Not a typo. Also known as H.E.A.L.T.H, and just plain Health. It is an acronym: Happiness, Energy, And Longevity Through Health. I can’t resist pointing out that the title in Germany was Der Gesundheitskongress.
When a male lion is defeated by a younger male, the first thing the new king does is kill all the kittens that are running around. Something similar happens at movie studios when there is a change of power at the top. The new chief wants movies made by his predecessor to fail, so he looks good. That’s what happened to this movie, which practically no one has seen, and was barely released at all. We would not have seen it, either, except for our wonderful video store, Movie Madness. Though this has never been released on VHS, DVD, or Blu-ray, they have a copy that is probably some sort of bootleg. The quality is not the best, but it’s watchable.
Ronald Reagan called it the “the world’s worst movie,” so Robert Altman must have been doing something right. He was trying to re-capture the magic of Nashville, with a big cast and a lot of improv. It only works some of the time. It is a political satire about a convention of health food fanatics at a luxury hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Don CeSar, which was built in 1928 and is still there. (Coincidentally, as I write this Hurricane Irma is battering the Tampa-St. Pete area, so I hope the hotel is still there.) They are having an election for president of the organization, and it is being bitterly fought between Glenda Jackson, a sort of robotic fascist, and Lauren Bacall, who tends to fall asleep in the middle of interviews. Dick Cavett, playing himself, is the main interviewer. At the same time there is a love-hate relationship between James Garner, the man who is desperately trying to hide the fact that his candidate is a narcoleptic, and Carol Burnett, who is caught in between the combatants.
It’s all interesting, and has all the trademarks of an Altman film, including the simultaneous dialog, but it never really comes together. The most amusing thing is to see the dozens of people dressed as vegetables. It’s like the produce department of Safeway suddenly got up and started walking around. We see a lot of tomatoes, artichokes, human broccoli, and many others. The security men are dressed as ears of corn as they mutter into their walkie-talkies.
At one point the Lauren Bacall character claims that orgasms shorten your life by 28 days. If that were true, I would have died before my 14th birthday, never having made love to a girl.