Barry Primus is a character actor’s character actor, a fellow who got his start in the theater, went on to work on TV and in film, and has expanded his palette over the years to include writing, directing, and producing. You may know him from his work in New York, New York (not to mention half a dozen other Robert DeNiro movies), his stint on Cagney & Lacey, or films like Heartland, The Rose, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, and Space Camp. Join us as he regales Obscurity Knocks with stories about working with Del Close, George C. Scott, Roger Corman, and Bill Maher, among many others.
Below you’ll find details about the baker’s dozen of projects I asked Primus about during the course of our conversation, with the synopses in quotation marks taken from IMDb and the rest is either borrowed from some other source – with the appropriate citation, of course – or written by yours truly from whatever facts I could find.
1. The Nervous Set (1959): As this was a Broadway musical, there’s no IMDb listing to quote from, so we’re instead going to offer up a few lines from Scott Miller’s article, “Inside The Nervous Set.”
The Nervous Set, the jazz musical born in St. Louis’ legendary Gaslight Square entertainment district, described the Beat Generation, a generation of young people in post-World War II, pre-Vietnam America, swimming in disillusioned angst and apathy. It was funny, biting, outrageous, despairing, and brilliantly witty. But more than that, it was truthful, a serious social document, a record of a time and place that should never be forgotten, when America had lost its way and lost track of what’s important. It was a loving evocation of the Beat Generation, with all its warts and contradictions, all its nihilism and its earth-shattering realignment of modern literature and poetry.
2. East Side / West Side (1963) : “Neil Brock is a young social worker in the slums of New York City; his boss is Frieda Hechlinger; and Jane Foster is the office secretary. This dramatic series features stories about child abuse, drug abuse, rip-offs of the welfare system, crime, etc., i.e., all of the problems of the inner city.” Just for the record, Primus only appeared in a single episode of this series, and I couldn’t find a photo of him from that episode, so instead please enjoy this shot of the show’s star, George C. Scott, on the set.
3. Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970): “Lou Andreas Sand, a once famous model, recalls her past as she tries to make success in the modeling world of New York, her stressful workdays, her affair with Mark, an advertising executive, her friendship with photographer Aaron, and her downward spiral into ruin.”
4. Von Richthofen and Brown (1971): “The story of Manfred von Richtofen, the German air ace during the World War I and his struggle with the enemy aces and some jealous German officers.”
5. The Gravy Train (1974): The website Obscure One Sheet summed up this Stacey Keach / Frederic Forrest film by saying, “Small town West Virginia brothers Calvin and Rut Dion quit their factory jobs, which they despise, to make their fortunes as armed robbers in Washington D.C.,” but the tagline on the movie poster is even better: “Looting, pilfering, plundering, robbing, and generally having the time of their lives.”
6. Roger & Harry: The Mitera Target (1977): “A millionaire hires a pair of private investigators, who specialize in recovering lost and stolen objects, to find his daughter, who has apparently been smuggled out of the country.”
7. Stillwatch (1987) : “Television journalist, Patricia Traymore, moves to Washington to do an in-depth interview with vice presidential hopeful, Senator Abigail Winslow. She moves into a house where she lived as a child and where her father murdered her mother and attempted to kill her. She wants to face the past and, with the help of a psychic neighbor, Lila Thatcher, find some answers about this tragic event. In the meantime, Senator Winslow has some secrets she is hiding.”
8. Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1989): “The government hires a feminist at the local university to track down the Piranha Women living in the uncharted Avocado Jungle (westernmost outpost is San Bernardino) to convince them to move to a reservation condo in Malibu. She hires a guide at the edge of the jungle, a male chauvinist pig, and they have many arguments about men and women as they work their way in, and eventually confront the Piranha Women.”
9. Denial (1990): “A young woman tries to leave her troubled past behind. She meets her old flame by accident and they fall in love again, but this obsessive relationship threatens to consume them.”
10. Mistress (1992): “A comedy about a screenwriter whose old movie script is read by a producer and the search for financial backers begins. But it seems that each money source has his own mistress that he wants put into the film. Gradually, the screenwriter is forced to make changes to his script to accommodate these backers until he finally sees no semblance of his original ideas in the writing.”
11. Loadstar: The Legend of Tully Bodine (1994): “An FMV rail shooter about Tully Bodine, the best space trucker in the business, who takes a dangerous job of getting contraband camels off Moon colony to Phobos. With the help of his computer navigator he must evade rivals and authorities.”
12. Gold Coast (1997): “Karen’s married to Frank, a millionaire who has no morals and a hypocrite. it’s alright for him to fool around but not for her. So when she has an affair and brags to him about it, he vows to get back at her. When he dies after having one of his trysts, he leaves her millions of dollars but in trust, and also he has left instructions that if his wife gets involved with someone that they should be warned off. Maguire’s a man who did a job for Frank but was not paid for it so he goes to Karen hoping to collect what Frank owes him. When they meet there’s an attraction. And they also have to deal with Roland the man who’s been assigned to keep all men away from Karen but when he learns what she has, he tries to capitalize on it.”
13. Jackson (2008): A film about about two homeless men in Los Angeles, Donald and Sam. At the start of the day, Donald is given a $20 bill, and the film follows the two and shows their adventures throughout the day with this money. The proceedings also feature songs from various operas.