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Home Forums New Beverly Programming Requests BEYOND CASSAVETES: LOST LEGENDS OF THE NEW YORK FILM WORLD (1945-1970)

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    This was a series Anthology Film Archives did a year or two ago. Thought it would be interesting to see some of these titles play in LA.

    This was the series description:
    In-between Hollywood and the emerging cinematic underground, New York in the 1950s and 60s was home to a little-known but vibrant feature film industry. Beyond bigger names like John Cassavetes and Morris Engel, scores of hopeful, independent filmmakers cobbled together low-budget productions with few prospects for critical or commercial success. From waterfront wise guys to Village beatniks, from film noir to existential comedies, “Made in New York” signified a quirky, vibrant, indie aesthetic that in many ways laid the foundation for later New York-based auteurs like Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Abel Ferrara, and Jim Jarmusch, among others. This ongoing series will expose and explore New York’s pioneering contributions to the low-budget independent feature.

    Some of the highlights of the series:

    dir. by Theodore J. Flicker

    1964, 80 min, 35mm, b&w. Written by Buck Henry. With Buck Henry, Tom Aldredge, Joan Darling, James Frawley, Godfrey Cambridge, and Al Freeman, Jr. Special thanks to Brian Belovarac (Janus Films).
    Four years before co-writing THE GRADUATE, Buck Henry’s first professional screenwriting credit was on this wry, no-budget spoof shot on the cheap in NYC. Ingénue Jack Armstrong (Tom Aldredge) gets it into his head to open a Greenwich Village coffee house. He’s immediately besieged, however, by a throng of gangsters and venal bureaucrats. Henry also acts as the on-screen narrator in this existential comedy of errors with great location footage of Times Square and the West Village. Featuring character actor (and director) James Frawley and Godfrey Cambridge.

    by Doran William Cannon
    1963, 80 min, 35mm, b&w

    Doran William “Bill” Cannon’s biggest claims to fame were undoubtedly the screenplays he penned for two of Hollywood’s most inscrutable comedies of the late 1960s: Otto Preminger’s SKIDOO (1968) and Robert Altman’s BREWSTER MCCLOUD (1970). He had launched his career several years earlier in New York, however, writing and directing a long-lost ‘calling card’ film clearly signaling his love for off-kilter humor. A charms-all romantic comedy with a counter-cultural edge, THE SQUARE ROOT OF ZERO (1963) pits a pair of Village beatniks against a clan of moneyed squares vacationing on the Maine coast. At turns silly and surreal, the film features black-and-white cinematography by indie lenser Sheldon Rochlin (GUNS IN THE TREES) and a soundtrack (actually released on vinyl!) by FANTASY ISLAND composer Elliot Kaplan.

    dir. by: Richard C. Sarafian
    1965, 86 min, 35mm, b&w
    Sarafian is best known for his existential, V8-powered road picture VANISHING POINT. In 1965, however, he wrote and directed his first feature, ANDY, a boundary-pushing melodrama about a mentally challenged middle-aged man. Featuring a career-defining performance by headliner Richard Alden and atmospherically lit by journeyman DP Ernesto Caparrós (who also shot THE MIRACLE WORKER for Arthur Penn), ANDY is a lost little homebrewed gem. Not available on DVD, this is probably the film’s first theatrical screening in fifty years.

    dir. by: Richard Hilliard
    1959, 57 min, 35mm. Thanks to Vinegar Syndrome for making this screening possible.
    A dark, fragmented meditation on psychosexual anxiety, director Richard Hilliard’s debut feature is a gritty counterpart to better-known no-budget mind-benders like John Parker’s DAUGHTER OF HORROR. Visually expressionistic with undertones of surrealism, the film crackles with a shocking intensity, buttressed considerably by Karl Light’s bravura performance (his only known featured role) as the film’s haunted protagonist. Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Donald Martino’s atonal soundtrack offers a perfect counterpoint to Hilliard’s anxious minimalism. First time on-screen in over fifty years!

    dir. by: Joseph Green
    1962, 82 min, 35mm, b&w
    Postwar production in New York is certainly more closely associated with hard-biting neorealism than pulpy science fiction, but one of the better-known low-budget features to emerge from NYC in the early 1960s was Joseph Green’s Frankensteinien thriller THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE. Featuring Virginia Leith as a disembodied head and Eddie “The Jewish Giant” Carmel as a raging scientific miscarriage, and with exteriors shot in Tarrytown, New York, BRAIN is one of those matinee misfits that must have left regular boys scratching their heads while drawing an introspective few into a life of hopeless cinephilia. The film’s writer-director, Joseph Green, went on to become a noteworthy distributor of European art films.


    This is a GREAT idea. I’d love to see Square Root of Zero.



    I think Doran William Cannon’s papers were recently acquired by the Academy library. If the guy can make ^that film and write Skidoo, Brewster Mccloud, and Hex I’d think they gotta be interesting.

    Also The Troublemaker sounds intriguing. When Buck Henry recently spoke at Cinefamily, pretty sure he said that film and The Linguini Incident were ones he’d like to forget haha

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