Theme Song: None specified, but a bunch of really clumsy musical numbers are included in the film.
Interesting Dated References: Hippie idealism.
Best Line: “There’s nothing funny about England.”
Social Context: On paper Man Friday attempted to deal with race relations and the communal emptiness created by consumerism and greed. In actuality, it addresses how many slide whistle sound effects to use when someone falls into the ocean.
Summary: There’s no real easy way to go about reviewing this movie. If I pan it, you get to say I’m panning a diatribe about black versus white relations. If I analyze it too much, I run the risk of taking a piece of shit of 70s hippie ideology too literally. Simply put, Man Friday is an adaptation of the novel Robinson Crusoe, told from the perspective of his servant, Friday. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about what the story of Robinson Crusoe is about, you know how to work the internet, read about it here. To summarize, the film takes place in 1700-something, an English guy, Crusoe, is marooned on an island, he finds a native, and proceeds to try to civilize the native, as told by the native. Crusoe teaches him lessons about religion, materialism, ownership, competition, persecution, lust, etc.
So, to start things off, the movie becomes disorienting as fuck. It keeps bouncing between serious racial allegory with heavy societal commentary, to wacky slapstick comedy, and then to shitty grade school musical. Add to this the fact Crusoe is played by Peter O’Toole, who overacts the fuck out of the role. His performance just doesn’t fit. As Friday, Richard Roundtree adds to the confusion by playing the meek servant fresh off his stint as Shaft. Oh right, and I’m not stressing enough the musical numbers that were thrown in.
Okay, so as the first hour unfolds, Crusoe and Friday have some pretty good comedic timing. Crusoe teaches Friday how to be a good Christian which serves as an allegory for why the hippie free-love mentality was better. Next up, the guys play sports with each other, which also serves as an allegory about why the hippie free-love and peace mentality was better. This whole time Crusoe is made to look, understandably so, like the idiot. The lessons are plain as day and the goals of the original script are apparent up until Crusoe tells Friday about his wet dream that makes Friday get all hot and bothered. Then Friday offers to have sex with Crusoe and things get confusing. Somehow the movie moves from there to slapstick comedy attempts to escape the island (with sound effects) and eventually Crusoe flips out. Years later, Friday buys his house and takes charge. Crusoe, broken by his materialistic ways, follows the orders of Friday. Eventually they sail to Friday’s tribe, where Crusoe asks the tribe if he may join. Now the movie turns into some serious shit about society, fear, freedom, and respect. Three or four speeches are given that seem pulled straight from 1969.
It’s pretty obvious this movie, which was a play first, was a bit late in getting out. From what I can gather, the play was written in 1968 or 1996 when the issues it dealt with were extremely relevant. By the time the movie was released (late 1975), those issues were fast fading. Add to this the bad musical numbers, wacky cartoon sound effects, over-acting, sloppy pacing, and confusing themes overall, and you have a movie that sounded good on paper, but was poorly executed on the whole.
Poster and Box Art The US Theatrical poster is fucking absurd. Two floating heads looking at each other, one screaming. It makes no fucking sense and gives you no indication as to what is going on in the film. If you saw the poster, you would say to yourself, “Hey look, it’s Peter O’Toole shrieking at Shaft,” and then you would keep walking. On the other hand, this foreign versionmakes the movie look like a wacky adventure through time, which it sort of is, but really isn’t at all:
Clearly there was a big push behind this movie. My guess is that after it did the overseas run, they re ran it in the U.S. but this time with the following friendlier poster:<
This second poster is awesome, and the illustration is killer. However billing it as a buddy comedy didn’t seem to do much for the movie. And as always, the Polish poster is fucking unstoppable:
Availability: Shitty unmastered DVD version that “fans” of the film seem to despise because of the quality and edits.