Monday, July 9, 2012

Netflix'd :: Clearing Out the Instant Que :: Crusading Reporters, Serial Killing, and the Fine Art of Mubers :: Phillip Borsos' The Mean Season (1985)

Of all the film's dedicated to my chosen profession of working at a daily newspaper, my favorite and, I think, the best is Richard Brooks' Deadline - USA, where crusading editor Humphrey Bogart, despite the paper's imminent demise, puts the screws to the local gangster, bound and determined to bring him down for murder before the last edition goes to press. And amongst a plethora of great scenes is the one where the dedicated staff hold a wake for their soon to be dearly departed paper, culminating in Jim Backus relating a conversation about how the brass-nutted publisher asked for the difference between a journalist and a reporter before he would hire him. A journalist, he says, makes himself the hero of the story, while a reporter serves only as a witness; a lesson Kurt Russell's character should have taken to heart in another tale of murder and newsprint with The Mean Season.

Based on In the Heat of the Summer, a crackerjack novel by John Katzenbach, the film set the template for many a serial-murder flick to come. Here, Russell plays a Miami-based reporter who inadvertently becomes the mouthpiece for a serial killer looking for bigger headlines. And as the stakes get higher, along with the body count, Russell soon comes to a realization that he is no longer reporting the news but is the news. And he kind of likes it. Thus, drawing too much media attention to himself, the Numbers Killer (played by a completely whackadoodle Richard Jordan) is quite upset by this, and, in true narcissistic fashion, decides to punish our hero by kidnapping his girlfriend, played by Mariel Hemingway, as his next victim, which leads to the main reason for this post.

For, as the local papers do a patented sit-n-spin on the movie screen, up pops one of the greatest gaffes in the history of newspaper cinema:

Now, now. Cut him some slack, that headline was written
under duress.
In other words, FIRE THE COPY EDITOR!

Sadly, due to budget cuts, in a lot of papers, a copy editor is luxury no longer afforded. And when I finally noticed the typo on this latest viewing (-- for the record, that should be kidnapping with two p's), I laughed pretty hard but was also extremely sympathetic for many reasons. Mainly, because I'm terrible speller and my typing skills aren't all that hot. Also, in my sixteen years working in the composing department, meaning, basically, I make sure everything prints right side up, I've seen golfers shit 3 under par to take second place (-- which makes one wonder what they had to shit out to win), grandfather cocks for sale, teams promising to lay their opponents as hard as they can slip by and see print, and one inexplicable headline with the word "muber" in it, which proved so inexplicable that any error caught since is now affectionately dubbed just that: a muber.

Now, this gaffe in no way, shape or form, ruins the movie watching experience of The Mean Season. Far from it. Russell is great, as always, equaled by Jordan, and buoyed by a strong supporting cast, including a young Andy Garcia and a vintage Richard Bradford as the detectives charged with mucking through the grisly crime scenes to try and catch this psycho, with their only real lead being Russell's link with the killer, meaning all they can do is wait for more bodies and hope the killer eventually slips up and reveals himself. As I said before, a lot of this is tired, worn thin, and needling toward cliche these days, but it all had to start somewhere, right?

The Mean Season (1985) David Foster Productions :: Orion Pictures / P: David Foster, Lawrence Turman / AP: Steve Perry / D: Phillip Borsos / W: Leon Piedmont, John Katzenbach (novel) / C: Frank Tidy / E: Duwayne Dunham / M: Lalo Schifrin / S: Kurt Russell, Mariel Hemingway, Richard Jordan, Richard Masur, Joe Pantoliano, Andy Garcia, Richard Bradford

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