The Happening (1967)

Genres - Comedy, Crime  |   Release Date - Mar 1, 1967 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 101 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Those looking for coherent filmmaking will want to skip The Happening, but those in the mood for something a little different should check it out. Happening is not successful in the things it tries to do; indeed, it tries to do way too many things altogether. But its ambition is admirable, if foolhardy. True to its title, it tries to create the cinematic equivalent of a 1960s happening -- something spontaneous, fluid, open to change, apt to rapidly move from one mood to another. Unfortunately, the demands of filmmaking -- unless one is totally committed to making something genuinely avant-garde -- make a real happening impossible. A screenplay is necessary, as well as lighting, sound, direction, etc. -- all of which require planning and coordination. So Happening tries to create a "planned" event that feels spontaneous. It doesn't work. It also doesn't help that Happening tries to be a spoof of caper films and to include a great deal of sociopolitical commentary, while mocking beach movies and a myriad of other targets. It simply is too much. Yet at the same time it doesn't go far enough; it falls between two stools, too conventional to be hip and too sloppy to be traditional. As often happens in such situations, it also ends up dragging. Director Elliot Silverstein can't reconcile its two parts, and the comedic and dramatic elements find themselves at war with each other. The cast tries hard, and Anthony Quinn gets in some very fine moments along the way, but for the most part, the actors are also hampered by the schizoid character of the piece. Some of Philip H. Lathrop's cinematography is also inventive, and the title song is memorable. Many will love Happening for being different -- but others will dislike it for the same reason.