Sunday, December 4, 2011


 Once in a while we all strike a film that is is all but obscure and yet deserves better. 2006's biographical docudrama Hollywoodland is one such film. I watched it last night on late night TV and was surprised I had never heard of it. But what really hit home was how such a fine film can become all but forgotten and overlooked so quickly. I wouldn't say it is a masterpiece, let alone a modern day classic, but with its fine cast and intelligent look at the events it surrounds it deserves better.

 The film is a look at the death of George Reeves and the controversy surrounding it. For you not in the know Reeves was the actor who played Superman n the 1950's TV show Adventures of Superman. In 1959 he was found dead in his bedroom from a gunshot wound to the head. It was ruled as suicide but many believed he was murdered.  Some even think it was a result of an accidental shooting. Either way to this day the controversy has polarized opinions. What the film concentrates on ( in a fictional way ) on is the investigation, specifically that by a down on his luck private investigator.

 The investigator Louis Simo is played by Adrien Brody and is loosely based on a real detective Milo Speriglio who worked on the case. As mentioned the film is a fictional look at the events and there are numerous historical liberates taken. To be sure with Reeves death still uncertain in many peoples eyes it could never really genuinely show the truth. But like so many films of this sort it attempts to show what may possibly have happened without purporting to be the truth. For me when I read of the background to Reeves death there are only three ways he died. From suicide, accident or murder.

 The film through Brody's excellent acting and portrayal of  investigator Simo explores the immediate life of Reeves leading up to his death. In life Reeves had an affair with Toni Mannix ( played by Diane Lane ) the wife of studio executive of MGM Edie Mannix ( played by an excellent Bob Hoskins ). One of the theories surrounding the death of Reeves was that he was murdered on Mannix's instructions because he dumped Toni for a younger woman. Apparently the real Eddie Mannix had gangland connections and was implicated in the made to look like an accident murder of his first wife. He was also suspected of being involved in other deaths but nothing was ever proven.

 The second theory is that he was accidentally shot by his girlfriend who he took up with after Toni Mannix. Funnily enough it was Mannix who gave Reeves the pistol ( a 9mm Luger ) from which he died! Apparently after the shot was heard the other occupants of his house took 45 minutes before ringing the police. This is where all the speculation arises as to the possibilities outside of suicide. It was a strange event and one can see why people believe there was a cover up of sorts. And then there is the films finale which shows the unhappiness Reeves life had spiralled down into and the more probable explanation of his death being one of simple suicide.

 The film looks at each scenario through flashbacks at known events that may have contributed to Reeves death. Besides his breaking off with Toni Mannix there was the fact that his acting career was going no where. Many films that use the technique of jumping between time streams can somewhat feel clumsy, but credit where credit is due because I felt Hollywoodland done it very effectively. The past was instantly recognisable when Ben Affleck who played George Reeves was on screen. The film starts with the investigation of Reeve's death and the hiring of Simo by Reeve's mother after the police rule suicide. The thing here though is that whilst the film contains historical liberties it appears none were taken with the police investigation or the more factual side of things.

 This makes the film work. Because as stated it isn't trying to sway opinions but leave the viewer in an ambiguous state of mind as to what really happened and who actually pulled the trigger if it wasn't Reeves himself. The film though does end with it all but saying it was more than probable suicide and suicide alone. So often film like this over emphasis points or try to sway thew viewer towards it own point of view. But once in a while a film that is based on events where the outcome is uncertain comes along that does it right. One example is the excellent Zodiac of a few years ago where the film attempted to establish the identify of a murderer from the available evidence. It done it superbly and Hollywoodland does exactly the same thing from the available evidence but dramatises it a bit more, especially in regards to Louis Simo.

 Holywoodland then is a noteworthy film of its type. It has a fine cast all of who put in excellent performances and it is a shame that as film it isn't better known. The thing is that it turned in a profit on release, and received positive responses from critics. It was even thought by many to be an Oscar contender but didn't receive any nominations at all. Hollywoodland is yet another example of how a very good film can be intelligently realised, include a fine cast who put in excellent performances, and yet all but disappear into obscurity. I won't say it is a truly great film but it is of better quality than many films Hollywood churns out in a year. If you find this on DVD or it plays on TV then I urge you to watch it because I'm sure that like myself it will more than satisfy.

  In intelligently, well made film in the Zodiac mold even though a more fictionalised look at the events it portrays. The cast is excellent with real standouts from Adrien Brody and Ben Affleck. It is well worth your while. IMDB has this with a disappointing 6.6/10. I'm more inclined to give it a 7.5/10 at least.

George Reeves and Ben Affleck who plays him.
 Click here for a synopsis and more:

And here for more:

No comments:

Post a Comment