Bright Lights Film Journal

CALL HER SAVAGE! Set your timer…

If you get FoxMovies (and you might and not even know you do, so it’s worth checkin’) you should keep a Tivo button open for CALL HER SAVAGE which plays this Thursday at 6 AM eastern standard time. Then you should burn it to a DVD-R and dress it up pretty and wear it out slowly over years of extended play.

I don’t have my law books handy but I’ve a feeling this was one of the films that really burnt Joseph Breen up good and got the code going; next to Mae West there was no one so daringly sexual in cinema, more beguiling, crazy and wild as a hatter, than Clara Bow. If you’re not one for silent films (most of Bow’s output), CALL HER SAVAGE is your chance to really understand what “it’s” all about; it’s in sound. Touching on all the “woman’s picture” issues as if running around the bases to home plate, the film starts out with Clara’s grandfather, a wildcat mountain man who sleeps with a load of lassies as he leads a wagon train west through Indian-covered Texas. Then one of his ill-begotten daughters grows up and gets left behind too often by her traveling rancher husband and gets “comforted” by a stoic Native American with whom she doth beget Clara Bow. The rancher, ever so dour, doesn’t realize that’s why a daughter presumably from his own boring loins could ever be so wild. And wild? She goes around acting like John Belushi–she can smash a good guitar–in Animal House, but even sexier! Just seeing her wrestle with a big dog is amazing or whip a half-breed, but when she tussles with Thelma Todd? You will want to gouge out your eyes and keep them on the mantle just as they are, that image still burnt in the retina, cuz you know it will never be that good again.

The weird trippy energy of Bow makes her ahead of her time even then — she moves from emotion to emotion in the same “totally there” way as someone would on psychedelics, but she’s like that all the time. She’s one of those in-the-moment bad influence trouble girls who you meet for five minutes and throw your small town home life away to follow her penniless and barefoot into the desert, and come weeks back later broke, drug addicted and insane from syphlis and announce: “I regret nothing!” Don’t you regret either, pilgrim! SAVAGE isn’t out on DVD and never was on VHS. This is your chance. Wait, before you blame me if you don’t like it: it’s not THAT good. It’s not very good at all really, but it’s fuckin’ great.