Putney Swope (1969)

Putney Swope (1969), written and directed by Robert Downey Sr.

Another satirical 60s oddity, clumsy and hard to watch, but I couldn't turn it off. Class it with Candy (1968), although that was a higher gloss film.

Through misadventure the sole black director of an ad agency becomes the boss. He replaces everyone apart from a few token whites with soul brothers and sisters, renames the company "Truth and Soul" and promises no compromise with evil: no ads for tobacco, alcohol or war toys.

The film is b&w but the commercials are in color, all bizarre and some pretty funny. The rest is skit-based with some segments that look like improv comedy routines. The setups don't deliver and the "cool" vs "jive" distinction sometimes escapes me.

Still, it's all manically absurd and genuinely funny in spots. Some nudity and more sex jokes than usual for the time. As far as satire, it's subtle as a hammer. It's never quite clear what Putney is trying to accomplish.

The title character's gravelly voice was dubbed by the director, who provides a commentary track on the DVD. It was a shoestring budget, sort of spontaneous and ad-libbed. Many of the actors were theater people but some were just found on the street or were friends of friends.