Thursday, July 7, 2011

DIARY OF A BACHELOR (1964) - the lesson is, unless you're Anne Frank (and you're not), don't ever keep a diary

Near the end of Diary of a Bachelor, a character asks a very legitimate question - “what is the difference between a bachelor and a single man?”. I guess the simple answer would be that the single man wants to get married and can’t find the right woman (or any woman), and the bachelor has to be tricked into marriage, like a gorilla led into a cage by a trail of bananas. While the single man seeks to no longer be alone, a studmuffin bachelor resides in a sort of relationship purgatory, lonely deep down but never alone, what with a bevy of tasty ladies visiting him at the zoo (so to speak). Here is a portrait of a true studmuffin who is repeatedly smacked by banana wielding women that parade through his zoo, until he is ground to a muffinstump and no longer able to so much as crawl into a marriage cage. If my use of metaphor is confusing, may I suggest licking a toad. Not only will your mind expand itself, but you’ll make a toad feel pretty damn good.

So, a hot 60’s wife is all ready to settle down with Charlie, but happens upon his secret diary one day. She starts reading and the flashbacks start coming. What follows is a series of sexual escapades (in the tamest sense) of Charlie the bachelor, all told through his words. As he puts it, “I’d like to know which witch is gonna steal my freedom”. In other words, maybe he was just sampling across the spectrum, sort of window shopping for a ball and chain. Then again, if you’re practically equating marriage to prison time, why bother? I guess it was the “thing to do” circa 1964, a mentality left over from the fifties, just as the film feels like an extension of the fifties, rather than a document of the mid sixties. Either way, women don’t like to be called witches, no matter the context. Even Wiccan chicks hate being called witches.

Charlie’s screwbally juggling of early 60’s beauties is very appealing at first (and a truly awe inspiring time capsule), what with the crisp black and white photography, the clothes, the ladies, the swanky apartments, the liquor, etc. Charlie is living the life it would seem, but it’s also a bit of a pain in the ass, what with the running around and the many phone calls and the bevy of excuses. The most common one is the old warhorse “I’ve got a late night business meeting” and, at least by this point, that should be a giant red flag for married women the world over. However, the tables slowly turn when the women start playing Charlie for a fool, instead of the other way around. One girl even turns out to be a prostitute. I guess this was during a quainter era when hookers would politely ask for payment after the “deed” was over. I don’t know about you, but whenever I pick up a hooker, they demand money up front, threatening me at knifepoint if need be.

Anyway, this culminates in an encounter with a perky avant garde artist. Charlie, again, thinks he has charmed his way into a night of romance, but things quickly turn alarming upon entering her apartment. Not only is there a monkey doll lynched from the ceiling, she has her cat chained to the toilet (a real cat). Some perverts might find this a wee bit erotic (myself, for example), but most would conclude that the lady in question is a bit of a nut. Either way, an angry boyfriend starts stampeding up to the apartment, and Charlie prepares his escape, but not before asking the girl “why didn’t you tell me you have a boyfriend?”. She responds with “well, it’s none of your business!”.

I am reminded of an earlier scene where Charlie is attending a “business meeting”, sitting around playing poker with the boys (one of which is Dom DeLuise in his first film role, a welcome comedic sight believe you me). Included in the group are several married guys who sit around and complain about their wives, how all women are nags, etc. One guys asks another (paraphrasing) “what do you think your wife is up to while you’re playing poker?”. He assumes she’s at home raising the kids (god knows somebody has to), but, upon reflection, he’s not too sure. One problem with objectifying women, apart from the whole “they are human beings” deal, is that they can just as well objectify you back. Or, to put it another way, it’s hard to play an accordion that won’t sit still and behave. That’s another one of those metaphor deals. I know it’s a bit unfair to ask the reader to do the heavy lifting, but those toads aren’t going to lick themselves.

P.S. The film was written by Freddie Francis, of all people, one the greatest cinematographers who ever lived, and a good genre director in his own right. This was his only filmed screenplay, but it’s a solid comedic script, with some damn funny lines. It does suffer a little bit from its structure, in that it’s hard to maintain screwball momentum with an episodic script. Anyway, I just thought you might like to take in some useless trivia.

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