Written and directed by Timothy Carey
Cast (in alphabetical order)
Timothy A Carey—Clarence "God" Hilliard
Grace De Carolis—Mother
Victor Floming—Office boss
Paul Frees—Voice of Satan
Gail Griffen—Betty Hilliard
Whitey Jent—Guitar player
Betty Rowland—Edna Hilliard
Jenny Sanches—Old lady in church
George E. Carey (assistant)
Anthony M. Lanza (assistant)
George E. Nahas (assistant)
Production: Frenzy Films World Sales Absolute Films,
8383 Wilshire Boulevard #360, USA-Beverly Hills, CA 91733,
Tel.: +1-818-4426454, Fax:+1-818-4426454
Ove H. Sehested
Ray Dennis Steckler
Film Editing: Carl Mahakian
Assistant Director: Gene Koziol
El Monte, California, USA
Long Beach, California, USA
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Music by Zappa
I play an atheist who gets people's attention by playing music. I graduated from a rock and roller to a politician. Then he ran for president with God written on his cuffs. I played the part of God Hilliard. I had this cult. We shot at this cathedral in San Gabriel. I was living there by now. The end scene I take the communion from the church and take it home. I hold it up in one hand and hold a pin in the other and I say, "If you're really a god, show me if there's something mightier than man." Then I start stabbing it and nothing happens. The wafer breaks and I start laughing, "Nothing but a piece of bread! Mother you're dead forever," and walk outside and then all of a sudden blood starts dripping out fast downstairs. Out the house and I'm scared, but go back into the room and this light hits me. We shot it in black and white, but at that point we change to color. And I yell, "Oh my god," and get thrown up against the wall and it cuts now to the wafer and the credits come on.
I've been trying to locate the negative of the film for years. Mike Murphy and his wife Cheryl ate trying to run it down.
It's about a guy who decides to form a religion. He calls himself God and gathers all these followers. Then one night, he wonders whether or not he really is God. So in order to check himself out, he breaks into a supposedly Catholic church, steals a communion wafer, runs home and sticks a pin in it to see if it'll bleed. It leaves a trail of blood all the way across the lawn and he repents and . . . oh, it was stupidity.
Plot Summary for World's Greatest Sinner, The (1962) A bored insurance salesman quits his job to go into politics. He first starts preaching about how man is greater than he thinks and that man can live forever. He ends up forming his own political party, "The Eternal Man" party. He begins to be referred to as "God". Then he starts having doubts about the eternalness of man.
The World's Greatest Sinner. The story of a dissatisfied insurance clerk who quits his job and goes on the road to become a Rock 'n' Roll star/ preacher/politician, gathering an odd mixture of dedicated followers who call him God. His progress to what is almost a success and then to the realization of being greater than any human can conceive proceeds amid wild scenes of mass-hysteria.
This is the great Timothey Carey's wonderous creation of underground, lo-fi film magic. It's the story of a man who wakes up one day and decides he's God. He starts his own church, preaching his gospel using NO WAVE rock n' roll. He makes a deal with satan, forces a man to commit suicide, has sex with an 80 year old woman and a 14 year old girl, wears flashy suits with cuffs that say GOD in gold, runs for president and battles the real God to the death!! The music for this amazing film is by a young Frank Zappa, including the great theme song. This is a must have film for any Tim Carey, Frank Zappa or underground film fan! Join the Fanatical Cult of the World's Greatest Sinner!!!!!!!
"You won't believe his performances. He just starts shaking and his hair falls down . . . He must have watched Jerry Lee Lewis or something. He starts rolling around on the stage, he's just shaking all over. It's a live performance and he's just smashing his guitar, he's really beating on it real loud. This is one of the greatest rockabilliy movies ever made. If you get a chance to see it, it'll just change your life. Wow!" (Lux Interior)
Last night The Sundance Channel broadcast the film, The Cockettes, about a 1960s & '70s acid-gobbling theatrical troupe from San Francisco. During some onscreen commentary by John Waters, he stated that the first time he was ever in San Francisco for the showing of one of his early films, he got to watch 'The World's Greatest Sinner' at the Palace Theater. The way he stated the comment made it seem like he really appreciated the movie; as if it were right up his alley in entertainment value. The Cockettes website: http://grandelusion.com/
The music to this film is quite good if you like Zappa's orchestral music. (And, who doesn't') [...] An edited 12 minute section of the soundtrack was released on various bootlegs, including "Apocrypha". Look over there for a transcription of that selection. When I first saw this film I thought it was kind of cheesy and bad, but compared to Run Home Slow it's a fucking masterpiece. Actually, after one or two viewings I found it pretty entertaining in its own right. I've shown it to non-Zappa people who also enjoyed it. I give it a "thumbs up."
