|Vintage Pulp||Mar 23 2012|
As Cool and the Crazy opened, we thought the lesson was that cool was acceptable but crazy was what happened when you crossed the line. It quickly became clear that cool and crazy are synonymous, with both terms meaning that you’re beyond the pale, i.e. basically fucked. Lead actor Scott Marlowe plays Bennie Saul, and he’s both cool and crazy. The crazy part is clear, because he’s an M dealer (“M” being hepcat-speak for marijuana). He deals because he owes a big-time criminal lots of money, and the only way he can repay his debt is to get his buddies hooked on the M.
He decides to approach the task methodically. He starts with one member of his crew. This is where the cool comes in. He seduces the guy into trying it, then stands by and smirks as the poor fella tries to crawl between the grain on a wooden table. Later the same hapless chump dances with a bus stop sign as if it’s a woman, demonstrating his underlyingloneliness. Yes, Fred Astaire danced with a coat stand in Royal Wedding, and it was cute, but this bus stop sign dance is edgy stuff, highly disturbing. We hear that in the unrated version of the scene the character sexually assaults a merge sign because it was really asking for it.
Anyway, in the subplot, brooding delinquent-in-waiting Jackie Barzan meets a girl, which is only possible because he’s cool, but not yet crazy. Like Brando in The Wild One. The girl, Amy, is neither cool nor crazy. She’s warm and totally sane, with big, soulful eyes that drip redemption. Like Mary Murphy in The Wild One. While in Amy’s house one day, Jackie starts handling a ceramic bauble and Amy tells him to putit down, because it’s extremely valuable and irreplaceable. So, she’s sane, but stupid. She should know, via the Moviemaking 101 Handbook, that when an expensive bauble is handled, it will later be stolen or broken.
So, back we go to signdancer, who by now is so hooked on the M that he’s going to lose his mind if he doesn’t partake every day. The problem is he’s already spent his entire net worth. So, being a good friend but a terrible boyfriend, Jackie steals Amy’s priceless trinket to sell for more evil M, but he accidentally breaks it. Conveniently, this happens right in front of Amy, and rather than rat out his buddy, Jackie pretends to be hooked on the M himself. He whines, “You don’t know what it’s like when you’re hooked on the smoke, Amy! It’s the worst! Just the worst! When you’re hooked… you’re hooked!”
Later Jackie… actually, you know what? Let’s just yank the ripcord and end this agonizing freefall. You’ve got better things to do, right? We’ll summarize by saying that in mid-century drug movies all roads lead to either the nuthouse or a fiery wreck. That’s poor Bennie Saul in there, below, no longer cool. But he doesn’t charbroil in vain. His deathserves to reform Jackie, and perhaps even give him a shot to get back with Amy, who may be out one priceless tchotchke, but never runs dry of forgiveness.
As bad as Cool and the Crazy was, it’s an informative example of mid-century drug hysteria. All it needed was an ending voiceover: “And so Bennie Saul, rather than working hard and staying on the straight and narrow like a good American, took a shortcut that led to the graveyard. But while it’s too late for Bennie Saul, it isn’t for the rest of you out there. Play by the rules, obey the law, pay your taxes, and all your money will eventually be given away to a bunch of criminal bankers in something called a bailout.” Well, that last bit probably wouldn’t be in there. Maybe in the remake though. Cool and the Crazy opened in the U.S. this month in 1958.