Page Two

Page Two
Some thoughts on the recent election... Ronney Reynolds carefully assessed the situation and then, nobly, withdrew. In a town where the petulant replaces the thoughtful, this was an impressively mature act. Most analysts didn't give Reynolds much of a chance in the runoff. The conventional wisdom on all sides was that the big-money, incredibly well-connected Watson campaign would produce votes along the way for Willie Lewis and Bill Spellman. With Watson out of the race, the situation improves for Manuel Zuniga (who was in great shape anyway), and Eric Mitchell.

Interestingly, Mitchell, as he bragged he would, took all of the Eastside African-American boxes by large margins (and 12 of the 16 Eastside boxes). When he won his first term, without taking those boxes, many observers clucked and moaned about how those neighborhoods were being denied representation. Mitchell has evidently won those neighborhoods over in a big way, with Willie Lewis demonstrating precious little strength in those areas. What will the progressive pundits say now?

Some thoughts on Samuel Fuller... Next Tuesday (5/13) night at 7pm I'm going to introduce Fuller's White Dog at the Texas Union Theater, admission is free. Among the most interesting Hollywood directors, Fuller is a transitional figure between the studio period and the era of the independents. Despite a commercially successful run of 17 films in about 15 years (between 1949 and 1963), Fuller's Hollywood days were essentially over after the Sixties and The Naked Kiss. He would direct several European films but his remaining American work was limited. Shark (starring Burt Reynolds), a 1969 film, he disowned, trying to have his name removed from the credits. He staged something of a comeback with The Big Red One in 1980, an interesting war movie, but not the masterpiece one would hope for, as this was Fuller's pet project, one he talked about producing for years. His Hollywood career was effectively ended with the non-release of White Dog in 1982.

Hard-hitting and no-nonsense, Fuller's best and worst films are often assaults, both cinematic and ideological (and there is no more ideological director than Fuller, even if it is often near impossible to figure out what his point is). Loved more by film freaks than the public, Fuller is the least known of the great American directors, largely because his filmography is so aggressively odd. Unlike Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause) or Phil Karlson (Walking Tall) he never directed a hit. Unlike even Edgar Ulmer (Detour) or Joseph Lewis (Gun Crazy), Fuller never directed a significant cult hit. He is best-known for his body of work, for the brilliance and audacity ofThe Naked Kiss, Shock Corridor, Forty Guns, Underworld U.S.A., Pick Up on Main Street, as well as for his more demented than you can imagine films like Park Row, Verboten, and Run of the Arrow.

Filmmakers know his work, and it is rare to find a director who is not at least conversant with the Fuller filmography, but the director has never found a home with modern revival audiences. The Austin Film Society has offered up an intriguing mix of Fuller's work, amazingly attracting an audience. White Dog stars Kristy McNichol as a woman who adopts a white dog, unaware it is trained to attack and kill African-Americans. After they figure out the dog's problem, trainers Paul Winfield and Burl Ives decide to re-train him. The film was accused of being racist and has never really commercially released. There were a few cable showings and clandestine video copies floated around for years.

The film is not racist. It is about people so obsessed with their personal mission they miss the obvious -- moral actions in an amoral world may be amoral -- a typical Fuller theme. The film is Fuller-intense: it is hard to hate a sweet and relatively friendly dog turned into a killing machine. It is ideal Fuller, a film that leaves you dazed and confused, asking as it pushes by you, "what the hell was that?" No easy Hollywood package here that you can swallow and enjoy. Instead, a between-the-ears deluge of ideas and images. Is it important to liberate the spirit of an attack dog from hate? Can prejudice be unlearned? Rather than an endorsement of racism, White Dog is a pulp assault on racism. One can almost imagine Fuller (who is alive and living in California), in his confederate Calvary hat poking at you with a cigar, looking much like he did in Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie, demanding "What do you think? You think this is what you think. Well, you are wrong! What do you really think?"

Some thoughts on Chronicle stuff... The Austin Chronicle Short Story Contest deadline is this Friday, May 9. Get those stories in and maybe you will win. This is for the established writer and the newer writer, for the published and the unpublished. See ad on p. 31 for more info.

Next week, we will run the Chronicle 1997 "Best of Austin" ballot for the first time.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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