The Day of the Locust – 1975
Nathanael West – novel
Waldo Salt – screenplay
Review by Wayne Malin
Saw it years ago–never forgot it,
Tale of 1930s Hollywood with a naive young man (William Atherton) getting involved with a ruthless woman (Karen Black) who wants to be an actress.
Basically this is a vicious jab at Hollywood in the 1930s. I never read the book and don’t think I want to–this movie is disturbing enough. I saw it years ago at a revival theatre–the print was in pretty bad shape. The colors were washed out, there were numerous “skips” and you could tell when a reel was changed. Still I was absolutely fascinated by the story and the characters. All the acting was top-notch (especially Black), excellent direction by John Schlessinger and it all leads up to an incredibly disturbing, harrowing ending which has never left me. I heard this movie was a bomb upon release–it’s easy to see why. This is WAY too disturbing for general audiences.
This movie has sort of disappeared over the years (I don’t even think it’s out on DVD) which is a shame. The stars don’t even like this (Atherton won’t discuss the movie and Black has said this movie was a piece of trash more than once) so take that as a warning. A bleak but powerful movie. I give it a 10.