Marjoe (and other praise-worthy oddities) at "The Second Coming of the Vortex Room"
He definitely had ability and magnetism, but also the ill luck to appear in some of next decade-plus' worst movies: joining William Shatner and Robert Reed as suburban nice guys on vacation with unexpectedly warped neighbor Andy Griffith (!) in Pray for the Wildcats (1974); imperiled by giant rats in The Food of the Gods (1976); in Viva Knievel! (1977), 'nuff said; Star Wars rip-off Starcrash (1978); horror idiocy Mausoleum (1983); women-in-prison jewel Hellhole (1985); and Rambo-meets-T&A travesty Jungle Warriors (1984) replacing Dennis Hopper in that one after the latter was found wandering naked and senseless on location. Arguably only Linda Blair made more enjoyably awful movies in a particularly rich period for them.
Gortner had produced a 1979 version of the stage play When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder? as a serious vehicle for himself in which he was duly impressive, albeit as yet another psychotic but that flopped. Around the same time he also started filming an autobiographical drama, only to reportedly abscond with the film cans when that never-finished project's money ran out. By 1990 (and American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt), a respectable acting career was clearly not going to happen, and the one he had held little remaining appeal. Gortner spent the next couple decades producing charity sports events. He's since retired, and shows no sign of any further desire for the public eye. He presumably prefers not being remembered at all to being remembered as a novelty.
Marjoe's co-feature is an obscurity I'd love to see an exposé documentary about: San Francisco-set The Second Coming of Suzanne (1974), a muddled parable about a megalomaniacal hippie film director (Jared Martin) obsessed with the titular chick (future Clint Eastwood consort Sondra Locke) he casts and, naturally, crucifies as star of his unfathomable film-within-the-film.
Suzanne itself is one of the most flabbergastingly pretentious movies ever made, the first and last screen opus of writer-director Michael Barry, son to second-tier Hollywood and Broadway leading man Gene Barry. Featuring a pre-fame Richard Dreyfuss and a pre-Decline of Western Civilization Penelope Spheeris in support roles, it's such a timepiece for better and far worse than you can begin to imagine. It should be required viewing for people who worship 70s cinema, as illustration of how easily all that era's best intentions could go to hell in a hand basket. To wit, "Second Coming" kicks off this week with an inimitable pair: Soul Hustler, a.k.a. The Day the Lord Got Busted (1973), and 1972's J.C., in which Jesus joins an LSD-crazed biker gang.
"THE SECOND COMING OF THE VORTEX ROOM"
Through Feb. 23
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