What the hell is a “Cow Monkey?” Other than being some kind of “half man, half monkey-man,” Gabe Weisert’s digital-video feature Cow Monkey is a hilarious hunt for Bigfoot. Cow Monkey also has the distinction of being the second film to star John and James Reichmuth as Roy and Gil, a peculiar pair of siblings. In their previous outing, Fishing with Gandhi, the boys served as counsel to Danno (Dan Klein), a grieving son on the way back from a funeral.
While Fishing with Gandhi has some great moments, Cow Monkey takes Roy and Gil out of the periphery and places them dead center in the action. Here the boys are out for revenge against Bigfoot for killing their second ill-fated dog. At the same time, Roy’s on the lookout for the painfully embarrassing and elusive “Pee Howler,” a known Bigfoot associate.
Throw a kooky anthropologist (Bridget Schwartz) and a mysterious caretaker (Dan Klein) into the mix along with a “meat suit” and some damn funny exchanges between the boys, and Cow Monkey proves to be hilarious! Winner of the Best Feature Video at the MicroCineFest 2001, this movie had everyone clenching their jaws and quoting lines from it at the MCF’s closing night party!
Cashiers du Cinemart:How much of Cow Monkey and Fishing with Gandhi were created on set or via improvisation?
James Reichmuth: The movies were improvised to different degrees. Gabe asked John and me to do “those characters from camp” in Fishing with Gandhi, but we had no idea what the plot line was-didn’t see any of the script not involving us and didn’t see any of the other filming. He had given us a few pages of script, total for Gandhi, but most wasn’t really dialogue-besides a few crucial plot-oriented lines, it might say “Roy and Gil go off on the subject of Puppy Diseases.” Gabe Weisert: With Cow Monkey we rehearsed quite a bit on video, then I would transcribe the best bits, then I presented the cast with a rough semblance of a script, which they proceeded to completely ignore. I don’t recommend this method (you obviously need to work with actors who are comfortable with each other, and are comfortable with improvisation). I actually think that we’ve been less than 100% successful with it.
CdC:How have these movies been received?
John Reichmuth: Audiences have dug both movies, thankfully. They really get into it. There are some diehard fans that know the lines better than we do. Both have won audience or best feature awards on both coasts.
James:Gandhi really surprised me. Even after the filming, I had no sense for what kind of project it was. It continues to attract a small group of pretty loyal fans-people who have had some exposure to those characters in “real life.” We get some really touching fan mail; I think it makes some people feel like they, too, could make a movie. And it seems to have a lot of quotable quotes. Cow Monkey has gotten many laughs and really nice festival receptions.
John:Cow Monkey has received several stellar and one or two violently non-stellar reviews. This is a good sign. Some comment on the democratization of filmmaking through DV. It is a big change in the way things will be done, and it causes some reviewers to experience raw fear and bedwetting...
CdC:I know there’s the Roy & Gil cartoon but are there plans for further adventures for the boys?
James: We really want to do these characters on a bigger scale: 35mm, with a budget and some time. We’ve learned a lot from the first two films that we’ll be able to take into the third Roy and Gil installment. It’s in the early conceptual stages, right now.
John: Oh, yes. Stay tuned for Roy and Gil as irresistible but lovable French lasses who get into mischief and fill peoples’ hearts with joy. But will they find true love? There will be more. James and I also do Roy and Gil live on stage with our Sketch troupe “Kasper Hauser Skit Club” in S.F. Our first was Roy and Gil trying to get a bear at the zoo to wake up and “ride a bicycle or something.” Gil thinks the bear is mad because Roy hit it with a battery. Roy claims it is a C-cell, but, when pressed, admits it was a D-cell and that he was aiming for the bear’s “on-button.”
CdC:Is it just me, or were there overtones of Hamlet to Fishing with Gandhi?
John: It isn’t just you. Roy and Gil are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. James and I grew up in Ashland, OR, home of a great Shakespeare Festival. We consequently know nothing about Shakespeare; neither of us knew this was Hamlet until somebody told us. James thinks Hamlet is a breakfast sandwich.