Moviecrazed
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WHEN GEORGE C. SCOTT TALKED ‘SAVAGE’ TO ME

As he demonstrated so brilliantly in movies like “Patton,” "Dr. Strangelove," “The Hustler” and “Anatomy of a Murder,” George C. Scott could be a very scary guy. But he could also be earnest, caring and amusing, as he was with me when I interviewed him for The New York Times in 1977. And, yes, he was a little bit scary, too.
--GUY FLATLEY


How many times have you seen “The Savage Is Loose”? Not even once? The time has come, then, for you to zip over to the RKO 59th Street Theater, where you can inspect this unflinching drama that boldly answers the question, “What is the prescribed etiquette for a man, a woman and their erotically rambunctious son when they find themselves stranded, presumably forever, on an otherwise uninhabited island?”

On second thought, there is really no need to hurry. George C. Scott, the versatile, uncommonly obliging talent who produced, directed and co-starred in the film with his wife, Trish Van Devere, has taken extraordinary measures to assure that New Yorkers who missed “Savage” when it flashed through town three years ago can finally catch up with it.

“The picture ran into a lot of trouble,” said Mr. Scott in his inimitably gentle growl, “because I originated a unique way of releasing it, with direct sales to exhibitors. I bypassed the distributors, and that got me into hot water. So now I’m four-walling the movie - leasing the theater for $240,000, paying for everything, including advertising, and taking whatever receipts I can get. It’s been running for over three months, and the money is coming in at about $400 per week.

It sounds as if Mr. Scott may be paying a troublesomely high price for the resuscitation of his “Savage.” “You bet I am, but it’s worth it to me, because I think this movie is saying something important; it’s saying that this must be a world of change and accommodation, that the old ideas, the old taboos, must change if we are to survive. This is a serious statement which the movie makes in a sexual framework. No, I didn’t like the sound of that; I prefer sociosexual framework.”

The framework of the film Mr. Scott will begin shooting in October will be strictly socioescapist, a nostalgia-encrusted romp called “Double Feature,” written by Sheldon Keller and Larry Gelbart, the author of the mercurial star’s Broadway smash “Sly Fox.” Stanley Donen will direct a frolicsome cast that includes James Farentino and Barry Bostwick. “The ladies haven’t been set yet, but I think that Ann Reinking will be in it, and – I hope – my dear wife, Trish. This one’s going to be pure entertainment, a sort of takeoff on the movies of the ‘30s. It will be made up of two separate period pieces – one called ‘Dynamite Hands,’ in which I’ll play Gloves Donahue, a broken-down fight manager, and the other ‘Baxter’s Beauties of 33,’ in which I’ll be Spats Baxter, the great Broadway impresario. And there’ll be previews of coming attractions between the features – with me doing things like Captain Blood and the tough guys in those gangster movies. I have a terrific fondness for those old films; I grew up watching Cagney and Robinson and Muni and Garfield.”

Mr. Scott did not grow up watching the sort of film he’ll star in after “Double Feature.” In Paul Schrader’s “Hardcore,” he will play a stuffy suburbanite from Michigan who journeys feverishly to the West Coast in search of his runaway daughter, a 15-year-old participant in pornographic movies. Somewhere along the way, he discovers untapped springs of passion in his own psyche and becomes emotionally entangled with a 17-year-old prostitute.

“I’ve been interested in the subject of porno movies for some time. I find them an abhorrent form of exhibitionism, a cop-out in which the performers are the victims of unscrupulous people who will do anything to turn a dollar. I can empathize with the man in the movie losing his daughter to the world of pornography; being the father of six, I can understand how he feels, though none of my children has gone that route…knock on wood.”

Like “The Savage Is Loose,” “Hardcore” will not shun sermonizing. “There’s definitely a message, and it’s a pretty grim one,” said Mr. Scott, his voice priestly stern. “We’re in trouble, pal.”