Brewster McCloud

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Brewster McCloud
Brewster McCloud.jpg
Directed by Robert Altman
Produced by Lou Adler
Written by Doran William Cannon
Starring Bud Cort
Sally Kellerman
Michael Murphy
Music by Gene Page
Cinematography Lamar Boren
Jordan Cronenweth
Edited by Lou Lombardo
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • December 5, 1970 (1970-12-05)
Running time 105 minutes
Language English

Brewster McCloud is a 1970 movie, directed by Robert Altman, about a young recluse (Bud Cort, as the titular character) who lives in a fallout shelter of the Houston Astrodome, where he is building a pair of wings so he can fly. He is helped by his comely and enigmatic "fairy godmother", played by Sally Kellerman.

The film was shot on location in Houston, Texas. During the opening credits, shots of the downtown Houston skyline (with One Shell Plaza under construction) zoom toward the Houston Astrodome and Astrohall, with the emerging Texas Medical Center in the background. It was the first film shot inside the Astrodome.

Plot[edit]

The film opens with The Lecturer (René Auberjonois) regaling his (unseen) students with a wealth of knowledge of the habits of birds.

Owlish Brewster (Bud Cort), living hidden and alone under the Houston Astrodome, dreams of creating wings that will help him fly like a bird. His only assistance comes from Louise (Sally Kellerman), a beautiful woman committed to helping Brewster realize his dream. Wearing only a trench coat, Louise has unexplained scars on her shoulder blades, which the perceptive viewer may interpret as those of a fallen angel. She warns him against having sexual intercourse, as this could kill his instinct to fly.

While Brewster works to complete his wings and condition himself for flight, Houston itself suffers a string of unexplained murders, the work of a serial killer whose victims are found strangled and covered in bird droppings. Haskell Weeks (William Windom) a prominent figure in Houston, pulls strings to have the Houston Police call "San Francisco super cop" Frank Shaft (Michael Murphy) to investigate. Shaft immediately fixates on the bird droppings, and soon finds a link to Brewster.

Brewster eludes the police with the apparent help of Louise. However, he eventually drives her away– and dooms himself– when he defies Louise's edict against sex by hooking up with Astrodome usher Suzanne (Shelley Duvall). Suzanne also saves Brewster by out-driving Shaft in her Plymouth Road Runner. Severely injured after losing Brewster, Shaft kills himself. Despite her sweetness, Suzanne will not give up her comfortable home to fly with Brewster. Sensing something very wrong with Brewster, Suzanne betrays him to the police.

In the climactic scene, a small army of policemen enter the Astrodome, but fail to nab Brewster before he takes flight using his completed wings. Although Brewster escapes the police, he cannot escape the human being's inherent unsuitability for flight. Exhausted by the effort, he falls out of the air, crashing in a heap on the floor of the Astrodome.

The film ends with a Circus entering the Astrodome, its members being the cast of the film now costumed as clowns, strongmen and other circus performers. The Ringmaster (played William Windom) announces the names of each cast member, finishing with Brewster, who still remains crumpled on the floor.

Cast[edit]

Opening quirk[edit]

The film opens with the MGM logo, as usual, but with the voice of Rene Auberjonois saying, "I forgot the opening line," replacing the lion roar.[1]

Cultural references[edit]

The film features references to other films, including Altman's own work. Altman pays homage to Bullitt (1968) through the character of San Francisco detective Frank Shaft. Character Haskell Weeks' name resembles that of Haskell Wexler, a cinematographer Altman admired and considered working with on California Split.[citation needed]

Homages to The Wizard of Oz (1939) have been noted in the film,[by whom?]; Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West, appears in this film wearing ruby slippers. Hope (Jennifer Salt), who supplies Brewster with health food, resembles Dorothy, with her distinctive gingham dress, pigtails and basket. At the end of the film, she is shown in the cast as Dorothy carrying Toto.

Production[edit]

This film marks the first feature produced by Altman's Lions' Gate Films. The film records landmarks and streetscapes that later were demolished or radically changed. The hotel Frank Shaft checks into was part of the AstroDomain complex; it has gone through several changes.

References[edit]

External links[edit]