Rhinoceros (1974)

rhinoceros

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: People turn into rhinos.

Much maligned film is really not as bad as its reputation states. Yes the scenes and scenarios are at times awkward and stilted. The sets and color schemes run from being drab to horribly garish. The music is loud and obnoxious and doesn’t fit the mood of the film at all. Also despite having the name in its title and being all about rhinos you never actually see one. Sure it’s low budget, but even some stock footage of one from “Wild Kingdom” would have helped.

Yet even with all this the film still has its moments. It’s based on the Eugene Ionesco play and involves everyone getting turned into a rhinoceros. Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, and Karen Black all resist, but slowly unravel to the ‘peer pressure’ and wanting to be ‘part of the crowd’. The outrageous premise is simply a front to examine the human phenomenon known as conformity, both on those that do and those that don’t. It is rare that anything tackles this subject with any serious study, yet this one does. The observations are, believe or not, quite interesting and accurate and Wilder really does make a terrific non-conformist.

The best part though may actually be one of filmdom’s most bizarre scenes ever. It features Wilder and Mostel alone in a room where Mostel slowly turns into a rhino. The scene goes on for well over twenty-five minutes and features no special effects or makeup. It relies totally on Mostel and his acting range to pull it off. He gives it an amazing amount of energy and seems more than up to its weird demands. It’s definitely worth a look for this scene alone.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: January 21, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Tom O’Horgan

Studio: American Film Theater

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

3 responses to “Rhinoceros (1974)

  1. You had to know this was coming, Richard. I’ll take issue with your first sentence. This much maligned film is actually much worse than its reputation states. I HATED this movie! The 25 minute long scene with Mostel and Wilder is so over-the-top. I just could not get on board with this one…sorry.

    • Yes, I remember reading your review on this one and my only question would be which did you hate worse this one or ‘Soldier Blue’? Anyway I have always had an affinity to the offbeat and bizzare so on that level it worked. Mostel and Wilder are always engaging no matter what they do, but like with director Tom O’Horgan’s first feature ‘Futz’, which is a story about a man who marries a pig, this movie is not for everyone.

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