I have to admit that I wasn't all that enthusiastic about writing this post when I saw that Chafed Elbows was next in my queue. It wasn't all that long ago that I had rewatched all the films in the Up All Night with Robert Downey Sr. volume of the Eclipse Series in preparation for the April 2015 episode of my Eclipse Viewer podcast. And I had already reviewed the set back when it was first released in 2012. In my recollection before watching it yet again just this afternoon, Chafed Elbows was the slightest of the five titles in that box, even more ephemeral than the practically incoherent Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight, which I admired nonetheless due to the tribute that Downey (a prince) appeared to be paying to his by-then ex-wife. Indeed, even when I was discussing it on that podcast just a couple months ago, I didn't have all that much to say about it. Nothing especially positive anyway, though I could at least express some appreciation for Downey's feisty attitude and fearless bravado in cobbling together a series of sketches that busted up numerous taboos in ways that provoked fits of nervous laughter, at least in viewers who weren't offended to the point of walking out before the hour long underground flick had run its course.
But after taking it just now, on its own terms and in isolation from its competition in the set, I derived more satisfaction from watching Chafed Elbows this time around than ever before. Maybe there's some benefit to be found in spacing these movies out a little, since my previous viewings have all been as part of processing the entire set for the sake of a project that I'd committed to. And since I know that the story is for the most part little more than a thin pretext to pack in as many naughty riffs of insubordination as the brief run time will allow, I'm happily free from the burden of tracking anything resembling character development or real-life application of Downey Sr's "message." This is the kind of humor that for me at least works better in more concentrated, distilled dosages, and I reach saturation point fairly quickly with such stuff nowadays. But I did find myself chuckling out loud more than I was expecting.
The funny thing is, I just watched Chafed Elbows on my phone using my Hulu subscription, taking in the first twenty minutes or so as I drove home from work, the soundtrack playing through my car stereo system via Bluetooth technology. I finished up the rest right away, watching it in my dining room after I pulled safely into my driveway. Since I'd seen the movie a few times already, I didn't need to focus so much on the visual elements, creating an old but familiar sense of listening to some raunchy old comedy album of the sort that I enjoyed as a teenager back when George Carlin and Cheech and Chong were in the prime of their careers. I already knew that with the exception of a few scenes, most of the film consists of still photographs lined up in sequence, with voices dubbed over the images of the characters and occasional narration. I think that unusual perspective, of just listening to the constant barrage of crude one-liners, smutty wordplay and relentless satirical mockery that Downey and his collaborators whipped together, impressed me more than when I saw the whole thing on the screen in the comfort of my living room. Or maybe I was just more in the mood for a blast of impudent vulgar humor today for reasons I really can't fathom.
As the poster at the top indicates, in its original theatrical run Chafed Elbows was paired up with a 1963 short film titled Scorpio Rising. The latter, an ahead-of-its-time celebration of black leather, motorcycles, early 60s, pre-Beatles pop music and homoerotic glamour, was directed by Kenneth Anger, a name that I primarily know mainly through his associations with Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin in the 1970s. Anger has a dedicated cult following of his own, but I'm hardly equipped to discuss him or his films here. I'll just note it in passing. So without a whole lot of extra commentary, I'll embed the battered, worn out prints of both films so that, should you so choose to remain on this page for the next 90 minutes or so, you can enjoy your own low fidelity art house double feature experience.
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