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Brewster McCloud

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Brewster McCloud
Brewster McCloud (1970 poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Altman
Produced byLou Adler
John Phillips
Written byDoran William Cannon
StarringBud Cort
Sally Kellerman
Michael Murphy
Shelley Duvall
Music byGene Page
CinematographyLamar Boren
Jordan Cronenweth
Edited byLou Lombardo
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • December 5, 1970 (1970-12-05)
Running time
105 minutes

Brewster McCloud[1] is a 1970 American experimental comedy film directed by Robert Altman. It concerns a young recluse (Bud Cort, as the title character) who lives in a fallout shelter of the Houston Astrodome, where he is building a pair of wings so he can fly. He is helped by his comely and enigmatic "fairy godmother", played by Sally Kellerman, as he becomes a suspect in a series of murders. The film was shot on location in Houston, Texas. During the opening credits, shots of the downtown Houston skyline (with One Shell Plaza under construction) zoom toward the Houston Astrodome and Astrohall, with the emerging Texas Medical Center in the background. It was the first film shot inside the Astrodome.


The film opens with the MGM logo, as usual, but with a voice-over saying, "I forgot the opening line" (the voice of James Stewart), replacing the lion roar, and proceeds with The Lecturer regaling his unseen students with a wealth of knowledge of the habits of birds. Owlish Brewster McCloud, living hidden and alone under the Houston Astrodome, dreams of creating wings that will help him fly like a bird. His only assistance comes from Louise, a beautiful woman who wants to help. Wearing only a trench coat, Louise has unexplained scars on her shoulder blades, suggestive of a fallen angel. She warns him against having sexual intercourse, as this could kill his instinct to fly.

While Brewster works to complete his wings and condition himself for flight, Houston suffers a string of unexplained murders, the work of a serial killer whose victims are found strangled and covered in bird droppings. Haskell Weeks, a prominent figure in Houston, pulls strings to have the Houston Police call "San Francisco super cop" Frank Shaft to investigate. Shaft immediately fixates on the bird droppings and soon finds a link to Brewster. Brewster eludes the police with the apparent help of Louise but he eventually drives her away—and dooms himself—when he ignores her advice about sex by hooking up with Astrodome usher Suzanne Davis. Suzanne saves Brewster by evading Shaft in her stolen Road Runner. Severely injured after losing Brewster, Frank kills himself. Brewster eventually confesses his responsibility in the killings to Suzanne, who betrays him to the police.

A small army of Houston policemen enter the Astrodome, but fail to nab Brewster before he takes flight using his completed wings. Although Brewster escapes the police, he cannot escape a human being's inherent unsuitability for flight. Exhausted by the effort, he falls out of the air, crashing in a heap on the floor of the Astrodome. The film ends with a Circus entering the Astrodome, played by the cast of the film, costumed as clowns, strongmen and other circus performers. The Ringmaster (played by William Windom) announces the names of each cast member, finishing with Brewster, who remains crumpled on the floor.


Cultural references

The film features references to other films, including those of Fellini[2] and to Altman's own work. Altman pays homage to Bullitt (1968) through the character of San Francisco detective Frank Shaft.[2] Character Haskell Weeks' name resembles that of Haskell Wexler, a cinematographer Altman admired and considered working with on California Split.[3]

Visual references to The Wizard of Oz (1939) are suggested in the film:[2] for example, Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West, appears wearing ruby slippers. Hope (Jennifer Salt), who supplies Brewster with health food, resembles Dorothy, with her distinctive gingham dress, pigtails and basket. At the end of the film, Hope is shown in the cast as Dorothy, carrying Toto.


This film marks the first feature produced by Altman's Lion's Gate Films. The film records landmarks and streetscapes that later were demolished or radically changed. For instance, the hotel Frank Shaft checks into was once part of the Astrodome complex, and has gone through several significant changes subsequently.


Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and, comparing it to MASH, wrote that it was "just as densely packed with words and action, and you keep thinking you're missing things. You probably are. It's that quality that's so attractive about these two Altman films. We get the sense of a live intelligence, rushing things ahead on the screen, not worrying whether we'll understand."[4] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune awarded three out of four stars and wrote, "Once again Altman has taken a story (this time a rather weak one) and given it a distinctive spirit and flavor thru casting, cinematic devices and odd juxtapositions. An Altman film, if two can make a genre, appears to be more of a mood than a story. This rarely works, but it does for him."[5] Variety called the film "a sardonic fairy tale for the times. Extremely well cast and directed, Lou Adler's made-in-Houston production demands an intellectual audience which is satisfied with smiles instead of belly-laughs."[6] Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote that the film "has more characters and incidents than a comic strip, but never enough wit to sustain more than a few isolated sequences."[7] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times believed that the film was "not in a class" with MASH, but opined that "I doubt that the new year will give us a more startling, bizarre and rowdy piece of business."[8] John Simon wrote 'Brewster McCloud is a pretentious, disorganized, modishly iconoclastic movie which, in the manner of its Icarus-like hero, aspires to fly high and merely drops dead'.[9]

The film presently has a score of 86% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 21 reviews, with an average grade of 7.33 out of 10.[10]


  1. ^ "Brewster McCloud Original Trailer (1970)". Texas Archive of the Moving Image. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Stafford, Jeff. "Brewster McCloud - Review". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 25, 2015.
  3. ^ McGilligan, Patrick (1989). Robert Altman: Jumping Off the Cliff. St. Martin's Press. p. 376. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 24, 1970). "Brewster McCloud". Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  5. ^ Siskel, Gene (December 22, 1970). "'Brewster' & 'Lobo'". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 3.
  6. ^ "Film Reviews: Brewster McCloud". Variety. December 9, 1970. 14.
  7. ^ Canby, Vincent (December 24, 1970). "The Screen: Innocence and Corruption". The New York Times. p. 8.
  8. ^ Champlin, Charles (January 31, 1971). "'Brewster McCloud': Havoc for Some Traditions". Los Angeles Times. Calendar, p. 1.
  9. ^ Simon, John (1982). Reverse Angle: A Decade of American Film. Crown Publishers Inc. p. 31.
  10. ^ "Brewster McCloud". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 29, 2018.

External links

This page was last edited on 14 October 2020, at 09:59
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