Klaus Kinski is on the phone

Love and Money (Dir James Toback, 1982)

Basic plot:  Frederic Stockheinz, the owner of Trans Allied Silver, hires a banker, Byron Levin, to work for him to convince the President of Costa Salva (Byron’s former room-mate at Harvard) not to nationalise his country’s silver. But instead Byron embarks on an affair with Catherine Stockheinz, Frederic’s wife, and he doesn’t want to get involved in his old friend Lorenzo’s running of his country – what will happen to Byron when Frederic Stockheinz finds out?

Cast: Frederic Stockheinz – Klaus Kinski; Byron Levin – Ray Sharkey; Catherine Stockheinz – Ornella Muti; Lorenzo Prado – Armand Assante; Walter Klein – King Vidor; Vicky – Susan Heldfond; Blair – Tom McFadden

Filming location: Marina del Rey Hotel, California?

Release date: 12 February 1982

Availability:   This film is available on a Warner Bros Archive Collection DVD although it’s an NTSC region 1 only issue.  There are no extras but it’s not too pricey (you can get a copy for about £10 including postage); it’s not that good either, sorry to say. Buy it for Klaus – because Klaus is worth both your love and money.

The film – *SPOILER ALERT*:

In my previous item about Love and Money I already said that I found the DVD cover misleading.  On the front cover it says: “Only one will win” – I’m not even sure what that means in the context of the film and its conclusion.  But it was the text on the back cover that made me buy the film in the first place and this is even more misleading:

“Byron Levin (Ray Sharkey) has two sides. One is Byron the workaday L.A. banker quick to defend a harassed co-worker. The other is a pent-up employee who’ll say something outrageous to a stranger for shock effect. Increasingly, Byron’s risk-taking nature takes hold. And it becomes a stranglehold when Byron is seduced by the deadly allure of Love and Money in this tantalizing thriller from James Toback (The Pick-up Artist, Bugsy). Byron accepts a million-dollar deal with a global silver magnate (Klaus Kinski). His reason says no but his passions say yes: he’s begun an illicit affair with the tycoon’s exotic wife (Ornella Muti). In return, he must persuade a former college roommate, now a Latin American strongman (Armand Assante), to stop nationalizing the silver mines. And if words fail him, bullets will do.”

Don’t believe it – there’s only one side to Byron Levin and it’s not very nice.  And the bullets thing?  He only touches a gun once (it’s not his, he finds it in a drawer) and even then he has it confiscated before even taking one pot-shot.  Whoever wrote the summary for the film had clearly not seen it; lucky them.

I know I’m shooting myself in the foot here (you see, even reviewing the film I get closer to a gun than Byron does in Love and Money) by saying these bad things about Love and Money – I doubt I’d get an interview with James Toback after slagging the film off this much, would I? – but I don’t care.  I just cannot lie and pretend I’ve enjoyed it; as hard as it is to believe I cannot find any redeeming quality in Love and Money that could make me rustle up some grudging admiration.  And this is despite the fact that Toback wrote the screenplay and directed the film (Fingers) that the rather wonderful De battre mon cœur s’est arrêté (The Beat That My Heart Skipped, dir Jacques Audiard, 2005) was based on.  Toback also wrote the screenplay for the award winning Bugsy (dir Barry Levinson, 1991) and was a creative writing teacher for some time.  But this is so hard to believe when you look at Love and Money.  What went wrong?  From my point of view, it looks like everything.

Anyway, as painful as it may be (for all of us) I am reliving my experience of Love and Money for you:

The first problem for me is Ray Sharkey.  There are no two ways about this: he is an absolutely appalling actor.  He looks like a cross between James Caan and Robert Downey Jr, but a poor man’s version at that; a James Caan’t, if you will.  He can’t help that, I suppose, but what he can help is his rather mannered way of acting.  When Sharkey is acting out the scene where he is meeting Catherine Stockheinz at Casey’s bar, he walks into the bar and immediately is behaving like he does not believe she will turn up.  As soon as he walks in he grabs a stranger’s arm to check the time on her wristwatch; he repeatedly taps his thighs with both hands; he takes another look at the woman’s wristwatch; he calls the hotel to check on Catherine; when Catherine refuses to take his call he stares at the telephone.

Now, I understand that this is all to indicate impatience and nervousness but it’s an acting style that is unacceptable if the viewer is to attempt to suspend their disbelief.  I wonder if Sharkey thought he was being “quirky” but as far as I’m concerned it’s just eye-rollingly embarrassing.  And the less said about his impersonation of Frederic Stockheinz (Klaus), the better – since when did Klaus have an Italian accent?!!

