Friday, February 6, 2015

The Inspirational Monologue from How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1979)

Low budget films that transcend their origins generally have something in common, and one of those things is to substitute brilliance for cash.   They can not pick up the pace of a film by having a flock of giant robots attack, intent on world domination, due to the prohibitive cost of such robots in these early days, so instead they have to be clever.  This cleverness does not happen all that often, so when it does happen we should celebrate it.

In particular, I have come across one of my favorite endings of any film, which takes the shape of a triumphant monologue by the lead character of a film.

For those of you who just joined us, a monologue is generally an extended bit of dialogue by one character, either to themselves or possibly addressing some other character or characters. Monologues were more common in the earlier, more analog, filmmaking because those films generally had the benefit of something called a script.   Back in the day, scripts were generally written by writers, a phenomenon we have dismissed for being inefficient.

These days, with digital filmmaking, we have transcended the need for a script and instead group source our plot  augmented with improvisational dialogue by our actors who tend to make things up as they go along.   But back when we had scripts, and thus monologues, they were used to achieve one of several narrative goals.  Perhaps they explain the character's point of view on something.  Or perhaps they try to sell another character on a course of action or try to explain to them what is going on.  If they are an evil genius, they might try to explain their plan and motivation for world domination.

There are some very famous monologues that come to mind from all sorts of films.  The movie Patton (1970) begins with a monologue that is loosely based on a real speech that General Patton gave to various troops that were going to participate in the Normandy landings.    Apocalypse Now (1979) has one of the most notable monologues in film, the famous “napalm speech” given by Robert Duvall.

Sometimes these speeches can be very inspirational, and in our corrupt and far-from-perfect world, inspiration is always welcome.

I want to bring your attention to the ending of a modestly budgeted film, How To Get Ahead in Advertising (1989), as it not only ends with an inspirational monologue, but it demonstrates bold initiative on the part of the filmmakers in the days before digital visual effects where things were actually filmed more or less in situ and out in the world

The following contains a spoiler for the end of this fabulous film.

The film is a satire of the advertising business in England, and its lead, played by Richard Grant, has been driven insane by his need to develop a campaign to advertise a medication for “boils”.  It has so unhinged him, that he develops a boil of his own, one that turns out to be in reality a second head containing his evil twin.  When his evil twin is victorious and taken over the body of the advertising executive, it describes its philosophy of life in a  triumphant scene on horseback.

You can see this scene at the following link on Youtube.  When you watch it, notice the setting of the last few sentences in the monologue as it will be discussed in a moment.

The script of the monologue is approximately as follows:  

There is no greater freedom than freedom of choice, and that's the difference between you and me, boil. I was brought up to believe in that, and so should you, but you don't.

You don't want freedom, do you? You don't even want roads. God, I never want to go on another train as long as I live! Roads represent a fundamental right of man to have access to the good things in life. Without roads, established family favorites would become elitist delicacies. Potter's soup would be for the few. There'd be no more tea bags, no instant potatoes, no long life cream. There'd be no aerosols. Detergents would vanish. So would tinned spaghetti and baked beans with six frankfurters. The right to smoke one's chosen brand would be denied. Chewing gum would probably disappear.  So would pork pies. Foot deodorizers would climax without hope of replacement.


When the hydrolyzed protein and  monosodium glutamate reserves run out, food would rot in its packets. Jesus Christ, there wouldn't be any more packets! Packaging would vanish from the face of the Earth.  But worst of all, there'd be no more cars. And more than anything, people love their cars. They have a right to them. They have to sweat all day in some stinking factory making disposable cigarette lighters or everlasting Christmas trees, by Christ, they're entitled to them!


They're entitled to any innovation technology brings. Whether it's ten percent more of it or fifteen percent off of it, they're entitled to it!  They're entitled to one of four important new ingredients! Why should anyone have to clean their teeth without important new ingredients? Why the hell shouldn't they have their C.Z.T? How dare some smutty Marxist carbunkle presume to deny them it? They love their C.Z.T! They want it, they need it, they positively adore it! And by Christ, while I've got air in my body they're going to get it!
They're going to get it bigger....  and brighter.... and better!  I'll put C.Z.T. in their margarine if necessary; shove vitamins in their toilet rolls. If happiness means the whole world standing on a double layer of foot deodorizers, I, Bagley, will see that they get them!   I'll give them anything and everything they want! By God, I will!  I shall not cease, till Jerusalem is builded here, on England's green and pleasant land.


Now for the dramatic revelation.  At the very end of this important scene, the camera pans across Bagley to reveal a sunset in the background.   What you need to understand is that this is not shot on blue/green screen.  It was actually shot by the filmmakers on location, which means they had to wait for sunset.  Which means that they had time for only very few takes from the last cut to the last words of the scene.  They had to get it, or the ending of the movie would not be as powerful.

Outstanding work.

How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989) on IMDB

Apocalypse Now (1979) on IMDB

Patton (1970) on IMDB

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