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IN SHORT: oy.
Here's an interesting concept: to make a 1940s style movie by recreating the 40s style movie going experience. That means filming "all new" newsreels and chapterplays to precede the main feature, called Treasure Island. Not the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, but a relevant (to the times) war themed flick. The "Treasure Island" in this case is the facility in San Francisco where mail was censored, to prevent loose lips from sinking ships (and so on). It is also base for a military intelligence operation, designed to fool the Japanese about our Invasion plans, since the time frame of the movie has us starting just after V-E day (and ending at the time of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki).
There Frank (Lance Baker) a scrawny pale code breaker and his burly boss Samuel (Nick Offerman) are creating a "Man Who Never Was" scenario (actually used by the British) to use against the Japanese. The plan is to drop a corpse in Japanese controlled seas where it, and the forged letters and documents on its person, can be found. The documents would imply knowledge of Invasion plans which, of course, were a lie. Due to the top secrecy of their actions, The Body (Jonah Blechman) sits in a refrigerated casket in their office. Always present. Always maddingly . . . attractive (!?)
This isn't a story in which necrophilia plays any part, though The Body's place in this flick is definitely sexual. As we learn more about the men, we discover that their personal lives, also defined by 40s lingo, borders on the perverted and illegal. Sam, who loves his wife Penny (Daisy Hall), willingly goes along on her weekly excursions to pick up other men for a sexual threesome. Nothing "gay" about it, though as the movie progresses Sam keeps seeing The Body's face on the men he picks up. He also becomes friendly with one of the men, and you are free to read anything you'd like into that.
Frank, on the other hand is a flat out bigamist. One wife, Yo-Ji (Suzy Nakamura) is Japanese, hiding in Chinatown to avoid deportation to the relocation camps. The second, Anna (Rachel Singer), suffers from such a severe case of psoriasis that, for all intents and purposes, psychologically keeps her housebound. Frank also keeps a third piece on the side (Stephanie Ittleson), who won't have sex until she marries him and who won't marry him, for reasons that weren't clear to me . . . which is the major failing of Treasure Island. What starts with stories filled with promise soon becomes a mish-mash of references to media racism, experimental film style gobbledygook and a murder investigation substory that goes absolutely nowhere. With six directors working on various aspects of this project, Cranky's feeling is akin to the old "too many cooks..." maxim.
If it causes you concern you should know that there is considerable (by current standards) full frontal male nudity and definite homo-erotic tinges to the story, as implied above. That being said, Cranky found nothing gay about this flick, in any sense of the term. Nor was there much to hold his interest, as the story did loops around itself, ignoring the KISS rule of filmmaking -- Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Six directors. Sheesh.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Treasure Island, he would have paid...
Midweek Rental level. Treasure Island is strictly arthouse and best for film students who can pick apart what works and what doesn't, and why. While there has been considerable interest at the gay and lesbian film festival level, we doubt whether Treasure Island can rise much higher.
This movie is derived from a very real World War II event, detailed in the book "The Man Who Never Was". The British fooled the Germans in real life, and it's a recommended read.
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