I have a [...] memory of my grandmother watching "The World's Greatest Sinner", a showing my sister dragged us all to at a Pomona movie theatre [...]. I don't remember anything about the movie, but suddenly my grandmother burst out in chuckles at a certain point in the film when the rest of the theatre was dumbstruck quiet. Frank was pretty quiet after the movie, too. As he seemed a little anxious or upset to me, later at home, I thanked him for the invitation to attend. I told him that my grandmother seemed to enjoy the film—she laughed all the way through it.
THE WORLD'S GREATEST SINNER (1963).
Run, do not walk, to check out this movie! Timothy Carey, the character actor fave who appeared in everything from Kubrick's THE KILLING to The Monkees' HEAD, spent several years directing, writing and financing this below-low budget blast. One of the most bizarre movies ever made, and over three decades later, it's STILL ahead of its time! A grotesque parable that's as innovative and subversive as any film ever made. Carey sticks himself in the lead as Clarence Hilliard, a middle-aged insurance agent who goes nutzo and decides to become a rockabilly messiah. Abandoning his normal life, he changes his name to "God" and stands on street corners, handing out flyers, recruiting white-trash greasers to his fire 'n' brimstone "Life is Hell" doctrine. To raise money for his cause, he seduces old ladies for cash, and performs in an Elvis-like silver-lame suit. He even starts his own "Eternal Man" political party, which promises to make everyone a "superhuman being" (their motto: "There's only one God, and that's Man."). This is seriously whacked stuff, folks, and Carey pulls off one of the most intense, overwrought performances of all time (putting novice scenery-chewers like Dennis Hopper to shame)—ranting, crying, dancing, and looking wasted, his eyelids at half-mast throughout. Eventually, Clarence's followers begin rioting and vandalizing, but that type of social upheaval has to be expected when a new God emerges—especially one promising "No Death". When the political machines get wind of his rock'n'roll charisma, they run him as an independent candidate for president, but Clarence is corrupted when his dogma takes on fascist overtones and he starts seducing cute, 14-year-old volunteers. Though lacking in little things like coherency, Carey packs this volatile tale with venom toward modern politics, the media, dried-up religion, and the entire sorry state of the human race. It's even narrated by The Devil, represented by a snake! Carey is dead serious with all this craziness (even the heavily religious finale) and his outrageous direction is beyond belief! Most of the extras seem like they were simply pulled off the streets, and the score was provided by a young musician named Frank Zappa. Even its theme song is hilariously unforgettable: "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 sinner." Complete with cinematography by Ray Dennis Steckler (RAT PHINK A BOO BOO), this is a work of warped genius.
If you have any sense, you'll go to the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard on Saturday, November 4th and Sunday the 5th. If you DON'T have any sense, you'll probably be there already.
For two nights the American Cinematheque is screening Timothy Carery's ultra-rare THE WORLD'S GREATEST SINNER (1962). I first caught this flick back in January of 1996, when it got screened once at The New Beverly Cinema. Someone told me it was John Cassavettes' favorite flick. Maybe they meant "favorite comedy", since this is one of the strangest moviegoing experiences I've ever had. I felt like the be-wigged gentry, paying a few shillings to view the maniacs at St. Guy's back in the 17th century.
The film concerns Clarence Hilliard (Carey), an insurance salesman who decides he's "God" (he makes a shirt with the word "GOD" stitched onto the sleeves) and forms a rock band/religion/political movement. It reportedly took Carey FOUR years of off-and-on piecemeal filming to complete the project. The closing credits alone are a testament to this, and worth the price of admission. You'll see what I mean, guaranteed. But never has the idea of written/directed/starring/edited/filmed been more lovingly illustrated.
The plot could politely be called "episodic", unraveling like a vaguely sinister acid trip, only you're laughing too hard to start clawing your eyeballs out. The soundtrack is by Frank Zappa (billed in the credits as "ZAPPA") and it churns along like a forgotten garage rock band recorded in an echo-ey sewer—and that's a compliment! The scenes of Hilliard performing in "concert" make the Shaggs look like Rush. The band basically bangs and crashes and farts out this proto-punk spew, then stops dead silent so Hilliard can yawp, "Please, please PLEASE take my HAND!" Then the band starts up again, with Hilliard doing this creepy/hilarious shimmy dance, jangling around in his weird silk blouse/shirt.
