Too Much Johnson

1938

Comedy /

2
IMDb Rating 6.1

Synopsis


Downloaded 630 times
5/2/2019 12:16:08 PM

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1.28G
Normal
English
/
66 min
P/S 1 / 0
832.54M
Normal
English
/
66 min
P/S 1 / 0

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Reiher 7

Long thought lost, &quot;Too Much Johnson&quot; has been found and restored. Never intended as a standalone film, it is rather a collection of three filmed segments meant to introduce acts of a stage play, a farce from the late 19th century. It was never used that way, and Welles did not finish editing it for that purpose. What survives is a very rough cut, including multiple takes of the same shot, no titles (which probably would have been used), and material that seems very likely to be out of order.<br/><br/>The first segment is the longest and the best. It&#39;s primarily a farcical chase out of the silent comedy era, featuring an enraged husband chasing his wife&#39;s lover (Joseph Cotten) through New York, particularly over rooftops and up and down streets in the market district. This material was essentially stolen footage, filmed without permits on location as time allowed. Some of it is fairly funny, but in the version that survives, it doesn&#39;t hold together well. One must admire the grit of Cotten and the other actors, who are doing their own work here up on some rather dodgy rooftops.<br/><br/>The second segment is not very interesting. All important characters have taken a ship to Cuba and the husband is still chasing the lawyer. In this segment, we get shots of Cotten traveling to the plantation of a friend who proves to be dead, shots of the dead friend&#39;s servant at the graveside, and shots of the new plantation owner walking around.<br/><br/>The third segment is a slight improvement. It primarily consists of an extended duel between the husband and the plantation owner, who has been mistaken for the lover. The lover seeks to break up the duel. It goes on over cliffs and up and down hills, ending with the furious plantation owner trouncing both the husband and the lover and dumping them in a pond, where they sit bedraggled and hangdog.<br/><br/>So it was never intended to be a complete film, and even what there is does not represent a coherent, careful assembly of what was shot. However, there are certainly elements that suggest that Welles had pretty good understanding of directing for the camera before he ever got to Hollywood. He makes clever use of camera angles, clearly planned some interesting intercutting, and has elaborate shots with important elements in both the foreground and background.<br/><br/>Welles obviously gave thought to expressing plot cinematically, as in an extended sequence in which the husband runs around knocking hats off the heads of passers-by to match their faces against a torn photo showing only the forehead and hair of the lover. He use a variety of angles, including high overhead shots and reaction closeups from the victims, to build this sequence. Neither this sequence nor most of the others was fully edited, so it&#39;s not easy to tell how Welles really envisioned it, but it is clear that he had a pretty elaborate plan for how it would play on screen.<br/><br/>In summary, this is not a film one sees for the entertainment experience, but rather because one has a deep interest in Orson Welles and wants to get a sense of what his own raw talent was like before he got to Hollywood, carefully studied film, and worked with experienced film professionals.

