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  • This one of my favorite movies of all time with Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Antony Perkins, Cloris Leachman and Pat Hingle all at their best. Reinhart (Newman), a man who's washed up as a musician becomes a "communicator" at WUSA, a right-wing radio station in New Orleans. He is not an ideologue himself –not a Rush Limbaugh character– just an employee, a DJ– I think he reads the news. But the fact that he works there at all paints him a right winger to his antagonist played by Perkins. The film contains some of my favorite lines of dialog in film, like when Reinhart gets the job and Leachman is thrilled. "Yeah, just great. I'm part of a pattern in someone else's head." He's long past being thrilled.

    There are two important and tense scenes between Perkins, a do-gooder who lacks the basic confidence that gets Newman shacked up within minutes of his arrival in New Orleans. In one of them, Perkins stutters through his outrage, wanting to know what's going on at WUSA. Newman coolly listens and responds acidly: "I understand your situation... because I too am a moralist." Perkins responds with a smirk and an "oh yeah, right" which Newman cuts off, "...but there IS a solution to your dilemma..." to which Perkins stammers "a-a-and w-w-w-what w-would that be Reinhart?" Newman's smile disappears and he responds with his thumbs down: "Drop dead." He repeats the line with all the rage and contempt he can muster, all his feelings so twisted inside him that he can barely function. The feelings Perkins needs to make him feel competent Newman has felt too and they have hollowed him out. Newman's not right wing. He's just beat. Dropped out. If you don't know that, you don't understand where Reinhart's coming from. He's a sleepwalking man but mostly he is as disappointed and disillusioned as a man can be. Unfortunately, the character played by Perkins is much better at retaining his illusions with tragic consequences.

    This movie is about ideological exhaustion and the delusions of the ideologically pure, both left and right wing.

    What is so good about WUSA for me is that it's the only time, other than Hud, when Newman was an actor first, a star second. And this one's the grittiest. The reason for its unpopularity is that it is uncompromisingly honest about a political situation which to some extent still exists today. It really comes down on neither side of the political divide or, to be more accurate, pretty gruesomely insults both, thus satisfying no one who expects a movie to be partisan. It's ironic that it's hated because it is a "message movie."
  • I know this film bombed and has some platitudes that are unbelievable script-wise, but I can't believe the ratings people give this. I've been searching for this film for years (having seen in 1970) and it's haunted me. Newman, Woodward, and T. Perkins are awesome with an interesting character by Cloris Leachman. I love the script that has some holes, but 1970 was the perfect year for this type of story.

    No matter what your political stance is OR was, this has something for everyone. Throw in Pat Hingle and Laurence Harvey as a preacher, it's Americana at it's most corrupt in a turbulent time (that I almost miss). If you can find this somewhere, give it a shot. An 8 out of 10. Best performance = Anthony Perkins.
  • As a relatively recent resident of the US, I continue to be astonished at how quickly American audiences forget their own history. I saw WUSA many years ago when I still lived in my native Italy (the Italian version was titled "Un Uomo Oggi" = "A Man Today"!). Two snippets of the film have been with me for all these years. The first is the radio host that invites all to drop what they are doing, go to the window, open it, and start screaming something like "I am fed up and I will no longer put up with this!" The second snippet is the last line delivered in the movie by the character interpreted by Paul Newman -- and I will not say what it says to avoid spoiling it. The themes are big and understandably audiences nowadays are impatient of 'dialog that sounds like speeches' (to quote an unfair reviewer on this site). The south, the issues of bigotry, racism, the Seventies, civic disobedience. At least the dialog has something to say, unlike so many films of the past 30 years. There is so much recent American history in this movie that it should be a mandatory assignment for college-age kids. Most people happily ignore its existence. Is there a way to convince anyone to make this piece available in DVD? It is too important to be neglected. No matter what Roger Greenspun says in his review appeared in the New York Times of November 2, 1970. In those days the Vietnam War coverage in the media made every single political reference seem like another opportunity for constipated American audiences to launch into yet one more conspiracy theory. And the Grenspun review blames WUSA for being 'ponderously allusive'. Maybe, with the hiatus of the past thirty-something years, the allusiveness will seem by now much less allusive and, who knows, we might enjoy this beautiful rendition of Robert Stone's novel. Besides the big issues, however, the movie is quite enjoyable. My vote of 8 only evaluates the viewing pleasure as entertainment.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Perhaps because the drama is so overwrought, Newman's acute underplaying is effective… Rheinhardt is his most thorough cynic: a failure at marriage and as a musician, he's become a wandering, alcoholic opportunist, so spineless and corrupt he thinks nothing of taking a job as announcer for WUSA… At last—a Newman character who's abandoned all ideals, ambitions and principles, who concentrates exclusively on surviving at all costs…

