Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A movie you've got to see

In preparation for tonight’s rehearsal of the next SNL opening (i.e. the presidential debate), I want to alert you to the best movie ever about the absurdity of politics.

It’s called MASTERGATE adapted from the play of the same name. Both were written by the brilliant Larry Gelbart. It is HILARIOUS. No one writes double-speak political bullshit like Gelbart. TIME magazine called it “George Orwell meets the Marx Brothers.”

Two examples: "What did the president know, and did he have any idea that he knew it?" And: "My involvement was strictly limited to the extent of my participation."

The movie of the play was done for SHOWTIME in 1992. It aired for awhile and has been out of circulation for years.

But beginning Friday it will resurface exclusively on Vimeo’s On Demand portal. It will be available on iTunes and Amazon sometime in November. Click here to go to the link.

All proceeds from the film will go to Norman Lear’s People For The American Way Foundation in Larry Gelbart's memory

In this day and age of candidate surrogates, spin doctors, talking heads, and sound bytes, MASTERGATE is a scary funny political satire. 


The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Friday question: I apologize in advance if you had seen me ask this before... but in light of your post on Gelbart: After reading Gelbart's book, he made clear M*A*S*H was not an anti-war show but an ANTI-PRO-WAR show.
But sometime in the show's years, if someone had said, "Hey, we've never actually done a storyline that highlighted how the war was keeping South Koreans free; without military intervention they'd all be living under the crazies of DPRK." etc.
Had this happened would it have been pushed aside or how would you have handled it?

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Political satire, like political songs, only seem to be done during years when a Republican is in charge. Maybe, it's because those in Hollywood (or music biz) see Republicans are idiots who are warmongers or hates (name a group).

Maybe it's because folks in Hollywood are in a bubble, or they are scared of being different politically.

I think it's foolish for most entertainers to speak out politically. It will always alienate someone who you want to spend money on you. No matter where you stand, it seems you'll alienate a paying customer.

Tom Asher said...

All-Star cast!

Jahn Ghalt said...

Great notice on this film - on Amazon there are two versions - both long "out-of-print":


Tim Reid (Actor), Marcia Strassman (Actor), Michael Engler (Director)

Product Details

Actors: Tim Reid, Marcia Strassman, Buck Henry, Richard Kiley, Ed Begley Jr.
Directors: Michael Engler
Writers: Larry Gelbart
Producers: Charles H. Joffe, David Jablin, J. Marina Muhlfriedel, Peter Manoogian, Robert B. Weide
Format: Color, NTSC
Rated: PG

Studio: New Video Group
VHS Release Date: March 26, 1996
Run Time: 90 minutes
ASIN: 6303585450

Mastergate Audible – Original recording

Larry Gelbart (Author), Walter Matthau (Narrator), Edward Asner (Narrator), Charles Durning (Narrator), Hector Elizondo (Narrator), full cast (Narrator), L.A. Theatre Works (Publisher)

The Tony Award-winning playwright and creator of TV's MASH has fashioned a wickedly funny satire about the Iran-Contra Senate hearings and their participants. A top-notch Hollywood cast, headed by Edward Asner and Walter Matthau, brings this scathing comedy to life.
A L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Edward Asner, Melanie Chartoff, Jack Coleman, Eric Douglas, Charles Durning, Judyann Elder, Hector Elizondo, Robin Gammell, Harold Gould, Arye Gross, Walter Matthau, John Randolph, William Schallert, Joe Spano, Jesse White and Harris Yulin.

Jay Livingston said...

@Bumble Bee Pendant. I'm old enough to remember the late 1960s. Cartoonists like Feiffer and TV shows like the Smothers Brothers did not ignore LBJ, tough perhaps there's a distinction between satire and mere political humor. But there was a full-length play, MacBird.

Johnny Walker said...

Added to the list! Thanks!

penquin said...

President Clinton was in the White House when "Wag the Dog" came out.

Then again...given how the Clintons have embraced so many of the GOP's policies and stances then perhaps that isn't the best example to use.

VP81955 said...

With Gelbart's pedigree, why isn't this better known?

Steve Bailey said...

Ken, I couldn't agree with you more. I saw this when it first aired on Showtime, and I laughed myself silly.

Anonymous said...

Possible Friday question.
I remember Peter Boyle doing a magnificent range of characters (a partial list- A Brando -Wild One, Human Fly circus character reminiscent of old Lancaster Hecht flics, and then Western hero at end) in "Steelyard Blues' and I never see this on reruns. ( Donald Sutherland Jane Fonda headliners )
Why do some films just disappear while others that are not as good seem to be on a constant play list?
What other obscure films would you recommend?

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Penquin: Wag the Dog, is a good example. It was (according to the LA Times) based on a book, 'American Hero': "A funny, ingenious and outrageous political thriller joining Hollywood and the [GHW] Bush administration in a revisionist fiction about the Gulf War."

It became associated by the public with Clinton's affair with Lewinsky since the movie appeared right before the scandal was revealed.

Jay: You had to reach back to the 60s to find something that about a Democrat President (who happened to be drafting men into an unpopular war.).
With all the problems of the last 7 years, it's hard to find someone criticizing the current President in Show Biz.
That's either lazy, ignorant, or just plain political on their show biz's part.
In any case, it's boring, in my opinion.

AndrewJ said...

Sad that so many in the MASTERGATE cast (especially the younger ones like Marcia Strassman and Bruno Kirby) have died, along with Mr. Gelbart.