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Reviewed by Quinoa1984 7

It&#39;s always a miracle when a lost film is discovered, or an unreleased one or whichever, and for those looking for the scraps of what Orson Welles left behind and have never been able to see, the most prized missing stuff is... The Magnificent Ambersons, of course! But among the films thought lost to the ashes of time, one of them was Too Much Johnson, an experimental work that Welles made in conjunction with a play by William Gillette. I haven&#39;t read the play, but I&#39;ve read about it, and it basically concerns a man who goes to Cuba, but also has a dalliance of some kind with a woman. And then there&#39;s a chase, and wackiness ensues about infidelities and husbands and wives and so on.<br/><br/>Actually, I may be confusing the play with what Welles filmed, which were, according to history, supposed to be bridging-segments during scene changes on stage. Also, Welles wanted to possibly try to convince Hollywood he could direct film - prior to this he&#39;d done one really amateur short, The Hearts of Age, and this was either before or around the time that War of the Worlds happened, which got him his carte-blanch deal anyway - and what better way than to go another step further past his theatrical experiments (Macbeth with voodoo, Julius Caesar in modern dress) and make a true-blue independent film? <br/><br/>The problem in seeing Too Much Johnson today are two-fold at least: 1) Welles never left behind a fully finished cut, even in the form of what the segments would&#39;ve really looked like edited together for the stage hybrid, and 2) what the Turner Classic Movie channel decided to do (in conjunction I suppose with an Italian restoration from the discovered footage from 2013) is just throw on TV at the end of a Welles 100th birthday celebration... everything. One might get the wrong idea tuning in in the middle of the night (which is when it officially aired) trying to get a potential glimpse at the Boy Wonder a few years before Kane to see what kind of work he was capable of - AND think, without the proper research, that it&#39;s a completed feature. It isn&#39;t.<br/><br/>What was shown on TCM is a work-print, basically anything that Welles and company shot; multiple takes included, many moments of Joseph Cotten just looking around or something taken a second time like characters on a horse carriage, and the coverage of angles. And, on top of this, the footage is scored with new music by some dude that is rather inappropriate, even for an unfinished product. If one is trying to watch it outside of the confines of stuffy film history, as, you know, an entertainment experience, it&#39;s all music that should be meant for some modern thriller (at best), NOT a Keystone Kops style comedy featuring the kind of set pieces that would later be emulated by Scooby Doo and Benny Hill.<br/><br/>Now, this isn&#39;t to say it isn&#39;t without some interest to watch this or seek it out if you may have also DVR&#39;d it or, by chance, it finds its way online or whatever: Welles clearly shows, years before he met Greg Toland and the legend of the &quot;You can learn everything about filmmaking in a few hours&quot;, that he already knew where to put the camera and direct actors. This isn&#39;t to say it all works; even the segments where things do cut together cohesively, it all moves super fast and oddly, and most of what&#39;s shown is just an extended chase (again, bridging the gaps of the play and experimenting). <br/><br/>But if you are looking at this and want to see some fun material, certainly Cotten in the lead, and women players Arlene Francis, Mary Wickes and Edgar Barrier (complete with giant mustache), plus Welles&#39; wife at the time Virginia Nicholson, deliver on physical comedy, BIG expressions and gestures, and Welles accomplishes a lot of very daring physical feats and action. That he got away with so much - I don&#39;t know if they had those things called &#39;film permits&#39; back in 1938 - is nothing short of remarkable. And considering how jumbled things are put together like this, I was surprised how much I COULD tell was going on.<br/><br/>But, again, all of the context about what this was counts. Watching this is for historical, cinephile-like, Welles-junkie reasons most of all. Compared to what&#39;s presented here, It&#39;s All True is a whole product. You&#39;re basically getting a series of glimpses into what was already apparent about this filmmaker, of his sense of play and imagination and just trying things out (a sequence involving knocking off hats, and how each man comes together to form a gang, is hilarious even in this rough form). If you go into it thinking it&#39;s a full feature you&#39;ll not merely be mistaken, you&#39;ll probably want to turn it off before it ends out of the monotony of multiple shots and jarring takes (plus raw footage that wasn&#39;t quite cleaned up).<br/><br/>So, needless to say, at 66 minutes long (!) this may be, ahem, too much Johnson, and whoever chose the music should be ashamed of themselves. But in this world where his unfinished works have attained a legend of their own, it&#39;s another piece of the puzzle. Last thing, though you may see a &#39;7 out of 10&#39;, I really give no rating to this, as it wouldn&#39;t be fair - akin to grading a student film.

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Reviewed by jcravens42 7

If you aren&#39;t a movie scholar, and don&#39;t know the full history of this long-lost Orson Welles film, and don&#39;t know the summary of the play that this film was made to support, can you still enjoy it? Yes. I watched the film without reading any reviews or much background, and not knowing the play at all. And I seem to have enjoyed it far more than other reviewers. <br/><br/>I found the music, and the images, hypnotic. It was like watching a French expressionist/surreal film. The imagery of the film is striking - Welles&#39; uses building angles and shadows in a way I have never seen in any silent film before. It&#39;s striking to see a tiny character walk across the vast landscape of the roof of a building, a white suit against a dark background - like a dot moving erratically across the screen. <br/><br/>Every take of each scene is used, so you see the same scenes, over and over, from different angles, each slightly different, or entirely different. Sometimes, you even see what were obvious outtakes, such as someone breaking character, or people screaming over and over, with the original intention being that only one of those screams would have been used - instead, we get them all. And that just makes the film all the more mesmerizing. Most reviewers seem to not like the music - I thought it was perfect, adding to the surreal, foreign feeling of the film - repetitive, like the scenes. It&#39;s by Remate, a contemporary music group out of Spain.<br/><br/>Joseph Cotton pulls off a wonderfully physical performance, with breath-taking stunts - if you enjoy nothing else, you will enjoy that. And the obvious fun the company had putting this together (look at the faces in the crowd scenes). <br/><br/>If you watch it, don&#39;t have any distractions - no laptop, no smart phone, no tablet. Just watch the film. <br/><br/>Too Much Johnson was originally intended to be used in conjunction with Welles&#39;s stage adaptation of play from 1894 by William Gillette. You don&#39;t need to know a thing about that play at all to understand most of the film, except for the ending and the secondary story which is barely there at all anyway. This movie is actually three short films, and Welles&#39; Mercury Theatre planned to show each as prologues to each act of the play. It was meant to be shown not only with music but also with live sound effects.

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