Where Forgotten Films Dwell

Welcome to this site! It exists for one reason: to preserve the memory of films that have been forgotten about or under-appreciated throughout the ages. Take a seat, read an entry, leave a comment. You might discover your new favorite movie!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Guest Post: AM1200

Many thanks to Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci for this excellent guest article!

The Creepiest Lovecraft Tale that Lovecraft DIDN'T Write!

Writer/producer/director David Prior's 2007 horror thriller short AM1200 follows in the great tradition of Psycho and From Dusk Till Dawn in both its high quality and its story structure: a taut protagonist-on-the-run thriller that devilishly morphs into an atmospheric, razor-sharp tale of supernatural terror under your very nose.

Eric Lange is solid as Sam Larson, an almost sympathetic white-collar everyman (if that makes sense :-)) whose company is going downhill fast. Going into Dick-Over or Be Dicked-Over mode, Sam makes a bad, no-turning-back
decision to embezzle company funds before his slippery boss (Ray Wise, in the kind of role at which he excels) beats him to it. Sam escapes in his Audi on what seems like an endless desert highway, literally scared sick whenever he sees a police cruiser in his rear-view mirror. But his nerve-wracking flight from the law feels like piña coladas and Key West sunsets compared to what happens when, in the dead of night, he hears and responds to a desperate SOS broadcast as he tunes his car radio into the titular evangelical AM radio station.... Refreshingly, unlike so many other protagonists of his ilk, Sam sees the red flags (metaphorically flapping in the breeze), and does his best to avoid the station until he's truly left with no other options.

AM1200 is an original story by Prior, but once Sam enters the all-but-abandoned station and discovers the terrifying
truth, the film becomes a brilliant modern-day homage to H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu tales. It packs more potent suspense, dread, and eerie atmosphere in its 40-minute running time than many feature-length horror films. It also looks and sounds amazing, thanks to Brian Hoodenpyle's crystal-clear digital cinematography, and the brilliant use of sound and light (and dark) by Prior and his crew. The sparingly-used special effects are so artfully rendered that they seem quite natural, as opposed to the kind of F/X which practically scream, "Hey, look at me! I'm a special effect!" Great use of music, too, ranging from Bela Bartok to Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street." Among the rare, fleeting instances of comic relief, my favorite was when the seemingly millions of unseen crickets that have been insistently chirping -- nay, screeching -- away in the background suddenly STOP -- just like that! AM1200 was like having a knife to my throat for forty minutes -- in a good way. It's well worth seeking out and recommending to others. I give it an A+!

Miles to go before Sam sleeps.

Think, Sam, think! What would Janet Leigh do?

Me, embezzling? Nope, just out for a midnight stroll….

Funny how everything looks like a UFO at night.

Harry Jones (Ray Wise) takes a shot at eluding the law.

Why doesn’t that put Sam at ease?

Blinded by the light!

“They say it’s better to reign in hell than to serve in Heaven. What about serving in Hell? What if the only option is to serve in Hell?”

“Hi, I’m Larry. I’m the new guy.”

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Temporary Hiatus

I've got some bad news, folks. Because of graduate school and my other commitments, I have to put Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear on temporary hiatus. The simple reason is that I have two major papers due in two weeks AND I am working an internship at the DOC NYC Film Festival.

I've been working with DOC NYC for the last month. The festival will be held from November 2-10. Therefore, it's crunch time for the festival organizers. Between DOC NYC and my school work, I simply can't write entries that would be at the quality that I am comfortable with.

However! I have asked some of my blogger friends to do guest entries between now and the end of DOC NYC. The amazing Team Bartilucci from http://doriantb.blogspot.com/ has graciously agreed to do a guest review. If anyone else would like to do a guest review, please leave a comment!

Until November, my friends...

'Til November...

Nathanael Hood

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Up Tight!

Directed by Jules Dassin
The United States of America

Few directors were as versatile and adaptable as the legendary Jules Dassin. A Jewish American by birth, a Greek in spirit, he spent most of his time in France doing crime and heist films that would influence countless directors and film-makers. Over his career, he would inundate himself with different world cultures. He began his life making taut film noir such as Brute Force, The Naked City, and Thieves’ Highway. Blacklisted in the late Forties from working in Hollywood, he moved to Europe where he continued his incredible career. His most famous film, Rififi, is considered to be one of the most important and influential heist films of all time. But success and critical fame did little to secure Dassin’s career. He would become a kind of wandering journeyman, taking work wherever he could find it. He made the Italian film The Law with stars Gina Lollobrigida and Yves Montand. He directed several Greek films such as Never on Sunday, The Rehearsal, and A Dream of Passion. He even helmed a documentary on the Israeli Six-Day War entitled Hamilchama al Hashalom. But after his banishment from Hollywood, Dassin did manage to return to his homeland and direct one last film on his native soil. That film would be the sensational and devastating Up Tight!

