DAY 25 — SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE*: Sleep deprived and still alive . . . for now. (*Does not have to be set in Seattle . . . so Belgium, works!)
Just so you know what you’re getting into with this very odd, badly acted and poorly scripted tale about a deranged (our “sleep deprived” lad) American brigadier general (our auteur, Burr Jerger) living in Belgium as he awaits trial for his atrocities committed in Vietnam: General Massacre was deemed “unacceptable” by the American Humane Association for “animals killed during filming” (a cow and a couple of ducks), upon its release in 1976 on U.S. shores. The backlash so damaging to the film, Burr Jerger, the film’s director, writer, producer, and lead actor, sued the U.S. government for “conspiracy” against this film, which he described as a “cinematic protest against war.”
Okay. Well enough, Burr. But you still harmed, maimed and killed animals to make your anti-war statement. And those “auteur” excuses didn’t fly with Ruggero Deodato butchering squirrel monkeys and river turtles to make his “statement” film, either.
Anyway, when Wilbur “Burr” Jerger filed suit in 1975 in the Los Angeles federal courts, he claimed the FBI and CIA maintained an illegal dossier on him for his “political activities.” Jerger also alleged in the lawsuit, after a conspiracy born out of those files, caused the release of General Massacre to be irreparably damaged and he lost $100,000.
Who is this Burr Jerger?
Well, the West German auteur also resides in those weird, hazy frames of celluloid resided by Peter Carpenter: a vanity auteur that went all out on his masterpiece, with Jerger managing one quadruple-threat to Carpenter’s two of Blood Mania and Point of Terror. And both vanished from the business after four films when their master works, failed. And, like Carpenter, Jerger passed through the Russ Meyer turnstiles. But unlike Carpenter, Burr also passed through Jean Rollin’s turnstiles. (For another lost soul of the celluloid turnstiles, check out our overview of Gene O’Shane’s career in our review of The Velvet Vampire.)
Jerger actually stuck around for more than four films as an actor: he made five: he appeared in Captain Sindbad (1963; a West German film edited into Quentin Tarantino’s Natural Born Killers), No Survivors, Please (1964; a black and white alien invasion tale), and an uncredited appearance (thus the four-to-five snafu) in Fanny Hill (1964) for Russ Meyer. Jerger made his final acting bow in Jean Rollin’s The Demoniacs (1974; a sexploitation, haunted island/pirate romp).
Jerger initially came to Europe in 1961 as a free-lance-reporter for Show Business Illustrate, Ebony and Globe Photos. That led to his making his cinematography and directing bones as the set photographer on Escape from East Berlin (1962), as well as working as a production assistant on A Cold Wind in August (1961), and as an assistant director on the French-made films Madame Sans-Gene (1961) by Christian Jague, and Cartouche (1962) by Philippe De Broca.
However, while Burr worked on all of those films in East Germany and France, he was actually born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Married to Lieva Lone, his co-star in The Demoniacs, he died on May 12, 1982. It was after his failures in film, that he relocated from Belgium, to Paris, and back to the United States, working as he began: a freelance writer and photographer. He would go on to write an (unnecessary) novel based on General Massacre, as well as The Saga of April 6th, and a storybook, Four Letter Words.
“Politics are the extension of war.”
“Civilians are as much the enemy as men in uniform.”
— the ravings of a warmonger
We learn of those ravings via a non-linear, flashback story as our U.S. WW II and Korean War veteran awaits his trial for the atrocities he committed in Vietnam. But what’s his excuse for killing his wife (whom he met-raped during a Nazi Germany tank raid) for cheating on him (he chases her into the forest around his estate and shoots her)? And killing his daughter — whom he has the incestual hots for — when he catches her with his hospital orderly?
In between, our General goes nuts on his Antwerp estate, where he “commands” his troops and straps on his weapons and hunkers down in the woods — woods now haunted by his wife on ghostly horseback. Oh, and our General has “recruited” his old Vietnam lackey, Corporal Tsai, to film his “war games,” his hateful and racist insights on the world, and his animal murders . . . which are graphic, ugly, and down right cruel as the camera lingers as the life leaves the cow. Then, to make matters worse: there’s the close up of the duck’s eyes as its life leaves the body.
Oh, yes, for there is a “statement” in the murder of cows and ducks . . . but the proceedings are just so clumsy across all of the inept disciplines that Burr Jerger kept for himself — on top of the art house pretensions deploying every sweeping and zooming camera trick in the book known to cinematography — as we flash to and fro from 1945 Nazi Germany to our fair General’s freakout in the Antwerp wood, the “anti-war” message Jerger intended, is lost.
Yes, Burr. War is awful. But your movie, even more so. And animals died for it. Certainly not one of the proudest moments of my little ol’ VHS home library.
There’s no freebie streams or trailers to share, but you can get DVDs from DVD Planet, if you must.