    He's even worse than "Hud," because he realizes his corruption but persists… In fact, he uses his self-knowledge to pretend superiority—to laugh secretly at the Neo-Fascists, while working for them… He acts cynically and viciously toward liberal Do-Gooders because presumably he "knows the score," although he really envies their idealism; and he rises above it all to a liquor-soaked detachment… His only ability is the put-on—once the essence of Harper's charm, now exposed as the weapon of a destructive mind…

    Rheinhardt's first appearance—he drifts into New Orleans, unshaven, tired, defeated, broke—is like Fast Eddie's after his loss to Fats… Like Eddie, he picks up a despairing, fallen woman, Geraldine (Joanne Woodward), a former hooker who, like Sarah, is physically and emotionally scarred… As always, Woodward flawlessly portrays the fragile, easily hurt woman who is wary of Newman, but who ends up giving him more affection than he can return… They have some tender scenes, but with her, as with everyone else, he's most1y indifferent and uninvolved…

    "WUSA" suffers from conversations that sound like speeches, heavy-handed direction, and a paradoxical reluctance really to meet the issues head-on
  • joy31411 August 2004
    I have to agree with those who praise this film and realize that its not everyone's cup of tea. Although I appreciate the criticisms that some reviewers have leveled, it is wise to keep in mind that it is unfair to criticize a film 30+ years after its release through a contemporary lens. The sense of humor that some have found "lacking" is something that develops with the objectivity of lapsed time. During the late 1960's, many of us found little humor in the assassinations and general insanity that seemed to fill the political landscape. Like the previous reviewer, I, too, have been looking for this film for years and hope to see it on DVD one day soon. I found it to be a powerful piece.
  • dsolgoo-net10 December 2007
    I think this is one of Newman's better films, on the level of Hud and The Hustler. Newman plays Reinhart, a man at the end of his rope. He's finished. He's quit. He has no hopes. He used to play saxophone but he couldn't make the scene so he's a "communicator" now, having gotten himself a job at WUSA, a right-wing radio station.

    He meets Geraldine (Joanne Woodward) who hasn't. She's got a story. She was married once and the boy put a gun to his head. I guess casting her as a prostitute was the only way they could think of telling a story of a guy moving in with a girl that quickly in 1970. But what's important is the story she has to tell and how Reinhart fits into that story. Other than that glitch the acting is superb and the dialog superlative.

    Perkins plays a creepy bleeding heart, appropriately named Rainey, with such authority that it's enough in itself to make you understand Reinhart's cynicism. "W-W-W-W-What's going on R-R-R-R-Reinhardt?" Rainey asks, confronting Reinhart about the goings-on at WUSA. One of Reinhart's hippie friends interrupts: "Go to the zoo and watch the monkeys, man. That's what's going' on."

    Reinhart has a different answer: "I too am a moralist," he says with undisguised contempt, "so I understand your dilemma... but there IS a solution to it." "Oh yeah?" responds Rainey, "and w-w-what would that be, Reinhart?" "Drop dead," says Reinhart, "DROP DEAD!" It's one of Reinhart's defining lines, the other being (in reaction to Geraldine's thrill that he's got a job at WUSA) "Yeah, great: I'm part of a pattern in someone else's head.")

    If you're interested in the extremes of political personality, this is one of the best. It reminds me of Henry Miller's comment in Reds that people out to solve the world's problems either don't have any of their own or don't have the guts to face them. Reinhart's a man in the middle. He knows his problem and he's not only got no solution - not for him or anyone else - he's pretty certain there is none. Yet he's no nihilist. On the contrary, he's an ideological purist. Like Rainey, Reinhart is appropriately named. Look up "rein" in a German-English dictionary. Welcome to the future. There's likely to be a lot more Reinharts as the years go by. How will we avoid the tragedies that occur when their hopelessness meet our hopes? I hope Paramount releases this movie on DVD one September 11th.
  • It is easy to go to 1970's and recapture the era. So many movies wanted to deal with the politics of the time. Parallax View with Warren Beatty, Twilight's Last Gleaming with Burt Lancaster, This movie was part of that attempt. However, unlike the excellent political movies of the 1960's, this movie lacked the quality of writing a Rod Serling and his peers brought to the table. So to truly enjoy this movie,overlook the heavy handed dialogue. Ignore the 1970's film making style and enjoy the excellent cast of actors. For its time it was an excellent movie. Looking at it today I still see the excellence but it has an eerie familiarity to today. Replace WUSA and there staring back at you is Murdoch and his Fox team. That sends a shiver up my spine.
  • "WUSA" is extremely difficult on us in so many ways that to reach a final conclusion on why we like it or feel it relevant is something that demands a lot from viewers. You have a jaw dropping stellar cast (Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Anthony Perkins, Cloris Leachman, Laurence Harvey, Pat Hingle); a director who never extracted a bad performance with his films, the great Stuart Rosenberg ("Cool Hand Luke", "Voyage of the Damned", "Brubaker"); a story working with great basic elements involving the power of media, political and inner conflicts, rich vs. poor and more. What turned this perfect merge into a near let down was its writer Robert Stone, adapting his own novel, writing his first film screenplay and the blame is on him. That was exactly the problem. Stone didn't get the mechanics and language of cinema, over complicated a scenario that could and should be a little palatable to audiences, at least to generate interest for the characters. As said, "WUSA" is a near let down; gladly, we had the cast to save it from ruins and achieve a good cult status.

