Comfortable and Furious

Interview With The Assassin

“OK Walter, you told me you were involved in a crime many years ago, and you want to talk about it — is that right?” So starts one of the most enjoyable “mockumentaries” these eyes have ever seen. Raymond Barry, the creepy Stupid Chief from Falling Down stars as Walter Ohlinger, an old, broken down ex-marine living in the sad exurb of San Bernadino, California. He’s got cancer and the croakers only give him five months to live, maybe six. His neighbor, Ron Kobeleski (Dylan Haggerty), is an out of work cameraman from the local news station. Walter figures now would be a good time to tell his secret — he was the second gunman in Dallas on November 23, 1963. The one behind the fence on the grassy knoll. The one who delivered the kill shot.

Ron of course thinks Walter is full of shit. Why now? Who set it up? Why did you do it? Where’s the evidence? Most importantly, why would he kill the President. Walter is prepared for all this however, answering the big question with, “The President of the United States is the most powerful man in the world. What does that make the man who kills him?” Walter doesn’t know exactly why Kennedy was killed — his old Marine squad leader contacted him and told him there was a job to do. Simple as that. Ron, since he is out of work and has nothing better to do, decides to play along. Why not?

Walter leads Ron to a safety deposit box containing a spent shell cartridge. Walter explains that he only took one shot, splattered JFK’s brains, picked up the casing and left. He’s been keeping the shell as an insurance policy against anyone trying to harm him — his will instructs the shell to be sent to the FBI in the event of his death, along with other evidence and most of all, names. Using his press contacts Ron takes the shell to a forensic ballistics expert who determines that the shell was fired between 1962 and 1965 and yes, it is the same type of bullet that killed Kennedy. Ron is intrigued. He flies Walter out to Dallas to retrace his steps. Once there, Walter shows Ron where he parked, how he got the gun to the grassy knoll, where he stood, aimed and fired and how he escaped. He even explains how and why Oswald was set up (Lee Harvey was indeed a “patsy”. The two head out to a local ex-marine buddy of Walter’s and set up some cans and bottles to shoot at with a similar style rifle. Even in his old age, Walter is a dead-shot. Could this be the long lost gunman?

Interview with the Assassin works so well for a couple of reasons. First, of course, the subject matter is and always will be intriguing. The JFK murder is one of the few conspiracy theories that still holds water with rational people, mostly because the Warren Report’s “magic bullet theory” is so fanciful and easy to kick holes in. Second, the film is herky-jerkily shot in the hand-held, Blair Witch Project style, where shakey cameras and lots of uncertainty equate to impending doom around every corner. Still works well, as evidenced here. But, most of all the film works because Walter Peter Ohlinger is one of the very greatest onscreen whack-jobs in cinematic history.

Sure, anyone who would actually kill Kennedy is a loon, but this guy takes it to the next level. We meet Ron’s five year old daughter and Walter says and does the following, “What’s your name? Karen? That’s a nice name. You ever ridden a pony? [Places Karen on his knee backwards and begins bouncing her up and down, hard] How about a buckin’ bronco?” I don’t have much experience in the matter, but I am absolutely positive the look on Walter’s face while he’s “playing” with the little girl is the last thing victims of homicidal pedophiles see. What he said to Karen is also my new pick up line.

And he goes nuttier. At one point Ron and Walter are flying to Virginia to see a man who could confirm Walter’s story. On the plane, Walter turns to Ron and asks, “Is that thing on” meaning the camera. Ron asks him if he has something to say. Walter says, “No, I want to show you something.” He reaches down and picks up his bag, opens it and inside we see a loaded Glock .45. Walter smiles and nods manically at the camera. Ron starts freaking out about the gun to which Walter dismissively says, “Oh shut up. I shouldn’t have showed you the damn thing anyway.” Once in Virginia, they find out a cop is spying on them. So, Walter goes to the guy’s house. After a scuffle that leaves Walter sitting on top of the guy with a gun pointed at the cop’s head, the guy yells, “I’m a cop!” Walter says, “I know you’re a cop!” and begins beating the guy with the Glock in the head Bullock from Deadwood style.

Shit gets crazier and crazier. Was Walter acting alone (cause JFK fucked his wife as it turns out)? Is he totally full of shit, as his ex-wife leads us to believe? If so, why is a Virginia cop spying on them? Who’s the guy following Ron and trying to break into his house? I don’t want to give away much more, as the film is pretty short and insanely worth watching. But trust me that Walter Ohlinger is a character for the ages. Cruel, nasty, charming, unhinged and most importantly, pure joy to watch as he goes about his business. As far as the answer to the question of did he do it, I’d like to leave you with a quote from English Bob, “I can assure you, the sight of royalty would cause you to dismiss all thoughts of bloodshed and stand… in awe. But, the President… I mean, why not shoot the President?”