Up Tight! is a remake of The Informer, a film that won four Academy Awards including John Ford’s first for Best Director. But John Ford’s film was set against the Irish War of Independence in 1922 in Dublin, Ireland. Dassin chose to transplant his version of the film into Cleveland, Ohio. The time? The Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King Jr. has just been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. A thousand televisions in a thousand bars, shacks, and houses in the Cleveland ghetto watch his funeral. Most see this as a moment of great tragedy befitting a time for mourning and reflection. But some see this as an inevitable call to action. In a lonely warehouse, a group of black radicals led by Johnny Wells steal crates of guns and ammunition. A white guard is killed in the robbery, but it doesn’t matter. It was for the cause. So what if Johnny has to go into hiding from the law? The revolution has teeth now.

There’s only one problem: Tank Williams. Tank was one of Johnny’s best friends. He planned the whole gun robbery. However, the news of King’s assassination sent him into a drunken stupor. Feeling betrayed by Tank, Johnny and his associates ban him from their revolutionary movement. Horrified at being abandoned by the only friends he had, he stumbles to his girlfriend’s house only to find her courting her welfare officer. Enraged, he fights him off, spurring the officer to swear that he’ll cut off his girlfriend’s welfare. His girlfriend shrieks at him that he’s ruined not only her life, but the lives of their illegitimate children. And so Tank finds himself alone, drunk, and hated.

But he sees a way out. The police have started a massive man-hunt for Johnny. There is an offer for a massive cash reward for information leading to Johnny’s arrest.

Embittered by Johnny’s actions and desperate to win back his girlfriend, he betrays his location. The cops storm his hiding place and engage in a deadly shootout. By the end of the gunfight, Johnny lies dead. And what does Tank do with the reward money? He goes to a bar and gets drunker than he had even been before in his life. People start getting suspicious that Tank suddenly has so much money right after Johnny’s death. It doesn’t take long for the Black Power group that Johnny was a part of to put two and two together. And so the revolutionaries descend upon Tank with a fury. Tank must make the ultimate decision: escape town, or submit to his fate. What is a brotha to do?

The brilliance of Jules Dassin’s direction is that nobody is portrayed as a hero. Everyone is a responsible for villainous or reprehensible behavior. The Black Power movement kills a guard in a robbery, sees the death of one of the world’s greatest activists for peace as a call for armed resistance, and views white people with hatred. In one particularly callous scene, a white friend of one of the movement’s leaders begs to join them because he truly believes in equal rights. He recounts how they went to sit-ins together, survived Vietnam together, and marched together. But he is thrown out because of his skin. They become guilty of the exact same racism that they fight against. Tank is depicted as a drunken coward. Yes, he is abandoned by his friends and loved ones. But his bad fortune is brought about by his own actions. In a sense, Tank is the descendant of the classic noir hero: unable to escape his past and his own faults.

But the real reason behind Up Tight!’s greatness is its cynicism. It offers no answers concerning how racial intolerance and strife in America can be solved. It only watches as the people sworn to end such conflict destroy themselves. Dassin seems to be using the film as an allegory for how black society is in many ways its own worst enemy. Examining his catalog of films, especially his film noir, this doesn’t seem too unusual for Dassin. Brute Force is about an underground society of prisoners who band together to escape from their prison. The plot is foiled when one of the prisoners breaks the oath of silence and squeals. In Rififi, a gang of robbers are captured by the police after one of their number breaks the rules of a heist by stealing a diamond ring for his mistress. And finally, here in Up Tight! all of the horror and bloodshed could have been spared if Tank hadn’t gotten drunk at the start of the film and failed to participate in the doomed robbery. In all of these films, Dassin seems to be making the point that a group’s destruction can be more easily assured by internal causes than external. It’s not the cops or authorities that you have to worry about...it’s the guy sitting next to you.

So who killed Johnny? Was it Tank for being irresponsible? Was it the Black Power Movement for abandoning Tank? Or was it Johnny’s own fault for killing the white guard during the robbery. Dassin seems to be trying to make a single point in Up Tight!: it sure as hell wasn’t whitey.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

No Review This Week

Sorry folks. I can't manage a new Forgotten Classic this week. I've got too much graduate school brik-a-brak to deal with.

But I'll be back next week!

Nathanael Hood