The next things I find problematic with the film are the characters of Vicky (Byron’s girlfriend) and Walter Klein (Byron’s grandfather).  Well, I’ve already illustrated Vicky as just rummaging around piles of books and doing nothing more than this (and I’m not exaggerating on that point at all) in my previous Love and Money article but the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that I didn’t even bother mentioning Walter Klein in that article.  Why?  Because his character is absolutely superfluous.

The only thing in his favour is that Walter Klein is played by the wonderful film director King Vidor (who directed Marion Davies in Show People and The Patsy, and directed The Big Parade, Stella Dallas, Duel in the Sun and the Kansas sequences in The Wizard of Oz, amongst many other things).  This was King Vidor’s first real acting role and sadly it was a poor choice of films to take part in; really he should have stuck to the directing.

I think Toback included the character of Walter Klein to indicate that Byron is loving and caring, although there are only actually a couple of instances to indicate this (making cream of wheat for Walter; cutting his hair; explaining things to him when he becomes “confused”).  For the most part Byron is just as selfish with Walter as he is with anyone else – he says he won’t ever leave Walter but he does abandon him twice, first when he goes off unannounced to spend a few days with Catherine Stockheinz and then when he goes to Costa Salva with Frederic Stockheinz.  In fact, it is when Byron is sleeping off his visit to Costa Salva that Walter wanders off alone and gets lost in the streets of LA.  None of this indicates that Walter is at the centre of Byron’s world, so why bother with the character at all?  You could totally eliminate the character and it would not affect the narrative one little bit.  Well, it would because if you were to eliminate Walter Klein you could also eliminate Vicky – after all, she herself says: “You are the joy of our lives.  If you weren’t here, I don’t think I would be either.”  Let’s get rid of ’em both then!

The next thing I can’t abide is the singing – for some unknown reason three of the characters in the film feel the need to break out into song at certain points: (i) Walter Klein makes an appalling (and slightly self-referential) joke about Vicky looking like a Biblical beauty, “Delilah… Bathsheba… Marion Davies…” and then he starts singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot; (ii) when Byron is trying to concentrate on getting an erection he asks Catherine to recite the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner and then he starts singing it in a dissonant fashion; (iii) even though Byron says he does not want to hear it, Lorenzo sings a dirge-like thing that he says is the new national anthem he has written for Costa Salva – it’s awful; (iv) and Lorenzo is a repeat offender, after making out with a lady in the bushes he emerges singing Carlos Puebla’s Hasta Siempre really badly.  All of this singing could be edited out and this would instantly improve the film (a tiny bit).

The next problem though is the big one: the story, the narrative, the dialogue.  We’ll start with the story.  The story is crap and here’s a summary to prove it: Byron Levin was roommates with Lorenzo Prado back at university.

If Ray Sharkey is a poor man’s James Caan, Armand Assante is a poor man’s Paul McCartney

He now works at a bank and shares a flat with his book-dealer girlfriend Vicky and his grandfather who suffers from dementia; meanwhile Lorenzo is President of a country called Costa Salva.

Byron is contacted by the owner of Trans Allied Silver, Frederic Stockheinz, who offers him $1 million to convince Lorenzo not to nationalise Costa Salva’s silver.  Byron is not interested in Stockheinz’s offer of $1 million for one weekend’s work but he is interested in his wife Catherine.  Byron starts to fantasise about Catherine and she seduces him to ensnare him into helping Frederic.  Byron is easily taken in and ends up going to Costa Salva with Frederic Stockheinz just so he can see Catherine again.

He meets up with his former roommate and tells him what Stockheinz has asked him to do.  Lorenzo tells Byron that he has misunderstood what Frederic has asked of him and that he is certain that Frederic means that he will pay $1 million for Byron to kill him not just to convince him about the silver.  Byron is shocked, but not as shocked as when he realises that Lorenzo is as bad as Frederic.  Byron is heartbroken when Catherine says that she only seduced him to get him to help Frederic.

When Stockheinz suspects that there is something going on between his wife and Byron, he orders his assistant Blair to shoot him but Blair turns his gun instead on Frederic Stockheinz.

Byron realises that Lorenzo has paid off one of Frederic’s men to kill Frederic and he fights off Blair and stops him from shooting.  Frederic shoots Blair and leaves Byron at the roadside with the dead body and then he and Catherine flee the scene.

Byron is arrested and is faced with the firing squad.  At the last moment Lorenzo arrives and stops his men from shooting Byron.  But Byron is disappointed in his old friend’s behaviour and says he won’t join Lorenzo and work for him.