    In it, Newman plays the cynical and drunk Rheinhardt, a drifter who accepts a job at a radio station controlled by influential politicians whose motto seems quite familiar in our current times (Make this country Great Again). The WUSA station is one with a point of view, says Hingle character and that distorted point of view destine to include only a certain parcel of New Orleans population and excludes the rest in the majority, it starts to raise some concerns on a fellow named Rainey (Perkins), an idealist survey worker trying to discover the welfare problems faced by the black communities of the place. Rheinhardt and Rainey are neighbors who frequently clash at each other (cynicism vs. idealism; reality vs. utopia) and their quarrels are meddled by Geraldine (Woodward), of whom Rheinhardt has a more intimate involvement, and one that seems to get a grip on this wild drunkard who fail to notice that his bosses are planning something bad as local politics in upcoming elections, and worst of all...his editorials during the radio program are the main force behind the power WASP's success.

    Such overview of the film seems attractive, specially for those who love those kind of movies about inner conflicts and different schools of thoughts. However, the screenplay jumble up with practically every possible element and device needed to further the plot along with ones that doesn't add up to much. Examples: the radio thing takes an awful lot of time to happen and when it does, it's a huge disappointment that the film never shows what kind of material Newman's character presents to his listeners except "the future of America is up to you". The film allows us to see Rheinhardt shouting about being a liberal but blocks itself when it comes to present what are the actual plans of the powerful and their conservative speech. Perkins with the survey thing occupied a good portion of the film and could have been trimmed down just as much as some of the most tender scenes between the main couple (great chemistry though). Less with the romance, more with the politics and sinister plans, then we'd have a better film than what we've got.

    And let's face it: the movie doesn't show anything new. If you think "WUSA" is explosive, daring and ahead of its time, then you know very little of this world. "WUSA" just show something called the system and the system is controlled by a minority with money and power on the top of the pyramid, and below there's everyone else following their orders, directly and indirectly; and to avoid giving the appearance of a fascist organization they throw something called democracy, divides itself into parties that look and think different, begs us to vote but whenever there's a shift in the power gear it's always the same corrupt and crooked thing. It never changes, only small fractions but it's always the same and it cannot be challenged because they always come back to haunt or kill your opposition (Rainey defies a businessman at a party in one of the greatest sequences). True in the 1970's and before that, and a more harmful truth now. Obviously the film isn't on the nose with such idea but it's there whenever Rheinhardt opens his mouth, specially when it comes to belittle Rainey, of whom he calls a whiner. But the film keeps it real: the cynic drowns himself under the liquor; the idealist finally does something after spending too much time on a lethargic state (but obviously a wrong act) and the mediator in between them couldn't find the strength in herself to join them, debate ideals and find possible solution to their problems and the ones from the community. But she also had a past and problems of her own, many of which she can't seem to escape.

