Released as MAD DOG TIME instead of the perfect-titled TRIGGER HAPPY, this movie was never understood by pundits or trend-setting determinators. It takes place in an Alternative Universe, peopled by really smooth operators with elegant amorality. Not funny to the likes of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert but OMGd actors love Larry Bishop’s dialogue. He’s a poet from an alternative universe, writing lines that said seriously, fall trippingly from the tongue hysterically.
(example: “Vic’s dead… That is, you wish he were dead. And after he gets out tomorrow, you’ll wish you were dead. When he went into that hospital a month ago, I thought it was your run-of-the-mill nervous breakdown. But Vic… is sick, Mick. Vic is a sick prick, Mick.”)
Lead by Ebert particularly, it was decided it was a bad, bad picture (“One of the 10 worst”) despite many local reviewers loving it (San Francisco Chronicle “One of the Ten Best”) and an online ‘cult’ following has grown for Larry’s work.
Writing “in code”, hidden meaning, not normal english, was a risk on Larry’s part, a risk he’s still taking (HELL RIDE under Tarantino’s wing and released by Dimension under the Weinsteins and the upcoming ONE WAY RIDE) and actors still love to say his words. His existential philosophy is a couple of layers beneath the surface and strong and consistent. He’s happy to get into long conversations with his actors about what’s really being said. But the style he looks for in his actors is kind of an elegant deftness in love or war. He’s been in a lot of movies (many motorcycle movies, KILL BILL etc.) he’s always been writing so he’s got a solid handle on structure, length and the weave of a story. Then he does it his way.
About taking the risk of writing in your own code? Others who have taken the risk of imposing something new on an audience and insisting on their own versions of reality? Jim Jarmusch , Lars Von Trier, Godard, writer/directors writing about the future. But its a major commitment to keep on writing their own way. Movie great John Calley, then at MGM where it was being released, talked with us about making TRIGGER HAPPY more accessible during the editing process. We couldn’t wrangle it around. Maybe we could have if, in the writing phase, we’d seen the size of the problem we were going to run into and had provided more sign-posts for an audience to know where, what universe, how that universe had come into being. That was a tall order when it hadn’t been shot with that problem in mind. In the final phase, we couldn’t change the edit, or the structure or the order without unraveling the picture…and THAT irritated the hell out of ubiquitous critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert and they were nationally vocal about it. Accessibility is definitely something writers must think about. If they don’t want to consider it, they have to accept that they are not going to find major acceptance with American audiences. It was interesting to note that MAD DOG TIME had a great release in France where they don’t insist on dotted i’s and crossed t’s in their stories.