Saturday, November 03, 2012

Updating the IMDb: The Seattle Edition

Temple of Schlock's friend in Seattle, John Black, told us a while back that his hometown had played host to a number of exclusive movie premieres in the early 1970s, but we only recently got around to investigating his claim. Boy, he wasn't kidding! Here are two major finds that we unearthed within minutes of threading the first reel of microfilm through the viewer.

THE PLOT AGAINST HARRY, writer-director Michael Roemer's second narrative indie feature (following the brilliant NOTHING BUT A MAN), opened in one Seattle theater for a week-long "world premiere" on January 27, 1971.

This quirky, b&w, New York-shot ethnic comedy -- filmed two years earlier -- would've attracted more attention and done some business if it had debuted a few blocks south of 14th Street instead of three thousand miles west of the Hudson. According to Seattle Times critic John Hartl in the review below, the film's "only appreciative audience may be Jewish bookies living in the Bronx."

After this not-so-impressive debut, Roemer put THE PLOT AGAINST HARRY on a shelf and forgot about it for 18 years.

In September 1989, THE PLOT AGAINST HARRY was screened during the Toronto and New York Film Festivals. Press coverage at the time detailed the film's disappearing act without ever mentioning its week-long run in Seattle, alluding instead to a "screening" that failed to secure a distribution deal (New Yorker Films finally released the film theatrically in January 1990). Some sources even claimed that THE PLOT AGAINST HARRY had languished for years unfinished. "Roemer actually shot this film, his second feature, in 1969," wrote Pete Travers in Rolling Stone, "but only recently found the money to complete postproduction."

It’s understandable why Roemer would avoid all discussion of the one-week Seattle engagement, since any kind of theatrical release would’ve made the film ineligible for the major festivals. However, we believe that 20+ years is well past the statute of limitations for this sort of thing, so THE PLOT AGAINST HARRY should now be considered a 1971 film, with January 27, 1971 (Seattle, WA) listed on the IMDb as the official release date.

Less than a month after THE PLOT AGAINST HARRY blew in and out of town, Skip Sherwood's spaced-out independent film DIDN'T YOU HEAR? opened in nine Seattle-area theaters on February 24, 1971. Billed as "The first completely electronically scored motion picture" and shot in widescreen Techniscope at the University of Washington and in the San Juan Islands during the summer of 1970, DIDN'T YOU HEAR? is of interest today for its early lead performances by Dennis Christopher, Gary Busey, and MACON COUNTY LINE's Cheryl Waters. A wider release through Futurama International was scheduled for June 1972, but we've found no evidence of additional playdates.

Skip Sherwood Productions renewed the copyright in 1983, which was the date ascribed to the film when it began showing on TV in 1985. A video release through American National Enterprises (A.N.E.) Home Video/Prism Entertainment also occurred in 1985, but the IMDb considers this a 1983 release. The date should be changed to 1971, with February 24, 1971 (Seattle, WA) submitted as the official release date.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

DIDN'T YOU HEAR was initially four-walled at the Rainier Cinema, where it battled a major snow storm and had a disastrous engagement. The screening I attended began with the film missing its soundtrack (ironic, given the film's title) for the first 15 minutes. There were only two other people in the theater.

Another bizarre film that world-premiered in Seattle (August 26, 1970) was LIKE IT IS, aka NOT MY DAUGHTER. The film only played one weekend before being shut down by the MPAA for alleged copyright infringement issues.