Monday, May 31, 2010

Two Great Rock'n'Roll Movies: The World's Greatest Sinner/Wild Guitar

Timothy Carey invents a new religion, and rocks his way to hell.

 You wouldn't particularly think of 1962 as a great year for movies, but oddly enough it was the year the two greatest rock'n'roll flicks ever made were released. First came The World's Greatest Sinner (1962), written, directed and starring Timothy Carey (1929-1994) who began his career in Billy Wilder's incredible Ace In The Hole (which also inspired on of the best Simpsons episodes ever the one were all the rock stars gather to record the "we're sending our love down the well" song), and can be seen in Kubrick's Path's Of Glory and The Killing (written by Jim Thompson), Brando's One Eyed Jacks, many Beach Party flicks (always as the character South Dakota Slim), even in the Wild One, as well as dozens of TV shows. He was one of the greatest and most memorable character actors of all time. The theme song, done by Frank Zappa & the Mothers' under the name Baby Ray & the Ferns was issued on Donna (a subsidiary of Del-Fi, the label that gave us Ritchie Valens, Chan Romero, The Bobby Fuller Four, and lots of great surf 45's) in a different version than the one heard in the flick (with the great How's Your Bird on the flip, it remains Zappa's finest moment and best Johnny "Guitar" Watson impersonation). Although it's never been officially released on DVD, The World's Greatest Sinner is easy to find, several companies have been selling bootleg copies taken off the TCM broadcast last year (a beautiful print I might add, much better than the old VHS copies that were making the rounds). A Pirate Bay bit torrent rip can be found here. There's not much point in me describing the plot, as it really is a work of art beyond my powers of description, but do try and see it, it can change your life.
Trailer for Wild Guitar (1962).
Arch Hall Jr. - Actor, rocker, heart-throb.
The second greatest rock'n'roll flick ever made is Ray Dennis Steckler's directorial debut Wild Guitar (1962). Steckler aka Cash Flagg would go on to direct such mind blowing low budget films as Rat Fink and Boo Boo (1966, co-written by Chicago rocker and paperback author extraordinaire Ron Haydock) and The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed Up Zombies (1964), Steckler's story deserves a book of it's own. Oddly enough he was the cinematographer on The World's Greatest Sinner. Both films look great, especially considering their minuscule budgets. Wild Guitar stars the always cool in that "aw shucks" way-- Arch Hall Jr. as Bud Eagle, a naive kid who just wants to rock and ends up getting run through the music industry meat grinder by a sleazy small label owner played by his real life father (who also produced the film), Arch Hall Sr. It's got a great soundtrack (all the tunes in the flick can be found on the Norton Records Arch Hall Jr. CD-- Wild Guitar, they also have the film on DVD for a mere $10, not to mention a must have complete Ron Haydock & the Boppers collection). I think I can safely say that Wild Guitar is the sort of masterpiece we shall not see in this century. Here's the theme song by Arch if you need any further prompting to buy the CD and DVD.
Arch Hall Jr. is still around and plays the occasional gig. Ray Dennis Steckler sadly passed away in January of 2009, no mention of his passing was made during the Academy Awards yearly "remember those who died this year" segment. Fuck them, Wild Guitar is better than almost any movie that ever won an Academy Award, which, in fact, if you ever want to see a list of some of the worst movies ever made, look at the ones that won Oscars--Dances With Wolves, The Titanic, My Fair Lady, Chicago, Rocky, The Sound Of Music, cripes!, I'll take an episode of The Abbott & Costello Show (oddly enough, their TV show was way better than their movies) any day. Rock'n'roll is very hard to translate to celluloid and most attempts over the years have been laughable, but The World's Greatest Sinner and Wild Guitar remain two gems,
and they deserve to be seen by anyone who cares about rock'n'roll.
ADDENDUM: Interesting post on Robert Quine (the sixth anniversary of his death was last week) by his cousin Tim can be found here.

14 comments:

Cavorting with Nudists said...

Coppola wanted Tim Carey for The Godfather. Carey was living in a crappy little bungalow out in the Valley at the time, and he told Coppola that he'd do it only if his contract included the provision that a Paramount executive come out and mow his lawn once a week.

I'm sure that story is bullshit, but it was in the first thing I ever read about Timothy Carey, a late-70's Mark Jacobson piece in the Village Voice, and I've always felt that it should be true.

fred said...

Love or hate Zappa, you gotta give his killer '60s punk tune Trouble Every Day it's due.

The Hound said...

"Love or hate Zappa, you gotta give his killer '60s punk tune Trouble Every Day it's due."


Even better is the 45 he produced and played on by Bobby Jameson--- Gonna Find My Roogalator,
and the Penguins' Memories of El Monte, at least in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Timothy Carey has a brief,but memorable part in the great film noir 'Crime Wave'. In a movie where most of the cast underplays, he goes way over the top. He brings a very perverse menace to his part.

Donna Lethal said...

"Sinner" is one of the greatest movies ever made ... if you want to see more Carey insanity check out his appearances on Art Fein's Poker Party on youtube.

Billy said...

wait, if these are two of the greatest rock and roll films ever made where do you rank "The Last Waltz?" "Everyone" says that it's one of the best.

Har dee f**kin' har har

The RedBoy said...

I love the episode of the Abbott & Costello Show guest staring ice-skater Sonja Henie and the Creature from the Black Lagoon...now *that* is a well-rounded double bill.

Anonymous said...

got my sinner tape some years ago from here http://www.absolutefilms.net/
it's supposed to be run be his carey's son. i was asking back then about a dvd and they replied it would be coming....
philipp

Marti said...

Hi Hound! Marti here!

there is actually a display of Timothy Carey ephemera going on right now over on 253 east Houston street, at Participant gallery (including the leather "fart chasity belt" associated with his play "The Insect Trainer") .....they will also be arranging a screening of The World's Greatest Sinner and the uber-rarely viewed Tweets Ladies of Pasadena in the near future!

see link below! crazy, daddy-0!!!

xoxooxoxoxo

Tweets

The Hound said...

"there is actually a display of Timothy Carey ephemera going on right now over on 253 east Houston street, at Participant gallery (including the leather "fart chasity belt" associated with his play "The Insect Trainer") .....they will also be arranging a screening of The World's Greatest Sinner and the uber-rarely viewed Tweets Ladies of Pasadena in the near future! "

Wow! Never saw that before, thanks for the tip.
Nice to hear from you after all these years....

J.D. King said...

"... Both films look great, especially considering their minuscule budgets."

A small budget is almost a guarantee that it'll be a better looking movie. I re-watched "Breathless" the other day. Tiny budget; looks great. Ditto "Night of the Living Dead." Et cetera.

I got "Wild Guitar" and "The Choppers" as dollar DVDs a few years back. Both are great, Arch is the coolest. I'd seen a preview of "The Choppers" back in '61 or '62, and specific scenes stuck with me.

Timothy Carey is one of a kind.

snorrevonflake said...

Hi, could you please give a hint where to buy that "easy to find" DVD of the worlds greatest sinner? Just spent half an hour on google and even ebay but could not find it, the torrent i am afraid wont work with just one source. thank you.

The Hound said...

"Hi, could you please give a hint where to buy that "easy to find" DVD of the worlds greatest sinner?"

try this guy:
http://subcin.com/

Jazz Music said...

Yes, the 1960s produced some great rock inspired music. Zappa is an absolute legend.

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