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Guess what, I'm a film fan. Filmmakers, directors, producers, writers, sure you probably know by now, I like some unconventional ones. But how about actors? If you watch movies, as a serious hobby or just as a casual viewer, you probably have your favorites. But do you have that one person whose work is almost an obsession? You have just fucking got to see everything they've ever been in, to force feed you friends or even total strangers the delights of their performances? Oh well listen honey child, I've got mine. He is an actor that never fails to deliver when it comes to his craft, most of his films aren't that well known but he has been in some well-known films, if that makes sense. It's Timothy Carey. Probably the worst cataloged great character actor of the Hollywood heyday of the 50s and 60s, Carey, is at once, pure genius and utterly flawed. Had he been willing to do things in a more conventional manner you probably wouldn't be reading about his work here, but that is not the way of a true artist, convention be damned, Timothy Carey always did it his God-damned way. For better or many times, for worse. That is never more apparent than in his self-indulgent, disjointedly complex opus, THE WORLD'S GREATEST SINNER. I can honestly say, without the slightest reservation, it is one of my favorite films. Once in a great while you see a film that moves your bowels quicker than a bowl of 40% Bran Flakes, if for no other reason, because of its motivations, its guts and possibly because of the unbridled passion behind it. THE WORLD'S GREATEST SINNER is one of those films.

THE FANATICAL CULT OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST SINNER (TWGS from here on out) was a bizarre premise for the halcyon mid-50's. Rock & Roll was something that was just beginning to be discussed outside of those in the know. Middle America was convinced that the youth would be drawn to the Devil Man's hypnotic 4/4 beats that these unkempt white-boys had stolen from the sexually deviant blacks. We know now it was a time of change, but of the folks who were living it, few had the notion of what was to come. Timothy Carey picked up on it, he knew the youth would have a say in their own futures, he also knew if you could harness the energy and exuberance of this movement that the world could be changed. Carey had once said that he was sick of seeing movies that were supposedly 'controversial.' He was dead fucking set on making a film that was really controversial. This was punk fucking rock, 1956! Carey's was disillusioned with the game that Hollywood played; he always referred to being in a film as "being in the show." The show as we know is all about business, and Hollywood doesn't care about an actor's happiness or his talent or God fucking forbid, his performance. That was the motivation for Clarence Hilliard, Carey's lead character in TWGS. Clarence was going to rope in believers of his philosophy, based on "man is God" and by utilizing these Nietzche-ian notions and by sucking in the Rock & Roll youth culture, the disenfranchised, from the elderly to the everyman, Clarence was going to take his followers and ultimately, of course, himself to new levels of humanity. Super Human Beings that's what they were not merely just human beings. Somewhere between classic Sci-fi mad doctor, politico trail stumper and a Southern tent revivalist, the character of Clarence Hilliard lies.

TWGS was first born from a great idea for a character, it would require a great character actor for the part of Clarence, Carey decided he'd have to do. While he was at it, he'd take on role of producer/director/distributor as well as screenwriter/star, you didn't see much of that going on in Hollywood in the 50s. Inspirational then and more so now when you think of the context TWGS was made in.

TWGS begins with a voiceover, describing Clarence's life and the possibility of Clarence rising above his humdrum existence, our narrator sees great potential in Clarence, and our narrator should know, he be the Devil. Clarence is an insurance salesman, a pretty good one at that but; he has been thinking for a while that he might just give up the insurance racket. One day, Clarence snaps and begins advising clients against purchasing insurance, "I wouldn't worry about burial insurance because when you die your body starts to stink and they'll give you a free burial, no you don't need insurance to cover your burialship." Fucking A! Clarence gives the staff of Anchorage Insurance something unheard of, the day off. Needless to say his boss isn't too happy with Clarence's sudden lack of sales savvy, Clarence asks for the day off and his boss gives him the year off, he's been fired. The exchange between Clarence and his boss is a taste of the pure evil genius that is Timothy Carey. Sleepy eyed, slurred delivery and that foppish hair all lend to the twisted radiance he brings to the brief scene. Clarence has decided that he wants something different, to just be on his own, he wants to maybe write a book or politics might be his real calling, he doesn't know why, but he feels he must pursue his muse. It's really just about being happy for the "new" Clarence. His horse, per usual is the only one who'll listen to him…for the time being, anyway.

