Sunday, September 16, 2012

Adam at Six A.M. (1970)

After watching Hail, Hero! (see previous post) I knew that my fixation with early Michael Douglas movies had just begun.   Next up was Adam at Six A.M. (1970) and I was far from being disappointed.  This is one of the best films I have ever seen!

First off, the script for this amazing thing was written by Steven and Elinor Karpf.  This writing team went on to pen many of my favorite made-for-tv movie including the near cult classics Gargoyles and Devil Dog!  Additionally, they wrote the screenplay for the afterschool special My Dad Lives In a Downtown Hotel (which I’ve already mentioned several times in this blog).  What are you waiting for...You should click on those links in order to watch these awesome and once hard-to-find films on YouTube!

Back to Adam at 6a.m.  I love the directing/cinematography too.  It has a down to earth feel, great music and some nice overhead shots that were probably filmed from a helicopter.  Amazing!  Especially for such a subtle character study.  That’s not to say that this movie is not intense.  It is!  But that is mostly due to the acting on the part of Michael Douglas.  In Adam, he is a totally believable character.  Not necessarily always a lovable one, but REAL nonetheless.  His character is more serious than in Hail, Hero but still shows off some humor that reflects a rebellious spirit.  If you thought Hail, Hero! was a bit boring, you definitely will NOT have the same issue with this film.

So what is Adam at 6a.m all about?  It’s a story of a disillusionment.  More so than just a story of the 1960’’s a story of the generation gap, ideals and a rebellion against expectations.  It’s a movie about searching for answers...and the film itself leaves many open-ended questions.  It’s a challenging film but it’s not difficult to watch because there are many poignant moments of friendship and romance.  But these elements are never glossed over with tight conclusions.

Douglas plays Adam, a 29 year old assistant college professor in Semantics who lived in California.  He is unhappy with his work and with his love life.  He feels out of place with his family.  When his great Aunt dies (who he has never met), he takes a cross country journey to visit her funeral in Missouri. 

At the funeral, he again immediately feels out of place surrounded by the older generation.  He nearly gets into a fight with a man who takes Adam for a hippy and freaks out when he mentions the film Blow Up.  Things settle down though, when another old woman attempts to set up Adam with her daughter (the only other young person in the procession).   I think it’s funny that Adam compares Jerri Jo’s mother to a pimp!

Jerri Jo (played by Lee Purcell) takes an immediate liking to Adam.  She is different than other girls he has been with.  She is more innocent and enthusiastic...Adam is amused by her.  They go to a drive-in movie together.  Adam thinks about scoring with her but she is not as easy as she seems.

Instead of hitting the road again, Adam decides to sick around in the small Missouri town.  He gets a summer job working as a laborer, clearing brush for a local power company.  In the process, he grows fond of the uneducated workers.  Harvey Gavin (Joe Don Baker) shares his dreams with Adam and the two become pals.  Adam enjoys their friendship and feels that he learns much from Harv about the ways of the world.

My favorite part of the film is when Harv takes the boys out for a wild night at a local bar.
Harv pulls on the charm and his barstool seduction is something that just has to be seen!  The boys have a rollicking time getting drunk and dancing.  Adam, sadly is not paired up.  The scene ends poignantly as Adam heads to a phone booth, alone, and calls Jerri Jo in the quiet darkness.  The whole thing is really quite beautiful.

When Adam gets inured at work, he returns to spend more time with Jerri Jo.  The film starts to get more romantic here and it’s worth it.  The two are a darling couple and the relationship changes the two of them for the better.

But before this turns into a romance movie, Adam continues to act more irresponsibly.  He gives all of his summer earnings to Harv, who gambles it away and nearly gets them both killed in a brawl.

It is clear that Adam still had some gnawing discontent within him.  Once he finally decides to marry Jerri Jo, it becomes apparent that he still needs to be on his own.  Her father, like his own, builds homes and will encourage him to again become a teacher.  Even though Adam has traveled a thousand miles, his life in the Midwest is beginning to look like his life back in California.  Is there any way to escape?

Adam at 6 a.m. has never been released on DVD.  It is definitely another one of my discard treasures!  Thematically I’d say this one is akin with some of the other movies I’ve previously mentioned such as The Neon Ceiling (1971).  I also recommend another strange romance film written by Steven and Elinor Karpf called Sandcastles (1972).  Another similar film/tv series from this time period is Then Came Bronson (1969-1970) that I'll have to write another post entirely about sometime.  It's also about a white collar drop-out who hits the road in order to find himself by taking outdoors laborer work.

Now I’m looking forward to seeing the final Michael Douglas “youth” film, Summertree (from 1971).  I can’t wait!





    thank you very much

  2. I really need to get my hands on this film. Much of the location filming eas done in my hometown which means manyof my high school teachers and family friends worked as extras in the film.