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Brewster McCloud

In early 1970, Director Robert Altman changed Hollywood with the release of his mega-hit "M*A*S*H*". The counter culture, anti-war comedy drew huge audiences fed up with big musicals and westerns and hungry for something revolutionary.

Ten months after that massive hit, Altman released his follow up, BREWSTER MCCLOUD.

One of the strangest movies ever made, it is almost impossible to describe. If M*A*S*H* broke ground be being structured like a disconnected bunch of tiny stories, buried in blood and overlapping dialogue, BREWSTER takes that to a whole new level.

Bud Cort (Harold and Maude) is an introverted young man living in the cavernous realm beneath the Houston Astrodome. His dream is to complete a set of wings and fly around within the sports arena.

Sally Kellerman is gorgeous and funny as the mysterious Louise. Angel? Protector? She often appears out of nowhere to help Brewster, dropping bird poop on his enemies and doing some fancy driving in an AMC Hornet during a long, fun car chase that seems to have arrived from another film.

Shelley Duvall (The Shining) makes her film debut as a car thief/race car driver who falls for Brewster. Duvall is either a horrible actress or a brilliant method thespian, I defy you to decide. Her line readings are horrific, but is she playing dumb or are the cameras just rolling?

Rene Auberjonois keeps popping up throughout the film as a professor teaching us about birds. Some of his input, always looking right at the camera are dull, but they get progressively more hilarious. He had me laughing out loud by the end of the film as he described how bird's mating habits are so much like humans.

Michael Murphy (Manhattan) is great as a detective named Shaft. He arrives like a big city presence in a cow town with bright blue contact lenses, super sleuth moves and flashy 70's wardrobe, but like everyone else in Altman's mad exercise, he really doesn't do much.

A strangling serial killer starts piling up victims, all of them found with bird poop on their face. Stacy Keach shows up in horrible makeup as a rich, senile old man with more money than brains. He's pretty hilarious too.

Cort is a very strange leading man.

By the end of the film, I can't really tell you what the hell happened or why I even cared, but you have to respect Altman for doubling down on M*A*S*H* with something so strange that it had zero chance of connecting with sober audiences.

He said he hated the script by Doran William Cannon so much that he just filmed his actors and fed them lines, making things up as he went. Watching it, it sure feels that way. Cannon hated the movie so much that he wrote an editorial in the New York Times calling the film "shit" (without even mentioning the bird!).

It famously premiered in the Astrodome in front of 27,000 people, most of whom left well before it's bizarre, circus themed ending.

I love Altman movies. His classic war film is amazing, as are "Nashville", "McCabe and Mrs Miller" and "Gosford Park".

This is lesser Altman, but it's an interesting failure, defying structure and common sense and covering most of its actors in bird crap.

I think most audiences felt like they were splattered too. I certainly didn't escape cleanly either. At times stupid, absurd and ridiculous, there are some big laughs to be had. Kellerman was really something in the early 70's, she escapes with great appreciation.

It's crap, but interesting crap. I'll give it a C+.

Altman followed this up the next year with the far superior "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" with Warren Beatty and Julie Christie.

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