This examination of dark comedies of the 1970s focuses on films which concealed black humor behind a misleading genre label. All That Jazz (1979) is a musical...about death - hardly Fred and Ginger territory. This masking goes beyond mismer to a breaking of formula that director Robert Altman called anti-genre. Altman's M.A.S.H. (1970) ridiculed the military establishment in general - the Vietnam War in particular - under the guise of a standard military service comedy. The picaresque Western Little Big Man (1970) turned the bluecoats vs. Indians formula upside-down - the audience roots for the Indians instead of the cavalry. The book covers 12 essential films, including Harold and Maude (1971), Slaughterhouse-Five (1972), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and Being There (1979), with tes on A Clockwork Orange (1971). These films reveal a compounding complexity that reinforces the absurdity at the heart of dark comedy.
Wes D. Gehring is a professor of film at Ball State University, USA and associate media editor for USA Today magazine, for which he also writes the column Reel World. He is the author of 32 film-related books, including award-winning biographies of James Dean, Carole Lombard, Steve McQueen, Robert Wise and Red Skelton.