CINEMA SECOND CHANCES: 'The Astrologer' (1975)
Recently, I chanced to see a long lost film at The Cinefamily here in Los Angeles entitled The Astrologer, directed by and starring one-time filmmaker and film actor Craig Denny. With lines like, “You’re not an astrologer… YOU’RE AN A**HOLE,” it’s hard not to be enchanted.
The Astrologer’s premise is the rise and fall of a two-bit carnie con artist named Craig Marcus Alexander, who aspires to become the world’s greatest astrologer. For those of you who don’t know what an astrologer is, they are pretty much fortune tellers, who’s main use of divination is using the horoscopes found in the Zodiac.
In it’s time, The Astrologer was very poorly received, which lead to Denny trying to destroy all of the existing film prints. At least one survived, though, and was found by the Alamo Drafthouse mixed in with reels of vintage porn. A lot of the scenes are so terrible that they’re actually perfect, and display much unintentional genius. It’s even got comedic timing in moments that aren’t even meant to be so, yet any comedian would kill to have thought of these days. What got terrible reviews in the '70s may just get rave reviews in the 2010s. Take a look at the trailer here and see some of the glorious insanity for yourself (WARNING: NSFW).
As you can see in the trailer, Denny travels pretty far throughout the world, going from carnie life in Long Beach, California, to Kenya to Tahiti and then back to Long Beach… all in the pursuit of blood diamonds, which helps him fund his own movie-within-a-movie that is ALSO entitled The Astrologer and… Okay. Let’s stop right there for a moment. After seeing the movie at The Cinefamily, Craig Denny’s best friend Arthyr Chadbourne, who played the character of Denny’s best friend and financial manger named, also, Arthyr Chadbourne, gave a Q&A and confirmed that the film was made without a script. Instead of a screenplay, all of the scenes were based on horoscopes from that day of filming. Given his obvious love of astrology, it makes sense by not making sense that Denny would choose to do this. It also helps the film, in a way -- for instance, when Chadbourne and Denny have a fight as their characters onscreen, they are actually fighting each other in real life. My above-mentioned favorite line said by Chadbourne came from a very authentic place of anger and frustration. It’s a candid moment caught on film to time capsule the sordid adventure this film took everyone involved on.
Chadbourne also gave some insight into the life of Craig Denny himself, which is just as entertaining as the film. Apparently, Denny came from a rich family who were a part of an equally rich circle of friends. As a result, Denny was able to get funding from friends and family, who even appeared in The Astrologer at different points. One of the most frequently seen family members was Denny’s cousin, Darrien Earle, who played the part of Denny’s on-again/off-again drug-addicted hooker/movie star wife named (you guessed it) Darrien. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, they do make out in multiple scenes, but they surprisingly (unfortunately?) don’t have a sex scene together.
Like his character, Denny was also a bit of a con artist. He pulled an old switcheroo of contract signings that got The Moody Blues to be credited as composers of the film, when that’s not entirely the case, but it’s not entirely incorrect either, as their music is featured. He also convinced actors to PAY to be in this film instead of him paying them, and handled a bunch of other shady business in his own personal life, which Chadbourne couldn’t really get into.
Alas, Denny’s life of swindling and money-spending may have also ended up getting him in trouble. According to his friend Chadbourne, Denny was very interested in escaping the FBI and IRS by faking his own death, and, at one point after the failure of The Astrologer, said he didn’t think he had any reason to live in America anymore. Not too long after that, Chadbourne went over to visit his pal Denny, something not out of the ordinary, when Denny’s sister told him that Denny recently passed away. Without any tears and a straight face, she said, “We’re all very upset.” Chadbourne thought this was out of the ordinary, as he thought he would’ve been invited to the funeral. Who knows, maybe if The Astrologer takes off again, Denny will come back out of the woodwork! Or from what ever South American country he’s probably hiding in.
Unfortunately, The Astrologer is not quite yet available for streaming. I don’t even have confirmation that a digital copy has been made yet, but it would be a smart idea. Until the film is able to take off and gets the easy to view format it deserves, look out on the Internet for an upcoming showing near you!
(Screenshot via Vimeo)
- Kevin Donaldson, YH Staff