‘Who is Harry Kellerman and Why is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?’

❉ Truly an artefact of its time, this is a cult classic that’s ripe for re-discovery.

“Directed by the relatively unsung Ulu Grosbard, the stream of consciousness narrative focuses on the life of world famous rock star Georgie Soloway, played by Dustin Hoffman in one of his loosest, weirdest roles ever.”

Dustin Hoffman in Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? (1971)

Released in June of 1971 (the notion that this served as summer entertainment tickles me) to critical and audience neglect, Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? is truly an artefact of its time, and one of the kookier titles available on Blu-ray from the incredible team at Kino Lorber Studio Classics. I wonder how many times the creative team behind Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) watched this intriguing item in preparation for making their own stinging critique of celebrity and success, and over the last couple of years, I’ve found myself frequently returning to Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? as it never fails to entertain and confound, and feels ripe for re-discovery, or championing by someone like Quentin Tarantino at one of his special, midnight-madness screenings at The New Beverly.

Directed by the relatively unsung Ulu Grosbard (Straight Time, True Confessions, Falling in Love, Georgia, The Deep End of the Ocean) and written by Broadway specialist Herb Gardner (A Thousand Clowns, Thieves, The Goodbye People, I’m Not Rappaport), the stream of consciousness narrative focuses on the life of world famous rock star Georgie Soloway, played by Dustin Hoffman in one of his loosest, weirdest roles ever. The film’s suicide-obsessed structure is one of those “all in one day” stories, but this time, what’s happening on screen can never fully be trusted, due in large part to the dreamy nature of Victor Kemper’s stony visuals, and the oblique nature of the storytelling. And just who exactly is the mysterious Harry Kellerman, who has been spreading lies and rumours about Soloway?

What follows is a shaggy-dog story of a man losing his grip on reality, while the witty script continually sends pointed zingers in the direction of the entertainment industry. Gardner clearly had a strong point of view in this movie, and it’s up to the audience to decide – in many instances – how a particular scene was meant to be interpreted. The ending, especially in retrospect, is beyond bold to contemplate and would be unthinkable in our post 9/11 world, and the film contains some extremely quirky credits (Shel Silverstein did the musical score!), and a hippie-tinged soundtrack (featuring a live appearance from Country Joe and The Fish) that gives off some funky-good vibes. Barbara Harris is fantastic in her handful of scenes with Hoffman, who for his part, created a wobbly portrait of a fractured man, resulting in a turbulent inner core to the film. Jack Warden has some memorable moments opposite Hoffman has his shrink, and Dom DeLuise steals some scenes.

Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? holds the distinction of having the longest title to a movie that was nominated for an Oscar, with Harris receiving a Best Supporting Actress nod. The Kino Lorber Studio Classics Blu-ray release is light on features (only a trailer for Grosbard’s True Confessions was included) but the 1.78:1 widescreen in 1080p color transfer does a solid job of approximating what the film likely looked like on the big-screen 49 years ago. And at the time of this writing, at Kino’s website, the Blu-ray is available for $5.99, which is 80% off the normal sticker price. This is odd-duck cinema for true fans of odd-duck cinema, and makes for a great double bill with the aforementioned Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

Blu-ray Extras:

❉ Theatrical Trailers


❉ ‘Who is Harry Kellerman and Why is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?’. Directed by: Ulu Grosbard Year: 1971. Country: U.S. Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1. Running Time: 108. Blu-ray $29.95/$5.99. Available on Blu-Ray, RRP $29.95. CLICK HERE to buy (US only).

❉ Nick Clement is a journalist for Variety Magazine and motion picture screenplay consultant, as well as a critic for websites We Are Cult and Back to the Movies. He wrote the introduction to the book Double Features: Big Ideas in Film, which was published by The Great Books Foundation, and is currently working on a book about the life and work of filmmaker Tony Scott. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and son.

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