WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER, THE
(director/writer: Timothy Carey; cinematographers: Frank Grande/Robert Shelfow/Ray Dennis Steckler/Ove H. Sehested; editors: Carl Mahakian/Lee Strosnider; music: Frank Zappa; cast: Timothy Carey (Clarence Hilliard), Gil Barreto (Alonzo, God’s assistant and gardener), Betty Rowland (Edna Hilliard, Wife), James Farley (the Devil), Gail Griffin (Betty Hilliard), Grace De Carolis (mother), Gitta Maynard (elderly woman), Gene Pollock (priest), Whitey Jent (guitar player), Carolina Samario (Nate), Victor Floming (Office boss), Ann Josephs (secretary), Jenny Sanches (old lady in church); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Timothy Carey; Absolute Films; 1962)
“This curio cult film takes the cake for being so nutty and tasteless.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Character actor Timothy Carey’s egocentric, crude, oddball, labor of love, vanity project is an awful film that doesn’t add up to hill or beans, where he stars (in a tedious hammy performance), directs, writes and produces. Carey plays a bored family man insurance salesman named Clarence Hilliard, who gets himself purposely fired so he can declare himself God and form the Eternal Man Party to preach his new philosophy to live for eternity and without fear. He changes his name to God Hilliard and transforms himself into a hip-gyrating Elvis-like rock and roll evangelist to gather followers, and gets a wealthy lonely elderly woman to fund his quest. After getting publicity in the newspapers and converting many youthful fanatical followers to also be “superhuman beings,” he’s approached by a mysterious political kingmaker to enter politics and tosses aside his guitar to get people to take him seriously as he runs to be the U.S. President. His mom dies and wife and two kids abandon the wacko. Now completely bent out of shape, he steals religious objects from a church and performs heretical rituals to challenge God to reveal himself (the film’s only color sequence). When no miracles come forth, he realizes man is insignificant and there must be a world deity he has to face to answer for all his sins, such as becoming a power-hungry weirdo, having sexual relations with underage girls, filling his head with ego and pride, and engaging in a variety of immoral activities.
The ill-advised controversial dumb film does little with a variety of polarizing topics it introduces, such as religion, politics, corruption of power, hubris, celebrity, immorality, rock and roll, and life and death issues. It never moved up from its “underground” status to get much of a theater release, and is for sale only through a website run by Timothy’s loyal son Romeo: http://www.absolutefilms.net. TCM aired it for the first time, and for those who want to see what an “underground” film looks like, admittedly a really bad one, this curio cult film takes the cake for being so nutty and tasteless (which might appeal to those who like zany films no matter how bad). It beat the much superior Tommy by at least a decade in its claim to fame as the first of a series of messiah rock films. The theme song was created by a young Frank Zappa, and one of the cinematographers was the future bad cult filmmaker Ray Dennis Steckler.
REVIEWED ON 10/26/2008 GRADE: C-