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Showbill, Volume 2, Number 3, August/September 1976

text: Richard Fontaine

Alexis in Cult TV magazine

Alexis Kanner is the title character in Mahoney's Last Stand.

Running away from reality

Mahoney's Last Stand - one man's attempt to flee urban chaos

The dream of escaping the complexities of modern urban life for a simple rural existence has always been a strong motivating factor in the attitudes of North Americans. The dream exists as an escape hatch, a safety valve, for the mental pressures that increasingly beset 20th century man. In most cases, it is seldom, if ever, fulfilled, but in most cases, the dream dies hard.

It is interesting that two new films deal in different ways with the efforts of two vastly different individuals to reconcile the dream with harsh reality.

In Fighting Mad, Peter Fonda discovers that the corruptive influences of corporate America have invaded his long-sought-after sanctuary. In Mahoney's Last Stand, Alexis Kanner, as Mahoney, finds that the negative aspects of individual human behavior are as oppressive and all-consuming in a rural setting as they are in one of concrete, asphalt, steel and glass.

The film, with a screenplay by Kanner and directed by Harvey Hart, follows Cityman Mahoney as he walks away from the traffic jam in his head to cool his mind in rural simplicity.

He rents his "estate", a patched-up clapboard shack somehow still standing from some pre-Depression era in the North American backwoods. But the phlegmatic villagers on whom Mahoney thinks he can rely for essential rural wisdom are convinced he's not right in the head.

At first, Mahoney sits on the porch of the "estate", self-satisfied with the idea that there is time enough to begin work when the mood takes him. He is alone at last, but, as he points out to Miriam (Maud Adams), the young woman whose father actually owns Mahoney's land, "there is a helluva difference between 'loneliness' and 'solitude'." All is silence, just as he had envisioned. The silence, in fact, is deafening.

And then, Felix (Sam Waterston) arrives, stumbling joyously stoned into Mahoney's life in the dead of night to scare him half to death, to haunt his new-found freedom.

Felix promises to work, to earn his keep, but Mahoney jealously guards the ideal of his "estate", drawing around Felix a desperate boundary line, new rules of behavior. He lectures Felix on organic foods and the simple life. Felix contemptuously munches chocolate bars and guzzles cheap red wine.

And then, Felix's pregnant girlfriend, Joy (Diana LeBlanc), arrives and their constant quarreling becomes a counterpoint to Mahoney's rapidly dying dream. His burgeoning relationship with Miriam becomes his only solace, until the day his dream finally dies once and for all. Then, ultimately, only a scarecrow wearing Felix's old tweed suit inhabits the "estate".

The yearning for a life of simplicity is not wrong, but Mahoney's experience has shown that the illusions surrounding that yearning are, if not totally wrong, at least mentally exaggerated beyond all reality. Mahoney has discovered, as do many such people who feel sick in spirit, that there is no escape from himself nor the type of human relationships that his psyche dictates. All things come to him who waits, in city chaos or rural solitude. Mahoney cannot escape his life because he is his life.

Maud Adams in Mahoney's Last Stand

Maud Adams appears as Miriam, daugher of Mahoney's landlord.

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