The man who came to play

I’ve always said that the greatest movie ever made is The Deer Hunter. And it’s no secret that I experience the most insane dreams possible.

So last night, I dreamt that The Deer Hunter was never produced at all and instead, in its place, the original script titled The Man Who Came to Play was made. I know nothing of this apparently “spec” script, other than it involves friends going to Las Vegas to play Russian Roulette. Michael Cimino and Deric Washburn later repurposed this screenplay into The Deer Hunter, switching out Vegas for Vietnam.

In fact, as far as I know, only the Russian Roulette scenes survived in the final draft from the original treatment. There’s no telling what The Man Who Came To Play would have looked like, but if my dream is any indication, it would have fit in well with the dark 70s canon.

This script, written by Louis A Garfinkle and soap opera actor Quinn Redeker, is apparently for sale online. There’s no telling how much it costs and I couldn’t find any of its story details, but my main question is why did this friend or friends go to Vegas to play Russian Roulette?

Did they do it willfully?

Were they coerced?!

I understand why Cimino and Washburn repurposed it. It made sense for the time and it absolutely worked. But I like to play this game of “what if”. Nowadays, I find the original concept to be far more darker and nihilistic, especially if the friends were written to be Vietnam vets.

I can’t help but think that The Man Who Came To Play would have made a terrific spiritual sequel to Taxi Driver. Think about it: Bobby DeNiro as Travis Bickle. We’ll pretend that the ending to Taxi Driver wasn’t the dying dream of a mass shooter. Instead, Bickle survives and goes to Vegas where’s he’s once again disgusted with the crime and decadence of Sin City. One way or another, he finds himself reliving the nightmares of Vietnam; he begins entertaining depraved businessmen by hitting the underground Russian Roulette circuit.

I see a lot of Paul Schrader’s “God’s lonely man” in Garfinkle and Redeker’s concept. But oh well. We got The Deer Hunter instead and we should all be thankful for that.

But if anyone knows anything about this script, please reach out to me.

Born for Hell (1976)

What an unusual movie.

In this Italian-German-French Canadian-English-Russian-Mexican-Brazilian-French-Belgian-Swedish-Regular Canadian-Honduran-French Polynesian-Zimbabwean-Pakistani-Sri Lankan-Vietnamese-and Aleutian co-production, a veteran of the Vietnam War finds himself in war torn Belfast where he begins to torture a household of nurses.

The first hour or so is not what you would expect from something in the “horror” genre (as Tubi categorizes it). In fact, it feels more like a commentary on the situation in Belfast. Furthermore, the perpetrator of all the crimes comes across halfway sympathetic. Not only does the villain get plenty of character development, but so do the nurses who are portrayed as more than faceless victims. That being said, there are a few indications that something is ‘off’ in the first half. Any good horror film should prepare its audience for what’s about to happen: after a bombing at a church, the main character couldn’t have given less of a shit; there’s a strange interaction with a child in a park; and a middle-aged prostitute dances topless under threat. Nevertheless, the first half of Born for Hell feels like a gritty documentary-style drama, in the same vein as The French Connection or The Battle of Algiers.

Even the torture scenes are a bit unusual. Sure there are the usual rapes, stabbings, and strangulations. There’s nothing especially creative about the deaths in that regard, which might come as a disappointment to some. But the villain isn’t typically maniacal about it. In fact, Sometimes he’s quite polite (“follow me, if you don’t mind”). It’s the performances of Mathieu Carriere and all the nurses, from Carole Laure onwards, that really carry the day.

Perhaps I shouldn’t read too much into this movie. In all likelihood, it was a tax write off for a bunch of international businessmen. But conceptually, this was an interesting idea. Sure, this story was inspired by a real event that took place in Chicago. Yet I like to think the filmmakers were reaching for something higher here.

Much like how The Deer Hunter tried to capture the madness of war through suspenseful scenes of Russian Roulette, I’ll suggest that the torture scenes at nurse’s house serves a similar function: senseless killing pushes men to the brink of insanity and they take out that frustration on innocent women.

I don’t know.

But when viewed in this light, Born for Hell fits in nicely with the 70s Cinema canon.