Monthly Archives: November 1974

DOCTOR DEATH: SEEKER OF SOULS (1974 review)

From Monthly Film Bulletin, November 1974 (Vol. 41, No. 490). — J.R.

U.S.A., 1973
Director: Eddie Saeta

Before dying from an accident, Laura Saunders’ last words to her husband Fred are, “I’ll come back”. Unable to accept her death, Fred visits a number of fake spiritualists and death cultists until a classified ad (“Control your own reincarnation”) leads him to Tana, a friend and former lover of Dr. Death who brings Fred to one of Death’s ‘demonstrations’: a girl scarred by an accident is willingly sawed in half so that her soul can pass into the undamaged body of another women. Death dubs the reawakened corpse Venus and promptly becomes her lover, incurring the jealousy of Tana, who subsequently throws acid in Venus’ face. At a later meeting with Fred, Death explains that he discovered his power — based on a formula kept in an amulet around his neck — 1000 years ago, and his soul has survived ever since by passing into a succession of bodies of various races and both sexes belonging to his murder victims, He offers to revive Laura’s corpse with another woman’s soul for $50,000 and Fred agrees; but when Tana is garishly murdered for this purpose, Fred is appalled, and after Death fails to animate Laura’s body, asks him to keep the money and abandon the project. … Read more »

Badlands (1974 review)

This appeared in the November 1974 issue of Monthly Film Bulletin. The ironic aftermath of the final sentence in my review is that another five years would pass before the release of Malick’s second feature, and then 20 more before the release of his third. — J.R.

Badlands

U.S.A., 1973                                                        Director: Terrence Malick

It would hardly be an exaggeration to call the first half of Badlands a revelation -– one of the best literate examples of narrated American cinema since the early days of Welles and Polonsky. Compositions, actors, and lines interlock and click into place with irreducible economy and unerring precision, carrying us along before we have time to catch our breaths. It is probably not accidental than an early camera set-up of Kit on his garbage route recalls the framing of a neighborhood street that introduced us to the social world of Rebel Without a Cause: the doomed romanticism courted by Kit and dispassionately recounted by Holly immediately evokes the Fifties world of Nicholas Ray -– and more particularly, certain Ray-influenced (and narrated) works of Godard, like Pierrot le fou and Bande à part. Terrence Malick’s eye, narrative sense, and handling of affectless violence are all recognizably Godardian, but they flourish in a context more easily identified with Ray.… Read more »

COCKFIGHTER (1974 review)

This is excerpted from my “Paris-London Journal” in the November-December 1974 Film Comment, written in August when I was starting work at the British Film Institute after living for five years in Paris.

I can’t recall now whether it was this review or my inclusion of Cockfighter on my ten-best list in Sight and Sound — or could it have been both? — that led eventually to Charles Willeford sending me a note of thanks, along with his a copy of his self-published book A Guide for the Undehemorrhoided, a short account of his own hemorrhoid operation. Not knowing Willeford’s work at the time — today I’m a big fan, especially of his four late Hoke Mosley novels — I’m sorry to say that I didn’t keep this book, which undoubtedly has become a very scarce collector’s item.

But first, before reprinting the Film Comment review, here is my capsule review of Cockfighter for the Chicago Reader, written almost three decades later and published in mid-August 2003: “Except for Iguana, which is almost completely unknown, this wry 1974 feature is probably the most underrated work by Monte Hellman (Two-Lane Blacktop).Read more »

THE NIGHT PORTER (1974 review)

From Monthly Film Bulletin, November 1974, Vol. 41, No. 490. — J.R.

Portiere di Notte, Il (The Night Porter)

Italy, 1973 Director: Liliana Cavani

Cert—X. dist—Avco-Embassy. p.c—Lotar Film. A Robert Gordon

Edwards/Esa De Dimone production. A Joseph E. Levine presentation

for Ital Noleggio Cinematografico. p—Robert Gordon Edwards. p. staff

Umberto Sambuco, Dino di Dionisio, Roberto Edwards, (Vienna) Otto

Dworak. asst. d–Franco Cirino, Paola Tallarigo, (Vienna) Johann

Freisinger. sc–Liliana Cavani, Italo Moscati. story–Liliana Cavani,

Barbara Alberti, Amedeo Pagani. ph–Alfio Contini. co1–Technicolor;

prints by Eastman Colour. col. sup–Ernesto Novelli. ed–Franco Arcalli.

a.d–Nedo Azzini, Jean-Marie Simon. set dec–Osvaldo Desideri. m/m.d

Daniele Paris. cost–Piero Tosi. sd. ed–Michael Billingsley. sd. rec

Fausto Ancillai. sd. re-rec–Decio Trani. post-synchronisation d–Robert

Rietty. sd. effects–Roberto Arcangeli. l.p–Dirk Bogarde (Max),

Charlotte Rampling (Lucia), Philippe Leroy (Klaus), Gabriele Ferzetti (Hans),

Giuseppe Addobbati (Stumm), Isa Miranda (Countess Stein), Nino

Bignamini (Adolph), Marino Mase’ (Atherton), Amedeo Amodia (Bert),

Piero Vida (Day Porter), Geoffrey Copleston (Kurt), Manfred Freiberger

(Dobson), Ugo Cardea (Mario), Hilda Gunther (Greta), Nora Ricci

(Neighbour), Piero Mazzinghi (Concierge), Kai S.… Read more »