Moira MacTaggert, temporarily a protagonist and looking for an expert on mutants, travels to Oxford to find Xavier, who has just received his degree. Meanwhile, Erik travels to Argentina to Find Dr. Schmidt, who he doesn’t yet know is really Sebastian Shaw. He comes to a bar that serves German beer and finds a couple of regular patrons who, as luck would have it, are pictured in a photograph up on the wall, with Schmidt, on a boat (a boat with anachronistic Trajan font on its stern). The tables have turned, Nazis are the Other now and these two pals of Schmidt are hiding in South America. Erik reveals himself and kills the two men and the German bartender. One of the men tries to defend himself with a Nazi knife (“Blood and Honor” it says on its blade) while the bartender approaches with a Luger, the Nazi pistol of choice. Even though Erik went in to get information about Schmidt, he got none from the men himself — he learned everything he needs to know from the boat photo with the anachronistic font. He kills two of the men in self-defense and one out of vengeance. Or, since he has control over all the metal objects in the room, he kills them all out of vengeance. The one with the knife gives the old Nazi excuse of “We were only following orders,” an expression that was hugely popular among escaped Nazis at the time: Adolf Eichmann had just been captured in Argentina and was tried in Jerusalem in the spring of 1962 and used the “only following orders” defense as his excuse. Eichmann had just been executed at the time this scene takes place, the knife-wielder’s use of the quote could not have been more germane, or more ill-timed to garner sympathy from Erik.
The grown-up Erik Lehnsherr has traveled to Switzerland, like Jason Bourne, to find something. Bourne was looking for himself, but Erik is looking for Dr. Schmidt, the Nazi doctor who wasn’t really a Nazi doctor, who mentored him and developed his metal-manipulation powers during WWII.
Erik has gotten into the bank by pretending to be a client with a bar of Nazi gold. The screenplay doesn’t indicate where he got this bar of gold, but he does mention that “it’s all that’s left of my people.” Did Erik, under orders from Schmidt, extract this gold from the teeth of Jews in Schmidt’s prison camp, remove jewelry hidden on their persons? He doesn’t say, but we shortly see him do both those things to the Swiss banker who resists giving up Schmidt’s current location. Erik says he’d like to kill the banker, since the banker apparently has plenty of ex-Nazi clients, but he stops at merely removing one of his fillings. We will see later that Erik has no trouble killing Nazis, why does he demur at the opportunity to kill the banker? Perhaps he’s worried the murder of a banker would draw undue attention to him. In any case, the banker gives Erik Schmidt’s current location (Argentina, the ex-Nazi’s favorite hiding place).
The actor James Urbaniak, who readers of this blog will know as the voice of Dr. Venture, or as the polygraph guy on Homeland, has been one of my closest friends since I met him on this very date (well, yesterday on this very date) in 1989 at a shoebox theater in lower Manhattan during a blizzard. True story.
Lately, he’s been doing these podcasts, Getting On with James Urbaniak. He emailed me and asked me to contribute a piece, and of course I was happy to do so, and you can hear it here. It turned out pretty awesome.
The assignment was very specific: not a monologue or a rant or a routine, but a monodrama: that is, a drama, with a plot, and conflict, and events occurring, premise, development, crisis, denouement, all that, starring one actor, James, playing a character named “James Urbaniak.” I’m a huge Samuel Beckett fan from way back, and the only thing that popped into my head as a suitable monodrama was an adaptation of Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, where an elderly man, a failed writer, reviews tapes he made of himself when he was younger and wonders about what happened to himself.
So that’s what I did, except I made the elderly writer James. His performance is more than I could have hoped for.
All the events James talks about in the podcast are true stories. James really did audition for the part of Chigurh in No Country for Old Men, he really did do a hit show off-Broadway where he really was too busy to meet Paul Newman, he really did walk the red carpet at Cannes, he really so forth. The only one of the stories that isn’t true at all is the first one, where he auditions for the part of Eugene in The Miracle Worker in high school but loses the part to the school quarterback. That didn’t happen to him, that happened to me, exactly as set down.
He didn’t really do an impression of Mackensie Crook at his audition for the role of Dwight Schrute. Rainn Wilson, to my knowledge, does not have a three-story mansion in Santa Barbara, and James does not live in a crappy bungalow in Eagle Rock.
The cassette recorder referred to in the text was one my family owned in the late 1960s, one very much like these:
Finally, a “frustum” is a truncated pyramid.