Of course, these scenes pale in comparison to the scene where he seduces a 70 year-old widow for her cash, and the final, climactic "miracle". Trust me, you HAVE to go see this flick.
It's also nice to see the burgeoning DVD "bonus goodies" mentality starting to infect live screenings. Saturday night's screening (6pm) is introduced by Romeo Carey, who's showing a 30-minute work-in-progress documentary about his father. Then, at 9, they're showing THE KILLING (1956) and THE OUTFIT (1973).
Sunday's screening (7:45 pm) is followed by TWEET'S LADIES OF PASADENA (1972), Timothy Carey's attempt at a late night TV series. Rumor has it he turned down a part in THE GODFATHER so he could finish TWEET'S—a one-hour show about the only male member of a Pasadena sewing circle (Carey) who find clothes for nude animals. TWEET'S is followed by CINEMA JUSTICE, a 6-minute outtake from Steve DeJarnatt's TARZANA, where Carey sustains an unscripted rant as a crazed Korean War vet. I've never seen either one, but you can bet your death-rictus I'll be there! Whew!
In the seemingly boundless realm of Hollywood vanity projects, few are as genuinely eccentric as The Worlds Greatest Sinner, an independent movie written, directed, produced and starring character actor Timothy Carey and released in 1962. Instantly recognizable from his basset-hound mug and lachrymose Brooklyn whine, Carey, who died in 1994, is probably best known as the sharpshooter who takes out the racehorse in Stanley Kubricks The Killing (1956). A year later, Kubrick cast the actor as one of the soldiers condemned to the firing squad in Paths of GloryCareys Private Ferol is the one sobbing, comically, horribly, unrelentingly, alongside the priest during one of that films bravura tracking shots.
Carey began acting in the early 1950s and lucked out with bit parts in films such as Crime Wave and East of Eden before securing a kind of immortality with the two Kubrick films. Although he would go on to appear in One-Eyed Jacks, Careys subsequent run would have remained essentially unremarkable if John Cassavetes hadnt given him meaty supporting roles in Minnie and Moskowitz and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. While these two films along with the pair he made with Kubrick would be enough to sustain Careys memory, the existence of The Worlds Greatest Sinner gives that memory a certain something extra. Carey embarked on the project in 1958, finishing it three years later. "I play an atheist who gets peoples attention by playing music," he once said of his role. "I graduated from a rock & roller to a politician. . . . He ran for president with God written on his cuffs. I played the part of God Hilliard. I had this cult." And then someThe Worlds Greatest Sinner has since gone on to accrue its own small following, and there are enough moments of touching weirdness in the film to explain why.
Carey plays an insurance salesman named Clarence Hilliard who becomes a rock & roll singer-cum-crusader whose wiggles, lam suit and oil-slick hair are inspired by Elvis Presley and whose jive is an incoherent pastiche of street-corner huckster evangelism. ("You like a job following me?" "To where?" "To eternal life.") The dialogue, the acting, the cinematography, the editing and the sound are as crude as the story is nonsensical. The film is narrated by a stentorian-voiced boa constrictor, and the music is by Zappa (going by his last name only). Still, despite its technical shortcomings, and despite too many passages that simply stall outmoments during which it feels as if Carey himself had lost focusThe Worlds Greatest Sinner is more often enjoyable than not. Some of the pleasure is of the sort that fills magazines such as Psychotronic Video (Issue 6 has a nice rambling interview with Carey by Mike Murphy and Johnny Legend), but theres more to the film than its camp fizz, namely real passion. It may be terrible, but at least its not dishonest.
The Worlds Greatest Sinner! A Tribute to Timothy Carey. Now playing at the Egyptian Theater, Hollywood.
The World's Greatest is commercially available OFFICIALLY from Tim Carey's son. Try a web search. they were advertising regularly in Film Threat as well. It's a bit pricey though. At last check he was asking for I believe $50.00US.
Currently the place to get this video is from www.absolutefilms.net. They are selling a video which includes an interview with Timothy Carey and theatrical trailers, as well as posters and t-shirts emblazened with the "Carey-as-a-rattlesnake" graphic, at this location: http://www.absolutefilms.net/videosale.html