It’s Special. Why did I almost cry at this low-budget movie which everyone else seems to see as a comedy?

So this is the movie’s plot, right?

A man takes a pill. He believes it has given him limitless superhuman powers.

The movie is this year’s release Limitless. Right?… Wrong.

An ordinary person tries to become a superhero with mixed consequences.

The movie is last year’s release Kick-Ass. Right?… Wrong.

Now let’s bring in the Marx Brothers

When I was a kid, I used to see Marx Brothers movies on TV and I didn’t think they were particularly funny. But, when I later saw them in a cinema, with an audience, they were very very very funny indeed.

As I mentioned last week I received a DVD in the post from mad inventor John Ward who, in a previous incarnation was a cinema projectionist and therefore has an interest in movies.

The 2006 movie he sent me was Special – Specioprin Hyrdrochloride.

I only got round to watching it last night alone in the dark in a living room with a friend. We expected a quirky comedy.

Quirky it was. A comedy it was not.

Yet UK distributors Revolver sell the movie as “a comedy spectacular” and have a review quote on the back cover saying it is “hilarious”.

When I went to look at the reviews on IMDB, they were 100% positive and they kept saying it is a funny film.

I did not find it funny at all.

It was visibly low-budget and shot in documentary-style washed-out colours.

The film I saw was not a comedy.

Yet everyone else I have read seems to think it is. Maybe it is another Marx Brothers film: you have to see it with an audience to get the full comic effect. Or maybe I am odd and have just missed something.

I do not like Robert Altman films. Except for one: Images.

It is about schizophrenic delusions and the editing between reality and fantasy is exceptional.

Special is better.

The plot involves a (very) ordinary man who takes part in the clinical trials of a drug called ‘Special’. He believes the drug has given him superhero powers. It has not. He dresses as a superhero and decides to fight crime. The result is a moving, mesmerisingly-gripping, sad and immensely humane film about madness and delusion which includes sparse and understated but astonishingly good special effects for a such cheap film.

According to IMDB, Special cost about $1 million to make and grossed $6,387 in the US. Normally, that would not be a good recommendation. What seems to have happened is that Special has been successful on the film festival circuit but not commercially. Admittedly a nightmare to market, it has slipped under the radar.

It has one of the best scripts I have seen in years – and it is one of the few movies to actually use film editing to its full potential, interweaving reality and fantasy. Plus it has top-notch acting by an entire cast of (to me) unknowns; and spot-on direction. It is a wonderful jewel of a little film (77 minutes).

It was written and directed by Hal Haberman & Jeremy Passmore, a pair of recent graduates from USC.

I saw Dark Star at the Edinburgh Film Festival in the 1970s. It was directed by the then unknown John Carpenter and co-written by him and the then unknown Dan O’Bannon. They, too, were USC students. Dark Star screamed rough talent. And so does Special.

John Carpenter went on to direct movies like Halloween, The Fog and Escape From New York. O’Bannon’s later scripts included Alien and Total Recall.

Special’s Jeremy Passmore is one of the credited screenwriters on the upcoming re-make of John MiliusRed Dawn.

Having seen Special, that can only bode well for Red Dawn.

I did not laugh when I watched Special but lots of others seem to have laughed. So it must be me that’s odd.

I found it sad, touching and bittersweet.

Almost everyone who has seen it seems to agree it’s exceptionally well-made and psychologically gripping.

1 Comment

Filed under Movies

One response to “It’s Special. Why did I almost cry at this low-budget movie which everyone else seems to see as a comedy?

  1. There! – bliss… I actually saw the said DVD in a-local-to-us ‘El Cheapo’ shoppe type place that sometimes has the occasional ‘nugget’ in DVD’s that may be entertaining – or not – as the case may be..
    In my ‘defence’, I had neither heard of it nor seen it until I picked it up, read the blurb’s, assorted, and I thought ‘tThat’s Fleming Fodder’! – the sort of ‘what the ‘ell was that about?!’ and it seems I was right!

    Ha well.

    It must be coming up to ‘summer’ as I note that currently being ‘promoted’ to death on assorted channels are trailers for (American natch..) films being pushed as ‘laugh out loud’, ‘the comedy of the year'(in 1908 perhaps..)and the usual byline of ‘from the director or producer of..’ which should set alarm bells ringing as that usually amounts to the said ‘comedy’ being a right clunker..

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