Snide and Prejudice
Angus MacFadyen stars in this indie oddball from 2001 as an L.A. mental patient under the delusion that he is Adolf Hitler. Maverick Dr. Sam Cohen (Rene Auberjonois) treats this ersatz-Fürher by surrounding him with other loony Nazi-obsessives and staging reenactments of key historical moments from Hitler's youth, through his rise to power, and to his suicide as German troops were defeated at the end of World War II. Considering the dark comic potential of this concept, it's bewildering that writer-director Philippe Mora's approach to the project is so unambitious (unless, maybe, we consider that Mora's only notable prior credits, aside from the 1973 documentary Swastika, include the monster movie The Beast Within, the first two strange sequels in The Howling series, and the poor film of Whitley Strieber's Communion). Rather than settling for comedy, Mora and his cast seem to prefer their film as performance art: simply presenting a series of historical recreations with varying degrees of loony eccentricity. As such, the movie has a few standout scenes (why is it always funny to see Hitler sing?), and MacFadyen performs his role with gusto. But at two hours, it goes on far too long. Mora stunningly fails to build any dramatic conflicts in his paper-thin narrative, and, more surprisingly, also completely avoids creating any character developments, neither in its "real" world or its characters' fantasies, so there is little for an audience (other than Hitler-fanatics) to hold on to. Attempts to frame Snide and Prejudice as a mockumentary are half-hearted and too stagy, and a neglected subplot about a murderous inmate escaping his ward and hiding out with the Jesus-obsessives is nearly forgotten. Reportedly shot in 10 days, Snide and Prejudice assembles a high profile cast, including Joseph Bottoms, Sam Bottoms, Claudia Christian, the great Jeffrey Combs, Richard Edson, Mick Fleetwood (as Pablo Picasso), Brion James, "Night Court"'s Richard Moll, and the listless Mena Suvari in her lamest performance yet as Hitler's niece. The whole point of this exercise seems to be to broach the unprovocative thesis that Hitler and his cohorts were crazy, which is neither a revelation nor complicated enough an idea to sustain a film. For those titillated by the idea of lunatics recreating historical events, look for Peter Brook's brilliant 1966 film of Peter Weiss's play The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. The transfer on Image Entertainment's DVD release of Snide and Prejudice is decent considering its low-budget source, and is presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1). The packaging advertises both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mixes, but there are only three audio tracks on this disc, and two of them are commentary tracks. The first commentary features Mora and MacFadyen, and is far more interesting than the movie itself; the second track, which is highly pretentious and will only appeal to die-hard fans of the movie, features Mora alongside both MacFadyen and Auberjonois reprising their characters from the movie. The best extra feature on this disc is 10-minutes of captivating silent footage from Eva Braun's home movies, depicting Hitler and his mistress on holiday, discovered by Mora while working on a documentary. Accompanying is a History Channel segment about the newly discovered footage (9 min.), behind-the-scenes footage of Mora at work, with commentary by Mora, (11 min.), a reel of deleted scenes (12 min.), and a stills gallery. Keep-case.