on two very personal projects. The
first, entitled The Insect Trainer,
concerned the trials and tribulations of a man imprisoned for killing a
woman with his farts.
The, there was Tweet’s
Ladies of Pasadena – his masterpiece.
In it, the 68-year-old actor/director would play a gardener who
tended the grounds of an old ladies’ knitting group.
The ladies had but one goal: to clothe all naked animals.
screen presence of the great Tim Carey.
had also made plans for the premier of Tweet’s.
He would, he insisted, make just one print of the film and
screen it just one, the film running directly from the projector in
to a shredder.
On the way out, the specially-invited members of the audience
would each be handed a small celluloid ribbon, a touching memento
from one of the oddest film-makers and actors who ever lived.
an actor with the wild, manic stare of a skid-row John Turturro, the
gangly rebel stance of Jerry lee Lewis and the acting presence of a
secure-ward Nicholas Cage.
Even then you’re still not close to the
that the director physically attacked Carey on set and then re-dubbed all
of Tim’s surreal mutterings.
from the fact that he was born in the characterless wastelands of El
Monte, California in 1925, little is known about Carey’s
In fact, he has to be one of the most poorly-catalogued stars
in the whole of Hollywood literature, with no sources able to
provide an accurate biography of his early years.
It would appear that he moved through the same beat-scene
Hollywood world as Marlon Brando and James Dean, given that his
first significant roles were as Chino, the incoherent biker in The
Wild One, and Joe, the incoherent bouncer in the brothel in Elia
Kazan’s East of Eden
Right from the start, Carey’s unique approach to acting –
frowning and mumbling like a dope addict plotting to overthrow the
world – got him into trouble.
His key scene in The
Wild One (1954) was his unscripted decision to shake up a can of
beer and squirt it in Brando’s
His performance in East
and the court-martialled French private Ferol in Paths
of Glory (1957).
Brando eventually patched it up with Carey and cast him as the
oddball Howard Tetley in the portly star’s directorial debut, One-Eyed Jacks (1961).
By the end of filming, Brando was so impressed by Carey’s
unique performance that he ended up stabbing him with a fountain
certainly attracting the right kinds of people with such skewed
In 1956, Stanley Kubrick gave Carey the role of racist
horse-killer Nikki Arane
remained two of the most powerful, sinister and haunted performances in
all of Kubrick’s films.
it’s once we stray off the path of conventional film-making and into the
murky world of the B-movie that Carey’s true genius reveals itself.
Alongside junk cinema king Peter Graves, Tim Carey appeared in
Harold Daniels’ Poor White Trash
(1961) as Ulysses, a mean-eyed Cajun loon.
The film’s highlights include Carey performing the most
disturbing inbred zydeco dance ever committed to celluloid, then attacking
graves with a very big axe.
the real reason we’re here is Carey’s directorial debut,
possibly the strangest film you’ll never get to see, and as
subversive as any movie ever made.
When The World’s Greatest Sinner was first released in
1962, Hollywood Reporter
hailed it as “an apparent waste of time and money with very
limited commercial appeal.”
on his resources as producer, director, writer and main actor form
1959 to 1962, Carey’s film was clearly a helluva labour of love. The World’s Greatest
Sinner tells the story of
Clarence Hilliard (Carey), a bored, middle-aged insurance agent who
flips out and decides to start his own religion.
Renaming himself God, Hilliard sets up a rockabilly religio-political
movement called The Eternal man party, recruits white-trash greasers
to his fire’n’brimstone ‘Life is Hell’ doctrine and
proclaims: “There’s only one God and that’s Man!”
action takes in Carey beating up his daughter, sleeping with a
14-year-old religious aide, and having sex with a 92-
by the devil – in the form of a snake – and seemingly starring a cast
of street drifters, what the film lacks in coherency, it makes up for in
score was produced by Frank Zappa, with a theme song that runs: “As a
sinner he’s a winner/Honey, he’s no beginner/He’s rotten to the
core/Daddy, you can’t say no more/He’s the world’s greatest
the outrage didn’t stop with the film itself.
When it premiered at the Wiltshire theatre in Fullerton,
California, Carey got things going to firing a .38 pistol over the heads
of the audience and instigating fist fights in the foyer.
The next screening resulted in a mass punch-up and another drive-in
‘premiere’ ended with punters ramming their cars into each other.
With just four prints in existence, the original negative destroyed
and no legitimate video release, The
World’s Greatest Sinner is almost impossible to see.
But it’s worth it.
take our word for it.
When multi-talented actor/director John Cassavetes saw The World’s Greatest Sinner, he announced that Carey had “the
brilliance of Eisenstein” and cast him in tow films, Minnie and Moskowitz (1971) and The
Killing of a Chinese Bookie
put the quote onto his poster, credited it to “John Cassavetes”, and
repaid the compliment in the only way he knew how.
One day, he invited Cassavettes over
to his house, made him wear a padded suit and set his attack dog on
him, all the while screaming “It’s not you!
He just hates that suit!”
Fact:: “THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER” was never released!
was screened by Timothy Carey only on Rare occasions.
WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER’S 35 mm prints are primed for its first