Tag Archives: Film Forum

42 St. 42 Years Ago: SHAFT Revisited

30 Aug

Today, August 30, 2013, is the 42nd anniversary of my first trip to a 42nd Street movie theater (on August 30, 1971). I’ve amassed quite a bit of material related to that trip, so it seemed like a good opportunity to commemorate it. I’ve managed to re-watch both films seen on that trip and I’ve been in touch with both friends who accompanied me that day. The film that drew us was SHAFT, directed by Gordon Parks and starring Richard Roundtree as a black private eye with an office in Times Square, an apartment in Greenwich Village, and a client in Harlem, locations that marked three of the major centers of street life in New York in the early 1970s. The second feature chosen to play with it was, oddly enough, a low-budget black-and-white science fiction film made in 1956 called IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, a title that had already played on television regularly by this point. The film was directed by Roger Corman and the stars were Peter Graves, Beverly Garland and Lee Van Cleef. I suspect it was Van Cleef’s presence in the cast that gave it some cachet, since Van Cleef had become popular among 42nd Street audiences thanks to the steady stream of Italian westerns he’d made after reviving his career with appearances in two of the movies making up Sergio Leone’s “Dollars” trilogy: FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. Van Cleef’s name was prominently displayed on the theater marquee as this shot from the time shows:

The theater was the Lyric, situated in the middle of a row of six theaters on the north side of 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, the famous “Deuce” of New York legend. SHAFT had opened in New York on July 2 at the DeMille Theater on Broadway and 47th Street, but I don’t know at what point in its run it started playing at the Lyric. The marquee in that picture says “Held Over 4th Big Week,” but I couldn’t say whether that was in July, August or September.

Continue reading

Universal Pictures: 100 years of movies, 20 years of genre classics

14 Jul

Film Forum in Manhattan started a series yesterday (Friday, July 13) celebrating 100 years of Universal Pictures, beginning with a double bill of FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA, both 1931. They’re running 72 films, 60 of which I’ve seen already, and the schedule includes many, if not most of the best films the studio is famous for. To a younger generation of budding movie buffs in the New York area, this will be a rare opportunity to see many genuine classics on the big screen. (It’s also a rare opportunity to see them at all, outside of Turner Classic Movies and the ones that are available on DVD.)

35 years ago, I had a similar opportunity. In 1977, the Museum of Modern Art ran a 65th anniversary retrospective of Universal Pictures, which offered a much more comprehensive program consisting of 325 films, extending from 1912 to a “to be announced” showing of a 1978 release. In looking over the MOMA program, I count 162 films that I’ve seen among its offerings, most in the 35 years since. The MOMA series, curated by Adrienne Mancia and Larry Kardish, was designed to showcase a wide representative sampling of the studio output and not just the “agreed-upon” classics. 53 films in the Film Forum program also ran at MOMA.

 

Continue reading

THE PRICE OF POWER: Italian western about a presidential assassination

23 Jun

I first heard about THE PRICE OF POWER (1969) at a table selling videotapes of Italian genre films at a Chiller Theater convention some 30 years after the film’s release. It was described as an Italian western that was a thinly disguised allegory about the Kennedy assassination with Van Johnson as President James A. Garfield (who was himself assassinated). I didn’t purchase it at the time even though it sounded right up my alley. (I think I might have already reached my limit of purchases at that convention.)

Long story short: I didn’t see the film until last Sunday, June 17, when it played at the Film Forum in Manhattan as part of their Spaghetti Western series. The film was shown in Italian with English subtitles, which I found pretty jarring, especially since Van Johnson and a couple of other actors are clearly mouthing their lines in English. Like most Italian films, the entire thing was post-dubbed. I would have preferred an English dub, which is how I’ve experienced pretty much all other Italian westerns I’ve seen. (Given the international makeup of so many of the casts involved in these films—Italian, Spanish, French, German, American, etc.—I find it difficult to consider Italian the original language for such films .)

Continue reading