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YMMV / The Day of the Locust

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  • Nightmare Fuel: The film's depiction of the climactic riot sequence was one of the most harrowing put on film at the time, and still packs a punch today, playing off a natural fear of being caught in a dangerous situation over which we have no control and from which there is no escape.
    • The nightmare fuel starts with Homer releasing his pent-up rage on a screaming Adore by stomping on him until he dies with blood pouring out of his mouth, and moves on to the mob literally tearing Homer apart, his bloodied and broken body occasionally rising above the heaving crowds, with Tod unable to get near him to save him... and, as the mob grows more restless and destructive and he spots Faye across the street, he is equally unable to save her from the caprices of the crowd as they are swept off in opposite directions.
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    • And then the crowd's destructive rampage really takes off; terrified film stars rush out of the premiere and into their car, only for the driver to be pulled out before the car is tipped on its side and set ablaze, the film stars only just getting out in time by climbing out of the "top" window. The patrons of a coffee shop barricade the door as the lights flicker and go out, while people on the outside hammer on the door to be let in to escape the chaos, to no avail. Windows are smashed, shops are looted, and a sobbing girl is dragged off by two men despite Tod's futile attempts to rescue her.
    • We get a gorily detailed shot of Tod's broken and bloodied leg after he manages to get into some empty space by a parked car, and then his own Sanity Slippage provides more nightmarish images; he hallucinates the people in his sketches for The Burning of Los Angeles standing by the side of the road or sitting on benches, faces of white plaster with empty black eyes and mouths. Blazing telephone poles and palm trees topple to the ground. The empty-faced people go from standing still to lurching robotically in unison toward him. Images of Hollywood glamour, including the promotional photo of Faye in Ali Baba Goes to Town that Tod stole for her, are shown burning to ash in close-up, while the Hollywood hills explode in a firestorm and the crack in Tod's apartment wall is torn wide open as nature itself unleashes its apocalyptic fury on Los Angeles. All while Tod screams at the top of his lungs, insane with terror. Even though most of these images are only happening in Tod's mind, they are still scary.
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    • And all of this is given a further nightmarish quality by the fact that it strongly resembles a Nazi rally, complete with a screaming, Hitleresque radio announcer exhorting the audience and a Kristallnacht-style shattering of shop windows.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Homer and Faye take Harry to an evangelist/faith healer named Big Sister (a Take That! aimed at evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson) in a sequence that skewers churches that place more emphasis on donations and showmanship than on enriching the souls of their congregation (and that was added for the film). The larger-than-life Big Sister is played by Geraldine Page, and though she only appears in this single scene (which has no significant impact on the plot or characters), she gets the And Starring treatment on the poster, and is billed fifth in the credits.note 
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  • Retroactive Recognition: In the film adaptation, Adore Loomis was played by Jackie Earle Haley, then in his early teens; he had mostly done television work at the time but went on to more high-profile child acting success as Kelly Leak in The Bad News Bears the following year, and has since transitioned into adult roles that include Rorschach in Watchmen.
  • Vindicated by History:
    • The novel sold just 1480 copies in its initial run in 1939; while it may have depicted the Hollywood that needed telling about (as quoted by Dashiell Hammett on the cover of the first edition), it wasn't the Hollywood the American public were ready to read about. But within a decade of West's death in a car accident in 1940, The Day of the Locust was being identified as part of the American literary canon, and it made several "100 Greatest Twentieth Century Novels" lists in the late 1990s/early 2000s.
    • The film opened to a mixed reception from critics and audiences; it eventually turned a profit, and several of the performances, particularly those of Donald Sutherland and Burgess Meredith (who was Oscar-nominated), were praised, but 1970s audiences on a 1930s nostalgia kick were once again not ready to see just how grimy the film industry really was in its supposed golden age, while some critics felt that, compared to the novel, the film pulled its punches. Its standing has improved in the years since its original release, although the existence of a more famous Homer Simpson will likely always overshadow it.


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