I really haven’t seen very many movies in the last few months and I’ve been writing a lot more than I’ve been reading, so I haven’t added anything to my Bibliography or Filmography pages. But after recently seeing the first movie reviewed below, I decided to write this column detailing several new additions to my review pages.
The Pyx (1973) stars Karen Black as Elizabeth Lucy, a Montreal call girl who is found dead in the very first scene; the film alternates between the police investigation into her death and flashback scenes depicting her last week of life. Black’s portrayal of the troubled but good-hearted girl is both sympathetic and realistic; Elizabeth is shown to be neither better nor worse than other women, and her problems (such as heroin addiction) are balanced with examples of her good character (such as her efforts to protect another working girl and her gay roommate from the villains). I suspect the writer had some inside information because details such as Elizabeth’s being an independent contractor and the police harassment of her madam rang completely true and aren’t often seen in movies of this type. My husband and I both found the movie to be suspenseful and interesting, though he felt the pacing of the last act was much too slow; I suspect that its low IMDb rating is due in part to that, but mostly because the film is incorrectly labeled as horror and those looking for supernatural content and finding instead a combination detective thriller and drama (something like a Canadian giallo with less gore) might be disappointed. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that though I came to know and like Elizabeth and to dread her impending doom, I was pleased to see she faced the end nobly and, in her own way, heroically.
Soylent Green (1973) is of course most famous for its last line (no spoilers now, readers!) and the environmental disaster overtaking the world it depicts, but those who haven’t seen it recently (and who aren’t as attuned to prostitution issues as I am) may not remember that almost every speaking female character in the movie was a whore. For those unfamiliar with the film, Soylent Green stars Charlton Heston as a police detective in a near-future (2022) New York City in which pollution has destroyed most of the Earth’s ability to produce crops and rural areas are therefore turned over entirely to vast and heavily-guarded farms – resulting in the entire population being crowded into already-packed cities. Since there isn’t remotely enough housing most people are either homeless or living in critically-overcrowded tenements, and attractive young women escape this hell by becoming “furniture”, prostitutes who are allowed to live in luxury apartments in exchange for providing sexual favors to the tenant. The most interesting aspect of this situation, IMHO, lies outside the confines of the movie itself; whenever it comes up on discussion boards it’s almost inevitable that some neofeminist will express how “disgusting” or “degrading” the lives of the “furniture” are, as though starving in the street is better. Nearly everyone in this dystopia (except for the small elite who can afford apartments) is treated as subhuman, and in fact the whole plot hinges on it; women certainly aren’t singled out for it. In fact, educated people similarly prostitute themselves as “books”, earning a living by doing research in the chaotic mess into which libraries and records have been plunged. Of course neofeminists never consider such things, which makes me wonder how the planned remake will handle the “furniture”; I suspect that male “furniture” will also appear and they’ll all be depicted as utterly miserable due to their “humiliation”.
Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent by Harvey A. Silverglate
Regular reader Americanus sent me this book (via my Amazon wish list) after we discussed it in a comment thread, and I’m glad he did. I can’t say I enjoyed it because this isn’t the sort of book one enjoys; in fact, it’s the sort which makes one incredibly angry. But it’s because few Americans bother to educate themselves about these abuses that they’re allowed to go on. The book details the “perversion of federal criminal law into…a trap for the unwary honest citizen instead of a legitimate tool for protecting society”. Silverglate, a prominent criminal defense and civil rights lawyer, shows how federal law has been so expanded and at the same time made so vague, that the average American commits about three felonies every day without being aware that he has done so. Federal prosecutors out to make a name for themselves, maliciously attack political enemies or instill fear into entire groups will basically pick likely victims (sometimes at random) and then go “fishing” for laws they can credibly argue the victim committed. And despite the fact that they rarely have enough evidence to secure a conviction (if any at all), the cost of defending oneself against federal prosecution is so ruinously high and the possible sentences so terrifyingly long (measured in decades) that most victims fold and accept plea-bargains which usually involve suborned perjury against other intended victims (often but not always “bigger fish”). Worst of all, the necessity of proving mens rea (criminal intent) has basically been eliminated in federal courts; such intent is assumed and juries are routinely instructed that if the fact of the crime (the actus reus) is proven, they must vote for conviction whether they feel the accused intended to break the law or not.
Silverglate illustrates this growing tyranny with a number of cases (discussed in exhaustive detail) against medical professionals, brokers, accountants, criminal defense lawyers, journalists, merchants, artists, teachers, students and many others. And if you find my description of these persecutions disturbing, wait until you read the book.