The Films of Whitey Herzog
[I stayed up late watching the Mets lose, so i didn’t get time to write anything, here’s a reprint from a couple of years ago]
(Criterion Collection: 2 DVD set, $49.95)
The Criterion Collection has once again gone to the vaults to present an important yet overlooked filmmaker, in this case World Series winning manager Whitey Herzog. While greatly overshadowed cinematically by his brother Werner, Whiteys movies are pivotal in the evolution of filmmaking and they take on subjects that although altered would surface in his brothers films years later. Whitey’s first feature 1948’s Abner: The Anger of God (originally released through Filmtown Studios) is a hallucinatory retelling of the origin of baseball, the film takes place on an abandoned steamboat on the Mississippi river. The film made no money, got horrible reviews, and put the struggling Filmtown Studios out of business. However, an impressed Orson Welles saw the film and declared that it was a masterpiece and financed Herzogs second feature, Mister Hildago (released 1952, Wellfilms Studios). Welles not only financed but starred in Mister Hildago, which told the story of a minor league baseball team with a broken team bus that had to be dragged across the Appalachian Mountains. Mister Hildago was another bomb. Herzog and Welles never worked together again due to a heated argument over the infield fly rule. A disillusioned Herzog left his cinematic dreams to his younger brother Werner and had a hugely influential career in baseball. In Orson Welles autobiography Well, Well, Welles (1976, Remainder & Sons) he called Whitey Herzog “A complete ass, but not an untalented one”. In a 1981 Sports Illustrated interview when asked about his movie making past Herzog responded “I would call Orson Welles a louse but I don’t want to demean louses”.
The Criterion Collection 2 DVD set includes both Abner: The Anger of God and Mister Hildago in newly restored widescreen digital transfer. Also included is the short film, Evolution of the Balk (1949, 22 minutes) , two episodes of the unaired television series Umpy! -”Umpire by Day, Detective by Night”, which starred Larry Storch (1952, 46 minutes) and an interview with both Whitey & Werner Herzog on the David Susskind show (1983, 43 minutes).