Friday, 19 October 2012

Friday Night Film: End Of The Road


'End Of The Road' is one of those curious things, a counter cultural film made under the aegis of a major studio. Directed by former Arthur Penn editor Aram Avakian, the film stars the excellent Stacy Keach as Jacob (Jack) Horner, an English Literature student who attends his graduation ceremony before discarding his certificate and walking off to the nearest railway station where he purchases a ticket not for a specific destination, but for all the money he has in his pocket, about $59. 

Jack never gets on the train, however, as he sinks into a state of catatonia. We never fully understand why, but the usual suspects appear as a series of flashbacks: guns, The Bomb, racism, Vietnam, JFK, MLK, RFK, LBJ grabbing that dog by the ears, that sort of stuff.

Keach, Katatonic.

RFK.

Sirhan Sirhan.

Vietfuckingnam, man.

Keach in Kollege.

Keach, Katanoic II.

After a few days, Jake is discovered by Doctor D (James Earl Jones), a somewhat unusual medic with an equally unconventional practice. 'The Farm' is basically an asylum taken over by the inmates. They have carte blanche to do whatever they like (dress as nurses, rape chickens, screw each other, roll around like babies) as long as they also undergo extreme therapy in Doctor D's all mod cons treatment room / torture chamber. This gives James Earl Jones the chance to really flip out and go too far and, believe me, he really grasps the opportunity with both crazy hands and delivers an insanely memorable performance.       

The good doctor.

Therapy?

This is how you say 'baboon'...

...when you're hamming it up.

That doesn't look much like a 6.5mm Carcano rifle.

After a wacky old time, Jake is put out on day release and, like many recuperating mental health patients, becomes a teacher. He becomes sort of friends with fellow teacher, local scout master and borderline psycho, Joe, and, despite still suffering from recurring bouts of catatonia, starts an affair with Joe's wife on the basis of a shared love of horses and a mutual wariness of Joe. It all starts off well enough, but it ends in disaster and death.  

Joe, swinger (skinny dipping scouts not pictured).

He likes it; her, not so much.

He's been a very, very, VERY bad boy. 

The reason this film was an X-certificate.

...and this.

'End Of The Road' seems to fit the late sixties mould so precisely it's surprising to find out that the book it is based on was written ten years previously. The fact is, it doesn't matter what year it is, there's always something to rebel against, and there's always something for middle class intellectuals to feel angsty about. The film was a big hit with the college crowd, of course, and played for years to dedicated fans who probably thought it a combination of 'heavy' and 'far out'. Which it is, really.

The film established Stacy Keach as an unconventional leading man, and he made a series of interesting films before slowly settling into conformity. Keach is a powerful and often quite amazing actor, by the way, and he also has a fantastic smile.

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