Myra Breckinridge (1970):

Did Twentieth-Century Fox realize transgression was being advertised, and the studio itself was supplying the screens? Actually, Michael Sarne's coruscating cleaning-house session in Hollywood is less a tool of the revolution than its purposely debauched burp, and it survives still the stupidity of reviewers left gagging. First up, Rex Reed is shot through distorting lenses at an operating table, though whether the movie is a funhouse or a haunted house remains blurred; surgeon John Carradine suggests circumcision, but Reed's set on castration, and hurry cuz Myra's waiting. Raquel Welch, as Myra, is outside, ready for a softshoe down the Walk of Stars and a trip to Tinseltown, represented by a soundstage posing as a thesping school run by John Huston in a fifty-gallon cowboy hat. Lovemaking classes are taught, but Myra is off on a sexual mission of her own, namely to "realign the sexes," taking Roger Herren and his dippy girlfriend Farrah Fawcett for a bending ride; elsewhere, mummified Mae West is wheeled in as the "Queen of Casting Couches," surveying man-meat and belting torch songs. Who is Myra? What is Myra? A "dish," and so forth, but above anything she's Reed the queer fan as a post-op bombshell, jumping onto Huston's desk, panties doffed, to expose the missing penis, only to end up back at the clinic as the male-ego, "Where are my tits?" duly demanded. God knows what the studio expected, but Sarne presented a profoundly foul blast of "Hooray for Hollywood," the very notions of stardom and glamour and normality left bleeding while the system upholding them supplied archives for dipping. Sarne's aesthetic is Tashlin's culminated, with Welch's matchless cartooning, Huston's galloping clowning and West's geryatric undulation; Reed is the wag imported from the trades, but film criticism here falls to the director, inserting punctuating clips to set the ground for Godard's Histoire(s) du Cinema. Thus, Dietrich in drag, Tyrone Power as Jesse James, Shirley Temple and Laurel and Hardy and all the ghosts of cinema past watch Sarne's montage of star-spangled Welch perforating Herren's ass, uncorking gay-rights and woman's lib, porn and art and the '70s, baby. Based (and disowned) on Gore Vidal's book. With George Furth, Calvin Lockhart, Andy Devine, Grady Sutton, Jim Backus, and Roger C. Carmel.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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