He goes back to California and immediately tries to call Catherine Stockheinz but there is no answer.  When he gets home, Vicky is in the middle of packing all her belongings as she has decided to leave Byron.  Byron makes no attempt to make things up or to explain to Vicky (thinking he’s funny, he just tells her that he cut himself shaving) and he simply falls asleep.

When he wakes up she has gone, and so has his grandfather.  Byron runs out into the streets looking for his grandfather and eventually finds him listening to a brass band and wearing a visor  in the street.  He takes him home and they pack up their few belongings to leave the house now that Vicky has gone.  Byron gets into the car and is about to drive off when Catherine arrives and asks if she can come with them.  Byron asks her if she thinks they stand a chance of lasting together and she says no.  Byron does not think they do either but they drive off together anyway.

Of course the story would be far more interesting if Byron really did have two sides as the DVD cover suggests – a film about someone who is absolutely torn between doing what’s right and being seduced into committing immoral acts with the promise of vast amounts of money and a very attractive woman would at the very least allow Byron to be a two-dimensional character rather than the one-dimensional idiot that he is.  But that is all – I doubt Byron could ever be a complex or believable character, not with Ray Sharkey playing him…

If the story is crap, then the dialogue is absolutely dire.  Here are a few of the most appalling low points:

Seconds after meeting Catherine Stockheinz, presumably because he’s fallen in love instantly, Byron says to her:  “If you ever touch [your husband] again, or any other man, I’ll kill ya.”

The whole section where Byron and Catherine are arguing about Byron manhandling her is cringeworthy:

Byron – I’ll never touch you again.  Until you ask me to.
Catherine – You must think I’m as insane as you are.  Answer me!
Byron – What’s the question?
Catherine – What is so special about me that you do all these things that I could have you arrested for?
Byron – Your eyes, yours smile…
Catherine – I didn’t smile at you.
Byron – Okay, I guess it was your eyes then… It’s just that when I saw you, I knew… that God had put his elbow in my ribs.
[Catherine opens car door whilst the car is moving and tries to get out]
Byron – I said if you ever made love to your husband…
Catherine – I did.
[Catherine gets out of the car but leaves the door open as she walks off, Byron reverses the car and continues talking to her]
Byron – Come on! Come aaahnnn!
Catherine – Why?
Byron – Because we’re gonna fall in love and last together.
Catherine – I couldn’t hear what you say.
Byron – I said…
[Catherine makes out she is not getting back into the car but then she does anyway and they drive off together] 

When Byron tries to get it on with Catherine and encounters some problems:  “I can’t believe it, I can’t get a hard-on.  Five minutes ago outside I had a hard-on I coulda hung a towel on it, now…”

When Byron and Catherine argue again, he says to her:  “Don’t say that.  We’re going to be everything to each other… I’m your father; you’re my mother; I’m your husband; you’re my wife; I’m your chauffeur; you’re my car…”

I could go on but I am certain you don’t want me to at this point.  Aside from the dire-logue (Hey! If Toback is going to make bad jokes, I will too), I really have a problem with the lazy method of story-telling that Toback utilises throughout the film.  If you’ve ever read an interview with Toback you’ll understand what I mean but I think he’s full of a large amount of BS, so my guess is he would say that he didn’t want to go for the classical filmmaking style and that he wanted something a bit more punchy, a bit more fast-paced, a bit “different”.  But what we’re left with is, in my opinion, an unsatisfactory narrative discourse – given what story and dialogue there was to work with I guess you could not hope for anything better.

What I object to more than anything is the way Toback provides story information to the viewer by either including long-shots of Byron and Catherine on car rides with what seems to be a voice-over of them chatting to fill in the narrative, or alternatively having them carry out lengthy conversations whilst sitting in their hotel room.  Whole chunks of something resembling their back-stories are provided during these conversations in the most unsubtle way, presumably in order to do away with actually showing things or revealing things in a more natural fashion.  And this always seems to be done with Catherine and Byron either not in shot at all (the long-shots in the car) or with them both facing the camera (and therefore not facing each other) – is this a stylistic device?  I think not as there is no interesting cinematography to speak of in Love and Money.  Further adding to the unnatural method of story-telling Byron and Catherine always carry out what are essentially very intimate conversations without once looking at each other.

That said, Toback includes a couple of scenes that are clearly choreographed – for example, the sequence where Byron arrives at Catherine’s hotel room and appears to force his way in (even though he is actually invited) and then paces dramatically towards Catherine as she paces away from him.  This is closely followed by the sequence in the car park where Byron tries to kiss Catherine and she turns her face away and then they kiss seemingly forever as the camera circles them from above.