Clarence's wife isn't crazy about her husband's sudden unemployment but Clarence reassures her they will be just fine. Clarence has a plan to make himself a God, first he has to hire his neighbor, Alonzo the gardener (Carey's good friend and roommate Gil Barreto) as a follower, He decides to attend a big, racially mixed hullabaloo and the underground rock and soul show becomes his inspiration. He'll grab a guitar, don a goatee and preach his message to the masses with a little Rock & Roll panache'. Alonzo takes Clarence to a Hispanic gal who teaches him a couple chords and then gives him a snake for good luck, "My wife won't let me have this!" But he takes it home and by midnight he's rockin' up in the bed, dancing, bouncing, then falling down crying to his Christian wife "Why can't I be a God!" Craziness, here in Kentucky in the Holy Roller churches that would called getting a little of the Holy Ghost in ya. In the Hilliard household that night, I believe Clarence had conjured up Old Scratch instead.

Carey, when he began making TWGS, was already 31 years old, he had been acting since 1951 and had worked with Marlon Brando, Lee Marvin, Elia Kazan, James Dean, Stanley Kubrick and a slue of other now classic personalities. His early acting career had him continually annoying his co-stars (he threw his beer on Brando in THE WILD ONES, Brando took a harder turn by stabbing Carey with an ink pen in the only film Marlon ever directed, the Western, ONE-EYE JACKS), the directors (Billy Wilder had him removed from the set of ACE IN THE HOLE and Elia Kazen physically attacked him during the shooting of EAST OF EDEN and ultimately overdubbed his voice no doubt because he was such a strong character in a bland film, asked why, Kazen grunted, "The way he talks, that's the way pimps talk!" ) and most of the people who worked on the studio lots. Carey had studied "The Method" and he didn't seem to go about getting ore performing his roles in the conventional manner. When he got his parts, he rarely relied on the script ,often times never giving the director the same take twice. Sometimes it worked, like with his memorable work with Kubrick, where he ad-libs his painfully, pathetic "I don't want to die!" Kubrick had planned on the scene being MOS (no sound) until Carey began his sobs; Kubrick warned Carey that it had better be good, because Kirk Douglas didn't like it. Needless to say, it was good, very good.

At 33 when most of TWGS was shot, Carey was a grown man with the ideals of a 20-nothing artist, he was possibly too far ahead of his time. Clarence's "using the youth to spread his message" mentality was a little of what Carey himself was hoping to do with TWGS, he wanted to capitalize on a little of that riotous youth rebellion by making a wacked-out Rock & Roll picture. Clarence Hilliard's revelation for the world was simple "There is no God but man, and every man is a God!" powerful words in 1958, his "Superhumanism" philosophy was all about an "Eternal Life" that any man could grasp, as long as they listened to Clarence's words of guidance. Carey's own political and spiritual views, no doubt, are buried in some of Clarence's rhetoric. His Eternal Man's Party promised everyone what ever they wanted, simple happiness for most, Clarence's pamphlets seemed to explain it all, his vision of Super Humankind. When his officers discuss whom to hate, "We got to hate someone!" Carey once again gives a gem of a soliliquy, "We're wasting time gentleman, let's be different, let's not hate anybody, I'm basing this party on a nondiscrim-inin-atory basis!" Yeah, I know that's spelled wrong but Carey adds the extra syllable. Who am I to question genius? This is from the heart not from the script, baby!

Clarence begins his rise to the top by passing out his pamphlets and gripping and grinning, it is not long before he begins to talk about being the President. He needs help of course, he needs followers, and he is not about to turn down cash from an elderly worshipper. His reward for her, he beds her, that's right Clarence beds a lady in her 80s. On screen Carey grabs this lady with all of the passion of a genuine Saturday matinee male lead and plants not one, but many kisses on this little old lady. Wow, talking about giving it your all. You want to talk groundbreaking? C'mon his character is sleeping with the elderly for cash to forward his politico-religious campaign. Groundfuckingbusting me thinks! It's not long before he also beds the guitar teacher who becomes a faithful follower and even a 14-year-old volunteer for his campaign, near the end of the film. Carey's vision had all the parts; abuse of power, abnormal sex, and the ever-present God-complex. Clarence was a highly developed character for that or any time period.

