(Tom O’Horgan, 1974)
By centering a whole scene on a portrait of Nixon, the production tips its hand: “Hair” braintrust O’Horgan takes such earnestly literal steps to emphasize that this shit is now, man, that he both miniaturizes it and undermines his presumed right to mess with Ionesco. I’ll warrant that for as long as the comedy remains broad and fast, the man does make the most of the inherently stagy construction; the artifice of the performance style is matched by the setting. But the movie really flouts the corners of its box when the big moral gets triple-underlined in red at the climax, which I can only hope is another vulgarization of the apparenty reputable original. But only Gene Wilder ends up bested by the material; the performances are of a peculiarly overemphatic piece. And Nixon aside, Mostel’s transformation scene is worth enduring a little bad direction to see.