Brewster McCloud (1970)

Brewster McCloud (1970)

“I know bird shit when I see it.”

A virginal young man (Bud Cort) living in a bomb shelter in the Houston Astrodome receives support from his guardian angel (Sally Kellerman) to build a pair of wings that will allow him to fly. Meanwhile, a rash of strange murders — all involving bird shit splatted on awful people — occurs across the city, leading a California detective named Shaft (Michael Murphy) to be called in to help. When an Astrodome tour guide (Shelley Duvall) with a cool racing car meets Brewster (Cort) and initiates a romance with him, events take an even stranger turn.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Black Comedy
  • Bud Cort Films
  • Detectives and Private Eyes
  • Inventors
  • Robert Altman Films
  • Serial Killers
  • Shelley Duvall Films
  • Virginity

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “prior to his success in Harold and Maude, Bud Cort had the title role in this earlier cult comedy,” a “twisted fairytale” by Robert Altman (scripted by Doran William Cannon of Skidoo infamy) “about a gentle young man” whose “mother-protector (Sally Kellerman) … has brought him up to believe that the way for him to achieve ‘freedom’ (what all young people wanted in 1970) is to learn to fly.” He notes that this “crazy black comedy-satire doesn’t hold up as well as Altman’s other early films”, and that “much of the sick humor seems tasteless where once it was funny”; however, he concedes it’s “still an original, full of enjoyable quirky moments”, and points out that “Altman’s unusual storytelling methods, including the intertwining storylines, anticipated Nashville.” I’m not personally a fan of Brewster McCloud — which, as DVD Savant writes, “is less of a story than a collection of ideas flying in loose formation”; however, the overall quirkiness and uniqueness of the film — including Duvall’s inimitable debut presence — make it worth a one-time look by all film fanatics.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Quirky performances across the board

  • Many memorable scenes and images

  • The final flight sequence

Must See?
Yes, once, simply as a unique cult favorite.


  • Cult Movie
  • Important Director


One thought on “Brewster McCloud (1970)

  1. Agreed – a must-see, as a wonderfully creative and energetic experiment with zaniness. (I’m a fan.)

    I don’t agree that the film “is less of a story than a collection of ideas flying in loose formation” – though it’s possible to feel that way after a single viewing. Part of the fun of ‘BM’ is in seeing it a second time. What may seem random and disorganized begins to look more fluid once you have already experienced Altman’s idiosyncratic approach with it once before (and can better see the flow of the storyline; the one which reportedly veers off considerably from Cannon’s original script).

    As well, it’s such a spirited film that it easily invites another viewing. And clearly the cast is having a ball.

    [I’m not at all sure what in the film is being referred to as “sick” and “tasteless”. It’s a black comedy; that should cover it.]

    Of special note is the very effective film score, using pop songs by John Phillips and the gospel stylings of Merry Clayton.

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