Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe? (1969)

Genres - Musical  |   Sub-Genres - Film a Clef, Musical Comedy, Showbiz Comedy  |   Release Date - Jan 1, 1968 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 106 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Craig Butler

A cult movie for a very small cult, Can Heironymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? will be intolerable for most viewers. The kind of film that is called Fellini-esque only by people who have never seen a Fellini film, Merkin is a mess from start to finish. While writer/director/composer/producer/star Anthony Newley certainly deserves credit for trying to do something different, the result is irritating and pretentious, as well as a jumbled mish-mash. Merkin cultists relish this aspect of it, claiming that it's intentionally sloppy and confusingly constructed; but even if one accepts this, it doesn't make the film any better. Fans of Newley the songwriter and Newley the singer will find plenty to enjoy, but even dedicated Newley aficionados should be turned off by his omnipresence and by the overpowering ego that practically bursts off the screen. As for Newley the director, it's as if someone gave an expensive camera to an incredibly self-involved 12-year-old and simply turned him loose. Merkin does have a couple of things going for it, such as a cast that includes a purring Joan Collins and such veterans as Milton Berle and Stubby Kaye, and one musical sequence ("The Princess and the Donkey") that actually works. And there are some moments (Newley wearing a kaftan while singing on a mountain, Berle conducting a black mass, etc.) that are certainly enjoyable in a "what were they thinking?" sort of way. But for the most part, Merkin is an ordeal.