The Birthday Party (1968)

The Birthday Party (1968) William Friedkin directs Robert Shaw in an outstanding performance in Nobel-Prize Harold Pinter’s 1958 “comedy of menace.” Stanley [Robert Shaw] is an anonymous lodger in a seaside boarding house, run by gossip Meg [Dandy Nichols} and her deckchair attendant husband Petey [Moultrie Kelsall]. Into this residence two strangers appear, the thuggish McCann [Patrick Magee] and the menacing Goldberg {Sydney Tafler] who help organize a Birthday party for Stanley, despite his claims that it’s not his Birthday, where they break him down mentally, and later cart him off to a mental institution. Or do they? The ambiguity of the original play, which I have seen on stage, has been reverentially captured in this film – perhaps too reverentially, since it’s less a movie than a filming of a stage production. It was a “passion project” of William Friedkin, who didn’t care if it “made money” at the box office, and its screenplay was written by Harold Pinter from his own play. Harold Clurman described the film as “a fantasia of fear and prosecution,” adding that “Pinter’s ear is so keen, his method so economic and so shrewdly stylized, balancing humdrum realistic notations with suggestions of unfathomable violence, that his play succeeds in being both funny and horrific.”

Those older than me murmur,

“Why are we still here?”

”For the pumpkin pie, ” I joke.

“You are so young,” they say,

And think, “You have no idea what’s

In store for you,” but eat their pie,

Image result for eat pie gif

Because why cause distress.


Those younger than me are happy

I’m still alive and want to put me

On a shelf in a nursing home

To visit each national holiday,

Hermetically sealed up with doctors

And nurses, in my own age group

Playing shuffle with death.


And those who are dead inhabit our minds

And come up as topics of conversation,

Each from a different perspective,

Broken and fragmented in lineage,

Homeless now as a rope pulled from

A poacher’s sack in a Buñuel film

To hang a turkey from the nearest tree.


Of course nobody’s here. I just imagine them.

They all live too far away to visit.

The young and all my friends

Have jobs and children of their own.

The old are too disabled to travel, like me.

Like me. Time to blow out the candles

On my imaginary pumpkin pie.

[Disposable Poem October 25, 2017]

Dr. Mike








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