Movie and Video: Rubin and Ed


Do you remember those wonderful “On the Road” movies of the forties and fifties? Those wholesome comedies featuring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in strange and exotic locations? Well, neither do I. And fortunately neither does Trent Harris, the writer and director of Rubin and Ed.

Rubin (Crispin Glover) and Ed (Howard Hesseman) are far more particular and funny than Bing and Bob, or Dean and Jerry for that matter. Rubin is a shut-in, with a fondness for Mahler and rubber squeeze toys. He also possesses a pair of ninja platform shoes which are potentially lethal at thirty paces. Ed is a passive-aggressive salesman with Herb Tarleck wardrobe and a hair-hat from hell—a Willy Lomand for the ’90s. Rubin and Ed are two men with a mission in the sprawling Utah Desert. Essentially this film is what Ishtar wanted to be: A comedy with lots of sand, only this film has Simon the Cat instead of camels and wicked social commentary instead of lame tin pan alley songs.


The most miraculous thing about this film is that it was made at all. Utah natives Trent Harris and Crispin Glover have been developing and rewriting the screenplay for nearly ten years. Last summer, a budget was finally secured and the film halted when Peter Boyle (who was originally cast as Ed), suffered a heart attack and was replaced by Howard Hesseman. It is a tremendous coup that, given the limitations of time and money, Harris was able to produce such a charming and provocative piece of work. This is by no means a flawless film, the pacing is uneven and the desert scenes tend to drag. Also the character of Ed’s estranged wife (Karen Black) is somewhat one dimensional. These, however, are minor complaints given the overall wit and conviction with which Glover and Hesseman interpret their respective roles. Glover has not had a vehicle so suited to his peculiar talents since Harris’ brilliant The Orkly Kid, and Hesseman transcends his well-known work with admirable insight and verve.

Trent Harris is a director who is absolutely necessary today. Someone who sees the world with a particular kink that Steven Spielberg or George Lucas wouldn’t. If yousupport the underground music, you should also support films which are produced outside of the corporate Hollywood mainstream.

Rubin and Ed premieres at the Tower Theatre Friday, June 7, at 8 p.m. All proceeds will benefit the C Larry Roberts Foundation to encourage and fund local film makers. 


For more from the SLUG Archives:
Local Tape Review: June 1989
Jojo’s Corner