Eclipse Series 33: Up All Night with Robert Downey Sr.
Rarely do landmark works of cinema seem so . . . wrong. Robert Downey Sr. emerged as one of the most irreverent filmmakers of the new American underground of the early sixties, taking no prisoners in his rough-and-tumble treatises on politics, race, and consumer culture. In his most famous, the midnight-movie mainstay Putney Swope
, an advertising agency is turned on its head when a militant African American man takes charge. Like Swope, Downey held nothing sacred. This selection of five of his most raucous and outlandish films, dating from 1964 to 1975, offers a unique mix of the hilariously abrasive and the intensely experimental.Babo 73
Taylor Mead plays the president of the United Status, who, when he isn’t at the White House—a dilapidated Victorian—conducts his top-secret affairs on a deserted beach. Robert Downey Sr.’s first feature is a rollicking, slapstick, ultra-low-budget 16 mm comedy experiment that introduced a twisted new voice to the New York underground.Chafed Elbows
This riot of bad taste was a breakthrough for Downey, thanks to rave notices. Visualized largely in still 35 mm photographs, it follows a shiftless downtown Manhattanite having his “annual November breakdown” as he wanders from one odd job to the next, coming across all sorts of sordid types, from a desperate independent filmmaker to a destitute dirty-sock sniffer. And there is something to offend everyone: incest, murder, bad pop songs, you name it.No More Excuses
Downey takes his camera and microphone onto the streets (and into some bedrooms) for a look at Manhattan’s singles scene of the late sixties. Of course, that’s not all: No More Excuses cuts between this footage and the fragmented tale of a time-traveling Civil War soldier, a rant from the director of the fictional Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, and other assorted improprieties.Putney Swope
The most popular film by Robert Downey Sr. is this offbeat classic about the antics that ensue after Putney Swope (Arnold Johnson, his voice dubbed by a gravelly Downey), the token black man on the board of a Madison Avenue advertising agency, is inadvertently elected chairman. Putney summarily fires the whiteys, replaces them with Black Power apostles, renames the company Truth and Soul, Inc., and proceeds to wreak politically incorrect havoc.Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight
“A film without a beginning or an end,” in Downey’s words, this Dadaist thingamajig—a never-before-seen, newly reedited version of the director’s 1975 release Moment to Moment
(also known as Jive
)—is a rush of curious sketches, scenes, and shots that takes on a rhythmic life of its own. It stars Downey’s multitalented wife, Elsie, in an endless succession of off-the-wall roles, from dancer to cocaine fiend.