    The cast gathering is fine, despite the lack of involvement we have with the characters they play (no one gets saved, they're all critical but substantially real); the ideas carry some relevance but most of it gets torn apart and lost along the way making the experience of seeing "WUSA" a weary endeavor. The good qualities out-weight the bad at the end - I respected that conclusion despite being a predictable cliché. Watch with reservations and low expectations. 6/10
  • When I first saw this movie in 1971, it impressed me, and my friends, very much. I saw it at least 4 or 5 times. This is one of the most important films of the '70, a political fiction of its time... but in a revision a few days ago in VHS, a film that seems as new as before, very actual. Although I think that Rosenberg was not the most indicate director for this film (Frankenheimer seems to me a most appropriate election, due to his asphyxiating atmospheres), the strong of the story and the interpretation of an extraordinary Anthony Perkins, among the others actors, gives its force to the movie. It is a pity that there are no DVD edition (I suspect that the Spanish exhibition in its time was very censured...) for to see that film in good conditions. The people that doesn't know are missing a very notable film. I liked so much that in my blog I have written a long essay about the film, for the benefit of the young people that doesn't know it.
  • It's one of the best examples of the kind of American films that they don't know how to make anymore in the US. It made a huge impression on me when I was 15 and again 10 years later. Newman might not be at his best but he conveys exactly what's needed - moral corruption and self-disgust. Joanne Woodward's turn is a masterclass, such raw intensity it's almost unbearable to watch. Anthony Perkins is touching and vulnerable, his performance is so emotionally honest it's devastating to witness and his character would be at home in any of the best of Tennessee Williams' works - once more he proves that he deserves to be remembered for much more than just his masterpiece - that N.B. - It's a perennial shame on the Academy that he was not even nominated for such work as in this film as well as in "Play as it Lays", "Fear Strikes Out", "The Trial" and, of course, "Psycho" and "Psycho II" - one of the greatest talents ever to be wasted by Hollywood. A masterpiece from an unforgettable era in movie-making history.
  • "WUSA" was a box office failure when it was released to theaters, was not resurrected that much on television, and it never got a home video release until recently. Seeing it, I think I can understand why there aren't that many people supporting the movie over the years. One big mistake the movie makes is with the radio station itself. It's supposed to be an influential and controversial radio station, but the movie seems very shy in showing it to us. It takes over a half hour from the beginning for Newman to start working for the radio station, and not once during the almost two hour running time do we actually get to HEAR the broadcasts that have both attracted an audience as well as people condemning it. The acting (particularly by Perkins) is good, and the movie is refreshingly downbeat, but overall I would only recommend the movie to those few viewers who are attracted to 1970s film cynicism - and even they might have issues with the movie.
  • JulJoAnnicgraith16 December 2002
    Ok, first of all, I definately do not see why all of you don't like this movie!!! I absolutely loved it. I was mesmerized by Joanne Woodward performance....WOW! Paul Newman, I'll admit, wasn't at his greatest. Tony Perkins and Joanne Woodward, however, made up for it! And those scenes between Woodward and Newman! The chemistry that comes with being married (as they are in real life) just comes right through the scene!

    Great movie! Very moving.
  • Whilst I would make it clear that I enjoyed much of this film, I would make it equally clear that I found a fair amount of it ill-developed and tediously clunky.

    It is a ripe political melodrama, clearly borne out of passions and disappointments which arose from the particular year of 1968 and lingered long into the 1970s. I don't think I could make much argument with the previous commentator's view that the film is made from a certain left-liberal point of view. But a moderate left-liberal stance, and tacitly so. Despite saying that, Anthony Perkins' character - an embodiment in many ways of the "liberal" stereotype - is not made particularly sympathetic. Well-meaning, obsessive, anguished and humourless, I would agree with the Time Out reviewer that it was astute - if unimaginative - casting. Perkins comes across as if his Norman Bates persona has been relocated to late-sixties urban America and forcibly invested with a political conscience.

    Paul Newman, who shares perhaps too few scenes with his nemesis Perkins, is also rather good, as the wanderer with a certain cocksure touch, who easily becomes an on-air "communicator" for this WUSA radio station - which is involved in fraudulent dealings and far-right preachings. Newman is every inch the tabloid professional; he is able to claim that he has no agenda and is 'just doing a job'. His political views are ambiguous; his final speech indeed suggesting he has no real belief in the "new right". It difficult to precisely gauge what makes the character tick, besides an vague cynicism; he is as flawed and formidable as Perkins, but diametrically opposite, with his rejection of abstract morality: his behaviour set on a course of mere self-aid. He proves to be the adept survivor, in contrast to genuine ideologues of left or right, but he has no moderation instinct, and turns out somewhat troubled, baffled even, at the film's appropriately frazzled conclusion.

    Then there is Joanne Woodward; first film I have seen her in, and one of I gather, many, with Newman. Her character is a trifle ineffectual, present, as if a chess piece, to engage the elusive Reinhardt's desires for a period, and to provide a more 'ordinary' site of audience identification, who does not have right or left-wing politics, and does have more endearing traits: at least compared with Reinhardt. Woodward is quite memorable, cutting a wilting, waning figure as this unfortunate woman, herself much as transitory as Newman at the film's beginning. If she convinces as a 'realistic' character, it is albeit as one implicitly used to condemn the excesses of the New Right and the confrontational politics of the time. Her sickly teariness near the close, and the fact of her being the only person in the riotous hall to listen to Newman's absurdest "we're o.k.!" irony, suggests an idealised 'ordinary person' wrapped up in harmful political events. This is all rather undignified and melodramatic to stand for one who is expected to take this overwrought stuff seriously, and merely serves to draw out some of Reinhardt's humanity for the ending.

