The World's Greatest Sinner
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The World's Greatest Sinner is a 1962 American drama film written, directed, and produced by, and starring Timothy Carey. Narrated by voice actor Paul Frees, the film focuses on a frustrated atheist named Clarence Hilliard (later God Hilliard) who rises from an insurance salesman to a powerful figure, but meets his consequences to the real God of the Bible, as he alienates his family and friends with his increasing egomaniac and dictator-like presence.
|The World's Greatest Sinner|
|Directed by||Timothy Carey|
|Produced by||Timothy Carey|
|Written by||Timothy Carey|
Ove H. Sehested
|Edited by||Carl Mahakian|
|Distributed by||Timothy Carey (original release)
Absolute Films (re-release)
The World's Greatest Sinner introduces a frustrated insurance salesman and his family, Clarence (Carey), his wife Edna (Rowland), his daughter Betty Hilliard (Griffin), and their son, as well as Clarence's friend, Alonzo (Barretto). Clarence Hilliard is dismissed by the manager in an insurance company due to Clarence's disregard for the 'scrape and screw' policy. Clarence confesses to Edna that he wants to become more than 'Clarence' and start a political career, but Edna falls asleep. Later, Clarence tells his horse and Alonzo about his ambitions to make humans immortal, and a plan that will make Clarence 'God'. After witnessing an ecstatic crowd at a rockabilly concert, Clarence decides to learn to play the guitar. With the encouragement from Alonzo, Clarence attracts the audiences with his new ideology; that an ordinary person who is now a super human being will live forever and is God. Gradually gaining his followers, Clarence proclaims himself 'God Hilliard' and creates a religious cult known as the Eternal Man's Party. In a meeting, the followers considered a few minority to hate, but God Hilliard proposes a new way of thinking on "a non-discriminatory basis". Eventually, one of the followers warned God Hilliard that nobody should exert too much power where one will become a dictator.
God Hilliard finances the cult by seducing elderly widows out of their life savings. Meanwhile, Alonzo builds an image of God Hilliard by using a false facial hair, trimmed to a soul patch. God Hilliard forms a band at the venue and performs a rockabilly song, with a spoken motif, 'take my hand', and his outrageous stripping. As he relaxes with a snake after his performance, the followers rebelled against a man who berates them and threatened to call the police, leading to the followers to gather together, shouting "We want God". The followers later formed a riot, which includes destroying objects such as cars and buildings. God Hilliard meets an ex-follower who has had enough of the cult because the ex-follower alienated his family in favour for God Hilliard, but the head of the Eternal Man's Party has little sympathy to the ex-follower's disconnection with his family, giving the ex-follower a gun to commit suicide. A bicyclist boy meets Betty and informs her that her father's in trouble, but she is in denial. In a discussion between Edna and God Hilliard, he demands that nobody should be on the top but himself, which makes Edna alienated. When Betty came home, she is warned by God Hilliard that she should not tell anyone about his 'business' if a guest comes in. God Hilliard's mother (de Carolis) came to his house to visit him, and questions what he has been doing for the past few days. God Hilliard told her that he called himself 'God', and his mother condemned it, calling it 'sacrilegious'.
As the film progresses, God Hilliard sets up a concert tour in the same vein of his first concert appearance and attracted the attention of a political manager, who told God Hilliard to give up the rockabilly career in favour of being a 'political threat' by smashing his guitar. With the help of the manager, God Hilliard sought for the nomination for president of the United States under the political party with the same name of his cult and holds a press conference, but he is not satisfied with the reporters. The film cuts to a series of God Hilliard seducing and kissing several women, including a fourteen-year-old minor, and his meeting with the followers of the Eternal Man's Party. God Hilliard tours nationwide throughout the states in the United States, but the film cuts to him lamenting over his mother's death. Nonetheless, Alonzo and the members prepare God Hilliard's political speeches. God Hilliard meets the members who assure that he and the party will win the presidency. Alonzo tells God Hilliard that Edna wants to see him, but God Hilliard declines, citing his busyness. God Hilliard's followers inform him that the public is calling him an atheist, and he has to convince the public that he is not one, but the duty was left to Alonzo and his members, who told the publicists that God Hilliard 'is the only living creature that you can call a God'.
The film cuts to God Hilliard, who refuses to let Edna and their children attend a church. Betty hands God Hilliard a Bible, which makes God Hilliard slap her. The incident would cause God Hilliard's family to leave him behind, and him to be under an emotional crisis. His followers are polarised at him, as they discovered him crying in the desk. God Hilliard apologises to the followers and is left alone, as he strikes a piano note. God Hilliard challenges God Almighty if he is 'mightier than man', then God Hilliard will 'give up everything' for God Almighty. In a church, God Hilliard stops by the building and attends in disguise, but waits until every attendant has left the church. He proceeds to sneak in and steal a cracker and take it home. While inside the house, God Hilliard walks to his room and uncovers his stolen item. Before he pierces a cracker, God Hilliard wonders what happens if the cracker can or cannot bleed. God Hilliard proceeds to pierce the cracker, but he discovers that the cracker doesn't bleed, and went to the Eternal Man's Party building. The film cuts to a slime trail, which God Hilliard follows. While on the run, God Hilliard comes back to his house and slowly walked to his room. God Hilliard collapsed on the bed as he is affected by God Almighty's power.
- Timothy Carey as Clarence "God" Hilliard
- Gil Barretto as Alonzo, Clarence's 'faithful friend' and gardener
- Betty Rowland as Edna Hilliard, Clarence's wife
- James Farley as The Devil
- Gail Griffin as Betty Hilliard, Clarence's daughter
- Grace de Carolis as Clarence's mother
- Victor Floming as the insurance boss
- Ann Josephs as secretary
- Jenny Sanches as the old lady in church
- Paul Frees as the snake (voice) / Narrator
Release and receptionEdit
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The World's Greatest Sinner never had an official release, though it aired on the Turner Classic Movies cable network. Director Martin Scorsese is one of the film's supporters, having named it as one of his favorite rock and roll films. Musician Will Oldham has also championed the film, and selected it when invited to present a favorite film at the 2001 Maryland Film Festival.
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The film features a score composed by a young, pre-Mothers of Invention Frank Zappa. During a 1963 appearance on the Steve Allen TV show during which he generated musical sounds on bicycles, Zappa talked about scoring the soundtrack for The World's Greatest Sinner, which he called "the world's worst movie," even though the general public wouldn't have the opportunity to see the film he was talking about for another 50 years. During the course of this same interview with Steve Allen, Zappa discusses how he recorded the soundtrack for this movie in the Little Theatre, located at Chaffey College in Alta Loma, California, along with the plethora of instruments used.
- According to the color end sequence of the 1964 cut
- "The World's Greatest Sinner". Rotten Tomatoes.
- Stafford, Jeff (September 20, 2008). "God Hilliard For President!". Moviemorlocks.com.
- Murphy, Mike (1990). "(Timothy Carey) Interview by Mike Murphy and Johnny Legend (Research... Michael Wheldon)". united-mutations.com. United Mutations. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
I play an atheist who gets people's attention by playing music.
- Frank Zappa on The Steve Allen Show March 4, 1963. YouTube. March 4, 1963.