A film by Peter Barton and Laurence Salzmann was one of the first recipients of an American Film Institute Grant, 1971 (15 minutes).
Eddie O'Brian was an alcoholic living in squalor on West 94th Street. He was, like many of his neighbors in the hotels, dying. "I can't actually afford both eat and drink, too," he said. His mind was fragmented, his speech stuttering, half-incoherent.
The documentary's narrative is built around a simple, ominous event: Eddie's last friend Sam, is being thrown out of the hotel and reinstitutionalized. Sam can't walk to the toilet any more and has been soiling his bed so they.re throwing him out. To Eddie, this eviction is not just to the hospital but to the cemetery. He knows Sam isn't going to ever resume life outside the institution. Down both go to the elevator, which is used in the movie as a metaphor, a descent into hell.
Eddie has spent his life searhing for connection. Molested by a priest when he was a child, he joined various groups – fascist, neo-Nazi, communist, über-Catholic - in search for a sense of belonging. He said, "I wanted to be part of something. People for some reason just don't like me so I stayed to myself. I walked miles on end trying to get away from myself..."
The climax of the movie is brilliantly editied experimental montage that attempts to mirror the disintergration of Eddie's brain through overlapping audio track and traumatic, quick imagery. The film is shot in grainy black-and-white that mirros the soupy light in Eddie's tiny room.