Cast & Crew
Joyce Van Patten
In Beverly Hills, CA, used-car salesman Bill Lennox grows overwhelmed by the hypocrisy and shallowness of his work and the empty, extravagant life he leads with his wife of nineteen years, Bernadette. One morning while the couple lounge at their swimming pool, Bill is horrified to find a live rat in the drain. When a tall black stranger appears, the Lennoxes conclude that he is an exterminator and explain their predicament. After killing the rat, however, the man refuses to depart, prompting Bill and Bernadette to fear that he is a criminal. Although the man has no weapon, Bill and Bernadette comply with his order to go to the house, where they proudly relate the structure's long Hollywood history. When the man, known as Bone, rifles through a desk and finds a photo of a handsome young man, the Lennoxes explain it is their son, who is a lieutenant in the army serving in Vietnam. Critical of the couple's numerous charge-account debts, Bone demands money, but Bill admits their bank account is empty and many of their bills are overdue. Bone continues to threaten the couple and after hitting Bill in the stomach, forces them to their bedroom, where he discovers a small box under the bed. Opening the box, Bone finds papers revealing that Bill has taken out a loan against the house, as well as another loan against his life insurance policy, both without Bernadette's knowledge. Outraged, Bernadette turns on Bill and as a furious argument ensues between them, Bone comes upon a checkbook in Bill's name with $5,000. Disgusted by the Lennoxes' bickering, Bone threatens to tie them up together, but Bernadette refuses and Bill offers to go to the bank to retrieve the money. Bone agrees, but insists Bill return in one hour with the money or he will rape and murder Bernadette. As Bill hurries away in his Rolls Royce, Bernadette nervously listens as Bone describes the squalor of his childhood and how he was forced to kill the cockroaches that infested his family's home. A little later at the bank, Bill is disconcerted when a young woman begins chatting with him as he waits anxiously in a long line. Once Bill reaches the teller and makes his request, the teller suggests that he take out a loan rather than make a full withdrawal. Abruptly recalling Bernadette's refusal to be tied up with him, Bill leaves without making the withdrawal. At a bar across the street, a woman recognizes Bill from his television advertisements and strikes up a conversation, then offers to pay the bar tab when Bill realizes he has no money. Back at the Lennox home, after Bone demands that Bernadette make him a meal, she admits with embarrassment that she does not cook, as she and Bill dine out frequently. Growing more fearful as the hour quickly slips by, Bernadette makes a full pitcher of cocktails and urges Bone to share it with her. Meanwhile, while walking down Sunset Boulevard, Bill runs into the young woman from the bank and, drawn to her, accompanies her to a grocery store, where she convinces him to steal several items then pays for others using food stamps. Bill then accepts her invitation to lunch at her apartment and purposely avoids looking at his watch. Although Bernadette grows drunk, when Bone tells her the hour is up and he will make good on his threat, she sobers up and struggles furiously as he strips off her bathing suit and throws her on top of the pool table. When Bone does not go through with the rape, however, Bernadette is grateful, then puzzled. Back in town, Bill lunches with the woman, who is surprised when he admits that he does not have a mistress. The woman confides that she was molested by her father when she was a child, then proceeds to seduce Bill by re-enacting her molestation. Back at the Lennox home, Bone admits to Bernadette that he initially embraced the role that society had created for black men as criminals and rapists. The recent shift in cultural and social attitudes on racial relations, however, had affected Bone, who has been unable to recapture the mystique of being the "Negro Rapist." Moved by his confession, Bernadette empathizes and says white men have similar difficulties, then sets about seducing Bone. Although initially uncomfortable, Bone eventually gives in. Afterward, Bernadette telephones the bank and is angered to learn that Bill did not make the withdrawal. Fearful that Bill will return with the police, Bone grows anxious to depart, but Bernadette considers Bill's behavior, then tells Bone they should kill him and collect the life insurance. Back in town, Bill flees from the clinging woman and at a phone booth contacts the police to leave an anonymous tip about Bone, but, suspecting the call is a prank, the police hang up on him. Now frightened by the long lapse of time, Bill goes to his advertising agent, Woody, to ask for money. Calculating that Bill is at Woody's, Bernadette gives Bone her husband's clothes and drives him into town. On the way, she confesses to Bone that they lied about their son, who is actually languishing in a Spanish prison for attempting to smuggle hash out of Tangiers. Bernadette grows distressed when she can not recall when or why she and Bill made up the lie about their son, and Bone comforts her. Arriving at Woody's, who has refused to lend Bill money, Bernadette and Bone chase Bill, who gets on a bus headed to the beach. Bernadette and Bone follow and threaten Bill throughout the long ride, but confident that the two will not act in front of witnesses, Bill says he will remain on the bus. Later, realizing the bus has emptied of all the passengers, Bill panics and gets off at the beach, pursued by Bone and Bernadette. Bone assures Bill his murder will be quick and painless, but when Bill breaks into a monologue from his advertising, an outraged Bernadette attacks him furiously, beating him unconscious, then smothering him in the sand. Taken aback, Bone attempts to intervene, but Bernadette says she does need him. Ecstatic about having killed Bill, Bernadette looks around moments later and is shocked to find that Bone has disappeared. Suddenly terrified, Bernadette struggles to concoct a story that Bill was killed by a large black man, then lapses into despair when she cannot recall why or how she decided to murder her husband.
