Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Ayn Rand and the Forty Thieves" Or "Who is Kroger Babb?"

Once upon a time in post war America , risque titillating movies circulating furtively thru the land under the aegis of "The Forty Thieves", hard core road showmen who arrive in town, rent a theater, paper the place with flyers, ruthlessly target a sensation hunger audience and all on behalf of ragged moralizing tripe like "Reefer Madness".
The uncrowned king of the Forty Thieves was one Kroger Babb, who for some twenty years toured America with a film called "Mom and Dad" a half titillating, half educational melodrama depicting the dangers of unwed teenage motherhood. The movie's key selling point was it's much ballyhoo'd "Birth of a baby" scene which was in reality some old Army training film footage ineptly spliced into the storyline.
Babb did all this mishaugas up big and included the use of carnival barkers done up as "Elliot Forbes the eminent hygiene commentator" who job it was to hawk war surplus bith control pamphlets during intermission.
According to Babb's apprentice, the late David Friedman, Babb made about eleven million dollars off of "Mom and Dad" when all was said and done.
Trust me, I've seen "Mom and Dad" it is cheap moralizing trash sold to the unwary as a social problem film with some sex education footage thrown in for good measure.
Of interest only to franchises like "Channel Zero".
As Babb himself so frequently observed "You sell the sizzle, not the steak".

Which brings me to "Atlas Shrugged" Part One (2011) now screening at the Landmark Kendall Square the Framingham Fourteen and elsewhere.
A lot of different people have tried to get this novel adapted as film, I can recall as a teen serious rumors that NBC wanted to option it as a TV miniseries more recently Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were supposedly interested in the property as a starring vehicle. Rand herself once opined that her sprawling 900 page semi-science fictional denunciation of "big government" labor unions and uppity intellectuals was inherently unfilmable.
So it is ironic that here we have a low budget film with a cast of wooden unknowns, a labored script and a marketing plan that depends on word of mouth, lots of flyers and the activation of a particular subset of the moviegoing audience.
Truly, Kroger Babb lives.
Indeed given the divisive nature of the Ayn Rand novel on which the film is based, the only smart thing for the producers to do is cut costs remorselessly and sell this turkey exclusively to hard core libertarian objectivists.
I saw this bad baby in Framingham last night, and I half expected Elliot Forbes himself to stroll up the aisle selling copies of Ayn Rand's "The New Left: The Anti Industrial Revolution".
The film itself is cheap looking, ill-lit in certain scenes and features actors who artistic range compare unfavorably with the monoliths on Easter Island.
And this is only Part One!
Ultimately though, the films problems start with the source novel, a long boring work of libertarian utopianism churned out by Ayn Rand in 1957 in desperate attempt to generate a capitalist free market ideology that would have the same pseudo-religious appeal of Marxism Leninism.
That much worked, "Atlas Shrugged" is a book nigh venerated by conservative mediocrities toiling away in cubicles all over the USA convinced that the EPA, "community activists" and Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms Bureau are all that is keeping you from inventing an aircraft powered by the limitless power of your own resentment.
The book itself is trash, female railroad tycoon Dagny Taggart is desperately trying to hold her empire together even as all the other smart rich people in the nation disappear literally "going on strike" to protest a government given over to wicked wicked leveling and egalitarianism. The book's machine worship & veneration of wealth is perfectly comical, Dagny Taggart all but copulates with a locomotive as the Dollar $ign finally triumphs and new age of financial super heroes is proclaimed.
If you are a libertarian with a grievance, then Ayn Rand wrote this book for you, it is a massacre of straw men, have at it sez I.

God imagine how much more beautiful and exquisite New York City would be if Donald Trump took John Galt's advice and went on strike against "big government"?
Imagine how many people would still have their live savings if Bernie Madoff & Lehman Brothers had run off to "Galtsylvania" in a huff prior to the 2008 market crash?
Wealth=heroism in Ayn Rand's cosmology, remember that the next time one of British Petroleum's cheap ass oil platforms blow up.

3 comments:

evelyn said...

My favorite, should be a needlepoint pillow: "Atlas Shrugged" is a book nigh venerated by conservative mediocrities toiling away in cubicles all over the USA convinced that the EPA, "community activists" and Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms Bureau are all that is keeping you from inventing an aircraft powered by the limitless power of your own resentment.

massmarrier said...

Oh, I wish the spoor of Rand would disappear. Your review reminds me of what reminds me of my 15YO foolishness. A beloved English teacher saw me carrying the two big novels and condescendingly told me I'd outgrow it, as she had. Of course, I knew absolutely she was wrong and of course, she was quite right.

The cartoonish economics and sexuality are marvelous when you are callow. Now even for camp viewing, I can't imagine subjecting myself to it.

Thanks for enduring it for us.

dan said...

Well said, old bean - but I'd get some antibiotics after sitting through that...