26 July 2004 | Prof_Lostiswitz
You'll get a charge out of it.
Rhinoceros is not the best of American Film Theatre's films, but it does grow on you. When I saw this in the cinema, I had already read Ionesco's play, so I was in a mood to be critical of every change
notably the change of setting.
Over the years, I have come to see that Ionesco can be transmogrified, and that most of the changes work quite well. Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder turn in dynamite performances, and the rest of the cast does nicely as well. Karen Black actually has the hardest job, turning her sweet and sexy character into a rhinoceros, but she carries it off gracefully. This is real acting!!
The most objectionable part comes with political references, like a picture of Richard Nixon, or a "Remember Pearl Harbor" lapel button. Not only is all this too heavy-handed, it dates the movie unnecessarily. The music is also quite low-quality 70's kitsch, especially the song "What did you do to yourself?". This song however accompanies a great dream-sequence. I must also say that the theme accompanying the final scenes is quite moving.
Ultimately, Rhinoceros is one of the great dramatic works of the twentieth century, and this movie will be for most people their only chance to see it (now that it can be bought on video). For those who don't know anything about it, it's about a town where the citizens start getting a strange malady that turns them into rhinoceroses. It starts out as a slapstick comedy of manners, but this is Ionesco's way of softening us up so we're more vulnerable to the horrific elements later on. Those of you who enjoyed Dr. Strangelove and Brazil should get a charge out of this.