The Legend of Lylah Clare

The Legend of Lylah Clare ★★★½

Undeniably dumb, tawdry, and grotesquely overwritten, but weirdly insightful and affecting in its own tactless way. Equally engaging in its flashes of meaningfulness as it is when it's glorious camp trash, until the last 15 minutes put late-'60s Hollywood camp through a funhouse mirror and wind up with something surprisingly effective and nightmarish. The climax is genuinely hair-raising stuff, and the scenes that follow are haunting in the way they contrast the trauma of the previous events and the pain of the characters left behind with the open, shameless greed of Hollywood, the TV industry, and advertisers making their money off the tragedy. It all wraps up with the most quietly sinister advertisement for dog food you've ever seen, a decision at once too smart for this movie and yet perfect for it in light of what preceded it. I can't say this is a "good" movie exactly, but it's definitely one I found compelling and one you'll have a good time with if you have a taste for its mix of disparate tones and varying quality levels.

(Also, it speaks to the kind of movie this is that the much-jeered decision to dub Kim Novak's lines when her character is possessed by??? Lylah Clare with a husky German accent wasn't all that jarring to me in context. In any other movie, that would be a ruinous creative decision and it's not really a good one here either, but this film's tone is so heightened and strange that the sudden dubbing just kind of blends in with all the other crazy going on.)

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