Midcentury Madness ’22

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First show: August 20

MIDCENTURY MADNESS ’22

PART 13-14 of 18 • Patrick McGoohan: a Prisoner of His Own Making and
Frank Perry: a Prescient Look at American Cruelty

Not content to simply keep breaking ground with his FRENCH HAD A NAME FOR IT series, Midcentury Productions‘ head honcho Don Malcolm is presenting 36 ultra-rare mid-century films (what else?) from around the world in 18 double features—an ongoing event unlike anything else.

In August we focus on two individuals whose late 1960s exploits were at the forefront of those explosive times, but who were both engulfed by a curious backlash that quickly consigned them to the margins. Frank Perry and Patrick McGoohan both thrived on cultural critique, but their brinksmanship proved to be offputting even in a time of ferment: they are both overdue for a reassessment.

SAT, AUGUST 20 • NOON

FRANK PERRY:  THE SWIMMER + LAST SUMMER

The Swimmer

THE SWIMMER (1968, 95 min) has almost redeemed Frank Perry. The irony is that no one really knows how much of the version available to us represents his original vision for the film. On the recent DVD release a 2½ -hour documentary can’t quite sort it out either, but it’s moot: Frank Perry, guided by his wife Eleanor’s ferocious adaptation of a John Cheever short story, has constructed a prescient look inside the ever-escalating cruelty of the American ruling class, as a bizarre-but-very-buff man (Burt Lancaster) attempts to "swim his way home" in the barren opulence of upper-class Connecticut. There is literally no other film like it…

Last Summer

Perry’s follow-up film, LAST SUMMER (1969, 95 min), based on the coiling, incendiary novel by Evan Hunter, skips a generation to show how upper-class cruelty is inbred into American youth. Fearlessly atomized performances from Barbara Hershey (sexy but deadly), Richard Thomas (callow but callous), Bruce Davison (feral and flip) collide with an escalating force of nature as they instinctively zero in on a vulnerable Catherine Burns (Oscar nominated for her performance) in a slow, slithering ritual of psychological torture that turns shockingly violent. Prints of LAST SUMMER have remained defiantly elusive even as seemingly every sodden and inconsequential rarity has found its way back to the public: more than half a century since its release, it is still not for the squeamish. Dare to join us in these waning days of summer for a true film maudit

SUN, AUGUST 21 • NOON

PATRICK McGOOHAN:  LIFE FOR RUTH + THE QUARE FELLOW

Life for Ruth

Two early films of McGoohan, made before his success in television rocketed him to a fleeting superstardom, demonstrate his intense interest in complex social issues. In Basil Dearden’s LIFE FOR RUTH (1962, 91min), McGoohan plays a doctor incensed by the death of a young girl due to a man’s refusal to consent to a blood transfusion that would save her life. (The refusal was based on religious beliefs.) McGoohan presses the case into court, with shattering and astonishing results. Based on a play by Janet Green (who deserves a film festival of her own for her trenchant screenplays in the 50s/60s), LIFE FOR RUTH shows us both sides of the argument concurrently, with intense performances from McGoohan, Michael Craig and Janet Munro.

The Quare Fellow

In THE QUARE FELLOW (1962, 85min) we see the origins of McGoohan’s "thousand mile stare" that captivated audiences in DANGER MAN/SECRET AGENT and then confounded them in THE PRISONER. He plays an eager young prison warden who is forced to confront the realities behind the early-1960s Irish prison system and its callous approach to capital punishment. His compassion for and attraction to the wife of a man on death row (referred to in Irish slang as "the quare fellow") further complicates his evolving perspective. THE QUARE FELLOW is as shattering an indictment of the death penalty as its American counterpart THE HOODLUM PRIEST. Co-starring Sylvia Syms and Walter Macken.

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