit (Sarne's biggest influence), Myra ventures to her movie-cowboy uncle John Huston's acting school to claim her share of the estate, crossing paths with talent agent and off-screen rival Mae West (she and Welch refused to appear on-camera together). West's comeback film after a 27-year hiatus features a female-on-male rape played for yuks—poor thing—but the screen legend still spouts innuendos like a septuagenarian trooper, and sings either the greatest or worst cover of Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle" ever heard.

 
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