Tuesday, April 21, 2009

JIGSAW (1968)

"We were groping towards each other like two adding machines."

Perhaps that line from James Goldstone's 1968 involuntary acid trip
Jigsaw hit so hilarious because—by that point—I had already had two vodka "vortinis" in the admittedly addictive Vortex Room. Offering double-billed programs alchemically fueled from the 16mm library of Cosmic Hex, the Vortex Room's plush leather seats, atmospheric lighting, ubiquitous Charles Bronson homage (yes, that's him on black velvet), classic vinyl on turntables, and slightly sinful speakeasy vibe has become one of my favorite alternate screening spaces in San Francisco. Offering a Thursday evening film cult series of hardboiled cinema, I can't recommend The Vortex Room highly enough. Every bad San Franciscan deserves this comeuppance. Are you bad enough? Upcoming entries include Pam Grier in Friday Foster (1975), the 1948 and 1989 versions of Road House, Coleman Francis's The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961) and the "thrill pills" docudrama of Joseph M. Newman's 1957 Death In Small Doses.

As Sandra Brennan synopsized Jigsaw for
All Movie Guide: "In this thriller, Jonathan Fields (Bradford Dillman) awakens in a strange apartment and finds a dead woman floating in the bathtub after he suffered an LSD-flashback the night before. Finding blood upon his hand, he can only wonder how he is involved in the woman's death. He hires private detective Arthur Belding (Harry Guardino) who has him take another dose of LSD in order to see if he can remember what had happened. They learn that Fields' co-worker Lew Haley (Pat Hingle) had slipped acid into his coffee as part of a blackmail conspiracy. Haley was after his girlfriend and after his job in a government think tank. They also learn that his supervisor Dr. Arkroyd (Victor Jory) had been in a relationship with the deceased woman. She too was being blackmailed by Haley, who killed her when she threatened to call the cops. Dr. Arkroyd knew about it all and did nothing. Eventually Fields and Haley fight it out. The blackmailer ends up crashing through a high-rise window and falling to the unforgiving pavement below. Hope Lang, Susan Saint James, James Doohan and Michael J. Pollard also star in this psychedelic murder mystery."

Jigsaw is not so much a "who dunnit?" as it is a "how high were they when they dunnit?" film with original music by Quincy Jones and a notable hip-'60s cast that shows off Bradford Dillman's considerable charisma, Pat Hingle's dexterity in reaching his chin with his tongue, Victor Jory as smarmy as ever, Hope Lange once again hopelessly attracted to a crash-and-burn type while struggling with propriety, let alone sobriety, and Michael J. Pollard mumbling monologues while effortlessly exhibiting all the cachet of one of those troll dolls from grade school.

LSD with your coffee? One lump or two? Can you believe that Jigsaw was originally meant to be aired on NBC, who refused to run it and tossed it to Universal for distribution? What a trip, baby. Blows my mind. Grazing in the grass is a gas, can you dig it?

The Vortex Room is located at 1082 Howard Street at 7th. Donation: $5. Cross-published on