Imagine slices of “The Day of the Locust” mixed in with raw chunks of “The Big Sleep” and flavored with Preston Sturges-style witticisms and you have what “Far From Bismarck” would like to achieve. On paper, this unlikely combination doesn’t seem like a good idea; on film, it is a flat-out disaster.
Hard-boiled Harry Monk is a Philip Marlowe-wannabe, a Hollywood private eye who wears fedoras and smokes cigarettes and rattles off cynical observations with an air of world-weariness. One day, an aspiring actor comes into his office, mistaking it for a production company hosting auditions, and leaves with Harry’s wallet. Harry tracks the actor to his house, where a party is in full swing. The actor is somewhere in the backyard with a knife in his back, and rumor has it that a homicidal escapee from a local mental hospital is lurking about the neighborhood. However, the party is packed with Tinseltown poseurs and freaks who pay little mind to the murder and mayhem swirling around them, enjoying their own company too much to notice there is a world outside of their own. Ugh!
“Far From Bismarck” fails so completely that it might actually be of greater mercy to sweep it under the proverbial carpet rather than air its shortcomings. Filmmaker Philip Chidel doesn’t come up with a single genuine laugh or a fresh idea in his double-tracked attempts to satirize the old film noir detective classics or to poke fun at the pretensions and idiocies of today’s Hollywood scene. The closest thing “Far From Bismarck” has to offer for a laugh is a brief conversation between two hard-up broads who, upon learning that there is a dead man in the backyard, recall information that men supposedly die with erections and run off to check on the status of that medical factoid. Zzzzzzzzzz.
Dean Stapleton, as the private eye snooping around the film, walks about with a glazed intensity that actually recalls John Agar fighting zipper-backed monsters rather than Humphrey Bogart solving a mystery. The other no-name actors in the cast are stuck in stupid one-dimensional roles (a fussy Cuban host, a Princeton-educated gangsta, a castrated ex-Marine, a dimwit starlet) and steamroll their limited characters into the ground with no regards for the audience’s feelings. This film is home to some of the very worst acting of the year.
“Far From Bismarck” won a Best Comedy Award at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival and the Grand Jury Award at the Bare Bones International Film Festival. News that this production won awards is actually funnier than the film itself.