    Newman does invest Reinhardt with a portion of his customary charm, but this is largely and effectively shown to be a front. Woodward is taken in, like the general audience as it were, by this superficial charm, and she ends up broken both by Newman's inconsistent, careless attitude and by the rupturing of the society depicted.

    The film does not go far enough with many of its themes, and I did expect rather more in the dramatic and comic departments - if melodrama is going to work it needs either grand force or a bathetic line in absurdity. The whole lacks humour: born of a self-consciously 'serious' grounding in the subjectivity of U.S. politics in the late-sixties era. On this point, note that Laurence Harvey is vastly under-used; and he of that deeply substantial and bizarre masterpiece of a political thriller, "The Manchurian Candidate"... And additionally, we never see enough of Newman's dealings and relationships with his Rightist colleagues - similarly to how we never see Perkins in the broader context of Left politics. Loose ends were certainly left untied as regards Perkins' character.

    I did on the whole quite enjoy this, but it was not a particularly entertaining film: variable in its plotting, dialogue and tone. A case of potential untapped? Undoubtedly. But it is worth paying close attention to those central performances, and it is at least part of its era's Hollywood; markedly less 'safe' and conformist then than now.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Would love to read the book. And nobody mentions Pat Hingle in the cast, who had a career renaissance in the 70s and 80s. Hingle is one of the great supporting actors in American film who is suitably creepy as a Rupert Murdoch type who believes he can manipulate the public mind, which he does with dire results. WUSA is not really very successful, but is a fascinating film nonetheless. A glaring mistake to me is the film's determination to portray the stars as down and outs, when they look a little too well fed and groomed to be convincing. I've watched it a number of times and will keep doing so apart from that, or maybe because of it.
  • WUSA (1970)

    ** 1/2 (out of 4)

    Heavy-handled political drama about a radio host (Paul Newman) who gets a job in New Orleans and quickly starts a relationship up with a former prostitute (Joanne Woodward). It doesn't take long for the host to realize that his radio station has some right-wing views and are using him to spread some not so innocent things. All the time one man (Anthony Perkins) has been collection survey data on welfare but it turns out he too was just being used to try and get people kicked off the system. WUSA has some terrific performances in it but the film is so over-the-top and melodramatic that you can't help but finally give up on it and especially once we hit the final twenty-minutes when everything pretty much gets thrown out the window. There's no question that the filmmakers and producer Newman wanted to get their message across and there are many ways to do this without having to be so heavy and dramatic. I won't ruin what happens in the final twenty-minutes but it's a real shame that the film spent so long building up the characters and only to have what happens bring them down so low. I think the biggest problem with the screenplay is that we've basically got three different movies rolled into one and each story is pulling in a separate direction. You have a romance between Newman and Woodward. You have Perkins realizing that someone bad is trying to hurt the poor. You then have these two connected to the third story dealing with the radio station and its owner (Pat Hingle). The problem is that all three stories are just way too far over-the-top that you can never really believe anything you're seeing and especially all the political stuff. Instead of telling a realistic story, it seems as everyone felt no one would understand what they were trying to say so they just went as far as they could to make that point. It really wasn't needed. The one strong point are the terrific performances led by Newman playing one of the darkest and meanest characters in his career. I really thought the actor did a tremendous job in the part, which is unsympathetic and at times rather hateful. Just check out the scene where Newman is ripping into Perkins on his "good" heart and it's certainly a side of Newman that we didn't get to see him play too much. Woodward also turns in a marvelous performance as she's pretty much the heart of the picture. I thought she was extremely effective as the down-on-her-luck prostitute early on but she also handles the more dramatic stuff later in the pic. Perkins too is very good in his part as is Hingle, Laurence Harvey, Bruce Cabot and Cloris Leachman. Shockingly, I think the best portion of the film is the romance between Newman and Woodward. The two obviously have great chemistry and I thought the scenes with them just sitting around drinking and talking were the best and most memorable in the film. Its said that originally this 115-minute movie clocked in over three hours and I can't help but think what hit the editing room floor. WUSA is well made and well acted but sadly it just tries way too hard to get its message across.
  • I got so caught up in the movie that a few years later when I got to meet Cloris Leachman she asked me what my favorite movie was. I told her WUSA and she said she was in it. "What part did you play?" I asked. When she replied that she was the crippled girl my jaw dropped and I suddenly recognized her. "I'm so embarrassed," I said. Miss Leachman then graciously said, "Don't be embarrassed. The greatest compliment you can give an actor is to tell them they disappeared into the part." The Newmans (Paul and JoAnn Woodward) and Anthony Perkins vanished into their parts too. Yeah -- the movie was that good!!! Like most period pieces, however, the viewer must be able to recreate the mood of the times. The scary part of the movie is that I knew someone personally who could have been the model for every one of the characters...
  • A lot of what was predicted in the film Network about the media was also put forth in this film about radio WUSA. Sad to say it was laid on a bit too thick by its players and director.