Carey's Clarence evolves into the "God" he wants to be, the "super human being" of his prophecies, but his normal Christian family is missing the God Hilliard boat. When Clarence fills an auditorium with followers and Rawks his message, it is not only something spiritual, it is something down right fucking OUT THERE. This scene is one of the rawest Rock & Roll moments ever laid down on celluloid. Carey does the same dance he is remembered for in the drive-in classic POOR WHITE TRASH, only this time he is fronting a band, artificial chin hair in place (actually by this time Carey had grown his own Soul Patch even though initially Clarence applies a fake goatee), female, that's right gal saxophone players groovin' and when he drops to his knees and bellows "Please, please, please…TAKE MY HAND!" it is Rock & Roll in its truest most gutteral form. Carey, later in his career, was in the last real Elvis movie CHANGE OF HABIT and he liked to brag that when he met The King, the great one said "Oh you're Tim Carey, you made The World's Greatest Sinner! I want to see that picture!" Somehow, I believe that happened. One rocker acknowledging another, Elvis just knew. From 90s garage greats like the A-Bones (they covered the theme song) to Peter Zaremba (most notably remembered as host of early MTV's The Cutting Edge) of Fleshtones (his look was directly stolen from God Hilliard's), Carey's performance in this scene is one to be emulated. But it is so much more, there wasn't the typical polish to this movie sequence. There is something animalistic, rough and dangerous to Carey's writhing "God." Like a Pentacostal preacher in the throws of orgasmic Holy Ghost fever, God Hilliard delivers the groceries and waits for his tip. He even crowd surfs as he works his flock into a frenzy. It begs the question, where did Carey get this stuff? Once again, let's not forget the time period, this behavior wasn't widely publicized. If Elvis' hip shake scared people, what in the Hell did Carey's gyrating, worm flop do? I can only imagine.

As Clarence begins calling himself God, his followers wear the letter "F" for Follower on their sleeves. The symbolism, reminiscent of the Germany's Nazis and their Swastikas, is apparent. God is becoming more dictator-like. A mysterious visitor arrives and wants to help God move to the next level, the Presidency, and GOD of course, obliges. A letter, asent fter Carey passed away in the early 90s to Chris Gore's once great rag FILM THREAT alluded to Carey being a member of the Nazi party, I wouldn't doubt this bit of misinformation was based on someone seeing this movie. Carey seems to be a person who was never a member of any group and I know for a while he had an African American lover and also helped to raise her child. Doesn't sound like a Nazi to me but I guess anything is possible.

TWGS flaws, jump cuts, poor exposure, dismal lighting and flubbed lines add now to the whole experience of the film, but upon its debut in 1962, critics weren't so forgiving. Carey's herky jerky directing style, and the fact that years had passed during production, with odd pick-ups being added when Carey got the notion, sometimes Carey shooting ,sometimes a young guy named Ray Dennis Steckler, that's right that Ray Dennis Steckler, Cash Flagg, if you will, got his start behind the camera working on this classic for peanuts. Carey claimed the budget was eventually $100,000, I'd be surprised if it was a third of that. Carey, must have sensed that his masterwork might get panned, so always the media hound, upon its opening in a Los Angeles movie house, he wielded a .38 and shot into the theatre's ceiling, causing a near riot and dooming TWGS engagement from the get-go. His challenge to the movie-going public, the businesspeople of movie-making and the critics is on par with his dramatic challenge to God, "Show Me!" he pleads to this entity he doesn't believe exists as Clarence. "Show Me!" Carey seems to be saying to the outside world, "Show me that you get my genius." Of course, no one did. Frank Zappa who at age 16, lent his talents to the soundtrack of TWGS proclaimed on The Steve Allen show that TWGS, was the "world's worst movie" Carey never forgave him and often referred to him as an ungrateful asshole.

