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Full Blossom: The Life of Poet/Actor Roberts Blossom

A versatile, familiar and underrated face onscreen throughout the last three decades, recently retired character thesp Roberts Blossom proves quite the real-life character in this affectionate, albeit unevenly executed portrait. Film fests and broadcast programmers looking for an offbeat film-history footnote might find this worth a gander.

A versatile, familiar and underrated face onscreen throughout the last three decades, recently retired character thesp Roberts Blossom proves quite the real-life character in this affectionate, albeit unevenly executed portrait. Film fests and broadcast programmers looking for an offbeat film-history footnote might find this worth a gander.

“He has an interesting mind” one ex-wife says here, scoring major points for understatement. Raised, like so many aspiring actors, in unhappy domestic circumstances (his Depression-bankrupted parents were remote, unstable and alcoholic), Blossom gave early warning of eccentricities to come when caught presumably “diddling himself” under bed sheets as a tot — when he was in fact reading “The Communist Manifesto” by flashlight.

Shipped briefly to an Army mental ward when he claimed WWII conscientious objector status as an “independent yogi,” he then fell in for a while with future Scientology guru L. Ron Hubbard before commencing an acclaimed stage career in ’50s Off Broadway productions. The next decade found him forming Filmstage, a seminal NYC multimedia avant-garde theater troupe.

Hollywood beckoned with a slew of striking, though often small, roles in major ’70s features: “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “The Great Gatsby,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Escape From Alcatraz” and “Resurrection” among them. (His one “lead” was in 1974’s cult horror pic “Deranged,” a terrifying turn too briefly glimpsed Stateside.) In later years he alternated between TV pics (including “Family Reunion,” in which his jig-dancing coot incurs Bette Davis’ wrath) and bigscreen efforts (“Home Alone,” “Always”).

Various scenes excerpted here confirm the ability of the gangly actor with piercing blue eyes to make a memorable impression in little screen time. But midway, pic more or less abandons showbiz to focus on Berkeley resident Blossom’s personal idiosyncrasies, which range from writing cosmic/lefty-political poetry to insisting his incredulous software-engineer son is Michelangelo reincarnated.

Former spouse Beverly, daughter Debbie and son Michael bemusedly agree to be filmed through their shared Roman holiday, during which Blossom hopes his offspring’s “memory” will be jogged by the Sistine Chapel. (No such luck.) Given that Dad also claims telepathic ability, has “spoken” with cats and saw Steven Spielberg “revealed” as Hindu god Vishnu on the set one day, it’s remarkable his children turned out such level-headed average citizens.

Admiring comments and colorful anecdotes from other relatives, directors (Robert Frank, Peter Brook), agent Toby Cole and fellow thesp Ed Asner add to “Full Blossom’s” entertainment value, though first-time feature docu helmer James Brih Abee doesn’t always seem in control of pic’s somewhat haphazard structure, wandering focus and spotty tech aspects. Vid lensing, in particular, is variable.

Full Blossom: The Life of Poet/Actor Roberts Blossom

  • Production: An Atomic Muse and Filmsight Prods. presentation. Produced by James Brih Abee, Morgan Schmidt-Feng. Directed by James Brih Abee. Screenplay, Kubja Arunski, James Brih Abee.
  • Crew: Camera (color, video), Morgan Schmidt-Feng; editor, Abee; music, Brandon Quincy Griffin; sound, Brad Marshland, John Balquist, Leon Kenin, Dan Korb, Massimo Casseriani, Dominique Martigne. Reviewed at Mill Valley Film Festival, Oct. 7, 2000. Running time: 75 min.