Joyce Van Patten
Harry M. Brittenham
George Folsey Jr.
George Folsey Jr.
Jack H. Harris
The story takes place on a hot day in Beverly Hills and revolves around three characters; a used-car salesman, Bill (Andrew Duggan), his alcoholic wife Bernadette (Joyce Van Patten), and the black rapist Bone (Yaphet Kotto). Bill and Bernadette are lounging around their posh suburban digs when they suddenly freak out over a rat that gets stuck in their swimming pool filter. Enter Bone, who saves them from the rat, but then becomes a much larger threat himself and herds them into their upscale home, ransacks the place, and exposes Bill and Bernadette pretentious, debt-ridden lifestyle and the crumbling facade of their own delusions. Bone then holds Bernadette hostage as he sends Bill out to liquidate his bank account and return with money (one resulting moment will definitely not be lost on fans of Cohen's recent work on this year's Phone Booth ).
This overview of the story does not do justice to what really powers the film - that honor goes to its completely uninhibited spirit and free-form innovations. These include, but are not limited to, bizarre scenes with nightmare logic, jarring shot inserts, voice-overs that drift freely from their on-screen action, brazen and inspired acting, and more. Obviously, some of the dynamics, especially those relating to race and rape, skirt along uncomfortable terrain and this, coupled with the films semi-experimental and improvisational flavor, are things that make the film decidedly un-mainstream and hard to market. One of the dvd special features has a short interview with producer and distributor Jack H. Harris, who made money with The Blob in 1958, as he talks of the many ill-fated attempts to market Bone under different guises (the film is still listed in the Internet Movie Database as Beverly Hills Nightmare). The film was finally given a life (of sorts) thanks to drive-ins under the title of Housewife. The exploitive taglines given to the publicity and trailers are a hoot: "White Meat, Black Bone, What a Dish!" "Housewife: She has nothing to lose!" "Overfed, under-loved, she'll try anything!" Anyone hoping for fleshy erotica surely walked away dumbfounded rather than aroused.
Blue Underground presents the dvd in its original 1.85:1 anamorphic ratio (it was lensed by 13-time Academy Award nominee George Folsey Jr. in 18 days), a commentary track with Larry Cohen, a short interview with Jack H. Harris, selected scenes from an aborted first shoot (a half hour of dark and scratchy B&W film that make you appreciate the change to 35mm, but also has an entertaining scene with Andrew Duggan kicking at mushrooms on his lawn), theatrical trailers, a short radio spot, poster and still gallery, and a Larry Cohen biography. It's an exemplary dvd release of a jazzy film with music fittingly composed by Gil Melle, who got his start as a Greenwich Village jazz performer and doing work on Rod Serling's Night Gallery tv series. Like other quirky gems, such as The Swimmer (1968), Performance (1970), or Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens (1979), this is a film that will appeal to viewers with a taste for cinema that marches to its own distinct drummer.
For more information about Bone, visit Blue Underground. To order Bone, go to TCM Shopping.
by Pablo Kjolseth
The working title for the film was Housewife. The title card reads: "Jack H. Harris Presents Bone: A Bad Day in Beverly Hills." The following written prologue appears before the opening title card: "The year is 1970. The most powerful nation on earth wages war against one of the poorest countries-which it finds impossible to defeat. And in this great and affluent nation exists its smallest richest city... And it is called Beverly Hills." The director's onscreen credit reads: "Written, Produced and Directed by Larry Cohen." The closing credits include several acknowledgements by the producers to various Los Angeles businesses, as well as Al Grossman and George W. Webb.
A June 1972 Hollywood Reporter item noted that Cohen had personally financed Bone, his first film. In several sequences in Bone, including the conclusion, in which "Bernadette" sits on the beach after murdering "Bill," there are insert shots of the couple's son in a prison cell. In the final sequence the son struggles to break the sole light bulb inside his cell, and the resulting black screen coincides with Bernadette's outcry wondering how she could have killed Bill. Ida Berlin, who appears in a bit role in Bone, was Jeannie Berlin's grandmother.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1972
Released in United States 1998
Shown at Avignon/New York Film Festival in New York City (French Institute) April 24 - May 3, 1998.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1972
Released in United States 1998 (Shown at Avignon/New York Film Festival in New York City (French Institute) April 24 - May 3, 1998.)