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The Moving Finger 1963
Description: A rare beatnik artifact of the early 1960s, one of only a several such movies made before the hippies took over Hollywood. Weak budget and in b&w, it's set in Greenwich Village, with what seems like a mostly improvised script. It starts as a late movie noir crime tale involving a bank robbery where only one of a group of thieves escapes with his life, as well as $90,000 in loot. Injured and on the run, he hides in a local tour bus and is later taken in by a group of bohemians who shoot him full of morphine to ease his pain and allow him sleep it off on a mattress. Mason is the head beatnik. There's also the owner of both an upstairs coffeehouse and garret, where these beatniks hang out. They, in turn, bring the tourist trade in. Although the robbery is supposed to be the main focus of the plot, it quickly turns into more of a hero study featuring these rebellious bon vivants and their odd lifestyle...
Released: 01 Dec 1963 Director: Larry Moyer Writers: Carlo Fiore, Larry Moyer Actors: Lionel Stander, Barbara London, Art Smith, Wendy Barrie Genres: Drama
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The Moving Finger Reviews:

Champion of the Golden Gate Award in San Francisco for Greatest Director in 1963, The Moving Finger is an engaging no-budget noir detail with quite a several stars romping through in a satisfying commentary on integrity and survival in Fresh York City.The hero of the whole Greenwich Village stage is well documented by showing many of the acts like jazz bands, belly dances, and even a wild party shot in an apartment showing a different array of alternate lifestyles. This is the period before the Summer of Love of 1966, very much the beat era and the party in the middle of the film is a mini documentary of attitudes of the times. Consider the two lesbian and gay couples dancing through the festivities, or the method the peripheral characters alternately take part and look on. When Angel starts a strip stage (a la Fellini's La Dolce Vita) Amatol takes her home.A stage in an Art exhibit opening has all the art-scene posers speaking inaudibly in sounds like taped human voice running too quick to be understood as Mason and his beat group items themselves with the hors d'oeuvres. The non-diegetic sound of the art patrons looking at a fresh exhibit is appropriately edited to express how Mason and his beats are part of but separate from the whirl of art that is seemingly populated by suited pseudo-intellectuals whose voices are just so much noise in the background.It's a movie seeking a style, concerned with the survival of the human spirit in a commercialized world. All the beats led by Mason have moneyed origins. Bridget is from a rich family and this is a sore spot with Mason as he criticizes her background. Anatole recites terrible poetry and hires Mason and the beat group to look like beatniks in order to bring in tourists to sell more coffee and liquor and food. Other member of the group brings Mason and Bridget and the another Beats to his mother's city house where they explore his well-heeled financial background.There are more than a several humorous moments in the film. The Cinéma Vérité style shows things in a rough light. Barry Newman's Mason hands out a selection of pills to his retinue one of them states: "Two of each: I'm having problem with my sinuses." Soon the group settles down to smoke a tiny unique items and a cockroach race is initiated on the stock report of the Fresh York Times news.Once the zone of the cash is discovered Angel and Amatol war about the $90 thousand dollars. Angel thinks it could be returned because it's "against the law" but Anatole argues "The bank took it from its customers, the hood took it from the bank, we take it from the hood- that's life, the survival of the fittest, the law of the jungle".The movie is built on tiny subtle elements that ultimately make a foundation for the success of the whole film. This theme is well established at the beginning of the movie as an alley cat rummages through a garbage can to pull out a fish head; we then slash to Mason and Bridget and the rest of the beat group snatching milk from door steps, and bread from the bakers so they can eat, and Angel stealing some cash from Anatole's pockets as he sleeps.All the performances are well-defined despite of the low/no budget of director Larry Moyer. The cast is filled out with a cast that had already worked in superior film and would go on the do even better movie work.Barry Newman as the beat deadbeat Mason looks like one of the many types of characters that were dropping out and turning on to search himself. Newman would go on the do much more movie work and still appears in movie and TV today. His performance as Kowalski, a drug-addled vehicle driver in Vanishing Mission in 1971 in many methods defines the eroded values of the 60s. Many of us may remember Newman as the attorney Anthony J. Petrocelli in "Petrocelli" which ran 45 episodes from 1974-1976.Lionel Stander as the rough and ready Anatole made a career of turning in nice hero roles, and had worked with Fritz Lang in Hangmen Also Die. Soon in his career won Golden World in 1983 for Greatest Performance by an Actor in a Helping Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV for: "Hart to Hart" (1979).Art Smith as the grizzly Doc Savartz is a hero actor who had by this time already worked with stars like Robert Montgomery as the FBI agent Bill Retz in the 1947 Ride the Pink Horse.Any Fresh Yorker will take joy in seeing the territories faithfully captured in the film. Many of the Greenwich Village landmarks are still the method they were in the movie, especially Washington Square Park and Sheraton Square.


I didn't have very high expectations but was hopeful. I didn't think I'd search as rich of a period gem as Corman's "Bucket of Blood" or "Little Store of Horrors." I was pleasantly drawn in by the opening soundtrack. The entire film was full of unbelievable music. I'll be hearing it in my head for a long time. The story was decent and almost believable. The acting was not bad; some of it was very good. And yes, some of it was cute awful. Barry Newman as the lead beat has been criticized as being too clean slash for the part. Remember, this was before The Summer of Love and long hair on boys was still very, very rare. In my opinion, he was suitably disheveled for a beat. Angel was quite stiffly portrayed, tho if I was a young girl involved with Lionel Stander, I guess I'd be a bit stiff, too. The ending was sort of predictable but satisfying. I'll watch it again.


The Moving Finger, the 'plus' detail on a DVD featuring Brian De Palma's Murder a la Mod, was made by Larry Moyer, a strictly independent/B-movie director who apparently never really directed again after this (he has one animation co-direct credit on a short). Not too surprising why; his movie is a blend of even-for-then tired clichés between a heist plot and the swarm of the Beats down in the Village in the late 50s and early 60s. It's about a bank robber who gets shot, and is somehow able to create it on a bus down to Greenwhich village and hide out among a group of bum-beatniks who are allowed to stay as long as they appease the boy who owns a dingy poetry club (inimitable, gravel voiced Lionel Stander, like Mickey from Rocky with "poetry in 'im").Not much happens really, and despite Moyer's attempts to capture some reality of the squalor of the village stage at the time he doesn't receive enough. He's tethered to a terrible plot with crummy actors (save for Barry Newman, star of Vanishing Point, who oddly enough is here almost as a goof in the midst of the "tea-heads"), and long stretches of dancing and dialog to B-movie melody that doesn't stick well. With more constructive direction, and maybe more of an attempt to go with style as do the poetic bums of this world, this premise should have some lift. As it is, it's barely a half step above Mystery Science Theater status.It's not a film to seek out specifically if you've never seen it, and I wouldn't go out of my method to watch it again if I rent the Murder a la Mod DVD again. Only redeeming quality is a stage with a cockroach race.



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