    Paul Newman who had a lot of faith in this project plays an itinerant disc jockey who both gets a job at this New Orleans based radio station WUSA and takes up with hooker Joanne Woodward, a girl whose heart really isn't in her work anyway.

    As station owner Pat Hingle says, "this is a station with a point of view" and Hingle expects that point to be emphasized at all times. At that time the Richard Nixon White House was big on telling us that they were looking toward the great 'silent majority' of Americans who took the 'my country right or wrong' dictum to the exponential height. That's WUSA's point of view.

    Newman is not a terribly sympathetic figure here which is one of the reasons the film flattens out. He sees what's wrong, but just goes with the flow. A whole lot like the characters with one exception in that other Louisiana based political drama, All The King's Men.

    One who doesn't is Anthony Perkins who plays this rather pitiable 'survey taker' whose job is really to foster racial discontent by getting minorities thrown off welfare. I imagine there were many a Perkins out there, but this one doesn't like being taken for a fool and he reacts most violently. Perkins is probably the character you most remember from WUSA.

    WUSA correctly predicted the advent of right wing talk radio about fifteen years before it became a fact. Rush Limbaugh would have been right at home on Pat Hingle's station. They've even got a right wing political preacher played by Laurence Harvey as part of their family. Harvey's another interesting character, but he's also laid on a bit thick for my taste. He should have adapted a more subtle approach to the part.

    I wish I could rate such a prescient film as WUSA a bit higher, but the heavy handed approach just gets in the way.
  • Alcoholic ex-musician Paul Newman (as Rheinhardt) drifts into sweaty New Orleans, where he collects a $100 debt owed by bearded preacher Laurence Harvey (as Farley). The swindling pastor Harvey amusingly notes, "Ministers run a terrible risk with neurotic old women," and guides Mr. Newman to work at right-wing radio station "WUSA". For female companionship, Newman manages to pick up scar-faced barfly Joanne Woodward (as Geraldine), as she tries to peddle her wares for a square meal. The couple become acquainted with social worker Anthony Perkins (as Rainey), who unwittingly becomes involved in a welfare scheme.

    With good, almost prescient subject matter, writer Robert Stone's "A Hall of Mirrors" (1967) reads like it should have been a great counterculture film for 1970's #1 "Box Office Star" (then Newman's position, according to "Quigley Publications"). But, Newman and favored director Stuart Rosenberg fail to put "WUSA" over. Things start off well, with great New Orleans locations; and, the film is littered with terrific supporting performances. But, frankly, the real-life married Newmans drag it down. Everyone else is terrific, but they seem inauthentic as boozy pseudo-hippies. Hey Joe, loved seeing the (just deceased) Jimi Hendrix wall poster.

    ***** WUSA (8/19/70) Stuart Rosenberg ~ Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Anthony Perkins, Laurence Harvey
  • rwint17 November 2002
    A drifter comes to Louisiana and gets a job as a DJ at a ultra conservative radio station. Despite being a professed liberal Newman decides to just go along with it's right wing rhetoric because he has grown apathetic with things and now just wants to 'blend in'.

    The idea has a lot of potential, but is never able to take off. Part of the problem is that instead of trying to play it like satire (ala NETWORK) it instead works it with almost pinpoint seriousness. The film seems intent of saturating the viewer with it's gloom and doom message. It becomes such a long and winding stream of social complexities that the viewer, as with the main character, just grows apathetic with it all. It's 'powerful' statements are simply redundant. It is just too engulfed with the politics of it's day to give anything that is broadly insightful.

    It is easy to see why this is probably Newman's most forgettable film. There is just nothing unique or even slightly diverting about it. It meanders badly and there is absolutely no action. The 'exciting' mob scene at the end looks staged and unconvincing.

    The film looks to have leanings of a character study, but even they are weak. Newman's angry loner role is simply a less intense version of his HUD character. Woodward as the prostitute with a 'heart of gold' is cliched and dull. Perkins is the only one that comes off as interesting, but it's not enough to save it.

