Focus is on the Anaheim, Calif., branch of the American Bible and Gun Club, which, as the name implies, is dedicated to the rather incongruous task of hawking Bibles and weapons door-to-door. Contrast between the two commodities is laid out in the opening scene, in which Stan (Andy Kallok) is trying to entice an old woman to purchase a set of collector-edition Bibles and, across the room, Phil (Don Yanan) is doing his best to convince the womans paranoid husband to pick up a few firearms. During the conversation, the old guy keeps having hallucinations of naked black men breaking into his house. Phil, a border-line psychopathic ex-LAPD officer, has just joined the sales firm, which includes an odd assortment of maladjusted characters. Stan is in the midst of a full-blown midlife crisis spurred by a bizarre lump that has appeared on his neck, and he has to endure constant abuse, mostly from Phil, who delights in taunting him about his miserable life. The other new recruit is Mike (Julian Ott), a former golf pro who got the job because hes the boss son-in-law. The groups head man is Bill (Al Schuermann), a vicious, insulting manager who gives most of his employees a hard time. The motley crew is completed by Sidney (Robert Blumenthal), a former rabbi who left the synagogue to sell Bibles because he felt there wasnt enough money to be made as a rabbi. At a sales convention, company chairman Jack Ford tells Bill hes closing down the Anaheim operation and moving it to Vegas because the Anaheim chapter is simply not generating enough business. Meanwhile, there is a fight brewing over the Vegas turf, which a rival band of hot-shot Texas sellers want all to themselves. In retaliation, Bill sends his men out to knock on doors in a trailer park on the outskirts of town, which is where they meet a bunch of real residents of the area. The plot gets downright bizarre from here on, as Phil links up with a couple of porno starlets and ends up back at their hotel room watching, and eventually taking part in, a live porn shoot. Then the conflict between Bills team and the renegade Texans escalates into violence, with a number of almost slapstick shoot-outs. Harris cranks up the bloody action and provocative scenes as the pic progresses, abandoning any pretense of delivering a nuanced satire of these disillusioned, bigoted characters. He portrays the salesmen as a bunch of sexist, racist losers who have virtually no redeeming characteristics, and the cynical tone of the depiction makes it hard for the viewer to care about their fates. The five lead actors, most of whom are real-life salesmen, deliver riveting perfs, particularly Kallok as the nerve-racked Stan, Schuermann as the hard-driving boss Bill, and most memorably, Yanan as the intensely deranged Phil. Lenser Alex Vendler makes much use of jumpy hand-held cameras and does his best to re-create the on-the-street feel of a grainy, 60s-era docu. Shawn Pattersons score also tries to revive the 60s mood with a series of driving guitar and sax instrumentals. Pic was shot on super-16mm and then blown up to 35mm stock, and some of the images have lost their sharpness in the process. The producers said the print screened at the Hamptons fest had not been corrected for lightness/darkness and contrast.

Focus is on the Anaheim, Calif., branch of the American Bible and Gun Club, which, as the name implies, is dedicated to the rather incongruous task of hawking Bibles and weapons door-to-door. Contrast between the two commodities is laid out in the opening scene, in which Stan (Andy Kallok) is trying to entice an old woman to purchase a set of collector-edition Bibles and, across the room, Phil (Don Yanan) is doing his best to convince the womans paranoid husband to pick up a few firearms. During the conversation, the old guy keeps having hallucinations of naked black men breaking into his house. Phil, a border-line psychopathic ex-LAPD officer, has just joined the sales firm, which includes an odd assortment of maladjusted characters. Stan is in the midst of a full-blown midlife crisis spurred by a bizarre lump that has appeared on his neck, and he has to endure constant abuse, mostly from Phil, who delights in taunting him about his miserable life. The other new recruit is Mike (Julian Ott), a former golf pro who got the job because hes the boss son-in-law. The groups head man is Bill (Al Schuermann), a vicious, insulting manager who gives most of his employees a hard time. The motley crew is completed by Sidney (Robert Blumenthal), a former rabbi who left the synagogue to sell Bibles because he felt there wasnt enough money to be made as a rabbi. At a sales convention, company chairman Jack Ford tells Bill hes closing down the Anaheim operation and moving it to Vegas because the Anaheim chapter is simply not generating enough business. Meanwhile, there is a fight brewing over the Vegas turf, which a rival band of hot-shot Texas sellers want all to themselves. In retaliation, Bill sends his men out to knock on doors in a trailer park on the outskirts of town, which is where they meet a bunch of real residents of the area. The plot gets downright bizarre from here on, as Phil links up with a couple of porno starlets and ends up back at their hotel room watching, and eventually taking part in, a live porn shoot. Then the conflict between Bills team and the renegade Texans escalates into violence, with a number of almost slapstick shoot-outs. Harris cranks up the bloody action and provocative scenes as the pic progresses, abandoning any pretense of delivering a nuanced satire of these disillusioned, bigoted characters. He portrays the salesmen as a bunch of sexist, racist losers who have virtually no redeeming characteristics, and the cynical tone of the depiction makes it hard for the viewer to care about their fates. The five lead actors, most of whom are real-life salesmen, deliver riveting perfs, particularly Kallok as the nerve-racked Stan, Schuermann as the hard-driving boss Bill, and most memorably, Yanan as the intensely deranged Phil. Lenser Alex Vendler makes much use of jumpy hand-held cameras and does his best to re-create the on-the-street feel of a grainy, 60s-era docu. Shawn Pattersons score also tries to revive the 60s mood with a series of driving guitar and sax instrumentals. Pic was shot on super-16mm and then blown up to 35mm stock, and some of the images have lost their sharpness in the process. The producers said the print screened at the Hamptons fest had not been corrected for lightness/darkness and contrast.

The Bibleand Gun Club

Production

A Big in Vegas Pictures/Umagumma Entertainment production. Produced by Daniel J. Harris. Executive producers, Ariel Perets, Pierre Sevigny. Directed, written by Daniel J. Harris.

Crew

Camera (B&W), Alex Vendler; editor, Christopher Hink; music , Shawn Patterson; production design, Dominique Blaskovich; costumes, Dominique Blaskovich, Pamela Randolph; sound, Riccardo Goncalves; associate producer, Alex Vendler. Reviewed at Hamptons Film Festival, Oct. 17, 1996. Running time: 87 MIN. Stan Andy Kallok Phil Don Yanan Bill Al Schuermann Mike Julian Ott Sidney Robert Blumenthal Also

With

With: Sue Ozeran, Tom (TR) Richards, Wynn Reichert, Alfred Vass, Dominique Blaskovich, Silvana Gusic. First-time helmer Daniel J. Harris is nothing if not ambitious in The Bible and Gun Club, an innovative, edgy pic that uses a mix of docu techniques and hard-hitting drama to satirize the darker side of the world of traveling salesmen. But this portrait of five seriously demented sellers of Bibles and high-powered firearms goes right off the rails in the second half, and the relentlessly bleak snapshot of a group of foul-mouthed, politically incorrect, middle-age salesmen makes for a tough ride, dramatically and commercially. Harris intercuts scripted scenes with real-life interaction between the lead thesps and the residents of a dirt-poor trailer-park community in North Las Vegas, Nev., and the docu images range from the depressing to the disturbing, most notably a sequence in which a couple of kids are shown playing with the salesmens guns outside a trailer home. But while Harris inventive, highly stylized direction will spark some interest in this South African-born, L.A.-based helmer, the material is more intriguing than it is enjoyable to watch.
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