Friday, August 12, 2011

The Endangered List (Case File #111)

Compiled by Chris Poggiali & Mike MacCollum

IMAGO (1970)
Alternate version: TO BE FREE (1972)

Barbara Douglas (Carole)
John Morgan Evans (Dr. Keith)
Victoria Wales (Althea)
Jenie Jackson (Molly)
Najila (Barbara)
Buddy Arett (Dobbs)
Peter Cord (Peter)
Raul Hernandez (Reagan)
Dick DeCoit (Bruce)
Robert Webb (Dr. O’Donnell)
Parker Herriott (Blind Priest)
Michael Rae (Red/Keystone Cop)
Michael Loring (Tom)
Harvey Goldstein (Jay)

Written, produced and directed
Ned Bosnick

Music by
Lalo Schifrin

Cinematography by
Gregory Sandor

Edited by
Gary Kurtz

Assistant Director
Walter Robles

Art Director
Roger Collins

Sound by
Bob Dietz
Keith A. Wester

Running time: 88 minutes (IMAGO)

Shooting title: HOW NOW, SWEET EROS?

Received simultaneous world premieres in Houston and San Francisco as IMAGO on 12/9/1970. Released by Emerson Film Enterprises with a self-applied X rating.

Rated R by the MPAA in October 1971

Re-cut with new scenes added, and self-distributed by Bosnick [as Joe Magarac, Inc.] in 1972 and ‘73 under the title TO BE FREE

Penn Hills Man Directs Film

“Stage and Screen” column
by George Anderson
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 1st, 1971, p. 20

May your new year be as exciting as it promises to be for a 33-year-old Penn Hills film-maker who has just completed directing his first feature-length movie.

He’s Ned Bosnick, and his film is called IMAGO. He wrote it, produced it and directed it, and it has been picked up by a West Coast distributor who has already released it in San Francisco and Houston.

The film’s and Bosnick’s ties to Houston are important.

“When I graduated from UCLA film school, Stanley Kramer told me not to try to get a studio job in Hollywood,” the new director said the other day while visiting his family here over the holidays.

“He advised me to go somewhere and write a script, and then line up financing for it. That’s the way Kramer started.

“I had no friends in the film industry, so I took off, stopping in various places in Nevada, Idaho, working my way eastward until I wound up in Houston.

“I lived there for a year, made some friends and grew to love the place. I wrote my script and the movie was financed by people in Houston.”

The budget came to more than $300,000.

Bosnick likes Houston so much he has made it his home, and he is heading back now to write the script for his second film.

IMAGO is about a woman in analysis and her sexual fantasies. She is played by newcomer Barbara Douglas, whom Bosnick thinks is headed for stardom.

The film has no production code rating yet. “The distributor thinks it would get an X, but I think it would be given an R today, even though there is some strong stuff in it,” Bosnick said.

The Technicolor film has a score by the noted Lalo Schifrin, composer of the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE theme. He scored IMAGO as “a work of love.”

Bosnick’s only previous film was THE SILENT CRISIS for education television, which won a prize at the Berlin Film Festival.

“The toughest part of making the movie was just raising the money,” Bosnick said.

The experience also gave him a healthy appreciation for the craft of writing. “Writing is what everything else is about,” he said. “Directors have been getting a little more attention than they deserve. Writing is equally important.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/14/71
Penn Hills native Ned Bosnick submitted his first feature film, IMAGO, for a rating, and after a little cutting, got an R from Dr. Aaron Stern’s new stricter administration. “It seems that most of the American public that I have personally come in contact with equate an X rating with pornography – hardcore. We are happy to be out from under that onus, especially since it never applied.” -- George Anderson, "Stage and Screen" column

Renoir Big Influence on Local Film-Maker

“Stage and Screen” column
by George Anderson
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 10th, 1972

When he was growing up in Pittsburgh, Ned Bosnick thought he would be a golf pro. Now he’s coming home as a film-maker.

Bosnick’s first feature, TO BE FREE, will have its world premiere next week at the Shadyside Theater.

Was there more than sentiment involved in choosing Pittsburgh for the first commercial showing of the film?

“There were three reasons for choosing Pittsburgh,” the young writer-producer-director said. “First, it is my hometown. Second, it is close enough to New York where the people I’m working with are located. Third, it is the right size city so that we will be able to launch the film properly, giving it a big campaign without spending $50,000 or more.”

Bosnick and his associates are distributing the film themselves under the name Joe Magarac, Inc. Being the son of a former steelworker, Bosnick chose the name although he said everyone else working on the film was unaware of the Steel City’s Paul Bunyan.

Financing for TO BE FREE came from Texas, and the movie had an unusual history, which I related in this column some time ago.

First released as IMAGO by a West Coast distributor, it was re-edited and partly re-shot by Bosnick to more fully satisfy his ideas.

The story of a young girl who finds her traditional upbringing in conflict with the more permissive ideas of other young people, TO BE FREE is, Bosnick says, open to interpretation.

“Some people who have seen it accept its events as actually happening,” he said.

“Others think of it as being past events related by the girl. Still another interpretation is that it is all a projection in her mind of what will happen or could happen.

“Every knowledgeable film buff who has seen it finds something in it he likes.”

Bosnick insists he did not show TO BE FREE to any of the established film distributors after his rather disenchanting experience with the handling of the film’s first version.

A graduate of the UCLA film school, Bosnick said, “The last few years have really been an education for me. UCLA is really the art-film school. At USC they learn more about the practical side of the business – budgets, etc. I think UCLA needs to teach more of that.”

It was his experience in taking a one-semester course at UCLA from the great French director Jean Renoir that saved Bosnick from dropping out when he was beginning to wonder just was he was doing there.