    This is truly a limp and lifeless picture. It would be amazing if there was ANYONE who would like it.
  • If you like this movie you will love the book it comes from:

    HALL OF MIRRORS by Robert Stone.

    This is another example of a book that is so literary it could not really be done justice in a movie.

    Still I love both the book and the movie.

    But check out the book for the full experience of

    Robert Stone's wit and wisdom.

    This is my favorite Robert Stone book(Hall of Mirrors)along with his other masterpiece DOG SOLDIERS which was made into the movie WHO'LL STOP THE RAIN.

    Note: The info here gives the filming location as Louisiana but the final political rally scenes were filmed in Hollywood.
  • osloj28 June 2014
    Warning: Spoilers
    This is a strange little film, you never get the feeling that you know entirely what is going on. There's some intriguing dialogue hidden in the middle, but the whole theme is entirely esoteric and vague. Performances are quite good. Paul Newman seems torn but does nothing at all to overcome the lethargic pull he's drawn to. WUSA is radio station in the South where the drunk Newman gets a job.

    The film is intentionally claustrophobic with counter-culture elements spread throughout.

    The ending is rather ambivalent. It's nice to see unique films like this one.

    Also recommended: Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966) A Dandy in Aspic (1968)
  • Warning: Spoilers
    There's a viewpoint here, but the script is too muddled to make it clear. The world (or at least the US) is going to seed. While a few people care, most don't. Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Anthony Perkins and others populate a particularly depressing New Orleans in this sad movie. Newman takes a job at a right wing radio station run by Pat Hingle while lost soul Woodward slowly slips away. Perkins, an out and out madman, is, ironically, the only one onto what Hingle's radio station is all about. Stuart Rosenberg directed and while there are a lot of great scenes, there's also a real lack of cohesion. Many characters simply have no motivation for what they're doing. Nevertheless, the acting is not dulled. Newman is great and Woodward is even better. Perkins is excellent, stealing the film as a true idealist, whose disillusionment leads him to insanity. The supporting cast includes Cloris Leachman, Bruce Cabot, Don Gordon, Wayne Rogers (very creepy as one of Hingle's goons), and Laurence Harvey as a preacher/grifter. There's a really good music score by Lalo Schifrin.
  • This movie is a mess. It is badly edited and directed; scenes go on and on with little effectiveness. The whole thing is overlong, very predictable with stock characters (cynic meets heart of gold)and poor exposition. Newman and Woodward have great chemistry, however...if you have the patience.

    I suspect that the novel or story itself is to blame, as the survey business if poorly developed with odd tricks, like money that is never explained. Tony Perkins uses his familiar tricks and tics in his performance, but here it is over-the-top and just embarrassing. Leachman's character is well conceived and played, but the symbolism of her disability is wasted (if it exists). Her character is the best written, actually... I wish I had liked the movie more, as I usually love Newman and Woodward. But this is hopeless.
  • Not lousy, but rather heavy-handed and didactic play on political morality, allegedly set in the modern age. Paul Newman is an indifferent drifter in New Orleans who finds employment at a local radio station whose broadcasts double strictly as a platform for right-wing political beliefs; soon, the extremists for which Newman works have the city riled up in a hotbed of political tension. Adapting his novel "A Hall of Mirrors", Robert Stone writes dialogue and situations which feel curiously dated or clichéd, like the leftover pickings from a movie made some twenty years prior; as a result, the characters fail to emerge. Newman, at one point in his career, cited this picture as his very best, though he's not very good in it, and neither is co-star Joanne Woodward (working hard at feigning low-class). "WUSA" has an excellent sense of its location, due to Richard Moore's solid cinematography, yet its high-flown aims to be a controversial rabble-rouser drown in the din of over-exaggerated grandstanding. *1/2 from ****
  • Being Paul Newman's favorite among his own vehicles (and which he also co-produced), calling it "the most significant film I've ever made and probably the best", I chose to watch WUSA on the third anniversary of his passing. For this reason, I had long been intrigued by the movie but, given its relative obscurity, the opportunity never presented itself until the Olive Films DVD was released earlier his year: having made a Newman binge at the time of his demise, I would have gladly added this one too to my collection, were it not for the fact that the bare-bones edition was too heftily-priced for my wallet!

