Inserts (1974)

The Boy Wonder lives a life of exasperation...

The Boy Wonder lives a life of exasperation…

Everybody likes Richard Dreyfuss, right? Heck, my dad loves the guy, and my dad doesn’t like anyone. I have always considered his role as Dr. Leo Marvin in What About Bob? my personal favorite, but then I saw Inserts…

The setting is 1930’s Hollywood. Dreyfuss plays Boy Wonder, a once-great silent film maker who just hasn’t been able to keep up with the film industry and make talkies. Rather than attempt to keep up with technology, he opts instead to stay in his house and film silent pornos. Knee-deep in booze all day long, he struggles to get through to his star actress, Harlene (Veronica Cartwright) whose particular poison is heroin. The main actor is a doofus named Rex who is convinced he’ll be a real star someday. 

During filming one day, the producer, Big Mac (Bob Hoskins) shows up to supply his leading lady with her daily dose of H, and to show “real filmmaking” to his girlfriend, Cathy Cake (Jessica Harper). Filming is more than interrupted when Harlene ODs on Mac’s heroin and the boys have to go get rid of her body somewhere, leaving Miss Cake and Boy Wonder alone. Boy Wonder seems more distraught about the fact he can’t finish filming his porno than at the loss of Harlene.

Yes. Yes, that's Veronica Cartwright!

Yes. Yes, that’s Veronica Cartwright!

None of this matters to Miss Cake, though – she is just curious about the film industry and wants to know how it all works. Boy Wonder has no time for her, but Miss Cake is nothing if not persistent, and it’s only a matter of minutes before she’s got her clothes off and is taunting the Boy Wonder about his well-known sexual impotence… 

I watched Inserts over a month ago, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. It certainly made me feel uncomfortable, there is no doubt about that – some of the scenes are a little too close to rape for me to be okay with. The female characters’ reactions to these near-assaults are even more troubling; I’m not sure if they’re supposed to be okay with the way Boy Wonder is treating them because it’s the 1930’s? Because he used to be famous? Or is it because they’re women who are tainted by the Hollywood scene; too much sex and drugs already? Perhaps it is some combination of these, but whatever the reasons are I’m sure we’re supposed to feel uncomfortable, and I guess in the end some of the best movies make us feel weird and force us to confront things we don’t want to, right? 

The one thing I am certain of is that nearly everyone in this movie turns out amazing performances. As I alluded to before, I’m pretty sure this might be the best I’ve ever seen Dreyfuss; cocky, apathetic, incompetent, impotent and sympathetic all at once. Perhaps more surprising though was Veronica Cartwright’s performance – made me wonder why the heck she didn’t get more roles like this! She is drop-dead gorgeous and plays it perfectly. It might just be that I’m not

Miss Cake and Boy Wonder play a dangerous game...

Miss Cake and Boy Wonder play a dangerous game…

as familiar with her filmography as I should be, but I’m used to seeing her as a ragged, terrified woman. At least here, she is playing a completely different ragged and terrified than I’m used to! Then, there’s Jessica Harper, who plays Miss Cake as a seemingly naive young woman who clearly knows how to navigate the men of Hollywood. Much like Boy Wonder, I hated liking her! 

While I’m not sure if I liked this movie or not, I do know that there are a select group of people I’d recommend it to. Actually, maybe it’s better to say there’s a large swath of folks I would not recommend this to! I suggest you don’t watch this with your mother, father, grandmother, uncle, aunt, cousin, or anyone else you’re related to. Or maybe don’t watch it with any women at all. Maybe just watch it by yourself in a dark room with your own bottle of booze. And then don’t tell anyone you watched it. But maybe you should watch it.


1 Response to “Inserts (1974)”

  1. December 11, 2015 at 8:10 am

    INSERTS is a marvellous movie, filled with stand-out performances by the whole cast, some dialogue that’s downright quotable and an overall sense of hOLLYWOOD bABYLONian depravity rarely seen so vividly in one-set, dialoguey theatre pieces such as this. John Byrum made some wonderfully overlooked films and I feel that this is one of his very best (and certainly least appreciated!)

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