Good Touch, Bad Touch

Produced and abandoned, the made-in-Minnesota wrestling comedy The Naked Man falls into a Hollywood sleeper hold

No doubt Ethan Coen would beg to differ. "I thought J. Todd did a great job," he told me in March, "and, on its own terms, [The Naked Man] is a very funny movie. But that's all it has to offer, which, sadly, isn't enough. Greatness is not how you sell movies anymore: It's with a lot of money, and by virtue of the names of the people in it."

True enough, and yet the influential indie advocate John Pierson seems right to wonder why October would have funded the film on the strength of Coen's name but not released it for the same reason--and why Coen didn't raise more of a fuss on behalf of his friend's "great" work. "I mean, he's not Oliver Stone--he's not gonna start writing editorials in the New York Times," Pierson says. "But he does have clout in this end of the business, and it would clearly be an image problem for October or USA Films to have Ethan Coen being unhappy in public. October did finance the movie, and they have an incentive to do anything they can to recoup their money. Probably someone just made a hard business decision that they're more apt to make their money back by not even spending what it would cost to release the film theatrically in one or two cities, like Paramount did with It's Pat. Maybe [a limited release] puts more egg on their face than to just say, 'Okay--straight to video!'"

Wrestling with Hollywood: Cinematographer Jeff Barklage (left) on the set of The Naked Man
Wrestling with Hollywood: Cinematographer Jeff Barklage (left) on the set of The Naked Man

Speaking of video, J. Todd Anderson, after six years of hard work and who knows how many missed opportunities, is finally due for a tape with decent sound: The Naked Man has just been announced as a new release through USA Home Entertainment, available September 28 at most Blockbuster locations.

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