    Anyway, now that I have caught up with it, I was satisfied to a large extent – though the overall impression remains ambivalent (at least upon a preliminary viewing). The film is basically fuelled by numerous topical i.e. late 1960s attitudes, notably liberal-vs.-conservative politics (but even incorporating Flower Power, most amusingly when a trio of hippies forever "stoned out of their minds", who form a gospel{!?} band and befriend Newman, engage in a philosophical discussion with him but once it is over one of them exclaims: "What was that all about?!"). Incidentally the title should read W (as in Viva) USA (perhaps a nod to the same year's M*A*S*H, though it certainly did not duplicate that film's critical and commercial success!) which is obviously ironic, given the paranoid stance it takes at the attempt by a Southern radio station to brainwash the people to their own power-hungry ends. Even so, this was just one of several thought-provoking but unremittingly cynical pictures to emerge around this time – ranging from THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962; with which it shares both co-star Laurence Harvey and the assassination-at-a-political-rally climax) to NETWORK (1976; which centered around the even-more powerful medium of television).

    Though direction (Rosenberg was recruited after his fortuitous collaboration with Newman on COOL HAND Luke {1967} and, despite WUSA's failure, would lend his services to two more of the star's efforts i.e. POCKET MONEY {1972} and THE DROWNING POOL {1975}), camera-work and editing (incidentally, the Preview Version ran for 3 hours and 10 minutes but, even as it stands now, the film is overlong – particularly the concluding after-rally scenes) make themselves felt throughout, WUSA mainly relies on the script and the acting to put its various points across. With this in mind, the former is literary (Robert Stone adapted his own novel to the screen) if verging on the hysterical and the latter ably served by an excellent cast.

    Newman typically exudes cool amorality as the alcoholic drifter anti-hero who is appointed as d.j. of WUSA, though his supposedly subversive comments are basically limited to such subliminal messages as "The future of America is up to you" (in fact, the film was criticized for not really having the courage of its convictions by tiptoeing around its subject matter!) – he even takes to the mike at the rally in calming down the crowd, with his repeated but clearly sardonic assertion that "We {the Americans} are O.K." (his character's essential lack of commitment, which alienates the Joanne Woodward one and sends Anthony Perkins off the deep end, is rather baffling). Harvey is a con-man who is just at home spouting religious fanaticism as ideological elitism, and who likes to keep up-to-date with airport schedules since they are likely to become useful (thus sharing with Newman an instinct for survival). In my opinion, this makes for one of the Newmans' strongest outings as a team...even though Woodward's character is too derivative of Piper Laurie's in THE HUSTLER (1961) with her incarceration and subsequent suicide unfortunately seeming tagged-on this time around! – besides, the hippies' irresponsible behavior in getting her busted in the first place and their apparent nonchalance over her ultimate fate is appalling! Perkins plays typically awkward and easily manipulated, but eventually making a stand – albeit one that horribly backfires on him, thus emerging a martyr rather than a savior). For what it is worth, Newman had already appeared alongside Harvey in THE OUTRAGE (1964) and would re-unite with Perkins for THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN (1972).

    Pat Hingle, then, is the Macchiavellian head of WUSA, Moses Gunn is Perkins' hostile contact while conducting his 'prejudiced' survey in the city slums, Cloris Leachman is the facially-scarred Woodward's crippled friend, Bruce Cabot barely registers as a legendary cowboy during the rally set-piece, Clifton James is a sailor and improbable would-be client of aspiring 'barmaid' Woodward, and Robert Quarry (yes, Count Yorga himself!) is one of Hingle's underlings who becomes Perkins' prime target at his extreme and misguided outburst that leads to outright rioting and, in retaliation, police brutality! The DVD's superb widescreen image quality (particularly effective in capturing the two facades of the New Orleans setting) is unfortunately undercut by audio deficiencies (notably a constant imbalance between the sound effects/score and dialogue tracks and even a couple of glitches during one, albeit pivotal, scene where Perkins corners one of Hingle's yes-men inside a brothel and gives him a piece of his mind).

    In conclusion and just for the record, the following are the unwatched Newman titles currently in my possession: YOU ARE THERE: THE DEATH OF SOCRATES (1953; TV), PLAYWRIGHTS '56: THE BATTLER (1955; TV), THE UNITED STATES STEEL HOUR: BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY (1956; TV), THE RACK (1956), THE HELEN MORGAN STORY (1957), UNTIL THEY SAIL (1957), ERNEST HEMINGWAY'S "ADVENTURES OF A YOUNG MAN" (1962), THE SECRET WAR OF HARRY FRIGG (1968), WINNING (1969), POCKET MONEY, THE SHADOW BOX (1980; TV) – which he only directed, HARRY & SON (1984) – which the star also helmed, BLAZE (1989), THE HUDSUCKER PROXY (1994) and TWILIGHT (1998).
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