Up until his death in 1994, he claimed to still be recutting TWGS, like a man still obsessed, he always believed he could make it better. No doubt he probably could have, but the way the film stands seems just alright by me. His take on cultism, fanaticism, religion and politics are so outrageously before their time it is downright queer. You just never heard of this shit being discussed, sure there was Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs doing their free thinking, liberal, beat shit and tons of other coffee house poets all talking a good game. Carey made a move, a daring, nuts-out move to make a real statement. To shock, to provoke and to warn to some extent. In a scant decade, a character named Charlie would shock a nation with murders that were carried out by the cultish followers of his bizarre doctrine based upon theories of eternal life, man being God, and Rock & Roll. Had someone paid attention to a loud-mouthed, New York trained, droopy eyed actor a few years earlier they might have been less surprised by the notion.

Carey's genius didn't always go unnoticed. Actor and auteur John Cassavetes championed both Carey as a person and Carey as an actor. Cassavetes made a name for himself outside the typical parameters of Hollywood, not a part of any underground, nor a part of the system, similar to Timothy Carey. Both were actors who relied on human instinct to develop their roles, Cassavetes played similar unlikables early in his career and when the 2 got together (Cassavetes helped Carey raise some cash for his yet completed TWEETS: LADIES OF PASADENA, the follow-up to Carey's God Hilliard character) later when Cassavetes begin his memorable series of films in the early 70s, he gave Carey Carte' Blanche in 1971's Minnie and Moskowitz. Carey played a character named Morgan Morgan who spend his days wasting away in a coffee shop, Carey's performance is absolutely unforgettable and with Cassavetes', "let the camera roll" directorial work ethic, Carey lights up the screen with long takes and classic slurry adlibs. Later in Cassavetes modern day noir THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE, Carey's Flo once again eviscerates the conventional thug characterizations and the moments Carey is on screen transcend anyone daring to share frame time with him. Flo is the real Carey, much like Clarence in his subdued alienation and deep rooted pain and longing. Carey could make you feel that some invisible hand was squeezing his nads to the point of explosion. He had a way with pain, with showing it on the screen. Maybe it was with the eyes as heavy as a lard-assed housewife. Maybe the peculiar mouth and that grimace that showed all of his teeth and gums. At times on screen his head looks twice the size of anyone else around him or maybe that was just his aura.

TWGS was never and will never be a hit, big shit. TWGS shows as much of Carey's passion as APOCALYPSE NOW showed of Coppola's. The ideas behind his film were bigger than he could have ever hoped to portray to the masses. Not on a 5 or 6 figure budget for sure. TWGS was Carey's passion whittled down to short ends of film stock. He wanted to be in front of the camera, acting, his method, his rules without the suits fucking it up, performing. Hell, his career didn't stop with TWGS or even with Cassavetes, like I said he made Elvis' last movie and the Monkees only one, HEAD. In HEAD, considered a psychedelic classic now, Carey arguably he steals the movie as Lord High N' Low in the vehicle meant to parody the Monkees prefabricated success. Carey's performance is once again all him, crazed, incoherent, and as always, memorable. Carey also showed up on various TV dramas through the 70s and 80s usually continuing his portrayal of the heavy for episodes of Columbo, ChiPs, Charlies Angels and The Greatest American Hero. When he passed away in 1994, he was only weeks away from debuting his surreal wonder THE INSECT TRAINER on the stage. THE INSECT TRAINER involved the importance of farting, yes farting. Described by Carey as "an intimate collaboration with Salvador Dali" THE INSECT TRAINER boldly involves a wacky subject matter even for Carey, but he was driven to see it come to the stage. His belief in the power of breaking wind is fairly amazing and the sole motivation for this project, in an interview in Romeo Carey's documentary work in progress, Carey says of prepping his actors for their parts in THE INSECT TRAINER, "First I'd take a big fart in front of them. That's always a big help. I always thought if you really want to be a good actor, you've got to be able to fart in public. That, to me, is the most important. If you are so inhibited that you can't fart, I don't mean around your friends, I mean just a fart, out loud somewhere. I don't mean the 'silent creeper,' everybody does that; I mean fart out loud! Just that you can do it and not be afraid of it. Humility is very important." Carey never got to fart in front of a real audience with THE INSPECT TRAINER but Romeo Carey picked up his father's role and produced and starred in the play. I guess gas was hereditary.

