The Picture Show Man (1977)

picture show man

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: They show silent movies.

During the 1910’s Pym (John Meillon) travels the Australian countryside with his son and piano player (John Ewert) while renting out the local theaters in the small towns that they come upon and showing silent movies to the townsfolk. He makes just enough to survive and keeps all of his money in his pocket as he doesn’t trust the banks. His biggest problem is the advent of talking pictures as well as competition from Palmer (Rod Taylor) a man who Pym personally trained in the business, but now seems to be making more of a splash.

What should’ve been a nice slice-of-life period piece turns out to be meandering and pointless instead with a script that lacks a plot and everything broken up into vignettes that are just barely passable. The film would’ve done better with a more centralized character and point-of-view as well as adding in some conflict and drama. It also should’ve stayed more focused on the silent movie theme instead of veering into other directions including romance and even horse racing, which are just not as interesting.

Upon his death last year at the age of 85 many obituaries listed this film as being Rod Taylor’s last major role, but it really isn’t. He appears only sporadically and seems to have almost a mystical presence about him. His confrontations with Pym are contrived and his character adds very little.

The only mildly interesting aspect of the movie is the addition of Major Lockhart and his wife (Don Crosby, Judy Morris) who come onboard with Pym to do fake psychic readings during the intermission of his movies. The couples constant bickering is amusing and the scene where the husband catches his wife making out with Pym in the projection room and proceeds to attack them with an ax and sets fire to the film while the customers sit on the other side of the wall singing a song and completely oblivious to what is going on behind them is pretty funny.

I also got a kick out of the shot showing the faces of the people who are completely mesmerized to the screen as they take in hearing dialogue for the first time in a movie. The dialogue itself is banal and even corny, but the fact that the people remain so compelled to it makes it without a doubt the best moment in the movie.

I also found Leonard Maltin’s review of this movie to be pretty amusing as well. In the 1991 edition of his Movie Guide he gives this film three-and-a-half-stars while calling it “Funny and moving” and “A must for buffs”. Then in his 2013 edition he gives this same movie only two stars and describes it as meandering and lacking in energy.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: May 5, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Power

Studio: Roadshow Distributors

Available: DVD

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