What with the lazy story-telling sequences and the numerous telephone calls (I really think Toback was influenced by Herbert Ross/Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam in this respect, although the constant telephone calls were used with humour by Ross/Allen) there is hardly any need for any of the characters to look at each other let alone interact in Love and Money.

So what role did Klaus have in this pile of poop?  Well, let’s not pretend that Klaus was ever anything other than familiar with filmic piles of poop, so working on Love and Money would not represent a problem for the great KK.  He was, however, sadly under-used in the film and we only ever seem to see him barking down the telephone, telling his people to “Just do it!”, “Do it!” or “Let’s go!”, or ordering food and wine for his guests.  There is not even a love scene with the lovely Ornella Muti who, unbelievably, for the most part manages to keep her clothes on and is only ever seen naked from behind (Sorry boys! And this despite the fact that Toback filmed lots of nude sex scenes…).  There is the just the one big KK scene with the dinner party where Lorenzo arrives 90 minutes late and then tells a crappy story whilst Klaus wrings a napkin in his hands, rolls his eyes and then demands to know “What is so funny?”  It’s the only scene worth watching in the film and Klaus manages to offend just about everyone around the table by shouting at them all in turn.

Klaus looks great in his stylish suits and the standard issue beige and white he so liked to wear.  He also manages to be a bit cheeky (talking to Catherine in Italian in a section which is not subbed but you know he’s being naughty anyway) and gets to put his hands in his pockets a few times along the way as well.

Look at the guy in the background with the combover.  I didn’t realise Arthur Scargill had a supporting role in the film…

I wish I could say something more favourable about Love and Money but for once I am at a loss.  Toback clearly thinks that playing a bit of Bach over the film somehow makes it arty but he is sadly mistaken.  I enjoy such a wide variety of films and can usually see something good in most of them but this was really hard work and I still cringe now as I recall it.  This one is for the most committed Kinski fans only, I’d say.

Other information about the film: 

Well, there were no extras on the DVD and there seems to be very little out there about this film (possibly with good reason, of course) but I have tried my best to find out more information.

You can always rely on our friend Christian David for a little more information, as ever the source material is Kinski die Biographie (Aufbau, 2008, pp278-279).  Klaus was paid $75,000 for 3 weeks’ filming which Christian David says was relatively low at that time, but he also seems to have been offered a further 5% of the film’s profits which would have been a good thing if the film had been a success but unfortunately that was not to be the case.  Klaus worked from the end of November to the middle of December 1979 on the film.

Other than this, pretty much all I found was a couple of articles about Toback and Love and Money in Film Quarterly, both written by Michael Dempsey (presumably not the bass player who used to be in The Cure, Associates and The Lotus Eaters…) in 1980/1981/1982.

The first article Love and Money, Ecstasy and Death: A Conversation with James Toback (Film Quarterly, Vol 34, No 2, Winter 1980-1981, pp24-35) indicates that the film critic Pauline Kael was going to leave her job at The New Yorker to work on Love and Money with Toback directing and Warren Beatty starring.  This ties in with other reports I have seen of Kael accepting an offer from Beatty in 1979 to act as a consultant at Paramount Pictures, which she initially took up only to leave a few months later to go back to writing reviews.  According to Dempsey, Kael left the project after “differences of opinion” with Toback (p24).  My guess is she told him the film sucked a big fat one and he did not like it; this could also explain why Beatty was no longer attached to the project either.

Dempsey also says that Henry Miller had been Toback’s original choice to play the role of Walter Klein but that he was not well enough to take the role on, so it was offered to Harry Ritz who took the role on but became ill after the first day’s shooting.  At this stage it was offered to King Vidor (p24) who unfortunately for him was not sick enough to turn the role down!

In line with my earlier comments about Toback being full of bull, Dempsey quotes Toback as saying this about directing:  “After a certain point, a film takes its own direction, and what it means to direct it is not just to impose and lead but also to steer.  It’s something mysterious that I don’t quite understand.  But there is a point when you just realize that you’re in the rapids, and the most you can do is kind of guide it around rocks.  And reversing course becomes the analogous mistake to forcing an actor to say lines he can’t say or forcing a scene into the film that doesn’t work in the film or forcing a scene to be shot in light that isn’t suited to it.” (P31)  Somehow I think Toback couldn’t see the rocks for looking…

The most disturbing part of the interview comes when Michael Dempsey asks Toback about the sounds of the punches in the fight between Blair and Byron, which he says sounded strange.  To this Toback says: “They were real punches.  I punched myself in front of a microphone.” (P32)  I can only conclude that Toback realised he deserved to be punched in the face for making such a bad film.

