Independent film icon Timothy Carey is being honored at Philadelphia's International House tonight in collaboration with the Timothy Carey Estate and the artist collective Vox Populi. The film house will screen some of Carey's rarely seen works, including the documentary, Making of Sinner, which is directed by Carey's son, Romeo. A Q&A with the director will follow the screening. Also playing and not to be missed is the never before released Carey masterpiece, The World's Greatest Sinner, which is like spotting a yeti in Philadelphia, only better (and yetis are pretty great).
Carey wrote, produced, directed and starred in 1962's Sinner, which boasts a score by a then unknown Frank Zappa. The film established the impulsive artist -- and he was an artist in every sense of the word -- as an underground legend. Sinners was shot for around $100,000 and Carey used his El Monte home and the city -- including people he met off the streets -- as the stage for his story about an insurance salesman who grows tired of his average life. A chance encounter with a rock n' roll show (his musical performance is like a peek into No Wave) moves him so much that he decides to change his life. He appoints himself God -- even changing his name -- and starts a band, preaching his own gospel (looking smashing in black & gold) and drawing a cult of followers who don Nazi-like armbands with a big F on them (F for follower or F*ck You?). While the crew is out wreaking havoc, God spends his time seducing old women for their bank accounts, getting grabby with young girls and basically behaving badly. I don't want to give away the film's final brilliant scene, but it's everything you could ever hope for.
"I was tired of seeing movies that were supposedly controversial. So I wanted to do something that was really controversial," Carey once said and Sinners does not disappoint. Like most things Carey had a hand in, Sinners was way ahead of its time and broached the two untouchables -- religion and politics -- in a way that no one ever had before, especially considering the film was created well before figures like Jim Jones and Charles Manson were a blip on the radar.
As an actor, Carey was like a caged animal and once unleashed, his intensity completely overshadowed that of everyone else, including the film's lead players. What else would you expect from the same guy who once put John Cassavetes in a dog attack suit and let a pack of beasts gnaw on him while shouting, "It's not you they hate, it's the suit!" And speaking of Cassavetes, Carey captured the director's affections -- despite his penchant for absurd humor -- and was then cast in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Minnie and Moskowitz. The same went for Stanley Kubrick, who like Cassavetes, gave Carey free range to improvise his characters, resulting in his astounding performances in Paths of Glory and The Killing. My mind boggles at the thought of Carey in some of Kubrick's later masterpieces, but the friends drifted apart. Equally mind blowing would have been Carey's role in Apocalypse Now. Like several of Francis Ford Coppola's projects that Carey crossed paths with, it didn't work out for one reason or another – the hilarious rumors, which are probably true knowing Carey, involved Coppola and a gun.
Carey's life was filled with madness and poetry. He once said, "You can't leave the film industry to the money people, they degrade it, they make people nothing." He made it everything. After the jump, check out a scene from The World's Greatest Sinner and if you're near Philadelphia, do yourself a favor and check out the International House screening -- details here.