Monday, July 21, 2008

Richard Burton in The Klansman

You can count the number of good films Richard Burton made on one hand... and this ain't one of 'em. Pure seventies exploitational trash, The Klansman (1974), features every racial stereotype in the book - and a few more besides. With such crass stereotyping on show and oodles of violence (several rapes, murder, and a castration), this eye-poppingly non-PC film just simply wouldn't get made today. In fact, the 2008 DVD re-release has been cut almost beyond recognition.

Typically, Burton and co-star Lee Marvin spent most of the shoot (in California) getting completely hammered. It has even been suggested that if you observe the film closely, you can see that during certain scenes they are both clearly pissed. Burton got himself into further hot water, on location, for buying a ruby and diamond ring for an 18-year-old pancake house waitress. Although the Welshman insisted nothing untoward was going on between himself and the leggy, blonde, former Miss Pepsi of Butte County, his wife, Liz Taylor, wasn't convinced. She got into a huff and flew off to Hawaii.

Despite the flick's numerous shortcomings - not least Burton's lamentable Southern accent - I do rather like the film poster shown above. It depicts OJ Simpson, in his first ever screen role, aiming a gun at Richard Burton's head, while Lee Marvin looks decidedly uncomfortable in the passenger seat. The dubious tag-line at the top gives you some idea of the film's exploitational values. One contemporary US journalist said of the movie: it will set race-relations in America back 50 years.