The most interesting thing about this all for me is that in the first article Dempsey seems to give the film a very favourable review for reasons I could not begin to fathom, but in the next issue of Film Quarterly there seemed to be some kind of withdrawal of this in what was described as Postscript on Love and Money (Film Quarterly, Vol 35, No 3, Spring 1982, pp61-63).

The article seems to outline several problems with the film, most prominently that the version he reviewed was not the version finally released or available to us today, aside from anything else the cut reviewed by Dempsey was 90 minutes long (and IMDB states that the film runs 90 minutes) but the version he refers to in his second article and the version on the DVD is just 84 minutes long.

Love and Money, according to Dempsey, was originally to be premiered either late 1980 or early 1981 following the release of two other Ray Sharkey vehicles as (rather misguidedly, I’d say) Sharkey had been tipped for the top, but as both films bombed Love and Money did not get released on schedule.  Then problems followed at the film company and Paramount finally decided to prioritise other films above Love and Money.  It seems that there were many factors at play here and Dempsey outlined another one: “Another story alleged that Frederick Stockheinz, Klaus Kinski’s character in Love and Money, bore an unflattering resemblance to Charles Bluhdorn, the boss of Gulf and Western, which owns Paramount.” (P61)

Even if that sounds unlikely (just because Bluhdorn had a strong Austrian accent and Klaus had a strong German accent?), there were lots of other reasons that the film had to be edited prior to release, according to Dempsey:

“Some Southern California viewers disliked the film, partly because they recognized Los Angeles area locations which had to stand in for Central America because of Toback’s tight $3 million budget and 30-day shooting schedule.” (PP61-62)

But considering the way the film was shot – largely in hotel rooms, otherwise in cars or outside community centres covered in bunting (my guess, not a fact) – and Klaus’ low salary (he was, of course, the star of the show when all’s said and done), a $3 million budget back in 1979 would not exactly have been “tight”.  I’m struggling to work out what Toback spent the budget on if I’m honest.  But little wonder that Klaus did not get his 5% of the profits as Dempsey says that when the film eventually opened over a year late in 1982, it opened “in one New York theatre, the only booking announced at that time and this writing.”

Welcome to Costa Salva?  Welcome to a community centre somewhere in Los Angeles, more likely!

The list of catastrophes continues:

“Moreover, a 1980 preview in Seattle yielded cards indicating that 81% of the audience objected to the ending: a frozen frame of Byron Levin as he runs along an LA street in search of his grandfather, followed by another of Catherine Stockheinz at the instant Byron first saw her.  David Picker, the (now former) Lorimar executive whom Toback credits with letting him make the film in the first place, then stated that it could not be released without a more “upbeat” ending.  Despite the credit “A Film by James Toback”, Toback did not have final cut and so, rather than letting Lorimar recut the film, he returned to the editing room himself.  Now Byron does succeed in locating his grandfather, Catherine does return to him, and they all prepare to drive off together into a new life – one of several possible conclusions that Toback had shot, considered, and discarded.  He also put back several scenes.”  (P62)

Apparently Toback tried to get some money out of Paramount to fix the ending later but did not succeed (p63) so the ending we see now is the one as described in the edited version.  None of this can have helped Love and Money but I doubt that it could have warranted the glowing review Dempsey gave it in his earlier review; no matter how much cross-editing Toback had in the first version, the dialogue and Sharkey would still have been there thus for me the film could hardly have been saved.  However, it seems that the scenes with Klaus had originally been longer so somewhere out there Toback (or Paramount, or Warner Bros) has some deleted scenes which could surface at some point.  Only the promise of more Klaus could get me to watch that film again, I’ve seen it three times now and that’s two times too many already…

One final thing, why does there appear to be purple ink stains on the closing credits photograph?  Shoddy!

About tinynoggin

I love films (anything from exploitation stuff to stylish Eastern European cinema, but I'm not really into blockbusters and modern Hollywood), music (Serge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin, Michel Polnareff, Left Banke, Francoise Hardy, The Seeds, Love, The Zombies, etc) and books (Kurt Vonnegut, Julian Maclaren-Ross, Michel Houellebecq, Patrick Hamilton, Alan Sillitoe, and more). I take photographs with my Lomography Diana F plus or my Olympus Trip and like making stuff in my spare time.
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