COME JERICHO by George Bellak


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Obviously inspired by Francis Ford Coppola's notorious production problems while making Apocalpyse Now (cf. Mrs. Coppola's Notes, 1979), this is a slow-moving, fitfully involving melodrama which never settles into a consistent viewpoint or generates much interest in its bland, naive hero. He's film editor Paul Gordon, who's thrilled when he's summoned to Oacala (50 minutes by plane from Mexico City) to take over as chief editor on Come Jericho, a huge Vietnam pic being made by Coppola-like super-director Mike De Luca. But though Paul gets on well, artistically, with De Luca (who even lets Paul direct a sequence), the on-location problems soon overshadow the filmmaking: a local underground of angry peasants is sabotaging the shooting (cutting cables, ruining food, etc.), and De Luca determines to win over the peasants via secret, sympathetic pow-wows with an elusive, influential revolutionary leader. Despite help from De Luca's new Indian mistress, however, this effort goes awry--the rebel leader involves the moviemakers in an escape caper which is really a drug-run--so De Luca eventually resorts to Mafia muscle. . . while also allowing the rebel leader to be set up for government capture. Such ruthlessness, of course, will ultimately turn Paul off--especially since the filming ends in a kidnapping (of an assistant director) and a bloody fiasco (a helicopter crashing into a horde of extras). And Paul's romance with De Luca's ex-mistress Rennie is complicated by the disturbing arrival of old-flame Stella (who resists De Luca's advances) and by Rennie's casual side-affair with a visiting studio biggie. Unfortunately, however, none of these characters is particularly credible or likable; above all, Paul's predictable disillusionment packs little punch. And, though a few episodes here do have the right ironic twist (the peasants' land is flooded to simulate rice-paddies, but with soil-ruining salt water), the familiar ambition-vs.-ethics theme is choppily belabored. . . while the on-location horrors are captured far less effectively than in such non-fiction as Theodore Gershuny's Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture. A sluggish first novel, then, of real interest only to those who'll be satisfied with a few roman à clef titillations.

Pub Date: July 28th, 1981
Publisher: Morrow