ANGEL, ANGEL, DOWN WE GO’s Jordan Christopher trades in a “Cult of the Damned” for a New York cab in SIDELONG GLANCES OF A PIGEON KICKER.
Jonathan (Jordan Christopher) is a Princeton grad who prefers driving a taxi cab and living in an ant-infested apartment to moving back in with his pill-popping mother (Kate Reid, EQUUS) and hen-pecked stepfather father (William Redfield, DEATH WISH). He is “too young to be establishment and too old to be a hippie; like the buffalo: waiting to be extinct.” In spite of that, he delights in telling the city to shove it, bearing a grudge against a British customer for the Revolutionary War, and riling up his harridan neighbor Mrs. Abelman (Jean Shevlin, THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO) who drags her son around the city in a harness with a leash. While trying to get his recently discharged virginal buddy Winslow (Robert Walden, BLUE SUNSHINE) laid, he meets with new neighbor Jennifer (Jill O’Hara), a former Peace Corps volunteer who has been set up in an apartment by her parents and given a year to find herself. Professing that she does not want to fall in love yet, Jennifer seems to be the polar opposite of possessive man-trappers like nympho Naomi (Boni Enten, THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE); so Jonathan decides to test her. The tests consists of hippie-esque things like stealing salt-shakers from restaurants and food trucks and handing them to random strangers, buying the dirtiest porn magazines, and painting parking meters (“beautifying the city”) apparently to see just how much she will tolerate from him rather than for any particular social cause. She passes the tests, and is even literally philosophical when Jonathan confesses to a nooner with divorcee Mildred (Lois Nettleton, THE MAN IN THE GLASS BOOTH)? So, why does he feel guilty? Their relationship takes as sour turn, however, when Jonathan brings Jennifer home for the Christmas holidays, thanks to a combination of his mother’s attempts to be modern and his girlfriend’s attempts to ingratiate herself.
Based on a novel by David Boyer, SIDELONG GLANCES OF A PIGEON KICKER is appropriately shapeless, but problematic. Jonathan detests the titular pigeons because they simply exist without thinking, yet he declares an amnesty on the hordes of ants thriving under his sink. The guests at his gay friend Oliver’s (Riggs O’Hara, THE VIRGIN SOLDIERS) party and the Christmas party given by his parents’ friends later in the film are also apparently supposed to mirror pigeons (parroting old anecdotes and saying pretentious things like “The Rolling Stones are the Debussys of rock ‘n roll!”), and Jonathan detests the idea of falling into their habits (as well as Jennifer when she starts getting clingy and Winslow when he betrays him in a very stereotypical manner). Jennifer suggests that actually Jonathan hates the flaws of being human. During Oliver’s party, one of the guests says that modern movies are “starting to capture the agony and hardship of being alive” and Jonathan replies “Who wants to pay two bucks for agony and hardship?”). Well, that’s pretty much what we’re watching. Jonathan has nothing to rebel against other than general conformity. The film features two songs by Warren Marley, the first titled “Freedom” asks “What am I all about? Don’t you think you should find out?” The end result is more of a middle-class escapist fantasy with a non-ending (the other Marley song is the 1970s romantic montage-suited song “Faces of You” heard over silhouetted shots of the two young lovers wandering around leaf-strewn New York parks and along the beaches).
Christopher – of the band “The Wild Ones” who recorded “Wild Thing” before The Troggs – is more charismatic than his character, but Walden and O’Hara are better as more likeable characters. The supporting cast is filled out by New York stage actors (many seemingly cast for their ability to adlib naturally in the background for the party scenes) such as model Melba Moore (DEF BY TEMPTATION), Kristoffer Tabori (son of director Don Siegel and actress Viveca Lindfors), Richard Clarke (MIDNIGHT COWBOY), Buddy Butler (GOING APE), Daniel Davis (TV’s THE NANNY), Tony Capodilupo (THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS), future porn auteur Paul Norman, Adam Reed (RIVALS), and Ethel Smith (WICKED, WICKED) among others. David Doyle (TV’s CHARLIES ANGELS) pops up as the host of the Christmas party and Elaine Stritch basically plays a butch-ier version of herself at Oliver’s party. Director John Dexter helmed only three feature films including this film, 1969’s THE VIRGIN SOLDIERS, and 1972’s I WANT WHAT I WANT (in which Anne Heywood plays a young man who wants to live as a woman); however, he was also a two-time Tony-winning stage director. The opening credits cite four composers – Christopher Dedrick (THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD), Lee Holdridge (THE BEASTMASTER), Edd Kalehoff (TV’s THE PRICE IS RIGHT), and Patrick Williams (SSSSSSS) – all of whom are (or were) prolific TV and film composers at the beginnings of their careers, so the score is likely a patchwork of unused cues, portfolio tracks, or even library music (including a really nifty instrumental theme heard over the opening credits and throughout the film at intervals). The film was an early “legit” feature credit for cinematographer Urs Furrer, who had previously lensed the roughies LASH OF LUST, SIN YOU SINNERS, and THE FAT BLACK PUSSYCAT, and would later shoot SHAFT, SHAFT’S BIG SCORE and BEEN DOWN SO LONG IT LOOKS UP TO ME (which might not make a bad double bill with PIGEONS).
Despite the title on the cover, Scorpion’s single-layer, progressive, anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1 transfer features the film’s reissue title PIGEONS. There are some scratches throughout but the print is generally clean (with the exception of the usual reel change damage), and the grain looks natural. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio is clean with all of the location audio, post-dubbed audio, voiceovers, and score coming through cleanly. There are no film-specific extras; however, there are the usual bundle of Scorpion trailers including PUPPET ON A CHAIN, QUEST FOR LOVE, SUPER SPOOK, FOLLOW ME and SWEET WILLIAM. (Eric Cotenas)
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