During the on-going pandemic, I was keen to keep what my accountant calls ‘income streams’ open, and found myself participating on what must surely be the very oldest profession; selling dung by the side of the road. While perhaps not the most impressive of occupations, it’s a simple, noble way to make a living that harks back to the days when our streets were full of horse manure and not exploded Teslas. That experience provided this critic with valuable first-hand insight into the activity of dung entrepreneurship as featured in this largely forgotten but rather sweet comedy romance from 1970.
Like yesterday’s review Breaking Glass, Waris Hussein’s film Quackster Fortune Has a Cousin In the Bronx has been sitting for some time on a pitiful single review on the Rotten Tomatoes critical aggregator site, but it’s worth adding a second testimonial for this vehicle for stars Gene Wilder and Margot Kidder. Both would become household names in children’s entertainment as Willy Wonka and Lois Lane respectively, and star-fans could do a lot worse than try this lyrical, sentimental film because they’re front and centre and rarely off the screen; it’s a romantic two-hander set in a specific moment in Dublin history, switching from horse-drawn to automated transport..
What’s striking about this genial film is the setting; Hussein was an experienced film-maker who’d cut his teeth on early Dr Who episodes, and Gabriel Walsh’s script depends on getting a feel for the city. Protagonist Quackster Fortune (Wilder) wends his way along the side of the Liffy, pulling his cart of stinking, decaying produce; he’s making a living selling dung that’s been expelled by passing horses. The changing times are reflected in a shot of Quackster watching in silence as a fleet of milk-floats hit the street, and we share his growing realisation that technology and progress mean that his unique set of skills count for nothing in what was then a new, modern world. So does that seismic shift mean that Quackster Fortune needs to find another job?
‘It’s either the foundry or America,’ is Quackster’s wordplace dilemma; his infatuation with a young American student, Zazel (Kidder) makes him feel that the US might be a better option than taking his place amongst the men at Doyle’s Foundry. He’s even, as the title suggests, got a cousin in the Bronx to help him move, so what’s the problem? But it’s hard for Quackster to imagine a life outside of Dublin, a rumbunctious, boozy place with cigarette adverts in the streets, and block-sized marquee advertising for the road-show release of current movie hit Oliver!
More than just a love letter to the Dublin of the past, Hussein’s film also captures the ugly class conflict that Quackster endures when he attends a do at Trinity Boat Club; it’s crystal clear that this film wants us to sympathise with Quackster as the salt of the earth, even through Wilder’s cod-Irish accent and mannerisms are something of a pain to endure. Kidder does well with an underwritten role and balances the film from Wilder’s Oirish routine. As a museum piece, this is a small but rather affecting little film, steeped in chill negativity about the future and warm nostalgia for the past. Things ain’t what they used to be if you’re planning on watching this film this evening; for those seeking the sweet smell of success in hard times, tonight is what it means to sell dung.
Wins a No-Prize for its title! But seriously, the combi of Gene Wilder and Margot Kidder has got me seeking this out. Thanks, mate.
On YouTube for nowt, enjoy! Don’t like Wilder, but do like Kidder, so worked for me…
See this is what happens when I go away for a couple of days, it all goes to sh 1t!
Sh*t, you’re right, this is a w**k!
Hah! I should have said.
Nope! He fell in before I was born, so not too cut up about tbh.
Phew! Social media awkward moment averted! Cool story, though.
Not great! There must have been a few casualties over the years? My Great-Uncle drowned around there – think it was the next bridge up – stopped for a pee after a night’s drinking, etc, etc.
Yikes! Sorry for your loss, but canals do tend to be deep and not safe for kids or public urination…
Stunned that this cinematic gem has eluded me until now. My mum remembers people running out onto the street to collect dung for their gardens whenever a horse and cart went by. Not sure if anybody ever made a living selling the stuff?
Kids still go for a dip in the Grand Canal whenever the weather’s hot (ie, rarely).
Ten quid for a paper sack if you’re interested. I had no idea that the idea of selling dung would be of such interest to an audience, but alas, this is the only ding related film I can think of.
Kids and canals sounds like a dangerous mix…
Am assuming the actual shovelling into the sacks was done by yourself. How did you market it? Put up a sign by the side of the road. “S**t Sold Here.” I have to say i was put off by the meandering title which was an unfortunate trope back in the day.
Advertised online. No shortage of customers.people came from all over Scotland to try my wares. Will save some for you.
If you have the right product…
During one of my office jobs, my co-workers and I would sometimes say that “we’d rather be digging ditches” which is perhaps not quite as bad as shoveling dung.
But we had a boss one day who came over and very solemnly said, “No, you wouldn’t” and made us all feel like whiny little punks, so I never use that expression anymore 🙂
Sounds like my kind of film. Never heard of it, but might give it a shot.
There’s a reason why we invented the bobcat and other mini diggers:-)
The shoveling isn’t much fun, but the sales side is very satisfying. Money for old rope, so to speak.
Pshaww! I scoffeth. I rolleth my eyes. I lifteth my nose to the heavens.
How much did your accountant charge you? Did he charge a percentage of your fewmets or did he just take stock options to keep his hands clean? Sounds like a dirty business to me!
Totally clean, I promise you, I have been fully exonerated of any malfeasance! Just let me know how much you need and I’ll have it delivered.
I’m actually in the middle of bringing before the joint chiefs of congress a bill that would put a tariff on all dung imports. Only homegrown poop for us, thank you very much!
You’re welcome to it! I can tell that quantity not quality is what drives your choices…
Exactly. We make more money that way…
Is there much of a market for dung in Scotland? I could ship some over.
I managed to sell a few sacks, I’m guessing you’re generating quite a substantial supply? What kind of street value are we talking about?
It’s 100% organic. Take you around the world without leaving the farm. I call it the Brown Bomb. Value is in the millions of doggy coins.
Could we market a blend? Quite literally get our sh*t together?
Is your stuff all free range? Got some thistle and heather in there?
Just a touch for flavor. How about you? Any special ingredients?
The roughage has the full body of the prairies, with percentages of clover and alfalfa rising later in the season.
Any motifs I should note? Notes of resonance?
Some say they can hear the ocean in our popular Maritime Mix.
Robust. Saturated. Earthy, with unexpected grace notes. Sort of like a barefoot walk on the moors after a heavy rain.
Very nice. Aroma? Viscosity?
Pungent. Pugnacious. It’s got some fight in it.
Great. Sounds like a great mix. I’ll have mine dropped directly on your house if you can send me GPS coordinates.
Crossed wires. I already have yours set to delivery sometime later today. Going to be dropped off in a solid gold honey wagon.
Great. To return the favor, I’ve parked a septic tank of effluent outside your house, with the hose through your letterbox. Will surprise you will a blast later, the least I can do!