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Film Review: The Electric Chair (1985)

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Stand-up comic gets the shock of his life when somebody brings an electric chair on stage.


Did you ever hear the one about the unfunny comic who walks into a bar and proceeds to ramble on for about an hour? This statement is “exactly” the journey you will take when you indulge the film “The Electric Chair”. This grainy black and white film with hints of aging yellow spots is quite unlike any film you may have seen. There are stated comparisons made, but I tend to think its stands more on on its own accord.

I would not call it an excellent film, but it has character non-the-less. The movie stars Victor Argo who give a powerful impressive performance as a ticked off old school stand up comedian. The year of release was 1985, but you may even mistake this for an earlier era film from it’s  scratchy presentation. It offers no real answers that culty films like this often deliver in their own self involved worlds that leave a trail of mystery for the viewers to transcribe.

What I can tell is that Victor who is simply roled as the “comic” is giving a stand up performance to a dead as doornail audience that find no humor in his humor-less monologue. It begins with an old style song and dance into punch line routine and quickly enters into a lecture about how life sucks and what is wrong with the world. As the shadowy haunting audience watches, they take on their own traits. One couple who disapproves proceeds to have live sex at their table. Another couple indulges in a a nonstop trail of ice cream and a single Rabbi stands alone in the back occasionally breaking out melancholy notes on a  saxophone. As the comic continues in his tireless speech that didn’t make me laugh once through his performance, an Electric Chair mysteriously appears on stage assumed to be a comedic prop. Not only that, but a member of the audience comes out of the shadows every 15 minutes or so and warns the comic not to indulge into anything related to the electric chair. The comic goes on to ignore, rant, heckle, and poke fun at the mysterious informant while drawing the prop and the whole subject into his act.

The performance is one of stages, that goes from bitter to sarcastic to darn right pissed off in the course of the delivery. Though Victor does have his own style and a angry annoyed persona that also elevates to different dynamics. Song, rhyme, and a hint of lunacy entered into his tales roll off the tongue like a seasoned professional that has seen too many bars and stages in his lifetime. The performance might be more tolerable if any portion of it were actually funny, but it all feels like a big monotonous complaining session. You have to take alot of this with a grain of salt as it all is moving into a climax. This climax which is in a sense a “spoiler” is the inevitable move into the electric chair that ends in his death. Though it’s no surprise as the box art of the film describes this all rather well. We also learn that Victor is actually performing to himself in various stages of life. Whether the whole event was meant as a dream, a state of dying or just a paradoxical work into itself is a bit of a mystery as well.

What also contributes to its strangeness is the random inclusion of scenes from around his village. All of them suggest a dismal, gray depression of sorts without any narrative to explain why they are being shown. As the film moves into its 3rd act, we begin to hear a voice that sounds over some of these visuals as an almost subconscious narrative. The connection is rather gray but it does contribute to the cult film feeling of this production. “The Electric Chair” is a lethargic film to watch but it is dynamic in its ownright. Victor Argo delivers his performance with professional presentation that is impressive just in his own ability to carry a script continually for a single feature performance.

The Electric Chair (1985)

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