Myra Breckinridge (1970) Michael Sarne

Production Budget: $5 million

Gross: $3 million

Subsequent Earnings: $4.3 million

Myra Breckinridge was a highly successful novel written by Gore Vidal which was a satirical take on gender and sexuality at the time. Many considered it pornographic and the materials satirical edge to hard to translate and therefore unfilmable. Michael Sarne was a director who had a mild hit and wanted to make a name for himself with Myra Breckinridge (I’ll simplify with MB later). The shoot was typical bomb pandemonium you have come to expect. The script was being re-written over and over again, the stars (especially divas Mae West and Racquel Welch) had numerous public clashes, and the director was an incompetent tool. Reports were he would spend hours at a time getting the perfect shot of a car or spending a day on the set just to think to himself. It is rather clear Sarne (through the audio commentary) he did not like the material and only did it for the money. Sarne also did not like the homosexual content of the novel and wanted to work it out. The result was a massive failure which Gore has spent 40 years disowning. Sarne later got a job as a waiter in a pizza place, which Vidal said “proves that God exists and there is such a thing as Divine Symmetry.” (IMDb).

The story is about Myron who gets a transgender operation (from John Carradine no less) and becomes Myra Breckinridge (Racquel Welch). Myra goes to an uncle’s acting school and demands half of the property owed to her by Myron.

Really, this movie is so disjointed that’s the best I can do as far as a main plot. There are some side plots involving Mae West as a talent agent who sleeps around with her clients and Myra raping a male acting student.

It has taken me a while to compose my thoughts on this movie because, well, this movie is so freaking confusing. Not that this movie is so deep and prone to analysis, but because it is so poorly put together you don’t understand anything that is going on. I’m sure the book is much more fleshed out but here I don’t get anything. I don’t get why Myron becomes this militant feminist in the form of Myra. I don’t get why Myra gives two shits about her uncles acting school. I don’t get the entire point of the Mae West side plot. Seriously, we devote like 15 minutes to her just walking around giving her one liners and sleeping with various men (including a fresh faced Tom Sellick). This movie is 94 minutes and has all the logic of a fever dream. Scenes just splice together with no lead ins or narrative consistently and there really is no story arc. Sh*t just happens.

Much of the statement made by the book is lost in the translation. You get the fact she is rebelling against traditional glorified male personas and empowering the female image. But there is supposed to be more about sexuality and homosexuality which seems all but forgotten. I also have no clue what to make of what this movie has to say about Hollywood. Myra goes on extended rants about the age of Hollywood and movies like Tarzan and we see clips from (for example) Laurel and Hardy movies but I have no idea what this means. I really wish I could say more than “I don’t get it”. I wish I could convey just how inept and incompetent this movie is in its writing and direction.

The movie tries to be all “hip” and “groovy” and “screwball” *gets smacked for overuse of air quotes*…sorry. It tries to do all of those things but it tries too hard. Subtlety is thrown out the window as characters are overacted to beyond caricatures. The boobie prize has to go hands down to Mae West who at 77 years old was still playing the sex goddess who beds everyone. This is like when Tom Jones still thought he “had it” and released Sex Bomb as a single. No one bought it, and no one buys the Crypt keeper like West as some temptress. In fact the idea of her and Thomas Magnum getting it on makes me throw up a little in my mouth.

As I wrap up this review, I have to express my own disappointment at it. No matter what I say I can’t really describe how stupid it is. No matter what I think of the story is, the most damning indictment is that it is a satire that is not funny in the slightest. It is not funny as originally planned, nor is it funny in a ‘so bad its good’ way. MB is a waste of time and money and it deserves to get “balled” as they say in the movie. Or it needs to get Burger’d in the Blackmun by a gigantic Rehnquist (code words used by Vidal to get past pornography ruling in the Supreme Court).


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