The Film: The Loved One, 1965
Tony Richardson (Director), Robert Morse, Anjanette Comer, Liberace
Dennis visits his uncle, an exec at a major Hollywood studio, right before the poor fellow croaks. After he eats it, Dennis is left to arrange his lavish funeral and chase after the beautiful, naive embalmer.
Good: Absolutely. The best way to characterize it would be a Kubrickian take on the funeral industry. And Hollywood. And British people. And rockets.
It’s definitely a British-minded filmed aimed at an American peculiarity (we are particularly fucked up with how we handle our dead) but the humor strikes out at anything and everything. It’s not afraid to get nasty about it (apparently the first studio screening had the older executives storming out in anger), and even the romantic “heart” of the film is decidedly shallow.
The film jumps all over the place, zips through scenes, focuses on different characters, and introduces increasingly bizarre situations with such force that you just kinda learn to roll with it and laugh at every joke you can catch. When rocketry begins to enter the plot* you can’t help but laugh at the sheer absurdity of it. While it never hits the classic stride of a Dr. Strangelove, it gets nearly as caustic with its humor, and ends on as stark a note.
*Let me try and explain this…. The evil funeral director decides it’s a good idea to start rocketing corpses into space in gimmicky funerals that also serve as a means to clear out his cemetery land so he can convert it to a more consistently profitable nursing home… So yeah, that’s a thing that happens.
a Look: For sure. Double feature that shit with Dr. Stangelove any day.
Anecdotes: I once went with a fairly wealthy relative as he pre-purchase his coffin and funereal arrangements. I was pretty young and the funeral director let me climb into one of the display units and close the top. Looking back I can see the motherfucker had a sick sense of humor.
Cinematic Soulmates: Dr. Strangelove… as if I haven’t said it enough.
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