by Joe Queenan
Journalist Queenan had a simple enough goal: to follow in the footsteps of maverick auteur Robert Rodriguez, who had made the award-winning movie El Mariachi for a mere $7,000. “To my way of thinking, all Rodriguez had proven was that someone could make a movie for $7,000,” he writes. “What would be really cool was proving that anyone could make it for $7,000. And that someone was going to be me.” Unkindest Cut recounts Queenan’s hilarious efforts to film his opus Twelve Steps to Death, a comedy-thriller about a pitiless psychiatrist supposedly murdered by a patient.
Nine days in the shooting—the movie went on to win top honors at the Queenan-created 1995 Tarrytown International Film Festival (we’re talking Tarrytown, N.Y., where the author lives and where he made the movie with a cast of neighbors). But the road to glory was rocky. Over his head and over his budget, Queenan had to deal with on-set tensions, faulty equipment and artistic differences with, among others, his 7-year-old son.
Queenan, who worried about getting a good editor for his movie, should have had similar concerns for his book, which is annoyingly repetitive. The reader is told at least half-a-dozen times, for example, that his daughter Bridget “had once played the Dew Fairy in Hansel and Gretel.” For all its wit and wonderful bile, The Unkindest Cut needed to wrap sooner. (Hyperion, $22.95)