“He’s such a great man. Even though I really knew nothing about him, I could sense his greatness after just five minutes. Being a little older than some of my fellow students” – Bosnick had previously graduated from Dickinson College – “I found myself out of step with some of their life-styles. So it made a great impression on me that Renoir said a lot of things that I believed.”

“I don’t know if you can appreciate how much it means to a film student to have his first movie shown in a theater, to see it up there on a screen with your name. It’s like a sexual experience.”

When his student film, THE SILENT CRISIS, a 27-minute film about a 17-year-old in a school for the deaf played in a theater, Bosnick invited all his former instructors to see it.

“And it’s hard to believe, but of all those teachers, who do you think was the only one to show up? Jean Renoir, who came with his wife. And he sent me a note afterwards, commenting on the film.”

THE SILENT CRISIS, by the way, received a prize at the Berlin Film Festival.

Besides Renoir, other film-makers Bosnick admires are Federico Fellini and Luis Bunuel. “Fellini was the hero of my era,” he recalls. “His 8½ came out then, and he was at the peak of his form. I thought that was the greatest film ever made.”

A tall, lean, youthful figure, Bosnick is already planning his future films. He has one he would like to do with Dustin Hoffman, whom he admires, and another about a rock group traveling across country, which he describes as being “as beautiful as EASY RIDER, but an upbeat film. America the Beautiful.”

TO BE FREE Has Premiere at Shadyside
“Stage and Screen” column
by George Anderson
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 19th, 1972

TO BE FREE, which had its world premiere last night at the Shadyside, is not an easy film to describe or to categorize.

The first feature by director Ned Bosnick, who was born in Penn Hills, it starts out to be the story of the personal conflict of a young girl whose traditional upbringing gives her such sexual hang-ups that she must seek psychiatric help.

But, it gradually and unexpectedly evolves into another story of a fraudulent psychiatrist into whose hands she has the misfortune to fall.

That these dual plot elements are not satisfactorily integrated is one of the film’s difficulties. This reconciliation is not helped by the film’s insistence on ambiguity, sometimes for its own sake.

We are presented with many quick cuts, a wholesale juggling of time sequences and scenes representing the heroine’s private fantasies, all of which make it troublesome to come to grips with the scenes involving the psychiatrist, in conversation with an older colleague or with his receptionist.

Are these fantasies, too? I think not, but Bosnick has said that the entire film can be interpreted as existing in the girl’s mind.

These confusions – whether the film’s or the audience’s, the result is the same – plus occasionally clichéd dialogue and a lack of narrative thrust are the movie’s chief handicaps.

Its assets include superb color photography by Gregory Sandor. Visually, TO BE FREE is an unending delight, except, perhaps, for one needlessly gross bit of burlesque involving a fat woman splashing in a mud puddle.

Bosnick shows genuine talent in handling the film’s visual and technical aspects. The film looks throughout like a big-league entry.

It also boasts a thoroughly ingratiating performance from newcomer Barbara Douglas as the troubled heroine. Blessed with a voluptuous figure, a pixie face, a pleasing personality, a fine air of naturalness and real acting talent, she is a true find.

In fact, she is so good that her character assumes dimensions which make the woodenness and superficiality of the psychiatrist all the more harmful. Indeed, the lack of characterization in every other player except her is conspicuous.

Any list of the film’s merits should also include Lalo Schifrin’s modern score and the overall sense of serious purpose in Bosnick’s work.

This latter quality makes doubly unfortunate the film’s occasional and coincidental similarities to more exploitative films like TOGETHER or WITHOUT A STITCH or GUESS WHAT WE LEARNED IN SCHOOL TODAY in which dubious medical or psychological authorities preached a let-it-all-hang-out philosophy to sexually inhibited characters.

These unearned associations may not bother everyone, however. A more widespread concern may be a lack of emotional involvement in the girl’s problems, regardless of how valid they may be and how warm Miss Douglas’ performance is.

But, even those of us who are left out in the cold in this respect can recognize Bosnick’s potential as a gifted filmmaker and can look forward to future work in which he will have, hopefully, better basic material to work with.

American Film Institute (AFI) catalog description: Carole, a virgin, finds herself incapable of having sex with her fiancée. She goes to Keith, a psychiatrist who prescribes therapy including hypnosis and group encounter sessions. Carole becomes involved with lesbian Althea (the doctor’s receptionist), tries marijuana, and experiences wild nightmares as she struggles to cope with her problems.


Marty McKee said...

But seriously, how did they get Schifrin for this?

Dylan S said...

This film sounds fascinating.

Sadly,it looks like Ned Bosnick died earlier this year:

Here's a website he was running for his photography for a few years before his death:

It's unfortunate nobody was able to get to him to ask some questions about his cinema work (his short films, particularly the one Jean Renoir liked, also sound interesting). Maybe at some point his family might be interested in making these films available, as a tribute?

Guy Balson said...

Chris and Mike,
Thank you so much for this awesome post. Ned Bosnick was my Uncle Ned, and he knew of no copies of the "Imago" film. I knew it as "To be Free" because that was the name of the film when it premiered in Pittsburgh. I was 12 years old, and my parents refused to allow me to attend the premiere. I'll never forgive them for that. If my mom still has a copy of the movie poster, I'll send you a photo the next time I'm in Pittsburgh. There were things that I didn't even know about my uncle that I read in your posts. I remember him telling me that "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" was one of his favorite films. I also remember him telling me that Lalo Schiffrin was going to do the music for the movie. He may have know him from UCLA. I'm pretty sure he financed the film by "courting" older women. He had been an instructor at a dance studio and those men are famous for having Sugar mommas. He actually alluded to that financing method to me once but I don't know if he was serious or not.
If you ever find a copy of the "Imago" film, please let me know. I would really love to see it.
Best regards,
Guy Balson