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Monday, September 10, 2012

Glen and Randa

Post-apocalyptic movies were, apparently, quite popular in the late 60s and early 70s. Glen and Randa (GaR) is very different from '71's big post-apocalyptic film: The Omega Man. Yet, the indie production of GaR is as obscure as the big studio film OM is famous. There are no hoards of zombies to battle. Instead, the story focuses on the two title characters (more clueless than heroic) and their quest for a mythical city. The film got an X rating for its full frontal nudity. GaR shares with OM, the use of Biblical imagery woven into this view of post-apocalyptic earth.

Quick Plot Synopsis
Glen and Randa are 17 year olds who frolic in the woods, naked, rather like a new Adam and Eve. They find a rusting car up in the branches of a large tree, leftover from an unspecified apocalyptic event 20 years prior. He wonders where all the people went from the before-times. He wants to find "The City" he imagines is out there. They rejoin their rag-tag tribe, (not naked) as they forage for canned goods amid the ruins of a Howard Johnson's. While camped there, a Magician rides up on his motortricycle, pulling a pop-up camper. He sets up a sideshow of wonders to impress them -- mostly prior technology like a blender and record player -- run from his generator. He tries to sell some of his wonders for gold or jewels, but the crowd is almost completely stuporous. Glen befriends him to learn more about The City. The Magician is full of blather, but shares a few bits, such as an old highway map of Idaho and a Wonder Woman comic book. The Magician (it is strongly implied off-screen) takes advantage of Randa's naive innocent "friendliness." She remains blithely indifferent. Glen and Randa begin their trek west over increasingly rough terrain. They find a horse, but don't know they can ride it. Randa is beginning to show her pregnancy. They press on despite hunger and hardship, eventually reaching the sea. They find an old man named Sidney, surf fishing. He offers to let them stay at a house, which turns out to be an almost-completely wrecked mobile home near the shore. Glen continues to obsess about The City. Sidney says the city he remembered was called Boise was about 10 miles up the coast, but it burned down. Glen is sure his city must lay beyond the sea. Glen also obsesses over being "Sy-vel-ized." He reads aloud from nothing in particular and paints the names of things, like "Stoov" and "Wall" on them in the mobile home, as if to reclaim civilization via literacy. Randa's time comes, but she dies in childbirth. Both Glen and Sidney are clueless about what to do with the baby boy. They feed it goat's milk. They load up the baby, the goat and a few odds and ends, into a small boat Sidney had, and set out across the sea to find Glen's city. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
It's actually rather depressing, But, it also thought provoking, with many nice set-piece scenes, such as the one record the Magician plays for the crowd is the Rolling Stones' "Time is on my side." or the complete lack of reverence Glen shows for the skeleton of Arlene (whose wrecked trailer they adopt). The dead of the past era are just junk, like the cars and machines, etc. What if the survivors of WWII are not clever and resourceful rebuilders of civilization, but a rabble catatonics and simpletons? Lots to muse over.

Cold War Angle
Nuclear war is suggested as the cause of the collapse of civilization. Given the overall dark view of the surviving remnant, the big take-away message of Glen and Randa is the traditional cautionary tale. Maybe mankind might NOT rise from the ashes like some heroic phoenix.

Demons D'Jour -- GaR highlights how post-apocalyptic films create demons out of whatever the writers imagined was the underlying problem in their current cultures. In each, the apocalyptic breakdown of society allowed that problem element to rise into a threatening power. They each had their demons, but they were different demons. For Last Man on Earth, the danger was fascists. For Omega Man, the danger was anti-establishment luddites.(hippies)  In later fiction (such as the Mad Max trilogy) the demons were criminal punk rockers. In GaR, there is no evil-other to be battled -- only ignorance within. There remained only a trace of humanity, too clueless to feed themselves "when the cans run out."

New Adam -- There are some interesting Biblical parallels in the start of the film. Glen and Randa cavort in their idyllic woods, all innocent and naive. It is after his experience with a tree (of knowledge, of the before-times) that Glen becomes obsessed. The Magician character is a sort of serpent in the garden. He displays the wonders of the old world, piquing Glen's interest to the tipping point. They leave their paradise for rocky ground and "sin and pain", as the Magician describes it.

UnNamed Doom -- The disaster that threw mankind back into the stone age is never really explained. The poster suggests that it was nuclear war, as does Sidney's description that Boise was burned to the ground. The fact that there is a new sea at the foot of the Rockies suggests something, perhaps, bigger. But, the source of the doom is not the focus. Instead, the focus is on the feebleness of mankind.

Collapse of Man -- Quite the opposite of the heroic Omega Man, the surveyors in GaR are illiterate, foraging stone age gatherers, gleaners of old canned goods. Those old enough to have lived through the event, just stand speechless and disinterested. The only two old-ones who speak are The Magician -- who is a caricature of capitalism, and Sidney who is not quite well in the head. Sidney has an OCD routine of pacing the beach. He's not sure what to do with the new driftwood log "they send me," with each tide. Even Glen, the most astute of them, has little more than a 4 year old's grasp of reality. He and Sidney heading off into the open sea in a small boat did not suggest that mankind fared well at all.

Non-porn -- Despite the X rating, GaR is far from porn. Both characters are naked in their lush garden, but this is all done in a more documentary way than anything porn-exploitive. There are several points in which it is implied/suggested that Glen (or the Magician) use Randa for personal pleasure, though this always handled somewhat aloofly, with zero eroticism. This total lack of eros is, in itself, interesting.

Bottom line? GaR has no really science in its fiction. But, the post-apocalyptic genre is usually classified as sci-fi. It is a film of low production values, but very thoughtful writing and direction. It's not an action-packed thriller. In fact, on many levels, it's a fairly depressing portrayal of mankind coasting to a stop after the apocalypse. In this, GaR is a valuable addition to the post-apocalyptic genre. It's worth seeking out, if that genre is of interest. Be forewarned, though, about the nudity, etc


Randall Landers said...

Never have seen this one -- or heard of it either. Can't locate any source for it yet. Where did you find it?

Nightowl said...

There are a few clips on YouTube, just for some look-and-feel. There are some downloads from people who taped it. It's pretty obscure, although I saw that Amazon has a DVD of it, but I wouldn't pay the $12 they're asking. It's not worth that much.

Anonymous said...

It is very boring, but still of interest in many ways. Ultimately it kinda goes nowhere and the ending is pretty grim.

I spent more time trying to figure out where the scenes were shot (looks like Northern Cal).

Nightowl said...

Yes, it is rather slow paced and, at times, obtuse. Assuming the actors were following directions from the Director, one might presume there was some undercurrent message about innocence (in the flower-child sense). GaR feels more like an 'art film' that is trying hard to imply some message about mankind, but the message is too well hidden in nuance.

Thanks for commenting!