No matter what ended up on the screen, big or small, with Carey you always knew there was much more on the cutting room floor, his honesty and guts as an actor wouldn't allow him to not take his roles to different places, many times that was too much for the directors to take, how can a bit part actor hijack a project? Carey did. In the final scenes of TWGS, when God Hilliard challenges conventional God to prove his existence, the camera is out of focus, the lighting flat and unflattering, teh audio hollow, and Clarence's symbol of God is a mere Communion wafer...doesn't sound like that great of a scene with my descriptioon, eh? Well that's total horseshit because of Carey's incredible performance. It wasn't about lighting, focus, special effects or sound, it was about his performance. His, in this dramatic instance, is like so many others in his crazed career, sheer brilliance on the scrren.

I began corresponding with Carey's son after reading Sam MacAbee's brilliant piece on Carey in Cashiers Du Cinemart. I also remembered the interview way back in the early 90s that Johnny Legend had done for Weldon's Psychotronic Magazine and decided I had to get my hands on a decent copy of TWGS. Romeo was incredibly informative, helpful and downright generous with his father's work. He emailed me the same story that McAbee mentioned at the end of his feature on Carey involving Quentin Tarantino. It seems that Tarantino had Carey pegged as his Joe character in RESERVOIR DOGS. As you probably know by now, Harvey Keitel got interested in Tarantino's script and became Executive Producer on the project. On the day Carey arrived to read for the part, Tarantino had him come to a trailer where Keitel and some other folks were. Tarantino showered compliment after compliment on Carey. Keitel stood to shake Carey's hand and told him he admired his work and was a huge fan even mentioning CHINESE BOOKIE. Carey, who had been ill and had battled back after having a stroke, was surprised by all the praise and humbly said to Keitel "thank you." This thoroughly pissed Keitel off because he was expecting some sort of "gratuitous" ass kiss from Carey. The problem was Carey had no idea who he was. Carey delivered his lines as Joe and of course wowed all in attendence, well, all but Harvey Keitel who said."Forget it, we can't use him." Keitel was hurt that Carey had not given him the hollow compliment that he had bestowed upon Carey! Lawrence Tierney ended up with the role, Lawrence and Carey had been long time friends and Tierney phoned up Carey and broke the news, "I can't believe those assholes gave me your part." Yeah, neither can I Larry, neither can I.

Romeo has picked up the passion for his father's work as well as for his own, his company Absolute Films is not only showing TWGS at festivals around the country, Romeo is trying to finish a documentary on his father and making his own films. I urge you to visit www.timothycarey.com and buy as much stuff as you can, you can get a fresh copy of TWGS, a rough cut of the documentary as well as the work print of TWEETS. Go there now.

It's tough to only devote this much space to someone, I think is the shit when it comes to this world of strange cinema. Timothy Carey seems to deserve more. Don't be surprised if more of his work doesn't spring up around these parts. If you don't like I'll say to you what my guess is that Tim might say. Fuck you. PPPFFFFFFFFRRRRRTTTTTTTT!

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Well he's the World's Greatest Sinner...Download and listen!

Lock and Load
As a sinner he's a winner...

Clarence Hilliard, insurance salesman, soon to be Super Human!

Clarence with his lovely daughter...the daughter of GOD!

Once Clarence receives the snake (ahem) his life begins to change. That's symbolism, I recognize that.

Clarence begins his preachings and teachings....

With hsi cheap guitar and some pamphlets....

and a fair amount of what some consider bullshit.

Maybe a little chin hair will help Clarence's message....

Yeah, that will do just fine Clarence, that will do.

Once Clarence transforms into God, then it is one, Gold Satin-style. Eat your heart out Peter Zaremba!

God decides its time to Rock & Roll!

So Rock he fucking does....

and does...

and does...

and does...

till his has to get out of them clothes...

and shake, bake and shutter with power of the Eternal Life!

God gets down with his peeps!

God gets down with one of his really old peeps!

God begins to fill his power....can you feel it!?

Clarence is God, it sez so on his sleeve.

Those are the followers of God, note the "F" insignias.

God and his campaign consultant....

God's followers begin to do some wild things.

God packs the house house for a big night of Super Human Being talk and rock!

God challenges God in a loser leave town match. God wins.
Brains On Film 2003