red tulips | copyright Jill J. Jensen



They Might Be Giants

Cast: George C. Scott, Joanne Woodward, Jack Guilford, Rue McClanahan,
         Al Lewis, Theresa Merritt, Oliver Clark
Director: Anthony Harvey
Screenplay: James Goldman
Theatrical release: 1971

Here's an oldie but a goodie that's very hard to find. If you can still locate a video rental store, it may have only the VHS version; whether new or used, the DVD from Amazon is pricey. Here's hoping someone decides to bring this film back to life with a more affordable DVD version or via streaming. Come on, Hollywood — it's definitely worth the effort.

In the meantime, keeping an eye out for late-night broadcast or cable television showings may be your best/only options. Not everyone agrees on the quality of this film, but if you're willing to suspend belief and go along for the ride, you'll have a great time. It's mystery, comedy, and romance in one.

For those born in or after, say, 1980, you may be more familiar with the eclectic musical group They Might Be Giants (TMBG for short). But, guess what? Those dudes actually did take their band's name from this film. On a message board at the Internet Movie Database website, 'JeffKaos71' writes that "The band takes its name from a 1971 movie starring George C. Scott and Joanne Woodward (based on the play of the same name written by James Goldman). In the film, George C. Scott plays Justin Playfair, a man who believes he is Sherlock Holmes; his psychiatrist (last name "Watson") goes along with him in search of Moriarty. Playfair defends Don Quixote's tilting at windmills, saying that the windmills, of course, were not giants but thinking [that] they might be shows imagination: 'All the best minds used to think the world was flat. But what if it isn't? It might be round. And bread mold might be medicine. If we never looked at things and thought of what might be, why, we'd all still be out there in the tall grass with the apes.'" If there's anything the world always needs, it's more imagination.

In the film, George C. Scott is aptly cast as the delusional paranoid Justin Playfair who considers himself the larger-than-life Sherlock Holmes reincarnated in modern day New York City. Joanne Woodward is the female psychiatrist, Dr. Watson, who tries to help Playfair. She becomes intrigued by the case and slips into the delusion for her own reasons.

Excellent character actors Jack Guilford, Rue McClanahan (Golden Girls), Al Lewis (The Munsters!), and Oliver Clark draw us into their world of is-it-make-believe-or-not and have us cheering, with Don Quixote, for everyone with an off-the-wall idea who's been told they're only "tilting at windmills."

While enjoying the fantasy of the movie, we can ask ourselves what is reality, who's reality is 'right,' and what's so important about any particular view. This film engages in a not-too-scary mystery while having a lot of fun. Ultimately, it touches the heart.

Hey, if a cutting edge rock-and-roll band — one that took a radically different/imaginative approach to making a name for itself and distributing its music — can find inspiration in this quirky film, it must be worth seeing!


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